29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Subsidies on Basic Foods
– I present the following petition from 25 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members or the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That inflation and its side effects pose a threat to the future of all Australians.
That experience both in Australia and Britain indicates that the effect of inflation on food prices can be successfully offset by food Subsidies.
That food subsidies could be financed in Australia by means of new credits or the surplus taxation funds presently available.
That funds are far better spent in this way rather than financing wage rises as under the present system because these only produce increased costs.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Budget will make provision for subsidies on basic foods so that the cost of living can be kept down.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 39 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth: whereas the Government of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and many European countries have not recognised the unlawful annexation of the Baltic States- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the Soviet Union, the Prime Minister of Australia has authorised the de jure recognition of this annexation.
According to the Chaner of the United Nations, the Baltic States are entitled to independence and their people to selfdetermination.
We beg that such de jure recognition be disallowed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to establish an Australian Film Commission.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, will be absent from Australia until 14 October on a visit to the United States and the United Kingdom. During his absence the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs until he departs for overseas on 27 September. The Special Minister of State, Mr Lionel Bowen, will then be acting as Minister for Foreign Affairs during the remainder of Senator Willesee ‘s absence. I will represent those Ministers usually represented by Senator Willesee in the Senate. I also inform the Senate that the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory, Dr Patterson, will be absent from Australia until 30 September on a visit to the United Kingdom. During his absence the Special Minister of State, Mr Lionel Bowen, is Acting Minister for Northern Development and Acting Minister for the Northern Territory.
-My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows his short lecture to the Senate last week on the Government’s collective responsibility. I ask: Was the Prime Minister’s statement to the annual dinner of the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers’ Association last night when he said, as reported, ‘I’ve nothing but contempt for those who accept and peddle lies and my own colleagues in many cases are among them’, an example of collective responsibility or does it fall into the category explained by Senator Murphy in the Senate on 21 August 1973 in answer to a question asked by me as not a ‘conspicuous example of Cabinet solidarity’?
-I am afraid that I was not at the dinner. I have not seen the remarks reported in the newspaper. In this circumstance the best interpretation I can suggest is that when the Prime Minister was referring to his colleagues he meant his parliamentary colleagues and, obviously, those opposite.
-Has the Minister for the Media seen reports in the Press indicating that he has vetoed the participation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the televising of the Victorian Football League grand final in Melbourne next weekend? Are these reports correct? If so, why has it been necessary to have Government intervention in this area?
– I can allay Senator Poyser ‘s fears immediately. I have seen the report to which he has referred. I assure him that there is no veto either by me or by the Government in this matter. The decision has been left to and has remained with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I understand that yesterday the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission made a statement that the decision was one purely for the Commission. The simple fact is that the Australian Broadcasting Commission took the trouble to inform me, as the Minister responsible to this Parliament for its activities, of the attitude which it would be adopting to the negotiations. I must say that when I was advised of the decision of the Commission I made an approach to my colleague the Minister for Tourism and Recreation to see whether funds were available from his Department for this purpose, but he assured me that such funds are not available for the purpose.
-The Minister for Agriculture will recall stating in answer to a question asked by me last week that there was no justification for or any concern about the overall income from agriculture this year. I now ask whether he will confirm that the Bureau of Agriculture Economics is forecasting a 50 per cent drop in rural net income due to both a reduction in the value of production and a 20 per cent increase in costs?
– This year only one significant area in the rural sector will experience a significant reduction in income and that is the meat industry. No other rural industry will experience reductions of the magnitude which the meat industry will experience. The honourable senator now includes in his question the term ‘net income’ which puts a different slant on the question altogether, as he well knows. Net farm income, of course, has to take into account increased input costs. The rural sector has to bear those increased costs this year, as it will have to bear them every year, and as every section of the community will have to bear them. The Government cannot control that situation. The only chance that the rural sector has is to maintain its gross value of income. I repeat that, with the exception of the meat industry, that income will in fact be maintained during this year.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral’s attention been drawn to the front page banner headline in last Friday’s issue of the Brisbane ‘Telegraph’ which stated: ‘Rates of Interest to Rise”? I hold up a copy of the headline. Was the support for this statement a prediction by a leading Liberal Party crystal ball gazer in Queensland, Mr J. C. Moore? As many people would have been misled by this headline into believing that the Australian Government had made a decision along those lines, will the AttorneyGeneral investigate the matter to see whether newspaper readers can be protected in some way from misleading and deceptive headlines such as this?
-I have seen the newspaper headline referred to by the honourable senator. It is quite clear that the headline was misleading. There is no basis for it at all. It is regrettable that newspapers print in this way a prediction made by somebody in politics as if that prediction were a statement of fact. A headline ‘Rates of Interest to Rise’ would convey to the ordinary reader that some decision had been made that interest rates would rise, instead of conveying the impression that this was a mere prediction by some party official who said that he thought they were going to rise. I regret that nothing can be done by the Government to stop excesses of this kind. I suppose that some selfdiscipline is required on the part of those who print this kind of thing or people inevitably either will cease to buy the newspapers or they will cease to be influenced by this kind of misleading headline.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, by referring to a statement in the Queensland ‘Courier Mail’ newspaper of 21 September 1974, which was attributed to Senator Cavanagh, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, concerning the Australian Government’s intended acquisition of some 7,500,000 acres of land currently reserved by the Queensland Government for use by Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. If the Minister is so concerned about Aboriginal land rights in Queensland, is he prepared to go to the extent of moving that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent my motion, as introduced on Thursday, 19 September 1974, from being fully debated and voted upon? Should it be carried, with or without the support of the Minister, would he be prepared to urge his Government to introduce legislation to implement the proposals contained in my motion?
-The report in the Courier Mail ‘ newspaper was correct. As a result of the speech Senator Bonner made last Thursday, I think I can state that what the Government intends to do will receive his ready support. The honourable senator made a very emotional speech acknowledging Aboriginal land rights. I think that we are in unity to see that the Aborigines get those land rights in Queensland, as Aborigines in every other State of Australia will receive them. The position is that the motion moved last Thursday by Senator Bonner, if carried, will be an expression of opinion of the Senate. It will not achieve anything more than that. It is not a method of acquiring land from a reluctant Premier who will not give land to Aborigines. It is the intention of the Federal Government to do something positive. The Aborigines in Queensland should not be worse off, by virtue of the fact that they have a Premier elected by a minority vote, than Aborigines in other parts of the country who live in States in which there is properly elected majority rule in the State Parliaments. We shall give to the Aborigines in Queensland- I hope with Senator Bonner’s supportthe same rights as they have in every other State of the Commonwealth.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he has seen reports suggesting that Australia’s security organisations have been training agents from some Asian countries, particularly countries where democracy is very limited and where the armed forces exercise undue influence. Can the Minister indicate when the training began and whether the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is responsible for the unusual course being undertaken? Does this mean that Australia’s security is now ensured and that our security bodies have little to do other than interfere in the affairs of our Asian neighbours?
– I am aware that there has been training of persons from other countries who would then work in their countries’ security services. That program was commenced in 1956. There have been courses, each of some 3 weeks duration, in which some emphasis has been given to counter-espionage. The courses, which were initiated by the Department of Foreign Affairs, are subject to that Department’s approval of their content and are financed by that department. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is merely the service body which carries out the training which has been requested by the Department of Foreign Affairs under this procedure which has been going on for some time.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Does the Government’s decision announced in the Budget to double the licence fees payable on radio transmitters cover the flying doctor service and School of the Air transmitters and all transceivers used by these organisations in the outback areas of Australia?
– The exemptions which have obtained over the past years still apply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. As the Government now provides free artificial limbs to everyone in the community, using the facilities of the Repatriation Artificial Limb and Appliance Centres, what assistance is given to Australian Aborigines suffering limb deformities as a result of leprosy?
– I am pleased to be able to say that one of the consequences of the extension of repatriation services into the field of the provision of artificial limbs has been that this service has been extended to Aborigines, many of whom were suffering very greatly because of leprosy. Artificial limbs are now available free of charge to Aborigines, as they are available to all other citizens. The Department of Repatriation and Compensation, in conjunction with the Department of Health, has provided a centre in Darwin where artificial limbs are made available to all those who are in need of them, particularly Aborigines.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer Can he say whether returns from investments in building societies will be exempt from the Government’s 10 per cent surcharge on what it calls 1 unearned income ‘?
-The short answer to the honourable senator’s question is no, they would not be exempt.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. Is it a fact that spare parts for black and white television sets are becoming unobtainable? If so, is this due to a deliberate policy by manufacturers as a means of forcing people to purchase colour sets?
-I will have to ask that the question be placed on notice so that the Minister may give an answer.
– Is the Minister for Agriculture aware that the dropping of the superphosphate bounty will cost rural industry an extra $66.9m, much of which will be reflected in increased costs to the consumers? Is the Minister also aware that the cost of superphosphate has risen this year from $15.55 a tonne to $33.58 a tonne and without the current bounty will cost $45.39 a tonne? Is he also aware of the New Zealand Government’s approach to increased costs of superphosphate in that country? What does this Government propose to do about this matter in Australia?
– I am not sure that Senator Young’s calculations of the costs of superphosphate are correct. My understanding is that there is a slight variation between the States, with Tasmania paying about $2 a tonne more than the mainland States. But the average is about $33 or $34 a tonne and not $45 a tonne.
– I said ‘without the bounty’.
-Well, that is the price they are paying at the present time. It is true that the cost has risen. Naturally this means a higher input cost to the rural sector. In taking this decision the Government has to consider other areas of expenditure. I should at least remind the honourable senator that one other area of increased expenditure this year has been an extra $60m spent on education in rural areas. I suppose it is a matter of judgment whether it is of more benefit to the rural community to give a subsidy on phosphate or to make sure that equal education opportunities are given to children who live in rural areas. I would have thought that the latter was more important.
I am aware of what happens in New Zealand. The system of paying a maximum tonnage bonus or subsidy has been discontinued and a new system has been introduced whereby the price will not be allowed to exceed $26 a tonne in that country. I understand that there is no limit to the actual amount. The cost to the New Zealand
Government is around $45m. However, the Australian Government has said that the Industries Assistance Commission is available to receive applications from the rural industry and to hear it argue its case. This has been the whole purpose of the Commission from the time of its formation. I might say that with the exception of the Australian Country Party it has had and still has wide support in the rural sector.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Minister seen the recent copy of the magazine ‘News Digest International’, on the cover of which is a photograph of Opposition members at a function held by supporters of this magazine and in which at pages 10 to 14 there is an article asserting that Henry Kissinger is a KGB agent? Has the Minister received any evidence supporting this assertion either from his own sources or from the Opposition members supporting this organisation?
– No, I have not seen the article. I certainly have not received any such evidence and I would be somewhat astonished if I did.
-My question which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate refers to the matter raised earlier by the Leader of the Opposition. I assure the Leader of the Government that not only was what the Prime Minister said last night reported in the newspapers but also the actual text was replayed on radio this morning. The allegation was that colleagues of the Prime Minister were peddling lies. The matter related to tariffs. I ask: Do the Prime Minister’s remarks- whether they apply, as the Leader of the Government suggested, to his Opposition colleagues or to his Government colleagues- not constitute a serious allegation? Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate concerned about the implications of the allegations? Should the people of Australia be concerned about the veracity of the Prime Minister’s colleagues? Will the liars and the lies be identified and will he take the matter up with the Prime Minister?
– I indicated earlier that I had not, in fact, attended the dinner to which Senator Greenwood has referred. I have not read the reports and I certainly did not hear any report this morning. I know nothing more about the matter than what I have heard in this chamber. I do not think it is right for me to comment on what may have been said. I do not know how serious or how frivolous the remarks were intended to be. I know nothing about the matter. It would be the height of foolishness for me to comment on a matter of which I know nothing except what has been conveyed to me by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I will look into the matter. I will ask the Prime Minister whether he wishes to add to what he has said or whether he wishes to interpret it.
– I ask the Minister for the Media: Has the Australian Broadcasting Control Board imposed restrictions on all commercial stations to prevent them from telecasting programs in colour until the official starting date for tests on colour transmission? Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to allegations that one commercial station in Melbourne recently ignored the Board ‘s ruling on this question and telecast a sporting event in colour? Will the Minister investigate these allegations to ensure that stations do not breach the rules and thereby create a risk that viewers interested in purchasing sets may be convinced that they should buy a set when it has been tested for its reception only on one channel rather than on all of the channels which may be available?
– I have not seen the reports to which Senator McLaren refers and in which, he suggests, it was reported that a commercial television station had breached the arrangements made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I have not received a report on the matter from the Broadcasting Control Board. I will certainly make inquiries of the Board about the matter. It is true that the Board has imposed limits on the transmission of colour signals from stations until the official commencement date which is 1 March 1975. Of course, the honourable senator has set out in his question the simple reason for this limit being imposed. It is that people who purchase sets are entitled to be able to colour test every commercial station and the Australian Broadcasting Commission station that they will expect to receive in colour in their homes. It is to ensure that all sets that are purchased may be tested properly at the point at which the consumer will be using the set in the household that this requirement has been introduced. I understand that from time to time this requirement has been attacked but that is the simple reason for it.
It is true that from next month the Board will allow certain limited colour transmissions for testing purposes. I think they will be beginning with the allowance of the use of outside broadcasting facilities. Additional arrangements are being drawn up by the Broadcasting Control Board and I am given to understand that they will be circulated some time this week to the commercial stations. It is not expected, as far as I know, that test transmissions as authorised by the Board will last longer than one hour on any particular day. That hour, of course, will vary from day to day in order to enable as wide a testing pattern as possible to be covered. I will refer the first portion of the honourable senator’s question to the Broadcasting Control Board for further advice.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. I refer to the announcement from Federal Cabinet yesterday of the authorisation of the introduction of FM radio in Australia and the establishment of a new Australian Broadcasting Commission station in both Sydney and Melbourne. As persistent reports have been circulated regarding the recommendations of the Priorities Review Staff with regard to the control of the development of FM broadcasting, will the Minister table this report for the information of the Senate? As yesterday’s decision with regard to the introduction of FM broadcasting is a decision in isolation with regard to musical broadcasting societies in New South Wales and Victoria, will the Minister facilitate Parliamentary discussion on the development of FM broadcasting and public access broadcasting by either making a statement of Government policy or initiating discussion on the basis of the Priorities Review Staff report?
-So far as the first portion of the honourable senator’s question is concerned, it is not for me to table the report of the Priorities Review Staff. The report was commissioned in the first instance by the Prime Minister and I assume that he will be tabling it. I certainly have no objection to that. I can tell the honourable senator, however, that, despite Press speculation from time to time about certain aspects of the Priorities Review Staff report, particularly reports that appeared in the Australian’ newspaper, Cabinet authorised me yesterday to say that I am the Minister for the Media, that I am in charge of and ministerially responsible for broadcasting and that there will always be a Department of the Media.
– Was there some doubt about that before?
-There was no doubt whatever; but there appeared to be conjecture by certain journalists who write for certain newspapers, and I thought that for the information of the honourable senator himself and the journalists that I would put the record straight. So far as the second aspect of the matter is concerned, the answer is yes. As a matter of fact, I was hoping that I might be able to make a ministerial statement on the matter this morning and hopefully, if the papers reach me in time, I will be able to do so. If not, I expect to be making a short ministerial statement tomorrow.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Does the repatriation system place undue emphasis on in-patient treatment in its hospitals? Is the Minister aware that the current trend is towards care of patients in their own homes, wherever possible? Will he undertake to examine the situation with a view to changing the present imbalance in the repatriation system towards in-patient treatment?
– I think the allegation has been made that the repatriation medical services do place this undue emphasis on in-patient treatment in hospitals, but I do not believe that this is in fact so. The system does stress treatment within the homes of people who are in need of medical attention and every possible effort is made by the officers of the Repatriation Commission to see that they are so treated. In fact, patients are admitted to the repatriation hospitals only when there is an acute need for them to be treated in hospital. It is curious that sometimes both complaints are being made at the same time. Some people say that there is too much emphasis on treatment in the hospitals and others say that not enough people are being admitted to the hospitals.
The fact of the matter is that what the Department is endeavouring to do is, as far as possible, to treat people within the home and when an acute situation arises to admit them to the hospitals. The Department does provide services of domiciliary care, such as physiotherapy, home nursing, meals on wheels and other facilities, and there are a number of aids which are provided through the repatriation system to repatriation beneficiaries. These include special eating utensils, bath seats and other equipment of this nature. In short, the answer to the honourable senator’s question is that we believe we are not placing any undue emphasis on in-patient treatment within hospitals and that everything that can possibly be done is being done to see that the patients are being treated within their homes.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Science. Will he inquire from his colleague and inform the Senate as soon as possible whether the purchase of land at Kingston in southern Tasmania for the construction of an Antarctic research base has been completed? If so, is it known whether and when construction of the base will be commenced?
– I am not able to answer that now. I will ascertain the answer for the honourable senator and convey it either to him or directly to the Senate.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether he can elaborate on his earlier response to a question concerning discussions between the Australian Government and the New South Wales Government on the vacation of the Moore Park Engineers Depot, which would allow for a merger of the Sydney Sports Ground and the Sydney Cricket Ground No. 2 for the construction of a modern sports stadium commensurate with the requirements of Sydney’s sporting public?
-As Senator Mulvihill has mentioned, tentative proposals from the New South Wales Government have been examined from time to time. Recently Mr Morrison had discussions with the New South Wales Minister for Lands. Whilst the New South Wales Government has put up no positive proposals -
– New South Wales did not put up any positive proposals?
– My advice is that it put up tentative proposals, but that they were not positive enough to warrant a direct examination being made of them. But the department is reexamining the matter. At any rate the matter will go before the inter-departmental committee. So the matter will be subjected to a number of examinations. It will be considered by the interdepartmental committee. More precisely, the propositions put up by the New South Wales Government are being examined.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport.
In the light of the recent very substantial increases in the Government approved shipping freight charges to and from Tasmania, and in the light of the very clear evidence available since the beginning of 1973 of the huge disability suffered by Tasmania, as demonstrated by the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics, precisely what further information is now required by the Government to enable it to reassess the position in order to ascertain whether any interim assistance to Tasmanian shipping is justified, as was announced by the Prime Minister last Friday?
– Shipping to Tasmania has always been carried on under arrangements between the Australian Department of Transport and the Tasmanian Government. I shall refer the question to the responsible Minister. When I get a detailed explanation I will reply to the honourable senator’s question. But I can say that as stated, I think by Senator Wriedt, last week Tasmania has received more assistance with transport costs from this Government than it has ever received in the past.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, refers to the public statement yesterday by the Prime Minister that some of his Labor colleagues were peddling lies in trying to persuade the Federal Government to increase tariffs in key industries, including the textile industry. Is the Minister aware that the Australian Textile Workers Union has stated that on 18 September of this year a total of 9,766 workers, representing 23.3 per cent of its total union membership, were unemployed? Those unemployed comprised 7,148 in Victoria, 1,312 in New South Wales, 1,006 in Tasmania, 240 in South Australia and 60 in Western Australia. Is the Minister further aware that the Australian Textiles Council has estimated that the total number of unemployed in the textile industry at the end of this month, including members of the apparel section of the Clothing and Allied Trades Union, will be 15,000? Does the Minister therefore share the view of the Prime Minister that those who are trying to save decent Australians from Laborcontrived unemployment are ‘nervous Nellies’?
– I do not propose to answer what the honourable senator has put about some remarks attributed to the Prime Minister because they represent the third version that we have had today of what is alleged to have been said. As regards the unemployment of Australians, naturally the Government and every member of it are concerned about the matter. The Government has announced a number of schemes which are properly within the jurisdiction of my colleague, Senator Bishop, and those whom he represents. I think it would be much better if Senator Carrick devoted himself to some constructive suggestions or behaviour in the Senate to assist the Government to cope with the problems created by inflation and with the problem of increasing unemployment, which is thankfully much lower in Australia than it is in other countries. Then I think we would all get on much better together.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the proposal contained in legislation to set up a courier service within the Australian Post Office. I ask: Does the Government intend to permit the many private courier services which mushroomed in Australia because the Post Office was not providing the services that were demanded by the community to continue in competition with the courier service being set up by the Australian Post Office?
– There is no intention on the part of the Post Office or the Government to stop these other services operating. The matter has been reconsidered during recent months. The Post Office and the Government consider it urgent that the Post Office should get into the business because it is profitable. Obviously the Post Office needs the revenue which can come from such an operation. It will be in competition. It will be a matter for the services concerned whether they survive in the face of the competition from the Post Office.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform me of the number of legal aid offices that he has established? Can he tell the Senate whether the public is availing itself of this service to any degree? Further, can he indicate in what area of the law the bulk of the work is being done? Does the Attorney-General contemplate extending this service in any way?
– Offices have been set up in each of the capital cities. Some of them have not been formally opened yet, but they have been operating because they were able to build on the nucleus of what were formerly the Legal Services Bureaux. In addition a number of regional offices have been opened. Approximately a dozen have been opened. I regret that I am not able to give the exact figure now, but I will give it to the Senate. The offices have been dealing with a variety of problems. At the opening of the Melbourne office last Friday the Treasurer said that he had made some inquiries about the office at Brunswick, I think, and that in the short time it had been open-since about May- it had dealt with approximately 1,000 people with a variety of problems. Mostly they are problems that affect the ordinary person. They may be family, divorce, custody or maintenance problems or financial problems of one kind or another. They may be problems concerning tenancies. They may be the kind of difficulties that migrants run into. They are the ordinary problems that beset persons in the lower income groups.
-Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen the results of the local government elections which were held last weekend in New South Wales? Did the Australian Labor Party suffer major setbacks in almost every local government area in New South Wales? Did the Labor Party lose control of many councils which it previously held? Will the Government now acknowledge that there has been a clear expression of opinion from the grass roots in New South Wales? Will the Government moderate some of the iniquitous and devisive policies which have obviously upset the electorate?
– I remind the Leader of the Government in the Senate that Senator Baume is seeking an opinion, and it is up to the Minister whether he wishes to reply.
-I understand that the election result is not a reflection of the opinion of the majority of people in New South Wales.
-Didn’t only 20 per cent of eligible voters vote?
-The Minister for the Media informs me that only approximately 20 per cent of the people voted.
– You are about 10 per cent out. It was 30 per cent.
-Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson suggests that the figure was 30 per cent. In any event, it was a very low poll and the election was directed towards local government issues. If Senator Baume seeks somehow to extend what happened in a local government election with a very poor poll to the attitudes to the Australian Government, I think he would on reflection find that his prediction was a very improper and unscientific- even politically unscientificmethod of analysis. It would be much better for him to accept the verdict of the people which was given in a solemn fashion not so long ago and to help to carry it out.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Media. Has his attention been drawn to a newspaper report that Sydney and Melbourne television audience survey figures for the months of July and August have continued to show the very strong increase in the number of television sets in use in the first 5 months of this year? Do the figures show that there has been a 6 per cent increase in the number of sets in use in Sydney and an increase of about 4 per cent in the number of sets in use in Melbourne? Is the Minister aware that this increase in sets in use corresponds with the time of the introduction by the Broadcasting Control Board of the controversial points system? Has the sales director of the Channel 7 network attributed the overall increase to better and more aggressive programming of Australian productions?
– I did see the report in, I think last Sunday’s Sydney Sun Herald’. I have also received a report from the Broadcasting Control Board stating that sets in use in Sydney increased by 6 per cent in the first 5 months following the introduction of the points system and by about 4 per cent in Melbourne in the same period. I think that what the honourable senator is suggesting is correct. I also point out that the period corresponds with the making available by the Government to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, last financial year of additional funds of the order of $ 10m a great deal of which was spent on production activities in Australia. This year we are augmenting ABC operational funds by an additional $16m.
-Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has asked a long question. I think it only proper that I should direct it to the Treasurer and obtain a suitable answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to a statement made by the Minister for Health and reported in today’s Press which advises people not to eat more than about half a kilogram of flake due to the presence of mercury which has been detected recently in some fish filets. What is the major cause of mercury pollution in Australian waters? Where is the major source of mercury pollution in Australian waters? Where is the greatest concentration? What is the Federal Government doing to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to prevent such pollution? As the States have a significant responsibility in this matter will the Minister ask his colleague to arrange a meeting of all State Ministers for Health so that a combined attack can be made on water pollution in Australia and also so that some uniform regulations can be drawn up concerning the safe level of mercury in food?
– I do not know that I can shed much light on the reasons for the presence of excess mercury in the waters around Australia beyond saying that obviously it is a result of industrial waste being discharged into the oceans. Of course, primarily this is an environmental rather than a health problem. The Minister has advised members of the public not to eat more than 1 lb- apparently we are still in the pre-metric days in making these calculations of fish per week unless they can be assured that the fish is not flake, that is, shark meat. Apparently 10 lb of fish would be enough to cause very serious danger to the health of a person who ate it. One-tenth of that amount, that is 1 lb of fish, a week is regarded as being the maximum that one can consume and remain safe. I understand that oysters are an even worse problem than flake or shark. As Senator James McClelland has reminded me, apparently there are other attractions about oysters which some may think make them worth while. There is something like 10 times the concentration of mercury in oysters when compared with shark. Sharks are scavengers and oysters receive a lot of deposits from metal and other things which are cast into waters by persons who have a habit of casting these things into waters, but as it is apparently unlikely that even the most enthusiastic gourmet would eat more than 1 lb of oysters a week not many are in serious trouble in this regard.
Certainly I shall convey to the Minister for Health the matter which Senator Jessop has raised. Clearly a very serious problem is involved because the incidence of mercury in fish around the Australian coast appears to be rapidly rising. As Senator Jessop is aware, mercury is a singularly dangerous element for people to consume. I am not at all sure about the precise powers the Australian Government would have to deal with all the problems which are involved in regulating the dumping of mercury into waters or, indeed, whether the dumped mercury all comes from Australia. I do not know to what extent it comes from some other parts of the world. I think the suggestion that there should be a conference of the Federal Minister and the relevant State Ministers is very useful. I shall see that the honourable senator’s suggestion is passed on to the Minister.
– I ask the Minister for Agriculture whether he recalls my questioning him regarding the reason one margarine manufacturing company was granted sole right to produce margarine in the Australian Capital Territory and so commenced the breakdown of decisions made by the Australian Agricultural Council. Can the Minister refer me to any statement he has made which will explain the reason for that preference being given? Does the Minister recall my question whether financial contributions influenced that preferential decision? Has the Minister noted the charge in several leading Australian newspapers that the Australian Labor Party has accepted thousands of dollars from a multi-national margarine manufacturer? As the Prime Minister and other Ministers have charged that political parties, other than the Australian Labor Party, receive financial support from large corporations, is the Minister prepared to make a statement to the Senate which will clear his party of this charge, or is he unable to do so?
-I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper.
-I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. Has the Minister seen a report in the Australian’ newspaper of Monday, 23 September, in which the education correspondence of that newspaper again raises the question of the failure of the New South Wales and Victorian governments to reveal their expenditure of Federal money on education? In particular, does the Minister agree with the suggestion that is made that these State governments lack the drive and organisational competence to spend the money effectively?
– I cannot say that I have seen the newspaper report because I spent the best part of yesterday either in Cabinet meetings or attending a Cabinet subcommittee meeting. However, I know from discussions I have had with my colleague, the Minister for Education, and from answers that I have delivered in the Senate on behalf of the Minister for Education, that this information in regard to expenditure of Commonwealth moneys has been sought previously from time to time from the governments of New South Wales and Victoria but, as far as I know, so far without success. In relation to the second part of the honourable senator’s question, I can state that I am given to understand that there is considerable concern in Victoria about the efficiency of that State’s education administration. I think that it is fair to say that in New South Wales it is felt by a number of people that there should be a rethink on the question of education generally in that State. However, if the honourable senator requires further details from my colleague, the Minister for Education, I will gladly get them for him.
– In directing my question to the Postmaster-General I refer to the question I asked previously concerning the proposed courier services to be operated by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate as to whether Government departments will be permitted to continue to use private courier services?
– The honourable senator’s question is related to my earlier answer to a question from him on this subject. Recently it was found after some surveys had been made that a number of Australian Government departments were using on occasions not only private courier services but also other services provided by private operators in Australia which were, in fact, competing with Australian Post Office services. As the Post Office services are as good, as quick and as efficient as the other services, a direction was given to the Government departments that wherever practicable they should use the Post Office facilities. So in addition to what I said previously in reply to Senator Durack ‘s question, I would like to say clearly now that Government departments will be expected, wherever possible, to use the Australian Government’s own Post Office facilities. Otherwise, there will be free competition. But obviously, the Government cannot afford to see Government departments giving business to private operators when its Post Office service is equally as good and just as cheap as that provided by the private operator.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Agriculture who represents the Treasurer in the Senate. If the Minister has not the information with him, will he obtain a ruling from the Treasurer as to whether it is true that the super tax on unearned income will not be levied on persons receiving superannuation payments but will be levied on the incomes of formerly self-employed persons who are living on the interest from their personal savings and investments.
– I am not aware of the precise position. I will refer the question to the Treasurer.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Media who I understand is the Minister in charge of the Government Printing Office and the Australian Government Publishing Service. Is he aware of the concern which is developing with regard to the lack of sufficient copies of various pieces of legislation, which has become apparent in recent times? I ask this knowing that he has taken action quite recently with regard to a particular Bill. But is he aware, for example, that, if one seeks to obtain copies of the consolidated Public Service Act and the amendments to that legislation during the last year or two, or a copy of the Superannuation
Act and the amendments to that Act for the last year or two, with a view to considering legislation currently before the Senate, it is not possible to obtain them from the Bills and Papers Office of the Senate? Can he take some steps to ensure that pending the consolidation of the statutes, which, as I understand it, will not be completed until next year, adequate copies of the Acts which have to be looked at to comprehend current legislation are available?
– I am pleased that the honourable senator has raised the matter because it was only this morning that I asked that a message be transmitted to the Australian Government Publishing Service drawing attention to the shortage of copies of a particular Bill. I am not aware of a shortage of copies of the particular Public Service Bill to which he has referred. I will chase that matter up. However, there have been extraordinary burdens placed on the Australian Government Publishing Service and the Australian Government Printer because of the legislative pace at which the Government has been proceeding over the last 20 months. I think some additional $20m was spent by the Australian Government on printing in the last financial year over and above that spent in the previous financial year. As the honourable senator will appreciate, the strain on the Australian Government Publishing Service and the Australian Government Printer has been enormous. I will take the matter up with the Director of the Australian Government Publishing Service to see whether something can be done about it.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)Pursuant to section 32 of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission Act 1973, 1 present for the information of honourable senators the Hospital and Health Services Commission first annual report 1973-74.
For the information of honourable senators I present a report on hospitals in Australia prepared by the Hospitals and Health Services Commission. Because of the limited number of copies available at this time I have arranged for reference copies of this report to be placed in the Parliamentary Library.
For the information of honourable senators I present a report prepared by the Hospital and Health Services Commission entitled: ‘A proposal for a scheme to accredit pathology services in Australia’.
– I present the annual report of the Weapons Research Establishment for 1973-74.
– I present the fifty-first annual report of the National Debt Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 974.
– I present Taxation Statistics 1972-73 dated 1 September 1974, a supplement to the fifty-second report of the Commissioner of Taxation, and the fifty-third report of the Commissioner of Taxation dated 1 September 1974.
– I present an interim statement of the activities of the Australian Egg Board for the year 1973-74.
– Pursuant to the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-1973 I present the 49th interim annual report of the Board.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the 39th annual report of the Australian Meat Board for the year ended 30 June 1974.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956-1973 I present for the information of honourable senators the Export Payments Insurance Corporation annual report 1974.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the interim report of the Australian Wool Corporation for the period 1 July 1973 to 30 June 1974.
– I present 3 reports by the Industries Assistance Commission entitled:
Steam, Gas and Water Fittings, dated 24 May 1974;
Industrial Tractors, dated 4 June 1 974;
Gloves, Mittens or Mitts, dated 1 1 June 1974.
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales-
Attorney-General and Minister for Customs and Excise)- For the information of honourable senators I present a ministerial statement dated 19 September 1974 on the establishment of a children’s commission.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) Pursuant to section 96 (L) of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1973 I present for the information of honourable senators the annual report of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for the year ended 30 June 1974. This year, for the first time, the report includes a statistical supplement which in previous years has been issued under separate cover.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) Pursuant to section 96 (M) of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1973 I present for the information of honourable senators a White Paper entitled ‘Post office prospects and capital programme 1974-75 ‘.
– For the information of honourable Senators I present a review of activities of the Department of Tourism and Recreation to 30 June 1974.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the Commonwealth National Fitness Act 1941I present for the information of honourable senators a report entitled National Fitness in Australia July 1973-June 1974’.
– For the information of honourable senators I present
Occasional Paper No. 1 by the Cities Commission entitled ‘Overseas Experts Reports 1973’.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the interim report of the Director of Defence Service Homes of Operations in relation to insurance and financial statements for the year ended 30 June 1974.
Report of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs
– I present an interim report and transcript of evidence from the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on its inquiry into the law and administration of divorce and related matters and the Family Law Bill 1974.I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator JAMES McCLELLAND (New South Wales)- I seek leave to make a brief statement relating to the interim report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator JAMES McCLELLAND (New South Wales)- Honourable senators will recall that on 17 September 1974 this Committee was empowered to table any or all of the evidence or documents presented to the Committee on this reference. The Hansard record of evidence given before the Committee has been tabled herewith. These and submissions from other persons and organisations who did not give evidence are available for inspection by honourable senators on request to the secretary of the Committee. I might mention that there are some logistical difficulties about copying all of these submissions but if any honourable senator wants to have access to the submissions, other than those embodied in the Hansard record, in order to inform his or her mind prior to taking part in the debate on this Bill, the Secretary of the Committee will be happy to co-operate.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
National Roads Bill 1974.
Roads Grants Bill 1974.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 3 p.m. or such later time as the President may take the Chair.
