30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present 2 petitions, similar in wording from 1184 and 1224 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that all people have the right to education,’ irrespective of class, age, sex, sexuality and ethnic background, and that it is the responsibility of Government to ensure that sufficient funds are allocated to protect that right. Your petitioners believe that:
. Education is a right and not a privilege to be paid for.
A loans scheme would discriminate against the most needy students.
If all students were eligible for the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme and received an adequate TEAS allowance there would be no need for student loans.
Students should not be forced to incur debts in order to receive an education.
Your petitioners therefore pray that the needs based grants scheme should in no way be jeopardised by any other program of student assistance, including partial, supplementary or comprehensive loans scheme.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petitions received and first petition read.
– I present the following petition from 3 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Charter of the United Nations clearly precludes it from interference in the domestic affairs of a country or from obstructing the free transmission of news and information between individuals and between nations.
That the United Nations, in apparent illegality, has imposed many restrictions and sanctions upon Rhodesia which has been remarkably free from the bloodshed and turmoil of northern and central African lands, even to the extent now of actively encouraging armed conflict against the legally elected Government of Rhodesia.
Lord Graham as Minister of External Affairs and Defence has said: ‘International communism is our enemy, all this talk of political advancement and majority rule is no more than a smokescreen in the early skirmishes of an assault upon the whole of Africa . . . It is even difficult to see this enemy because it is not merely attacking us, but on a broad front is attacking the whole world order, its standards, its law and order, its moralities, its churches, its patriotisms, its philosophies and even much of its learning . . . ‘
That Communist Chinese infiltration in much of Africa over many years, and Cuban Communist troops reported to number 25 000 are dominating nearby Angola, and possess modern missiles etc.
It is urgent that Mozambique, now under communist domination and which has a common border with Rhodesia, does not receive any further aid from the Commonwealth Government of Australia, which has benefited mainly, the terrorist guerilla movements that are responsible for the deaths of many Rhodesian people.
It is urgent for the Australian people to determine for themselves the actual facts of the Rhodesian struggles.
It is urgent that the Senate and the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled, will observe common justice and proper humanity by inviting only authorised representatives of the present Government of Rhodesia to Australia, to do what they have been deprived to do previously, present their case fully and publicly so that this can be examined and tested, without interference, and so that the eventual impact on Australia ‘s own security and defence alliances can be gauged with better accuracy.
Your petitioners request urgent action to be taken immediately.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 22 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the recent budgetary allocations endanger the quality of Australian education, especially for disadvantaged groups, and, in particular, for migrants, Aborigines and tertiary students from poor backgrounds.
Your petitioners believe that all persons admitted to institutions of tertiary education in Australia have a right to adequate living conditions and that it is the responsibility of Government to ensure that sufficient funds are allocated to protect that right.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Scott.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, relates to the Government’s so-called policy of new federalism. I ask the Minister whether he recalls saying, in answer to Senator Wriedt last Friday:
We will not abandon tax sharing in the second stage.
That, of course, is stage 2 of the new federalism policy. Was the Minister saying there that, despite the opposition of the States and their current suspicions about the Federal Government’s intentions, the Government will continue to insist on the implementation of stage 2 of its policy of new federalism?
– What the honourable senator should understand is that there is unanimity of agreement regarding stage 1 of federalism in all matters except one, and that is the review body for the evaluation of equalisation. Stage 1 has conferred enormous benefits upon the States already. Stage 2 will give the States the opportunity either to grant a rebate or to impose a surcharge. That is a voluntary matter for the States. In other words, the suggestion that we are imposing something on the States, which was implicit in Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s question, is utterly wrong. The Commonwealth proposes to introduce legislation which will enable any State that so desires to use the Commonwealth as an agent to seek a rebate or to impose a surcharge. There will be no imposition of any compulsion on any State.
I repeat that the States have said constantly that they want more access to a wider armoury of taxation. They in fact gained payroll tax under a similar approach; but the States have argued that they need flexibility to increase or to reduce their taxes. Indeed, the States have said repeatedly that there ought to be a reduction of personal income tax. In fact, if the States want either to increase their taxes or to reduce their taxes this will give them the opportunity to do it voluntarily. There will be no imposition by the Commonwealth. We will be carrying out, in fact, the request of all States over the years. If a State does not want to impose a tax it need not do so. I want to make it perfectly clear that the States, both today and in the past, have been major tax gatherers, tax imposers and tax collectors in the indirect field of taxes and charges. There is nothing new in a State imposing a tax. In fact, under the previous Government, the States were very heavy tax gatherers. Under this Government and under federalism, both the Federal Government and all States have been able to reduce taxation substantially. So, federalism in fact is a policy which reduces taxes for the taxpayer and is good news.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Has he been advised that Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd is under some pressure in maintaining its present staff levels in Sydney? Does Telecom Australia buy Australian where Australian suppliers are available? If not, can the Minister advise the percentage of purchases by Telecom Australia which in fact are manufactured in this country?
– My advice is that wherever Australian goods and materials are available it is the policy of Telecom to ‘buy Australian’. Since the matter is important in terms of the employment of Australians and since the general policy of ‘buy Australian’ is one which should be commended- I acknowledge Senator Baume ‘s interest in this matter- I will refer it to my colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and see whether any refinements can be added to the policy to create further employment.
– My question is directed to Senator Carrick and it follows the question asked by Senator Douglas McClelland. Do I understand Senator Carrick to say that under the new federalism policy of this Government the States are operating less as tax gatherers than they were under the Labor Government? I ask him: Does he agree with that trend? If he does-and that is certainly the implication of his answer- can he explain why his Government is endeavouring to persuade the States to accept the option of becoming additional tax gatherers under the new federalism policy?
– The objective of federalism is to ensure that all governments have their responsibilities identified so that the taxpayers and the electors can be assured that whoever spends their money will be responsible and will carry the credit or odium for their decisions; that governments which make these decisions shall make them according to priorities, not just spending other people’s money; that when governments raise taxes they will look to the size of the purse or the pocket of the taxpayers and be as discreet and as economic as possible. In other words, federalism aims to do 2 things- to keep taxation and charges as low as is reasonably possible and to deliver the best government possible, without alibis.
The clear distinction between federalism and centralism is that under the Whitlam Government the raid on personal income tax more than doubled, the take from customs duties, excise duties and sales tax increased and the States were forced to put up indirect taxes and charges. This was an example of centralism making its thrust both in the centre and on the periphery and forcing taxes higher. An example of federalism is that in the first year in office this Government has been able to forgo by way of full taxation indexation some $ 1,000m to the taxpayersan enormous relief. This was a policy that the Labor Government refused to have. We have provided money for the States under the tax sharing arrangements. This has enabled them to balance their budgets or to create surpluses and to cut taxes. So in short, the federalism policy aims to provide opportunities for lower taxation because of good government, but because the States themselves have been inflexible in respect of their taxation opportunities and because the States themselves have advocated in the past the virtues of cuts in personal income tax, the States will get the opportunity, if they so desire, either to cut personal income tax or to put on a surcharge.
– Or to increase it.
– Or to put on a surcharge.
– Or to increase it.
– To put on a surcharge, to cut taxes.
– It is important to understand that those who do not have to carry the responsibility for these things- like the Labor Party today- are the best at lecturing others about how to do these things. The Labor Party which bungled in office sees clearly today what should be done. The States have constantly lectured the Commonwealth on what should be done and constantly have said that taxes should be cut. The arguments of the States are very simple. They say on the one hand, ‘give us more money’, but on the other hand they say ‘cut taxes’. It is an impossible paradox. So now the situation is that the States are provided with a greater amount of money and more flexible arrangements in respect of the spending of the money. They will have more opportunities themselves to cut taxes if they wish.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Now that Senator Carrick has finished his attack on the States, I ask him: Will he agree -
– He cannot win.
-He has just attacked the States, quite obviously. It was a slur on every State and every State Premier. I ask the Minister: Does he agree that the implementation of stage 2 is an inducement and an encouragement to the States to increase their taxes?
– The reverse is absolutely true. The implementation of both stage 1 and stage 2, taken together, shows demonstrably that the taxpayers of Australia will pay less taxation. I did not attack the States. I attacked the Whitlam Government for having forced the States to increase taxes; for having forced the States to use the alibi of attacking the central government for all things. This Government is removing all alibis. Why would any elector in Australia want a situation in which we have government by alibi? The day of government by alibi, whether it is federal, State or local government, is over under the new federalism system. The situation is that everyone must stand and be counted; be responsible for justifying the moneys they spend and have a major part in raising the moneys they spend so that they make the decision in the end about whether they save money or whether they increase taxation. They must determine the priorities. In answer to Senator Wriedt, by sheer practical demonstration this year federalism, whether stage 1 or stage 2 or taken as a whole, is the best news the taxpayers of Australia have had for 30 years.
-Can the Minister for Education say what criteria will be applied in determining the eligibility for and number of student teacher scholarships to be made available by the Federal Government, other than those under the Tertiary Education Allowance scheme?
-I am not sure that I fully understand the question.
– I do. You do not know how to give the answer.
-Is it not wonderful that Senator Georges knows all the answers on all occasions, except yesterday, when he failed to deliver. Oh joy! The Greeks had a word for it, but not yesterday. The word was Whitlam but Senator Georges did not know it yesterday. Having said that, the reason for my dilemma is that the Commonwealth makes decisions only in terms of teacher training scholarships with regard to the Commonwealth Teaching Service scholarships which apply to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. That is one approach which, of course, Senator Georges did not understand. If Senator Messner is asking what will be the criteria for determining the intake of teacher trainees in Australia in the year ahead, that is a different matter. As the Labor Party has pointed out and as, I think, Senator Georges pointed out, because the population is falling Australia will not need as many teachers. The Australian Education Council, comprising the 6 State Ministers and the Federal Minister, have been continuously, over the last 8 months, deliberating on that point with the aim of finding a figure of intake which on the one hand will supply the need fully and on the other hand not be too rigid in manpower. A third requirement is that we do not have a situation in which there is a glut. I point out that the universities and colleges of advanced education have this year, and will continue to do so next year, voluntarily slowed down the intake to the extent that one would expect that the total number of students on campus in universities and colleges will be no more than this year’s figure. That refers to all students in all faculties because in the tertiary system 22 per cent of all students are teacher trainees. In the college system more than 50 per cent are teacher trainees. If I am directing myself correctly to Senator Messner’s questions, the answer is that the AEC is endeavouring to find a formula. I will in the immediate future be inviting the Tertiary Education Commission to make a study of teacher training, not only in terms of teacher numbers but also in terms of all the factors that are demanded of a teacher and teacher training so that we can work out the number for the future. I am not particularly wedded to a rigid manpower policy.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Perhaps he can clear up a contradiction. Yesterday we heard from several Government senators that a consumer led recovery is taking place in the community. Is the Minister aware of the continued decline in consumer spending in many key industries, such as the 0.7 per cent decline in retail sales,’ the 18.6 per cent fall in car registrations and the 15 per cent drop in house building approvals? How then does the Government continue to justify statements about economic recovery?
– This question would be more appropriately directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer who is -
– If that is the case I will redirect the question.
– The Minister is answering it at present.
– May I re-direct my question?
- Senator Durack is replying.
– I am not seeking to thrust this question on to my colleague who is representing the Treasurer. I am saying that the question refers to a number of statistics which have been quoted by the Treasurer in speeches in recent weeks. These are available publicly. The general burden of them indicates clearly that there have been definite signs of improvement in the economy. I refer Senator Georges and the Senate to these statements which have been made by the Treasurer.
-I direct my question to Senator Durack, the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister a w.i iv that, in regard to the tremendous marine rest hi rees in the waters surrounding Australia, Australian owned fisheries harvest only a small proportion of this food compared with other major fishing nations such as Japan and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? When will Australia unilaterally declare a 200-mile sovereignty limit as recently declared by so many other seaboard States in the world? What action will be taken to protect this sovereignty? Will the Government act to encourage the Australian owned fishing industry in this area?
– I am glad to be reminded about who I am actually representing in the Senate this week. I thank Senator Missen for the reminder. The question seems to refer also to other Ministers I represent, including the Attorney-General. It may also involve the Minister for Foreign Affairs whom I do not happen to represent. The extent of Australian sovereignty over offshore marine resources has been the subject of continued negotiations at international conferences. It is a matter in which the Australian Government is deeply concerned. I will refer the specific question about our fishery resources to the Minister for Primary Industry and endeavour to get a more detailed answer for the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, relates to eligibility for pensioner health benefits and pensioner fringe benefits. The Minister will be aware that between 1967 and 1973 the fringe benefit limit was raised each time legislation was passed to increase pension rates. She will also be aware that there has been a freeze on the limit since 1 973. Is the Minister aware of the dramatic effect that this is having on a number of pensioner beneficiaries? Is the Government considering anything to alleviate the problems caused by that freeze?
– It is a fact that the level at which fringe benefits become an entitlement has been frozen since 1973. The figures, as I recall them, are $33 a week for a single person and $57.50 a week income for a married couple. The Government, in the course of Budget considerations, is looking at all matters that would have relevance to any Budget decisions, but at this stage I am unable to speculate with regard to any movement in the level at which fringe benefits are an entitlement.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science. Is it a fact that the reduction of lead additives in petrol would reduce its efficiency and increase petrol consumption in terms of litres per hundred kilometres? Is the Minister aware that research overseas on the bagging or trapping of lead in exhaust emissions, which will reduce pollution is in an advanced stage? Can the Minister state what research is being conducted in Australia in regard to exhaust emissions?
-The question probably involves an answer from 2 other departments. They would be the Department of Transport, which has done some work, I understand, in relation to exhaust emission results, and the Department of National Resources. As I understand the situation in respect of lead additives in fuel, it is a fairly complex one. So far as I am aware, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is not involved. Perhaps I could direct its attention to this question. It is well known that lead compounds are added to petrol to improve ignition properties. Those compounds eventually finish up as lead deposits either in the engine or in the exhaust system. Some are emitted through the exhaust. Over the past few years the amount of additive, as I understand it, has decreased. I think I have seen a note that a further decrease in the amount of additive probably would add significantly to the amount of crude oil used in Australia, since a change in refining methods would be needed to compensate for the reduction in the amount of lead additive. A reduction in additive increases the rate of depletion of this commodity which we all recognise as having a limited life.
As far as I am aware, there is no consensus that lead which may be present in the air or in the ground as a result of using lead additive in fuel is dangerous to health. 1 am not sure of the situation in that regard. However, it should be borne in mind that filters have been developed overseas which can be fitted to exhaust systems for the purpose of removing the lead. I believe that there is some argument in respect of their efficiency. I believe that the Minister for Transport would have more appropriate comments-
– It adds to their cost.
- Senator Georges apparently has the answers to all these questions. Perhaps he could convey the information he has to Senator Young.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, by reminding the Minister that on 16 February of this year I asked a question without notice about the reasons which prompted the Government to allocate charter rights on the Western Australia-Bali route to MacRobertson Miller Airline Services, a subsidiary of Ansett Airlines of Australia. I asked:
Is this not a marked departure from established government airline policy laid down over many years? Why has Qantas Airways Ltd not received even a firm reply to its application to operate a scheduled service on this route?
The Minister asked that I place the question on the notice paper, which I did. To date I have received no communication from the Minister clarifying this matter. I now ask the Minister again: Is the decision with respect to awarding the charter rights on the Western Australia-Bali route to MacRobertson Miller Airline Services to be taken as a precedent for the allocation of regional air traffic routes to domestic airlines at the expense of the national carrier, Qantas?
-I regret that a question on the notice paper has not been answered, if, as Senator Sibraa said, it has been on the notice paper since mid-February. I will ask my colleague the Minister for Transport to give it early attention, to take into account the subsequent remarks made today and to give the honourable senator a reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to the reported statement by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications that the Government will spend proportionately more on telecommunications in rural areas and that private funds could speed up the program of providing television to isolated areas. Can the Minister give further details on this statement? Can he say whether a high priority will be given to Streaky Bay and other areas on Eyre Peninsula which have no television service at present. Will he also indicate whether the term ‘private funds’ in relation to the provision of television services includes the authorising of loans to local government authorities for this purpose?
- Senator Jessop has asked a number of questions, not all of which it would be within my competence to answer at first hand. I am well aware of his continuing interest in the need for better communications throughout his very large State and in the topography particularly of the Eyre Peninsula. I am also very well aware of his interest in Streaky Bay. Perhaps the best approach would be for him to put the question on notice so that I can get a detailed written reply to each of the facets of his question.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security what advice we should give young people who left school last December, failed to gain employment or the unemployment benefit and are now contacting our offices regarding their eligibility for unemployment benefit. Do they have to take out High Court writs to gain this right and are they eligible for legal aid to do this?
– Last Friday the Director-General of Social Services made a determination with regard to the application which had been the subject of High Court proceedings. At the same time he said that he was prepared to undertake a review of the application of any other person who sought a review. That review could be sought through my Department or any office of my Department. The application would be reviewed as the DirectorGeneral has undertaken. Legal aid for any action which people wish to take in the courts is a matter for the Attorney-General. As I understand it, it is subject to means testing and decisions of the legal aid offices. Legal aid would be available to those eligible for it.
– Having received representations for additional staff in the guidance division of the Department of Education in North-Western Tasmania, I ask whether the Minister for Education can advise whether under any of the functions of his portfolio he can provide assistance, or is the staff allocation entirely a matter for the State authorities? What should those people who contact me do?
– The functions of the Federal Government with regard to primary or secondary education in the States lie within the Schools Commission ambit. The decisions of the Federal Government arise out of the recommendations of the Schools Commission. Apart from special programs such as that for disadvantaged special migrants, the main program for primary and secondary schools is by way of general recurrent or capital grants. In this case the recurrent grant would be applicable. These are quite untied and unspecified. They are given by way of supplement to the States and it is for the States to use them as they so desire. Therefore the employment of special teachers or guidance officers at schools within a State must be fundamentally and wholly a matter for the State concerned, and not for the Commonwealth.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters. It regards reports that the Government is to abolish paternity leave and severely curtail maternity leave. I ask the Minister: On what evidence of abuse of maternity leave and paternity leave did the Government base its decisions? What consultations did the Government have with relevant unions regarding those decisions? Will the changes be made by means of legislation passed by the Parliament or merely by a regulation? Specifically, can the Minister clarify whether a full 52 weeks’ maternity leave, including the 12 weeks’ paid leave, will still be available to mothers who qualify under the new provisions?
– The honourable senator has asked a number of detailed questions which come within the area of responsibility of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, whom I represent. I shall refer those questions to the Minister and seek his early reply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to a report which appeared in the Daily Mirror of Tuesday, 31 May, and which was to the effect that a submission has been made by the New South Wales Labour Council calling for pensions to be raised to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings. Is the Minister able to indicate what that proposal would cost the taxpayer?
– I am not aware of the proposal put forward by the New South Wales Labour Council. However, I am aware that it is the aim of the Australian Pensioners Federation to have pensions increased to a base level of approximately 30 per cent of average weekly earnings. It will be understood that at the moment pensions are paid at a standard rate which equates with approximately 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, based on the latest figures available in that regard. Having regard to the increase that we expect in the number of age pensioners and other benefit recipients, I understand that an increase from approximately 25 per cent of average weekly earnings to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings would involve about an additional $ 1 ,200m each year.
– Would you regard that as an impossible objective?
– It is an objective which might well be achieved if we were to understand that there would need to be an additional burden on personal income tax, unless we were to move towards implementing some sort of contributory age pension scheme. The Hancock Committee report, for instance, suggested approximately 30 per cent of average weekly earnings as a starting point if we were to set up a national superannuation scheme. However, that figure was based on a contributory scheme under which future claimants would pay 3 per cent of their wages during their working life. To increase pensions from 25 per cent to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings would involve approximately an additional $ 1,200m a year, which would have to be found from some such source as general revenue raised by government in indirect taxes or in other ways, or a larger proportion of personal income taxes that are directed to this purpose at present would have to be appropriated. As I recall the figures, total pensions and benefits paid through my Department at present would equate roughly with between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of personal income tax collections. To add a further $ 1 ,200m to that would, of course, need consideration in those terms.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security a question which follows upon that just asked by Senator Chaney. Is it not a fact that at the end of the term of office of the McMahon Government in 1972 pensions were equivalent to 1 9 per cent of average weekly earnings and that by the end of the term of office of the Labor Government they had been increased to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings? Will the Minister agree that that was economically possible because the government of the day saw it as a worthwhile objective to give pensioners a better deal than they had had under Liberal governments for 20-odd years? I ask the Minister: Is it not a fact that if the present Government also saw a better deal for pensioners as being a worthwhile objective it would not be impossible for it to move towards increasing pensions to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings?
– I am not sure whether at the end of 1972 pensions were 19 per cent of average weekly earnings but I will take that as a starting point and acknowledge that at present and when the Australian Labor Party went out of office pensions were roughly 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. The former Government proved that it could do many things, most of which were reflected in the level of inflation which occurred during its term of office. The former Government also did not consider introducing indexation of personal income tax to offset inflation. So we found throughout the term of the Labor Government that there was an enormous increase in the proportion of a person’s salary which was taken in personal income tax. Some of these things probably are responsible for the movement in pensions from 19 per cent of average weekly earnings to 25 per cent, but the cost to the taxpayers of Australia was high. A base pension rate of 30 per cent of average weekly earnings could not be achieved without the support of the community. The community would have to bear the cost. Those things need to be taken into account when we are talking about objectives.
