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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 2321

Senator BISHOP (South Australia) - Mr Chairman, as you allowed debate to proceed on all these issues it might be appropriate to move the Opposition's amendment as circulated. As we intend to embark upon some discussion on section 119 of the principal Act, which is to be amended by clause 42 of this Bill, perhaps at this stage I should move the amendment circulated by the Opposition in that regard. The Government is well aware of our views and also of those of the organisations that we on this side attempt to support. I am referring, of course, to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the other organisations that do not accept penalties imposed under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Yesterday I referred to the fact that penalties imposed on trade unions had aggregated to between $100,000 and $200,000, whereas penalties imposed on employer organisations are quite minor. Since 1968 only 2 penalties have been imposed on employers for failing to observe awards, and those penalties involved only some hundreds of dollars. Mr Chairman, I suggest that we take together the next 2 amendments proposed by the Opposition. Therefore, I move:

In clause 42, leave out the words '"section thirty-two a " and inserting in their stead the words " section thirty-three ", insert " or, except in the case of a breach or non-observance of a term of an order or award of the kind referred to in subsection(1.) of section 32a of this Act.'

After clause 42, insert the following new clauses: 42a. Section 119 of the Principal Act is amended by adding a new sub-section: "(1e.) In sub-section. (1.) of this section a breach of non-observance of an order or award shall not include a strike ban or limitation of work in furtherance of any claim by an organisation or person in or in connection with an industrial dispute".'

If these 2 amendments are agreed to, section 1 19 of the Principal Act would then read: 119.(1.) Where any organisation or person bound by an order or award has committed a breach or non-observance of a term of the order or award, a penalty may be imposed by the Court or, except in the case of a breach or non-observance of a term of an order or award of the kind referred to in sub-section (1.) of section 33 of this Act or, except in the case of a breach or non-observance of a term of an order or award of the kind referred to in sub-section (1.) of section 32a of this Act . . .

Section 33 of the principal Act deals with powers of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to make awards and to certify agreements. Section 32a deals with actions to hinder the observance of an award. In recent years fairly satisfactory discussions have been held between the national trade union centre and the responsible Minister representing the Government. As a result of those discussions the sanctions provisions in the Act were accepted by the responsible Minister, then Mr Bury. Later his successor has modified the position. The Opposition claims that employers have used these provisions generally for 'king hit' purposes. However, the sanctions were modified, indicating a good trend, but the amendments to the law did not go as the trade union movement wanted. At least there was this trend to which the Opposition referred earlier. Our attitude is the same as it was then: We oppose sanctions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act because we believe that they are unnecessary. They create a lot of bad feeling in the trade union movement. Moreover they are discriminatory in their application. I have already referred to the hundreds of dollars in fines imposed on employers compared with the many thousands of dollars in fines that have been imposed on trade unions. In addition, there is continuing argument between the Government and the unions over these provisions. The Opposition's amendment will have the effect of ensuring that penalties will not be imposed on trade unions in respect of disputes involving general matters such as wages claims and working conditions. However, penalties could still be imposed on employers for non-observance of awards for failure to pay appropriate wages, and so on.

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