– Order! I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) stating that Senator Scott has requested that he be discharged from attendance upon the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, and nominating Senator Lawrie to be appointed to the Committee in place of Senator Scott.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That Senator Scott be discharged from attendance upon the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances and that Senator Lawrie, having been duly nominated in accordance with standing order 36A, be appointed to the Committee.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That Senator Drury be granted leave of absence for 2 months on account of absence overseas attending the United Nations.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That Senator Wright be granted leave of absence for 2 months on account of absence overseas attending the United Nations.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr President, the Honourable the Treasurer (Mr Crean) referred in his Budget Speech to the need for higher Post Office charges than were previously proposed because of the Opposition’s action in the Senate in July in deferring the increases which were to apply from 1 August, after the Opposition in the other place voted for the Bill. The deferment of those increases to 1 October would mean that Post Office receipts in 1974-75 would be about $30m less than was anticipated from that source. As far back as the Premiers’ Conference of 7 June it was known publicly that the Post Office appropriation in the Budget would be held at last year’s level of $385m. In the debate in this House I stressed that there would be no increase in that allocation. The effect of deferment has to be either higher charges to cover the shortfall or a cut in the Post Office’s capital investment program. The Opposition’s action has been strongly condemned from many quarters. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) at his Press conference on 30 July, termed the deferment grossly irresponsible. He said:
It seems the grossest irresponsibility for an Opposition which, when it was in Government knew this would have to be done, which has now had that knowledge re-inforced by Sir James Vernon’s Royal Commission, now to say it will reject these charges.
The daily newspapers and the financial Press condemned the Opposition’s action in equally strong terms. The ‘Age’ editorial of 1 August said this:
Higher postal charges are not so much a part of the Government’s anti-inflationary program as a first step towards making the Post Office commercially viable . . . Significantly, the Opposition did not oppose the increased postal charges in the House of Representatives. Their rejection in the Senate must be seen as a tactical manoeuvre based on opportunism rather than a valid objection based on reason or principle. One way or another, the public will have to pay.
On 3 1 July the editor of the ‘Australian Financial Review’, under the heading ‘B. M. Snedden ‘s Seven Cent Heroics ‘, wrote:
Every so often opportunism can be dressed up to pass muster as considered rational policy. However, Mr Snedden was the man who campaigned on the necessity of pruning the expenditure side of the Commonwealth Budget. It is almost totally inconsistent of him to espouse this and at the same time scheme to prevent the Government increasing postal charges.
The Government is not prepared to vary its previous decision and allocate more from the Budget to the Post Office because this could only be at the expense of our priority programs in the fields of education, welfare and health. It is generally accepted that the Post Office should finance a significant proportion of postal and telecommunications expansion. The report of the Vernon Commission recommends that 50 per cent of fixed asset expenditure should be financed from internal sources- profits and provisions for depreciation and long service leave. This enables the Post Office to meet demand for service at a higher level than would be possible if finances were restricted to borrowings available through the Budget. If borrowings through the
Budget were increased, the percentage of telecommunications capital investment which is internally financed would fall well below SO per cent.
After close study, the Government has also decided that it would not be appropriate to cut Post Office capital investment by some further $30m and let existing telephone applicants increase by 40,000 to 163,000. That would mean a telecommunications engineering construction program 6 per cent below the 1973-74 level of effort. It would obviously require substantial retrenchments in the Post Office’s 18,000 capital works staff and in the telecommunications manufacturing industry staff of 20,000 where skilled resources have been built up over many years.
In considering how some $30m should be raised from extra higher charges in 1974-75, the Government considered that the postal service with its huge losses must bear a significant part. The basic postage will therefore be increased to 10c, with other increases in associated charges which I will outline shortly. On the telephone side, it seemed completely inequitable for the residential subscriber to pay more directly because of the Opposition’s action and it was therefore decided that the remaining shortfall should be borne by business subscribers. Business telephone rentals will be increased to $85 and there are also some further increases in telex call charges and rentals, for installation and removal fees for miscellaneous telephone facilities and for telegraphic code addresses. Otherwise the increases are identical with those included in the previous Bills. Full details of all the charges are given in the schedule circulated to honourable senators, but the major items are:
Telephone service connection fees are being increased from $60 to $80 for new applicants where new plant is necessary and from $30 to $40 where an existing subscriber moves to another address and new plant is required, to raise $6m in 1974-74.
Government and business rentals will increase by $30 to $85, instead of $75 previously proposed, and residential and other rentals by $10 to $65, to raise $58m in 1974-75.
The local call fee will rise from 4.75c to 6c, but this will not be reflected directly into trunk call charges. Day time calls will rise by between 3.5 per cent and 5.3 per cent only, except for those over 645 kilometres where the increase is 26 per cent Night rates are being reduced by 3 per cent to 40 per cent, with the shortest distance calls up to 50 kilometres costing only 6c- that is the local call fee- for each 3 minutes. Variations in call charges will raise $31 min 1974-75.
The basic postage for standard and nonstandard postal articles will be 10c and 11c, instead of 9c and 10c previously proposed. These higher increases will be reflected into charges for heavier weight items, bulk presorted mail, Category ‘C registered publications, householder mail, overseas mail, airmail and priority paid mail. Variations in all postal charges will raise $43m in 1 974-75.
The total extra receipts in 1974-75 from all increases is $146m. This is the same amount which would have been raised if the deferred proposals had applied from 1 August. A substantial amount of justification for the individual variations was given when these measures were first announced and it is not necessary to repeat it because it is readily available. In addition, more complete financial information is available in the annual Post Office White Paper which has been presented. It must be realised by the Opposition that the Government is determined to ensure that the costs of the Post Office are met by the users of the services. This is in line with the recommendations of the Vernon Commission, which saw the need for the Post Office to operate in a similar manner to other Government undertakings. Higher borrowings from the Treasury, year after year, are not the answer to the cost increases faced by the Post Office, and this Bill endeavours to correct the situation that has been accentuated by the Opposition’s recent actions. I emphasise that but for these recent actions, the basic postage paid by the Australian people would be 9c instead of the 10c now necessary; the telephone rental on business and government services would be $75 instead of the $85 they must now pay. The price of the Opposition’s previous irresponsible decisions is lc on every letter and $ 10 on every business telephone service. The people of Australia and the business community in particular will remember that.
The date of effect of the variations to charges in the Bill is 1 October. The Opposition has had some 3 months to study them. It can consider them in the context of the Budget. It can now see the implications of its previous decision. What is needed is expeditious action to pass this legislation to avoid the Post Office being affected yet again.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act in respect of postal and telegraph charges. Another Bill will amend the
Post and Telegraph Act and associated Regulations. Certain miscellaneous charges will be adjusted by administrative action. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is complementary to the amendments to the Post and Telegraph Rates Act 1902-1973 which I have just introduced. In order to implement the changes of which I have spoken in conjunction with the Post and Telegraph Rates Act amendments, it is necessary to make certain amendments to the Post and Telegraph Act and to the Postal Regulations, the Telephone Regulations, the Telegraph Regulations and the Radio-Telephone Exchange Service Regulations.
As mentioned previously, this Bill also makes changes to the Post and Telegraph Act which are necessary to permit the introduction of a Post Office courier service. Initially, the courier service, to cater for the special need for a messenger service for urgent articles, will be provided in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, with subsequent extension to the other capital cities. The present privately operated ventures meet a substantial and growing customer need but are close to the traditional areas of postal operations. It is, therefore, appropriate for the Post Office to provide a courier service and it is expected that this will be a profitable operation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- I have received message No. 69 from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in the appointment of a joint committee on the pecuniary interests of members of Parliament. Copies of the message have been distributed to honourable senators.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That consideration of the message be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 1248), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-These 2 Bills which have been taken together relate to the exercise by the self governing legislature of the Territory of Papua New Guinea of certain powers with respect to offshore mining. The Opposition recognises that the Bills clarify a matter of some doubt in one respect and acknowledge the rights of the Territory of Papua New Guinea at this stage, and certainly when it becomes independent, to exercise full and plenary powers over exploration for mining in its off-shore areas. The Opposition believe that the Bills will achieve these purposes, and it offers no objection to them. But I think there are some matters to which the attention of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) can be drawn and in respect of which we would like some indication of the course which has been taken and some assurances for the future. The request is made not in any sense conditionally that these assurances be given, but simply to draw attention to these matters because in the future they could produce discord unless they are borne in mind at all stages in the course of the negotiations which will have to take place.
The present position in relation to the power to make laws with regard to off-shore mining is that the provisions of the Papua New Guinea Act have been exercised in the manner in which, prior to self government last December, the power to make laws was transferred from the Australian Government to the legislature of the Territory of Papua New Guinea. There is some doubt, as the Minister said in his second reading speech, whether that transfer of power is sufficiently clear to ensure the full plenary power of the Territory legislature. I can imagine areas in which that doubt may exist. Accepting that when the Territory of Papua New Guinea becomes independent it should have all the powers of a sovereign nation with regard to its off-shore areas, it is appropriate that there be no doubt that Papua New Guinea on independence will have that power. I understand that that is the sole purpose of the amendment to the Papua New Guinea Act.
The amendment to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act is designed to carry forward logically and, one might suppose, is a matter of realisation of what was contemplated some 7 years ago, that some day the Territory of Papua New Guinea would exercise for itself powers with regard to petroleum exploration and exploitation in its off-shore waters. The Bill excises from the parent Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act of 1967 all those provisions which vested the powers of a designated authority in the relevant Australian Minister. It will mean that the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act passed by this Parliament hereafter will contain no reference to Papua New Guinea and impliedly will divest all Australian authorities of power to make laws with regard to exploration for and exploitation of petroleum in the off-shore waters.
The scheme of the petroleum submerged lands legislation is unique. I well recall the very interesting activities of a select committee of the Senate which examined the circumstances in which the legislation came into being and which also gave intensive consideration to the implications of the legislation. The legislation, of course, is mirror legislation in the sense that the Commonwealth Act has been reproduced by State legislation in each of the States. Prior to the legislation being devised in that way, an agreement was made between the 6 State Premiers and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth under which the mirror legislation was to be produced. In the negotiations which took place prior to that agreement and in the terms of the agreement the Australian Government acted on behalf of the Territory of Papua New Guinea. It is my recollection that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has been the Designated Authority in regard to the Territory of Papua New Guinea, he having succeeded the Minister for External Territories.
The territorial division of the submerged lands area between Queensland and the Territory of Papua New Guinea was a fundamental part of the arrangement so that the area over which the Commonwealth Government, representing the Territory of Papua New Guinea, would exercise authority could be differentiated from the area over which the Designated Authority for the State of Queensland would exercise authority. That boundary, of course, is described by metes and bounds in the Schedule to the petroleum and submerged lands legislation. Attached to the actual agreement which preceded the legislation are maps which indicate where that boundary lies. I understand, having had some discussions with Mr Peacock who represents the Opposition in this matter in the House of Representatives, that the boundary which was drawn in 1967 has undergone some inevitable changes over the years, so that what is now produced in the legislation which is currently before us is a boundary which includes part of the land mass of the Territory of Papua New Guinea.
I mention this because I hope that it is not something which will be just left to pass in the hope that if unstated and unreferred to no problem will arise about it in the future. I suspect it is matters which are shelved in that way which so often become the real stumbling blocks at some future time. I hope that when there is a genuine desire to reach agreement and willingness to make the necessary compromises- this is not a contentious area- that steps will be taken to clarify it and to clarify it in a way that resolves all possibility of future doubt. I also note with some concern that if the letter of the agreement under which the submerged lands legislation was introduced has been observed at least the spirit of that agreement has not. I fail to see why it was not appropriate for the Commonwealth Government to initiate discussions with Queensland with a view to ensuring that what is contemplated in the legislation meets with the approval of Queensland. The whole tenor of the agreement was that any amendment to the legislation would be the subject of discussions with the State concerned. I know it can be argued that on a strict reading of the agreement no discussion with Queensland was necessary.
Having regard to the boundary problem to which I have already adverted I would have thought that desirable, if not required by the agreement, that discussions with Queensland should take place. It seems strange that we should be debating these Bills and that I should be making this comment so soon after criticism has been made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) of the Queensland Premier in which it was implied that the Queensland Premier was adopting an unreasonable attitude. I think that the Queensland Premier has a very neat rejoinder, if he chooses to use it, that this was one occasion where, quite unnecessarily and quite unreasonably, there has been no consultation with Queensland by the Commonwealth Government. I only suggest that if the nation is to develop in the co-operative federalist way which we in the Opposition parties certainly believe it should, then consultation of this character will have to take place frequently. Where an agreement requires such consultation every effort should be made to observe both the letter and the spirit of that agreement. It is a matter of regret that such consultation has not taken place on this occasion. As I have indicated these 2 Bills are part of the ongoing process, with which the Opposition concurs, for the transference of power to Papua New Guinea so that when it assumes independence it will be a full independence in which the co-operation of the Australian Government at all times has been evident. We recognise that these 2 Bills are part of a general tidying up process in the stages towards independence. The Opposition offers no objection to them.
– The Australian Country Party will support the Papua New Guinea Bill and the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill. I, like Senator Greenwood, have reservations mainly because the Queensland Government was not consulted in this matter. As Senator Greenwood has said, if it liked to stick strictly to the provisions of the Bills the Federal Government did not have to consult the Queensland Government on this occasion. However, the boundary between Queensland and Papua New Guinea has received a great deal of attention in the past. This is a contentious area. No doubt, mining in the submerged lands which is carried out under sections of these Bills will affect Queensland if there is any indication that there will be a change in the boundaries. I hope that the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) will make sure that if there is any alteration to the original Bills, particularly in relation to boundaries, there will be prior consultation with the Queensland Government. However, as I indicated before, the Australian Country Party will support these measures.
– in reply- I have taken on board the remarks of Senator Greenwood and Senator Maunsell. I shall convey them to my colleague. Honourable senators will appreciate, of course, that I am deputising in the carriage of the Papua New Guinea Bill and the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee). I am assured by the departmental officers advising me that it was felt that there was nothing about which to consult the Queensland Government in regard to this legislation. I am told that the Bill does not extend to the Queensland adjacent area but that it extends to the Papua New Guinea area and does not affect in any way the economics of the matter. The Bill -
– Except that the boundary has to be changed. That may affect Queensland, although it is only a fine point. I appreciate your problems in dealing with it.
– I appreciate that there is an anomaly in the location of the adjacent area boundary. But I am told that probably this has to be the subject of negotiation. Therefore, it was felt that we should proceed with the legislation pending those negotiations. But in view of what has been said by Senator Greenwood and Senator Maunsell, I will refer their comments to my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, for appropriate recognition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
-Mr Temporary Chairman, are we dealing with the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill or the Papua New Guinea Bill first? Which one are we dealing with now?
– We are taking both Bills together.
– That is the position.
- Senator Greenwood and Senator Maunsell have already mentioned the question of the continental shelf boundary. Can the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) give me an assurance that the boundary agreed upon in 1967 will not be changed by the passing of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill?
-I am assured that the answer is yes.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 1249), on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill removes the necessity to pay fees for broadcast and television receivers licences, as announced as part of the Budget last Tuesday by the Treasurer (Mr Crean). First of all I would like to protest that some of the Budget Bills have been proceeded with by this Government in advance of the time honoured custom of giving the Leader of the Opposition a week in which to reply to the Budget. As we all know, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr Snedden, will be stating the Opposition’s attitude to the Budget in a major speech in another place this evening. I think it is only right and appropriate that the Opposition should not be expected to respond to Budget measures in advance of the principal debate on the Budget which will commence this evening in another place and here tomorrow. If this Bill were the only one involved perhaps one would not make much of a protest but we have had brought into the Senate another important Budget Bill which has already been processed in the House of Representatives; that is the Bill increasing telephone and postal charges.
The Opposition does not oppose the abolition of the television and radio receivers licences under the Broadcasting and Television Bill now before the Senate. However, it does note a few anomalies in the Government’s policy on this question. The prime anomaly that arises is that the Government in its policy on Post Office and telecommunications services has adopted very strongly the principle that the users of the services should pay for them. We will be debating in a few days time the Bill which has been introduced to increase greatly the charges for postal services and telecommunication services. It is a Bill which has been drafted on that basic principle, that is, that the users of the services should be paying for them. However, in relation to the service that people receive from the national broadcasting and television stations the Government has in this Budget now adopted the principle that they should not pay. We are not challenging that decision nor opposing the passage of this Bill. Nevertheless we must register our surprise at the anomaly which seems to exist in Government policy. Perhaps we should not be so surprised about it. We are becoming more and more familiar with many anomalies and contradictions in Government policy. They seem to be the order of the day and this just another of them. It is perhaps one which has not the great, major or fatal consequences to the nation that many other Government anomalies and rapid contradictions of policies and differing statements by Ministers on major issues have had.
The Government also justifies the abolition of these charges on the grounds that they are expensive to collect, and their collection is not very efficient. The Government estimates that probably $llm is lost annually because people are not paying for licences and, in fact, 23,000 people were prosecuted last year in that regard, is also said that the collection of these fees requires the employment of 247 people. So it would seem to me that the Government would have been on stronger ground in emphasising these reasons for the abolition of the charges instead of invoking some grand principle that the national service is providing information, educational, cultural and entertainment services to the community and that therefore the people should not be paying for it.
Another matter to be noted in relation to this decision is that $67m income for the Government will be forgone by this abolition. That is a very substantial amount. Obviously it has had to be paid for by the community and by the taxpayers generally. That may be one reason why the income tax reduction in this year’s Budget stands at the rather curious figure of $430m instead of a round figure, which one would expect, of, say, $500m. It is interesting to note that the figure of $67m added to the savings in taxation would amount to such a figure. It is quite clear that the abolition of this fee has been at the expense of other taxation reductions in the Budget. This only emphasises the difficulty of debating a matter such as this in isolation and without considering the debate on the Budget generally. I have already protested about that.
It seems to be the case that as a result of forgoing such a major amount of income as $67m in a full year the taxpayers generally are having to pay more for it. We know that the Government is budgeting for an increase of no less than 46 per cent overall in the revenue from income taxation. So to present this proposal as being in any great way a reduction in the burden of taxation on the community is a good deal of eyewash. There may be some sound, practical reasons for the abolition of this fee, as I have already indicated. The Opposition does not challenge them. It is not opposing them. But I think it would be foolish for the electorate to believe that it was really benefiting to any extent by this abolition. The Government may think that some political advantage is to be gained in that people will suddenly not have to pay the fee and will think therefore that the Government has given them some great stroke of benefit. But as we all know, this year there will be an overall increase of 46 per cent in income tax paid by the taxpayers generally throughout the community. That will apply not only to the affluent but also will apply pretty generally. Because of the present rate of inflation the present lower income earners will rapidly reach the higher income brackets and will pay more tax.
I wish to advert to one other aspect of the Bill, and that is the question of refunds of licence fees that have already been paid. Apparently it is the Government’s policy that those people who have paid a television or radio licence fee in advance of the day of abolition- namely, 17 Septemberfor a period commencing beyond 17 September will be entitled to a refund that anybody who has paid prior to or presumably on 17 September for a whole year’s licence fee for the year ahead will not be entitled to a refund. So there are great anomalies there. The people who took out their licences within a few days or a few weeks of the Budget on 17 September in the expectation that they would be paying a fee for 12 months hence will be severely disadvantaged as compared with those whose licence fees would be due for renewal in the weeks or even months immediately following 1 7 September.
I believe that another anomaly has been created by the Government’s policy in this regard. The community and certainly we in the Opposition are not surprised by the anomalies and contradictions in the Government’s policy. However, as I have said, the Opposition is not opposing this legislation. It can see some good arguments in favour of the abolition of these fees. The Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) has indicated some of those practical arguments in favour of the abolition. The Opposition accepts them and does not oppose the measure.
– I wish to state that the Australian Country Party does not oppose this Bill. Like the previous speaker, I would like to mention 2 or 3 small matters. First of all, I should like to refer to the matter of refunds. There has been a bit of confusion about this. I believe the post offices have been told not to collect any more licence fees but some people have complained that the post offices have not been told that the people who paid in advance will get a refund. Surely, in the telegram sent to the post offices telling them not to collect any more fees, they could have been advised to give refunds to those people who had paid their licence fees in advance. I have had several complaints and I have also seen several letters in the newspapers on this matter.
There are a couple more problems. I refer to the people who have been booked in very recent weeks for not having a radio or television licence. I would like the Minister to state, if he can, the Government’s policy on whether his Department intends to proceed with prosecutions of, say, a person who was booked the day or the week before the 17th of this month. I should like to know whether the Government intends to prosecute those people.
– Do you think they should, Senator?
– Grant an amnesty.
– There are lots of ways of looking at this particular question. In some cases I think serious consideration should be given to not proceeding with prosecutions. If the . licence fees for television and radio are to be dropped completely, consideration should be given to dropping prosecutions. Radio fees have come a long way in Australia since the very early days in Sydney and Melbourne. I remember that the radio station 2FC which was then owned and established by Farmer and Co. Ltd of Sydney sold sealed sets which could not be tuned in to any station but 2FC. I think when one bought a set one paid £5 for a licence but could only listen to the programs from 2FC. It was not long, of course, before sets that could be tuned to various stations were introduced and then the stations were licensed. At that time for 2 periods of about 5 years each the national program was allocated to a company called the Australian Broadcasting Co. In or about 1930 the present Australian Broadcasting Commission took over and carried on from there. We now have a new concept in broadcasting. We have new programs in radio and television, the introduction of coloured television and frequency modulation. The establishment of many new stations has been announced by the Government.
I think one point has been missed. We are exempting the great bulk of the Australian people from paying radio and television fees. Up until this time the people who were out of the range of television and who would not have a receiver were not liable to pay a fee for a television licence. Those people who live in remote areas will now have to contribute through being general taxpayers. Many Australians will come into that category. Also, people in the big cities who have access to television but who do not want to buy a set will have to contribute, through general taxation, to the upkeep of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Up until now a person who was not a television viewer has not been liable to pay for a licence but under the new system, as part of a general taxpayer concept in Australia, he will have to contribute very directly to the cost of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s national television and to a lesser extent, radio stations. But apart from mentioning those considerations, as I said earlier, my Party does not oppose this Bill,
– in reply- I thank the honourable senators who have spoken for their ready co-operation with the aims of the Bill. There has not been any great criticism of the Bill. It is a new and important reform. For many months both Senator Douglas McClelland and I have considered that we should recommend such a procedure to the Cabinet. We prepared submissions to Cabinet. I think the reform has been very well received. The old system in Australia was in the nature of a poll tax. Some other countries have abolished the fees for television and radio, as we have now done. Of course, in this sort of legislation anomalies are created. As soon as one decides on a date, or puts up a fence, as it were, there will be people who fall on either side. It is unfortunate that some people could not be advised of the proposed legislation. In relation to refunds, if we had decided to make such refunds it would not have been possible to carry out this reform.
– What about prosecutions?
-I will tell the honourable senator. A number of people- I do not think I should give their names- were facing prosecution. I think that the best way I can put it to the honourable senator is that appropriate letters have been sent to the people concerned and as a result the aims of which he spoke will be attained. I thank honourable senators for the speedy passage of this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 1.3 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 1251), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate has before it the Asian Development Fund Bill 1974 which, as the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) said in his second reading speech, is designed to obtain parliamentary approval for a contribution of $A18.15m, or the equivalent of US$27m. The money is to go to what is described as the Asian Development Fund which has fairly recently been established within the Asian Development Bank. When Senator Cotton spoke on this measure before the debate was adjourned he referred to the establishment of the Bank in 1 966 during the lifetime of the previous LiberalCountry Party Government. The Bill relating to the establishment of the Bank came before the Senate in, I think, August of that year. I had the opportunity personally to take part in the debate and to express my general interest in the work which the Bank was being designed to carry out.
The idea of the Asian Development Bank began some years before 1966. The idea began to take shape at a ministerial conference which was held in connection with Asian economic cooperation. The conference, which was held under the auspices of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East- an organisation which we know as ECAFE- took place in Manila in 1963. For some years prior to that date the concept of an Asian Development Bank had been the subject of international conversation and consultation. But as a result of the meeting to which I have just referred ECAFE set up a working group of experts to go into the matter and to report on a resolution that a regional bank or financial institution might be established. A couple of years after that a consultative committee which was set up by ECAFE agreed on a draft which related to the establishment of such a bank. The agreement relating to this matter was eventually signed in Manila, and it came into force on 22 August 1 966.
The Asian Development Bank made its first loan in January 1968. I have been looking at some of the figures which tell the story of the Bank’s development and involvement in the region which it was designed to serve. The rate of the Bank’s lending rose from some US$40m in 1968 to US$236m in 1970, A year later, in 197 1, the Bank had made 77 loans, totalling more than US$500m, to some 15 developing member countries. In 1 972 the Bank lent US$3 1 6m, and a year later its rate of lending had risen to US$42 lm. Last year loans were made to some 16 countries, with three of them, Burma, Bangladesh and Tonga, receiving their first loans from the Bank.
As the Minister said in his second reading speech on this measure, total loan approvals have now passed US$ 1,000m. This year the Asian Development Bank has some 40 members, of which twenty-six are Asian members and fourteen are described as non-Asian members. The last 3 countries to become members of the Bank are Burma, Bangladesh and the British Solomon Islands. The Bank is looking ahead, and it has loan projects outstanding amounting to almost US$1, 500m.
This may be an impressive record, but I want to draw the attention of the Senate to the outlook and attitude of the President of the Asian Development Bank. When speaking only a few months ago he acknowledged that the Bank had an important role to play. He went on to say: . . in rendering assistance to the development member countries the bank projects but also ensures, as far as practicable, that their gains of development will be as widespread as possible. The bank will continue to seek more effective ways and means of promoting economic and social development in the region.
So from its comparatively recent origin the Bank has extended to become a major contributor to development in the Asian region. This program of increased assistance indicates that the bank will continue to be one of the principal agencies of development assistance in the region.
– Economic development.
– The very nature of the measure relates to a bank and to a fund within a bank, and I welcome the observation from the honourable senator. Up to this point in my remarks in relation to this measure I have been referring specifically to economic development. The Bill before the Senate commits Australia to a continuation of its contribution to economic development. The Asian Development Fund is to provide finance and funds, and the Minister has placed emphasis on the particular characteristic of the Fund. As I read his speech, the Fund will be used to finance loans at something less than the ruling commercial rates of interest. Of course, in this situation there is an urgent need for this kind of financing. Anyone who has been in the area in recent times and has taken any interest in the development of these countries from an economic point of view, as far as it is possible to see through the grave complexities of economic development, will be of the view that if the Fund is able to finance loans at a rate of interest which is lower than the prevailing commercial rates of interest it will be of some considerable value. Anyone who has studied the situation in these countries will be aware of the fact that the grave complexities that these countries face and the vastness of their programs and needs places them not only in a position of great difficulty but also in a position of financial indebtedness, and this financial indebtedness gravely affects their whole existence, their whole outlook and, very importantly, their international relations.
The Minister in his speech referred to the introduction of what I think he called soft lending terms or concessional lending operations. We respond to that by saying that this is very necessary in this particularly complex and difficult situation. The Asian Development Fund, which is the subject of this Bill, will enable the Asian Development Bank to have a primary source of finance for future concessional lending operations. I suppose that in any discussion on lending operations or grants or loans the question of whether such grants or loans should have certain strings attached to them will always rear its head. I do not think that we should have a system of tied grants in any international development or assistance program. A system of tied grants frequently ends up being somewhat counterproductive. If grants and loans are tied, for example, to the purchase of goods or services in the donor country, then there is a grave risk of reducing the flexibility of development programs and therefore their effectiveness.
In his second reading speech the Minister reminded the Senate that the Asian Development Bank helped to finance facilities in the electric power, transport and communications sectors as well as agriculture, water supply and education projects. I have had the opportunity, both on my own and with a parliamentary delegation, of seeing something of these electric power, communications, water supply and education projects and they are impressive. Of course, they will make their contribution but, even as one looks at them, the question arises in ones mind whether they will be effectively used, whether they will contribute to the well-being and social development of the people, whether in the ultimate they will better contribute to the total economic development of the countries concerned and whether that economic development will flow back to as wide a range of the people as possible. They are the things that the Bank and the Fund, which is the subject of the Bill, must constantly look at, police and be aware of. They are part of the long program that the Bank and the Fund have in front of them. But as the Minister said in his second reading speech, all the projects to which I have referred have contributed to a raising of the living standards in the nearby developing countries. I also hope and believe that the projects which will be funded from the Asian Development Fund will help in the raising of the living standards of the countries in the future.
The Minister’s speech directly impinges on one of the most serious aspects of the situation with which the Bank and the Fund must deal. That is the matter of economic development assistance and its relationship to international need in this particular area and the facts of life as far as international aid is concerned. There is a difference between international aid as we understand it and the basic facts of this Bill. Nevertheless, there is and will continue to be a very close relationship of which the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Development Fund must constantly take account. The concept of international aid as part of development assistance has its origins in the early years after the war. I suppose that the first thing to spring to one’s mind is the Marshall Plan which dealt with, as we recall it, the reconstruction of Western Europe and Japan as well as other countries. Later the creation of an organisation known as the Development Assistance Group, which was a body of Western donor countries, started a genuine attempt to co-ordinate international assistance, grants and aid. This is the kind of activity with which the Fund must have some relationship. The Development Assistance Group set out also to collect data on assistance and development programs. It also provided a service to the world- I put it that way- regarding the effectiveness of these programs, which is something to which we must always give serious consideration.
The particular service to which I am referring is now conducted by an organisation known as the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Annual reviews are put out by the Development Assistance Committee, and the Asian Development Bank will have received those annual reviews. In those reviews the Committee has constantly and repeatedly drawn attention to the seriousness which confronts all development and assistance problems. In one of its latest reviews it has taken a very strong view on what it has described as ‘the inadequacy of the measures taken by both developed and developing countries to meet the challenge’. The President of the Development Assistance Committee, Mr Edwin Martin, in his article from which I quoted earlier, said:
The lack of full commitment to development co-operation represents, in my view, the real and critical ‘crisis of development’, though one not widely accepted as such in developed countries. If we are to have any hope of building a world in which lack of resources does not prevent any person from having a decent minimum of opportunities, we must all give development a high priority. Donors must make more aid available under more flexible criteria and they must take bold initiatives with respect to trade opportunities.
We could engage in a series of discussions relating to several phrases in the President’s comments. Because we are dealing this afternoon with a Bill that relates to a fund in a bank, I will leave those comments to other occasions and other opportunities. Needless to say, since Mr Martin made those comments the effect of substantial price increases, for example in Middle East oil, has compounded the problems of both donor and recipient countries. The increased costs of commodities and shipping rates have severely drained the foreign exchange reserves of donor and contributor countries, and at the same time have imposed a very heavy burden on the meagre foreign exchange resources of most of the major recipient countries. An aspect of this matter which is no less serious is the effect of the international inflationary spiral which has eroded the real value of the transfer resources to developing countries.
During the last three to four years there have been several major studies of these matters, particularly on economic and political conditions in developing countries. Because of these major studies of economic and political conditions a great deal more is now known about development issues and the extent to which asistance to developing countries can be attempted. The Asian Development Fund and the Asian Development Bank, which are the subject of the Bill, will have been involved in those studies and will have access to the findings. However, the reports that have been coming from these studies are not as encouraging or as cheerful as we would like. The gap between the living standards of the developed countries and the developing countries continues to widen. Figures published by the World Bank show that the per capita income level for Asia is $100. The figures for a number of other countries are quoted. The figure for Australia is $3,000. I quote those figures to draw a distinction. I recognise that it may be only a rough guide, but it serves to highlight some of the problems which the Asian Development Bank and the Fund in it will be facing as they set out on this venture.
– What about the relation between the pressure on the resources of the growing population and the fact that all the Asian people who turned up at the international conference at Bucharest turned down aid?
– The honourable senator raises very properly the question of the impact of the population explosion in these developing countries. I am mindful of the fact that this is one of the serious problems in relation to this matter. I am also mindful of the fact that so many of the recipient countries must do a great deal more to help themselves and to help solve their own problems. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack will recall that I said earlier today that one of the very sharp rejoinders from one of the early international committees in relation to the setting up of the Asian Development Bank and Fund drew the attention of the developing countries to their own inadequacies and to the fact that as soon as possible and on all occasions they must do their utmost to resolve their own problems and take steps to help themselves. If that responsibility is theirs, it becomes the responsibility of affluent countries, particularly those in the region in which we live, to assist in what I would call ‘the self-help program ‘.
The Minister’s speech in relation to the Asian Development Fund highlights some of the background against which the Fund will work. There is a difference between international aid and concessional loans, but the operation of both of them is the business of both the Government and the Australian people. I wish to observe that the Fund will operate against the background of a program which is currently being undertaken by the United Nations and which is described as the United Nations Second Development Decade. The Second Development Decade is now approaching its mid-term. The First Development Decade was very disappointing, and the achievements and responses were very modest. But in the midst of this Second Decade, the United Nations has distributed a resolution which has a particular relationship to the Asian Development Fund and its operations as outlined in the Bill. Several clauses in the resolution in relation to the Second Development Decade call for, amongst other things, an average annual rate of growth of gross national product of at least 6 per cent in the developing countries as a whole. There was a reminder in that resolutionthis emphasises what I said earlier- that developing countries ‘are urged to improve their own social conditions’. On the subject of financial resources for development, which is what this Bill is all about, the resolution declared that developing countries must . . . bear the main responsibility for financing their development’. But the developed countries were urged to provide substantial financial assistance and resources.
The last section of the resolution relating to the United Nations Development Decade called for the mobilisation of public opinion in both developing and developed countries in support of the objectives of the Development Decade. Here we have one of the most urgent situations in the field of international development and assistance. I refer to the mobilising of public opinion and interest. With the passing of this Bill today the Government, on behalf of the people, will make a contribution to the cause of international development. With the passing of the Bill most people probably will not give the matter a second thought. But I think there is a strong case to be made out for greater encouragement, incentive and intelligent contributions to be given to international aid and assistance by voluntary organisations whose activities are not so much in the area of straight out donor aid but in total or in part are related to development and assistance and are the result of studied international situations in which people are given the opportunity to help themselves.