In conclusion, may I say that Professor Henderson, who inquired into poverty, said that inflation was the greatest problem facing persons on low incomes or fixed incomes. He recommended that the greatest assistance that could possibly be given to the pensioners of Australia in the immediate future would be to reduce the rate of inflation. Whilst the increase in their pensions may have been in the order of 6 per cent, the inflation which occurred in that time was far in excess of that amount, and their purchasing power was eroded. These matters need to be weighed heavily when we are talking about objectives because I believe that inflation is a problem for all people in this country. The Government cannot assist effectively those people on low incomes unless it can control the rate of inflation. Pension entitlements cannot be raised substantially without putting an impossible burden on the taxpayers.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, is related in part to a recent recommendation by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory that the planning of future buildings in the Australian Capital Territory in which waste oil would be produced should incorporate storage facilities for that waste oil, and that studies should be undertaken on the question of whether it would be viable or necessary to establish, either in the Australian Capital Territory or in the adjacent region of New South Wales, a processing plant for waste oil generated in the area. This recommendation was made in view of the fact that about 1.5 million litres of waste oil are produced in the Australian Capital Territory each year. In view of recent reports that Gulf Oil of the United States of America will assist an Australian company, Oil Processors Ltd, to establish recycling refineries in Melbourne and Sydney, will the Minister examine this matter to assess whether a regional recycling plant is necessary or whether further measures might be taken so that all waste oil produced in the Australian Capital Territory is made available for reprocessing in Melbourne or Sydney as this would be an important contribution to energy conservation in Australia?
– I understand that until about 2 years ago waste oil was kept in pits at Pialligo in the Australian Capital Territory and since then a private company has been collecting all commercial oil from various sources. 1 think that it is being transported to Melbourne for recycling or for use as boiler fuel. The only oil that is not recycled in the Australian Capital Territory is the oil which comes from private sources, mainly from private homes, which in many instances is dumped by the residents. I understand that the long-term aim of the Department of the Capital Territory is that this private disposal or dumping of waste oil should be countered in some way. Tanks might be made available at various tips so that the oil can be placed in them. As to the recycling of waste oil in Canberra, I understand that there is insufficient waste oil within the Australian Capital Territory to warrant opening a recycling plant in the Territory. However, according to information I have, the Department is prepared to monitor the situation and change its present view should that appear to be necessary. If the honourable senator wants any further information I shall obtain it for him.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is it a fact that some 43 positions are being removed from the establishment of the Community and Social Welfare Branch of her Department in Victoria? Are similar changes being made in other States? How does this reduction in staff numbers affect the figures she gave yesterday, in answer to a question from Senator Primmer, indicating that there had been an increase of 375 positions for staff in her Department?
-Yesterday I announced additions to the numbers of staff within the Department of Social Security which will now be effective. The Director-General of Social Services is calling all State Directors to meet him early next week to discuss the management and operation of the offices of the Department. I believe that after that meeting there will be an opportunity for me to discuss in more detail the result of the increase in numbers in the various regional offices, State offices and the central office of the Department. It should be recognised that there are now in the Department some 9675 staff members. We could perhaps put it into perspective if we looked at the figures as they were in 1971, when we had 3771 staff members. We saw rapid increases from that date through until the end of April 1977, when we had 9304 staff members. We will now have 9675 staff members as a total establishment. I believe that by carefully using these staff members the Director-General and his State Directors will be able to give an effective service to the people of Australia in the various areas under their responsibility.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory indicate when the second report on the supply and distribution of electricity in the Northern Territory will be made public? Will the Minister indicate also whether the first report will be made available at the same time? The Minister will recall that an undertaking was given that the reports would be made public documents.
– I should need to take on notice the question relating to the date on which the second report will be made available. I do recall the statement that the reports would be made public, as obviously they will. There are proposals relating to the more efficient running of the electricity authority in the Northern Territory. The general basis of the question which the honourable senator raised will be referred to the appropriate Minister.
– I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Am I to understand that the first report will be made available at the same time as the second?
– No, that is not what I said. I said that I understood it had been indicated that the reports would be made available and I am unable to advise the date on which the second report will be available. But I shall attempt to get that information for the honourable senator this day.
-Can the Minister representing the Attorney-General give an assurance that under the new Legal Aid Commission legislation existing staff quotas at legal aid offices in each State will be maintained?
– 1 shall refer that question to the Attorney-General.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and refers to the general concern expressed by charitable organisations in respect of the present policies of the
Government and the approvals that the Minister made under the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act last year. I have been informed by those organisations that they are very concerned about the future. In the first place, as the Minister well knows, in announcing the most recent approvals some tighter controls were placed on them, or perhaps one could say a more inelastic system was adopted. In addition, presently organisations are finding it difficult to raise cheap money on the market to provide homes for the aged. I am told that these organisations may not be able to expand accommodation in the future and may have to use the present structures. I ask the Minister: Is she reviewing, to any extent, the position in which the organisations find themselves because of current policies? Is the Minister considering a review of the position in order to ensure that those organisations are not retarded and to encourage them to perform their proper function in society by being able to provide services on the basis of a satisfactory government subsidy?
– When the Government announced its 3-year program under the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act and the Aged Persons Hostels Act, it said that at quarterly intervals it would review the subsidy level to take account of rising building costs. If, as the honourable senator suggests, some organisations are facing insurmountable difficulties in continuing on that basis, with a quarterly adjustment, I certainly will review the difficulties that they are experiencing. As far as my knowledge extends, the quarterly adjustments have enabled the level of subsidy to be maintained, in the case of homes on a two-thirds to one-third basis. I certainly will investigate any insurmountable difficulties that are occurring.
I am aware that in some of the more remote areas the two-thirds level of subsidy is not such as to enable an organisation to build. I have been looking at this problem to see what may be able to be done to assist people in the remote zones of Australia. As far as the general operation of the Act is concerned, to my knowledge most organisations were able to proceed with their building programs following the approvals that were given to them. I certainly will investigate the matter to see whether there is any other way in which we are able to assist these organisations. I agree with Senator Bishop; it is our aim that the voluntary organisations which are working to provide accommodation for aged and frail people should have our support to enable them to fulfil their objective. We introduced our policy in the last Budget on the basis that at 3-monthly intervals we would examine the level of support and update it in line with rising building costs.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of reports which indicate that sales of meat to the United States of America are running at less than our United States quota average due to the poor American prices being paid, can the Minister ascertain what steps will be taken to encourage exporters to fill the total quota? Can he ascertain whether real risks of having next year’s quota reduced will arise if that for the current year is not filled? At the present rate, the shortfall would appear to be approximately 50 000 tonnes.
– I will refer those questions to the Minister for Primary Industry and endeavour to obtain an early reply from him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. As the original terms of reference of the royal commission into the intelligence and security services of the Australian Government were confined to the Australian services and as the Minister himself said yesterday in reply to my question that the royal commission had stayed strictly within the original terms of reference, I ask: How could the Prime Minister say in his Press statement of 24 May 1977 entitled ‘Allegations of CIA Activities in Australia’ that the investigations of the royal commissioner, Mr Justice Hope, covered activities of foreign intelligence services in Australia?
-I have not had access to the findings of that royal commission. Therefore, I suggest that the honourable senator place his question on the notice paper.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: What restrictions does the Postal and Telecommunications Department place on local groups in the country who wish to build equipment to improve their television reception?
-This is a technical matter and is not within my immediate knowledge. I will seek the information from my colleague and ask that Senator Thomas be acquainted with it.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. When the Government was preparing to massacre Medibank a very expensive campaign was launched to promote the new system of health insurance to the people of Australia and it was stated that dental cover would be included in the private Medibank health insurance package in the near future. This was some considerable time ago. Given that the Hospital Benefit Fund of Western Australia covers people for dental treatment, when does the Minister envisage that dental cover will be included in the private Medibank health insurance scheme?
– Any changes in the cover under Medibank would be announced by the Minister for Health at the appropriate time. I have no information on the point raised by the honourable senator. I will refer the matter to the Minister for Health and ascertain whether he has any information which he wishes to offer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Now that the Queensland Government has abolished probate duty, which yielded about $30m in Queensland and which is a duty that all other States levy, will the Grants Commission deduct $30m from the Queensland’s claimant State grant? If not, why not?
-As the honourable senator ought to know, the Grants Commission operates under an Act of this Parliament and it is presided over by a very distinguished judge who was appointed by the Party which the honourable senator supports when it was in office. That person is one in whom I have no doubt the honourable senator’s own Party has complete confidence, as has this Government. The Commission also has two other very distinguished members in Professor Mathews and Mr Lane. Again, as I recall it, they were both appointed by our predecessors in office. They had confidence in those members and so have we. I think everybody in the Parliament, apart from Senator Walsh evidently, would imagine that those 3 gentlemen will carry out their duties as imposed by statute to the best their ability and without fear or favour, pressure from governments, suggestions or anything else. The Commission is an independent statutory authority which was set up to advise governments. I think it is a terrible thing when an honourable senator suggests that governments should attempt to influence its decisions.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. I ask the Minister: In view of the fact that the Government of New South Wales is showing no inclination to involve itself in initiatives in the area of unemployment or to take up community development programs on the ground that it has no available funds, and in view of the fact that the Victorian Government has already taken up the Australian Assistance Plan from its own funds, will the Minister outline to the Senate the current cash position facing the Government of New South Wales and indicate whether or not there is any substance in its claim that financial stringencies make it unable to meet its proper obligations?
– The New South Wales Government made great play of employment policies. One will recall that it claimed at election time that it would employ all unemployed teachers. Relying on what has been said by Labor senators opposite, I remind the Senate that there are apparently some 700 teachers unemployed. The New South Wales Government has recently talked about a $30m program for the relief of unemployment, but despite the pressures of the New South Wales Opposition no details have been given, to my knowledge, as to the substance of that program. In a second reading speech which is available to the honourable senator it will be seen that as at March of this year the operational position of the New South Wales Government was shown to be in a surplus of $1 1 lm. That is of course a very substantial surplus. The honourable senator will know that the New South Wales Government was able to balance its budget and to cut taxes. In cutting taxes it made a decision that it would forgo revenue rather than use revenue to create employment opportunities. That is a decision that it must make itself. It was always competent for the New South Wales Government to take up programs of community development under the Australian Assistance Plan, or programs of that kind, out of the additional finance that was available to it. That it has not done so is a specific decision on the part of the New South Wales Government and not a decision that can be governed by the alibi of lack of finance.
– I direct a question to Senator Carrick in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Can the Minister confirm whether the Australian Heritage Commission, in listing historical sites, has ignored Kurnell, despite its extremely historical past.
– I cannot confirm or deny it. I think this is a very important matter. After all, Kurnell is part of the original heritage, for European Australians at least. I think that this matter needs clarification. I will ask my colleague in another place to obtain the information and make it available not only to the honourable senator but also to the Senate and the community.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I ask: Has the Minister or her Department any record of the number of applicants for unemployment benefits, apart from school leavers, who have been refused benefits in the months of December 1976 and January 1977 after they had registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service and with 2 private agencies and applied for jobs through advertisements in the daily newspapers?
– I suggest that the honourable senator places that question on notice. I will see whether there is any information that the Department can give him in the terms that have been requested.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It arises out of some information I received yesterday concerning the rapidly deteriorating condition of the Bass Strait passenger vehicle ship, the Empress of Australia. I ask: In view of the fact that the Bass Strait passenger vehicle ferry, the Empress of Australia, is fast approaching the end of her commercial life and because of her condition perhaps will have to be taken off the run in the next couple of years, what plans are in hand for a replacement ship? Secondly, will her replacement be contracted to an Australian shipyard?
– The question of the continuation of a service as is provided at the moment by the Empress of Australia, is obviously a significant one for the people of Tasmania and for tourists who very happily go to Tasmania. I am unaware of the specifics of this matter. I will seek the information and let the honourable senator have it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. The subsidy to assist in the transportation of Northern Territory beef to interstate markets and to Northern Territory abattoirs has been discontinued as from 31 December 1976. In view of the continuing poor economic conditions of the Northern Territory pastoral industry, the fact that it is not economic to transport beef, in some circumstances, to market and the fact that because the natural increase of beef numbers is far outstripping annual turnoff, the cattle population has increased by some 680 000 head since 1972, will the Government give consideration to the reintroduction of the freight subsidy for Northern Territory beef?
– I understand the honourable senator’s keen interest in this particularly important matter. I recognise that he has the knowledge to be able to speak about the beef industry within the Northern Territory. Indeed, he emphasises the importance of the growth in numbers that has occurred. I will see that his proposition is put to the Minister for the Northern Territory and I am sure that if it is within the compass of the Government to give effect to his request it will do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and relates to her answer to a question which she gave me yesterday concerning staff ceilings in the Department of Social Security. I ask: When will the extra staff commence working in the Department? In view of widespread reports of overloading in the Department, does the Minister consider that the staff ceilings set by the Committee on Staff Ceilings are unreasonably low? Further, is the committee assessing the staff ceilings for 1 977-78? What assurance can the Minister provide that such a problem of overloading and delay will not occur in the future?
– I gave information yesterday to Senator Primmer about the increased staff ceiling of the Department of Social Security. I gave further information this morning in answer to a question. I said that the State directors would be meeting with the Director-General of Social Services next week to discuss the staffing arrangements in the light of the new staff ceilings that have now been announced. Referring now to the level of staffing, as I said, the staff in the Department now numbers some 9675. With these additional members we believe that the administration of the Department can be devised in a way that will maintain the essential services to the public and and the other services which are desirable. I have no detailed information that I can give at this stage about the deployment of the 9675 staff members but I believe that, following the meeting of the State Directors and the DirectorGeneral next week, a clearer picture will be able to be given.
– Pursuant to the provisions of the Coal Industry Act 1946, 1 present the annual report of the Joint Coal Board for the year ended 30 June 1976, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Senate Records Office and the Parliamentary Library.
-by leave- I move:
Before I seek leave to continue my remarks, I express my dissatisfaction about the growing practice of not distributing sufficient copies of important statements but placing copies of them in the Parliamentary Library. If we are to spend many thousands of dollars on getting reports, which in most cases are very excellent reports, copies should be made available at least to all honourable senators and honourable members. Perhaps I can go further and say that they should be sent to all relevant organisations, especially those which made submissions to the committee or to the inquiry. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report entitled A Guide To Allocating Community Funds prepared by Mr R. Myers. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Senate Records Office and the Parliamentary Library. I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The former Social Welfare Commission engaged Mr Myers, then a lecturer in social work at Sydney University, to evaluate certain aspects of the Australian Assistance Plan. The report deals with the allocation of community welfare grants by Regional Councils for Social Development in New South Wales and Queensland which were established during the 3-year pilot period of the Australian Assistance Plan. The report by Mr Myers should be of interest to people and groups involved in community welfare programs.
-by leave- I move:
In doing so I repeat the remarks that I made in regard to the previous report that was presented. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has presented a report and sufficient copies of it are not available for distribution. She informs us that copies will be placed in the Parliamentary Library. Again I say that this practice is not satisfactory. I think that copies of this report, which I consider to be more important than the other 2 reports, should be freely available. I wonder whether the Minister can assure us that copies will be available at the earliest opportunity. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a statement concerning an inquiry into the case of Mr William Frederick Toomer, an officer of the Department of Health in Western Australia.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present the third annual report of the National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation, 1975-76.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on certain sheets and plates of iron or steel- tariff quotas.
-I present a report from the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts on its inquiry into the employment of musicians by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– It is very desirable that copies be available. I understand that discussions are going on at the moment with respect to making copies available to Party leaders, but I presume that Senator Georges and Senator Button seek general circulation. I thank you for raising the matter.
– I indicate that I have just been handed a copy of the report.
– The Commission envisaged that this role would continue into the foreseeable future.
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Button may well have a copy now, but other honourable senators do not. I was instrumental in moving that this matter be referred to the Committee. I do not have a copy of the report
– I ask Senator Davidson whether he has any spare copies. This will be attended to as quickly as possible. I apologise to Senator Harradine. I am informed that copies are coming from the Records Office now. Will you please proceed, Senator Davidson.
-There was a substantial weight of evidence from a number of witnesses including active ABC musicians which supported the view that Australia’s publicly funded orchestras should be more widely used in bringing music to a greater number of people and in giving greater and more extended support to the performing arts. From the evidence presented to it, the Committee is convinced that the ABC does not require its orchestras for such lengthy periods in studio work. The Committee has recommended that the Commission should reassess the role of its orchestras with a view to making them more available to fulfil a wider and more diverse community service.
In the second part of the report the Committee looks at some long term Australian orchestral requirements and considerations. It was clearly evident that the last decade had seen a significant growth in the performing arts organisations of the various Australian States. These are now requiring orchestral support of progressively higher standards of proficiency. Evidence received also indicated that there was a desire for Australia’s publicly funded orchestras to be more actively involved in bringing music to the community. Further evidence called for orchestral involvement in music education, training programs and the heightening of public appreciation.
Witnesses from senior positions in music administration in Australia expressed concern to the Committee that these new developments had created a pattern of demand for orchestral services that are not being met by ABC orchestras. This is especially emphasised while these orchestras continue in their traditional role as broadcast orchestras. Other witnesses described the policy of establishing additionally public funded orchestras to meet some of these needs as inefficient and unnecessarily costly. This is emphasised when there are already well established publicly funded orchestras not being used to maximum effectiveness.
It was suggested to the Committee that because future requirements could not be effectively met by the present unco-ordinated system of orchestral services in Australia, work should now begin on a complete reappraisal of Australia’s orchestral resources. The object of this would be to provide a more positive, creative and efficient use of orchestral services from which the community would derive greater benefit and musicians greater artistic satisfaction. This is why the Committee has led up to its final recommendation which says that, as a matter of urgency, the Government should appoint an independent committee of inquiry to examine and report upon all aspects of orchestral resources in Australia, having particular reference to the rationalisation of orchestral resources, the role of the ABC and its responsibility for orchestras, together with such important items as funding, administration and, of course, legislative requirements.
It would have been outside the scope of the inquiry for the Committee to have pursued this matter in detail, but from the evidence which was presented to the Committee, it was satisfied that there is a need for this detailed public consideration of the proposals for the rationalisation of orchestral resources throughout Australia. The time has come for a serious examination of this phase and activity of Australian cultural life. The inquiry has brought to public attention the particular problems of orchestras, on the one hand, and the special needs of audiences, players and associated organisations, on the other. The Committee in presenting its report is grateful for all the work which was done to assist it in its work and pays special tribute to the members of the secretariat. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
-by leaveBecause of the circumstances in which Senator Davidson’s statement was made to the Senate, my statement will be extremely brief.
– And not very musical.
– I detected an interjection from Senator Wriedt about music. I hope that he will make a statement about it in due course, he having interrupted me and my having interrupted him this morning when he was listening of the Eroica symphony. So we have a common interest in the outcome of this report. I agree substantially with the comments that have been made by Senator Davidson as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts on behalf of the Committee. However, I would put the situation in another way. I think the Committee found that the reality of the situation is that orchestras in Australia have tended to grow like Topsy under the aegis of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. They have done so because the Australian Broadcasting Commission has assumed responsibilities, in respect of the carrying out of its broadcasting power, to broadcast music. A substantial percentage of its broadcasting time is given to musical programs.
I think one of the most important and refreshing things about the Committee’s examination of the matters outlined in the reference given to it was the simple finding that things have developed in a rather haphazard way in the musical scene in Australia, particularly in relation to the development of orchestras. It has tended to be done under the aegis of the ABC as entrepreneur in the musical field. It has taken on the responsibilities of running 6 orchestras in the various State capital cities, all of which, as I say, has been done under its supposed broadcasting power. The Committee, in a very nervous and tentative way- I was part of that nervousnesshas suggested that in the future orchestras in Australia should not be developed perhaps in the same way as they have developed in the past; that it is a pure coincidence of history and geography in Australia that we have a symphony orchestra in each capital city, and that that does not necessarily mean that resources have been developed in the most rational way. There is one other matter which I wanted -
– You have opened up a nice old argument, have you not?
-I hope that it continues for a long time before the next legislation comes on. A further matter to which I wanted to advert is this: I think that, in its Committee system, the Senate is really wasting its time if it takes up any sort of reference which is made on the basis of rumours and speculation. That is precisely what happened in connection with this reference. It was made to the Senate Standing Committe on Education and the Arts when the Government announced that it would make certain cuts in the budget of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. There was then widespread speculation in Australia as to how the Australian Broadcasting Commission would handle those cuts and what areas would be affected. It was speculated very feverishly in Tasmania, for example, that the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra would be, to use a colloquialism, the first cab off the rank when the cuts were to be made. So the subject matter of the reference- the employment of musicians in Australia by the Australian Broadcasting Commission- was referred to the Committee.
I think it is important for the Senate to know, and those honourable senators who bother to read the report of the Committee will know, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is the only employer of musicians in Australia on a regular basis. It seems to me to be quite silly for a Senate Committee, when employment of musicians was seen to be threatened, to conduct an investigation into the only body which has taken responsibility in a very significant way for the employment of musicians throughout Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has done that over many years. At that time I sought on behalf of the Opposition a widening of the terms of reference of the inquiry. I took the view, my colleagues on the Committee took the view, and Senator Harradine, when we approached him about it, shared the view, that it was not just a question of the employment of musicians by the one body in Australia which does employ them- the Australian Broadcasting Commission- - but that perhaps the Committee should look into the question of the possible employment of musicians by other bodies in Australia. As we have now reported, we think that in the future there should be other employer bodies of musicians, but in the terms of reference which we were given we were very strictly confined to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
It is only 10 years since some of the commercial radio and television stations in this country started to employ musicians. In 1 954 when commercial television channels sought television licences- as they were then described, licences to print money-they undertook to employ musicians if they obtained the licences. They did that for a number of years but at a certain stage in the development of television in Australia the employment of Australian musicians became unprofitable. It was said that it became unprofitable to employ musicians, so musicians were sacked. There are now no musicians in Australia employed by commercial television channels or by commercial radio stations. The point of that observation is simply that people who have, as it were, use of the airwaves in Australia, in my view and in the view of the Opposition, have a responsibility towards Australians and towards the development of Australian music. They have that responsibility just as Australian mining companies have and accept now responsibility towards the environment. Senator Georges is attempting to interject.
– I did not interject, 1 simply muttered.
-He groaned in pain. I understand he groans in pain because he does not accept that perhaps some companies do accept those responsibilities.
