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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 2324

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) - The Government will oppose the amendment to clause 42 - I presume that at this stage we are discussing it-

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse - We are.

Senator GREENWOOD - The Government will oppose the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. I had some doubts - I still do - as to whether the precise wording which the Opposition amendment contains is effective to achieve the objective that Senator Murphy has expressed. I have sought to apply those words to section 119 and I find the reconciliation a little difficult to make. I say that by way of preface. The purpose which the amendment seeks to achieve is quite clear and the Government cannot agree with that purpose. In effect, the purpose is to say that, if there is a breach of an award by an employee or by an employee organisation in an area in which there is an obligation not to engage in limitations, restrictions or cessations of work, no penalty shall be imposed. To me, that is destroying one of the central features of our industrial legislation. For decades we in Australia have, with due cause, prided ourselves upon a system of industrial arbitration which produced for the wage earners of this country advances, security and rising living standards at a far earlier stage than they were produced in other countries.

Senator Mulvihill - But we stopped in the 1950s.

Senator GREENWOOD - I know that this is a matter of political disputation. But I take the view that we have high living standards in this country and that they have been secured in the past by sensible use of our arbitration system, by strong unions acting responsibly and by employer organisations which have known when to respond and on occasion when not to respond. This is an attitude which our arbitration system has engendered. I hope that it remains. I say this because in the arbitration system which operated sanctions or penalties were imposed upon persons who did not comply with the awards of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in the old days or of the Conciliation and Arbitrations Commission, or with the requirements of the Industrial Court, essentially in order to maintain respect for the authority of the Court or Commission. If no sanctions exist, what obligation is there which is accepted by organisations to comply with the requirements? If there is no sanction, organisations may disobey with impunity. If that situation prevails there is no law, because law which has no sancition is simply a rule which can be observed when one wants to observe it or not observed when one does not want to observe it. I feel that that is the danger - it is a danger as the Government sees it - into which our industrial system may be lapsing. Accordingly, the Government is strongly committed to the maintenance of sanctions provisions.

As I have said, and as the Prime Minister Mr McMahon) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) have said, if there are breaches of the provisions of this legislation or of awards for which penalties are imposed and the result of those breaches is that fines are imposed by the Industrial Court or by other courts, those fines will be enforced. I feel that no-one should be in any doubt as to the Government's intention in that regard. The Government has maintained a consistent approach to sanctions all the way along the line, except that in times past it has sought to accommodate particular situations where it believed that by that accommodation some overall benefit could be derived. But that accommodation has not been respected. The Government's policy in relation to this matter was announced last year. Within a very short time of it being announced, all the outstanding fines under the new legislation which the Government said had to be paid were paid. The Government is now following a course that these fines, if imposed, will be enforced. The Government is not adopting a curious attitude in this approach. When the Australian Labour Party was in office in the late 1940s it continued the then existing sanctions provisions in the conciliation and arbitration legislation. In 1947 Dr Evatt rejected proposals that all the sanctions provisions should be taken out of the Act. The New South Wales Labor Government stood by the principle of sanctions, and it was not willing to remove them from the New South Wales Industrial Arbitration Act. Today one does not know clearly what the ALP attitude is to sanctions. I think there is some equivocation about its attitude. Certainly one knows from its platform that it would remove all penalties - penal clauses, as it describes them - from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Consistent with that platform, there is a motion today which quite clearly indicates that if the Labor Party had its way, there would be no penalties whatsoever capable of being imposed in circumstances where an award provides that the employees bound by it shall not go on strike or impose some limitation on work and that clause is breached. On the other hand, we had the situation last year - and I am not sure how far it has advanced - in which the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, and the spokesman for the Labor Party on industrial affairs, Mr Clyde Cameron-

Senator Murphy - Mr Chairman, I intervene simply as a matter of order. A limitation has been put on us. Surely in the circumstances of today, when we are not even moving some amendments and are not opposing clauses which are of vital importance to us, the Attorney-General should not now seek to make a secondreading speech. If this is not a secondreading speech he is making, what is it? Does he intend to say these things and expect the Opposition not to reply? This is a deliberate tactic by him. We have already had to forgo some vital votes on the Bill, and now the Attorney-General is entering into a debate on matters referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, which we have to deal with. In the circumstances, this is not a fair go to the Opposition.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse - I take it that your intervention is on the grounds of relevance?

Senator Murphy - Yes.

The CHAIRMAN - 1 think there is some substance in the objection. The amendment is fairly narrow.

Senator GREENWOOD - If I may speak without trespassing on your indications of what you feel should be said, the amendment is designed to remove from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, appropriately or inappropriately, all provisions for sanctions in this particular context. The Government believes that this is an integral part of the legislation. I sat back and I listened to, I think, 3 Opposition speakers put their case for the removal of these words in support of their amendment. I am the first and, I imagine, I will be the only speaker on the Government side to oppose this amendment. I do not accept Senator Murphy's statement. He is now pleading for time, but there was a lot of time yesterday that could have been used in debate rather than in the histrionics and acrobatics that were engaged in then. All I am saying is that this question of sanctions is vital to the legislation. The Opposition, as I said, has an equivocal view. I have mentioned one point of view from its platform, as it is expressed in this amendment and another point of view has been put forward in statements made by Mr Whitlam and Mr Clyde Cameron in times past. Where does the Labor Party stand? Does it still maintain the provision in the Act that permits penalties to be imposed on individuals?

Senator Bishop - I take the objection that the Minister's statement is not relevant to the discussion of the clause. He has raised the same points, to which the Leader of the Opposition in this House took objection, and you ruled were irrelevant, and he is now coming back to discuss what is Labor Party policy. He asks: 'Is the policy what is in the book, or is it what is said by Mr Whitlam?' I therefore ask you to uphold this further objection.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse - I think the Minister has resumed his seat.

Senator GREENWOOD - Only because a point of order was raised.

The CHAIRMAN - I again request the Attorney-General not to traverse ground that has been debated previously while speaking in support of his opposition to the proposed amendment.

Senator GREENWOOD - I respect your ruling, Mr Chairman. Section 122 of the Act contains a provision which "is not adverted to at all by the proposed amendments. Section 122 states:

No person shall wilfully make default in compliance with any order or award.

That, to me, maintains the position that if a person does break an award he can be fined, yet I imagine that is imposed upon individuals. Does the Australian Labor Party propose to retain that provision? I presume that it does because it wants to remove only those sections which would provide for the fining of an organisation. It is for these reasons that I say that the attitude of the Labor Party is hopelessly equivocal. Perhaps Mr Whitlam and Mr Clyde Cameron have the Act on their side after all and it will be maintained.

The Government opposes this amendment not because it feels that the equivocation in itself is sufficient reason for opposing it but because it believes that to have an effective system of industrial arbitration we must recognise that to ensure that people adhere to their obligations, adhere to their bargains and do perform their awards there should be sanctions, some penalty, if they break them. If there is no penalty what inducement is there for people to observe what they have been ordered to observe?

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse)The question is: That the amendments be agreed to'. Those in favour say 'Aye', to the contrary 'No'. I think the 'Noes' have it.

Amendments negatived.

Senator Murphy - Again I would like to indicate, Mr Chairman, for the record, that members of the Opposition voted for the amendments moved by Senator Bishop and were the only ones to do so.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 43 to 48 - byleave - taken together.

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