There is in Australia a pool of people who already respond to this kind of approach. At the national level there are a number of voluntary organisations which work hard at raising funds to make financial loans and arrangements for developmental projects. I do not know them all. I am associated with only one of them. It is popularly known as the Christmas Bowl Appeal. It raises well over $lm in a calendar year not only for rehabilitation but also for development and programs of research, education and progress within the receiving countries. It also has a program of helping communities to help themselves. Surely the government of the day, not only this Government but also future governments, can find a way of tapping this very reliable, generous and sensible source of supply of not only the concern which the people in these organisations feel but also the finance which they are prepared to make available.
The Minister acknowledges that the reasons for the Bill are to raise the standards of living and to provide opportunities. The private citizen would help if he were encouraged. Too much emphasis is placed today on the view that if the Government is doing this sort of thing there is no need for anybody else to do it. Because the Government is doing it people cease to be concerned about the matter. We have talked before in this chamber about a taxation concession. This may be a fairly simple move, but at least it would be a first and immediate way to encourage more people to undertake a real responsibility in dealing with the elements which are outlined in the measure before the Senate today. If the present Australian Government, indeed any Australian governmnt, takes Australia’s development assistance seriously it will look at this subject with a view to mobilising public opinion, to use the words in the United Nations resolution. After all, of all of the Western developed and affluent nations, Australia is closest to the Asian area which is served by this Bank. We have a very real reason to be personally and economically interested in what goes on in this area.
I have spoken on only one aspect of this Bill, largely because of some personal involvement and also because I was associated with it when we first held a debate on this subject some 8 years ago. The Asian Development Bank and now the Asian Development Fund provide the Government and the people here and the Government and the people there- if I may use that word to describe the receiving countries- to have an interdependence in a program of cooperation and progress in our part of the world. We wish the Fund well. I support the Bill.
– in reply- On behalf of the Government I compliment Senator Davidson on his remarks. He obviously is concerned about the question of overseas aid. The only comment I wish to make is that I think that in this Parliament there is broad agreement among most members from all parties on the need for the Government to continue the sort of assistance which was being provided by the previous Administration. I have not hesitated in the past to say- I will say it again- that the previous Government was ahead of public opinion in its overseas aid attitude. So too is this Government. The last survey that I saw showed that 92 per cent of Australians opposed any increased aid to developing countries. There is, unfortunately, a degree of resistance to more of Australia’s wealth being distributed in this manner.
I believe that the comment that was made by Senator Davidson when he used the term mobilising public opinion’ crystallises the matter. We ought to mobilise public opinion. We have a tremendous problem throughout the world where hundreds of millions of people are undernourished. Many of them are completely without hope from the cradle to the grave. That is not a situation any of us should want to see continue. In November this year there will be a major conference in Rome at which the various countries will try to find a means by which to overcome what may be a disaster next year, especially if there is a failure of the northern crops. Therefore, I think that we as a Parliament have to take a fairly united stand. We as a nation have a responsibility to do this. It is not a matter of party politics. I am pleased that the Opposition sees fit to support this measure. I am sure that what we are doing will be appreciated by those who will receive the benefit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
As the second reading speech is the same as that presented to the House of Representatives I seek leave to have the Bill incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-This Bill and the 2 complementary Bills, the Wheat Export Charge Bill 1974 and the Wheat Products Export Adjustment Bill 1974, provide for the implementation of a wheat industry stabilisation plan in respect of the 5 seasons beginning 1 October 1974 and for the continuing operation of the Australian Wheat Board as the sole marketing authority ‘or wheat in Australia and for wheat and wheat products exported from Australia. As is the case with the existing plan, the Board’s marketing powers will extend for 2 seasons beyond the duration of the stabilisation plan. This will enable continuity of the Board’s operations to be maintained. It is necessary for complementary legislation to be enacted by each of the States as some aspects of the arrangements, in particular, the vesting of the ownership of wheat in the hands of the Board, the implementation of any wheat delivery quotas and the marketing of wheat within the State of production, rely on State law for their operation.
Honourable senators will recall that the previous wheat stabilisation plan, originally due to expire in 1972-73, was extended for 1 year, to cover the marketing of wheat of the 1973-74 season, pending review of the arrangements by the Government. Resulting from this review, the Government concluded that there should be a major revision of the existing stabilisation arrangements. In particular, we reached the position that the provision of a guaranteed price for a specific quantity of exports, with the price being adjusted according to certain cost movements from year to year, was not conducive to maximum efficiency in the wheat industry.
The basic aims of the proposed plan, which has been accepted by the wheat industry organisation- the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation- and the State governments, are reflected in this Bill and the complementary Bills. They are to give the industry some security against price fluctuations without distorting the underlying trend in market prices and without providing an unduly large and very often, unpredictable, net contribution by the Government to the industry over the period of the Plan.
The agreed Plan sets out to achieve these aims by, firstly, abandoning the concept of ‘guaranteed price’ and replacing it with a ‘stabilisation price’ related to movements in the international wheat market; secondly, cushioning sharp changes in export prices by moving the stabilisation price gradually into line with market prices; thirdly, providing definite limits to the extent to which the Government can be called upon to underwrite the plan; and, fourthly, providing a mechanism which could reasonably be expected to continue to operate indefinitely and not to require frequent renegotiation, although periodic review and new legislation would be necessary.
It was the Government’s intention to introduce this legislation with the aim of having it passed by the Parliament by 30 June 1 974 and thus avoiding a reference to the Industries Assistance Commission. It was not possible to keep to this timetable because of delays in obtaining the agreement of all the States to the plan and the intervention of the double dissolution of Parliament. However, the Government considers that it is neither practical nor desirable at this point of time to refer the plan to the Commission. The recital to the Bill sets out the special circumstances and provides for a special exemption from reference of the plan to the Commission. The main features of the stabilisation proposals in this Bill and the complementary Wheat Export Charge Bill 1974 are as follows:
This is to be set for the 1974-75 season at $73.49 per tonne f.o.b. or $2 per bushel and adjusted for each of the next 4 succeeding seasons by the application of the formula set out in sub-clause 29 (5) of the Bill. Subject to the financial limits which I will indicate, the stabilisation price will apply to all wheat exports of a season. Under all previous plans there was a limit placed on the quantity of exports in any season which would qualify for a guaranteed floor price.
Average Export Price
This is the average price, f.o.b. equivalent, contracted to be paid for all exported wheat.
The Stabilisation Fund will commence with a credit balance equal to the amount to be contributed as charge on wheat exports of the 1973-74 season, estimated at $48m.
When the average price for all exports of a season is above the stabilisation price set for that season and above $55.12 per tonne f.o.b. or $1.50 per bushel, growers will contribute to the Fund up to $30m or $5.5 1 per tonne or 15 cents per bushel, whichever is the lower, subject to the growers’ contribution not exceeding an amount which would bring the final price- that is, the average export price less the contribution to the Fund- down to $55.12 per tonne. If the aggregate of the growers’ contributions plus the interest earning should at any time take the Fund to a credit in excess of $80m, the excess will be refunded to the Wheat Board for distribution to the earliest contributing pool.
When the average price for all exports of a season is below the stabilisation price set for that season, growers will receive from the Fund payments necessary to lift the average price for all exports of the season to the stabilisation price, subject to a maximum payment per season of $30m or $5.51 per tonne, or 15c per bushel, whichever is the lower; and the payment not exceeding an amount which will bring the final price- that is, the average export price plus the payment from the Fund- to $73.49 per tonne. A qualification is that should the credit of the Fund reach $80m, this restriction on payments from the Fund will not apply for the ensuing period of the plan.
If, in any season, the Fund contains an insufficient level of industry contributions to meet payments required to be made from the Fund in that season, the Government will contribute to the Fund the moneys necessary to meet the deficiency, subject to any government contribution to the Fund being repaid to the Government from industry contributions in subsequent seasons of the plan period before those industry contributions are accumulated in the Fund; and the net government contributions to the Fund over the 5 seasons not exceeding $80m. The Government has agreed that any outstanding government contributions not recouped by the end of the fifth season will be written off. Provision for this has not been included in the Bill as it is considered that this is not a matter to be covered by legislation. But I state the decision of this Government in this respect for the record. Its effect is that the Government is putting at risk an amount of up to $80m over the 5 years of the plan.
The home consumption price arrangements will continue on the existing basis except that the Bill in authorising the Minister to determine, in consultation with State Ministers, the price at which the basic wheat shall be sold by the Board on the domestic market, will do so on the basis that it will be a single price for wheat for all purposes. In other words, there is no provision authorising special pricing arrangements for wheat for non-human consumption, as is the case under existing legislation. The home consumption price hi each year commencing on 1 December will be adjusted from the base level of $70.41 per tonne or 191.6c per bushel, being the 1973-74 price, less the Tasmanian freight loading, according to movements in cash costs, and in rail freight and handling charges. In addition, continuing provision will be made for the Board to recoup in the home consumption price the cost of supplying wheat from the mainland to Tasmania, but on the basis that the Board will be empowered to take such steps as are practicable to recoup from Tasmanian interests the freight costs of the wheat equivalent of any products made from wheat of mainland origin and exported from Tasmania to the mainland. These arrangements are dealt with by clauses 32 and 33 of the Bill. Other important features of the Bill are:
Terminology of the Basic Wheat
The old term ‘fair average quality’ is being replaced by the term ‘Australian standard white’ and this basic wheat is now defined in the legislationsee clause 4 of the Bill. This is seen by the Wheat Board as representing an improved image for Australian wheat in the market place.
Membership of the Board
The Board will have the same membership as provided for in the existing legislation namely, a Chairman, 10 grower representatives, a finance member and one representative each of flour mill owners and employees- clause 8.
Directions by the Minister
The Minister will continue to have the power to issue directions to the Board in the performance of its functions. However, sub-clause 18 (2) has been included in the Bill to give effect to an undertaking given to the wheat industry by the Government that should the Minister direct the Board to sell any wheat on terms more generous than the Board has been prepared to grant on strictly commercial terms for that wheat, the Government will bear the full risk of non-payment in respect of the additional period involved in the direction.
Unauthorised Dealings with Wheat
Sub-clauses 21 (6) and 23 (1) (b) have been included in the Bill to strengthen the position of the Board in curbing dealings with wheat outside the Board. In particular, these provisions have been inserted with a view to meeting problems arising from the taking of leases of land on which there is a growing crop of wheat. They will close a loophole in existing legislation which has enabled circumvention of the long standing requirement that growers should deliver all their wheat production to the Board except quantities retained on farms for seeding and for the feeding of animals- see clause 2 1 .
The Bill contains provisions- clauses 6 and 25- for the retention of the wheat delivery quota mechanism on the basis that it will be optional whether State governments make allocations of any State quotas, which may be applied in a season, to individual growers. However, the Bill continues the current requirement that in a quota season advances will only be payable by the Board on wheat delivered within a State up to the level of the quota determined for that State.
Borrowings by the Board
The Board will retain the authority- clause 36- to borrow from the Reserve Bank, through its Rural Credits Department, the funds required for first advance payments to growers and for its marketing operations. In addition it is being given a supplementary borrowing power which could be used to make progress payments to growers at an accelerated rate, to expedite repayment of seasonal borrowings from the Reserve Bank or to finance stock holdings for lengthy periods. It is envisaged that the Board will only be authorised to borrow commercially against fully secured outstanding debts. All borrowings will be with the approval of the Minister and a government guarantee of repayment may be given.
At clause 45 there is provision for the submission by the Board to the Ministers for tabling in Parliament of an annual report of its operations, accompanied by financial statements in a form approved by the Treasurer and certified by the Auditor-General. There is no similar provision in the existing Act, but other statutory marketing boards are required to submit reports to Parliament. The year covered by the report, to 30 November, is in line with the seasonal operations of the Board.
As I have indicated, the plan I have outlined has been accepted by the industry and all State governments. I am confident that when the legislation is put into effect by the Australian and State Parliaments, the wheat industry, which is such a large and important industry producing a staple foodstuff in worldwide demand, will have a sound basis on which to plan for the future. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Young) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
I again seek leave to have this second reading speech incorporated in Hansard. It is identical to the one read in the House of Representatives.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-As is the case with the Wheat Export Charge Bill, this Bill is complementary to the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill 1974. One of the powers granted to the Australian Wheat Board under the Stabilisation Bill is the power to pay to exporters of wheat products an amount equal to the difference between the home consumption price at which the exporter has purchased the wheat content of the manufactured products, and the ruling export price of wheat. Where the export price is less than the domestic price this ensures that exporters of wheat products are not put at a competitive disadvantage by having to pay higher than world prices for their wheat requirements.
This Bill authorises the Board to require exporters of wheat products to pay to the Board the difference between the export price and the home consumption price when the reverse situation applies and the export price is higher than the home consumption price. These special arrangements are necessary because at the time the wheat is sold to the manufacturer, it is not possible to determine what portion, if any, of the wheat will eventually be exported. The arrangements ensure that the manufacturer does not make a profit or loss by reason of purchasing the wheat at the home consumption price. He is in fact put in the position of having purchased the wheat at the export price. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Young) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator WRIEDT) read a first time.
Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania-Minister for
Agriculture) (2.47)- I move:
Again I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-This Bill, in association with the provisions of Clause 30 of the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill 1974, gives effect to a long standing principle of the wheat industry stabilisation arrangements. This is that growers will contribute to a Wheat Prices Stabilisation Fund part of their proceeds from export sales of wheat when those proceeds are higher than the guaranteed floor price- in this plan called the stabilisation price’. In turn, growers will withdraw moneys from the Stabilisation Fund when export realisations are less than the stabilisation price, with the Australian Government providing moneys from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to meet the payments required should the Stabilisation Fund not be in a position to meet the demands on it.
The Bill provides that, subject to the average export price, at f.o.b. level, of wheat and wheat products of a season covered by the plan exceeding the stabilisation price set for the season and also exceeding $55.12 per tonne or $1.50 per bushel, growers will make contributions to the Stabilisation Fund. These will be by way of levy or charge on exports with the maximum payment in any season being $30m or $5.51 or 15 cents per bushel whichever is the lower, but again subject to a proviso that after payment of the levy, the average export realization will not be less than $55.12 per tonne. The rate of charge, if any, for a season will be determined and paid following the declaration by the Minister of the average export price of wheat and wheat products of that season, under the provisions of clause 29 of the Stabilisation Bill.
Since, under the terms of the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill and the complementary legislation which will be enacted by the States, the ownership of all wheat removed from farms will continue to be vested in the Australian Wheat Board for sale by it, the Board is being made responsible for the payment of the charge. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Young) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 1246), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition offers no objections to the Service and Execution of Process Bill. It is a machinery Bill. It is brought in because of the change to the metric system. It ensures that under the Service and Execution of Process Act, with regard to the issuing of writs of summons under that Act, an address for appearance is given. The distance within which an appearance is required to be entered by a party is to be hereafter described in kilometres rather than in miles. I note that 5 miles becomes 10 kilometres. This seems a reasonable step to take. The figure is easy to recall. The Opposition offers no objection.
– in reply- I do not want to delay the passage of the Service and Execution of Process Bill. I thank the Opposition for its attitude. When we are bringing in measures such as this to deal with metrication I will welcome any suggestions from any quarter of the Senate, the House of Representatives or outside for other proposals, especially in the non-party political area, which might improve some of the law. Often it is very difficult to get noncontentious measures attended to. Little amendments which might be very important and which are not in any sense party political or highly controversial often have to wait for years. So I issue that invitation, especially to honourable senators opposite. At any time if they have any matters which they would like considered in these simple kinds of non-controversial measures relating to the principal Act, will they so indicate? We may be able to do some of these things in a quiet atmosphere away from conflict without in any way delaying the legislative process.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I rise only to ask a question. The reason for an expression in the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) escapes me. I wonder whether he could enlighten me. He states that the Act will commence on the twentyeighth day after the Bill receives royal assent. I do not know whether he is utilising the provision under which an appearance after service must be entered but, on the face of it as I read it, I do not see why that should be so. I would be interested to hear the explanation.
– The Acts Interpretation Act provides that a Bill comes into operation 28 days after assent unless there is some other provision in the Bill itself.
– I am indebted to the Attorney-General.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15 August (vide page 1013), on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is designed to alter the provisions under which industrial organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act may amalgamate. In short, it is a Bill which deals with union amalgamation. It is a Bill which deals with employer amalgamations. It is a Bill which the Opposition will oppose consistently with the attitude that it has adopted in the past with Bills which deal with amalgamations which do not give reasonable rights to the membership of those organisations to express their views on what should happen. As I say, such Bills will be opposed by the Opposition.
Mr President, may I put into perspective some of the matters which are raised by this Bill. Organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are voluntary organisations. Any voluntary organisation is entitled to amalgamate with another voluntary organisation. It is a matter of voluntary activity outside the scope of the conciliation and arbitration provisions and, indeed, outside the scope of the Companies Act. The amalgamation of organisations has caused great difficulty. At common law there are enormous problems involved, not so much for the organisation which is taking over the membership and the assets of an existing organisation as for the body which is being taken over. At common law you virtually need the concurrence of every member of the organisations concerned and the organisation being taken over, in effect, has to dissolve itself. Therefore, it is desirable in the interests of everybody that there should be some legislative provision dealing with the amalgamation of organisations.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the regulations made under that Act have long contained provisions under which organisations could amalgamate. But up until 1972, these provisions created problems because of the abuses they gave rise to and because there was an overriding of the rights of the membership. I think that we can all recall the circumstances in which the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union was formed out of the pre-existing Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society of Australia and the Sheet Metal Working, Agricultural Implement and Stovemaking Industrial Union of Australia. The way in which the members of those organisations purported to give their approval to that amalgamation is, I think, a reflection on the democratic processes. I say this because a minority of the membership, in circumstances which I think were highly questionable, expressed a viewpoint. It was only a small majority of a minority of the membership which ultimately created this mammoth Amalgamated Metal Workers Union.
I think that the amendments which the previous Government introduced in 1972 and which came into effect were influenced, to a considerable degree, by what had been shown to have occurred in regard to the amalgamation of unions into the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. These new provisions were not given retrospective effect to prevent that amalgamation occurring. But the amendments of 1972 were designed to improve the amalgamation proceedings and to ensure that the rights of the membership of these unions were not overriden by union officials and others who were concerned to have an amalgamation take place. The amendments introduced in 1972 were designed to clarify the procedures and to protect the rights of the persons who were amalgamated.
What were the provisions which were then introduced? I think that it is important to consider them because the scheme of this Bill is to delete those provisions entirely from the existing legislation and to insert completely new provisions. What are the provisions which this Government now seeks to remove? The existing provisions in the legislation laid down the following procedures: A committee of management of a union was enabled to pass a resolution that an amalgamation should take place with another union. It was provided that the new organisation which was to be formed must be an organisation which complied with all the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The provisions required that a scheme for amalgamation was to be submitted in writing for the Industrial Registrar’s approval. If the Registrar was satisfied that the provisions of the Act had been complied with, the scheme and the application for the amalgamation would be published in the Government Gazette. There was provision for objections to be made by persons objecting to the amalgamation. Those objections were to be lodged with the Industrial Registrar. If the Registrar, after considering the objections, approved the scheme, that scheme was to be submitted to ballots of the members of each of the organisations- that is, a ballot of the organisation which was to be taken over and a ballot of the members of the organisation which was taking over and creating the new body. It was provided- of course it is still law- that the ballot was to be conducted by secret ballot by postal voting and that it was to be conducted by the Industrial Registrar, his deputy or by the Australian Electoral Office. A copy of the amalgamation scheme was to accompany the ballot paper.
I think that it is fair to note that the legislation contained a provision that, where an extremely large organisation was taking over a smaller organisation, in particular circumstances that larger organisation could be exempted from the ballot provisions. A notice of the ballot was to be published at least 3 months beforehand in the Government Gazette. Provision was made for statements for the amalgamation proposals and against the amalgamation proposals to be submitted and to be despatched to all persons who were entitled to vote. There were provisions in the legislation for offences relating to the conducting of a ballot to be along the lines of the offences in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The amalgamation was to be approved if 50 per cent of the membership voted and if 50 per cent of that 50 per cent who voted in the ballot approved of it. In short, the provision was that first of all there had to be a vote of 50 per cent of the membership before it could be considered whether or not there was an effective vote for amalgamation. If 50 per cent of the members voted, provided the majority of that 50 per centthat is, 50. 1 per cent of that 50 per cent- voted in favour of the amalgamation, the amalgamation was approved.
We on the Opposition side appreciate that that provision has been criticised as being unfair. We of the Opposition entirely repudiate any suggestion that a majority of that size is unfair. Indeed, one is tolerant of the interests of what could be 75 per cent of the total membership of the organisation who theoretically could be opposed to the amalgamation. That percentage would comprise the 50 per cent who did not bother to vote and 25 per cent of those who actually voted but who voted against the amalgamation proposal. Conceivably, although I concede that it is theoretical, that number of persons could be opposed to the amalgamation and it would still be approved. We believe that it is consistent with the views of the membership of an organisation to require that half the membership should vote and that of those who vote a majority should favour the proposed amalgamation.
There is provision also in the existing legislation for a court- the Industrial Court- to inquire into any alleged irregularities which may take place. It contains a procedure for action to be taken after approval of the amalgamation, provisions relating to resignation of membership, provisions relating to the effects of the amalgamation on existing awards and there is a provision for the expense of the ballot which has been conducted to be borne by the Government. We of the Opposition believe that those provisions are sound provisions. If there are to be changes made to them, we believe that it is encumbent upon those who want the changes to illustrate what the changes should be and why they should be made. I think that one of the defects of the case which the Government puts forward for this new legislation is that it does not set out what is wrong with the existing procedures. We have had from the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) a speech which one must say is infinitely more informative than the speech made by the responsible Minister, the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) in the lower House. It appears that Mr Clyde Cameron did not feel that this Bill was so important as to require a speech which went into any depth at all. To the best of my recollection, this was a Bill on which he gave an off-the-cuff extemporaneous speech.
In contradistinction to what the Minister for Labor and Immigration said in the House of Representatives, I must say that we had a prepared speech in the Senate from the PostmasterGeneral, but it is a speech which talks in generalities and does not deal in any way with specifics. It does not say what is wrong with existing amalgamation procedures. It is a speech which asserts that there are changes to be made and seeks to facilitate the changes. In the Minister’s second reading speech there are some assertions which we would challenge. We do not believe, for example, that the strikes which have bedevilled Australia in 1 974 are the work of the small unions. We believe that the strikes have predominantly occurred in the larger unions. We do not believe, for example, that there is any evidence to show that demarcation disputes will be avoided if we have easier amalgamation provisions. Demarcation disputes on recent statistics have provided less than 10 per cent, as I recall the figures, of the industrial disputation which has taken place in this country. If one is to have regard to recent industrial disputes, one of the major disputes was on a demarcation issue within a large union. As I recall the position in the Transport Workers Union of Australia, which I suppose can be categorised as a fairly large union, the difficulties which arose in recent months arose because one section of the Transport Workers Union managed to secure an agreement under which its members received a $25 a week increase from an employer while there were other sections of the union- some Public Service and some not Public Servicewhich sought, initially unsuccessfully, to have the same increase awarded to them.
The elements of a demarcation dispute are as likely to be found in large unions and in different groups within that union as they are to be found within individual unions which have a dispute with other members of other unions. The Opposition feels that the case which is made by the Minister is a case which can be argued on the basis that a multiplicity of unions can create problems and that larger unions ought to be developed because there are greater facilities for research and for the informing of members. Those arguments one does not deny. But we equally believe that it is the right of the members to decide whether they want the amalgamation, and that is the pre-eminent consideration in an area that is of great importance to this nation. The wider the interest of union membership in the affairs of a union and the greater the encouragement which legislation can give to a wider participation by union members in the affairs of that union, the more democratic will be that union, the more representative will be the management of that union and the more responsible in the national interest will be the conduct of the affairs of that union.
What does this Bill do? It seeks to alter the existing provisions in quite significant ways. It provides a new provision for a scheme of amalgamation to be published in a journal of the organisation or in a daily newspaper. If that were the only provision in this new scheme I would have thought there was undoubted merit in it being adopted. But is it not the only provision in a completely new code of legislation. If the Minister is genuinely concerned to improve the amalgamation provisions so that the amalgamation provisions do work, I suggest that there can be a great area of co-operation. This is one area in which I am quite sure that the Opposition Parties would be interested in meeting the Minister for Labor and Immigration to see whether there cannot be some common ground to which expression can be given. But the take it or or leave it attitude which the Minister has adopted in just wiping the earlier provisions and inserting his own idea of what ought to be the new provisions makes it an impossible task for us to work out what could be effective amendments in a debate such as this. What I have said is an indication that if this provision which I have mentioned were taken in isolation I do not believe we would object to it.
There is, of course, provision in the Bill for the alteration of the grounds of objection which limit the grounds of objection which may be taken to an amalgamation. There is provision for an alteration of the ballot provisions. A ballot is still to be conducted by the Registrar, the Deputy Registrar or the Australian Electoral Office but only if a request is made by the committee of an organisation or by 250 members or 5 per cent of its membership who petition that it be conducted. Surely we have reached a stage in this country where the affairs of unions have such an impact on the public interest that it is a reasonable thing that if an amalgamation is to take place that decision be made by a ballot conducted by the Registrar, his Deputy or by the Electoral Office. I do not believe that there is any warrant for a ballot of this character to be conducted in accordance with the rules of the union as the committee of the union wants it, because we know that there are circumstances in which ballots of unions are not secret, in which there is exercised a degree of intimidation, in which persons would wish that they had an opportunity to exercise a postal ballot which is their own vote and not an intimidated vote.
– It is already in the Act.
– I did not catch the exact interjection of Senator Button but, as I understand it, it is not a provision in the Act that that the ballot must be conducted in a particular way. It is sufficient if the ballot is a union ballot in accordance with the rules of the organisation and the circumstances of some union ballots are such that one cannot guarantee that the vote is exercised in secrecy or without the fear of intimidation or duress. There is also proposed an alteration whereby the approval of a ballot is signified if 50 per cent of those voting formally vote in favour of the provision. That could mean that there could be a 5 per cent or 10 per cent turnout and if there is a majority of that 5 per cent or 10 per cent turnout that is sufficient to bind the whole membership. We believe that that is not an adequate provision and that our original provision of a 50 per cent turnout is necessary before one can have an effective amalgamation.
There is a new provision which is frightening in its implications. It provides for one-fifth of the members of an organisation to be able to ask for a ballot where their own committee, charged with the management of their affairs, has declined to take any action to promote an amalgamation which happens to be sought by a larger organisation. There is also a significant omission in the provisions which the government seeks to introduce. This Bill does not re-enact the provision under which a case in support of the amalgamation and a case in opposition to the amalgamation must be circulated to all members entitled to vote. I would be interested to know whether there are spokesmen who are prepared to justify this provision and who could explain why that particular provision has been left out. The Opposition believes that no reasons have been advanced why the new amalgamation provisions should be preferred to the existing provisions. They are certainly facultative of amalgamation where there is a body which wants to promote an amalgamation but they are certainly not protective of the rights of members of an organisation which is sought to be taken over.
The provisions which the Government seeks to introduce are provisions which ignore the rights of members of existing organisations. They are provisions which permit the rights of the members of organisations to be overridden and I believe, and the Opposition believes, that they will enable a plain and unmistakeable abuse of power to be engaged in by persons who want an amalgamation of unions not for the purposes of improving the lot of the members of the unions but for other particular purposes. We in the Opposition believe that the concentration of power ought to be subject to checks. We believe that the Government should be consistent in the view which it expresses in this general area.
The Government has recently passed trade practices legislation. That trade practices legislation sought to reduce the concentration of power which comes about when large companies merge. Large companies were subject to restraints under the Trade Practices Act so that no merger of companies could take place unless it was consistent with competition. Provisions of that character are to be supported, as the Opposition supported them, but why should concentrations of power in the union field be allowed to take place not on a criterion of whether or not they are in the public interest but simply on the criterion of whether or not the organisation which wants to bring into its fold a smaller organisation is able to express that intention and to get some support for it?
The Government’s attitude is inconsistent. Whilst opposing the greater concentration of power amongst the corporations of capital it is facilitating the concentration of power amongst the corporations of labour. Corporations of labour, like corporations of capital, if unrestrained and unchecked can operate against the public interest. What is required in this country is a consistent attitude which enshrines the public interest as represented in the government elected by the people and seeks to check the unrestricted exercise of power by groups who cannot claim the legitimacy of public support which the Government which exercises power can claim. It is regrettable that this particular Bill which the Government has introduced will facilitate that concentration of power. One does not know what are the areas in which amalgamations can take place but there are areas in which discussions have taken place or suggestions have been made in the past about amalgamations that could occur. Invariably it is not planned to take over the smallest unions in this country; the plans are for amalgamations of relatively large or medium sized organisations which want to grow larger.
May I by way of broad conclusion indicate what are the safeguards in the present legislation and the way in which those safeguards are removed? In the first place, a ballot of members of each existing organisation on the question of whether they approve of the proposed amalgamation of that organisation with other existing organisations shall be undertaken by a secret postal ballot conducted by the Industrial Registrar, his deputy or the Electoral Office. Secondly, there is a roll of voters which shall be a roll of the persons who were members of the organisation on a defined day. That roll excludes only the personsthey are carefully defined by the Act itself- who have become members more than 12 months before that day, are unfinancial on that day and have been unfinancial at all times in the 12 months preceding that day. Thirdly, there is a provision for 3 months notice to be given of the commencing and closing dates of the ballot. That is to be given in the Government Gazette.
Fourthly, not less than 2 months before the commencing date of the ballot the organisation may deliver a statement in writing supporting amalgamation, and members of the organisation being not less than 250 or 5 per cent of the total membership, whichever is the lesser, may circulate a statement in writing in opposition to the amalgamation. The important thing is that irrespective of whether the ballot is conducted by the Registrar, his deputy or the Electoral Office, a copy of each such statement shall accompany each ballot paper. There are even provisions at the moment whereby if different groups opposed to the amalgamation have difficulty in deciding what are the provisions of the statement which is to be circulated they can go to the Commission and have that settled by a deputy president. They are genuine safeguards. Fifthly, the regulations may make provision for ensuring equitable presentation of argument for and against amalgamation in periodical publications of the organisation and its branches after notice has been published that a ballot is to be held. Finally, the amalgamation is taken to be approved only where more than one-half of the members who record formal votes vote in favour of the amalgamation, provided that ballot papers are received from at least one-half of the members on the roll of voters.
It ought to be underlined and underscored that every one of those safeguards is removed from this Bill which the Government is sponsoring. Under this Bill, firstly the ballot of members on the question of whether they approve of the proposed amalgamation could now be conductedand in the ordinary course would be conductedunder arrangements made by the organisation itself. The committee of management or 250 members may request that the ballot be officially conducted’ but even where such a request is made and acceded to the ballot must be conducted in accordance with any rules of the organisation that are applicable. Unless the rules of the organisation provide for a secret postal ballot- as few do- the members have no way of obtaining such a ballot. Secondly, the roll of voters would now comprise ‘financial members of the organisation’. They are not otherwise defined. This removes the present statutory definition of ‘financial members’ which is contained in the existing amalgamation provisions and leaves it open for such abuse as can be conducted under the present provisions under which certain unions conduct their affairs. Thirdly, no notice would now be required to be given of the fact that a ballot is to be held. The present provision of 3 months notice in the Gazette simply disappears. Even the right of 250 members to request that the ballot be ‘officially conducted’ must be made within one month from the date of the direction under section 158ic’. Yet how is anyone to know that the ballot is to be held? There is no requirement that the Industrial
Registrar’s direction under section 158k is anywhere to be published or advertised to the rank and file membership.
There is now no longer to be a right in those opposing the amalgamation to put their views to the membership. There is now no longer to be any power to enact regulations making provision for ensuring equitable presentation of the cases in periodical publications. An amalgamation is now to be taken as approved if, in the ballot or each of the ballots if there is more than one, more than one-half of the members who duly record formal votes in favour of the amalgamation. There is now to be no quorum whatever for the making of a decision involving the control, coverage and even the existence of an organisation of employees.
These omissions would be serious enough in themselves, but an additional provision is now proposed to be included in the Act which goes far beyond even the removal of the safeguards contained in the present Act and actually promotes amalgamation by giving an organisation seeking amalgamation rights over the intended subject for an amalgamation bid if the former organisation can enlist the support of as few as 20 per cent of the membership of the smaller organisation. Under this provision a predator organisation may submit a scheme for amalgamation to the committee of management of another organisation or organisations. By the mere fact that the committee of management of the second organisation does not, for whatever reason, pass a resolution proposing that its organisation be a party to an amalgamation in accordance with the scheme the Act would require a ballot of the membership to be taken if a request were made in writing for an officially conducted ballot of the financial members of the organisation, signed by not less than one-fifth of the members of the organisation and stating that the members signing the request believe that the committee of management has unreasonably rejected or failed to accept the proposed amalgamation. This is a charter for logging a smaller organisation.
If, to give an example, one examines the record of the Miscellaneous Workers Union of this country over the past few years one sees a record- which can be verified by examination of the various appointees of that union- which indicates that the union is capable of utilising its power to secure not only the 20 per cent of the membership of a smaller organisation dutifully to put in the petition or request but one can imagine also the wholesale moves which would be taken by the organisers of the larger union to move in wholesale on the smaller organisation with a view to securing the desirable result of the ballot.