– I can understand their motives in so doing.
– The honourable senator would understand their motives if he read their annual reports because half their annual reports are devoted to indicating what they are doing for conservation in Australia and not for mining. I am hoping a similar situation might develop with commercial broadcasting and television stations.
The point I am putting to the Senate is that the terms of reference which were sought related to the maintenance of a level of employment for musicians and others engaged in the creative arts by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial radio stations and television channels, with particular reference to growth of orchestras and so on and the need for creation of employment opportunities for actors and graduates of bodies such as the Australian film and television school. These proposed widened terms of reference were taken to Senator Harradine, as the mover of the motion, and he concurred with the wider terms of reference. Subsequently they were taken to the Chairman of the Committee, who indicated, as I have indicated in an addendum to this report, that the Government Parties were not prepared to accede to an amendment to the terms of reference.
I might pay to Senator Wright, whom I see sitting on the other side of the chamber, a tribute which is perhaps irrelevant to this discussion. He has long been vocal in this Senate on making Parliament seem relevant, the proper carrying out of its functions and so on. Every time 1 see him opposite I am reminded of that point, which he has made here continually over many years. Sometimes we have disagreed about how that objective which we share can best be carried out. But the point I am putting is that the Senate, if it has any reason for its existence- honourable senators all know my views about that- has a great reason for its existence in terms of the committee system and the work which committees of this Senate do. If the committees of this Senate are going to be sent chasing red herrings, as it were -
– You do not say that this is a red herring, do you?
– It came up with an important recommendation, namely, that there be a special committee of inquiry.
– We came up with an orange report. The point I am making is that it is a waste of time if the Senate committees, because of the nature of this House as a Party House, are incapable of examining the full ramifications of subjects which are referred to them and are confined to the most narrow aspects of those subjects. I hope that in future references to the Committee of which I am a member and of which Senator Davidson is Chairman there will be a broader approach to the things which the Committee is allowed to consider. For that reason I rise to speak on this matter. Having said that, I endorse the comments made by the Chairman about the report and I congratulate him on the way in which he presented the report and his approach to the whole conduct of this inquiry before the Committee.
Debate (on motion by Senator Davidson) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for passage through the Senate of the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977 and the four associated Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speech in regard to each Bill incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speeches read as follows-
Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill and the related Bills is to provide for new marketing arrangements for the dairy industry. As honourable senators will be aware the Australian dairy industry has been experiencing serious difficulties for a number of years. This has been due to a combination of factors such as overproduction, increasing costs and depressed conditions in the international market for dairy products. It is one industry where the effects of the common agricultural policy of the European Economic Community both directly in the loss of sales in the United Kingdom and Europe, and indirectly in price cutting on third world markets, has been particularly severe.
In view of the state of the dairy industry, the Industries Assistance Commission was asked to report on the assistance which should be provided to the industry. In its Report of October 1975 on the dairy industry, the IAC established broad guidelines for a marketing arrangement for the manufacturing sector of the dairy industry but it considered that the industry itself should be responsible for the development of a stable marketing arrangement. As the dairy industry was, however, unable to come forward with an agreed plan, the Government referred the matter back to the IAC and requested that it report specifically on what long term marketing arrangements should be introduced for the industry.
In its report of September 1976 the IAC recommended the implementation of a staged mandatory marketing scheme for the manufacturing sector of the industry with a view to achieving a stable and viable basis of operation for the Australian dairy industry. Stage I of the IAC scheme is essentially aimed at protecting the domestic market price structure by way of a compulsory levy- disbursement scheme. Stage II provides for a national market entitlement scheme. The objective of Stage II is to ensure that market signals are more effectively passed back to producers and processors in order to encourage production to be in line with current market conditions. Stage III is designed to expose producers and processors to actual market returns on non-entitlement production.
Following discussions with the industry and the States, through the Australian Agricultural Council, the Government has decided to introduce legislation for the implementation of Stage I as from 1 July 1 977. The arrangements to be introduced have the support of the industry and the Agricultural Council. There are still some issues requiring clarification in connection with Stage II. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) shall be taking these up with the States at the earliest possible opportunity. The Government is strongly of the view that the implementation of Stage II is essential for the necessary rationalisation of the dairy industry and consequently it is important that Stage II be implemented not later than 1 July 1978.
The Stage I arrangements provide for the imposition of a levy on prescribed products. The purpose of the levies is to protect the domestic price structure for prescribed products and through their disbursement to provide each manufacturer with an equalised return from their domestic and export sales of such products. The levy-disbursement arrangements under Stage I will replace the existing voluntary industry equalisation scheme. The initial product coverage will be butter, butteroil, skim milk powder, buttermilk powder, casein, cheese- cheddar and gouda- and wholemilk powder. There will be provision for other products to be prescribed as necessary on the recommendation of the Australian Dairy Corporation after consultation with the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee. I shall be referring to the Advisory Committee and its constitution at a later stage. In the case of cheese it was recommended by the Australian Agricultural Council that all varieties of cheese be exempt other than cheddar and gouda. The question of whether other varieties should be included will be a matter for consideration, in the first instance, by the Corporation after consultation with the Advisory Committee.
Provision has been made in the accompanying Levy Bill for a levy to be imposed on the production of prescribed products. The rate of each product levy will be equal to the difference between the domestic market price and the assessed average export price. The levy will be payable by the manufacturer on the production of prescribed products which are sold for domestic consumption or which are used in the manufacture of other products. As the levy will, in the first instance, reduce the price received for all prescribed products down to the level of the assessed average export price, it will not be payable on production which has been exported. The purpose of this Bill is to provide the mechanism for the collection of the levy and for its disbursement.
The levy will be payable by the manufacturer up to two and a half months after the product is sold on the domestic market or after its use in the manufacture of other products. If dairy products remain unsold at the end of the production year, the levy will be payable within six and a half months from the end of that year or such longer period as may be prescribed. These provisions are designed to avoid any liquidity problems for manufacturers in the payment of the levy. Provision is also made in the Bill for a maturation period for cheese and for the levy to be calculated on the weight of the cheese at the end of the maturation period.
The Bill provides for the establishment of a Dairy Products Stabilization Trust Fund and for the payment into this Fund of the amounts collected as levy under the Dairy Industry Stabilization Levy Bill 1977. Separate accounts, or pools, will be maintained in the Fund for the various products and the levy proceeds collected for the various products will be used essentially to make stabilisation payments on each product to supplement the initial payments received by manufacturers in respect of domestic and export sales, that is, the assessed average export price. Interim and final stabilisation payments will be made uniformly across all production within each pool. In addition, provision is made for the proceeds from all export sales to be pooled separately for each product. These arrangements will ensure that all manufacturers will receive an equalised return from domestic and export sales for each prescribed product. There will be no transfer of moneys between the various product pools under the Stage I arrangements.
To offset the time lag in the collection of the levy and to facilitate early payments by manufacturers to their suppliers, provision has been made in the Bill for the Australian Dairy Corporation to utilise Reserve Bank finance to make advances to manufacturers in respect of the stabilisation payments in anticipation of the levy collections. Similarly, provision has been made in the accompanying legislation, the Dairy Produce Amendment BUI 1977, for the Corporation to make advances on all production of prescribed products at the level of the assessed average export price in anticipation of realisations from sales. The Australian Dairy Corporation is empowered under the Dairy Produce Amendment Bill 1977 to borrow moneys from the Reserve Bank under government guarantee for the purpose of making such advances. In addition to the stabilisation payments mentioned above, the levy proceeds may also be used to meet approved costs and allowances in respect to the production, storage, distribution and the sale of dairy products.
In view of the recommendations made by the IAC and the Australian Agricultural Council it will be necessary for a full review to be made by the Australian Dairy Corporation, in consultation with the Advisory Committee, of all the existing allowances payable under the industry’s voluntary equalization arrangements. The Bill provides that all amounts received by manufacturers by way of stabilization payments must be passed on to their suppliers of a wholemilk and cream. The levy-disbursement arrangements will be administered by the Australian Dairy Corporation and provision has been made for the costs attributable to the administration of the scheme to be met from the stabilization levy.
Provision has been made in the accompanying legislation, the Dairy Produce Amendment Bill 1977, to establish the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee to assist the Corporation in carrying out its new functions. The principal function of the Advisory Committee will be to provide the necessary technical back-up to the Corporation in its administration of the levydisbursement arrangements. This Bill and the accompanying legislation provide for the Australian Dairy Corporation to make recommendations to the Minister for Primary Industry, after consultation with the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, on the main aspects of the new dairy industry marketing arrangements. These include, the rates of levy, the interim rates of stabilization payments, the prescription of products and exemptions and the provision of marketing incentives and allowances.
The usual provisions have been made in this Bill for the investment of moneys by the Australian Dairy Corporation from the Dairy Products Stabilization Trust Fund. For the purpose of administering the collection of the levies and their disbursement the normal provisions have been made in the Bill. These include, the power to call for returns, access to premises for purposes relevant to the operation of the legislation, the appointment of authorised persons by the Minister to carry out specific provisions of the legislation and penalties for infringement of the legislation. Provision is made in this Bill for the repeal of the legislation which was enacted in 1 970 to give statutory support to the voluntary industry equalization arrangements as administered by the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalisation Committee Limited. This legislation was never proclaimed and is superseded by the legislation now proposed.
For the benefit of honourable senators I have distributed a statement which describes in more detail the operation of the Stage I arrangements. As a supplement to the Stage I arrangements the IAC recommended that provision should be made to continue the underwriting arrangements on a short-term basis to protect the dairy industry against sudden falls in export prices. The Government announced on 26 May its decision on the underwriting arrangements to apply for butter and cheese for the 1977-78 season. It is in the course of negotiating with State governments the underwriting arrangements to apply for skim milk powder and casein.
The IAC also recommended that provision should be made for a levy to be imposed on market milk. I shall also be introducing separate legislation for this purpose. This legislation would be implemented, however, only if there appeared an imminent threat to the market milk price structure in the States. Its implementation would require a majority decision of the Australian Agricultural Council. As I have already mentioned, the Australian dairy industry has been experiencing serious difficulties for a considerable time. The implementation of Stage I is the first step only in an integrated plan to get the industry back on a stable and profitable basis. Stage II of the new marketing arrangements is a necessary pre-requisite if the industry is to be rationalised so that production can be brought in line with remunerative markets. The implementation of the staged marketing arrangements for the dairy industry will have adjustment implications for both the dairy farming and processing sectors. Of course, it is because of those implications that the underwriting proposals to which I have made mention are so significant. It is felt that this will ensure, at a time when new marketing arrangements are being introduced, that there will be a continuation of some reasonable level of returns to producers. Unfortunately, costs have risen and dairy farmers are still suffering as much from rising costs as any other sector of the community. But there is no doubt that the provision of underwriting will certainly help to insulate them against the climate of rising costs and most uncertain market returns abroad.
The Government had already introduced a new rural adjustment scheme which it considered would adequately cater for the farm adjustment needs of individual dairy farmers. Of course, within that scheme there are also provisions for carry on loans which are also of assistance to farmers at a time of financial need. I might add that there is still a provision for unemployment benefits to be paid to persons in the dairy industry, as is the case for other rural producers who are, because of the change in basic requirements, entitled to receive unemployment benefits on the same basis as others in the community. In fact, this means the relaxation of the previous fairly stringent provisions which applied. This assistance and household support provide a very worthwhile benefit to those dairy farmers who are finding the pressure of low returns and high costs extraordinarily difficult to bear.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has already made a preliminary examination of the structure of the processing sector of the industry. The BAE study, which has now been published, establishes that the processing sector has been adjusting to changes in the marketing and farming sectors of the industry. As the full impact of the changes for the processing sector cannot be assessed until Stage II of the new marketing arrangements has been implemented, the Government has decided that the question of whether a reference should be made to the IAC, on assistance for the re-structuring of the new processing sector, should be considered after the new arrangements have been implemented. It is considered that the staged new marketing arrangements will provide the means to rationalise the dairy industry. If the industry is to be put on a sound basis, however, it will be essential for State governments and all sectors of the industry to co-operate fully and adopt a true national approach to all the issues involved in the implementation of the new arrangements. The Government looks towards the maintenance of a profitable dairy sector. We see these measures as a step towards that objective. We trust that through that co-operation to which I have referred that objective might be realised. For its part the Commonwealth Government was prepared to assist to the greatest extent possible. I commend the Bill.
The Dairy Industry Stabilization Levy Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill is to impose a levy on prescribed dairy products as an integral part of Stage I of the new marketing arrangements for the dairy industry described in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977. The Bill provides for a separate levy to be imposed, as from 1 July 1977, on the production of butter, butteroil, skim milk powder, buttermilk powder, casein, cheese, wholemilk powder, and such other dairy products that may be prescribed. There is provision for products to be exempted by regulation and it is proposed that initially all varieties of cheese other than cheddar and gouda shall be exempted from the levy. While there is some industry concern that the exclusion of some fancy cheeses could put cheddar and gouda at a competitive disadvantage, the Government considers that this matter should be left to the recommendation of the Australian Dairy Corporation after consultation with the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee.
The levy will be payable by the proprietor of the factory at which the prescribed dairy product is produced. The rate of product levy will be based on the difference between the domestic market price and the assessed average export price for each prescribed product. As I explained in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977, the levy will not be payable on production which has been exported. In calculating the assessed average export price for each prescribed product it will be necessary to have regard to the anticipated level of production for each product, the anticipated distribution of the production of each product between the Australian market and overseas markets and the anticipated level of prices on overseas markets.
As the principal purpose of the levy is to protect the domestic price structure, the operation of Stage I of the new marketing arrangements is dependent on there being the flexibility to prescribe a levy which reflects the true difference between the domestic market price and the assessed average export price. The rate of levy, however, for particular products could fluctuate widely from season to season because of the unpredictability of prices received for dairy products in overseas markets.
Because of the extreme variability of the factors involved in determining a rate of levy at a level high enough to protect the domestic market price for each product, it is not practicable to make provision for a maximum rate of levy for each prescribed product in the legislation. The Bill therefore provides for the operative rate of levy for each prescribed product to be made by regulation after taking into account any recommendation to the Minister for Primary Industry by the Australian Dairy Corporation after consultation with the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee. The procedures for the collection of the levy and its disbursement are contained in the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977. 1 commend the Bill.
The Dairy Produce Amendment Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Dairy Produce Act 1924 to provide for the establishment of the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee and to make changes in the powers of the Australian Dairy Corporation as part of the new marketing arrangements for the dairy industry.
As I explained in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977, the Australian Dairy Corporation will have the responsibility for the administration of the levydisbursement arrangements to operate from 1 July 1 977. The Government believes that to perform its new marketing arrangements effectively the Australian Dairy Corporation needs to have available to it the best technical advice from the industry.
The Bill provides for the establishment of the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee with a composition of 1 1 members, namely, an independent Chairman; 3 members to represent butter, skim milk powder, and casein manufacturers; 2 members to represent cheese manufacturers; one member to represent manufacturers of other processed milk products; and 4 members to represent dairyfarmers including a representative from the market milk sector. The Government decided to reduce the number of manufacturer representatives on the Advisory Committee from nine to six members as previously announced. This was done following consideration of representations made on the need to have a more balanced representation between the two industry sectors. All members of the Committee will be appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry for a period of three years and members to represent dairy farmers and manufacturers will be selected from panels of names submitted by the appropriate industry bodies.
Meetings of the Advisory Committee will be held by arrangement betweeen the Chairman of the Australian Dairy Corporation and the Chairman of the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee. A basic function of the Committee will be to provide the necessary technical back-up to the Corporation in making its decisions in relation to the administration of the levy-disbursement arrangements. The Committee will also be available to assist the Corporation in the performance of its other functions and serve as an important communication link with the main industry organisations. It is not envisaged, however, that the Advisory Committee will act as a policy forming body for the industry. Provision has been made in the accompanying legislation for the Australian Dairy Corporation to make recommendations to the Minister for Primary Industry after consultation with the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee on the main aspects of the new marketing arrangements. These were outlined in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977.
A fundamental part of the Stage I arrangements is that the realisations from the export of prescribed products are pooled and provision has therefore been made in this Bill for the powers of the Australian Dairy Corporation to be extended for this purpose. As I have already mentioned in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977, the Australian Dairy Corporation would be empowered to borrow moneys from the Reserve Bank, under government guarantee, to make advances to manufacturers on prescribed dairy products sold on the domestic and export markets in anticipation of levy collections and sale realisations. The purpose of this measure is to facilitate payments by manufacturers to their suppliers of wholemilk and cream.
The appropriate provisions have been incorporated in this Bill to extend the borrowing powers of the Australian Dairy Corporation to enable it to make advances on all dairy products placed under its control. At present the borrowing powers of the Corporation are limited to making advances on product that is purchased by the Corporation. The Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited will remain in existence until it has finalised the outstanding product pools covered by the voluntary equalization arrangements up to 30 June 1977. By arrangement with the Equalization Committee, the Australian Dairy Corporation will use, where appropriate, the facilities of the Committee for a phasing in period to ensure that the new arrangements are implemented with the minimum disturbance to the industry. I commend the Bill.
The Dairy Industry Assistance Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill and the related Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Bill is to provide broad assistance to the States in sustaining the present orderly marketing arrangements for market milk in Australia. The measures proposed are designed to support Stage I, and ultimately Stage II, of the new marketing arrangements for the dairy industry which I outlined in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977.
As honourable senators will be aware, there is a relationship between the market milk sector and the manufacturing milk sector of the dairy industry. Any instability which may arise in the market milk sector could have implications for the new arrangements for the manufacturing sector. For many years the market milk sector has been stable. The indications are, however, that it can no longer be assumed that the existing State marketing arrangements for market milk will not be affected by pressure from sources outside the State or by pressure for reform from non-quota holders within a State. The danger is that dairy farmers in one State who are unable to sell their milk as market milk in their own State could divert supplies to another State and seek to undercut market milk prices in that State.
In its report of 9 September 1976 on dairy industry marketing arrangements, the Industries Assistance Commission drew attention to the potential that exists for instability in the market milk sector. The IAC recommended that in order to maintain stability in the market milk sector some regulatory mechanism, with Commonwealth legislative backing, should be introduced. It suggested that a levy on the production of market milk should be imposed at the point of processing but that the levy should be implemented only if the collapse of orderly marketing in the States was imminent.
Because of the potential that exists for instability in the market milk sector, most States considered, when the IAC report was discussed by the Australian Agricultural Council, at its meeting in February 1977 that it was necessary for legislation for a levy on market milk to be introduced concurrently with the legislation for the Stage I marketing arrangements for the manufacturing sector. With a view to sustaining the orderly marketing arrangements for both the market and manufacturing milk sectors in Australia, the Government has decided to introduce legislation to make provision for a levy to be imposed on market milk as part of the new marketing arrangements for the dairy industry.
At a special meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council on 18 May 1977 all States other than Victoria agreed upon the procedures to be followed for the triggering of the legislation in the event that there appeared an imminent threat to the market milk price structure in the States. It was agreed that a special committee should be established by the Agricultural Council to keep under review all aspects associated with the marketing of market milk in Australia. In the event of a State advising the Chairman of the Agricultural Council that the marketing of market milk in a State was being disrupted it would be the function of the Committee to investigate the complaint and furnish a detailed report within twenty-eight days to the Agricultural Council. It was agreed that it would be the responsibility of the Agricultural Council to make a determination on the report and that the triggering of the market milk levy legislation would require a majority decision of the Agricultural Council.
Provision has been made in the accompanying Bill, the Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Bill 1977, for the imposition of a levy on fresh milk products for human consumption, including standardised milk and milk which has been subject to any process such as pasteurisation, homogenisation, heat treatment or any other treatment. The levy would be imposed to protect the domestic price structure for milk for human consumption to ensure that a minimum price for such milk is maintained within the States. The legislation, however, has been drafted in a manner which allows for flexibility to deal with a particular problem arising from the marketing of a specific product or products. For example a levy on ultra heat treated, UHT, milk would only be imposed if it were shown that the product was being marketed in a way which could disrupt the orderly marketing arrangements for market milk. The purpose of this Bill is to provide the mechanism for the collection of the levy imposed under the Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Bill 1977 and for its distribution. The Bill makes provision for the Commonwealth Government to make arrangements with State milk authorities to collect levy on behalf of the Commonwealth and for the money collected to be paid to the Commonwealth.
The Bill also provides for the creation of a dairy industry trust account and for payment into this account of amounts equal to the amounts collected under the Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Bill 1977. Provision is made in the Bill for payments out of the trust account to be made to the States and for such payments to be applied by the States for assistance to the dairy industry. The States would then be able to use this money for the protection of the orderly marketing of market milk. The amounts to be paid to the States would be authorised by the Minister for Primary Industry after taking into account any recommendation of the Agricultural Council. At the special meeting of the Agricultural Council on 18 May 1977 all States other than Victoria agreed that the payments to the States should be related basically to the levy collections on the quantity of milk sold within each State; that where arrangements existed between State authorities for the supply of milk between States the levy collected on such milk should be returned to the supplying State. Any other moneys to be retained in the trust account for the benefit of the industry generally should be used in accordance with the recommendation of the Agricultural Council.
The legislation is based on the same general concepts as the Federal hen levy legislation which appeared in the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965. The hen levy legislation provides for levy disbursements to the States by way of State grants subject to the condition that the amounts will be applied by the States for the assistance of the poultry industry. For the purpose of administering the collection of the levies and their disbursement the normal provisions have been made in the Bill. These include the power to call for returns; access to premises for purposes relevant to the operation of the legislation; the appointment of authorised persons by the Minister to carry out specific provisions of the legislation; and penalties for infringement of the legislation. There is provision in the Bill for an annual report on the operation of the Act to be submitted to the Parliament by the Minister for Primary Industry. I commend the Bill.
The Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill is to impose a levy upon certain fresh milk products produced in Australia as part of the arrangements to which I have just referred in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Assistance Bill 1977. This Bill provides for a levy to be imposed on fresh milk products for human consumption including standardised milk and milk which has been subject to any process such as pasteurisation, homogenisation, heat treatment or any other treatment. There is provision for other products to be prescribed, such as fresh cream. Classes of fresh milk products may be exempted by regulation. The levy will be payable by the proprietor of the plant or factory at which the prescribed fresh milk products are produced.
The Bill provides for a maximum rate of levy of 15 cents per litre for fresh milk products. The maximum rate has been fixed at a sufficiently high level to ensure that the market milk price structure within States could be fully protected. The Bill provides that the levy would apply from a date to be prescribed for each type of fresh milk product and the operative rate of levy for each product would be prescribed after recommendation to the Minister for Primary Industry by the Australian Agricultural Council. Similarly, the prescription or exemption of products would be made by regulation after taking into account any recommendation made to the Minister by the Council. As I have mentioned in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Assistance Bill 1977, the legislation would be implemented only on a majority decision of the Australian Agricultural Council in the event that there appeared an imminent threat to the market milk price structure in the States. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill 1977 and the five associated Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in respect of each Bill in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speeches read as follows-
Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the proposals for reconstituting the Australian Meat Board as an Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation which by virtue of its composition, powers and financial arrangements will be adequately equipped to oversee and promote Australian meat and livestock exports. The classes of meat and livestock covered by the legislation are beef and veal, mutton and lamb, goat and buffalo meat, live cattle, buffaloes, sheep, lambs and goats. Pigmeat and exports of live pigs have not been included as the main pig producer organisations have advised that they do not wish to be covered by the arrangements at this time, although they may reconsider their decision at some future date.
With the concurrence of the meat and livestock industries, statutory control over the export marketing of meat has existed in Australia for many years. An Australian Meat Board was first established by the Meat Export Control Act 1935, and with the exception of the period from 1943 to 1946 during World War II when the Board went into recess, the Meat Board has continued ever since although various changes in its composition and powers have been made from time to time. The Board has been reconstituted on two occasions, in 1 946 and in 1 964, and some changes were made in 1 969.
During the last few years which have seen a decline in meat prices and difficult economic circumstances for many Australian livestock producers, the Australian Meat Board has been subjected to considerable pressure and criticism, much of it unwarranted since many of the circumstances of the industry during this time have largely been beyond the control of the Board. Nevertheless, the circumstances of meat production and marketing have changed significantly since 1964 and early last year the
Government responded to calls from all sections of the meat and livestock industry by implementing a review of the functions, powers and composition of the Australian Meat Board. The object of this review was to ensure that the Board was adequately equipped to control and promote Australian meat exports in the light of present and likely future production and marketing conditions.
The changes which have occurred in the Australian livestock and meat industries in the period since enactment of the Meat Industry Act 1964 have been quite dramatic. Output of the industry has expanded greatly, the proportion of beef and sheepmeat which is exported has increased from one-third to close to one-half of total production, and the increased dependence on exports has made the industry susceptible to even small changes in overseas demand. An appreciation of the extent and nature of developments affecting Australian livestock producers is essential to a full understanding of the changes to composition, functions and powers of the Australian Meat Board which are provided for in the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill 1977.
The national cattle herd has increased from 1 9 million head in 1964 to just over 33 million in 1976. During the same period the number of beef cattle on Australian properties increased by 1 10 per cent from about 14 million to 30 million head. With the growth in beef cattle numbers has come a significant change in the geographic distribution of the cattle population. In 1964 about 57 per cent of the national herd was located in northern Australia, compared with about 45 per cent in recent years. The number of holdings carrying fifty or more beef cattle has more than doubled during the past 10 years, while a significant decrease has occurred in the number of holdings carrying five hundred or more sheep over the same period. Sheep numbers in Australia showed a decline of some 10 per cent from 1964 to 1976.
Exports of meat from Australia have shown considerable growth. The total volume of frozen and chilled beef, veal, mutton and lamb shipped from Australia exceeded 760 000 tonnesshipped weight- in 1972-73, more than double the quantity exported in 1963-64. Exports since this peak volume have been at a lower level as a result of difficult international trading conditions. However, meat shipments in 1975-76 were in excess of 720 000 tonnes. The value of meat exports from Australia has also increased significantly, the 1972-73 figure being 270 per cent higher than that for 1963-64.
There has been a change in the pattern of Australian exports associated with the increase in volume. In 1963-64 over 90 per cent of total exports of beef and veal, the major meat export items, were shipped to the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The United States continues as our single most important beef market, taking slightly more than half of beef exports in 1976. But the quantities now being exported to the United Kingdom are relatively small. Markets which have grown in relative importance are Canada, Japan, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Australia ‘s expanding meat export trade has since 1970 made this country the biggest single meat exporter in the world, ahead of New Zealand, Argentina, Denmark and the Netherlands. This expansion has occurred during a time in which the nature of international trade in meat has been changing. There is a growing tendency in the world meat trade to break away from the traditional exclusive trader to trader operations, and for governments or government agencies to take a much more active role in the market. This is often the case with Eastern European and Middle Eastern markets, and it is a feature of Australia’s trade in beef with Japan.
Coinciding with this development there has been increasing overseas government involvement in the affairs of the meat and livestock industries. Although beef is produced in a very large number of countries only a relatively small proportion of world output is traded internationally, the beef import requirements of the major importing countries being of a residual nature and being increasingly controlled by various import restrictions. Examples are the actions over the past few years of the Governments of the United States of America, Japan, Canada and the European Economic Community. These characteristics impart to international trade in beef a potential instability, in that small changes in supply or demand can have very large ramifications for the prosperity of beef exporting countries such as Australia.
Rapid rises in shipping freight rates have been a source of concern, especially during the past two or three years. The cost of services to the east coast of North America increased by 35 per cent during 1974-75, freights to Japan rose 29 per cent and to the United Kingdom and Continent by over 15 per cent during that year. The industry has also seen considerable increases in the costs of processing and retailing of meat and livestock products, the significant rise in wage rates during the period being a notable feature. It is also true that gains in productivity on the killing floor and in meatworks generally have been obsorbed entirely in improving working conditions for meatworks employees. Neither mechanisation, nor the benefit of the enormous sums spent in upgrading Australian abattoirs have meant any improvement in prices payable to livestock producers- indeed the reverse is the case.
It is against this background that I now turn to a consideration of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation Bill 1977. The composition, functions, powers and financial arrangements provided for the Corporation in this Bill are a reflection of a protracted debate with industry organisations and interested individuals which has extended for almost a year. A proposal was circulated to provide a basis for discussion with organisations representative of the Australian meat and livestock industries and in early November 1976 wide ranging consultations were held with over fifty representatives of major industry organisations, unions and consumers. Whilst all representatives agreed there should be immediate change, there was a wide diversity of views on what the changes should be. Lack of agreement was most evident in regard to the structure for a new Corporation, membership selection procedures, and provisions for consultation between the Corporation, producers and exporters. All industry representatives were invited to make further submissions and to give additional thought to the areas where consensus had not been reached. In this event, significant points of disagreement remained, primarily in respect of the membership of the Corporation.
I cannot emphasise strongly enough that these divergent viewpoints about structure of the Corporation should not be permitted to overshadow the primary purpose of the Bill which is to streamline the functions, powers and financial arrangements of the Australian Meat Board with a view to increasing administrative efficiency and flexibility of operation for the Corporation. The Australian Meat Board has always possessed a broad range of powers to enable it to control Australian meat exports and to promote meat in both the export and domestic markets. The bulk of these powers have been retained for the Corporation but some changes have been provided for in the Bill. There has been very little reaction to these proposals from industry, the implication being that there is widespread agreement with these changes.
The range of commodities for which the Australian Meat Board has had responsibility has been extended to include goatmeat and exports of livestock. For the most part, exporting livestock is just another way of exporting meat, although the one is not necessarily a substitute for the other. Each has implications for the other in respect of production, processing, transport, marketing, market development and promotion. The Corporation is to have wide powers in these areas in respect of meat and it is a logical development for the Corporation to be able to exercise similar powers over livestock exports. Notwithstanding this, some producer groups have sought to have livestock exports excluded from the Corporation’s control. As honourable senators will know the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union has a policy of restriction on livestock exports, a policy which this Government does not recognise. It seems that the producer groups to which I refer believe that the Corporation would enter into arrangements separately with the union on a national basis quite apart from the regional arrangements now negotiated by local exporter and producer groups.
The Corporation’s responsibility over livestock exports will in no way preclude the continuation of somewhat different conditions applying as between States or regions, nor the present basis of concluding them. Indeed, there are very good reasons for such differences. An example of differential treatment is the exemption from meat export diversification arrangements which the Meat Board has provided to the Kimberleys and the ‘top end’ of the Northern Territory because of shipping disabilities. Another example with respect to livestock is the Government’s present acceptance of recommendations from the Western Australian Department of Agriculture before live sheep export permits are granted.
Provision has been made in the Bill for extending the functions of the Corporation, in respect of meat and livestock, by regulation. This provision would enable the Corporation’s functions to be altered to take account of specific circumstances in existence at a future time. For example, it would enable the Corporation to implement and administer a system of classification of meat should this be the wish of industry and the responsible Minister.
Whereas the Australian Meat Board regulated meat exports through an administrative arrangement involving regulations and conditions on export licenses, provision is made in the Bill for the Corporation to issue directions in writing directly to licensed exporters of meat and/or livestock. Matters for which the Corporation would be able to issue directions to exporters would include classes and grades of meat and /or livestock destinations, quantities to be exported, and terms and conditions of sales.
Provision has been made for the Minister to give directions to the Corporation in respect of its exercise of these powers. Although this provision confers broad powers on the Minister it is not aimed at curbing the Corporation’s ability to act. Rather, it is to guard against the possibility of the Corporation unwittingly taking action which might be in conflict with other laws or Australia ‘s international obligations. By consulting with government, the Corporation can be helped to find ways of achieving its aims without having them negated by such conflicts. There is a provision in the legislation that any directions given by the Minister to the Corporation must be notified in the Gazette and published in the Corporation ‘s annual report. Without broad control powers it would not have been possible for the Australian Meat Board to have fulfilled Australia’s obligations to regulate meat exports to the United States of America under the voluntary restraint and quota arrangements which have existed at various times since 1968. In this respect the Bill provides specifically for the Corporation to devise and operate export control schemes, such as the previous diversification scheme administered by the Australian Meat Board.
Some people are concerned that schemes may be implemented which could be prejudicial to their commercial operations. To ensure that the interests of individual licensed exporters of meat are adequately provided for in any export control scheme devised by the Corporation, the legislation requires the Corporation to advise licensees of its proposals. Objections or suggestions are to be considered by the Corporation with a view to amendment of proposed schemes. As a further safeguard the Minister is required to approve any decision of the Corporation to amend, or not amend, proposed schemes in all cases where representations have been received from individual licensees. Quality control powers have been provided which the Corporation could use as needed to protect Australia’s international trading image. These powers would include rights of entry and inspection for consistency of product or animal against contract specifications, rights to take samples for purposes of analysis, and recommending a method by which disputes relating to product standards arising between overseas buyers and Australian suppliers could be settled.
The Government remains convinced that the traditional free enterprise system of producing and marketing meat and livestock provides the most efficient basis for operation of the industry. For this reason, the Bill has been framed with the intention that the Corporation would only use its control powers when it considered such action to be necessary to further the interests of Australian livestock producers and Australian industries concerned with the preparation of meat for export or the export of meat or livestock. The Corporation may refuse to issue a license to an applicant and it may cancel or suspend the licence of an exporter who fails to comply with a direction of the Corporation. Provision has been made for a person affected by a decision of the Corporation to withhold, cancel or suspend a license, to be able to seek a review of the decision by appealing to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Under the arrangements for the Australian Meat Board, appeals against such decisions were considered by the Minister.
The legislation provides that in addition to the power of the Corporation to issue directions with respect to the carriage and handling of meat or livestock, the Corporation may determine conditions relating to contracts for shipment of meat or livestock. Conditions concerning maximum shipping freight rates and approved carriers are examples. Pending the outcome of a review of Australia’s overseas cargo shipping legislation which has been implemented by the Government, provision has been made for exercise of the shipping contract powers to be subject to the approval of the Minister.
The current requirement for the Australian Meat Board to consider a report by a committee of Board members and Australian Meat Exporters’ Federal Council representatives before trading has been dispensed with in the Bill. It is intended that the Corporation would be able to purchase meat or livestock and export or sell for export meat or livestock which it owns. However, in line with the Government’s commitment to the free enterprise system, the Corporation will only be able to exercise these powers if such trading is in accordance with commercial practice and consistent with a trading policy adopted by the Corporation and made known to the Minister. To accommodate special sales of meat or livestock which would be to the overall advantage of the Australian industry, the Minister can authorise the Corporation to trade otherwise than in accordance with commercial practice. The legislation also makes provision for the Corporation to provide services or facilities for use in connection with the export of meat or livestock. This provision is seen as increasing the scope for the Corporation to develop new markets in places where the lack of infrastructure or facilities associated with trade in meat or livestock limits the development of those markets. Such undertakings could involve significant expenditure of funds outside Australia and for this reason the Corporation is required to seek the approval of the Minister before exercise of this power.
Consistent with the emphasis in the Bill on increased flexibility of operation, provision has been made for the Corporation to borrow from any reputable source subject to the terms of the borrowing being endorsed by the Treasurer. The borrowing provisions of the Meat Industry Act 1964 are considerably more restrictive and have proved to be a limiting factor in the performance by the Meat Board of its functions. The legislation proposes a restructuring of the membership of the Australian Meat Board to provide for a more compact and workable arrangement with emphasis on achieving a Corporation with members of high calibre covering both the diverse interests of industry and the business skills needed for efficient and effective operation. The structure provided for in the Bill is an independent Chairman, a Commonwealth Government representative, four members representing Australian livestock producers, one meat exporter representative and two members specially qualified by way of experience in commerce, finance, economics, marketing, promotion, science or industrial matters. The provision for specially qualified members is in line with the procedure followed in respect of the three other statutory marketing authorities which have been reconstituted in recent years, namely, the Australian Wool Corporation, the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation and the Australian Dairy Corporation.
Some producer groups have expressed a great deal of concern that producers will not have majority membership and thus will not be able to control the actions of the Corporation. Producer representatives will remain the single largest group on the Corporation and, provided that producers ensure that their representatives are equal to the task, the producer members as a group, should have a determining influence on the Corporation’s policies. Moreover, through the producer consultative group, to which I shall refer shortly, the producers will maintain a continuing close relationship with the Corporation. Meat exporters also have pressed for additional representation. An increase in their number would lead to increased pressure for more producer members to maintain the kind of membership balance which most producers consider necessary. The end result would be an unwieldly, more costly and less efficient organisation.
The Government recognises that it is vital for the Corporation to have available to it the expert knowledge and advice which can only be given by exporters who are involved in the marketplace day-by-day. Provision is made in the legislation for this advice to be made available through consultative procedures. It is considered that these procedures together with the exporter member will provide adequately for the Corporation to be informed and for exporter interests to be safeguarded. Some producers claim that the Meat Board has been dominated by exporters and that there should be no exporter representation on the Corporation. This is an argument which I have difficulty in accepting since producer representatives are a majority on the Australian Meat Board, producers accounting for six of the ten members. The composition of the Corporation is to be similar to a number of other commodity marketing authorities. For instance, it is almost identical to that of the Wool Corporation with which producers generally seem to be well satisfied.
A producer consultative group to consist of persons elected to represent the interests of livestock producers in each State and the Northern Territory is to be created. An exporter and abattoir consultative group will be established also to be representative of meatworks, meat and livestock exporting, meat packing and meat processing interests in Australia. The composition of both groups and the electoral procedures for the producer consultative group members will be decided shortly in consultation with industry representatives. While initially it is intended that these be prescribed subsequent amendment to the Act is possible, to ensure maintenance of the composition and electoral procedures of the consultative groups. Communication between the Corporation and the meat and livestock industries is regarded as being of considerable importance. Largely for this reason the Bill makes provision for the consultative groups to advise on matters of importance to the meat and livestock industries, to ensure maximum possible understanding by the Corporation of trade and market conditions and to disseminate information on Corporation decisions and policies to persons whose interests are represented by the groups.
The Government sees the consultative arrangements as an integral part of its plan for an Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation and believes that they will supplement the industry representation provided for on the Corporation.
Provision is made in the Bill for the consultative groups to submit to the Minister panels of names from which industry representatives would be appointed. It is envisaged that the usual practice of the Minister would be to appoint the preferred nominee or nominees of the respective groups. For producers, however, it will obviously be necessary to maintain a reasonable geographic and industry spread. While the Minister will be responsible for appointing the independent chairman and the two specially qualified members, the legislation requires the Minister to consult with the producer consultative group and the exporter and abattoir consultative group before making these appointments. It is intended that any individual or organisation will be able to suggest potential appointees.
As with appointments to the Australian Meat Board, members of the Corporation will be appointed for terms of three years. However, the initial appointments will be staggered to ensure a nucleus of experienced members at all times. This will be achieved by making two of the initial livestock producer appointments and one of the specially qualified member appointments for a term of two years and all other appointments for a term of three years. In addition to the consultative groups, provision is made in the Bill for establishment of an Australian Meat Industry Conference with which the Corporation will consult at least annually. The Conference will be representative of all parties with an interest in matters for which the Corporation is responsible. It could well include representatives of livestock producers, exporters, meatworks, meat packers, meat processors, livestock agents, unions and consumers. It is envisaged that the Conference will provide a forum in which organisations representing the diverse interests of the meat and livestock industries will be able to debate issues of concern to them.
Provisions which are essential prerequisites to the establishment of the Corporation are to come into operation of the day on which the Act receives the royal assent. The remaining provisions which repeal the Meat Industry Act 1964 and establish the Corporation as an operative body, will come into operation after the Corporation members are appointed. The Government believes that this Bill will provide the Australian meat industry with the most effective means of furthering its interests in the long term. Hopefully, it will facilitate a return to reasonable prosperity for many presently financially disadvantaged cattlemen. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Live-stock Export Charge Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for a charge to be imposed on all livestock exports from Australia. Licensed exporters of livestock will be responsible for payment of the charge. The export charge comprises a number of separate components, and monies collected will be allocated for administrative and operating costs of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation, funding the Australian Meat Research Committee and, in respect of cattle and buffaloes, financing the national cattle disease eradication scheme. Over the years, a levy on livestock slaughtered in Australia for human consumption has been collected for these purposes but no charge has been made for equivalent classes of stock which have been exported live. This resulted in an anomalous situation whereby producers of livestock for export were beneficiaries of livestock industry research and the cattle disease eradication campaign, yet made no contribution towards the cost of these programmes. The charge imposed by this Bill will correct this inequity. The Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill 1 977 makes provision for exports of livestock to be a responsibility of the Corporation and it is therefore reasonable that part of the charge should meet Corporation operating costs.
The charge on exports of livestock is to be identical to that imposed by the Live-Stock Slaughter Levy Act 1964 in respect of animals slaughtered at Australian meatworks for human consumption, except for the component of that levy which is collected for meat processing research and is therefore inapplicable in respect of live animal exports. The legislation makes provision for a charge to be prescribed for all exports of live cattle, sheep, lambs, buffaloes and goats, subject to maximum amounts of charge which are included in the Bill. Initially there will be no charge prescribed in respect of exports of buffaloes and goats. Cattle exports will attract a charge of $1.55 per head, comprising 30c for Australian Meat and Live-Stock Corporation administration, 25c for the Australian Meat Research Committee and $1.00 for disease eradication. Sheep and lambs exported live will be charged 4.75c per head, comprising 3c towards the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation and 1.75c for the Australian Meat Research Committee. These operative ratesexcluding the cattle disease eradication componentwill not be varied without first taking into account any recommendations made to the Minister by the Australian Meat and Live-stock
Corporation, after it has consulted with the Producer Consultative Group and the Exporter and Abattoir Consultative Group provided for in the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill 1977.
Occasions could arise when the responsible Minister is of the opinion that collection of the livestock export charge is unwarranted in respect of certain classes of stock. A case in point could be exports of livestock for foreign aid purposes. For this reason the legislation provides for the Minister to waive the charge, subject to a written declaration and notification in the Gazette. The Live-stock Export Charge Bill 1977 provides for the export charge to come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. It is anticipated that the charge will take effect from the date on which the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation commences to operate or shortly thereafter. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Live-stock Export Charge Collection Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill, which is complementary to the Live-stock Export Charge Bill 1 977, is to provide the machinery necessary for the collection of the export charge imposed by the LiveStock Export Charge Bill 1977. The Bill provides for the Act to come into operation on the same day as the Live-Stock Export Charge Act. It provides for the charge to be paid within 28 days after the end of the month in which the livestock is exported. Provision has been made for regulations which will enable remissions or refunds of the charge in certain circumstances. The remaining provisions of the Bill are related to the administrative procedures necessary to collect the charge. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Livestock Slaughter Levy Act 1964. The amendments are either consequent upon the repeal of the Meat Industry Act 1 964 and its replacement by an Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act, or relate to revised arrangements for financing the Corporation, meat research and disease eradication. Some minor administratively desirable amendments have also been made. One consequential amendment involves substitution of Corporation ‘ for ‘Board ‘ in the Act. In addition the producer consultative group and the exporter and abattoir consultative group provided for in the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill 1 977 substitute for the Australian Wool and Meat Producers’ Federation and the Australian
Woolgrowers’ and Graziers’ Council for the purpose of recommending to the Corporation rates of levy payable under the Act. The groups will not recommend the rates for the cattle disease eradication program, which will be set by the Minister.