I will not go into details but the workings of the Miscellaneous Workers Union are such that I would have thought that a full-scale inquiry would have been warranted- not that we are likely to get that inquiry from this Government. I know that there are some members in the Government ranks who know some of the things which might be disclosed by such an investigation. It is an alarming matter to see how power has been secured, maintained and exercised in the Miscellaneous Workers Union. It is unfashionable in some industrial circles to give expression to any view which suggests that ordinary unionists have rights. All knowledge is supposed to be vested in and best exercised by committees of management. There are many areas in the industrial field where the rights of the membership have to be recognised and given far greater effect and influence than they have had in recent times.
I think one of the better measures of the previous Government is to be found in the amalgamation provisions which that Government enacted, notwithstanding the bedlam which was engaged in in this chamber at that time by those who objected to those provisions. They are good provisions because they give a degree of control and influence to the members of the organisationprovisions which I hope can be extended and will be extended into other areas of union activity and union control in due course. It is on the basis that this Bill seeks to take away rights which union membership has with respect to amalgamations of their organisations, that the Opposition is adamantly opposed to this provision. We shall vote against the Bill.
– I rise to support the Bill. Perhaps at a later stage I will have the opportunity of commenting on amendments which are now being distributed. Before I speak about the general purposes of this legislation I should perhaps make some comments about Senator Greenwood’s analogies between the corporate structures of capital and the corporate structures of trade unionism, as he called them. Of course, this Senate has passed recently the trade practices legislation which is predominantly concerned with protecting the public interest against the activities of large aggregations of capital- the corporate structures of capital in our community.
This legislation which we are now debating is concerned, of course, with the internal affairs of the running of trade unions. The trade practices legislation is not concerned with the internal affairs and the running of corporate structures in their internal management. That, of course, is the difference between the 2 pieces of legislation. It is a cause of concern for many unions that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is seen by Opposition senators as a means of, in some ways, providing unionists with facilities or, in other ways, directing how they will conduct their affairs within the structure of the union itself.
I turn now to the initial premises which are behind this piece of legislation. The number of registered trade unions in Australia at the moment is approximately three hundred. Of those 300 unions one-third have a membership of less than 5,000 people. The registration system which now operates was established in 1900 or shortly thereafter. By and large, it has operated since then in spite of vast changes which have taken place in our community. If one thinks of the position of one-third of the unions of Australia with membership of 5,000 or less, one realises it is almost impossible to manage a union of that size in today’s circumstances. It is a matter of sheer lack of income and sheer lack of capacity to engage appropriate staff and so on to carry on the union’s activities.
Another example of what the Government is concerned about is that there are 28 unions operating in the Post Office in Australia and 26 unions operating in Trans-Australia Airlines. Anybody concerned with industrial relations in this country knows the sorts of difficulties that brings about in the workings of the arbitration system from day to day. Union advocates are not the only ones who are aware of these difficulties. Almost everyone is aware of them. Senator Greenwood seems to be aware of them, too. If one were to ask any of the major employer bodies in Australia what their attitude is to this piece of legislation, one would find that the employers almost unanimously approve of the legislation for the simple reason that they know it will facilitate the workings of the arbitration system. I think it was in 1918 that Mr Justice Higgins, the first President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, made the comment in the waterside workers’ case that ‘competition for membership between unions is disastrous to industrial peace’. That statement is as true today as it was in 1 9 1 8. But this is one area of industrial peace which is not susceptible to problems such as inflation and the various problems which cause unions to get involved in industrial problems with employers. This is an area of industrial warfare- if one likes to put it in that way- which can be cured by appropriate legislation. In this regard I doubt the good faith of some Opposition senators. For example, Senator Greenwood spoke about the recent problems of demarcation disputes in the transport industry. In the first place, the matter to which he referred was not a demarcation dispute between 2 different unions at all. In this industry one should examine particularly the sort of situation which occurred in the Port of Adelaide about which senators in this chamber asked questions on a number of occasions. That was a clear-cut case of a demarcation dispute and nothing else between the Waterside Workers Federation and the Transport Workers Union of Australia which held up a large quantity of steel at the Adelaide wharf for a long time. In a holiday period of 1972 there was an oil shortage in the State of New South Wales, again resulting from a demarcation dispute between 2 transport unions.
The attitude of Opposition senators seems to be that they must oppose anything which on paper seems to make unions more powerful. To illustrate the extent of demarcation disputes I refer to the May bulletin of the Bureau of Census and Statistics on this subject. Of all the industrial disputes which occurred in Australia in the relevant 12 months, one-seventh related to demarcation issues. In that situation, surely it is important for a legislature- indeed for a house of review- to consider by what means the oneseventh of the industrial disputes which occur in Australia can best be avoided in order to facilitate the operations of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That is why all the employer organisations in Australia want this piece of legislation. They want it because they want to get rid of oneseventh of the industrial disputes which occur in this country.
The fact of the matter is that the present legislation, which was introduced by Senator Greenwood ‘s Party when in office, just has not worked. It has failed to work for reasons which involve criticism of the trade union movement itself. Trade unionists are like every other section of this community insofar as they belong to voluntary associations; they are, by and large, apathetic unless a particular situation concerns them in a particular way. It is to take a particularly false view of industrial relations to say that when a mass meeting of union members occurs about a wage issue those people are somehow conned- if I may use that expression- into attending that meeting. If a demarcation matter concerns members of a union vitally they certainly will take a part in the union’s affairs in relation to that matter. If a wages issue concerns them vitally, they certainly will take part in the union’s affairs in relation to that issue. What the present legislation does is to limit the capacity of the unions to properly conduct their own affairs in relation to amalgamations.
Let me indicate briefly the sort of problems encountered and the reasons why the present legislation does not work and why we say that in amalgamation proposals the running should be taken by the committee of management of a union. There are in Australia a number of unions which have sought to amalgamate with other unions. Some of them are in a situation in which one-third of their membership turns over every 6 months; for example, unions concerned with the wool industry, the food processing industry and other industries of that kind. In a situation in which people may belong to a union for three or four months, because they happen to work in the Shepparton canneries or the wool industry for three of four months, it is absolutely ludicrous to say that they should be placed in a position n of equal importance with officials and elected officers of that union who have contributed to its running over many years. It is absolutely ludicrous to say that people in this position should be in any way compelled to vote on a proposal relating to union amalgamations. It is just unreal.
One of the great tragedies of the Opposition, of course- plenty of criticism is made of the Government in this regard- is that its members just do not understand the situation which exists in many trade unions. They do not bother to understand because it is not an area in which they are particularly interested. If they took the trouble to ask the relevant employer bodies in Australia what they thought about it, they might gain a better understanding of the sort of problems which unions face in this regard. The objective of this legislation is quite clear. It is to reduce the friction and the causes of one-seventh of the disputes which are so detrimental to industry and society generally. The objective of this legislation is consistent with the objectives of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act itself. There are many unions which at this time desire to amalgamate, and they have been prevented from doing so because of the requirements of the present legislation. It is our view in regard to this Bill that they should be free to do so legally and with the minimum of legislative interference.
I hope that the current desire for amalgamations does not stem from a desire to match the corporate structures of capital, as Senator Greenwood calls them, but it obviously does stem from changes in society itself which have taken place in recent years. New technologies have introduced changing patterns of work relationships. Industries, in terms of employee crafts, come and go. It is essential that those changes be recognised in a fairly flexible arrangement which facilitates union amalgamations to accommodate those technological changes. If the conciliation and arbitration system- which, by its very structure and its very Act, depends on the representative organisation of bodies of employers and employees- is to survive with any sort of viable future, having regard to the public benefit which is envisaged by the system, then there is the need for flexibility which will reduce conflict. As I have said before, both unions and employers operating in the field of industrial relations recognise the necessity for these sorts of proposals.
I quite readily concede that Opposition speakers have a view of the public interest about which they are concerned. I think it is not unfair to say that it goes something like this: ‘Really, in our society, trade unions cause a lot of trouble and for that reason it is desirable that they do not become too big, because if they become bigger they will cause more trouble, and we on the Opposition benches know that unions are manipulated by malevolent men who run the unions from the committee of management level and tell the unfortunate slave members what they have to do’. I do not dissent from the fact that there may be a slight grain of truth in that proposition; but what I am trying to put to the Senate is that that is a simplistic view of the way trade unions operate and it is a simplistic view of the way the conciliation and arbitration legislation operates. As I have said before, those involved in conciliation and arbitration recognise that that is a simplistic view of the situation. When one talks about amalagamations, of course, it is not true to say that they are all necessary or desirable; but many are necessary and desirable in the interest of rationalisation of various industries and callings. Those who are most aware of what is desirable and what is rational are employers engaged in the particular industries and the best informed members of unions engaged in those industries, who are, of course, the members of the committees of management.
I think we in this country have to be very careful that we do not facilitate here or elsewhere legislation which rushes us into a situation of some sort of giant corporate state in which the corporations of labour and the corporations of capital clash in a sort of neanderthal giant manner to the exclusion, perhaps, of the public interest and to the exclusion, perhaps, of smaller business interests and smaller unions in the community, because there are certain logical arrangements of society which are not consistent with that view of a giant corporate state. If one examines the situation of unions one sees that that really is not what this is all about. It is not a question of amalgamations so that there are giant unions. The majority of unions concerned in amalgamation proposals at the moment are very small unions which do not remain viable institutions -
– I would have thought that the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union was fairly described as a giant union.
-Yes, the AMWU certainly could be described as a giant union. I would not dissent from that proposition. But that is not the union which the Opposition’s proposed amendments are designed to catch, is it? Not really. It is the unions which seek to amalgamate in the future for which the Opposition’s proposals will make it difficult -
– They might help to prevent the ironworkers’ union from being taken over.
-The honourable senator ought to ask the ironworkers about that. He referred to the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia. For some time that union has been trying legally to amalgamate with the Federated Artificial Fertilisers and Chemical Workers Union of Australia, but it cannot do so because the legislation which was introduced by the previous Government just does not work in terms of the union being able to carry out a successful amalgamation proposal. If Senator Greenwood wants to refer to the Ironworkers Association for a comment on the existing system I suggest that he do so, because that is the problem with which that union is confronted at the present time. In saying that one is concerned that this should not become a field for the clashes of the giant corporations. I again emphasise the importance of flexibility in amalgamation arrangements. I am sure that we on the Government side do not see this as a proposal which will relieve all the stresses of industrial organisations or, indeed, as the ultimate solution to many of the problems which are created by change in the industrial relations sphere and changes in our society generally, but it will help greatly in reducing the friction which now exists.
Senator Greenwood referred to the changes made by this Bill. I shall refer to some of those changes in detail. The first change relates to the proposed new section 158 G under which a proposed scheme of amalgamation will not only have to be submitted to the Industrial Registrar and published in the Australian Government Gazette but will also have to be published by each of the organisations in the appropriate union journal and in a metropolitan daily newspaper. That is an additional measure to advise people what is going on in relation to amalgamations. Of course, it is a sensible improvement because how many trade union officials- indeed, how many honourable senatorsfor lighter reading dip into the Australian Government Gazette? Not too many, I would think, but that is the provision in the present legislation. One found out about union amalgamations by reading the Australian Government Gazette. As I say, honourable senators do not read it, so why should ordinary rank and file trade unionists read it? But they do read metropolitan daily newspapers. I am sure that that improvement in the legislation will bring the notice of proposed amalgamations more readily to the attention of members of trade unions. I think that even Senator Greenwood would agree that it is a democratic procedural improvement in the legislation.
– But you are cutting out the statement to members, are you not?
-Does the honourable senator mean the statements which accompany cases to the Industrial Registrar?
-I think, with great respect, that that is a matter which is not of major concern to rank and file trade unionists. I think the important thing is notification of a proposed amalgamation and with whom. That is the thing which alerts people to what is going on in the particular organisation with which they may or may not be concerned. Surely the point is to alert people, because under any union rules there are procedures whereby meetings have to be held and these matters have to be considered and voted on. That is the important procedure, to alert people to what is going on.
The second matter to which objection is taken is the proposal that a ballot has to be conducted by each organisation in accordance with its rules. Of course, that principle is quite explicitly spelled out- and it was during the period when Senator Greenwood was Attorney-General- in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It provides that a ballot of unionists on any union matter shall be conducted in accordance with the union rules. The only requirements of the Act are to ensure that a ballot is a secret ballot, and so on. The union rules are supposed to provide for that. If they do not provide that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act lays down proceedings for challenging any ballot that is not conducted in accordance with the scheme envisaged in the Act or in the scheme envisaged in the union rules.
– It could be a show of hands, I suppose.
-No. I think the honourable senator will find that throughout the Conciliation and Arbitration Act there is reference to secret ballots. I concede that some unions may not carry that provision out, but if they do not do so there are proceedings for dealing with them under the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Our position on this matter is simply that an organisation conducts a ballot in a normal way unless there is a request to the Industrial Registrar by 250 members or one-twentieth of the union membership, whichever is the less. An organisation conducts a ballot unless there is a request in that form to the Industrial Registrar for the ballot to be conducted otherwise. That proposal is totally consistent with every provision in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act relating to the conduct of union ballots.
Union ballots are not conducted by the Industrial Registrar unless a committee of management or a percentage of the membership of a union requests that they be so conducted. That, again, is consistent with every provision in the Act. I make the simple comment that there should not be interference in that scheme relating to the conduct of ballots which has existed from time immemorial under the Act. There should be consistency here, and there should be no interference unless the provision relating to a request for a ballot to the Industrial Registrar is invoked by members of a union. Again I put it that unless that sort of a request is made, it is sound policy that a union should be able to conduct its own affairs in accordance with its rules. Many unions now prefer that their ballots be conducted by the Industrial Registrar. I have not known of any unions in recent times which have proposed amalgamation with other unions and which have not as a first step gone to the Industrial Registrar to seek his advice about the steps which had to be taken and about the way in which any ballots in relation to those amalgamations should be conducted. It is almost a standard procedure for trade unions now to consult the Industrial Registrar about a ballot which has to be conducted in connection with an amalgamation. Of course, the principle involved is simpler than that.
I reiterate that if one examines the Conciliation and Arbitration Act one finds that this legislation is consistent with everything that is in the Act. It is consistent with everything that was in the Act when Opposition senators were in government.
– Except for the safeguards.
-I am talking about the method of conducting union ballots, and the method of conducting union ballots is denned in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act as being by secret ballot. If unions do not conduct secret ballots aggrieved members can go to the Industrial Registrar and complain about the matter. That principle has been in the Act since 1940- during the whole time Senator Greenwood was in government- and the proposal in this legislation is quite consistent with that provision. The only thing different about our amalgamation proposals is simply that as policy matters are to be considered and negotiations are required with employers in industry and with other unions, it is very appropriately a matter which in all instances should be dealt with by the committee of management of a union unless there is so much concern about it in the union that its members want to invoke the safeguard provisions which require a ballot to be conducted by the Industrial Registrar. If one looks at the provisions in the Act one finds that the legislation which in fact was introduced by the previous Government required a lesser percentage of members than the percentage of members which is required by the present amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to petition for a ballot to be conducted by the Industrial Registrar.
The next major difference occurs in section 158m which deals with the determination of the result of a ballot. This provision simply means that the proposal for an amalgamation is approved if one-half of the members voting in the ballot vote in favour of the amalgamation proposal. It involves the deletion of the provision that 50 per cent of the financial members must vote in the ballot. I take a hypothetical case. If only 10 per cent of the union members are interested in an amalgamation proposal and vote and if 6 out of 10 of those people vote in favour of the amalgamation, the amalgamation scheme is approved. It might be said that that principle is wrong. But it happens in local government elections in New South Wales. It happened last weekend. People are not compelled to vote in local government elections. A very small percentage of them in fact did vote. Why should unions be placed in a different position? It is said that unions should be put in a different position from other voluntary associations in our society because of some concern of Senator Greenwood’s, which I share, that the activities of the unions appear to affect the public interest from time to time in various ways. That may be so, but the activities of all kinds of bodies in the community affect the public interest. The same sort of inhibitions are not sought to be put on those other bodies, but they are sought to be put on trade unions.
– You are kidding.
-Senator Hall says that I am kidding, but I hope that when he speaks he will tell us of the inhibitions that are put on the internal affairs of the management of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. I would like him to point to provisions in the Companies Act which require shareholders to attend meetings and which require them to vote at meetings of giant corporations such as BHP. These matters affect the public interest. There is nothing in any Companies Act in Australia which compels people to vote at shareholders’ meetings, which compels people to attend meetings or which requires a majority of 50 per cent. It it is absolutely hair-raising to look at the provisions in Companies Acts throughout Australia with regard to the requirements that are put on people in control of major corporations such as Broken Hill Co. Ltd. That is the difference between the affairs and management of the corporations of capital and the affairs and management of the corporations of labour.
– Do you not think the corporations of capital regard the takeover provisions as onerous and would like to be free of them?
-Senator Greenwood will find that all the corporations of capital agree with this legislation which we are now debating. They are probably much closer to it than he is. The corporations of capital are not interested in confronting powerful unions if they can confront small unions. But they are interested in having to deal with one union rather than 28 unions. I understand their point of view. It is a very sensible point of view. The Australian Post Office has had to deal with 28 unions. This is the sort of problem which employers face when they have to deal with a great number of unions instead of one. We say that the Opposition, by the proposed amendment to the provisions for determining the result of a ballot, is seeking to insert in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act conditions in relation to the administration of the internal affairs of trade unions which are not imposed on anybody else in our society. The philosophical view behind that, as I understand it, is either that it is desirable to keep unions weak or that unions are more prey to malevolent men than is any other corporate organisation in our society. With the greatest of respect, that is a simplistic and not a well thought out view if one wishes to solve some of the problems which lead to one-seventh of the industrial disputes in this country. That is why we are seeking a flexible and reasonable procedure for organisations which are, after all, composed of many individual citizens and members and not just a handful of people. The composition of organisations changes from time to time and should in the circumstances be subject to a much more flexible arrangement than presently exists.
The procedures in this legislation are designed to ensure that amalgations are still subject to every conceivable check by the Industrial Registrar. They incorporate a right of objection. They are subject at all times to any challenge which might be made in the Australian Industrial Court. For those reasons we say that the legislation does nothing more than give the degree of flexibility which employers and unions desire. It incorporates the sort of safeguards which are desired both by Opposition spokesmen and, 1 believe, the unions. It represents a form of relief from legislation which has proved unworkable. Unions should not be subject to different impositions from other corporate structures in our society. In this legislation there is still a greater degree of regulation of the internal affairs of unions which desire to amalgamate than there is of the affairs of other bodies in society which attempt to fuse their activities or amalgamate in one form or another.
One cannot successfully legislate in the Senate or anywhere else to abolish apathy. I know that governments have tried from time to time to do that, but not with monumental success. One cannot legislate to abolish apathy in the affairs of trade unions, if that exists, as it does from time to time, as in other organisations or to compel trade unionists to take part in the affairs of the union unless the members are interested in those matters. This situation is covered by the provision which allows people, who are concerned about anything which has been initiated by a committee of management, to have it the subject of a ballot, subject to scrutiny by the Industrial Registrar and, if necessary, by the Australian Industrial Court. All that one can do in relation to registered organisations under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is to provide a legislative arrangement which gives the maximum information to the people concerned. This legislation does that. It does more than the existing legislation which gives certain safeguards in certain circumstances and provides a flexible system which is at all times subject to checks and balances contained in the legislation. This legislation provides that. It is a workable piece of legislation as distinct from that which now exists. It is sought anxiously by unions and employers in the community so that the industrial relations system can at least have one area of conflict substantially reduced.
– We are debating a Bill to amend the law relating to conciliation and arbitration in relation to the amalgamation of organisations. I oppose the Bill with a measure of reluctance because I believe that anything pertaining to conciliation and arbitration is of extreme importance in the Australian scene and, if there could be an addition to the efficiency of conciliation and arbitration in this country by the amalgamations that are envisaged and more particularly by the methods of amalgamation that are envisaged, it would be a happy position to support such a proposition. Today, probably more than ever before in our history, there is an urgent need to reestablish stability in the economic and industrial scene. Probably the greatest single cause of the remarkable degree of stability that we in Australia have had in those areas over many years has been the operation of the conciliation and arbitration legislation. That legislation has served this country extremely well. Over the past generation the operation of it has been the envy of many lands.
Stability and development go hand in hand. I would be the last to oppose legislation if I believed that it had within it a real contribution to re-invigorating stability and development in this land. I do not believe this Bill has that. I believe that there is an extreme danger at the moment that this country, through instability, has ceased to be attractive to developmental capital from many places around the world. Only two or three weeks ago we saw the required deposit on overseas capital invested in this country reduced from 33-1/3 per cent to 25 per cent and then quite dramatically to 5 per cent. It is the considered opinion of most people around the world that it is unlikely that Australia in its present circumstances will prove attractive, even with that relatively light imposition. There is in fact no obvious desire for investment in Australia. If this sort of legislation were likely to increase the desire for that investment, then there would be merit in the Bill.
The strength of our system surely has been that it has enabled employer and employee alike to talk things over; to consider a proposition; to reach an agreement in the proper method of conciliation, it sometimes being totally unnecessary to continue to arbitration; to talk things over and to agree mutually, with a minimum of strikes, lockouts and industrial unrest- a minimum of the things which are major contributors to the inflationary situation we have in Australia today. We must never forget that there always will be an employer-employee relationship, whether there be one employer or half a million employers, whether there be the state as the employer or any number of individual and private employers. We must never forget, as we look at this sort of legislation, that the state in fact is the super capitalist. The state is probably the greatest exploiter of man and materials throughout history. The province of government and the province of legislation envisaged, such as legislation on conciliation and arbitration, is primarily to prevent exploitation, whether it be of man or of materials. It is important that we should not become beholden to dictatorships of the Left or the Right. I am sure that this is as important in the life and operations of the Australian unionist as it is in those of every other member of our community.
Of all the causes of inflation- they range through management, wages and salariesperhaps the greatest single cause in the present context and in fact in the context of most similar situations in other countries is industrial unrest, because industrial unrest and militancy tend to produce a situation in which the production of goods and the availability of services become smaller and smaller and in which the amount of money chasing those goods and services constantly rises. This is the classic circumstance of inflation. This is the circumstances that we have today. As a corollary to it surely we have a loss of confidence in Australia both at home and abroad.
I have spoken at some length on the importance of conciliation and arbitration, something of its history and something of the employeremployee relationship. I have done this because it is against this background that we must view this Bill. It is against this background that we must ask ourselves: Does this proposed law really offer some sort of solution to the employeremployee relationship in this country? Does it really concern itself with the values, attitudes and security of the great mass of Australian unionists? Does it really place them as individuals in a better position than they were before? Are the methods of amalgamation such that they will improve the lost of the average Australian unionist? They are the questions that we must ask ourselves.
Consequent upon the answers to those questions, we must decide whether this legislation should be passed; whether it does in fact contribute to better relations between employers and employees; and most importantly, whether it does in fact contribute realistically to better conditions and better circumstances for the great mass of Australian unionists. On balance, I am forced to arrive at the conclusion that it does not. I do not believe- I say this with some reluctancethat the manners envisaged in the proposed amalgamation methods in this Bill will improve in any way the lot of the average Australian unionist. I do not believe that the Bill will contribute in any way to a better employeremployee relationship. Rather, is it likely to produce a situation in which the many are further controlled and directed by the few; rather is it likely to produce a situation that may well lead to confrontation which probably will be of little or no value to either party in the argument.
If there were in this legislation a realistic contribution to the conciliation and arbitration problem, I most certainly would support it because never before has there been an urgency such as there is today. It demands that the Australian scene find a realistic solution to the industrial problems which beset us and which, in this country, are bringing about great strains in the petroleum and mineral industries which are of such dramatic importance in a time of energy crisis. It is this sort of industrial unrest and the consequent inflationary situation which are bringing about problems, many of them in the vast primary industries. These industries which produce a large measure of Australia’s overseas credits are being sorely and sadly strained today in the economic situation. Likewise, in the manufacturing field, industrial problems add to many other competitive problems. Along with them come the threat and, unfortunately, unemployment.
The over valuation of the Australian dollar is affecting not only the massive export industries of this country but is also having an effect on employment and, consequently, on industrial relations and the invisible exports of this country such as tourist activities which are quite dramatically decreasing as it costs relatively more and more to purchase Australian currency. There is a great deal of uncertainty around us. If the contribution of this amalgamation proposition were to solve in any way the uncertainty we would support it. Regretfully, we cannot convince ourselves that there is any genuine advantage to either the employer or the employee from the proposed Bill. Senator Greenwood dealt at considerable length with some of the major omissions of this Bill. For instance, a ballot of members is no longer to be a secret postal ballot. The ballot must now be conducted purely according to the rules of the organisation. These seldom provide for secret postal ballots. In relation to the roll of voters, a statutory definition of an unfinancial member is to be removed. This, in itself, will open the way to various forms of manipulation which can be of no value to the great mass of Australian unionists.
The provision of 3 months notice from the beginning of the ballot to its close is to disappear. There is to be no publication of argument for or against the proposed amalgamation. Within 2 months of the ballot the cases for and against amalgamation used to be circulated and they would accompany the ballot paper. But now the opponents of amalgamation have no right to put their views to the membership. Regulations used to provide for equal representation of argument for or against. Now there is no such power to enact regulations to provide this balanced information. Mr Deputy President, I am drawing your attention to these few things once again because their real significance is that they tend to work to the disadvantage of the Australian unionist in the matter of amalgamation. It is not the amalgamation of unions that is so important. It is the welfare and the future of unionist themselves. This appears to be the basic concern which we should apply as the yardstick to this legislation. Of course, previously in relation to an amalgamation it was necessary that half the members of the union should vote and that there should be a majority of that half. Now such a regulation is no longer to apply. This cannot in any way be considered a step forward in a democracy such as ours. It cannot be considered a step forward when, in fact, a simply majority of perhaps 10 per cent of people involved can direct the course of their union and other unions in search of amalgamation.
I believe that the legislation will contribute very much to improved industrial relations and to the control of unions by the mass of unionists if it concerns itself with the introduction of compulsory secret postal ballots. In the election of a union executive surely this must be a realistic way of contributing to the democracy of the union system in Australia and to more successful relationships between employer and employee alike. Surely the form of election which is satisfactory for the Australian people to elect their government- at this stage an Australian Labor Party Government- should be an excellent and indeed necessary form by which to elect whether a union is to amalgamate with another union. Amalgamation can be sought by only 20 per cent of the union which can request that a ballot be held of the members of the union to be absorbed. The signatures of a minority of a target union are sufficient to have that brought about. There is to be no case against such an amalgamation. Any committee of management must complete its investigations in less than 3 months. To me this seems to be extraordinary haste when one recalls that in the cast of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union it took something like 2lA years to perform. I understand that the amalgamation was sought by 3 unions and that there was general agreement that the amalgamation should be brought about. This was the circumstance in which the parties were in agreement. How silly it seems that a limit of 3 months should be imposed on amalgamation in the circumstances envisaged in this legislation.
One must tend to wonder whether the legislation towards amalgamation which is envisaged in this Bill is not more concerned with some form of body snatching or empire building within unions themselves. Perhaps this is the objective of making an amalgamation so much simpler to perform. I can imagine that this type of thing will increase the possibility of interference within the union by other unions. This is a strange approach from the Government which, quite correctly, says internationally that there should be no interference with the smaller nations and that there should be no internal interference. I understand that this is the policy of the Government in the international field. Yet here the Government is opening up the way by this proposed legislation for that very sort of interference within the union field. This interference will make it possible to cajole and to bring under the one umbrella any number of unions, large or small. I do not consider that this is a contribution to a democratic way of life. In fact, all this is contrary to the Government’s foreign policy, as we read it, although I must admit that it is not really contrary to the sort of policy that we saw only last week in regard to the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The policy adopted in regard to this Bill is similar to the philosophy or logic adopted in regard to that matter. It is a philosophy or logic that we thought or had hoped was not typical of this Government.
Surely today it is the economic situation rather than the amalgamations of unions that is the problem in this country. We know that 75 per cent of industrial strife in Australia today is in regard to wages. This is occurring in an inflationary, unproductive situation. The economic problem is not solved by the passing of legislation such as this. It is legislation which can only make it simpler for the take-over by one or more unions by another union. Surely it would be much more realistic to look at the question of compulsory secret ballots and to look at the question of enforcing the law. I say this because the law applies to all of us and I can see no reason why it should not apply and be applied in this area.
Basically this legislation would tend to place a sort of monopoly control in the hands of certain unions. It would create that control by making it so much simpler and easier to establish a giant organisation where formerly there were many. It is quite an improper and wrong premise to assume that because something is big it is more efficient. I know the laws of division of labour and so forth, but efficiency is not necessarily determined by size alone. I believe that in considering the amalgamation of unions we should consider this point. Efficiency is determined by the application of capital and labour to a point and at a point at which it reaches a maximum. So it is completely wrong to assume that size alone determines efficiency. It is completely wrong to assume that by absorbing any number of unions into another union we are, in fact, helping the individual members of those unions. In all probability, we are submerging the special interests and abilities of many of the people within those unions.
Let me say in conclusion that I am not antiunion amalgamation as such. But I do not believe that this Bill does anything but make it easier for take-overs within the union field. I believe that this type of legislation can contribute virtually nothing to the general situation of the Australian unionist or of the Australian employer. I oppose the proposed legislation.
– I support the motion that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill be read a second time. I do so in the hope that it will be passed and that there will be support for the amendments which I have circulated for the inclusion of secret and compulsory postal ballots as a requirement for the making of a decision as to whether unions should amalgamate. I listened with interest to Senate Button who, I thought, quite skilfully defended the Bill that his Government has placed before the Senate. I say that he was skilful in the sense that, from what I heard of his speech, he did not call the Government’s opponents union bashers in adopting the usual, typical defence that one hears from so many of the members of the Australian Labor Party and the union movement. This defence is used against those who criticise or involve themselves in union affairs from a right of centre political position. But despite his skill he was unable still to offer any further reason why the Senate should support the Bill in its present form.
I was amused to hear him say that he did not want the industrial scene in Australia to develop into a situation in which 2 giant corporations were facing each other- industry on the one hand and the unions on the other hand. My mind immediately turned to the confrontation this week, if one could call it that, between the Government and the union movement in Australia and to the fact that the Government of Australia will go on bended knees to the union movement and ask it to co-operate in restraining the inflationary spiral in Australia. If there are not already 2 giant corporate structures, I would not know of any better description of the prevailing position that would fit Senator Button’s requirements.
This leads me to the proposition that the most powerful force in this country are the unions. They are far more powerful than the Government that tries to manage our affairs at this moment. They are far more powerful than the greatest corporation that manages industry or commerce in Australia. The result of confrontation between industry and unions in the last several years has invariably been the success of the union viewpoint. When honourable senators speak to those who manage the commercial ventures of Australia, they will know who regards the other as the most powerful sector in the community. It is a somewhat weak defence to say: Hands off the union movement. The shareholders in a company are not made to vote on the internal affairs of their company. Let us have the same freedom and lack of interference with the union movement. Let us look at the position of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd- the example used earlier- the Prices Justification Tribunal, the trade practices legislation and the consumer protection standards. I would ask Senator Button and his colleagues whether they would like similar legislation or legislation on a parallel form to be applied to the union movement in Australia.
– That has got nothing to do with it.
-Of course it has everything to do with it. For instance, if BHP and every other company in Australia were to say that they would adopt the use of secret, postal compulsory ballots, such as the amendments which I will move require, but that they would ask as a concession that the unions accept the same sort of oversight of the quality of the services they give to the community and the same oversight of what union officials are paid for their services, we know what the unions in Australia would say. The unions would not accept restrictions and oversight parallel to those which companies in Australia have to accept. The comparison has been very poorly made. It is a fact that the one great, last undisciplined grouping of power in Australia is in the hands of the unions. It has as great an effect on this country as the national Government of Australia. It is outside the control of the electors of Australia. This is the great argument that rages in the community today as the Government of Australia goes cap in hand to the unions to ask for their cooperation. I certainly would not approve of this Bill without the safeguard that every unionist should be required to vote in a secret postal ballot.
Senator Button went on to say that we on the Opposition side did not understand union affairs. I certainly do not understand as much about union affairs as he does. But the honourable senator presumes wrongly if he believes that we have had no experience with them. We know of very well run unions whose leadership is a model for the rest of Australia and we know of some very badly run unions. I have developed that story in another parliament in Australia and I will not bore the Senate with the same description of the shameful affairs of some unions in this country, some of which, lamentably, are in my home State of South Australia. Their affairs should be subject to the scrutiny of the police in the State in which they operate, but they are not because these matters have been deliberately kept out of the hands of the police. Therefore, there are all standards in the union movement and some of them are less than desirable. But the basis of this Bill is such that it cannot be supported unless the power over unions is widened. What is more democratic in this community than to involve every member of the union in one of the most major decisions he will make in his life as a member of that union?
Senator Greenwood in addressing himself to this Bill raised a number of objections and I suppose I would agree with almost every one of them. I could have no disagreement with him in the way that he has gone through the Bill and pointed to its various defects, but I would suggest to him that nearly every one of his objections to the Bill is overcome by the amendments which I have circulated in this House. I would suggest that it would be better for the progress of union amalgamation in Australia, which most people in this country seem to agree is desirable in some form, if the Opposition were to adopt a positive view and try to amend this legislation as it ought to be amended according to its viewpoint, and to put the onus back on the Government on a particularly penetrating point which I will mention in a moment. Senator Greenwood said: ‘Let the membership decide.’ I could not agree more fully with him and that is the view I have taken in relation to the amendments which will be made to this Bill.
In South Australia we have come through one of the most debilitating strikes we have seen for many a year. Because the Transport Workers Union of Australia in South Australia and the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia, South Australian Branch, could not agree as to who should handle the loading of steel at the new steel wharf in South Australia, 10,000 tons of that commodity which was in short supply then was denied to South Australian manufacturers and it cost the South Australian community, I have no doubt, some millions of dollars, not simply because a certain amount of steel was not sold in my State but because orders were not accepted by industry because it could not fulfil them. Let me take a little further the story of that fruitless and stupid strike which went on for so long and which the Labor movement in South Australia made no early attempt to settle. The upshot was that the picket line was broken by about a dozen drivers of the Transport Workers Union with, of course, practically the whole community of South Australia backing them. A meeting of the Transport Workers Union was held in the Trades Hall some 3 weeks ago at which 49 people attended and a decision was made at that meeting to expel the two leading drivers who broke the picket line of that 5 months old strike at the Adelaide wharves. The decision was made by 49 people out of a reputed membership of 5,000.
It is interesting to note how the affairs of this union were conducted. It was deliberately stated at the meeting that no assessment as to who was a member of the union would be made at the meeting because legal action which possibly could be taken against the decision to expel the 2 members who broke the picket line would not be successful if members of the union who attended that meeting were not known by name. The person who informed me of the proceedings of that meeting was not a member and simply went in off the street and observed all proceedings at that meeting. It was interesting to note also that the next day it was claimed that 110 people had attended the meeting and made the various decisions whereas in fact 49 attended. That is an example of the practices of those unions that are as badly led as the Transport Workers Union is led in South Australia. It is leadership of low standard and it is regarded as being of low standard by every good unionist in my State who knows of it. Can we condone those sorts of activities and the use of devious methods of union manipulation by a few stirrers at the top? In this instance they did not require even proof of financial membership for admission to that union meeting. If those standards are applied to union amalgamation we will see a long period of very harmful dissension in the union movement.
I would have thought that there would be no objection from a Labor Party which believes in compulsory voting in all parliamentary elections and which, I understand, believes in compulsory voting in local government elections and will force people to vote and fine them if they do not, to the application of that principle to the union movement which in many ways is more powerful in this country than the Government itself. I would like to think that the Liberal Party of Australia could drop its insistence on voluntary voting. I do not want to do the Party an injustice but I understand that it is part of the Liberal Party’s policy. I wish that that Party could be realistic and understand that compulsory voting is here and that we will get a far more democratic answer from the community if we are perhaps a little less emphatic about the democratic way in which people can or cannot have the right to vote. My own Party has a policy of voluntary voting and I use my right as a member of a liberal party to vote as I see fit on this issue and propose policies as I see fit to suit this issue. Certainly something has to be done in Australia to take the democratic way out of the impasse which we are in, in which unions outside the electors’ delegated authority can run this country in very large measure. The one method that can be democratically used is to apply the same voting procedures to major union decisions as apply to the election of members of Parliament.
I would draw the attention of honourable senators to a notice in this morning’s media that the New South Wales Government is going to move for compulsory voting at local government elections. This is certainly a significant move, if it is carried through, for the non-Labor side of politics and should, I believe, give courage to those who are still drawn to the very liberal but, I believe, theoretical approach to voting which is that in all cases it should be voluntary. The extension of elector control to the last great, undisciplined power grouping in Australia is essential. This Bill deals only with a fraction of the decisions that would be made by the union movement but it gives an important opportunity to this House to provide for the widest possible involvement of union members in their union affairs, particularly on this important decision. I believe that the greatest safeguard that we have in Australia in times of crisis is the overall opinion of the great number of people who live in this country. The inflationary scene today would be handled fairly expeditiously if the opinion of the Australian public was heeded by its various leaders. last night I attended a meeting in the Unley Town Hall of 600 people who came to hear a professor of economics define the points of the Adelaide Plan, as it is known in South Australia. That meeting was held under the auspices of the Liberal Movement. There is very great concern in the community about and a recognition of the gravity of the economic situation we face. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) has used as one of his supporting points for the passage of this Bill the need to prevent inter-union competition in price rises and claims for wage increases. I am sure that he would be backed by the public of Australia, including a majority of unionists, if his Government had the courage to act according to its general desires. In this instance he has an opportunity to accept an amendment which is thoroughly in line with his political beliefs on compulsory voting. He cannot argue against the fullest extension of the democratic process that every person should vote in a decision which affects the general community at large.
I ask the members of the Liberal and Country Parties in the Senate to allow this Bill to go through the second reading stage so that we may make a very significant advance in our approach to the great problem of union control and union development in Australia and so that we can make a very great advance by inserting into this
Bill a principle which I believe would, soon after, be widely represented in other legislation affecting conciliation and arbitration. I support the Bill on the proviso that I will be able to move my amendments.
– I support the Bill for the reasons that have been put forward by Senator Button but not for the reasons that we have just heard from Senator Hall. Perhaps Senator Hall realises that it is very doubtful that this Bill will pass the second reading stage and therefore his amendments will not be debated at the Committee stage. This is the third occasion on which we have heard the same arguments from the Opposition in this chamber. They have not been added to very much by the new senators who came into the Senate after the last election and they certainly would not convince anybody that there ought not to be a change in the existing provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. If one checks the number of amalgamations that have taken place in Australia since the previous Government amended the amalgamations provisions in the Act one will find that there have been very few. This shows that the restrictions in the Act at present make it practically impossible for any unions to amalgamate.
I would like to give an example of a union that has a diversification of members scattered in outlying areas and covering many industries. It would not be possible for the Australian Workers Union ever to get 50 per cent of its members voting in a ballot whether it were for an amalgamation or for official positions in the union. The highest percentage that has ever been recorded in a ballot in the history of the Australian Workers Union is 42 per cent. On that occasion very intensive campaigning was carried out by both sides. So under the provisions of the existing Act there would never have been any amalgamations within the Australian Workers Union.
I believe that the Government is sincere in trying to make amalgamations easier than they are now. The excessive number of unions is no doubt one of the problems affecting industrial relations in Australia. There has been a slight decline in the numbers of unions in Australia. In 1 956 there were 375 unions. In 1972 there were 305 unions. I understand that by the end of last year there were something like 294 unions. Of these unions 158 had fewer than 1,000 members; 82 had between 1,000 and 5,000 members; 28 had between 5,000 and 20,000 members; 23 had between 20,000 and 50,000 members; and only 14 had a membership of over 50,000. In a population of only 13.5 million, where we have something like 5.5 million workers in industry and where about 51 per cent of those 5.5 million workers are members of organisations, it seems to me to be ridiculous to have nearly 300 unions covering only about 2Vi million members. This situation is completely different in other advanced countries like West Germany where about 1 6 unions cover millions of workers.
This Bill will make the amalgamations of the unions much easier. Surely the unions themselves want it this way. The officials of the unions want it this way, and I am certain that a lot of employers in industry want it this way. But we see the legislation obstructed from time to time by the Opposition in the Senate. In the PostmasterGeneral’s Department there are 28 unions involved. Workers at the Sydney Mail Exchange are covered by no fewer than 20 unions. The work force of Trans- Australia Airlines is covered by no fewer than 26 unions. The men and women employed by the Commonwealth Railways belong to 14 unions. The fragmentation of union resources, in terms of staff, finance and facilities, imposes limitations on the unions and makes the effectiveness of a union very limited. The resources for research by the unions is limited where each small union has to have an industrial officer and a research officer doing exactly the same work as others in small unions are doing to try to compete with the rising cost of living and to keep the working conditions of the members of the union up to a standard that is accepted by the trade union movement.
The fragmentation of unions leads to an almost impossible position if they are dealing with a well organised employer group or a major company. Let us take the example of employees of a multi-national corporation. The Australian employees of such a corporation might well belong to only 6 or more organisations. I have not heard Opposition senators mention the amalgamation of the Chamber of Manufactures and the Chamber of Commerce. For reasons of convenience they called it a merger. No ballot was taken. Even if the Employers Federation in South Australia wanted to join the Chamber of Manufactures no ballot would be required under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act or any other Act. We are trying to enforce restrictions on the trade union movement so that the amalgamations of unions are practically impossible and at the same time the employers and their organisations are given a free hand to amalgamate and merge without any inhibitions.
The unions will not accept the provisions of section 158k subsection (2) of the existing Act. This Bill seeks to amend the existing provision requiring that 50 per cent of the members vote in any ballot and, provided that a majority of members cast a formal vote, the decision is taken on the majority of that vote. There is a distinct anomaly under the existing legislation. In a ballot of 49 per cent of members of a union all of whom had voted unanimously in favour of an amalgamation the amalgamation could not take place because it would need to be supported by 50 per cent of members. On the other hand, 50.5 per cent of the membership of an organisation could vote and only 26 per cent of them need vote in favour of the amalgamation and the amalgamation would automatically be approved by the Registrar.
The Opposition has stated that if this legislation is passed amalgamations will be made easier. It has been proved in the last 2 years since the existing legislation has been in operation that the legislation is a complete failure. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as I have pointed out, makes it unnecessarily difficult for unions to amalgamate. At present, for amalgamation proposals to be adopted, 2 conditions must be satisfied. One is that at least half of the members of the union must vote and the other is that more than half the formal vote must be in favour of amalgamation. As I stated earlier- in contrast to the amendments which have been introduced in this place for the third time- those conditions would no longer be necessary provided 50 per cent or a majority voted at a ballot in favour of the amalgamation.
There is one other objectionable aspect of the existing legislation which is not accepted by the unions. The unions believe that they should have a right to determine the affairs of their own union, including the conduct of a ballot, the election of officers and any other issues which affect only members of the union. They should not be subject to rigid restrictions included in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act where this inherent right is taken away and referred to the Industrial Registrar. I believe that most unions, if not all, would have some provision in their rules and constitution for a ballot to be decided by the members. I refer to the ‘Australian Workers Union Constitution and General Rules’. Rule 43 under the heading of ‘Plebiscite’ states:
Convention or the Executive Council, when they deem fit, may take the opinion or financial members upon any question by submitting the same to a plebiscite. The arrangements for the taking of such plebiscite shall be such as to secure as large a vote as circumstances will admit, and each plebiscite taken shall be denoted in the advertisement and on the ballot papers by one of the letters printed on the voting slip attached to members ‘ tickets.
Those provisions are contained in the rules for the Australian Workers Union already registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Those rules deal not only with balloting on amalgamations but also deal with every other aspect of union affairs. Opposition senators, of course, have very little knowledge and experience of the trade union movement. Very few honourable senators opposite have ever been members of a trade union organisation. The only knowledge they have regarding trade union affairs comes from the employers; the Press; or someone like Senator Hall who attended a meeting of the Transport Workers Union in Adelaide as a pimp and a spy, attending the meeting without the knowledge of the organisation. He had no right whatsoever to be sitting in at that meeting. He was there simply to listen to what was going on. He could not even do that.
– It was a contemptible act.
-Senator Cavanagh is quite right. It was a contemptible act. His action of sitting in at the meeting was contemptible enough but even more contemptible was that when he left the meeting he did not report what actually took place at the meeting. Senator Hall’s report of the meeting was completely garbled because the person who reported to him apparently does not know how to write shorthand and he relied on his memory, which must be very bad. I may not have another opportunity during this debate to discuss Senator Hall’s proposed amendments. Although Senator Hall has said that he will support the second reading of the Bill, he expects the Government to accept these amendments which, of course, it cannot accept. Senator Hall in his amendments, proposes to change clause 6 on pages 5 and 6 of the Bill by deleting subsections 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. These are the provisions in the Bill which give the right to unions to determine how they want to process an amalgamation- whether they want to conduct the amalgamation under their own rules, or whether they petition to refer the matter to the Registrar. Senator Hall’s proposed amendment completely takes away the right of a union to conduct its own affairs by conducting a ballot for an amalgamation under the rules and constitution of the union. Surely no organisation, whether an employee organisation or an employer organisation, would hand over the inherent right and powers that they have in relation to the affairs of their own organisation to an outside body or to an industrial registrar unless petitioned by members.
The other amendment proposed by Senator Hall deals with making a ballot compulsory. This is where Senator Hall showed his ignorance of trade union affairs and trade union ballots. It is absolutely impossible to get the ballot papersmat is the postal ballot papers- returned by members of an organisation who are scattered over a wide area. A trade union, such as the Australian Workers Union, has members at Mount Isa, members scattered within the pastoral industries, itinerant workers who follow the fruit picking industry and thousand of other members working on highways and working at quarries and mines etc. Probably 200 industries are covered by that union. Making it compulsory for union members to vote in a postal ballot would be an absolute waste of time. The imposition of a $5 penalty for those who do not vote is strongly opposed by the trade union movement. The Government does not accept that proposal.
We believe that the members of a union take sufficient interest in the affairs of a union to decide themselves whether the amalgamation of a smaller union with a bigger union is beneficial for the whole membership. I believe that a decision to make a 50 per cent vote compulsory with a penalty of $5 for those who do not vote, would be abhorent to the trade union movement. I am certain that it would not be accepted by any members of the unions. I would like to read out a short passage from what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said when he delivered the Labor Party policy speech at Blacktown on 29 April this year. He said:
The vast majority of Australian employees are members of unions or employee associations. The key to industrial efficiency is efficient employee organisation. Our opponents have obstructed our efforts to modernise and democratise Australian trade unions. There are too many unions in Australia. We have sought to reduce the number of unions. There are too many needless strikes in Australia: We have sought to remove the causes of needless strikes. In those efforts we have been opposed by our opponents in the Federal Parliament and have met with no co-operation from their confederates in the States.
Responsible leadership of both unions and industry Strongly supports a reduction in the number of unions and of demarcation disputes between rival unions. Our legislation to help union amalgamation has been twice rejected by the Senate.
Twice, in 2 elections, the people of Australia have been told of the industrial policies of the Australian Labor Party, particularly in respect of industrial disputes. We recognise and realise that some industrial disputes are caused by demarcation disputes between unions on the job. Senator Hall gave a good example when he referred to a dispute in South Australia between the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation over the handling of steel. If those 2 unions had been amalgamated that demarcation dispute would not have occurred. I know of unions which have been waiting months and months to amalgamate. They hoped that the Bill introduced by the Government would be accepted. They will not proceed with their amalgamation proposals until the existing legislation has been changed and made acceptable to the trade union movement. Therefore I strongly support the Bill that has been introduced and just as strongly oppose the futile and useless provisions put forward by Senator Hall in an effort to make union ballots compulsory while at the same time not doing anything regarding the amalgamation or merger of employer organisations.
Senator Hall suggested that voting in a trade union ballot for amalgamation was similar to voting in a Federal or State election. He said that the Australian Labor Party supported compulsory voting in elections for State and Federal Parliaments. However, he did not tell the Senate that under the Commonwealth Electoral Act it is compulsory for everybody to be registered- to have his name, address and occupation put on the electoral roll. Voting in State and Federal elections, where it is compulsory under the Commonwealth Electoral Act to be registered on the electoral roll, to have one’s name, address and occupation on that roll, is quite different from voting in an election in the trade union movement where it is not compulsory to join a union. I, for one, would readily accept compulsory voting in the case of amalgamations in the trade union movement if the Opposition supported compulsory membership of a trade union by employees working in industry. That would be quite a different matter; the voice of the Opposition would be strongly opposed to any compulsion for employees to join an appropriate union. Therefore, in my belief it was irrelevant for Senator Hall to refer to the fact that the Australian Labor Party supports compulsory voting in elections for parliamentary office and the imposition of a fine on those who do not vote, when he suggested that it should be compulsory for members to vote in a trade union ballot for amalgamation. This Bill, as introduced, will ensure that the unions have this right and it will make it easier for them to amalgamate.
Members of the Opposition would know from looking at ballots conducted within the trade union movement over the years that some ballots for official positions often create more interest than that which would be created by an amalgamation. Some such ballots have resulted in a percentage vote as low as 15 per cent. I have seen the percentage as low as 10 per cent- nearly as bad as that in the municipal elections that took place in Sydney last Saturday.
– A lot worse, in fact.
-Even worse than that. Some trade unions are not able to attract the same miserable vote as was attracted at the municipal elections in Sydney last Saturday, as Senator Greenwood admits; yet he suggests that another 20 per cent should be added to the percentage vote in order to make certain that there will be no more amalgamations, that the weaker unions will stay weak and that there will be an imposition on members of those small unions through their having to pay higher contribution fees, knowing that unions cannot function efficiently and effectively when they do not have large memberships. I strongly support the Bill as introduced.
-Senator Cameron said in the early part of his speech that he would like to hear more from honourable senators who entered this chamber this year. I have pleasure in helping to satisfy that desire. I suppose he could have included Senator Hall in that category. I regret that I probably will not be able to satisfy many more of his desires in this regard. It seems to me that this is a Bill for which a great deal is claimed and by which very little would be achieved. We who are new senators have been told so often by Government members that if only the Opposition would pass the Conciliation and Arbitration Bills wonders would happen and that these Bills were terribly important from the point of view of inflation. In fact the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) claimed in his second reading speech a considerable amount of promise for this Bill and another Bill which he proposes to introduce. He said that this Bill would lead to the rationalisation of our industrial relations system and a dampening of inflation. Nothing I have heard today has indicated to me that either of those things is likely to be achieved by this Bill, even in conjunction with some other Bill.
The Minister went further than this in his second reading speech. He quoted the policy of the Liberal Party in respect of amalgamations. He said that the Liberal Party would seek to work with the Australian Council of Trade Unions in encouraging industry-based unions. Certainly the Liberal Party has indicated support for the proposition that industry-based unions would provide some improvement in industrial schemes. In my further comments I do not want to discourage the Minister from quoting from Liberal Party policy; he showed good initiative and did something which he should do more often. In that regard I refer him to the latest Liberal-Country Party policy which was presented at the last Federal elections. Our policy is not covered by the few words to which the Minister referred. Our statement of policy which is titled ‘The Way Ahead ‘ states:
The Liberal and Country Parties encourage industrybased unions in the belief that industrial disputes and strikes will be minimised by industry unions better position to communicate and negotiate with employers and government.
We recognise that determination by the ACTU to implement its own policy on this matter is essential if it is to be achieved and we will seek early discussions with the ACTU concerning these matters.
In other words, it is important that the Australian Council of Trade Unions should genuinely stir up the interest of members of unions and point out to them that where unions are perhaps too small they would be better off if amalgamated. In that way the ACTU could induct members of unions to vote for and to support amalgamations in suitable cases. It is not simply a matter of the ACTU saying: ‘We just support it’. It should say: ‘We certainly encourage amalgamation and think that it ought to be encouraged in appropriate cases’. Whilst I am dealing with the document which sets out the Liberal-Country Party policy I will refer to two other statements matters of policy of the 2 Parties which I think are relevant to this Bill. Under the heading ‘Organisations’ the document states:
While memberships of organisations should be voluntary, employees and employers should be positively encouraged to take a responsible and active part in their respective union and industry organisations.
That means that they ought to be encouraged to vote and to obtain enough information about their unions to know what is to be gained and what is to be lost by an amalgamation; what one union may have in assets and what it may gain in faculties if it amalgamates. Those matters are in the minds of the members of the Party which I represent. When dealing with the subject of the democratic control of organisations our policy stated:
We will also provide for secret ballots for fundamental alterations to an organisation’s constitution where those alterations would significantly affect the rights of members of the organisation.
– Do you apply this to company law as well?
-I will come to that shortly, because today an analogy has been made about the differences between these 2 situations. In the policy statement I just read we do not use the word ‘compulsory’. At this stage I indicate that I do not think that what Senator Steele Hall says about compulsory secret ballots may be the best solution to the problem. We believe that the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act is better in the interests not only of the unions but also of the public. Of course, Senator Steele Hall’s suggestion would be better than the proposal which the Government advances.
The Minister claimed that this Bill will have an effect on inflation and that it will be an improvement. Yet today Government speakers have said that this legislation concerns only the internal affairs of unions; that it is concerned merely with the rules and the operation of unions. Honourable senators opposite cannot advance both these arguments at the same time. They cannot argue that this Bill concerns important issues so far as the nation’s economy and an effect on inflation are concerned, and at the same time argue that this legislation concerns merely a matter of internal politics and the internal organisation of unions. I invite other Government speakers to tell me how those 2 arguments can hang together in the case which the Government puts in support of this Bill.
I think that sometimes we should look a little away from our Australian situation. I refer the Senate to an interesting article which recently appeared in the English magazine ‘Encounter’. Although it deals with the question of inflation in Britain, I think that one can see in it more and more a growing resemblance between the situations and problems which face the British people and the Australian people. The article was written by E. J. Mishan who is a well known writer and economist. The article is titled ‘The New Inflation’. In it the writer analyses the causes of the inflationary situation and he relates them to, among other things, the economic expectations which people have and which they had during this century. People have come to the conclusion that we will keep on getting better and better conditions; that we can keep on making demands and that somehow they will constantly be met. Of course, if we reach the situationwhether it be in Britain or in Australiawhere the economic forces become concentrated more and more in the hands of a few large companies and a few large unions, one can expect that sort of expectation and demand to grow greater. In one part of this article the writer poses the proposition: ‘Why Traditional Economic Remedies may now be Ineffective ‘. He says:
A small part of the answer is to be found in the larger units of production that are promoted by those narrowlyconceived considerations of efficiency which come to the fore in optimistic periods of rapid economic expansion. Variety and small scale are part of the ecological prescription for systems stability.
Further on he says:
We are beginning to realise that the economies-of-scale from larger plant size may be dearly paid for in terms of increased social hazard.
It may well be that in fact this is the situation not only with companies but also with unions. The idea that economies of scale will necessarily be of great value or that amalgamations necessarily are worth while and desirable and do not swamp the needs of individual parts of that amalgamation is, I think, a factor to be considered. The value of big battalions is, I think, over-stressed, and perhaps for social reasons. That may be a good reason why it should not be too easy or too simple for an amalgamation in unions to be decided on.
When considering increasing the number of amalgamations we should recognise the situation that amalgamations in the past have been mainly large unions joining other large unions and in fact there has not been pressure to remove smaller unions. There is the matter to which Senator Button referred in his speech. If there were some pressing need to amalgamate the number of unions in the Post Office- and I am sure that there is such a need- then surely pressure should have been brought to bear, surely the information should have been given and surely the evidence, facts and arguments should have been advanced more effectively before now by the very powerful leadership of the trade union movement in order to ensure that support for amalgamation was obtained and that the amalgamation was decided on by the unions concerned.
I quote again from the article by E. J. Mishan to which I have referred because I think it relates to the general situation. He says that in this century the workers in the community have always sought material self-betterment and that they have not always followed the path of economic virtue depicted by liberal economists. He continues:
Instead these attempts take the form of large-scale group action designed, not to contribute more to the size of the national pie, but simply to appropriate a larger share of it. Each union or organised group will, of course, continue to talk about ‘productivity’, about ‘fairness’, about ‘the national interest’, about ‘proper differentials’ and ‘the structure of the industry’, these terms being a part of the political language of negotiation. But each realises that the concessions it can wring from society depend ultimately on the extent of the potential disruption it can inflict on the community.
One must feel that in this day and following the evident breakdown in the negotiations yesterday the attempts to persuade the unions to accept the view that there ought to be some restraint in claims for increased wages, this is indicative of the situation in Australia. Attempts by Government spokesmen and editorial writers and columnists to arouse the indignation of the public against irresponsibility are often not effectual. I quote for the last time from this article. The writer states:
For the defiant workmen do not see themselves primarily as members of a larger political community held together by a common history and by a network of rights, customs, and obligations. The very idea of nationhood is made obsolescent by technological progress, by instant international communication, by mass mobility, and by supra-national aspirations arising from a growing consciousness of economic and ecological interdependence.
The members of the union, on such occasions, see themselves rather as a fraternity asserting their claims against those of others. If the public, following the lead of the government and the press, evinces disapproval of their action, they simply close ranks and derive moral sustenance from their comradeship and their common cause.
I think this has been found to be the case in Australia. This has been the recent example. I think that this may be the effect of amalgamations into very large organisations which perhaps will no longer represent the interests of the few. It was put to the Senate that amalgamations provide all kinds of benefits. I take the example given of the removal of demarcation disputes. Senator Button made considerable play of this. I find myself immediately in disagreement with the figures which he sought to place before the Senate. I think he quoted figures provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and suggested that one in seven disputes in Australia was a demarcation dispute. I can find nothing in the statistics to justify that assertion. In the records supplied to me by the Parliamentary Library an interesting set of figures is to be found. Disputes fall into 7 different categories, according to statistics kept by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Wages is one category. Hours of work is another. Leave, pensions, compensation provisions, etc., is another. Managerial policy is another. The next categories are physical working conditions, trade unionism and other disputes. Only one of the 7 categories is trade unionism. In the Bureau’s records the definition of trade unionism includes not only demarcation disputes but also other things. It includes disputes concerning the employment of nonunionists. That is hardly a demarcation dispute. Inter-union and intra-union disputes would be demarcation disputes but only half of theminterunion disputes-would be included in the statistics with which we are concerned. Sympathy stoppages in support of employees in another industry are clearly not demarcation disputes. The recognition of union activities may or may not be included.
If we take the whole of that collection under the heading of trade unionism in the statistics for the March quarter of 1974 and for the 2 years prior to that date, we see that 5,085 disputes were recorded and of them 555 came within the category of ‘trade unionism’ disputes. That is, 10.9 per cent- almost 1 1 per cent- of the total of those disputes were trade unionism disputes and demarcation disputes constituted only one section of that percentage. It is impossible to know what proportion of that 10.9 per cent related to demarcation disputes. I suggest that it is reasonable to assume that the actual number of demarcation disputes would be not more than 5 per cent of the total number of disputes. So we had an exaggeration of the extent to which demarcation disputes contribute to the total number of disputes in the industrial sector. I think that this point is significant.
A further factor is that in a situation such as this demarcation disputes will continue if unions amalgamate. The recent troubles in the transport industry were the result of part of a union receiving certain concessions and wage increases. Consequently other parts of the union expected the same increases. It may be said that in certain circumstances amalgamation increases the likelihood of disputes. They will not be called demarcation disputes any longer, but I suggest that amalgamation does not solve the problem of disputes between people who are doing similar jobs but not the same job and who are members of the same union. When unions whose members do quite different jobs are amalgamated no doubt the expectation of those in one particular form of employment where productivity is not great will be the same as the expectation of those members who are in another part or another industry where productivity is greater. If one takes the question of inflation alone, one would expect that amalgamation is more likely to increase rather than reduce inflationary demands.
I have no doubt that in a number of cases the argument which is advanced, that amalgamation and larger unions will lead to greater service and facilities, is true. In many ways there would be advantages for the small union because of the facilities the amalgamated union will provide. But we must realise that this does not always turn out in fact. I recall that after the creation of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union better service was expected. The amalgamation was voted for by a small number of members, but it became a fact. The President of the Amalgamated Metal
Workers Union, speaking of his members complaints at the Queensland State conference of the union on 23 February 1973, said:
There are complaints that they are not receiving service that they had been accustomed to in the past. Such complaints must be given very serious attention. We must also make further efforts to have greater participation by the rank and file in branch affairs.
That matter becomes clearly a greater problem in a very large union when the participation of individuals may well be ineffective.
– What about the shop stewards in larger unions?
-Senator Sir Magnus Cormack reminds me that shop stewards in larger unions gain more significance and greater power, whereas one expects in a small union a much greater sense of empathy -
– ‘Empathy’ was the word, not subservience- between the union secretary and officials and the members than in a very large union of which the leader is perhaps a large capitalist gaining large capitalist fees. I mention the well known example of Mr Mitchell in Victoria.
I suggest that the concentration on amalgamations of which we have heard so much and which is to be found in this Bill- a cure-all for problems- is a great danger because it tends to ignore the dissociation between unions and their members. In support of this proposition I refer to an article called ‘The Way to Industrial Peace’ written by Mr E. P. Kelsall of the Australian Administrative Staff College. In this article he deals with major areas of psychological sources of conflict and problems in our society. He says that whether it is a capitalist or communist society these problems are to be found. Part of the article states:
The arena of industrial relations could be a focal point for a constructive attack on these deeper problems … Indeed, the dissociation between unions and their members is probably the most neglected factor in present-day industrial relations and the cause of immense waste of time and effort. If unions amalgamate and grow larger they will become even more distant from their members in work places and less attuned to their feelings and attitudes. Unions would be wise to counter this trend by positive improvements of organisation and communication; and employers would be wise to facilitate such improvements instead of trying to keep the unions away from their employees as they have usually done in the past.
I suggest that that is a fair statement. I suggest also that as far as this Bill is concerned one has to be cautious before making it very easy for amalgamations which increase the size of unions without the members being fully aware of what it is about. Senator Hall ‘s proposed amendment does not cover that matter. There will be an excellent opportunity for the members to know the cases for and against the amalgamation. Senator Button in his speech said that the Bill contains a provision that would enable the amalgamation proposals to be put in union magazines and therefore would be prior warning of the proposed amalgamation. That could be very good. That might well be an addition to what is in the existing Act. No doubt it would have a lot of support. But the Government wants to put something into the Act and to take away the very provisions that enable cases for and against amalgamations to be brought before the members.
The ballot proposals in this Bill are, I suggest, not satisfactory. The result of a ballot could be determined by a very small percentage. The existing Act provides that half the members of a union must vote, which means that just over 25 per cent of the members of a union are required to vote in favour for an amalgamation to succeed. If in fact- I suggest it is the fact- most amalgamations that are desirable involve small unions, then one would expect that under the existing Act or proposal it would be easier for the union to inform its members adequately on the facts and arguments. In the second reading speech the Minister makes a somewhat despairing cry when he says: ‘You must put this into the Act; otherwise you will have de facto amalgamations being achieved outside the existing arbitral machinery’. What he is suggesting is that unions may do it in fact and therefore the law must follow and legalise it. But I suggest that the real answer is that the trade union movement should be more constructive in demonstrating the value of amalgamations, and therefore the existing provisions should be retained.
– Showing the value to whom?
– Showing to the members the value of the amalgamation. If the amalgamation is desirable, surely it is not difficult to bring before the members of the union a case setting out the advantages to be gained in the amalgamation.
– Has that ever been done?
-Has it been done? That is, of course, a matter for the trade union movement.
– What about you? You are making a statement.
- Senator Milliner is suggesting that I should be a propagandist for the Austraiian Council of Trade Unions. I have not been asked. I am afraid I cannot do that until I am asked. I suggest that there are plenty of able men from himself down who could put these factors before the unions if there is a good case for an amalgamation. Reference has been made already to the provision in this Bill which enables a small group of people- 250 members or 20 per cent of the membership, whichever is the less- to make sure that a ballot goes to the members. Therefore, a small group of people can bring before the members of a union a ballot the result of which can be decided by a very small percentage. This has been criticised by Senator Greenwood. I support the criticism. It seems to me to be an attempt to go behind the backs of union leaders and to ensure amalgamations in some cases where they are not in the interests of the members. It would be amalgamation by stealth and by apathy. I think it is not desirable.
I suggest that this Bill is not in the public interest. I make no apology for saying that the public interest is something to be considered, as well as the interests of the members of the unions.
It is quite true that in this country the other elements of the industrial picture, the companies and similar undertakings, are already under very great control, whether it be as to mergers, foreign capital or the structure of their organisations. These matters are important because they affect the economy of the country. They are controlled under legislation such as Companies Acts and other legislation. No doubt there will be more legislation of this sort. But in the case of the trade union movement I suggest that it cannot be denied that it does have a significant influence on the community and the economy. It is important that members of the trade union movement should be well aware of the significance of amalgamations which very often are highly desired by powerful and ambitious men. I suggest, therefore, that this Bill should be defeated.
– I rise to support the Bill. This is about the third time we have discussed this subject. We are indebted to those honourable senators who have expressed strangely motivated concern about the rank and file trade unionists. The first thing that emerges in this debate is the idea which seems to have been conjured up that if there is an independent returning officer everyone will be satisfied and there will be no allegations about a ballot being a stew. To refute that idea I think I need do no more than quote from ‘Pipeline’ which is the journal of a New South Wales State registered union, the Water and Sewerage Employees Union. I do this for a number of reasons.
This union’s budget is relatively small. Its members are not highly paid workers. I will talk about the very thing on which Senator Missen concluded when he spoke about special services for members of unions. A large proportion of the membership of this union are migrants. I wish to quote what I call a Dreyfus case which involved a migrant member of this union. He was lumbered by the police and put in jail for three or four days. The State Government had to be taken on in order to get restitution for wrongful arrest. This made demands on the time of the officials and the exchequer of the union.
But the point I want to make is that in this union ballots are not conducted by the Australian Industrial Court. I can imagine that a few people would be thinking that Clyde Cameron has a particular influence on senior officers. The ballots of this union are run by the Returning Officer for New South Wales. In other words he is an appointee of Sir Robert Askin. A ballot was held and, despite the fact that the man in charge had been appointed by the Premier of New South Wales, one peculiar individual indulged in a good deal of litigation and it cost the union $9,000 in unnecessary expense. The lesson to be learned is that as far as I am concerned- I make no apology for this- in the case of this union that $9,000 should have been used for the benefit of its members as a whole and not wasted because some individual could not take a defeat. It is absolute stupidity for a faction to say every time a ballot is taken and it is defeated, that it was the victim of a crook ballot. This is the way that some people think.
I want to take this a little further. As far as the question of amalgamations is concerned, I have noted that all speakers so far in this debate have conceded that there is justification for amalgamation to take place. But where they seem to part company with me is that there seems to be an inference that there is some sinister influence on the part of management committees and shop stewards. I have attended many industrial seminars. I know people who have industrial knowhow from the workshop floor upwards, as Senator Donald Cameron has. I know of our illustrious colleague, Senator Button, and his position in the legal field. He also is a keen psychologist. Like it or lump it, with the higher educational standards today this syndrome of Jack being as good as his master is here to stay. Whether it be Bob Hawke, a management committee or a shop steward, it is just a myth for people to say that the situation today is like the television program The Rag Trade ‘ where they just clap their hands and everyone walks out.