Other changes involve provision for all, instead of only some, rates of levy to be prescribed with the maximum for each rate stated in the Act. Additionally, provision has been made for specific reference to a levy on buffaloes and goats consistent with the Corporation’s responsibilities. Initially no rate will be prescribed for goats. There is also provision for the one cent processing levy, which was to cease on 30 June 1977 to be continued for an indefinite period in accordance with the wishes of organisations representing meat processors. Continuation of the processing levy is necessary to maintain funding of the industry section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Meat Research Laboratory. The section investigates and advises on the problems of the processing sector of the meat industry. Its work is aimed at increasing the efficiency of meatworks operations and improving the quality of the product. Honourable senators will appreciate the value of this work, not only in containing off-farm costs and maintaining overseas markets for meat, but also in the interests of the Australian consumer. It is anticipated that the Act will commence at the same time as or shortly after the Corporation becomes operational. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Amendment Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Livestock Slaughter Levy Collection Act 1964. The amendments are chiefly intended to simplify administrative procedures associated with the operation of that Act. The major amendment is the repeal of sections 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the Act which provide for slaughterers of livestock to pass the levy back to vendors, provided that the livestock are slaughtered within 30 days from the date of purchase.
There has been many allegations of abuse of this provision. Because of this and the fact that the ‘pass back’ has no effect on the collection of the levy, the Government has decided to delete the provision. The levy will continue to be payable by the owner of the livestock at the time when slaughter takes place. Depending upon the method of marketing the livestock this could be a livestock producer. The actual incidence of the levy is likely to vary over time depending upon supply and demand conditions. In times of oversupply of livestock the levy is likely to be reflected in prices paid to livestock producers. In the reverse situation the levy will tend to be absorbed further along the marketing chain.
The necessity for returns under the Act to be submitted only to the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industry is removed by providing for returns to be furnished to such persons as are prescribed for this purpose. Apart from clause 6, the Bill will commence on the day it receives the royal assent. Clause 6 provides for the payment into the national cattle disease eradication trust account of part of the levy payable by buffaloes under the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1 977, and will commence at the same time as, or shortly after the new Corporation is established. A further amendment provides for the Minister to delegate his authority to remit penalties of up to $100. 1 commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Meat Research Amendment Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Meat Research Act 1960. The amendments are consequent upon reconstitution of the Australian Meat Board, amendments to the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Act 1 964, and provisions of the Live-Stock Export Charge Bill 1977.
The amendments provide for substitution of Corporation’ for ‘Board’ in the Act, payment to the Australian Meat Research Committee of the new levies provided for in the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1 977, and the charges provided for in the Live-stock Export Charge Bill 1977. There is also provision for the making of recommendations by the Australian Meat Research Committee to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation for purposes of setting amounts payable to the Committee under the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Act 1964, the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1 977 and the Live-stock Export Charge Bill 1977. It is anticipated that the Act will commence at the same time as or shortly after the Corporation becomes operational. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I mo ve:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
Honourable senators will recall that in December 1976 Parliament passed the Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill which abolished the Australian Housing Corporation and established the Defence Service Homes Corporation as the corporate entity to administer the Defence Service Homes Act. The changes made in 1976 provided for the affairs of the Corporation to be conducted and controlled by the Secretary to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This Bill repeals the Defence Service Homes Corporation Act, establishes the Corporation under the Defence Service Homes Act and effects amendments to the Defence Service Homes Act to provide for changes to the staffing and financial arrangements relating to the defence service homes scheme. The Bill provides that all staff of the Corporation will be employed under the Public Service Act. The provisions which empowered the Corporation to engage its own officers are being repealed. Arrangements are, therefore, being made to appoint or engage, under the Public Service Act, all Corporation staff who were appointed or engaged under the Defence Service Homes Corporation Act.
The existing legislative provisions in connection with determination of the Corporation’s capital and interest payable on that capital will be retained, but the present financial arrangements under which the Corporation’s income and expenditure are handled through its own bank account will be discontinued. A trust account under the Audit Act, to be known as the Defence Service Homes Trust Account, will be established. Payments will be made into the Trust Account from the following sources: Moneys appropriated as advances to the Corporation for the purpose of expenditure under the defence service homes scheme; and receipts by way of rent and loan repayments from tenants and mortgagors. The moneys which are presently held by the Defence Service Homes Corporation are to be credited to the new Trust Account to be used for capital purposes. The Bill makes provision for this transfer to take place as from 1 July 1977, a date which will be suitable for ease of accounting and the presentation of financial statements. The Bill also contains transitional provisions which will allow unfinished transactions at that date to be finalised.
Under the proposed new arrangements payments under the Defence Service Homes Act will be made from the Trust Account and the Corporation ‘s administrative expenses will be funded in the usual way through the departmental appropriation. The Defence Service Homes Insurance Trust Account, which has operated since 1919, will continue to be maintained separately. At present there are 4 special appropriations paid under the Defence Service Homes Act. The Government has reviewed these special appropriation provisions and, consistent with the view that it has expressed before in the Parliament, clauses 9 and 1 1 of the Bill reduce the number of special appropriations to two. These are now set out in the proposed section 39c and they relate to payments made from the excess credits of purchasers and borrowers and to payments of surplus proceeds resulting from the sale of properties by the Defence Service Homes Corporation as mortgagee-in-possession. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 31 May, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-The Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill has as its essential point the establishment of a body called the Industrial Relations Bureau. The Bill which has been introduced in the Senate is a slim little volume compared with the Bill which was introduced in the House of Represenatives on 3 1 March. I make the preliminary observation that the differences between the Bill introduced in the Senate and the Bill introduced in the House of Representatives on 3 1 March indicate something of the vacillation and, if I might use the word, schizophrenia of the Government’s industrial relations policies which have been manifest throughout any decisions which have been made on industrial relations since this Government came to power.
It is unfortunate for the Government that it should have this style of industrial relations approach in an area which is both sensitive and important and which I am sure the Government recognises as being both sensitive and important. The sad fact is that the Government has hovered like a waitress between tables over 2 approaches to industrial relations- one which might be described as the coercive approach to industrial relations and the other which might be described as the consensus or conciliatory approach to industrial relations. The dichotomy- the 2 strains -in Government policies is no better indicated than by the quite genuine efforts, I believe, of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) from time to time to adopt the second approach and the quite obvious efforts of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in overbearing his Minister, to adopt the other approach from time to time in what he sees as an appropriate electoral response to dissatisfaction with the position of trade unions within the community.
This dichotomy, this diversity, this twin stream of views on industrial relations, which runs right through the Government’s attitude, goes back to the policy announced by the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, in 1975. Let me point clearly to 2 passages of a speech which he made in August 1975 in which he set out the 2 views which are still, as I said, quite apparent in the industrial relations policies of the Government. In the first passage, he stated:
Our view is that satsifactory industrial relations depend ultimately on the attitudes of mind of people in industry. Attitudes of mutual respect, of willingness to listen, to understand, to reason, and discuss is an informed way, are essential. These attitudes cannot be created by any party’s industrial relations policy.
He went on to say that there was an emphasis on the settlement of industrial disputes in the Government’s policies. At a further stage of the same speech he said:
To achieve a more reasoned industrial climate, the L-NCP believe that rules must be established that carry consequences.
That statement is the seed of the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation. He continued:
We do not believe that such a crucial area of national life can be outside the law. The parties to an industrial dispute, the general public, and individuals are entitled to the protection of the law, and the law becomes meaningless if its rules do not have consequences.
That is a statement with which I think nobody could disagree in its generality. He stated further:
There should be no return to old, rigid penal clauses.
In addition, we propose an Industrial Relations Bureau as a third arm of the Conciliation and Arbitration. This purpose would be to secure observance of industrial law. There is already an Arbitration Inspectorate but it covers employers only.
Those are the words used by the Prime Minister in 1975. They are words which in my view, as someone who has had some experience of industrial relations in this country, carry with them that degree of schizophrenia about which I spoke, earlier. Two approaches are inherent in the speech of the then Leader of the Opposition.
While I am referring to that speech, for the benefit of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack)- if it is not departing too much from the subject matter- I draw attention to page 3 of the speech. In a discussion on the Estimates recently I asked Senator Durack what had happened to the Government’s proposals to reintroduce the Regional Employment Development scheme. Senator Durack- a responsible Minister in the present Government, one assumes- said that he could not recall those promises or that he did not know where they were made. It is extraordinary to find in office a Minister who does not know what he was promising to the people of Australia when he sought to gain office. But that is what we were told. I undertook to tell Senator Durack where those promises came from. At page 3 of that speech there is specific reference to the fifth point of the Liberal and National Country Parties’ industrial relations policy. It states:
The fifth specific point is the establishment and support for relief work programs in co-operation with States and local government. These schemes should not be ad hoc, but an accepted part of policy where unemployment rises beyond a certain level. At the level of industry itself we support maximum freedom of choice, opportunity and initiative as essential bases of both individual self-respect and mutual respect between management and employees.
Of course, that statement of the now Prime Minister was developed and spelt out by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, as a promise that this Government would reintroduce the RED scheme. I promised to tell the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs where those promises came from, and I have done so.
I now put that in the context of the whole consideration of this Bill. In industrial relations, as in anything else, if one tries to do one thing with one hand and another thing with the other hand one gets caught out in the end. This Government promised that successful industrial relations would ‘depend ultimately on the attitudes of mind of people’ concerned; but 3 months after it made that promise it forgot its promise about the RED scheme, it forgot its promise about the reduction of unemployment and it forgot its promise about wage indexation. It forgot all those things. In desperation this Government, in 1977, is trying to make disappear some of the situations which it promised it would dispose of with a wave of its magic wand in 1 976. In 1977 it has decided to introduce this conciliation and arbitration legislation dealing with the Industrial Relations Bureau. Again in this legislation the same discrepancy, the same dichotomy between the 2 parts of the Government’s industrial relations policy, is seen. The Government has talked about the need for understanding but at the same time has made the threat that, if that talk does not work and, if the Government does not get satisfaction according to its point of view, then the stick will be used. That dichotomy is still there in the legislation which was introduced in the House of Representatives on 3 1 March.
– The other side -
-What was that?
– Go on.
– If you have an interjection which you are ashamed of perhaps you can deal with it in your speech later. The fact of the matter is that that dichotomy is still in the legislation which was introduced on 3 1 March in the House of Representatives, and I point out to Senator Hall that different legislation is now introduced in the Senate. Why? Because the Government has resorted in desperation to the first arm, the first thought of its industrial relations policy. That is to say, it decided finally that it had to consult with the trade union movement about the proposals which were in the original draft of this legislation. That, of course, was a matter which was taken up to some degree by the Minister in his second reading speech. I will refer to that in a moment. But let us look at the original proposal before the Government decided that it had to carry out paragraph 3 of its election promise of 1 975. Let us look at the first piece of legislation before it resorted to paragraph 3. The sorts of things which were seen as objectionable by the Opposition and by the trade union movement in that legislation ought to be pointed to. The first thing that that legislation set out to do was to encourage non-unionism in Australia. That might be a very desirable objective from the point of view of the Government, but it flies in the face of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act itself which this Government is pledged to support. The principal purpose of the Act is the encouragement and development of representative organisations of employees.
– Do you believe in compulsory unionism?
– Can we come to that in a minute because that is a matter that the Government is going to come to, not in a minute because that is not its wont, but in a few months’ time. The point I was just making is one which I appreciate Senator Hall may not understand, but the Conciliation and Arbitration Act does refer specifically to the encouragement and development of representative organisations of employees. The specific purpose of the first part of this Bill as it was originally introduced was to fly in face of that reference and to encourage nonunionism in this country. Secondly, there was a specific encouragement in the legislation- a financial incentive- to claim conscientious objection from trade unionism. Thirdly, there was a restriction on independent contractors becoming members of unions. That is something which anybody in the industrial relations field knows employer and employee organisations have been concerned about for years. It is something in respect of which the New South Wales Liberal Government first introduced legislation. It is something which resulted in an amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act- which was not opposed by the Liberal and Country parties at the time it was introduced- to encourage persons who were in the category of independent contractors to become members of unions. In the draft legislation which was introduced into the House of Representatives that specific discouragement was there and, of course, it affected people like owner drivers and organisations such as the Transport Workers Union of Australia and so on. All these steps were taken as part of a concerted effort to weaken both the numerical and financial strengths of the trade unions in Australia, which of course have been a consistent part of one strand of Liberal Party thinking on this issue for a long time.
– If you believe in an undisciplined union movement, that is your business, but say so. We can give you plenty of examples.
– The point is that the unions do not agree with you.
-The troglodyte section of the Liberal Party is now interjecting about this question. Of course I do not believe in an undisciplined trade union movement. I do not believe in undisciplined business corporations, as Senator Hall probably does. I favour some discipline in society and I favour some consensual approach towards obtaining that discipline. When Senator Hall speaks on this issue I hope he will spell out the philosophical consequences of what follows from his rather silly interjection because when he talks about discipline he has ultimately to face up to the fact that it is very difficult- and all sorts of governments and all sorts of societies have tried it- to make people actually work if they do not want to work. It is very difficult indeed. Senator Hall with his vast philosophical experience and wisdom on this matter will no doubt tell us all how to discipline society in the sort of way which this legislation proposed and how to stop people from going slow at work if they do not want to stop. He might try it on some of his colleagues for a start. Try to stop them going slow in the Senate and see how he gets on. Then he can try it on the work force at large. So all sorts of things will no doubt be said by Government spokesmen on this matter, but the point I was making is simply this: The dichotomy of positions in Liberal-Country Party thinking on this issue we will hear developed today- it is inevitable because its supporters cannot get away from it in speeches by, I hope, Senator Walters and others. They all amount to trying to tackle the problems of 1977 with solutions which were appropriate in 1905 but which were seen by the British Parliament in the Trade Disputes Act of 1906- Senator Wright will recall and I hope speak about this- to be outmoded and irrelevant ways of trying to deal with the sorts of problems which the Fraser Government in 1977 rejuvenates. That is the very real difficulty which I am telling you, Senator Hall, that you have and we all have in trying to look at these problems in 1977.
In pursuit of the big stick approach, which is one part of the Government’s approach, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and other Ministers in the course of the dispute involving the air traffic controllers announced that this Parliament might be recalled and this legislation might be introduced and the air traffic controllers would immediately return to work, led as they were by so called militants as Government Ministers said.
– By leftists and the trendies.
-That of course was the huff and puff of the Government’s industrial relations view, and we will get a lot of huff and puff from Senator Walters in a minute I suppose. All that was said and we felt that the problem was to be dealt with in that way. Then suddenly it somehow occurred to the Government- the penny dropped- that perhaps that approach would not solve anything. Suddenly there was a realisation that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission might have a role to play in the air traffic controllers dispute. It was a realisation which was made clear to them by the efforts of Mr Hawke and when that dawned upon the
Government, when it was threatened with a massive dislocation of the economy of this country by the trade union movement on 4 May this year, it retreated from the big stick position with the air traffic controllers and reverted to the second position. The second position was to talk with the Australian Council of Trade Unions about this sort of problem. These discussions which took place led to us debating in the Senate today a very slim piece of legislation compared with the big stick piece of legislation which was introduced into the House of Representatives- a very slim piece of legislation. In the talks which the Minister referred to in his second reading speech, this is the position which was put to the Government on behalf of the ACTU.
We put 2 propositions for the earnest consideration of the Government. These propositions are put in the deeply held belief that confrontation and massive economic dislocationif avoidable while still adhering to principle- is against the best interests of the Australian community. First, if the Government wishes to put the responsibility for dealing with the existing pains and penalties and processes into the hands of a body which they wish ta designate as an Industrial Relations Bureau and there is no explicit or implicit addition to those existing provisions or processes, the trade union movement, while regarding such a move as unnecessary, would offer no objection.
That is the basic reason why at this stage the Opposition opposes this amending legislation which has been introduced in the Senate. It really is unnecessary. The Bill which was introduced into the House of Representatives could be seen, from the Government’s point of view, as being necessary and as being a significant step forward. But this piece of legislation, if what the Minister has said about it is correct, really is unnecessary. It is just a bit of window dressing. Just as this Government abolished the Department of the Media and shifted all the staff to the Postal and Telecommunications Department and by that move made what it thought was a significant change but which was only a cosmetic change, so this legislation is introduced now, the Opposition believes, on the basis of undertakings given by the Government, as a piece of cosmetic legislation.
The ACTU went on to say that it would agree to the reconstitution of the National Labour Advisory Council. That body has been reconstituted by the second piece of legislation which we are considering in a somewhat different form. In reply to the position put by the ACTU to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, and officers of his Departmentthe second approach- the Minister said:
The Government gave very serious consideration to the views and proposals put by both unions and employers.
The employers went along with the ACTU proposals, being a little wiser in industrial relations matters than this Government. On 1 7 May, the Minister said:
The Government welcomes the acceptance by the ACTU of an Industrial Relations Bureau and the reconstitution of the National Labour Advisory Council. The Government has decided to pass legislation in this session to establish the Industrial Relations Bureau which will have the functions of securing the observance of the Acts and awards.
He then went on to say:
The Industrial Relations Bureau will have the same powers as the Arbitration Inspectorate, no more no less.
If the Minister’s words are to be a guide to the construction of this statute, then this piece of legislation is not necessary. The Industrial Relations Bureau will have the same powers as the Arbitration Inspectorate, no more no less. In the Committee stages of this debate I and my colleagues will be pointing out that we believe that certain provisions of this Bill do not honour that undertaking. In the second reading stage I suppose we are entitled to look to the Minister’s undertaking as being an aid to the construction of the legislation. The Bureau will have the same powers, no more no less, as the Arbitration Inspectorate. As I have indicated, the Opposition will be taking the trouble, in the Committee stages of this Bill, to point out some of the silly things which we consider to be included in the legislation and to make some general points about various clauses of the Bill.
The other matter with which we must deal in this cognate debate is the establishment of the National Labour Consultative Council. The Opposition does not oppose the establishment of that body. In his second reading speech dealing with the establishment of the Council, the Minister set out the reasons for its establishment and its functions, as he envisaged them. The functions of the Council are set out in clause 5 of the Bill. The first paragraph of clause 5 states, in part:
The purpose of the Council is to provide, in the public interest, a regular and organised means by which representatives of the Government of the Commonwealth, of employers and of employees may consult together on industrial relations matters, and manpower matters, of national concern.
The Opposition will be moving an amendment to that legislation because in constituting that body, the National Labour Consultative Council, the Government has engaged again in a little piece of pique. It has engaged in the pleasure of refusing to allow the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations to be represented on that body. That goes back to the old punishment method of industrial relations. The Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations is to be punished by the Government. It it not allowed to be represented on this Council because it did not adopt, in the Government’s view, the correct approach to the introduction of this legislation. That is a matter which can, of course, be dealt with again in the second reading stages of that particular Bill.
The main point I want to make about the establishment of the National Labour Consultative Council is that it has, as part of its specific terms of reference or powers, the responsibility for consultation on industrial relations matters and manpower matters. Before it is even established, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has announced that the question of future amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act will be referred to the National Labour Consultative Council. That, of course, arose from the discussions of the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation which was introduced in the House of Representatives. That matter will be referred for consideration by this body as soon as it is established and I believe that to be a very important first job for the Council to consider.
The second area of power which the Council will have and which I believe should not pass without comment is the question of the consideration of manpower matters. I emphasise again the belief which I expressed in the Senate only a few days ago, during a discussion on another matter, that with the very real problems with which this country is confronted at the moment, the question of manpower policy is absolutely crucial to the continuing existence of this country as a viable democratic society. The whole question of manpower policies was neglected by Liberal-Country Party governments for years and years. I remind honourable senators again that less than 10 years ago the Treasurer of this country boasted that we did not have any manpower policies in Australia. He boasted in international forums that Australia did not need manpower policies. We are seeing now the consequences of that stupidity. We must face up to the very real fact of the significant decline in the viability of Australian manufacturing industry; the decline of the rural work force; the growth of tertiary employment, as distinct from secondary industry employment and the fact that the problems of employment, which this country now faces, will not be fixed up by the sort of economic, Keynesian tinkering that went on in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. They just will not be fixed up like that.
This Government, when it made all those promises and came to power, I think, genuinely believed that it could fix up the problems of unemployment with those sorts of techniques. The answer is that it cannot if manufacturing industry, a very significant employer in this country, is to recover. Manufacturing industry will be concerned totally with the question of restructuring and the introduction of new technology. This all means that there are immense manpower problems of disemployment and the need to retrain sections of the work force. These are long-term problems which this Parliament must face. It is very important to realise, if one detects in this Bill a recognition of these problems by the Government, that they can be faced up to only by consultation at all stages with the trade union movement. I regard the reference in clause 5 of the proposed Bill to the powers of the Council to deal with manpower matters as being most significant. It is a matter upon which consultation must proceed continually and, if possible, consensus be reached. If we do not grasp that nettle in 1977 our successors in this place in 1997 still will be facing up to the same sorts of problems that this country has today, only they will be worse.
We welcome this legislation and hope that it represents the predominance in the Government’s thinking of the spirits which Mr Fraser summoned up in 1975 as one hand of his industrial relations policy and not an emphasis on the other hand which has proved to have been unsuccessful and upon which the fingers have already been burned. We commend this piece of legislation. We will be moving amendments to try to take out of the legislation the consequences of the Government’s pique with ACSPA. That is a matter which we can deal with more adequately in the committee stage. We commend the Bill to the Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) I call Senator Wright.
– I wish to raise a point of order. Since several Government senators have expressed their opposition to compulsion, I now invite them to defy the Standing Orders.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! There is no point of order.
- Mr Deputy President, I draw your attention to the state of the House to see whether Government senators are prepared to deny the quorum bells. Quorum formed.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I call Senator Wright.
-The Senate is dealing with the Government’s Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It will be remembered that this Bill was an important part ofthe Government’s program. The Bill has been reduced since it was introduced into the House of Representatives, in circumstances to which Senator Button has referred, to a pale echo of even the original edition, and a very faint echo of the Government’s proposal in its policy with regard to amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is to be regretted, I think, that important proposals of this sort should have been reduced to the provisions contained in the Bill that we have before the Senate which I regard as a very faint contribution to any improvement, even if it is any improvement.