To prove this interplay of ideas, I ask Liberal and Country Party senators to read in the journal Common cause’ an article relating to a wage settlement in the coal industry. That involved an interplay of motions and amendments. The previous speaker, Senator Missen, referred to the metal trades unions. The ‘Tribune’ is a publication from which I hesitate to quote. But it had an axe to grind in a matter involving the Australian Communist Party members, Socialist Party of Australia members and other people who participated in a ballot. In most of these disputes there are motions and several amendments before a settlement is reached. The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Bishop), who represents the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) in this place, knows that the classic case is that a person gets the idea and he gives an envelope to a person and says: ‘Are you voting yes or no?’ My argument is that in a lot of these disputes it is not possible to settle them clearly in terms of black and white. For example, I ask honourable members to recall the Sydney dispute over the one-man buses. Events proved that in a big metropolis this type of bus was unsafe. A conciliation commissioner offered the men a set sum of money to operate the buses. It is to the eternal credit of Mr Justice Robinson that he appreciated that the men’s fears in regard to safety were well and truly founded. He finally devised a formula. But before that formula was reached there were at least 6 stop work meetings of all members in the industry. The message I want to get across to honourable senators is this: The early meetings were poorly attended but as interest grew finally a bigger percentage of members attended. The result was that from a motion which was opposed outright by the State Secretary in all sincerity, through a system of filtering amendments there was settlement. In any free society, whether it be shareholders or trade unionists, a settlement cannot be rammed down people’s throats. They have to have the right of arbitration. There is all this fear about 1-day stoppages. Often when the first report on negotiations comes out at least there is an opportunity to get all members at a meeting. I ask honourable senators not to run away with the idea that with a postal ballot there cannot be manipulation. There can be manipulation in any society, even in our national and State elections. There will always be an unscrupulous person.
I simply get back to this theme. Some honourable senators have probably applauded the fact that Central Intelligence Agency money helped to create strikes against Allende in Chile. I do not endorse all that he stood for, but to some people he was a hero. The same probably occurred in relation to Poznan in Poland when there was the first manifestation of extreme Communist rule. Honourable senators opposite applauded that. I suppose that in a free society the Trade Union Congress is entitled to question some of the views of my ministerial colleagues. Honourable senators opposite will cite such incidents with glee. They will not say: ‘Put them in gaol’. But I know that if such things were said against Mr Snedden honourable senators would be looking for scapegoats. I know that Senator Greenwood on one memorable night here was close to suggesting that the venerable secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, George Slater, ought to be committed to the dungeons. It depends on our point of view how we see these things.
As far as this concept of amalgamations is concerned, we have to see it all in relation to resultant industrial turmoil. The plain fact is that people today- whether parliamentarians or trade unionists- are looking to see that they protect their jobs for the future. It does not matter whether we are in office or whether the Opposition is in office and whether the concept is retraining in industry. We cannot go along to some rubber workers in Bankstown and say: ‘Look, we think you ought to lift up your home, take everything and go to Goulburn and decentralise there’. I know that this is the attitude of the adherents of decentralisation in some of the parties here. But let us put that to the individuals. I ram the point home that a union cannot be stampeded in a dispute. A dispute cannot be settled by remote control. People talk of 249 members making a decision which affects a union of 20,000. There has to be someone with a little bit of guts who is prepared to put a different point of view.
I say to Senator Scott that we cannot run away from these things and look at the situation in an aloof state. Australian trade unionists officials can be heckled, booed and all this sort of thing but honourable senators know the old adage: Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me ‘. This applies now. If there is a gigantic injection of apathy we have to live with it. Some people talk about management committees reaching an agreement in relation to these mergers. Of course there is provision that the Registrar can look at the matter if there are enough people with genuine motivations who feel that they have an objection. Most union people have served on management committeeslet us forget the paid official- and they have had long and honourable careers. The members are quite happy to trust them. The situation will come when members will pull them up with a jerk. There is a great blending in the trade union movement. Nobody has a monopoly on a viewpoint. There are people who have no political allegiance. There are people who support the major political parties and people who support the splinter parties.
What is the answer when we get to a stage when a dispute reaches extreme magnitude? Honourable senators were talking about South Australia. I think that the South Australian Labor Council officials and the Premier worked very effectively. Any honourable senator hereincluding Senator Greenwood from his past performances and in the light of what might happen to him in the future- knows what the result will be if the police are brought out on a baton charge or if the Army is called on. Maybe in times of national stress there are occasions when one appeals to the rank and file but one has to have a sense of timing. Offers have to be made. Sometimes one can talk until one is blue in the face without result. Because of automation there are a lot of people in industry today who do not know where they will be in 5 years’ time. This applies even to members of Parliament. We have some form of inbuilt protection because of superannuation but a lot of workers do not get it.
As far as this subject of potential amalgamations is concerned, if we look at the matter closely we will see that there is no ideological conflict with many of them. I know that in one or two unions we can think of what might happen. I suppose that in relation to the Federated Storemen and Packers Union there could be justification for a merger with the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. On the subject of gradualism, there was a little union in New South Wales, the Carrington Coal Crane Operators. The secretary was a man named Outridge or something like that. That union had a sort of fear that the Waterside Workers Federation would swallow it up. There is no more influential, astute and competent official on a national level than Charlie Fitzgibbon. He explained to these people the benefits they could obtain and subsequent events vindicated his viewpoint. There was a partial absorption of the union but certain ways were left open. The last issue of the maritime workers journal shows that people like Mr Outridge have agreed that the union should sever its State registration and become a fully fledged member of the Waterside Workers Federation. I say ‘fully fledged’ because the union already had rights in the top echelon of the waterside workers union. So often in life for every reform which is put up there are people who say what might happen. As a moral to the story I point to a relatively small union of about 300 members in Newcastle- I think its correct title was the Carrington Crane Drivers Unionwhich was effectively integrated. This will happen all the time. But there will always be the other dangers which no union can control. I suppose we can point to the much maligned George Slater of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union. There are occasions when there can be a revolt from certain sections. We have to live with these situations. The plain fact of the matter is that if on the one hand we applaud for cheap political advantage the rank and file for revolting against union officials we cannot have it the other way when we try to reduce unions in stature.
I conclude virtually where I started in relation to higher educational standards. The young members of unions are reasonably well read. They will not take as gospel what Bob Hawke or the union members management committee may say. But having said that, let us get away from this ritual of people harping about the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. One of the things we learn in trade unionism is that if we get knocked over verbally a few times we come back to the next meeting. There are too many of these hit and run experts. A gentleman named Drinkwater spearheaded an episode in the Metal Workers Union. He has never been seen since at union meetings and he was at very few meetings before then, lt is just like a political reputation. One has to earn one’s spurs by being efficient and untiring. Far too many people are not prepared to do that. I ask for the incorporation in Hansard of pages 3 and 9 of ‘Pipeline’, the official journal of the Water and Sewerage Employee ‘s Union so that I can prove to honourable senators that union finance is a very difficult job in stewardship. It is difficult to keep a union in a stable position. I want to incorporate page 9 to show that although a ballot was run by the State Electoral Officer of New South Wales who was appointed by Sir Robert Askin it did not stop somebody squealing on the ballot. Honourable senators say that somebody in Brisbane said that certain service property of the Metal Workers Union was not complete. I know that my colleague Senator Mcintosh and the husband of Senator Coleman would be more fitted to talk on the overall position of that union. When the sheet metal workers and the boilermakers were brought in with the engineering trades of course there were difficulties but better research services were provided. When we talk about services in the trade union movement, do we realise that in a sense we are talking about the law of diminishing returns? From time to time union organisers should be sent up to Port Hedland and places like that. They are needed up there with the nomadic work force and with the way that people are chiselled out of their money. I use the word chisel’ in the form that it is not only private enterprise that is involved. Sometimes, Government ineptitude is involved also. Last year, I took out some figures from the Commonwealth Employment Service in regard to the position in Western Australia. The figures were in relation to people who were unemployed and entitled to sickness and unemployment benefits but who for various reasons never claimed that benefit. These are areas in which the trade union movement has to spend considerable time and money chasing up members of our nomadic work force. Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask for your permission to have pages 3, 5 and 9 of this magazine Pipeline ‘ incorporated in my speech in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Annual Report- by Secretary John Glebe
SOLID GAINS AND SOUND FINANCES
While last year may have been most eventful, this past year has certainly proven to be one of major breakthroughs and gains for members generally and the Union as a whole.
Firstly, to elaborate on the Income and Expenditure of your Union in relation to Mr D. C Carr’s report and audit of your Union affairs.
At the last Anuual General Meeting in July, 1973 it was anticipated we would finalise our overdraft at the Rural Bank without having to sell any of your Union’s assets. We were not able to accomplish this. However, with further negotiations we were allowed to extend our overdraft and in that way do not have to reduce your Union’s assets. I might point out that if we had not had the challenge to the organisers’ ballot from a dual union member that caused a great cost in relation to legal expenses, approximately $9,358 of your money, plus a few other unexpected charges, we would no doubt have finalised not only our overdraft but definitely been on the road to obtaining Union property and also possibly buying property in country area beachside resorts.
Income from all sources as Mr Carr states was $187,378, total expenditure for that same year was $179,109, leaving a surplus of $8,269, in the previous year.
A deficiency existed of $15,920 which we paid and as Mr Carr points out would have meant a surplus of $24, 189 and possibly even greater had it not been for an increase in operating costs and unusual expenses. I point to Mr Carr’s comparisons and they are as follows: 1972 Salaries $65,806- 1 973 $82,775 1972 Printing and Stationery $5,746- 1973 $13,382 1972 Postage $29 1 3- 1 973 $6,779 1972 Ballot costs $4,392-1973 Nil 1 973 Ballot cost dispute $4,669 1972 Legal costs $4,045- 1973 $9,358 1972 Affiliation fees $5,508-1973 $6,974 1 972 General expenses $ 1 4,553- 1 973 $ 1 5,8 1 1
Mr Carr’s analysis of the expenses in the calendar year 1973 is as follows:
Expenses Allowances $6,948
Bank Charges $120,41
Equipment, Maintenance and Repairs $566.58
Flower Tributes $115,25
Translators, which I might point out to members we are using a lot more these days for our European members, came to $482.80
Uniforms for the Office Staff $181.93
Staff Amenities $39 1 . 80
Levies A.C.T.U. and Labor Council Fees $475.69
Staff procurement- we use the employment agency for temporary staff $883. 10
Delegation and Court Expenses $266 The trip that I made on behalf of the Union to the World
Peace Congress $829.87
Cash Shortage $11.93
Meeting Allowances $226
Expenses and Fares $77.95
Organisers Expenses $263.66
Tea Money $148.50
I approach the Union’s Committee of Management for permission to employ a member of the Committee of Management, Ron Cowan, from 13.2.73 to 14. 12.73, a total of 44 weeks. He was employed in an acting capacity which greatly assisted the members and the Union generally.
I again approached the Committee of Management to allow John Eastwood to come on as an Acting Organiser from 21 August 1972 to 4 February 1973. Further permission was given to bring John Eastwood on from 5 March 1973 to 27 May 1973 and again from 10 September 1973 when Ron Cowan returned to his position at Leichhardt from 10 September 1973 up until this present time, being a total in all up until June of this year of 78 weeks. The need for both Ron Cowan and John Eastwood arose when both organisers took their annual leave and when I was away representing the Union at the World Peace Congress in October for six weeks.
During the period ended December 1973, we had a number of major disputes with the Board. This incurred large expenditure and time but one pleasing factor is that not only did we win our disputes but learnt valuable lessons for the future.
To post out the Pipeline could not have been done in the old way, especially now 60 per cent of our membership are on fortnightly payroll deductions. These deductions, when received from the Board, have to be checked against membership records. After this decision was reached, a mammoth task was undertaken by the Records Section and the office staff generally. Not only do we have membership records computerised but also the financial side. This means not only can we post the journal Pipeline out on a bi-monthly basis, but where an urgent need arises a section of the membership, if not the total membership, can be notified of important issues.
You can see it was completely essential we took the step of computerising our membership records and the financial position of our membership.
This also greatly assisted our Union’s Auditor and Accountant, Mr D. C. Carr. Again I draw members’ attention to Mr Carr’s comments in relation to the bulk postage concerning Pipeline postage which amounts in that particular period to $4,602.
Gains, Rales, Conditions
Members are in receipt of the further increase of $7.70 bringing minimum rate without service pay or other increments to $110.08.
On conditions, these again speak for themselves. Conditions gained not only in our last award which we are still working on, but up until the present time, are in keeping with our forward policy of making the life of our members much more pleasant on the job.
I must also point out that through united action at job level and higher, we have a much greater respect and understanding shown to our members and greater respect generally from the Management. There have been many cases of reinstatement. Bad amenities and conditions, such as sheds and toilets have been rectified. Wholesale down-grading of members in higher classifications where, in the Board’s opinion, there was no further work available, has been taken up.
Moves to relieve members of higher classification and reduce them to construction worker were argued out with the management and the decision reversed, so they not only work on their higher grades but will continue to do so for an indefinite period of time.
New Union Home
In the near future we plan a further Special General Meeting to give the administration of your Union the approval to purchase property. We, at present, have $137,000 tied up in Water Board Loans which the previous administration had been investing in the Water Board for a period of many years. However, these Bonds are realising less because of inflation and depreciation of money. There are two building sites we are currently looking at. It will need, once a decision is made to sell the Bonds, to realise the money so that we can purchase one of the two buildings we have in mind. The Union will then have a home for all time of a value that will increase as years go on. In this way the Union will further be able to realise one of its other goals- supplying holiday accommodation to the members.
In conclusion I thank the General President Mr Don Ellis; the Vice-President, Reg Grief: the Treasurer, Mr Harry Watson; the two Trustees. Stan Steadman and Joe Charlton and the Committee of Management members for their loyalty and co-operation over the past 12 months.
I also thank Mr Dick Riley, my Assistant Secretary; Organisers, Jim Gore, Reg Hooker, Sid Lake and John Eastwood for their most valued assistance and loyalty over the past 12 months. It shows, members, that with a team loyal to one another and prepared to work in with one another, prepared to sit down and discuss over the table the problems that exist not only on the job but in one’s own views and interpretation of such view* that we can after such discussion come to an understanding agreeable to all and of benefit to the members.
VOTE OF SOLID CONFIDENCE IN UNION LEADERSHIP
1974 BALLOT RESULTS
26 July 1974
Mr J. Glebe, General Secretary,
Water & Sewerage Employees’ Union, Room 66, Trades Hall, Goulburn Street, Sydney, N.S.W.2000.
The counting of the Water and Sewerage Employees’ Union (Wages Division) ballot, which closed on 24 July 1 974, in respect of the positions of President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Assistant Secretary, Organisers and Committee of Management, has been completed.
Details of the result of the ballot are as follows:
In the following positions only sufficient nominations were received to fill the vacancies required and accordingly the members concerned are declared elected unopposed:
Steadman, S. F.
Yours faithfully, C. W. PRINCE,
Electoral Commissioner and Officer conducting the Water and Sewerage Employees’ Union (Wages Division) Election under Section 1 1 1 J of the Industrial Arbitration Act.
by John Glebe, General Secretary
My fellow officers and Committee of Management members have asked me to express their sincere thanks for the confidence and trust you have placed in them for yet another three years.
Yours fraternally, JOHN GLEBE.
– What was the union?
-It is the State registered Water and Sewerage Employees Union of New South Wales. I point out that the returning officer of this union is the man who handles the ballots in New South Wales for Sir Robert Askin. That is a pretty good commendation for some people. To wind up my remarks, I simply say this: Senator Donald Cameron gave us a very lucid exposition of what amalgamations are all about. I think that whilst we have people like Senator Bishop in the Ministry no fears need be held by anyone in regard to what we are trying to do in bringing a new charter of democracy to trade unions. We have no apology to offer for it
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
– In speaking to the Bill to amend the law relating to conciliation and arbitration and especially to amalgamation of organisations, I do so in a way which is related but not absolutely limited to the proposal before us. I think we have all recognised, or at least most of us have recognised, that at the moment there are a number of problems associated with the operation of the trade union movement in Australia. Government senators have pointed to some of the problems which exist with the proliferation of unions and have suggested that their proposal for amalgamations will solve a number of those problems. Whilst totally agreeing, and I wish to emphasise this, on the importance of the essential role played by the trade union movement in the operation of the mixed economy which we enjoyed until the change of Government but which we now find is creating very considerable problems, I must say that it is about time that we as a community asked: What is the role of the trade union movement in Australia, how far does its proper role extend into the economy and into society, and are there structural changes which are desirable in relation to the unions?
I emphasise that I make all these remarks with a basic belief in the importance of the retention of that for which trade unionism stands. I wonder about the extent to which a number of problems which we face in Australia the moment in trade unionism arise from the fact that trade unions are basically occupation oriented rather than industry oriented unions. I wonder whether the sorts of considerations which are set out from page 179 onwards in chapter 12 of the report of the Donovan Commission- the royal commission on trade unions and employers associations conducted from 1965 to 1968 in the United Kingdom- such as of the two types of multi-unionism and the problems which arise in trying to make a major change in the basic structure of trade unionism as it has been operating for some time, would indicate that it would be more desirable at least to hear a great deal more public debate taking place in the country, not with a view to destroying trade unionism in any way or for the purpose of union bashing but with a view to asking: How could they fulfil the accepted role more satisfactorily without the sorts of problems which exist and which are exemplified in the approach of the Government, which is saying at the moment that this Bill is necessary to overcome those problems, and the approach of the Opposition, which says that the present provisions will assist in overcoming the problems.
I do not think anybody is denying that the problems exist, but I wonder whether either side is right in saying, on the one hand, that the existing provisions are adequate and will overcome the problems or, on the other hand, that the proposed provisions are right and will help overcome the problems. I have great reservations about whether the approach in Australia at the moment is leading towards the solution of some of these problems. I wonder whether in a country which as part of the general world trend is moving towards big government, big unions, big corporationsin other words, a country in which so many institutions are becoming bigger and bigger in terms of power, size and the impact they have on the society as a whole and on the national as well as the world economy- we are not going about it the wrong way by saying that we do not have to have regard to those developments and that if we amalgamate a few unions that is all we have to do.
The world corporation is clearly something which is with us whether we like it or not. It is something which will become more significant in its impact on every national economy. Would it not then be better for us to say that if we are to have the development towards bigger unions we should be thinking about a trend towards more industry oriented unions which will be able to play a part in balancing the power which is being continually exercised by the big corporations and by government interfering- we will not debate whether it is desirable or not- more and more in the affairs of industry and in the affairs of the economy? I wonder whether it would not be better to be looking at that aspect rather than to be saying simply that we need to facilitate amalgamations. I wonder also whether the unions could not do a lot more than they have done so far to encourage public debate and awareness and to display their own awareness of the need at least to review the role and the operation of the trade union movement in our type of society.
– You can stop wondering. They cannot do it under this legislation.
– Thank you for the interjection. I doubt whether they could do it under the amending legislation. I doubt also whether there has been any indication from the Government so far of an awareness of the need for a review, from a conceptual point of view, of the role most desirably to be played by the trade union movement in a nation developing along the lines on which we have been developing, particularly whilst we have a situation in which clearly the public has, many members of the trade union movement have, and many employers have, grave reservations about the extent to which the operation of trade unions is satisfactory. Here again I do not want to engage in any way in a debate about the detail of this problem but there is public concern expressed about abuses. One alleged abuse is being investigated at the moment and there are numerous allegations of misuse of funds, the lack of accountability of some trade unions and the lack of democracy in the operation of trade unions- not in all unions but in some. They vary.
There is also the problem of elections. One reads letters to the newspapers with great frequency these days about whether there should not be secret ballots for strikes, and dealing with other such questions. I believe that the Government has shown a grave lack of leadership in not promoting thought and debate on these questions. It is time for an increasing amount of consideration to be given to a review of the role of the trade union movement in Australia. Just as the public interest is not served by large corporations or, for that matter, small corporations which ignore the rights of consumers, the interests of the environment, the interests of employees or the interests of the national economy, so too there is ample evidence that the other major section of organised power outside the Government, that is the unions, is currently failing adequately to recognise the public interest. I repeat: Just as the public interest is not served by corporations which ignore the interests of consumers, the environment, the national economy, employees and others, there is ample evidence that the trade unions, that other major section of organised power, are currently failing adequately to recognise the public interest. They have demonstrated a preparedness to act in relation to foreign affairs and environmental matters by imposing green bans and taking other action which has caused severe loss, suffering and inconvenience to the general public, has damaged the national economy and generally has not been of any particular advantage to individual members of the union concerned. Therefore I suggest that one of the matters for very deep public consideration is the extent to which that is a proper role for the trade union movement as opposed to the involvement of the democratic system of parliament in that action.
It is not good enough for Government speakers to say or to imply that apart from there being too many unions- a matter which could be overcome by the amalgamation procedure encompassed in the Bill before us- everything else in the garden is rosy. Huge numbers of members of the public and of the trade unions are unhappy, concerned and worried about the fact that there now happens to be an unbridled use of power in some instances, a misuse of power and a failure of the organisation both in its role and in its functioning. I suggest that we would be much better served as a country if more attention were being paid by the Government to these questions rather than its simply putting forward proposals to facilitate the amalgamation of organisations without anything further.
In the absence of any better proposals I propose to support the Opposition in opposing this Bill. At the same time let me say simply that I would like to see fewer unions. I would like to see developments along that line. I do not see this Bill as doing more than facilitating the continuation of what is at the moment a system subject to severe criticism; not because of what it basically stands for, not because of the role it. is intended to play as part of a balancing of power within a mixed economy, but rather because of the fact that inadequate attention has been paid by the community generally and by the larger section of those directly involved, in not standing back and conceptualising for a period of time and then seeing what system can be made to work in relation to what we want, not what we have.
– I enter this debate because Senator Button spoke earlier and mentioned the factsenator Poyser- You came in late.
– There are more speakers on our side than on yours.
– Only because the agreement was broken. There are more coming in at the last moment.
– I am very interested in the by-play but I believe that I have a right to rise in this chamber and to speak on a matter particularly when the question of a dispute at Port Adelaide was introduced into the Senate by a Government speaker.
– Why did you not tell your Whip at the appropriate time?
-I informed my Whip at the appropriate time that I wished to speak for 5 minutes on this issue. I think it is very important that honourable senators show an interest in the industrial disruption that is occurring in Australia under the present Labor Government. I am very interested in the dispute at Port Adelaide that was mentioned by Senator Button. I fail to see that amalgamation of the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation would overcome this problem because in the trade union movement there is a personality problem amongst the hierarchy. In my view, that is the area where the main problem arises.
I would like to refer to the incident at Port Adelaide which involved a dispute between the 2 unions that I have mentioned. I believe that the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd, which was the employer involved on this occasion, was perfectly correct in consulting with the Waterside Workers Federation to determine which particular union should supply the labour for that operation. After consultations were held with the Waterside Workers Federation well before the completion of the roll-on roll-off terminal the waterside workers assured BHP that they were the appropriate labour force to deal with the unloading of the cargo at that area. It appears to me to be quite strange because Port Adelaide was the only area in Australia where the TWU chose to have an argument on this question. I recall that on the occasion when I and the honourable member for Wakefield, Mr Kelly, inspected the terminal at Port Adelaide we were assured by the workers and the management that the WWF was the appropriate source of labour upon which to draw. I believe in that situation amalgamation would not have been the answer to the problem.
Another thing annoyed me when I was in Adelaide at about that time. A TWU meeting was held at the St Clair Youth Centre. Subsequently I spoke to a TWU member who is a friend of mine and who was very much disturbed by the fact that when he went into the centre to attend his union meeting he was not asked whether he was a financial member of the union. He was not asked to produce his card or to identify himself with that union. He was opposed to the argument that was presented to him. I too was concerned at the manner in which the proposition was put to the meeting. He told me that when the members were asked to vote on the proposition the matter was decided on the voices. In his view the voices were almost equal. As there was an argument on the voting procedure at that union meeting they decided to divide as we do in this House- to walk to one side or the other- but there was no deliberate attempt to determine the actual numbers. They said, ‘Oh yes, the ayes have it’, and that was it. In my view, there are many areas of concern in the minds of the public of Australia about the way in which these meetings are conducted. I think that the Liberal Party is quite right in suggesting that secret ballots ought to be held for the election of union officials.
– There are secret ballots.
– We are asking for proper secret ballots.
– Tell me one union where that does not happen.
– I agree that there is provision for compulsory secret ballots, provided that a union member is prepared to get up on the floor of a meeting and request it. But how many union members are prepared to do that? We on this side of the House believe that proper secret ballots ought to be arranged.
– What do you call a proper secret ballot?
– One where there is no intimidation.
-Exactly. That is what I was trying to point out- that the average trade unionist is frightened to get up and request it at his union meeting. Therefore, Opposition policy is that proper secret ballots ought to be arranged. Another thing that I believe we ought to be looking at is the total role of the trade union movement in Australia. In my judgment the unions of Australia are taking government out of the hands of this Parliament. That has been evident in South Australia on more than one occasion. I am particularly concerned about the fact that the Seamens Union, for example, can determine which vessels it should unload. Greek and Spanish ships have been coming into Port Adelaide, and because the union does not agree with the internal policies of the governments of the countries from which those ships emanate, it has determined that its members will not unload the vessels. This seems to me to be a typical example of domination from left-wing unionists at the top of these unions. I believe it is high time that the trade union movement in Australia woke up to this problem. I believe that our policy with respect to union disputes is quite proper and I shall therefore support the Opposition in opposing this Bill.
– in reply- To hear Opposition senators talk, one would think there was no provision for secret ballots in the legislation before the Senate or that the Government did not agree with secret ballots. Let me remind honourable senators of a state of affairs which existed before the present Government came to office: It was then possible for federal councils to elect union officials. The previous government never took action to change that state of affairs. It existed for years and it was not until the Labor Government came to office that anything was done about this. We inserted section 133 (1) (a) in the legislation providing that members themselves must vote in the election of union officials.
On this occasion it will not be surprising to find that the Opposition will again frustrate the Government in implementing the two amendments that we have introduced. I want to remind the Senate that this is the third occasion on which the Opposition has adopted such an approach to such legislation as this. It has been said more than once and it ought to be said again that public statements were made before the last general election by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) that we considered these measures to be necessary. The Prime Minister said that if Labor were returned to office it would facilitate the amalgamation of trade unions. He said that we would reduce government interference in industrial relations and put conciliation back into arbitration.
– He said the Government would control inflation and look what it has done.
-When the honourable senator talks about Australia controlling inflation he knows as well as I do that inflation is a symptom of the world in which we live. Our Government is doing pretty well in dealing with it and the Opposition, if in government, would not do any better. We have a great deal of industrial disputation which is no doubt related to the inflationary situation. I think that as the months go on the industrial situation will settle down. There has been some measure of settling down in the last month or so. For the first time, the industrial movement in Australia has a government which has not interfered with industrial negotiations. Because the labour market has been good, every organisation went out to improve its lot just as we, as politicians, tried to improve our lot. That was symptomatic of the society in which we live. Now the trade union movement- its officials and members- are starting to realise that they have to co-operate. Mr Hawke made a statement on this subject. The trade union movement has to co-operate with the Labor Government in order to enjoy the benefits which have been given wholesale to the whole country. Let me remind the Opposition of what the Government has done and what the Opposition tried to impede us from doing: Four weeks annual leave, an extra week’s leave for shift workers, annual leave bonuses not only for Commonwealth public servants but also for Army personnel.
– The Prime Minister would say you are peddling lies.
– The Government has decided to give many benefits, senator. This Government has allowed its representatives to appear before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in support of reasonable claims. The Minister for Labor has indicated his support for a wage indexation scheme. Senator Steele Hall has said that the Government is going cap in hand to the unions and to the Australian Council of Trade Unions. What better arrangement could there be? The Opposition, in its policy statements, has said that a need exists for arrangements to be made between the unions and the employers. It has also referred to industrybased unions. How would the Opposition seek to achieve this?
The Opposition has criticised the Government for going cap in hand to the ACTU. In the policy statement of the Opposition, as point No. 5 under the heading ‘Organisations’ it states that the Opposition seeks to work with the ACTU in encouraging industry-based unions. How would the Opposition achieve that objective other than by agreements? The best agreements are those provided for in the Bills. The present legislation is just not working. The Opposition has been told here today by Senator Button and Senator Donald Cameron about the circumstances of the current amalgamation of the Ironworkers Union with the Federated Artificial Fertilizers and Chemical Workers Union of Australia which is bogged down and the amalgamation of the Australian Workers Union with the Wool and Basil Workers Union which is also bogged down. These are not giant left-wing orientated unions. They can be claimed to be moderate unions. Their negotiations are bogged down under the present legislation. Why? They are bogged down because that legislation is imperfect. When the Opposition left government it had not drawn up the regulations which were necessary to make this sort of situation work.
The Opposition talks about what we propose to do. Of course we want to amalgamate unions but we think that if we make the necessary laws the task is then for the unions and their members to decide whether they want amalgamation. We think it is sensible but it is not the first time that that has been stated. I remind honourable senators opposite that the ex Minister for Labor and National Service, Mr Lynch, at first wanted amalgamations when the Opposition was in power. Later he changed his mind or somebody changed it for him. In March 1972- honourable senators opposite have forgotten it of course- Mr Lynch said:
It is fair to say that provided the membership of industrial organisations does not lose effective control as a result of amalgamations, there are many advantages which can accrue from amalgamation. For instance, there are some 300 unions in Australia. Most of them are very small. It could facilitate the functioning of the arbitration system and relations generally between employers and unions if this number of unions decreases. I know of situations in which employers have sat across the table with no fewer than 15 unions in relation to one issue. Government departments have had this experience.
He went on to say:
The question of whether there should be changes in the legislation to specify more clearly the procedures under which organisations can amalgamate in the future is one to which the Government is giving detailed consideration.
Honourable senators will recall that Mr Lynch, having announced that policy, received representations from some quarters and changed his mind. Rather than make provisions which made it easier to amalgamate he put many frustrating provisions in the legislation which have not worked and are not working yet.
– Membership control.
– No, it is not membership control, senator. They are arrangements which will ensure that members of the unions will know that the amalgamation procedures are current. They will be advised by public advertisements and by advertisements in their own journals. We will go back to what ought to happen in Australiato what are, in fact, representative associations. We do not want the Government to control all activities as some people want to do. It is not only my view that the unions should amalgamate. What about the view of Mr Lynch when he first said: ‘Yes, let us do it that way’? What about the comment of the National President of the Metal Trades Industry Association of Australia? On 24 February 1972, Mr F. R. Morgan said that his association had no objection to the amalgamation of the metal trades unions. Mr Morgan was speaking at the conclusion of a meeting of the Metal Trades Industry Association National Executive in Melbourne at which leaders of the metal trades industry from all States were present. Mr Morgan added that he would be conveying this decision to the Minister for Labor and National Service, Mr Lynch. Far from objecting to the amalgamation, Mr Morgan said:
MTIA sees many practical advantages for industrial relations in the metal trades industry. The reduction in the number of unions with which MTIA and its members have to deal is a significant advantage.
Another is that we can look forward to the elimination of costly demarcation disputes.
He then went on to say that he would be informing Mr Lynch that the Metal Trades Industry Association would be opposed to any action by the Government which sought to prevent the amalgamation which had been carried out in accordance with the law. In 1970 Mr Ian Macphee, whom we know now but who was then the Assistant Director of the Chamber of Manufactures in New South Wales, speaking at the New South Wales Employers Federation Industrial Relations Conference at Bondi, said:
One may therefore express the hope that individual executives and officers in both trade unions and employer organisations may soon realise how ephemeral empires really are and that there is far more satisfaction in subsuming individual desires for personal recognition in a cause which benefits the community generally. When this realisation eventually draws a blow may really be struck for the material welfare of Australian employees and the peaceful and rapid development of our national resources. Such an advance would be greatly aided by rational amalgamations of unions and a similar unifying of employer organisations.
That, of course, is what the Government is trying to facilitate. We are not saying that all unions have to be amalgamated but rather, as everybody has said and has recognised, that there are too many unions in Australia. There are 294, and there are some which are not registered in the courts. Of those 294 unions, there are 226 with fewer than 5,000 members.
– What is wrong with that?
-This is what we are talking about. It was surprising to hear Senator Jessop and Senator Hall getting together on the transport workers dispute.
– What is surprising about that?
-Usually those 2 honourable senators are sniping at each other at the first opportunity. I want to refer to what both honourable senators said.The first thing Senator Jessop said was that the transport workers union is an industry based union. That is what the Opposition says ought to be the current form of organisation. That is the Opposition ‘s policy. Secondly, what is more marked, as Senator Button, Senator Cameron and others pointed out, is the fact that demarcation was the origin of the dispute. If the grades and classifications had been combined in one organisation the dispute would never have occurred. Many disputes happen and not only this demarcation position is a source of trouble. The only figures we have available at the present time relate to industrial trouble arising from what are called trade union causes. This includes demarcation disputes and other related matters. The figures show that about 12 per cent of the total number of industrial disputes is occasioned by those sorts of disputes, and they are unnecessary.
– Yes, demarcation and other matters, and the other matters are a far greater cause.
– There are combinations, as I have said. I am not trying to hide anything. The honourable senator well knows, without my trying to hammer the point, that demarcation disputes are one of the damaging things in the industrial relations field. The employers do not want them and we do not want them. Therefore, we are trying to make it possible-
– The unions do not want them.
– The unions do not want them, as Senator Cavanagh said. There is no explanation of the 2 cases about which I told the
Senate; but I put it to honourable senators that that is one of the troubles. In addition to those sorts of things we have the circumstances referred to in the quotation I recited from what was said by Mr Lynch. I refer to what happens when one sits down to negotiate across the table in relation to an industry where there are 15 unions. In fact, there are at least 6 Federal unions which cover the same areas, cover the same classsifications and have the same eligibility. In my case in the Post Office, as an honourable senator said, I have to talk to 27 unions in order to achieve satisfactory arrangements.
I want to mention the position in other countries, particularly other Western democracies which are often spoken of in contrast with the Australian position. In Germany there are only 16 unions, in Sweden there are 52, in the Netherlands there are 53, in Belgium there are 361, in Norway there are 40, and in Australia there are nearly 300. Speaking about the Post Office, let me refer to something which is now within the knowledge of honourable senators. Some honourable senators have read the Vernon report on the Post Office. This is what is stated in paragraph 5.9 of that report:
It can readily be understood that a large number of staff organisations exercising their legitimate interests in the welfare and employment conditions of their members would pose difficulties of communication and co-ordination for both management and the staff organisations. It would seem sensible that action be taken at some stage to rationalise staff organisation representation but this seems a matter principally for organisations and their members to decide.