It will be remembered that the sole purpose of the introduction of the original Bill was to apply a system whereby responsibility could be enforced in this most troubled area. One thing that came from Senator Button’s speech was this: He said that we could all agree with that part of the Liberal Party policy which he quoted relating to the necessity of rules and some system of discipline. I want to underline that concession. He went on to say, I think very prudently, that we all agree with that part of the policy which warned that there was no use in harking back to archaic penalties. It may be that out of this rather dismaying situation we will get some means of formalising a foundation on which to build. I say that because in the field of industrial relations it is not often considered sufficiently that it is the abuse of monopoly power by labour unions- I say abuse although of course they have very many uses that are quite laudable- which is the chief contributer to inflation. I want to quote from Professor Gottfried Harberler, a noted economics professor of Harvard. In his work in 1974 entitled Economic Growth and Stability he said:
The most powerful instrument at the disposal of governments is the power to prevent monopoly. Monopoly is the enemy ofthe free competitive enterprise system.
So far, we have discussed business monopolies. Far more powerful in the U.S.A. and Great Britain, as well as a number of other countries in the West -
I interpolate ‘in Australia ‘- are labour union monopolies. They are monopolists in the sense that they exert tight control over the labour supply and thus destroy competition, push up wages and make them almost entirely rigid downwards.
He then refers to the important immunities and privileges which labour unions have won. To be brief in my citation I quote the final sentences of the author where he says:
It should be possible in particular to force them -
That is the labour unions- to abstain from violence and intimidation. If unions and their leaders were held financially responsible for damages caused by breach of contracts, illegal strikes, intimidation and violence, considerable moderation in wage bargains could be expected.
Before discussing the detail of the Bill I would like to quote a contribution that Mr Edward Heath made to the English Telegraph in August 1975.
– What happened to him?
– Why do you not identify him for the record?
– He was the conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain. He brought to crisis point an issue which bears particularly on this subject, the issue as to whether or not England should be governed by the House of Commons or by the labour unions. I notice that Senator Georges smiles with a smirk that does not give any real indication that he is approaching the business of the Senate with responsibility but which indicates he is approaching it as a rather mischievous little boy. I would like also to quote Lord George-Brown.
– I ask that those words be withdrawn. The honourable senator stated that I was not approaching responsibly my duties within the Senate. I object to those words and he ought to withdraw them. I have given considerable assistance to this House over the last few days.
– May I speak to that point of order?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes.
– In corroboration of what Senator Wright has said let me state that I observed that self same smile which was referred to. I believe it was not giving due deference to Senator Wright’s speech or to the matters under consideration. I would like to confirm the remarks of Senator Wright in regard to Senator Georges.
- Mr Deputy President, I ask Senator Hall to withdraw his remarks also, because I find those remarks insulting. Not only should Senator Wright’s remarks be withdrawn, but Senator Hall ‘s support of those remarks also should be withdrawn.
- Mr Deputy President, I wish to speak to the point of order. It is not for senators to interpret smiles. I hope that the element of coercion will not be such that people cannot smile. I must confess that I started to smile when Senator Wright began to refer again to a statement made by Lord George-Brown- in one of his sober moments, I suppose. I hope that that point of order will not be taken against me when the honourable senator continues. I think it is wrong for smiles to be interpreted.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am not upholding the point of order. I suggest that speakers address the Chair in making their remarks.
-I was about to refer to what Mr Heath said in a very deliberate contribution on this subject. Three articles in the English Telegraph in August 1 975 were devoted by the Leader of the Labour Party, the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Leader of the Conservative Party to pointing up an issue. Mr Heath said:
Above all, our industrial life has become highly complex and frighteningly interdependent.
Another part of his contribution was:
Once a nuisance, then a problem, wage inflation on today’s scale is a disaster. How can we come to terms with the reality of the new industrial power of the trade unions? . . there are those who want the trade union movement crushed. At the other end, there are those who see no cause for alarm.
Both extremes are wrong. Trade unions are not malevolent institutions. They are part and parcel of a free and democratic society.
He also said:
The fact remains that trade unions do have the capacity to wield immense power, indeed excessive power, across the community.
He also said that the question was ‘accommodating this new power’. He said:
This means neither total resistance, which given that power exists would be self-defeating, nor total concession which would place the effective government of Britain outside Parliament.
That is the issue which faces this country. I submit that it is the predominant political issue in this decade.
We should be reminded that the original Bill was divided into 3 parts. The first part dealt with individual rights, namely, membership of unions and the right to dissent from industrial action. The second part was the constitution of the Industrial Relations Bureau. I will return to that. The third part was called ‘consequences’. That was the most important part. As the Bill was originally drafted, it was an ineffective part of the Bill. Now the Bill has been stripped to the middle integer, namely, that dealing with the Bureau.
Dismayed as I was, when reading the original Bill, to find that the sole function given to the Bureau was to secure the observance of this Act and the regulations and awards, I looked to the section which was displaced by that provision. It was in these terms:
There shall be such Inspectors as are required for the purpose of securing the observance of this Act and the regulations and of awards.
So, the function of the new Bureau was precisely the same, in the ipsissima verba of the principal Act, namely, to secure compliance with the Act, regulations and awards. It is conceded now that the Bureau’s duties and purposes are exactly the same as those of the old Inspectorate which has existed for 25 years. We all know that it turns its attention only to one section of the industry- the employers- and does not concern itself in the slightest degree with the observance of the Act by the employee section of industry. There is a faint suggestion in the new direction to the Inspectorate that that situation will be altered; that, instead of it being a one-sided operation, it will be directed to both. I place no confidence whatever in that.
That leads one to examine the difference between a bureau and an inspectorate. It is precisely this: Whereas the inspectors under the unamended Act were subject to the Minister in the discharge of their duties as part of a department of state, the Bureau, God bless us, is said to be an Industrial Relations Bureau which shall consist of the Director and its staff. It is not a statutory corporation; it is a bureau. The only other similar entity that I have found- I have not searched- is the Commonwealth Bureau of Statistics. It is unincorporated. It is a mass bureau of the Commonwealth Statistician and his staff. I am dismayed, on even a superficial scrutiny of history. It is the Bureau, with its anonymity and consequent irresponsibility, that bedevils government from the point of view of responsibility in enforcement.
-That is the word that has been applied. We must envisage a bureau in which one cannot identify anybody but the Director. The whole of the staff that constitutes the Bureau is simply part of a conglomerate body. I see no advantage at all in that. Insofar as it is appointed for 7 years and insofar as its Director will be the dominant force and he will be independent of ministerial control and not in any sense subject to ministerial direction, it raises a real question of concern, in my opinion, as to whether a bureau is an advantage or a gross disadvantage. Notwithstanding that, as in matters of judgment I usually persuade myself to adopt other opinions, I go along with it.
When one comes to the question of consequences, which is the part that has been dropped from this Bill- that is to say, the means by which the rules which Senator Button concedes are essential for discipline on the part of any organism of modern complicated society- one finds, I think, a very sad failure to appreciate what is appropriate in the world of trade unions and commerce. Mr Heath said: ‘You do not want an attitude of rigid penalties and crushing compliance applied to a trade union any more than you want complete concession and surrender’. The Bill presented to us originally relied upon penalties only. Penalties still exist in the Act. When Mr Hawke indicated that he was prepared to accept the Bureau, with the requirement that it should enforce the Act and its present penalties, that was an acceptance of penalties insofar as they go. Under section 1 19 the primary sanction is a penalty. It may be sued for by the Bureau as amended, any organisation, any member or any party. Then there are the penalties for bans clauses under section 33 which will not be available to the Bureau unless and until a certificate of a member of the Commission is given certifying that it is an appropriate case for enforcement by the court. We all know that a certificate of that sort is an effervescent possibility on which no reliance should be placed. Then there are the very limited provisions in the Act for a court injunction. Having regard to the history of those provisions, we know that they are not a remedy really to be relied upon.
So I put forward the view that if out of the ashes of this debacle there is any attempt, as I hope there will be in the near future, to construct a responsible arbitration system, it is imperative that we forget primary reliance upon penalties. The anathema to them stems from the fact that they were practically the only means used to harass trade unions during the last century, during the convict era when contract of service was enforced and even breach of the contract of service caused imprisonment.
But at the same time as we move from that, we do not want to take heed of Senator Button’s suggestion that if we criticise the Trade Unions Dispute Act of 1 906 and all its immunities we are going back to the reactionary stage. That Act was the product of the most despicable compromise in England’s political history this century. It has to be corrected and trade unions must accept their responsibility as they do in America. If a collective bargain is made by a union in America there is no thought of the union breaching it during its period. If it does do so, the law in America imposes an enforceable obligation to pay damages. If a dispute arises during the period of the bargain it is invariably submitted to the National Labour Relations Board or an arbitrator. That system should be introduced into our much better system of arbitration so that mere breach of an award during its currency or breach of an agreement that is registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is just as enforceable from the point of view of civil courts as another commercial contract or contract of service. In the whole world of contract the whole community accepts the equity that if someone comes to an agreement or submits to the processes of arbitration and gets the benefits of an award and then fails to comply with the award during its period, he should pay for the damage that he does to the other party to the contract or to the person who has been damnified by breach of the award. That was all included in Heath’s legislation of 1 97 1 in England, with limitations.
Limited liability was conceded to commercial corporations in 1862, 9 years later registration was conceded for the first time, and quasi incorporation was conceded to trade unions in 1871. The one restriction on the trade union movement was that trade unions were not then given any limitation of their liability. It would be essential now in relation to this civil obligation to pay damages for breach of an award or of an agreement to give the trade unions the satisfaction of limiting their liability so that a small trade union could not be completely annihilated if, as occurred in the air traffic controllers strike, it caused millions of dollars of damage. I think that a mere 800 people were involved in the air traffic controllers strike. A union like theirs would be simply crushed if it had to pay the full extent of the damage it caused, irresponsible though it was. We should limit the liability of unions in accordance with the membership until we find that such a provision is being abused. Until we get some system like that it is a matter for tears and a matter of great regret to find that even the attempts of the original Bill to bring consequences and responsibility on trade unions have been jettisoned- abandoned- in what I think was an unmitigated defeat of the Bill, complicated as the situation was by the existence of the air traffic controllers strike and the confused intermingling of politicians at that time in an absolutely fatuous referendum.
I remind the Senate that the Bill proposed that it be possible to deregister unions if industrial action occurred in the course of interstate trade or in the Public Service. Nobody should rush to the conclusion that because that power was given we would deregister every union that participated in industrial action involving interstate trade or the Public Service. That ground was to be available to the tribunal that considered the appropriateness of deregistration. I do not regard deregistration as a very appropriate sanction myself, but if it is I point out that it has been lost in these two vital areas. The air traffic controllers strike exemplified the villainy of strike action in both areas: Civil servants were involved in it and they operated to halt all interstate aviation trade. Unless we as a Parliament, the elected representatives of the great mass of the community, are entitled to expect and require service by the Public Service we will disintegrate into anarchy.
Because the Post Office is always seething with some dispute or other, because the officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs fail to pass messages, because there have been rumblings in relation to boycotts in the Depanment of Employment and Industrial Relations itself over the provisions of this Bill, and because there have been protests from the Australian Legal Aid Office in relation to other legislation that will be introduced into the Parliament, I am taking the time of the Senate only to remind honourable senators that we have a fast fading responsibility to say whether or not we govern the country. In America it is an offence for any department of the Public Service to go on strike. Provision is made for unionisation of the employees of the Public Service departments but subject to regulation. But the idea of the American Public Service going on strike is simply not conceded and not thought of.
If we are to take any stock ofthe vicious effect that strikes have upon interstate trade, such as strikes in the maritime industries, I think we have to apply the appropriate remedies. I say that the effective remedy is to take civil action for damages; and penalty in the case of Public Service strike action and, in the general industrial field, to apply for civil compensation rather than obtain penalties for breach of contract or award. Then penalties for dishonesty and violence in all these matters would be reserved. We would then have a reasonably just system of industrial relations which no section of the industrial movement could dispute with any hope of acceptance. If what I suggest were adopted this Parliament could be restored to the supremacy that people think it should have and we would have an ordered community which would conduce to the justice and prosperity of trade unionists and employers and their families.
– I rise as the third speaker in opposition to the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1977 which we are discussing at the present time. I extend great sympathy to Senator Wright and to all the other great conservative elements in the Liberal Party who saw as their god, their chief and their leader one of the great conservatives whose intention was to destroy the trade unions in Australia. For Senator Wright now to find that what he gets is a pale echo of the legislation which was supposed to achieve that end must be a great let down to him and those elements in the Liberal Party. No longer can they herald their great leader as the saviour of mankind from the ruthless trade union movement. I have the greatest sympathy for them because of what they have suffered as a result of that. However, I express the appreciation of the whole Australian community for the fact that at least we have saved the country from the upheaval that the original legislation would have caused. Senator Wright accepts at the present time that the powers which are now in existence should be terminated, but he wants the application of the law of torts and compensation so that anyone who dares to take strike action is put in debt or imprisoned for the rest of his life.
– I never said anything about torts; and compensation for a breach of contract does not carry imprisonment.
– Such a person and his family would be imprisoned for life, or the family of the person involved would be impoverished for life because of the great amount of compensation which could be awarded. When speaking in the other place Clyde Cameron, the honourable member for Hindmarsh, mentioned the cost to General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd of one particular dispute. He pointed out that if the correct formula were applied to each employee in relation to that dispute the amount imposed would have been $220m for the period of the dispute. Of course, we have had recited to us the whole situation involving the strike that occurred and the fact that employees should be punished for such action. No one has ever given any consideration to the cause of strikes and whether in any of them some blame could be laid against the other side. The prevention of that son of thing was the purpose of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act being introduced.
Whatever may have been the merits or demerits in the case of the air traffic controllers in their dispute, that matter was settled as soon as they were able to force their case to arbitration. The facility to settle the dispute was not provided. The hearing of their case was opposed by the Public Service Board on every occasion. The Board wanted the hearing delayed for months, even though one of the Arbitration Commissioners knew the whole facts of the case. It was only because of the sensible intervention of Commissioner Watson, as a member of the Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, that the case of the air traffic controllers was able to be heard and a settlement of that industrial dispute was reached. I would say that the air traffic controllers presented sufficient evidence to show that they had some grounds for the claim that they made which led to the industrial dispute. No one has ever considered whether their claim was justified. On every occasion that an industrial dispute arises the workers are blamed. That is so even in the case of safety disputes.
– Do you support the banning of tankers at Port Stanvac? That is a pretty simple question.
– It is not a question of whether one supports the banning of tankers; it is a matter of a group of unions trying to get cargo, trying to get trade, trying to get the use of an Australian tanker that has been built. A monopoly is preventing that tanker from operating by refusing it cargo. In the spirit of patriotism to their native land, the unions have decided upon certain action. That action is being criticised by those who want monoply to take over the country. Senator Wright has expressed the view that what is needed is some legislation to prevent the abuse by unions of their monopoly power. That shows how much of a loss this legislation as it was previously drafted must have been to him. As he mentioned, one of the essential aspects of the legislation was the encouragement of scabs and non-unionists. In the words of Senator Wright, the reason for that was so that there would be competition in the work force which would then be in a less advantageous position in bargaining for awards and conditions; there would be someone who would be prepared to do the work at a cheaper rate. It was to prevent that sort of thing that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was introduced.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act has some 198 sections. Since I have been a member of this chamber, there have been very few sessions of the Parliament during which we have not amended some part of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is the most amended Act in the Commonwealth. Everyone is searching for solutions, but apparently no one is able to find them. Emphasis in the Act was placed on conciliation. It was intended that we should have an Act that was concerned with the protection of the workers who were subject to lockouts, low rates of payment and starvation conditions. It was hoped that, by a process of conciliation, reasonable co-operation could be achieved between employers and employees. That process of conciliation has operated in this country for many years. But the introduction of penalties into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act marked the end of conciliation and the beginning of coercion of one section of the labour and industry contract. The introduction into awards of bans was the end of conciliation. Since then we have had more industrial disputes and more strikes than ever before in our history. This is not necessarily the fault of one side. All things can eventually be solved by discussion, conference and conciliation.
Mr Fraser issued threats to the trade union movement by providing for penalties in the Act. At the time the trade union movement said that it was duty bound to fight the legislation and that it could not let it be introduced. A conference was held between Mr Hawke and Mr Street, at which conference a pact was agreed. Mr Hawke went back to a combined conference of the federal unions and they agreed generally to accept legislation that would reconstitute the National Labour Advisory Council on which they would be represented. The unions are now being condemned by Senator Wright who says that this is a recognition of the acceptance by the trade union movement of penalties. It is no such thing. Mr Hawke ‘s first statement was that there was no need for penalties. This man, who is the head of the trade union movement, was threatened with the legal support of non-union and scab labour and with the invasion of his office by inspectors. He did his best to get out of that agreement. As a result, we have a Bill which Senator Wright calls a pale echo of the previous Bill and which, according to him, is of no value to the Government at the present time.
In accordance with its policy, the Australian Labor Party would have to oppose the Bill even if it were satisfactory to the conference of federal unions. Our policy is opposed to having penalties in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Labor Party has no alternative to opposing a Bill to set up an authority to apply those penalties. Senator Button mentioned another matter. There is no conflict between the trade union movement and the Labor Party on this matter because the trade union movement decided to agree to the legislation if it conformed with the agreement that there would be no penalties additional to those that exist at present and no different process of policing them. Mr Hawke pointed out to the meeting that the penalties were outdated and that the Minister would have to give his consent to their application. Since the O ‘Shea case in Victoria there has been no enforcement of the penal provisions. It is understood completely that there will be no enforcement of the penal provisions of the Act, unlike the situation in the past. Now we find that the Bill takes away from the Minister the right to decide whether prosecutions will be made.
The Bill sets up a body which has the statutory authority or obligation to prosecute for such breaches that occur under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That is its duty and responsibility. Inasmuch as the legislation does not provide for the existing processes, the Opposition and the federal trade union movement by its own decision are not in support of the legislation. Apparently this was a trade-off. The Government agreed not to endorse the use of scab labour and non-unionist labour if the unions would agree to the reconstitution of the National Labour Advisory Council. The unions were previously members of the Council and knew its ramifications but this proposed new body is not the body that was envisaged by those who attended the conference between the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Minister, because the Australian Council for Salaried and Professional Associations, one of the biggest organisations of employees, is not to be included in the Council. That was done in a moment of spite because the Minister said that ACSPA did not endorse the agreement or the penal provisions. That may be satisfactory to the Government but if it wants to achieve industrial peace it cannot maintain this attitude of spite and vengeance. There must be conciliation and discussion.
To leave out one organisation which was prepared to participate will not achieve anything in the way of industrial harmony. It will give a disgruntled section of the trade union movement another bone of contention and an excuse to take some action because it is not part of the discussions. Because of the spite of the Minister it is locked out from discussion of industrial matters affecting it which could be solved by a round table discussion. It has been stated in the Press- I do not know whether the report is true- that the
ACTU is prepared to forego one of its 6 delegates to allow ACSPA to appoint one of its members as an ACTU delegate to the Council. This shows how far the Minister’s spite goes. The Minister appoints the members of the Council. He appoints so many members from the ACTU, which is not the case for the Australian Council for Trade Union Training where the Minister makes the appointment from members nominated by the organisations. It could well be that if the ACTU decides to give ACSPA the seat of one of its delegates in order to achieve some harmony in industry, the Minister, in the light of his present attitude, may not accept the delegate from ACSPA even though he represents the ACTU. So we would be back in the position in which we were previously. All we have heard and all we hear from the other side are continued accusations that the worker is always wrong. In countries in which there are strong and militant trade unions, conditions of work and the standard of living of workers are much higher than in those countries which do not have such organisations.
Sitting suspended fro ^ to?,.’3p.:r.
-Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I had, I think, dealt fairly thoroughly with the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill. As stated by Senator Button, it is a slim Bill compared with what it was originally. As stated by Senator Wright, it is a pale echo of the original Bill. Not much is contained in the Bill and there is not much to say about it. Possibly the original Bill expressed the Government’s intention to deal with industrial problems in Australia. I think all governments must be concerned, as all citizens must be concerned, about the industrial disputes that occur. They must all agree that far too many of these disputes occur. We all accept that industrial disputes are not desirable to the workers involved in them, the employers or the community generally, and that they are very bad for the economy. Therefore, whatever government is in power must give a great deal of attention to the question how to avoid industrial disputes-how to create conditions in which strikes will not occur. There must be a solution to the problem.
As a basis from which to work, we must accept that a strong industrial trade union movement is a part of our industrial life. Regardless of whether we would like to see trade unions go away, they will not go away, they are here. Whether they are right or wrong, we must face up to the fact that they are a part of our industrial system. I think originally the Bill was designed as an attempt to crush or to annihilate them. But after the Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives and before it was debated the air traffic controllers dispute occurred, which clearly showed the Government that it could not succeed in crushing the trade union movement through a confrontation with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. That dispute clearly showed the Government that industry today relies so much on technology and machinery and the labour force is so specialised that a small group of employees can simply paralyse the nation. As we have experienced in South Australia, a dispute with the maintenance men at a power station for even a short period can paralyse that section of the community which that power station supplies. This is the reality of the whole position. 1 have had a long experience with the workers and the trade unions and I know that they are not unreasonable. They understand the position. Trade unions exist for only one reason, that is, to improve or to maintain the conditions of their members. They will not sacrifice those conditions. We have to appreciate that. In various disputes we have seen particular sections of the community which are suffering hardships as a result of those disputes being excluded from the disputes. We saw this happen in respect of air services between the mainland and Tasmania during the air traffic controllers dispute. The workers responded and accepted their responsibility. The approach to be adopted with the workers is to try to find a means by which government can confer with them and their organisations as equal partners in this system of running the country. We should not go to them with a club in our hand, as has always been the case.