That has been my policy. But we want to make the climate easier for doing these things. This Bill and the other Bill are designed to facilitate agreements with employers and to facilitate amalgamation procedures which will suit the organisations. These things will be done in a voluntary way. There will not be the unnecessary cluttering up of provisions which has caused the problems that have been stated.
The advertising, both public and in the journals provided for in the Bill before us is a satisfactory arrangement. If a union member complains about his union, whether it is the host union or the other union, he can still use the relevant sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. He can still use section 140 or section 141 in respect of what he thinks are tyrannical or hindering rules of organisations. If he wants to he can make application to ensure that a ballot is conducted officially. In addition, for the first time ever, the Government seeks to make provisions for the payment of the cost. If an organisation decides that there should be an official ballot we have said that, if necessary and if requested, we will pay the cost of such a ballot.
What is the position in both the Liberal and Labor governed States? None of the State arbitration Acts which enable unions to amalgamate requires a ballot. In New South Wales an application may be made to the New South Wales Industrial Registrar, and he has to hear and determine any application. In Queensland, unions in related callings may amalgamate on the passing of a resolution by a majority of members present at a general meeting or by other competent authority in the union. Objections may be lodged to the amalgamation and these are heard by the Registrar. In South Australia, where there is a Labor government, unions may amalgamate on the passing of a resolution to this effect and the lodging of it with the Registrar. In Western Australia, unions in related industries may amalgamate in the passing of a resolution by a majority of members present at a general meeting of each union, and objections to the amalgamation may be heard. After hearing all the fears expressed by opposition senators, in the light of that information about the State arbitration Acts I ask whether they still contend that it is dangerous to make amalgamation proceedings easier and that this will develop left wing unions and powerful unions? Of course that is not so.
I mentioned earlier that the provisions inserted in the Act in 1972, when Mr Lynch was the responsible Minister, are creating a number of problems. I referred to the problems now occuring in respect of 2 unions. One of the problems relates to this question of a roll of members. The Act says that the Registrar, after 3 months, must ensure that a ballot of the members is taken. This is in section 1 58 of the Act. Also, the ballot has to be conducted in concert with the regulations. However, the regulations have not yet been drawn. They were not completed by this Labor Government because we had amendments to propose to the Parliament. Those amendments were rejected, and those regulations are imperfect. In addition, rolls cannot be securely established. This was pointed out by Senator Cameron. Consider one of the amalgamations being proposed at the present time. The roll available for the election was finalised in December last year. It is now nearly the end of 1974 and those concerned are no nearer perfecting a roll to provide for that election than the Registrar was when he first decided who should be on the roll. The fact is that many of the people who were on that roll have left the industry. We know that in some unions, and certainly in two of the unions concerned, there is a great turnover of labour. Some of the people who would vote in a current election would not be in the industry anyway. That is the case in respect of the present provisions. Therefore, the 1972 provisions are no good, although they might look all right on paper.
I turn now to the argument about gazettal. What we propose would make it unnecessary to gazette the proposal after 3 months because that would be done as a preliminary. There is no doubt that there is a lot of objection to this provision because of fear. Senator Scott entered the debate by saying that if he felt that this provision would improve the conciliatory processes or improve the lot of the unions, he would support it. Then he went on to say that he would vote against the legislation. As I have spoken to honourable senators I have tried to indicate that that is the very aim of the Government- to provide a more conciliatory position, to make it easier for unions to operate within their own organisations, to make for better organisation and to make it possible for employers to engage satisfactorily in arguments with those on the other side of” the table.
There is no doubt that the proposition that we are putting forward is a reasonable one. In my opinion, the amendments foreshadowed by Senator Hall are unworkable. Firstly, we oppose the compulsory side of the notion contained in his amendments because it has no relevance to the political argument that Senator Hall advances in support of his amendments. As I have said, we are trying to get more representative associations and to make unions free of all those inhibiting factors which have been placed upon them by Liberal-Country Party governments. Senator Hall’s proposition cuts right across our policy aims. After all, it cannot be assumed that those who do not vote in an election concerned with an amalgamation motion oppose the amalgamation.
The Opposition’s stand on this occasion would seem to me to be a stand similar to that which it has taken on every occasion that the Labor Government has brought down amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Our friends in the Opposition see the industrial situation as being one which requires a strong-fisted attitude. We on our side are the first to say that however difficult the industrial relations situation is, we have to develop the conciliatory processes. If one reads the Liberal-Country Party policy to which I have referred one will see in that policy that there is strong argument about developing conciliatory processes, but it is never put into action.
On every occasion when we debate Bills similar to the Bill which we are presently discussing, honourable senators opposite decide to vote against them. I put it to the Senate that it ought to do what the Government requests because we have a mandate to do the sort of thing that we are requesting the Senate to do.
Mr Snedden has referred to the need to talk with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I agree that those sorts of negotiations should take place. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) has talked with the ACTU. Yesterday and today there have been important discussions about economic policies. But there is no doubt that if one talks to the ACTU one has to take notice of what the ACTU says. The ACTU supports this Bill and the next Bill which we are to consider. On more than one occasion when I was in Opposition I came into the Senate and supported amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which had been arrived at by negotiation between the ACTU and the previous Government. On those occasions we supported the amendments to the Act. In my opinion honourable senators opposite should do the same thing and support the amendments that we are putting forward on this occasion.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 13 August (vide page 798), on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is the second of the 2 Conciliation and Arbitration Bills which the Government introduced into the House of Representatives shortly after the last Federal election. This Bill, in contradistinction to the provisions in the previous Bill, reflects the bankruptcy of a particular segment of the Government’s industrial policy. The Government has on its hands in this period in 1974 an industrial problem of a magnitude that has not been experienced in Australia in this century. We are approaching industrial disruption and loss which has not been equalled at any time in the last 74 years. I can only say that I do not know whether it will equal or better, in terms of industrial dislocation, the pattern of the 1 890s which has long been regarded as the very worst period in this nation’s history.
I have not readily available to me the figures for the first 6 months of this year because they have become available, according to the Press, only in the last week or so. I know that in the first 5 months of this year 1,243 strikes were registered. One million workers were involved and 4 million working days were lost. The cost to the nation in lost wages in that 5-month period was $75m. The figures are far in excess of working days lost and wages lost throughout the whole of 1973. This is a revealing testament to the inadequacies of the industrial policies of this Government. It shows how hollow were the claims made before it took office in 1972. 1 think the matter goes further. It shows how false has been the whole basis upon which this Government has sought to establish its industrial policy. The problems which the Government is experiencing are reflected in more than unprecedented figures of industrial dislocation, accelerating unemployment and a seemingly uncontrollable inflation. It shows one of 2 things. It shows either the self-deception or the incredible blindness of the Australian Labor Party’s apologists as to the relationship between the Labor Party and the unions.
What were we told prior to 1972? We heard constantly in this chamber, in the House of Representatives, on television programs, on the platforms, on the hustings- everywhere- what the Labor Party could do and what the Labor Party would do. We read it in the policy speech. We were told that the Labor Party knows the unions better. We were told that when the Labor Government came into office its policies would be more understandable; there would be less industrial strife; the relationship between unions and government was that of natural partners; and we would see an era of industrial goodwill which Australia had never before experienced. This theme was constantly reiterated in those months leading up to the election in 1972. We were told that there would be less Government intervention and therefore a better industrial relationship and better industrial relations generally. We were told that there would be a greater emphasis on what in 1972 was called by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions ‘meaningful negotiations’. There would be more conciliation; less arbitration. Today this policy is in ruins. There is an open confrontation between an increasing number of unions and union leaders and the Government.
The President of the Australian Labor Party is also the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It is a remarkable and newsworthy event when the various hats which he wears coincide because his attitudes as a political leader are different from his attitudes as an industrial leader. Mr Hawke says one thing one week and another thing the next week. There is conflict between Mr Clyde Cameron and Mr Hawke, between Mr Charles Jones and Mr Hawke and between Dr J. F. Cairns and Mr Hawke. After the faux pas of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) last night I suspect that we will find conflict between the Prime Minister and Mr Hawke. Ministers of this Government purport to adopt with regard to industrial relations poses which have the clearly expressed opposition of their political leader who is also the President of the Austraiian Council of Trade Unions. Mr Hawke and the Labor Government are given a comfortable ride by the media, the critics and the commentators who write in the newspapers and comment on television programs.
If this situation had occurred in 1972 it would have been headlines every day. It would have been the major item of news every day, but at present it is merely a fact of life which does not warrant any comment apart from the fact that it is happening. Yet the enormity of difference between what is now occurring and what occurred in 1972 represents an enormous about-face by the media and the Labor Party. At the moment we are seeing increasing Government intervention in industrial relations. The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) appeared before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Flight Officers Tribunal to express a viewpoint on behalf of the Government. This is the antithesis of what was said in 1972. I can remember constant criticism from Labor Party senators that the government of the day in 1 970, 1971 and 1972 was presenting a viewpoint before the Arbitration Commission. It was said that the Government should stay out and allow arrangements to be made between unions and employers.
– You were not expressing an opinion; you were opposing the unions. Be truthful about it.
– I do not know how relevant Senator Milliner’s words are to what I have been saying or to the Bill. What I say is a matter of record. The Minister for Transport is currently intervening to oppose a union claim. In the last month Mr Clyde Cameron as I recall it, on 2 occasions intervened before the Arbitration Commission to oppose a union claim and to say that a particular award or agreement was one which the Commission should not regard as the standard to apply to other workers. The Prime Minister has written to the Prices Justification Tribunal to tell that Tribunal that it should not allow an employer which had acceded to a union’s demands to pass on the extra costs which that union’s demands in the form of increased wages would necessarily have involved in the form of increased prices. I invite the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Bishop) to have regard to what I said in this chamber on 13 August 1974 when the second reading debate was adjourned. I said:
The aspect to which I refer is how this policy which is expressed in the Bill squares with the newly expressed policy of the Government supporting the activities of the Prices Justification Tribunal which will not allow employers who agree to wage demands to pass on the cost of increased wages in the form of increased prices.
The Minister replied:
I think it may be best to get a considered reply from the Minister for Labor and Immigration . . . and I will do so.
I admire and compliment the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator Bishop) on his discretion in stating that he would get from the Minister for Labor and Immigration an appropriate reply. I invite him in due course to provide the reply because I am interested to know how he can square the present policy with the attitudes which the Labor Party has long held and which, as I understand the Labor Party’s platform, is written into its principles, platform and policy. At present agreements between unions and employers actually are deplored. The so-called Sweetheart agreements, which represented the acme of industrial activity and the very best situation which one could have in industrial relationships, actually are now regarded as being against the public interest. That is a view which we in the Opposition often expressed as a consideration of weight. We expressed the view that the paramount public interest sometimes was not served by agreements of the character which we are now seeing. We were ridiculed by the then Labor Party Opposition and accused of acting contrary to the best means of promoting industrial goodwill in this country. We now have a Labor Party in government which apparently is using its relationship with the unions to promote precisely the same policies and, one can only suppose, to promote them with a degree of acceptability which we in government would never have had. I wonder whether they are being accepted by the unions. What we are seeing, of course, is an end to that rosy relationship which promised so much and which has produced so little
The Prices Justification Tribunal quite recently- I am referring to the Mayne Nickless case- refused a price increase which was due to a cost increase because the wage agreement involving the cost increase was avoidable. Those were the words of the President of the Prices Justification Tribunal. It was only a matter of about 4 weeks thereafter that the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission quite flatly contradicted the President of the Prices Justification Tribunal and said -that as far as the Commission was concerned it was there to do what it thought was right in accordance with the charter that the Commission had and it paid no heed to what the Tribunal had said. Is it any wonder that it is a fair description of the Labor Party’s industrial policy to say that it is a policy which is in ruins? It is against this background that one looks at the present Bill and wonders whether this is all that the Government can produce at this time.
The policy implicit in this Bill is the tatters of a policy which is now completely discredited. It is an absolutely unreal Bill. I look at the statements which the Minister made in his second reading speech in support of this Bill. He stated that it is a Bill which is concerned exclusively with industrial agreements. He said:
Its preoccupation with this issue springs from the desire of the Government to encourage such agreements as a means of achieving moderation in present inflationary wage demands . . .
How on earth can this Bill achieve moderation in wage demands when its terms are such that it builds up the pressures of dissatisfied unionists to overthrow agreements which are made by the management of the unions and invites the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in effect, to refuse to certify the agreements which are made? The Minister says that ‘agreements provide the rational alternative to industrial strife’. The logic of that is unanswerable, but it is not a policy in which the Government now concurs because it has adopted a policy of indicating that if agreements are made those agreements will not be approved. Does that mean that the Government is accepting the alternative of industrial strife? I would hope not, and I would hope that the Opposition, when it says that some agreements are not in the public interest, is not to be regarded as promoting industrial strife.
The simple fact is that there are some agreements which can be made if people respond to the duress with which the proposer of an agreement makes his demands but which undoubtedly would be against the public interest. It is surely incumbent upon us, in upholding the public interest, to ensure that agreements are not made with intimidation and duress and that the other party must accept what is demanded. Yet the Minister says:
The successful negotiation and operation of industrial agreements is crucial for the survival of our industrial relations system.
I should like to say that this once again is a play upon words. It is using language which is meaningless in terms of what Government policy at the present time actually is, because the Minister knows that at the present time there is an attitude of absolute opposition by some sections of the Government to industrial arrangements which will have the effect of increasing inflationary pressures and adding to the unemployment syndrome. I understand that the conference which is currently taking place in Sydney is designed to achieve restraint, if possible by moderation, and is designed to ensure that the agreements, which if they are pressed with force will be acceded to by employers, are not pressed. We have a statement by the Minister in which he says:
Of a total of 800-odd Federal awards, approximately SOO were arrived at wholly by agreement. Many of the remaining 300 incorporate agreed” portions. Thus the Bill responds to the needs arising from this industrial environment by providing procedures facilitating both the certification of agreements and their operation according to their tenor.
I make 2 comments. The first is : If the present provisions of the Bill do facilitate those agreements as the Minister’s speech indicates, why do we have to have any change in a system which is of such obvious benefit? If it does not have that objective, why is the Minister lauding the procedures in the way that he is? The second aspect upon which I comment is: How consistent is what the Minister is now saying with what is the practice of the Government in seeking to overcome the effect of the sweetheart agreements by which massive wage increases are granted simply because a union intimidates an employer and secures an agreement which grants something which the present Government regards as against the public interests?
I think it is not at all unreasonable to regard what is involved in this Bill as completely inconsistent with what the Government is now preaching. The fact is that the Bill had its genesis in 1973 when a government, flush with an election victory, was still expounding the policies which had helped to win it an election. We are now in 1974 in a situation in which those policies are totally discredited, just as the Minister who avowed them is totally discredited. Yet the Government is not prepared to change this Bill in order to recognise changed policies. I imagine that the Minister will stand up, as he did in replying to the debate on the previous Bill, and say that the Opposition at the present time is frustrating the Government because it is not agreeing to what the Government proposes. The reality is that that the Government is now proposing is not its own policy.
I notice, of course, that in introducing this Bill into the House of Representatives the Minister for Labor and Immigration regarded it as a casual matter to be introduced with a few off the cuff remarks, and that is what Hansard discloses. The Minister in charge of this matter in this chamber, Senator Bishop, as he did with the previous Bill, prepared a speech which he has delivered and which attempts to give us some rationale for the Government’s proposal. But the way in which the whole matter has been introduced is a reflection of the Government’s approach to this question of industrial relations.
Under the law as it now stands, when the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is faced with an agreement which is made between a union and an employer it must decide whether the agreement is in the public interest before it certifies the agreement. Naturally it is desirable that an agreement made between employers and employees should be certified by a member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission because that then gives to the agreement, in effect, the force of an award. In brings the agreement within the scope of the conciliation and arbitration framework. It gives to the employees the benefits of an agreement so made because it is regarded as an award. It binds the employers. At the same time it gives to the employer the benefits which awards under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act confer. Whether the President of the Commission will certify an agreement depends upon whether he regards it as contrary to public interest. If it is contrary to the public interest he will not certify the award. Under the amendment which the Government proposes that test is to disappear and certification of the agreement will occur automatically. I ask the Minister how that coincides with the general policy which the Government is now producing. How is it that the Government can produce a Bill which says that there shall be an automatic certification of an agreement?
– The honourable senator is boring everybody stiff on a subject about which he knows nothing.
– I can imagine that Senator Keeffe, who must feel that possibly he is within the Prime Minister’s strictures of last night, is a little testy today. In this area of legislation upon which he has not said anything for approximately two or three years, he wants to come in and show that at least he is abreast of what is happening. He thinks that he might get his chance at long last. All I am saying is that as far as this Bill is concerned it is inconsistent with the general policies which the Government is now propounding. Certification occurs automatically unless someone establishes a major detriment to the public interest. Is he to be the Minister? Obviously it will not be either of the parties to the agreement. The fact is that there is an onus to be satisfied which, under this amendment, makes the position infinitely more difficult than it was under the original provision. Under the original provision the agreement was not to be certified if it were contrary to the public interest. The matter was at large for the President of the Commission but at the present time somebody has to accept an onus to say that there is a major detriment to the public interest.
Clause 3 of the Bill contains a most curious provision. It is that a member of the Commission is not to certify an agreement which has been made between employers and a union unless he is satisfied that the agreement is in the interests of members and that there has been some form of consultation which indicates that members of the union have agreed to it. One might ask what happens if there cannot be consultation. If the ballot which the President of the Commission orders when he is not satisfied that there has been consultation fails to secure approval, what happens then? In that situation does the agreement which has been worked out by employers and by unions fall to the ground? Where is industrial strife in those circumstances? I well remember a situation which occurred during the contentious Ford Motor Co. strike of 1973 in which, after there had been a period of dislocation for some time, an agreement was actually made between the union’s management committee and the company. A group of members of the union refused to accept what had been agreed upon. Of course, it was at that time that the giant Amalgamated Metal Workers Union which had initially approved of the agreement had an aboutface. It decided to support the striking members of the union who were dissatisfied with the agreement which had been made. The result was a continuous strike with continuing dislocation and loss. There was a great deal of damage to property. I mention that situation only because the same thing could occur if we created the impossible situation under which a President of the Commission would be encouraged to question whether the union’s management committee spoke on behalf of members of the union.
I cannot cannot see how that is likely to promote industrial peace. It is merely a reflection of the Minister’s ideology, drawn from a very limited class of circumstance in which he believes that this ought to be the rule which prevails. It is a completely unreal approach. We have enormous problems of interpretation which in fact multiply the difficulties which the Minister seeks to overcome and which undermine the authority of a union leadership which, when it is appointed, ought to have the respect of the union membership after it is elected in accordance with democratic procedures. If there are problems in the area of whether leadership does represent the membership- I certainly recognise that in many unions there is that problem- they will not be resolved by weakening the whole structure of the union. They are to be resolved by ensuring that the democracy of the union is a real democracy and that the leadership represents the membership. If, as Senator Hall suggested in the earlier debate, that involves our adopting the policy of compulsion in addition to the policy of secret postal ballots to ensure that as wide a voice of union membership as possible is expressed in determining who shall run the union, let us be prepared to accept that rather than accepting the present quite impossible situation.
I respond to what Senator Hall said earlier not in terms of a willing embrace of the compulsory principle because I think it does have its problems but by saying that at least it is a matter which ought to be the subject of concern and debate. If it does offer the real prospect that a union membership control will be effective and the community will benefit thereby, I think any doubts one might have about the compulsory principle ought to be set aside. This Bill actually prohibits the insertion of a bans clause on strikes or performance of work if the parties want thenagreement certified. I find that an absolutely incredible provision in the light of what we have gone through this year. If an agreement is reached between employers and the union and as part of their agreement they want to insert or to agree that there shall not be any bans on work, that there will not be any strikes or any limits on the performance of work, that clause cannot continue in the agreement if it is to be certified.
I find that this Government’s credibility is in shreds. If we want to achieve reality we want agreements under which the parties will agree to continue working and will not have strikes or bans on the performance of work. In the light of a provision which states that if the parties will agree in those terms the agreement shall not be certified I ask the Minister to explain how it can be justified in the public interest. I said earlier that the Opposition will once again be criticised and condemned because it is not prepared to agree to measures which the Government puts forward. But this measure is not a measure which is in the public interest or which will help industrial relations or promote better relationships between organisations of employees and organisations of employers. It will encourage industrial strife. It will encourage dislocation. The Opposition will oppose the Bill not because it takes any pleasure in opposing it but because this Government has shown itself to be completely inept. It has shown itself in what it has produced after what it promised if not to be inept then to be dishonest because what it is asking the community to accept flies right in the face of what its spokesmen are now saying. Truly this Government and its policy are in tatters and lack credibility. The Opposition will oppose this Bill.
– There is a greater need for agreement between unions and employers today in this inflationary period than has existed ever before. There is also a greater need for the sort of provisions which Senator Greenwood criticises, that is, the need, more than ever before for every member of a union to become involved in cementing these agreements. If agreements are pursued in the light of the present inflationary situation, the members of the union and the public generally will be aware of what is involved in the economy and they will be aware of the situation which may arise by reaching an agreement in the circumstances Senator Greenwood has mentioned in which the normal increase is greater than can be justified before the Prices Justification Tribunal.
Senator Greenwood has reminded me about the question he posed during the previous debate on this Bill. I do not think that I had an opportunity at that stage to reply to him and it was not satisfactory to write to the honourable senator. But I can read to him the reply which has been prepared in answer to his question. It is:
The Bill facilitates negotiation and agreement between employers and unions. In its policy on wage indexation, currently under discussion under the auspices of Mr Justice Moore, the Government has put forward a package proposal which is designed to curb ‘double-counting’ with regard to prices in determination of wage claims. In addition, as part of its general policy in this area, the Government is examining the powers and functions of the Prices Justification Tribunal, lt is proposed to invite the Tribunal to scrutinise with care price claims that are based on wage costs in excess of awards.
However, this Bill is not the appropriate vehicle for establishing how the Prices Justification Tribunal should act, and the Government’s policy on prices and guidelines laid down by the Prices Justification Tribunal in no way affects the Bill or its purposes. On the other hand, there is nothing in the Bill which conflicts with the policy I have just expressed. It is obvious that an employer, or an employer organisation, when entering into agreement with unions, would bear in mind a number of considerations related both to his specific enterprise, as well as to his specific industry. One of these considerations would obviously be the guidelines of the Prices Justification Tribunal in relation to agreed wage increases. The employer is free, and will remain free to bargain for any wage rate he desires, whether they be higher than the general level in an industry or not and to reach agreement accordingly.
The Prices Justification Tribunal has ruled that where such agreed wage rate increases are to such an extent that they cannot be classed as an ‘unavoidable cost’ in the eyes of the Tribunal, then the Tribunal will not consider them, to the extent that the increases are not unavoidable as a basis to increase the price of goods. An example of such a ruling is set out in the report by the Prices Justification Tribunal on 2 August 1974 on an application by Mayne Nickless to increase interstate freight rates by 1 8 per cent. This in no way infringes upon the machinery of the Bill, which is one concerned to encourage and facilitate the certification of agreements, and to ensure that these agreements are satisfactory to the majority of the union members concerned, and therefore more likely to be observed and honoured by them.
I remind Senator Greenwood and other honourable senators that the provisions contained in this Bill before us tonight were first introduced in the comprehensive Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in April last year. Of course, at that time the economic climate was certainly different. It was more apparent that agreements could run easier and there were not the tests which the Government stated later should be made in respect to wage agreements. The Government is saying now to the union movement, employers and Government departments that there must be wage restraint. A stop must be put to wage claims which cannot be justified. It seems to me that normally Senator Greenwood would say that that is one way of curtailing the inflationary spiral. But he is saying now, as I understand him: ‘Why do you do that? Why do you not make an agreement with the unions, even though the norm or the usual level of increase cannot be justified?’ He knows that in this situation, simply because the Government has an overall economic and political policy, this does not mean that the Government is against the cementing of arrangements between the workers and the bosses. As I said earlier, there is more need for this. If there is an established procedure to make more agreements and have less arbitration, that procedure must be more satisfactory.
The circumstances provided for in this Bill are not like those which existed in the old days when agreements were made. We all know perfectly well that agreements were made between management committees of the unions and the employers and that half the time the union members did not know what the agreements were edi about. But they made the agreements and in most cases they worked. In many cases, those agreements contained provisions like the disputes procedures provisions contained in this legislation. They were good provisions then and they would be good provisions now. It is expected that unions will continue to make agreements whether or not this legislation is passed. The honourable senator knows that the representatives of large organisations and the unions will meet across the table. They will be making agreements as they did before. They will be putting arrangements into their agreements to short circuit disputes. They will be arrangements such as the arrangements contained in the first oil companies disputes procedures clause. That is good, even though the economic climate is different now and even though the escalation or advance in the conditions or wages of employees may not have been as great as it would have been in the old days. There is certainly the same sort of need for such agreements. In fact, there is a greater need.
What is the Government doing about it? Firstly, of course, last year the Government put forward the need to streamline the purposes of arbitration. The Opposition, as opposed to its argument in relation to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which provided for the amalgamation of unions, says that there is no need to place the testing of the agreement in the hands of the union membership. I say in relation to Senator Greenwood’s complaint about the bans clauses that there is no intention to act in the way that he has envisaged. Bans clauses cannot be inserted in agreements on matters which are not related and confined to the area of the agreements -
– But they agree it must be for-
– There cannot be bans clauses in the agreements in this way. There can be a bans clause in respect of what is contained in the agreement. The employer and the union can say: ‘Yes, we will ban this practice or ban that practice on one side or the other’. But you cannot do that in respect of matters which are not within the agreement.
– But that may be the reason why the employers agreed, that is, to get that promise from the unions.
-It does not matter. The honourable senator is arguing both ways. On the one hand he is saying that there is this irresponsible action by the unions and that the unions have taken over the countryside. He has said that the Government is going cap in hand to the Australian Council of Trade Unions. What we have done in relation to the Australian Council of Trade Unions has been done only on the basis of our need to reach agreement with the major industrial organisation in the country. If we make that agreement with the workers- the Austraiian Council of Trade Unions- then on the other hand we have to go to the employers and say: What about a system of wage indexation?’. We are trying to contain this great inflationary contest as a result of which the unions and the union members have had this great escalation of activity trying to get wage increases to keep up with prices. We know that there is no solution to that. As I said earlier, I think that the union movement and the union officials are starting to understand the position and are getting tired of the constant activity to try to get wage increases in a situation of inflation. This is also the position because in some months past the labour market was good.
We are trying to act not only in respect to wage indexation. As honourable senators know, we put before the Premiers Conference- the meeting between the Australian Government and the State governments- various procedures which we think ought to be related to a proper conception of wage restraint. These are new initiatives to us. They are the sort of things which Senator Rae talked about. When Senator Rae was concluding his remarks in the previous debate he asked: ‘Can the Government find new methods to control the position and can it take new initiatives?’. The Government is doing this. It seems to me that Senator Greenwood is again applying his old conservative line of argument. He seems to be saying on the one hand that the Government is arguing for agreements between the unions and the bosses which might have provided very good agreements, wage increases and conditions for employees which were above the norm. But now he is saying that such agreements should not obtain. We are saying exactly that. We are saying that there are still benefits in such agreements. We are saying that there are benefits for the workers and benefits for the employers. If such an agreement is made, it will be made in the context of the parties being aware of Government policy. I think that such agreements will be made on the basis of what is decided this week between the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the unions after their conference. What could be better than that?
We hear Opposition members talk about Mr Hawke competing with Mr Whitlam. What could be better than to have at the source of industrial power, the union power, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions? He may have differed occasionally in his public statements from the views of our leaders but in fact -
– It is a mighty concession.
– The honourable senator has seen Bob Hawke ‘s statements. Bob Hawke today is saying, and said yesterday to his Federal union conference, that unions must take account of the responsibilities they have in this inflationary situation, the need to preserve the Labor Government and to make new arrangements in terms of wage indexation under which workers will surely get an amount of money which will compensate them for price escalations.
– It is different from what he was saying a month ago.
-That does not matter. I come back to the point I made earlier. In our society any move which involves more people in democratic action is a good thing. Mistakes will be made, as in the dispute involving the Ford Motor Company. I was involved in that dispute for a short time when Mr Clyde Cameron was away overseas and I must confess that on my entry into the dispute I could not solve it. Mistakes will be made, but if we can involve in any plant or union more members of that plant or union in the making of agreements, those agreements will be better understood. It has been stated, and some honourable senators have had the opportunity to examine the systems, that in countries like Sweden and Germany wide national agreements are made on wage matters, union membership, escalation and so on. In the United States of America it is common practice to have an escalation clause in respect of prices and wages. All we are saying is that despite the economic problems within this community today- and not only within Australia but also elsewhere- there is still just as much need for provisions which will allow wider agreements. There are new problems about which Senator Greenwood has spoken. I do not disagree that we have problems. I am saying that in my experience and in the experience of most people who have been in the union movement there is still a great need for wider agreements. They are better than arbitration, are more lasting and for those reasons the Opposition should support the Bill.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne’
Teller Poyser, A. G.
Young, H. W.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
The Bill now before the Senate imposes a tax of 2c per litre on liquefied gas used for propelling road vehicles. The introduction of this tax was foreshadowed in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) of 17 September. The tax imposed by this Bill applies only to liquefied gas used in the propulsion of road vehicles. It does not in any way affect the bulk of liquefied gas which is used in the community for domestic and industrial heating, cooking and various other purposes.
The use of liquefied gas in road vehicles has been increasing at a significant rate. Users of liquefied gas for vehicle propulsion, however, do not at present contribute to Government revenues, much of which is expended on road construction and maintenance. This tax will remedy this anomaly. The rate of tax proposed- 2c per litre- is almost exactly 40 per cent of the current rate of excise duty on petrol and is considered to be a rate which will minimise the erosion of petrol excise whilst not unduly inhibiting expansion of the use of gas for propelling road vehicles.
The Government is aware of the high cost of establishing supply and distribution facilities for liquefied gas and of the need to be able to plan such expansion with confidence. For this reason the Government has decided that, for the next 5 years, the rate of tax payable on liquefied gas used in road vehicles will be increased only by 50 per cent of any increases of petrol excise that may occur in that period. Tax will be payable on liquefied gas used in propelling a road vehicle by the person owning the gas immediately before such use. It will be paid monthly by users on the basis of returns of use submitted to Collectors of Customs. The Bill proposes that the tax will operate on and from a date to be proclaimed. A summary of the clauses of the Bill is being circulated to honourable senators. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill now before the Senate is complementary to the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Bill 1974 which has just been introduced. The Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Collection Bill 1974 provides the administrative machinery which will become necessary for the collection of the tax on liquefied gas used in propelling road vehicles when the tax comes into effect. Tax will be payable on liquefied gas used in propelling a road vehicle by the person owning the gas immediately before such use. It will be paid monthly by users on the basis of returns of use submitted to Collectors of Customs. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 August (vide page 734) on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Senate affirms the decision taken by resolution of the Senate on 31 May 1973 that the Australian Parliament join with the Parliaments of the States in the Constitutional Convention to be convened to review the Australian Constitution in September of that year, and at such subsequent times as the Convention from time to time determined, and agrees:
I ) That, for the purposes of the Convention-
a Delegation from the Australian Parliament consisting of sixteen members of the Parliament take part in the deliberations of the Convention, of whom six shall be members of the Senate and ten shall be members of the House of Representatives; (b) the six members of the Senate comprise three members of the Australian Labor Party, one member of the Liberal Party of Australia, one member of the Australian Country Party and the Leader of the Liberal Movement:
the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator the Honourable L. K. Murphy, Q.C., and two other Senators, being members of the Australian Labor Party, nominated by him;
one Senator, being a member of the Liberal Party of Australia, nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate;
one Senator, being a member of the Australian Country Party, nominated by the Leader of that Party in the Senate; and
d ) the Leader of the Liberal Mo Movement be members of the Delegation:
That the Prime Minister be the Leader of the Delegation, and the Leader of the Opposition be the Deputy Leader:
That a member of the Delegation cease to be such a member if-
he ceases to be a member of the Australian Parliament;
the House of the Parliament of which he is a member terminates his appointment; or
he resigns as a member of the Delegation by writing addressed to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case requires:
That where, because of illness or other cause, a member of the Delegation is not available to attend a meeting, or part of a meeting, of the Convention, the Leader or senior available member of the Party in the House from which the member was drawn may nominate an alternate member (being a member of the House of which the first-mentioned member is a member) and the member so nominated shall be a member of the Delegation for that meeting, or that pan of that meeting:
That, in the event of a member of the Delegation ceasing to be such a member, the Leader of the Party in the House from which the member was drawn may nominate another member (being a member of the House of which the first-mentioned member is or was a member) to replace the first-mentioned member
That the Leader of the Delegation from time to time make a report for presentation to each House of the Parliament on matters arising out of the Convention, and that the Deputy Leader of the Delegation may make an accompanying report.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLAND (New South Wales- Manager of Government Business in the Senate)- Mr President, for the convenience of honourable senators I suggest that, as General Business notice of motion No. 15 standing in Senator Withers’ name on the notice paper also relates to the Constitutional Convention, leave be granted to consider that motion with Government business order of the day No. 4 and that at the conclusion of the debate a vote be taken upon each motion separately.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
- Mr President, I thought that I did not have the adjournment. I thought that the Government had not put down the reasons for this motion, but that does not matter.
- Senator Murphy mentioned it.