Whilst penal clauses have been threatened over the years, we have reached a stage where the Australian public will not accept them. The trade union movement lost many thousands of dollars as a result of penal clauses, but when one union member stood up against them and was gaoled public reaction was such that the penal provisions were never again applied. Senator Button read out the policy speech of the Liberal Party of Australia. I think Senator Wright will agree that those penal clauses will never again be applied. Mr Hawke accepts also that they will not be applied. Therefore, they are gone. Has any supporter of the Government ever thought of approaching the ACTU or the trade union movement generally to discuss the problem? Has the Government ever thought of saying to the trade union movement: ‘If we were to eliminate the penal clauses, to offer no coercion and to speed up the arbitration process for the purpose of considering your legitimate claims, what return could we expect from you?’ No one has ever thought of doing that. As Senator McLaren said, before the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, got into government he declared his intention to bash the trade union movement. He will not be able to get rid of it.
A trade union secretary in Adelaide made a public statement that he was prepared to be the first to go to gaol under the penal provisions. There is competition for that privilege today because people want to be martyrs. But the public will not permit them to compete in this way. What will penal provisions achieve? They can only create chaos. Although the Government might think that the ACTU could not pull out the whole of the Australian work force, individual unions could pull out sections of the work force that could stop this nation overnight. The Government must accept that fact and do something to try to avoid that happening. The Government will not avoid it if it keeps on prosecuting people who commit a breach of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
Let us adopt a basis of discussion with the trade union movement, but not by way of the proposed National Labour Consultative Council. Let us have a discussion with the whole trade union movement and stop adopting this spiteful attitude of considering those who will not agree with our policies to be taboo. Let us get down to the basis of desiring to solve harmful industrial problems that exist at the present time. I am confident the trade union movement would respond to such a process, which has never been attempted and never achieved.
– I rise to support these 2 important pieces of government legislation referable to industrial relations- the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1977 and the Bill to establish the National Labour Consultative Council. I am somewhat disturbed and somewhat at a loss to understand why there is opposition to the Bill which will form the Industrial Relations Bureau in this circumstance. It has a very real and basic job to do in the establishment of proper and productive industrial relations. Certainly, the legislation which is before us is the consequence of discussion, which is so important and to which Senator Cavanagh has just referred. The very fact that this Bill is here in the form in which it is- even if it is a somewhat lesser Bill than it was originally conceived to be- to form a basic mechanism in the industrial relations complex, is evidence of the genuine determination of the
Government to discuss with all the appropriate people and the appropriate authorities matters which are relevant to industrial relations. That is why the Bill is here; that is why it is as it is. It seems to me that it is somewhat naive to assume that any relationship in a free democracy can operate without being subject to some sort of consequences. All of us, as individuals and as we move about in our various ways of life- in families, groups and organisations- are subject to the law and subject to the consequences of breaking the law. That is the very essence of the freedom of the society in which we live. Indeed, it is the extraordinary difference between our sort of society, with our capacity to communicate, and the societies in totalitarian countries, of whatever colour, around the world.
– That is nonsense. You have been saying that time and time again.
-These are the basic differences between our sort of society and those in totalitarian circumstances. We should guard those things which enable us to live and to operate in freedom under the law. It is quite ridiculous, as I said earlier, to assume that freedom under the law can exist if the law cannot be implemented. It is as simple and as basic as that. I cannot understand the opposition to that clear proposition which is basic to a free society and basic to its permanence.
There have been and there continue to be some suggestions that this Government, in its industrial relations, seeks only to bash unions and to cause confrontation. That would be a most unintelligent attitude to take. It certainly is not borne out by any of the Government’s propositions and policies on these matters which have been clearly stated and which have been well known now for almost 2 years. I draw the Senate’s attention- only briefly because of the pressure of time- to a number of principles that are referable to this Government’s attitude to industrial relations, namely: Every employee has a right to join a union. Equally, every employee has a right not to do so. While membership 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. Consultation, negotiation and co-operation between employees and employers would be assisted by a structure of industry unions.
The policy further states: The Government would support and encourage employees and employers to take a responsible and active part in their trade union or industry association. We would seek to work with the Australian Council of Trade Unions in the encouragement and formation of industry based unions, if that should prove to be the consensus of opinion. The Liberal and National Country Parties would strengthen rank and file control of organisations through secret ballots. We would encourage and support registration of negotiating bodies. Further, it says that we must as a Government create an awareness of the need for better communication and understanding of all the advantages that can be gained by all parties. We should encourage those engaged in industrial relations to discuss and understand each other’s point of view, support participation and cooperation, publicise advanced industrial practices and establish, amongst other things, a national labour advisory council.
Senator Georges is interjecting. I know that these matters are causing him much concernand well might they, because they really disprove the sort of projections that he constantly seeks to make. They clearly disprove any suggestion that this Government is headed on a course of confrontation and that it seeks not to discuss with the appropriate people and the appropriate bodies the problems of industrial relations. No problems are more basic to the success of this community, this economy and this society than are industrial relations problems. For a number of years we have been subjected to industrial unrest which can serve no-one ‘s purpose. It should be the wish of both the Opposition and the Government to solve these problems. We have seen a measure of industrial unrest from time to time. On many occasions, it has been irresponsible and has only contributed to loss of wages, loss of production, loss of employment opportunities and capital being driven out of Australia. The whole nation should be involved in solving these problems and rescuing our economy. If we continue in this matter, we cannot survive.
In that context, it is interesting to refer briefly to a recent public opinion poll which indicated, amongst other things, that only one-fifth of Australians believed that unions should have the right to strike for wage increases outside the arbitration system. This survey also found that only 1 8 per cent thought that trade unionism should be compulsory and 78 per cent believed that it should be voluntary. Fifty-one per cent of unionists believed that some unionists should be able to continue working if their union went on strike and 56 per cent of those interviewed believed that a union should be deregistered when it could not agree with a decision ofthe Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Seventy per cent said that the Arbitration Commission should be able to fine unions and 52 per cent believed that the Commission should be able to fine union officials. Only 38 per cent thought that the Commission should have power to gaol officials who refuse to pay fines. As a matter of interest, the vote for voluntary union membership was strongest in South Australia, where the vote was 83 per cent. Probably even more interesting is the fact that the vote in the age group under 30 years was 87 per cent.
I make these points because I believe that they are relevant to the importance of industrial relations. They are certainly relevant to the concern of a great number of Australians. We should confront these problems and they should, in some real measure, be solved. They are the circumstances that are being identified by the Australian community as areas which are only leading us further down a path to national destruction in an economic and social sense. Before I put the opinion poll aside- there is a great deal of definition in it- I point out that it is interesting to note that only 17 per cent of union members thought that any strikes referable to sporting circumstances were justified.
– Who conducted the poll? Will you tell us that?
-The overall vote was 14 per cent. The poll was conducted by a well-known and proper organisation. It was conducted by the Morgan gall up poll organisation in Australia. It is a poll organisation which the Opposition and indeed the Government have quoted from time to time. It is a poll organisation which is of some real significance in assessing the national point of view. Those are the results of that investigation of trade unionism.
I return briefly to the Bills before us. The establishment of the Industrial Relations Bureau is the means by which this Government implements its policy. This Government believes that obligations have to be met and that the rights of individuals, groups and organisations have to be protected. This is the very basic necessity of the sort of evolutionary circumstance in which we live in this country. As a means of implementing that policy the first step is the introduction of the Industrial Relations Bureau as the base mechanism for the implementation of Government policy. It is to be aided and abetted, very fortunately I believe, by the reintroduction of the National Labour Consultative Council.
It is important to note that in the implementation of this legislation the Government has the support of Mr Hawke, of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and of the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations. Indeed they have supported it to the extent, as was indicated by Senator Button this morning when he quoted their actual statement which for the sake of brevity I shall not repeat to the Senate this afternoon, that they did undertake that they were prepared to accept the establishment of the Bureau. They were prepared to accept it as taking over the powers of the Arbitration Inspectorate. They were prepared to accept and participate in the establishment of the National Labour Consultative Council which is a body that I believe and hope, and I imagine that all Australians would believe and hope, will bring out some really constructive exercises in and some really constructive solutions to the problems that present themselves fairly continuously in industrial relations.
The Government has agreed, I believe quite properly, that with a union attitude as generous as that was- a union attitude that was prepared to do these 2 things which formerly it had not been prepared to do- it was necessary that this action take place, and it is to implement the very things that have been agreed to by the ACTU, Mr Hawke and by CAGEO. The National Labour Consultative Council envisages a sort of tripartite forum in which employers, employees and the Government will meet regularly, at least quarterly, and as the Minister decides, to discuss matters of great priority in industrial relationships in this country. It seems to me immensely important and significant that there is recognition that the sorts of things that are relevant to the Bill of some weeks ago are the sorts of things that are accepted as having priority for discussion in that Council. It is the hope of this Government and, I believe, of the great mass of Australians that a responsible result comes from that sort of investigation.
The question of bashing trade unions does not appeal to me in any shape or form and I would be the very last person to suggest that it was a proper course. I would be the first person to suggest that trade unionism has had and still retains important work to do. There is every reason in the history of industrial relations for trade unions to have developed along the lines that they have. They are the result of a great age, an era in which there was a great lack of communication, mental and physical. I will not go into the details of why that occurred. They were the result of an age in which there was a real measure of abuse. They have produced a great deal of good for their members and in a very real sense for the community as a whole, but they have reached, somewhat disastrously I believe, a point where in many circumstances they seek to override the proper duties and responsibilities of elected government. No one in a free democracy could assume that this is a circumstance that must be allowed to continue. It is because of that that there is a great urgency for the sort of legislation that confronts us in this chamber this afternoon.
I draw a brief note to one or two remarks that have been made in the other place. Mr Willis in the other place said that the Government is already breaking its agreement, but of course everybody knows that this is not true. I cannot understand why Mr Willis or any of his colleagues should suggest that there has been a breaking by the Government of the agreements that have been reached between Mr Hawke, the ACTU and CAGEO. It is simply not true. I go on further to recognise that the individual rights and public interests have to be recognised if we are to get some sort of solution to the industrial relations problems. It is a recognition of the public interest that is perhaps paramount in the establishment of a working circumstance between labour and capital, employer and employee- call it what you will- because that sort of circumstance will be found in every sort of society in every country, and it is our job and our duty to ensure that it is a circumstance to which there is a real and proper solution. Indeed, responsibility is the very hallmark of a democracy and responsibility is the very essence of the legislation that is before us in this Parliament this afternoon. I note that in the other place a day or two ago Mr Clyde Cameron, in speaking on this legislation, said: the trade union movement of this country could bring down this Government simply by bringing out a few key men.
Senator Cavanagh also highlighted that circumstance. Further on Mr Clyde Cameron said:
It will bring out a few key people who, when they come out, will have the effect of paralysing every industry in the country.
What a dreadful sort of attitude for an Australian to promote.
– If you bring that legislation down that is exactly what will happen. That is the sort of confrontation that will occur.
– By the legislation that confronts us this afternoon we are determined to ensure that that sort of circumstance shall not survive, that is, a circumstance in which a few people have the capacity to paralyse the country. That is the object of the exercise and I understand, as I said earlier, why Senator Georges does not like it. But there it is, that is the object of the exercise- to make sure that in industrial relations in this country there is a measure of responsibility which will make it impossible for any small group of people, whoever they may be, literally by determined action to paralyse industry and consequently the whole Australian society. With these matters in mind I commend the legislation to the Senate.
-I suggest that the position as it has been put by Senator Scott is not accurate. Mr Clyde Cameron was telling the Parliament about what Mr Hawke told the Government on 1 8 March when the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) stated that the Government intended to bring in legislation to set up the new Industrial Relations Bureau which was aimed at the unions and the employees. Mr Hawke said that unless the Government altered its line of thinking there would be a confrontation with the union movement involving the sorts of things that Clyde Cameron talked about. Of course this would have happened if the Government had proceeded with its original proposal, which was probably the most cynical piece of industrial legislation that a government had ever attempted to pass through Parliament. There was no consultation. The point made by Senator Scott is that his Government believes in consultation. Let me suggest to the honourable senator that in this case there were no prior consultations with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The ACTU has always been ready to talk to the Government of the day through either Albert Monk or Bob Hawke. We know that in this place there have been statements indicating that on all the issues- trade union matters, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the economy- the ACTU has proposed that there should be regular talks between the ACTU and the Government. During the term of the Labor Government, Bob Hawke suggested that there should be an advisory committee involved with the ACTU.
There was no prior consultation. The consultations came only after the ACTU had examined the idea of the Bureau and decided that the Bureau was, in fact, a new attempt to impose more effectively penalties upon the union movement and also to reinforce, within employment, the actions and strengths of those people who do not believe in joining unions. The strange thing, of course, is that when Senator Scott talks about polls, he does not talk about polls which are taken when the unions are on strike. I mention the recent air traffic controllers strike where the controllers had a poll and decided that they would strike in respect of their claims. Honourable senators know what happened. The Fraser Government took what is known now as the new line, a strong line. Mr Fraser made the threat on his own that the Government intended to bring in the Army and the Air Force. Who solved the dispute. It was the ACTU. It was not the Government; it was not the conciliation and arbitration machinery. The Government frequently attacks the ACTU and the union movement and never recognises the practical knowledge that the ACTU has in solving disputes.
In recent years we have had examples of national strikes where the ACTU has been the body which has come in to solve disputes. The air traffic controllers strike is one such situation where, had it not been for the ACTU, this country might have been in very perilous conditions. If consultations are to be held they must be held early. They must be held at the stage where the differences between the union movement and the Government are so marked as to warrant discussions. The Opposition does not oppose the new National Labour Consultative Council because it knows that it is an attempt to establish again something like the old National Labour Advisory Body, which was set up during my time on the ACTU Executive and which was supported to the stage when the ACTU and the unions considered that the then Government was using too powerfully the penal powers of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
It is all right for Senator Scott and other Government supporters to say that the only way to stop the workers is by using penalties. I suggest to them that if they study the position in any western democracy, they will see that attempts to bring into being such statutes have always failed. The most effective recourse in the settling of industrial disputes has always been the consultation to which I have referred. The Opposition gives that piece of legislation its blessing. The unions want it and, as Senator Button said, the Opposition believes that it should embrace another organisation. He will move an amendment in respect of that. That is the sort of discussion which should obtain. Evidence shows that the ACTU has been the body- in coperation, if I can put it that way, with a number of officials of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission- which has been powerful in settling matters. So there has been prior agreement.
Whatever the courts do finally about these disputes, the body which brings the parties together in national issues- in oil disputes and aviation disputes- has, in my experience, always been the
ACTU. Of course, there will be polls supporting the proposition that people should not have to join a union. Many people who work for their living do not agree with the unions because they object to paying fees for a start. Unfortunately as everybody knows, as honourable senators on the other side of the chamber know, there are too few people who take part in their union movement. But we know that every time there is a threat, every member of the union is active in support of his organisation.
– What about Medibank?
- Senator Walters is talking about a situation which was produced only by the Government. In this legislation the Government has proposed consultations be held. The legislation seeks to establish a Bureau which will be able to harass and interfere with the union movement. Staff of the Bureau would have been able to enter union offices at any time- this is before this was prevented by the proposal of the ACTU- they deemed necessary to inspect any books or documents; to require a union to make available any books or documents the Bureau wished to inspect; to require a union officer, employee, agent or returning officer to make available to the Director of the Bureau any information he may require; to require the attendance of a union officer, employee, agent or returning officer before the Director or an authorised member of his staff and for such persons to produce all books, documents and papers in his custody which may be required. Those sorts of actions and enforced penalties and the actions to assist malcontents in an industry will not produce industrial peace. Penalties will not produce industrial peace. As I said, the first tripartite consultation, including the Government, the employees and the trade union movement, broke down because of the argument about penalties.
Penalties have not been applied in many circumstances. They certainly have not been applied against the employers because the evidence shows quite clearly- I can read it to honourable senators- that during the term of the Labor Government we were able to apply what were then correct actions against employers who breached the award. Since that time the figures for prosecutions against employers have fallen off. I refer to a statement made by Mr Kidd, the President of the Arbitration Inspectors’ Association, which will form the nucleus of the Bureau. In the Financial Review of 11 May 1977 Mr Kidd was reported as saying that the legislation would be largely unworkable. The report of the Financial Review continued:
Mr Kidd said that on past experience, far more employers than employees would be prosecuted for breaches of the Act or industrial awards . . .
There had, in fact, been a marked decrease in the number of prosecutions launched against employers for breaches of awards by the present administration -
He means this Government- compared with those launched by the Labor Government.
In 1973-74, for example, the Arbitration inspectors’ annual report showed that there were 1 12 outstanding and recommended proceedings . . .
In 1 974-75, this figure increased to 1 97 outstanding or recommended prosecutions . . .
In the last financial year, however, the number declined substantially to 95 . . .
As Senator Mulvihill said in this place last week, there was a circumstance where there was a case pending for 18 months before any examination was made by the Government. Therefore, there must be consultation. The idea is clear. It is no good the Government saying that it has a proposal to improve the union movement. What did it do when the Labor Government introduced into the Senate the ideas about amalgamations to make sure that there would not be demarkation disputes between the unions? All honourable senators know, of course, that one of the bad things in industry is the conflict between members of unions. Some 300 unions still exist. This situation occurs at Garden Island in our defence establishment.
When the Labor Party introduced the measure to make amalgamation easier, the then Minister, Mr Lynch said: ‘Yes, I support it’. Later he changed his mind. I point out to honourable senators that what has happened today is that the so-called Fraser Government’s tough line has simmered down because it is obviously a practical solution to consult with the main ACTU organisation when there are main national disputes. Hawke has solved the question. Nobody else has solved them, not the court. It will cost the Australian taxpayer $2m to start this Bureau. In the Australian dated 26 May, it was reported:
The Federal Government will provide about $2m in this year’s Budget for the operations of its new Industrial Relations Bureau.
In my opinion, and in the opinion of the Labor Party, that agreement has not been honoured. Senator Scott talks about the agreement being honoured but I refer to what the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relation said in the other place when he was introducing the amended Bill. It is true, of course, that the ACTU acted strongly and resolutely to stop some of the bad features of the Bill. The ACTU wrote to Mr Street and said:
First, if the Government wishes to put the responsibility for dealing with the existing pains and penalties and processes into the hands of the body which they wish to designate as an Industrial Relations Bureau- and there is no explicit or implicit addition to those existing provisions or processes- the Trade Union Movement . . . would offer no objection.
The fact is that that is different from what is proposed now. The Bill before the Parliament is different from the agreement. Mr Street went on to say:
On 1 7 May I announced:
The Government has decided to pass legislation this Session to establish the Industrial Relations Bureau which will have the function of securing the observance ofthe Act and awards in the terms already in the Act.
The Bill is different from that proposed legislation. Mr Street went on:
Pending the detailed consideration of the Act referred to later in this statement, the Industrial Relations Bureau will have the same powers as the Arbitration Inspectorate, no more, no less, and those powers will be exercised according to the same processes as they have been until now.
Supporters of the Bill have put forward arguments. They say that they want a new situation with the Minister being taken out of the act. They say that the new statutory body has to be reinforced and that the director has to be given a new power which cannot be exercised by the employers. That is the clue to the legislation. Let me refer to what was said by one of our most prominent and respected conciliation and arbitration authorities, the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Sir John Moore. The Age of 22 April 1 977 reports that Sir John said:
The report goes on:
Sir John said that courts had the power to impose penalties under the existing legislation, but only governments had the power to collect the fines.
There are in the books of the Industrial Court fines going back to 1 968 which have never been collected ‘, he said.
Sir John was answering questions at a seminar at the University of New South Wales. He continued:
Penal sanctions so called have never been taken out of the Act. They’re there now. They’re simply not used’.
Why are they not used? They are not used because the 2 main parties in industry are the employers and the unions. Experience has shown that the employers are pragmatic in their dealings with unions and workers. Employers frequently do not use the Act or the penal powers contained in it. They know that there is more chance of settling a dispute without recourse to threats and penal powers. The evidence is clearly on that side, as the President of the Arbitration Commission said.
Significantly, in the discussions which followed the report by the Minister in March about the new Bureau, the national employers went to see the Minister. The national employers in fact opposed the Bureau. The national employers, in the words of the Minister, ‘did not agree’. As reported on page 2040 of Hansard the Minister said that the employers had indicated: . . that they believed that the ACTU ‘s change of attitude in regard to the establishment of the Industrial Relations Bureau and participation in a tripartite consultative body -
– Read it properly.
– What is that, senator?
-Read the preceeding part.
– I am reading it, senator. Are you disputing it? I will read to the honourable senator another part directly from what the employers said if the honourable senator wishes.
– You are picking out bits and pieces.
– The honourable senator is not listening. The employers said that the moves by the ACTU were significant developments and their implications warranted serious consideration by the Government. Mr Hawke made the position clear in a published statement. He said that Mr Polites had supported the ACTU’s point of view. What have we got? We have the unions combined. We have the employers who deal with the unions and the ACTU, saying ‘Keep away from this sort of bad legislation’. What did the Australian Industries Development Association say? This employer lobby group stated in its March publication, which has been given to all members of the Senate:
The original proposal for the IRB to act on its own initiative would represent further interference by Government in industry, in this case meddling in the industrial policies of business.
It is true, as I have said, that the experiencenobody can confound this- from the great national disputes which we have had clearly indicates that recourse to the courts by Governments or by employers is not the most satisfactory. Disputes have been settled in the main by initiatives. In the past they were settled by the past president of the ACTU, Albert Monk, who played such a great role in the country’s affairs, and presently they are settled by Mr Hawke. As I say, it is clear to everybody concerned, I suggest, that that is the way to settle disputes. The tougher line as proposed by the Government would not work. The Government has had to come down to a lesser point of view. The Labor Party takes the view that even that position is not good.
Perhaps my views might be best expressed by reading what was in an editorial in the Age of 5 April 1977. Under the heading ‘Cynical gamble in union bill,’ the editorial reads:
The industrial relations bill now before Federal Parliament bears a double imprint of the Prime Minister- of Fraser the ideologist and Fraser the tactician.