-I thought he made it that it be taken as an order of consideration for the next day of sitting. I do not think he actually spoke to the matter and I did not formally take the adjournment, but I do not think that matters much. The Senate is well aware that some 2 years ago as a result of certain discussions between the then Commonwealth Government and the various States a Constitutional Convention was called into being. At that stage the Commonwealth Parliament was entitled to 16 representatives to attend that convention, of whom 6 should come from the Senate and 10 from the House of Representatives. Those senators and members were duly appointed from both Houses and the Constitutional Convention met last year. As the Parliament was dissolved in April of this year one takes it that the representation of members appointed from this Parliament to that Convention lapsed.
I think it is worth recording that, under the previous resolution passed by both Houses last year, of the 6 members of the Senate 3 were from the Government and 3 were from the Opposition Parties. I put it in those terms. One was from the Liberal Party which at that stage had 2 1 senators; one was from the Australian Country Party which had 5 senators; and one was from the Democratic Labor Party which at that stage had 5 senators. Whilst we in the Liberal Party Opposition may have felt that, after all, we had 21 senators and the other two parties had only 10 yet we had one representative and they had two, we went along with that for a number of reasons, some of which are quite understandable to honourable senators opposite and most of which are quite well known to the honourable senators who sit behind me. It could be justified to some extent. After all, both the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party were represented by quite a number of senators in this place, in addition to which the Democratic Labor Party in its own right polled a significant number of votes at the previous Senate election. I do not claim to be absolutely accurate but as I recall it Senator Gair in Queensland polled upwards of 18 per cent to 20 per cent. I think that Senator McManus polled approximately the same sort of percentage in Victoria. They obtained a significant number of votes in their own States. Of course, Senator Kane came in here as a result of a gift from the Labor Party of New South Wales; not a conscious gift but as a result of an unconscious gift.
– It is one of the mistakes you make only once in a lifetime.
-That is right. It is all good fun. I said that he came in here as a result of a gift. In those days the Government had 26 senators and there were 31 on this side. The representation was split with 3 each. Of course, there were 3 independent senators- Senator Negus, Senator Townley and Senator Turnbull. At present it is again proposed there be 6 representatives although the composition of the Parties in the chamber has altered somewhat. The Government’s numbers have risen in this place from 26 to 29. At the same time, of course, the numbers of the Liberal-Country parties in this place have also risen from 26 to 29. 1 put the proposition to the Senate that if there are to be 6 members of the Senate to attend the Convention then representation ought to be equally divided between the Government and the Opposition parties. I hope that Senator Hall does not take this as a personal affront. I do not mean it in that way at all. Under the Government’s proposal, 29 Australian Labor Party senators will be represented by 3 Labor Party senators at the Convention but 29 senators of the LiberalCountry parties will be represented by only 2 senators.
We in the Liberal-Country Parties believe that to be not a fair distribution between the parries in this chamber. After all, the Austraiian Labor Party received approximately the same number of first preference votes at the last general election after the double dissolution of the Parliament as the Liberal Party and the Country Party. I am not going to argue about a percentage or two each way. We received approximately the same number of votes as the Labor Party which is why we came back with the same number of senators as the Government. We have 29 senators each. If my mathematics are correct, Senator Hall received only 0.94 per cent of the national vote. Yet, he is expected to get one-third of the representation accorded to the Government. The Liberal-Country parties received 48 per cent of the vote as did the Government but the Government is proposing that we will be represented only by 2 senators. I do not think that is a reasonable mathematical division between the 2 parties in this chamber. If the Senate is to be properly represented I put it to the Senate that the numbers ought to be equal. The Government ought to have 3 representatives and the Opposition parties ought to have 3 representatives at the Convention.
If, however, the Government feels as it may now that Senator Hall ought to be represented I put it to the Government that what it ought to do is to have 2 representatives from the Australian Labor Party and Senator Hall could take the place of their third representative. I ask the Government not to be so charitable with our numbers. I ask the Government to be generous and let Senator Hall take the place of one of its representatives at the Convention. That would show true generosity. It would be part of the true spirit of the Labor Party which believes in helping the weak, the underprivileged and the poor. That is what the Government ought to do.
– What makes you think Senator Hall is one of us?
-I did not say he was one of you. What I am saying is that the Labor Party has always believed it should help the underprivileged, the weak and the poor, and therefore it should help Senator Hall.
– Or the Liberal Party.
– Oh no, you would not be helping us at all. After all, the Labor Party believes in equality. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in the other House has been making great speeches about equality in his terms. Therefore, I think I have put forward a reasonable argument as to why there ought to be a three-three operation. Of course, if the Government feels that that is not right, it could be generous and let us have 7 senators and 9 members of the House of Representatives attend the Convention. Let the Government surrender 1 member from the House of Representatives in order to let Senator Hall be a representative. The Government is being enormously generous at our expense. I do not believe that when the 2 major groups in the Senate are equally divided the numbers ought to be other than equal when representing the Senate at the Convention.
With respect to my friends opposite, the Government has accepted this proposition to some extent with other measures which have come before the Senate. Honourable senators will recall that recently we debated the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to examine the parliamentary committee system. I originally put forward the proposition that there should be 3 representatives from the Government and the Opposition in each House. The Government said that there ought to be 4
Government members and 3 Opposition members from the House of Representatives on the committee although there could be 3 senators from each side of this chamber. We came to that quite amicable, sensible and reasonable arrangement.
– You are dealing with a man of reason.
-That is right. I was dealing with Senator Douglas McClelland. I notice with some interest that message No. 69 from the House of Representatives came into this chamber today. It referred to the establishment of a joint committee to inquire into and report upon whether arrangements should be made relative to the declaration of the interests of members of Parliament. I am sure honourable senators are familiar with the message I am speaking about. Again, this is a Government resolution emanating from the other place. Part (2) of that message states:
That the committee consist of three members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Prime Minister, two members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, two senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, one senator nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and one senator nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate.
This committee is basically a committee of committees, if I can call it that. Again, this is an acceptance of the principle that as each of the 2 major groups in this place has 29 members, we share equality on that committee. Yet when we come to the Constitutional Convention the principle of equality is not carried through.
– But if you take the Country Party as separate from the Liberal Party, are they not over-represented on the basis of numbers?
-Not necessarily. Apart from my own State of Western Australia, Liberal and Country Party senators come into this place as a result of being on a joint ticket. Therefore, it is very difficult in mathematical terms, to work out the proportion of votes received by each party in the other States.
– Will you accept that it is one party?
-It has been an accepted convention in this place that we sit as a joint Opposition. We share a shadow ministry. When I speak on some matters I speak for both parties. When my friend and colleague Senator DrakeBrockman speaks on matters concerning customs and excise -
– Do you agree with the Country Party on all matters?
– Yes, in the main. But that has been accepted by convention here. It is looked upon on that basis. After all -
Senator Douglas McClelland- But Senator Drake-Brockman did not come in as a member of the Australian Country Party last election. He came in as a member of the National Party. So you have actually got to leave him. That is a fact.
-Senator, he may have been endorsed as a member of the National Party of Western Australia -
– He was elected as one -
-But as I understand it, the National Party of Western Australia is affiliated with the Australian Country Party. So Senator Drake-Brockman sits in this place as a member of the Federal Australian Country Party. The some situation applies to my friend and colleague from South Australia who was endorsed as a member of the Liberal Country League, which is affiliated with the Liberal Party of Australia.
– But not with the Country Party. They have got a very separate Country Party.
-The Opposition sits here in a Federal context and not a State context. But I ask honourable senators not to try to side-track me on this matter. After all, I suppose I must admit that Senator Drake-Brockman and I- even though we may belong to different parties in our States- perhaps have a far better relationship than senators on the Government side who, as yet, have not had the courage to declare whether they belong to the Whitlam Labor Party or to the Cairns Labor Party. Perhaps we might have a declaration as to which of those 2 men honourable senators opposite voted for as their leader after the last general election. It would also be interesting to hear a declaration as to whom senators opposite will vote for as Prime Minister shortly. That would be a far more interesting and fascinating subject for discussion tonight than the relations between my colleague Senator Drake-Brockman and myself. It is 10 o’clock at night and I suppose we are entitled to some light-heartedness which shows a good spirit around the chamber.
Even though these 2 motions are the subject of a cognate debate I take it we will have separate votes on each motion. The Opposition will vote against Senator Murphy’s motion. If that is defeated we will just have to await the fate of the motion I have put forward. It is not put forward, I assure Senator Hall, as a personal reflection on him. I think both sides have suffered the lash of Senator Hall in the last month or two. This motion is not on a personal basis at all. 1 put it to the Government that if it really feels that the Liberal Movement, as represented by Senator Hall in this place, ought to be given national representation, it should take it out of the Government’s representation either from this chamber or another place.
– It is a distressing fact of political life, as revealed by the contribution we have just heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), that the Opposition appears to be so bankrupt of any constructive contribution to the government of this country that all it can debate on a motion relating to the Constitutional Convention is the question of representation inter partes. The fact is that the second session of the Constitutional Convention, set down for the first week in November, will be a landmark for the Australian nation. No one disputes that the Constitution is in need of urgent revision. For the past 12 months scores of persons throughout Australia, including members of Parliament of all political persuasions, have been engaged on the task of endeavouring to get before that second session of the Constitutional Convention proper proposals for the amendment of the Constitution.
One would have thought that tonight, especially after the defeat of the last 2 Bills, the Opposition in this chamber would have been anxious to demonstrate that it is ready for that Convention, that it has a proper contribution to make and that it is hopeful that unanimity in some respects will be achieved. But nothing of that sort came from the Opposition tonight. All we heard was a discussion about who should have a guernsey at that Convention. Despite the Opposition’s denial that its attitude as reflected in its motion is directed at Senator Hall personally, there can be not the slightest doubt that it is directed at Senator Hall politically.
One remembers, of course, the atmosphere in this chamber when the motion now put by Senator Withers was proposed originally. The atmosphere was one in which Senator Hall was demonstrating his true independence as distinct from the independence that goes under a masquerade. I propose to deal with that matter because the attitude of the Opposition tonight is one of complete hypocrisy. It would deny Senator Hall, who represents a party which has representation not only in this chamber but also in another chamber, representation at the Constitutional Convention; yet on the other hand it would, with complete inconsistency, harbour within its own ranks a person whom I have no hesitation in describing tonight as a complete imposter. I wish he were in this chamber at this moment. It may well be that he will come into the chamber and defend what must appear to every right thinking Australian to be a pose of complete hypocrisy. I refer to Senator Townley and the recent statements that have been made in connection with his political future.
I link this matter with that which is being debated by the Senate on the basis that the Opposition, whilst maintaining an attitude of hostility towards Senator Hall, reflected in its opposition to his being a representative of this chamber at the Constitutional Convention, nevertheless seeks to embrace within its own ranks a person who has masqueraded for far too long as an Independent. I say that because, since Senator Townley ‘s first election over 2 years ago and his representation in this chamber over that period, he has proclaimed that he is an Independent when everyone knows that he never was an Independent, that he is not an Independent and that he is never likely to be an Independent.
By way of proof, look at his history. In about 1970 he ostensibly severed his connection with the Liberal Party in Tasmania- but for what reason? Did he do so on some great ideological difference with that Party? Of course not. He did so simply on the basis that he did not get a vote of endorsement. That was the great issue on which he broke with the Liberal Party. But, of course, he left the Party dangling a little bit and simply refused to pay his subscription. That has now been paid. We on the Government side of the chamber would say that if that had been all that was the trouble with Senator Townley we gladly would have contributed his subscription in order that he could have been legitimated.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I think that this denigration of a senator is completely irrelevant to the debate before the Senate at the present time. Even more importantly, if a senator is prepared to start getting into personalities, as Senator Everett is doing, I think he should show the common courtesy of waiting until the person under attack is present in the chamber.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- The point of order is not upheld. I think the comments being made are germane to the motions before the Senate. I certainly shall watch the tenor of the debate. For the moment, I think Senator Everett is in order.
– I regret the absence of the honourable senator in question; but I cannot command, any more than anyone else can, his attendance in this chamber. In the extremely brief time that I have been here -
– Did you notify him that you were going to attack him tonight?
-No, of course I did not; any more than anyone else is notified when it is proposed that he or she be attacked. Mr Acting Deputy President, I said that some 4 years ago the honourable senator in question severed his connection with the Liberal Party.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. My point of order is that the motions before the Chair relate to the Constitutional Convention.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! What is the point of order?
– I am stating my point of order. As I recall what Senator Everett said when he first rose, he chided the Opposition for not discussing anything about the Constitutional Convention except in relation to those who were to have a guernsey. I think those were his words. What the honourable senator is doing is dealing with a personality- one person. Senator Townley is an Independent senator, as we all know, and he is not mentioned by name in the motions which are before the Senate.
– What is the standing order?
– My recollection is that it is the standing order relating to digression. I think it is standing order 410, but my memory is not good. It has been a heavy day.
– Standing order 4 19.
– It is standing order 419. Senator Townley is not mentioned in the motion which has been proposed by the Government, or in the other motion which is being dealt with concurrently. Therefore, in my submission that raises a very considerable question as to whether his personality, his history and his conduct are relevant in any way to the Constitutional Convention. Firstly, Senator Townley is not mentioned in the motions. The second point is that he has never attended the Constitutional Convention. Therefore one must ask: How is anything Senator Townley has done in the past relevant to a debate about the Constitutional Convention? Thirdly, I do not know whether Senator Townley has or has not said anything about the Constitutional Convention which might make his conduct or his past in some way relevant; but certainly Senator Everett has not said or sought to ground his remarks on anything which Senator Townley is alleged to have said about the Constitutional Convention.
What Senator Everett has done is to bring in the name of Senator Townley, not just by way of a passing reference but, as it appears to me, having listened to him for the past S minutes, as the subject matter or vehicle of his contribution. I ask you, Mr Acting Deputy President: What relevance has Senator Townley ‘s conduct in 1970, before a constitutional convention was ever thought of, to the motions which are before the chamber at the present time? If it were sought to explore Senator Hall’s background, that might be a different matter. Even then I would have thought that there would be dubious justification for going back into history when referring to whether the Leader of the Liberal Movement (Senator Hall) should be a member of the Convention. On the other hand, that might be the best and only justification which could be raised. All I am saying is that Senator Hall is not the person to whom Senator Everett is referring. Senator Everett is referring to Senator Townley. Mr Acting Deputy President, the standing order about digression, the standing order about relevancy, with all respect, ought to have meaning given to it. Senator Everett is not just mentioning this matter in passing; he is developing a case. I ask you, Mr Acting Deputy President, to consider the matter in that light. Standing order 419 provides:.
No Senator shall digress from the subject-matter of any Question under discussion; nor anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the Notice Paper.
The subject matter of the question under discussion is the Constitutional Convention, who shall attend it, what may be done at it and what are its purposes, hopes and aspirations. The subject matter is tremendously wide, but I say that Senator Townley ‘s history is not part of the subject matter comprehended by the expression Constitutional Convention ‘ or the matters raised in the motion.
- Mr Acting Deputy President -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Are you speaking to the point of order?
– Yes. I am somewhat concerned about this point of order because I think it is being suggested that the discussion should be far more limited that it was ever intended that discussion should be limited by standing order 419. Whilst it is agreed that no senator shall digress from the subject matter of any question under discussion, the subject matter under discussion is representation at the Constitional Convention. Tonight we have had discussion about representation at the Convention. It has been suggested that certain senators should not attend the Convention and that we should give equality of representation to parties and disregard independents. I believe that Senator Everett who is under challenge is now putting the case that the principle of consistency in numerical strength should not be applied, and he is giving an illustration of one independent senator who should not be a representative at the Constitutional Convention. Whilst we are not dealing with the Constitutional Convention itself, we are dealing with representation at it. If we are to be consistent in arguing this point we must say that the subject matter brings everyone into consideration in deciding who should attend the Constitutional Convention. I would be very concerned if one could not refer to another senator when discussing the appointment of senators to represent this Parliament at the Constitutional Convention. Whilst it is a fact that no names are mentioned in the motion, the question of parties and independents comes into it. I think that the question raised by Senator Everett is quite relevant to the matter we are discussing.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! My ruling comes within the area of a subjective judgment on the basis of what has been put to me,.and on the basis of the standing order, which is the primary consideration. The standing order provides that no senator shall digress from the subject matter of any question under discussion. I am asked to rule on whether what has been said has relevance to the subject matter under discussion. The subject matter under discussion is representation, as I take it, on the basis of some alignment or some party affiliation. Having said that, however, I suggest that Senator Everett should connect his remarks with the subject matter before the Chair. I hope that that will be done.
– I am obliged to you, Mr Acting Deputy President. When I began speaking on this matter I pointed out that there was a patent inconsistency in the attitude of the Opposition. Despite what the Opposition said, it was obviously endeavouring to exclude Senator Hall as a representative of this Senate at the Constitutional Convention. I drew a distinction between the Opposition’s attitude in that respect, that is, to Senator Hall as a representative of a political group that could be fairly said to be independent of both the Government and the Liberal-Country Party Opposition, and the Opposition’s attitude in embracing a person with the record of masquerading that Senator Townley has acquired over the years. I believe that the point has been made. If the Opposition is touchy about this matter, and since Senator Townley has not seen fit to be present in the chamber during any of the time that this matter has been under debate, I will not labour the matter any further except to say that I am convinced that the majority of Tasmanian electors are quite certain that they have as a representative in Canberra in Senator Townley a person who flies under false colours. The Opposition embraces that sort of a person, and the sooner the embrace becomes complete and the act of legitimation is completed, the better it will be for everyone. I oppose the amendment.
– I intend to say little in support of my own inclusion in this list of delegates to the Constitutional Convention. But I think that I should right one or two misconceptions. Senator Withers said that the Australian Labor Party should include my nomination in that Party’s list of delegates because it would, he inferred, be helping the underprivileged, under- privileged, the weak and the poor. I want to say that under-privileged I certainly am. Having spent half a lifetime in politics, I am also poor. However, I will not admit to weakness. I therefore divide Senator Withers’ 3 assessments and disagree with the one of weakness. But I think that Senator Withers is showing undue sensitivity, because what he does not understand is that I have been trying to help him ever since I have come into the Senate. He just does not recognise my brand of assistance. When he re-reads my speeches, which I am sure he will do in the few quiet moments which no doubt he has when he is travelling between Canberra and Western Australia, he will see the truth of the subject that I have tried to convey to him in my speeches in this chamber.
I draw the attention of Senator Withers to the precedent which has been established in South Australia. Another member of the Liberal Movement in that State has been appointed by the State Government as a member of the Constitutional Convention. That member is a bitter opponent of the State Labor Government, yet he has won his place as a representative of that State at the Convention. I think that probably Senator Withers, who comes from a State which generates a great deal of talk about secession from the Commonwealth of Australia, might very well need alongside him someone from a similarly small State in order to ensure that he does not go right off the rails and secede from the Commonwealth of Australia.
– I want to say a few words because I am disturbed at the remarks that were made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) on the very simple proposition that the Government has put before the Senate. The Government has presented the same formula for the appointment of Senate representation to the Constitutional Convention as it presented earlier this year. That is, it seeks to appoint 3 representatives of the Government and 3 representatives of those who constitute the membership of the other side of the Senate. On the previous occasion when similar appointments were made the group that held the balance of power in this place was the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Senator Gair of the Democratic Labor Party was a delegate to the last Constitutional Convention that was held in Sydney. That Party is no longer the balance of power group in the Senate; the balance of power is now held by 2 senators who occupy independent positions. Therefore, I think it is fair to say that the Government is acting properly in suggesting that the representative to take the place of Senator Gair should be a representative of the independent senators in this chamber. There is no question that in the area of independence Senator Hall has exercised his position quite judiciously, whereas Senator Townley has consistently supported the view of the main Opposition Party in this chamber.
I take issue with Senator Withers about the emphasis that he placed on the question of numbers at the Constitutional Convention. It is quite clear that he wants to transform the Constitutional Convention into another senatorial chamber, because no votes are taken at the Convention. We know that Senator Withers is quite mesmerised with numbers. All he thinks about is marshalling numbers to bring about an amendment or a defeat of Government legislation. That is not the way in which the Constitutional Convention operates. It seeks a consensus. It seeks common ground with the States. It seeks areas in which the States and the Commonwealth agree on the presentation of a constitutional amendment to the Australian people. In that respect whom one represents in this place or the House of Representatives is quite irrelevant at the Constitutional Convention. I would imagine that if the proposal put forward by the Government in this place is agreed to, which would mean that the Opposition would be represented by 2 senators plus Senator Hall, Senator Hall would be more likely; having regard to his background and general experience in parliamentary life, to represent the views of the States in a conflict of opinion with the Commonwealth than members of the Opposition would be. He is certainly quite capable of representing the views of the States because, after all, he has held the highest office in a State, the premiership of South Australia.
There is no reason for the matter to be determined on that basis because the Constitutional Convention seeks to find things upon which we can agree, not the things upon which we disagree. It is quite clear that Senator Withers has not had experience on the Constitutional Convention. The endeavour of the Commonwealth delegation is to find matters on which it can reach agreement with the States. On many occasions during the last Constitutional Convention meetings agreement was reached with all the States, with the exception of Queensland. The Premier of Queensland was in that case the maverick. He disagreed even with his conservative counterparts in New South Wales and Victoria. I urge the Senate to adopt the proposition that the Government has put forward because I think it is realistic. It has regard to the position in the Senate and to the fact that at the Constitutional Convention argument will take place about the philosophies of the relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. The Constitutional Convention does not endeavour to determine these matters on the basis of who one is or whom one represents or on the numerical strength of the political persuasions of the delegates to the Constitutinal Convention.
– I rise to support Senator Withers in this debate. I suggest that we are discussing the proposition that the Australian Labor Party ought to be given 5 representatives at the Constitutional Convention and the Liberal-Country Party Opposition ought to be given four, therby giving the Labor party the traditional majority which a government usually has on committees of this type. It seems to me that the whole argument hinges on whether a senator who has attracted 0.94 per cent of the vote ought to be recognised and given a position on the delegation to this Convention. I put to the Senate that that is an unfair proposition. I was distressed when the Government intruded into this debate an attack on Senator Townley of Tasmania. Senator Everett was very critical of him and suggested that he has been flying under false colours. Not long after Senator Everett spoke, Senator Gietzelt, another member of the Labor Party, said that Senator Townley has consistently suported the view of the Opposition. I believe that the 2 points of view expressd by the Government side have been inconsistent.
I believe that the Liberal Movement has already a representative at the Constitutional Convention. For Senator Hall to insist that he be given this role on the federal delegation seems to me to demonstrate a lack of confidence in his colleague from South Australia. Therefore, I support the view already promoted by Sentor Withers that it is quite fair to suggest that the Government with a 48 per cent poll result and the Liberal and Country Party Opposition with a 48 per cent result should attract the same representation from this place; and that the Government should be allowed to have the traditional majority of one from the House of Representatives. I support the attitude of the Opposition in this respect.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the motion (Senator Withers’) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Reported Statements by the Prime Minister: Textile Industry
– Order! It being after 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to refer relatively briefly to the somewhat remarkable allegations made last night by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to the Heavy Engineering Manufacturing Association. Those allegations and statements prove that Mr Whitlam has a serious lack of knowledge of the subject matter and an even more serious lack of sympathy for the problems confronting so many areas of Australia, including in particular the area of Launceston to which he referred specifically. The Prime Minister has petulantly attempted to defend the impossible in supporting his Government’s tariff decisions, but in doing so he has found it necessary to attack his own ministerial colleagues, to attack his own Party and to attack many of the trade union leaders of Australia. In doing so he also attacked the member of his Government who represents the Launceston area, Mr Barnard, who, through a spokesman for his office on 9 September last, said: ‘Steps have already been taken to reimpose higher tariffs’. This leads me to ask: Is Mr Barnard one of the Ministers who the Prime Minister says ‘accept and peddle lies’? No one coming from Launceston would dispute the seriousness of the retrenchments in the textile industry and other industries in that area. The Prime Minister was grievously wrong in stating: ‘There have been allegations that textile companies in Launceston have put off 900 people. The Department made an investigation. There were 360 laid off. ‘ That is what the Prime Minister said last night. Regrettably, he was so very wrong.
Since 1 May of this year tariff cut induced retrenchments have been almost continuous. One textile company alone, that is Coates Patons (Aust.) Ltd, has retrenched 55 1 employees up to today. The figures were checked by me today and they show that from 1 May when there were 1,642 employees the company is now down to 1,091 employees, a reduction caused solely as a result of the Government’s tariff policies and its cutting the quotas. There has been a reduction of 551 employees.
Another Launceston textile company which, Mr President, would be well known to youThyne Bros Pty Ltd- has virtually closed. It had approximately 100 employees. A few only are retained there pending the sale of the premises. Another company in Launceston in the textile industry and a large employer, Kelsall & Kemp (Tas.) Ltd, has retrenched a large number of employees. It has tried to defer greater retrenchment by sending staff on leave. I was not able to check out Kelsall and Kemp today but the approximate number is 115. By now it may be greater. The Textile Workers Union in Launceston says that the figure for retrenchments is over 900 in Launceston alone. That statement was made before a further 100 employees were retrenched last Friday. So that one can take the Textile Workers Union statement as being that in Launceston about 1,000 textile workers have been retrenched as a result of the Government’s policies.
Yet Mr Whitlam in making his wild accusations clearly called Mr Holden, the secretary of the Textile Workers Union in Tasmania, a liar. Presumably he is one of those who comes within Mr Whitlam ‘s broad accusation of union leaders who are, using Mr Whitlam ‘s words, in collusion with multi-national companies. Mr Holden would certainly be entitled to join with all others who are involved in attempting to get government action on Tasmania’s problems in condemning the Prime Minister for his ignorance, arrogance and lack of sympathy. It is disturbing to know that this Government has made decisions which have been based on a false understanding, if one accepts the Prime Minister’s own words. Last night the Prime Minister referred to claims about unemployment in the textile industry in Launceston. He then went on to state:
The Prime Minister had just referred to the allegation that there are some 900 unemployed in Launceston as a result of retrenchments in the textile industry. It is a fact beyond dispute that about 1,000 former employees of textile companies in Launceston have been put out of work as a result of tariff policy induced retrenchments. If the Government has made decisions which are based upon a false belief that there are only 360 employees retrenched, obviously those decisions have been fallaciously reached. Those decisions are certainly most unfortunate in their impact upon that area of Tasmania.
To give some idea of the seriousness of the situation I shall cite some information which was given to me last Friday by the employment officer in Launceston. On Friday the actual number of unemployed was 1,300, and was rising quite rapidly. That figure did not include 100 people who were put off that day by Coates Patons and a further twenty who were retrenched from Repco Auto Parts (Tasmania) Pty Ltd. I understand that other retrenchments also took place that day. This is all the result of either the tariff policies or the Government’s general economic policies which are creating such havoc in this country. It appears therefore that there is a lack of understanding on the part of the Government and certainly on the part of the Prime Minister as to what in fact is happening. I trust that those members of the Australian Labor Party who come from Tasmania and who have its interests at heart will ensure that the Prime Minister is kept properly informed of the true situation.
I trust that Senator Grimes, if he has not yet done so, will take the first opportunity to inform the Prime Minister unless, of course, he does not agree that I have correctly outlined the serious situation in Launceston. I presume that in that event he will speak, and let us know what his views are. Otherwise I will take it that he does agree. Mr President, I just ask: Is it that Mr Barnard and Mr Duthie, 2 honourable members in the House of Representatives who represent that area, have not adequately put the facts to the Government and to the Prime Minister or is it that the Prime Minister just does not believe them? On the face of it it must be one or other of those 2 things. In either event, it is clear that this squabbling, arrogant, heartless government has no understanding of what its policies are doing to the people of Launceston. I protest as strongly as I can at actions which are based upon a misunderstanding and at false accusations which are made about the leaders of the textile industry, both on the company side and on the trade union side. These false accusations have been made with gay abandon by the Prime Minister who holds the highest office in the land. If ever a man deserved censure for his irresponsibility which arises out of those statements it is the Prime Minister.
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. This is repetition. We have been told that the Prime Minister is ignorant and arrogant and that he is the first leader of the land. I draw your attention to standing order 4 1 8 which states:
No senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
What I am saying is that Senator Rae’s remarks come squarely under standing order 418.
– What was offensive about what Senator Rae said?
– That the Prime Minister is ignorant and arrogant.
– That is quite true.
– It is still an imputation, a personal reflection on the Leader of the Government. It offends against standing order 418. Senator Rae is highly disorderly in carrying on in this direction.
– He is not.
– The great Q.C. says that he is not. Mr President, I am asking you to interpret the Standing Orders. It was with the knowledge that such characters as Senator Rae and Senator Webster would come into this building that the Senate Standing Orders Committee saw the necessity to put in that standing order. We do not know where we will end if we let these slanderous statements go on under the priviliege of Parliament against the leaders of our Government.
- Mr President, I rise to speak to the point of order. I know that you, Sir, in your wisdom and knowledge of Standing Orders and the traditions of this House will not and cannot abide by the rule of tit for tat. But I do say that what has been said by Senator Rae is, in my belief, not a breach of Standing Orders in relation to the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. Those senators who have read Press releases of his speeches or have had time listen to him speaking in the other place know that in referring to the Senate he uses the most insulting terms, particularly in relation to members of the Opposition. The things that are on the record that this man, Mr Whitlam, has said against the Senate and honourable senators are much more bitter, much more harmful, much more insulting and much more degrading than anything that has been said in the Senate today. Mr President, on those scores I believe that you should say that the Prime Minister has earned the criticism he has received from Senator Rae this evening.
-Senator Cavanagh has taken exception to the turn of phrase used by Senator Rae. It has been a very desirable practice in the past that when an honourable member has drawn attention to words that have been objectionable those words have been withdrawn. The Standing Orders provide for this to be done. As it is Senator Rae’s birthday, perhaps he could withdraw the undesirable words and allow a bit of peace and tranquillity to prevail in the Senate. I ask Senator Rae whether he would make the appropriate response.
- Mr President, in the spirit in which you ask me to approach the matter, that is, the spirit of celebrating what I regard as an important event in my life- my birthday- I simply indicate that exception was taken long after I had used some words about the Prime Minister. I used them also about the Government. I withdraw what I said insofar as I made any unfair imputation about the Prime Minister and I ask to be allowed to proceed with the other points which I wish to make. I wish to quote some of the words of the Prime Minister and I presume people may judge for themselves whether they are insulting or offensive.
I quote from the transcript of the tape recording taken of the Prime Minister’s speech last night at the meeting of the Heavy Engineering
Manufacturers Association. I will read the relevant parts of the transcript which I believe do not omit anything which would change the sense of what was said. The Prime Minister said:
But I do get a bit irked, not with your membership, not with this association, but with some others that spread panic. 1 suppose I might as well cite the textile industry.
He then gave an example to which I do not wish to refer and he went on to state:
Gentlemen, I hope I don’t react too bitterly when I say that that sort of fallacious allegation destroys some of the cases that are put to us.
He then went on to give an instance related to the motor car industry and continued:
The general point I want to make is that if you’re going to influence me, I must confess that I have colleagues that are more easily influenced, but if you’re going to influence me at least stick to the facts. I’m a bit jack of people that blackguard us with lies and have nothing but contempt for those that accept and peddle lies and my own colleagues are, in many cases, among them. And one of the most remarkable developments is that in this field how much collusion there is between multi-national companies and Australian trade union officials.
That is the end of the quote.
– If I had known that he was going to say that I would not have come into the Senate.
– I note Senator Georges’ interjection. I can well understand both his disappointment with the Prime Minister and, in fact -
– Order! Senator Rae, you said ‘Senator Georges ‘.
– I am sorry. I meant Senator Poyser. I certainly do not want to start anything that goes further than making a response to what Senator Poyser said.
– I do not even look like him.
– There are some differences. I simply draw attention to the fact that those are the words of the Prime Minister. They are there for anyone to read and to determine how they should be categorised. In my submission, they were quite clearly wrong and unfounded statements. The facts are clear. The seriousness of the retrenchments in Launceston has reached a stage at which urgent Government action is required. The position goes far beyond the statements by the Prime Minister that really no action is necessary. That was the meaning of what he said last night. Such a statement must be irksome to those who have tried hard to get action taken by this
Government to overcome the disastrous effects of the policies in which the Government has engaged.
I take this opportunity to draw attention to only one other matter. No doubt the Minister will take it up again in due course. It is one of the practical problems arising from retrenchments and the retraining program. A large number of the textile industry employees were members of their companies’ medical benefits schemes. Whilst they were with the companies they obtained medical coverage and benefits. But since they have been retrenched, they do not have that coverage any longer. Although they may be paid the average wage they have received for the previous 6 months and be entitled to that for a 6-month adjustment period, they do not receive anything in relation to medical benefits. I do not think that many of them realise that they are not covered or that they have to take out cover at extra expense to themselves. This is a matter which has not been covered by the Government and I invite the Government’s attention to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated
King Island Aerodrome
– The answer to Senator Bessell ‘s question is as follows:
Preliminary consideration is being given to resurfacing and fully sealing the runways at King Island. This would cost $1/2m or more. Clearly it will require considerable justification in terms of demands for air freight and air passengers, bearing in mind any expected improvement in maritime services over the next few years.
The economic argument in favour of the further development of the aerodrome at King Island would be made easier insofar as the Australian Government is concerned if the local community saw fit to take over the aerodrome within the Aerodrome Local Ownership policy. The Local Government costs in maintaining the aerodrome could be quite readily offset by a head tax on passengers as is now becoming quite common among the 200 aerodromes which are locally owned in Australia.
While the Minister for Transport cannot undertake to quickly effect the improvements, these limitations were specifically brought to the notice of Brown and Brain Airfreighters Pty Ltd when approval was given for that operator to import the Argosy as an addition to their freighter fleet.
Roads: Port Augusta-Alice Springs
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Will the Minister make a statement to the Senate outlining his findings relating to his study of health insurance in Canada undertaken during his visit earlier this year.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. The heavy workload for both Houses prevents this.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Environment and Conservation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 September 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740924_senate_29_s61/>.