A strong hand. Everybody said what a great thing it would be to have a strong hand, a man who will fight the unions. The editorial continues:
Whether Mr Fraser has any or all of these considerations in mind must remain a matter of speculation. But if he does, then he is playing both a cynical and a dangerous game. The danger is that this legislation will cause more trouble than it resolves or than it is worth. Good industrial relations, after all, depend largely on a high degree of consensus between employers and unions. This innovation is not the result of consensus; it is something imposed by the Government with, at best, an unrealistically legalistic approach to the problem -
The editorial goes on in those terms condemning the legislation.
I take up the point with which I started when referring to Senator Scott’s remarks. If the Government had decided that the situation was so grave in Australia that something had to be done it could have accepted the offer of Bob Hawke to talk with Senator Scott and they may have then come along with a proposal which could be accepted without rancour, without the threats which Senator Scott spoke about, and without stoppages. That is the way to play the employee-employer game in my opinion. It is true that the agreement which was proposed by the ACTU finally is not the same as is now presented in this Bill. Honourable senators will remember that as soon as it was announced in the Press that Mr Street and some other Ministers had met and decided that they would accept the ACTU proposal, Mr Fraser controverted what had been said. It took some days of discussion, by the ACTU and by the Press, to find out whether that Fraser opinion had been maintained. Finally, apparently, he gave in over some of the issues.
We are faced again with the issues that always come up in arbitration Bills. We in the Australian Labor Party see the need for the continued observance of conciliation processes. We say that it is better to have the employers and the unions directly dealing with these matters. If the employers want to take action to fine the unions and to use the sanction powers under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. let them initiate action. They are experienced in these matters. We are opposed to these things and have tried to amend them. But why does the Government introduce legislation to set up this Bureau? I understand that even Senator Wright, in a most aggressively critical speech of the Government’s proposal, has said that he does not agree with the amendment in respect of ministerial powers. What is proposed is bad. We think that this debate should be used to make sure that if there is any attempt by the Government, if this Bill is passed, and it looks like it will be passed, to renege on the agreement reached by Mr Hawke and his colleagues and the Minister, some action should be taken by this Parliament to correct it. We oppose the proposals but we support the National Labour Consultative Council Bill.
-At the moment we are debating the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill. We have been given a lot of advice by Senators Button, Cavanagh and Bishop on how to run a responsible trade union movement and how to avoid strikes. If we look at the record of the Government which they supported we find that while it was in power an unprecedented number of manhours was lost- far more than has been lost under this Government. So I feel that their advice is not advice to which we should listen. They agreed that strikes are very detrimental not only to the unionists, the Government and the economy of Australia but also to the people generally. They followed up that statement by saying that penalties should not exist. Senator Bishop, to do him justice, said that all these things should be done by consultation.
Senator Bishop also said that in normal circumstances unionists do not take a very active part in their union meetings or their union affairs, but if there is a strike they unite. I point out to him that his memory is very short. I refer to the debacle of the Medibank strike, when Mr Hawke called for a nation-wide strike. What did we see as a result of that call for a nation-wide Medibank strike? The majority of unionists ignored completely the call of their union. They went to work. As a result of their going to work, tremendous intimidation was attempted. In some instances there was physical violence.
– Where? Give us the details.
– In Telecom establishments. We know that; honourable senators opposite know that.
– We do not know it.
-Of course they know it. Action was taken because of it. Senator Bishop did not like Senator Scott quoting from what Mr Clyde Cameron said about how the unions had threatened to bring Australia to its knees. Senator Bishop said that it was not done that way at all. Listening to Senator Bishop, I gathered the impression that he was saying that if the unions did not like the law they would not abide by it; that no penalties should exist; and that they would bring the country to its knees. That is not the way that this Government thinks that people generally should behave when it comes to the law.
This Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives originally 2 months ago, on 3 1 March. I compliment the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) on its introduction. It was brought in then to allow full consultation with all interested parties- all unionists, all union officials and all employers. I do not honestly believe that anyone could be critical of this democratic action by our Government. Yet Senator Button was not applauding that move but was saying that we succumbed to union pressure in desperation. I think they were the words he used. It is very unwise for Senator Button to compare the way in which the previous Government worked with the way in which our Government works. If the previous Government resorted to consultation because of pure desperation, we do not. That is not the way we do it. We do it as a right.
Agreement was reached between the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the employers and the Government. Senator Bishop and Senator Button referred to that fact. I would like to read a little of the agreement. I will not take the time ofthe Senate by reading the whole of it. Mr Hawke agreed that, if the Government wished to put the responsibility for dealing with the existing pains and penalties and processes into the hands of a body which the Government wished to designate as the Industrial Relations Bureau, then the unions would offer no objection. Senator Bishop said that the employers did not agree with the Government, but agreed with the unions on this matter. If we read the whole of the agreement we find that the national employers were not in complete agreement with the unions and were not supporting the proposition put by them. The employers stressed that they thought it was in the best interests to retain strong enforcement provisions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Senator Bishop omitted that part of the agreement, which is a small but rather vital part. He decided to omit it and to say that the employers were not in agreement with the Government. He did so to suit his purpose, I gather.
However, it is very interesting to note that Mr Hawke agreed, for the first time, that penalties should exist. This is the great step forward in the whole of the consultation process and the whole of the purpose of this Bill.
– You have not read his statement.
– I certainly have. That is what comes out of his statement. The additional penalties of which Senator Bishop was talking are no longer included. The penalties which existed prior to the introduction of this Bill are the ones that are to be retained. Whilst some people may think that they are not adequate, I think that under this new Bureau they will be. From now on it will be a statutory organisation. These penalties will be able to be enforced and will have some teeth. The individual rights are being stood down, but only temporarily. They are to be brought in during the Budget session. The unions and Mr Hawke are well aware of this. The Minister made it clear that we are not putting them aside permanently. Following consultation with the National Labour Consultative Council, we will be bringing in the individual rights provisions in the Budget session. They have not been shelved permanently.
The Industrial Relations Bureau has been retained in this Bill. As Senator Bishop said a little earlier, it will have the powers of the Arbitration Inspectorate, but it will be a statutory body. Mr Hawke, on behalf of the unions, agreed that they will now abide by a restructured National Labour Advisory Council. This is contrary to what they stated previously. This body is to be a statutory one. It is now to be called the National Labour Consultative Council. The membership of that Council will comprise the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations as Chairman, the Secretary to the Department, one member chosen by the Minister to represent public authority employers, 6 members nominated by the National Employers Policy Committee, 6 members nominated by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and one member nominated by the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations. The Council will consider national concern in any industrial relations matter.
The Bureau is to have the same powers as the Arbitration Inspectorate. It is interesting to note those powers. The inspectors have been assigned powers to make inspections, examinations, investigations and inquiries and to interview people to determine whether the Act is being observed or whether an offence is suspected, and several other powers which are really very strong powers. I think Senator Bishop misunderstood the intention of the Government. He will find this section on page 9 of the annual report of the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate. The Inspectorate also has this power: For the purpose of ascertaining whether awards and the requirements of this Act are being carried out, an inspector may at any time during working hours, or at any other time which is necessary for that purpose, enter without force a building, place, vessel, aircraft, vehicle, etc., on which he has reasonable cause to believe that work to which an award is or was applicable is being or has been performed or a place of business of any person in which he has reasonable cause to believe that there are books or documents relevant to that purpose. So that duty or power remains with the Industrial Relations Bureau.
The inspector is required for the purposes of securing the observance of this legislation. The inspector is permitted to assist in a case before the court and give evidence if there has been a breach of the Act. He may give notice to require an offender to make good a default. As I said, these are very strong powers. Along with that Mr Hawke and the unions have agreed to the reconstruction of the National Labour Advisory Council. I am sure that the 2 bodies, the Industrial Relations Bureau and the reconstituted Council will prove a very effective force. In the past the inspector has dealt mainly with actions protecting the employees. One only has to look at his annual report to realise just how comprehensive that was. The Inspectorate conducted award inspections in 22 523 establishments involving 339 292 employees in the 1975-76 financial year. Inspectors found 3685 breaches involving deficiencies in payments to employees and 4571 non-monetary breaches involving, for example, failure to maintain proper time and wages records, adequate display of rosters, etc. Yet the annual report lists not one breach by employees alleged by employers. There is nothing in the list of duties of the Inspectorate that prohibits it from citing such breaches. In fact it has a completely even-handed approach. The new Bureau also will have a completely even-handed approach. It will however, no longer emphasise the duties of employers on behalf of employees. There is absolutely nothing in the new Bill to give the impression that it will.
I have very little else to say on this Bill. We are pressed for time. I congratulate the Minister for
Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) on the outcome of this controversial piece of legislation. Full consultation has been entered into with a bit of give and take on both sides, not in desperation but within the true meaning of consultation. The legislation is now acceptable to both sides. I stress again that the individual rights of all the employees and employers have not been set aside. They will be preserved in legislation to be introduced in the Budget session after the National Labour Consultative Council has advised the Government on this subject. Once that has been done the legislation will fit in very clearly and closely with Liberal Party policy concerning individual rights and freedoms of our community. It is beyond me why the Opposition is so against individual rights and freedoms. That seems to be its main opposition to this Bill. It seems to be opposed to the unions in this respect. I must admit that it is rather unusual to see the Opposition and Mr Hawke sitting on opposite sides of the fence in this matter. I commend the Bill to the Senate and wish it a speedy passage.
– We on the Opposition side of the chamber oppose the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill, but we do not oppose the establishment of the National Labour Consultative Council. Before I discuss the legislation I wish to discuss some of the remarks of previous speakers in the debate this afternoon. Firstly, Senator Wright raised a number of points that are important. He virtually said- I hope I am not misinterpreting him- that he thought it was a pity that the Industrial Relations Bureau was not introduced in its original form. I am certain that is not the view of the coalition parties. As President Hawke of the Australian Council of Trade Unions stated, it would cause economic dislocation and chaos in the Australian community. The original proposal was opposed by practically all sections of the Australian community. There is a parallel to the original legislation. I submit to Senator Wright that that parallel was the Industrial Relations Act introduced in 1973 in Great Britain by the Heath Government. We know what happened with that. Britain finished up with a 3-day week and hundreds of thousands of people out of work. The Heath Government was put out of office. In 1973 before an election New South Wales Premier Askin promised an industrial relations Act with very repressive measures. His proposed legislation was similar to that which was being put forward at the time by the Heath Government. Of course it was never introduced. After Sir Robert Askin won the election the proposal was forgotten. In fact it was just window dressing.
Senator Wright talked about collective bargaining in the United States of America. I think he had confused collective bargaining in the United States with the industrial arbitration system that operates in this country. In the large industries in the United States- I refer specifically to the automobile, coal and steel industries- there are strikes that last months while negotiations are taking place after agreements run out. They are the sorts of strikes to which we are unaccustomed in Australia. Recently I was looking at a publication which stated that the United Automobile Workers in the United States had something like $90m in its strike fund and was asking for more money because large sums of money would be given to its employees during the prolonged strike that was taking place at the time when the United Automobile Workers came to negotiate with the automobile industry employers. I do not know whether Senator Wright would like that situation to arise in Australia.
– You misunderstood me.
-Maybe I did, but I thought that Senator Wright did confuse collective bargaining in the United States with our industrial arbitration legislation. Senator Scott said that the Australian trade union movement should be subject to the law. I submit that it is already subject to penalties and to the law. I do not know what other penalties are needed. Senator Scott also talked about the role of trade unions in a free society. This is something I will come back to later in my remarks. Senator Scott went on to say that people should not be forced to join a union. I agree. At one time I was a union delegate for white collar workers in local government. The thing that upset me was that people would not join the union, not because of a religious belief or some other deep held belief but because they did not want to spend money on union membership fees, yet they were the very first people to get in line for award payments or to claim the overaward conditions that the union won for them.
I remember that on one occasion I helped negotiate an industrial agreement giving 13 weeks long service leave after 10 years service. State legislation at the time provided for long service leave only after 15 years service. The agreement was worth thousands of dollars to some people who were able to take long service leave earlier than would have been allowed under award conditions. The unions spent a great deal of money before reaching the agreement. Union delegates such as myself and other people who were not paid spent a lot of time getting it through. People not in the union received all the benefits of being able to take long service leave 5 years earlier. I do not think that was right. I do not think any honourable senator opposite can say anything that will make me change my mind on that sort of situation.
Senator Walters told us that man;hours lost through industrial disputes have decreased quite recently under this Government. What she is virtually saying is that we have had a period of industrial peace; and that is right. So I simply ask why we need this Bill. On the one hand, we are told that we have industrial chaos and, on the other hand, we are told that we have a period of industrial peace, with a decrease in the number of man hours lost.
Senator Walters also mentioned the remarks that were made by Mr Cameron in another place. I suggest that those remarks were made when Mr Cameron was speaking about the legislation in the form in which it was to be introduced and not about the legislation which is now before the Senate. Of course, Senator Walters referred to the Medibank strike. I would say that there is a difference between a strike over an issue like Medibank and the situation about which Mr Cameron was talking. If there is a concerted effort by any legislation to smash the trade union movement in this country then I am sure that the trade union movement will completely unite as a body and defeat that legislation in the same way as the trade union movement in Great Britain did in 1973.
Senator Walters went on to say that Mr Hawke has acknowledged that penalties should exist. I would like to see where Mr Hawke has said that he believes that penalties should exist in relation to the trade union movement. Senator Walters finally talked about the legislation on individual rights which will be brought into the Parliament in the Budget session. She gave the impression that that legislation would be brought in automatically. However, there has to be consultation with the National Labour Consultative Council first. If that consultation is not going to take place, I do not know how she can be sure that the legislation will be brought in.
I return to the legislation which is before us. A few of the items of legislation that we have seen introduced into the Senate demonstrate the procrastination of the Government. That remark also applies to the legislation which is before us.
For many months Government Ministers have been trumpeting the coming of the Industrial Relations Bureau. The IRB, according to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), would bring an end to trade union militancy which they saw in evidence everywhere in this country. This legislation was to be the big stick. The Industrial Relations Bureau was going to be the means by which the trade union movement would be brought to heel. We were told that savage penalties were to be imposed on those unions which earned the displeasure of the Fraser Government. Their funds would be dissipated in heavy fines, their officials arrested, and their membership subject to the full rigours of the law for engaging in industrial action. A very good article appeared in the Age on 3 1 May, which I would like to read. It states:
We have now not only industrial unionism, we have industrial and political unionism . . . Trade unionism is probably the greatest force in this country today and men in control qf it have used their power in a way which was never intended when trade unions were created. They have endeavoured to set their will against that of the people as a whole. At times they have not hesitated even to dictate to this Parliament, this great democratic institution which is representative qf every adult male and female in the community.
No, not Malcolm Fraser in 1977 but Stanley Melbourne Bruce in May 1928, when he was introducing a Bill that increased Federal powers in the conciliation and arbitration system and imposed proper controls on the unions.
When I saw that article I decided to look in the Hansard of that time. I shall read to the Senate what the Leader of the Labor Party, Mr Scullin, then said in reply. This is what appears in the Hansard of 6 May 1928:
The assumption of the party opposite is that when there is a dispute the workers are always wrong and every set of figures quoted is used as an indictment of organised labour. The Leader of the Government has indulged in this type of propaganda more than any other Prime Minister has done.
If we look back at what happened in 1928 we find that not only did the Bruce Government lose office but also in fact Mr Bruce lost his seat. Many people say that that was as a result of legislation that he was trying to introduce.
The Industrial Relations Bureau was designed to be the punitive third arm of industrial law in this country. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was to be bypassed. Collective bargaining was to be put very much at risk. But what happened? So many sections of the community, from employer organisations, to State governments, to those involved in the industrial relations area professionally, to the entire trade union movement- all of those organisationsprotested at the ill-designed, ill-conceived and hastily prepared legislation setting up the IRB. What happened? The Government, of course, was forced to re-consider its position concerning the legislation. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has made veiled references to the unsatisfactory industrial relations situation that would develop in this country if the IRB, as originally mooted, came into being.
For a long time- in fact, for many months- the Fraser Government rejected any and all of the approaches from the trade union movement which were aimed at reaching a compromise on the industrial legislation which was proposed. That was done in similar vein to the way in which the Government rejected calls by the unions, by the employers, and by the State governments for a national conference to discuss the economy. But again what happened? Because of public pressure, because of the reasonable and sensible proposals that were put forward by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Government was obliged to think again about its industrial relations proposals, and the legislation which is before us now is the result of that rethinking.
The ACTU, which has come in for a lot of abuse, far from seeking or encouraging the situation of confrontation and conflict in the industrial relations area, has attempted to arrive at a compromise which is satisfactory to all parties involved in this matter. Moreover, the ACTU initiative in seeking to reconstitute the National Labour Advisory Council is one which endeavours to re-open the lines of communication between governments, the employers and the trade unions. Surely, as another honourable senator said earlier in the debate, that is essential if the industrial relations climate in this country is to improve. Surely the crucial factor will be communications between the parties concerned. In so many cases disputes begin, continue and many times are prolonged because unions and management, or unions and governments, or employers and governments are unaware of the attitudes of the other party or parties involved. Any proposal which seeks to improve communication between the parties which are the main opponents in the industrial field is one that should be welcomed by the Senate.
The National Labour Consultative Council, while not being a panacea in itself, while not being a body which will be in a position to solve all of the difficult situations that arise in industry, I believe will be a useful institution in terms of bringing together the different sectors of opinion at the conference table. Again it is the ACTU, the major peak council of the Australian trade union movement, which has to be commended for the bringing back into being of that body. We had a situation in which the Government sought only to antagonise the trade union movement, sought to blame the trade unionists for our economic woes, and subjected the unions to abuse both at home and abroad. A very good example of that is what was said about our trade union movement in Japan. The trade union movement- this has become more evident with the passage of time- has constantly sought to improve industrial relations in this country. It has been the ACTU and the constituent trades and labour councils in each State that have sought to bring about a speedy and satisfactory end to the industrial disputes that have marred industrial relations between the employers, the employees and the Government in recent times. There have been many examples of that over the last few weeks, but they are only too well known to honourable senators. I will not mention them in detail. I think Senator Bishop has already covered that aspect. However, 2 examples worthy of mention are the petrol drivers dispute in Melbourne and the recent air traffic controllers strike.
I hope that the Government has learnt from its experiences in relation to the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation. Industrial peace will not be brought to this country by forcing a confrontation in the industrial area, by threatening the use of punitive sanctions, or by implying that unionists and union leaders will be gaoled and their organisations disbanded and dissolved. It is not by threatening to use any means at the Government’s disposal to break strikes or to place at risk the functioning of the trade union movement, it is not by pressuring employer organisations or business into confronting the unions and taking an especially hard line in negotiations with them, that industrial peace is generated.
I now come back to what Senator Scott said earlier about the role of trade unions in a free society and about the difference between trade unions in a free society and those in totalitarian regimes. One has only to look at the situation on both sides of the political spectrum in recent years, one has only to look at what happened to a free trade union movement in Chile at the time when the junta took over, one has only to look at what happened to a free trade union movement in Greece in 1 967 when the coup took place, to realise the importance of a free trade union movement. On the other end of the spectrum, let us look at the situation which exists in Poland today. What has happened in that country in the 1970s? It was the trade unionists who opposed the increase in food prices, it was the trade unionists who rioted against the controls being placed on them by the government in Poland, and it is the trade unionists in that country who are in gaol today because of their action. One could also mention Czechoslovakia and what happened in 1948 when the country was being taken over, and more recently in respect of the disputes that arose when Dubcek was being replaced. I submit that the social democrats and the trade unionists were the first people to be put in gaol and to feel the oppression in those countries that I have mentioned.
Industrial peace in this country is more likely to result from unions, employers and governments achieving a capacity to reach a satisfactory solution to deal with different problems as they arise instead of threatening the trade union movement in advance. As I have stated previously, of crucial significance in achieving solutions to industrial problems is communication. For that reason alone the reconstitution of the National Labour Advisory Council should be welcomed, as I think it is. I think that it will serve a useful purpose in bringing the differing sections of opinion in the industrial field together around the conference table. It will provide an opportunity for exchanges of views and for the leading figures on both sides to gauge one another’s issues and attitudes on particular disputes.
This Government’s record to date in industrial relations and in industrial matters generally is appalling. It does not lead me to be optimistic about the future. Nonetheless one can only hope that the cooler and more rational heads within the Cabinet and within the coalition parties will prevail in future and that this Administration will abandon its oft stated policy of seeking to isolate the trade union movement and will instead adopt a more constructive and reasonable approach in the future. Perhaps the Government will have a look at and maybe even consider some of the schemes of worker participation that are already operating successfully in industry in West Germany and in Scandinavia. At the same time as it is looking at those systems the Government ought to be looking at the systems of industrial unions. It ought to be looking at how it can bring about a lowering of the number of trade unions that are operating in this country. Senator Harradine probably will not agree with me on this but I hope that in the future we will have a trade union system more like the West German system. I realise that it is impossible for a country like Australia to copy it completely but we could achieve a more rational industrial relations system like that which operates in Germany and in Scandinavia.
Over the past few weeks the trade union movement has displayed a commendable desire to negotiate and also to reach a compromise. If the present Government is prepared to follow this lead, industrial relations in this country could conceivably go beyond confrontation and move into an era of responsible and thoughtful exchanges. If this proves to be so, greater harmony in industrial relations can only result, to the benefit of all Australians. Let me sum up briefly. We on this side of the Senate oppose the establishment of the Industrial Relations Bureau because we consider it to be totally unnecessary. It is a face-saving device. We oppose it because it is a breach of the agreement and it does not provide the same powers that the inspectorate had. It is also a breach of the agreement reached between the unions and the Government, regardless of what anybody on the other side might say. As I stated earlier, we support the establishment of the National Labour Consultative Council.
-The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which is now before us has been very substantially amended because of agreement between the Government, the unions and the employer organisations. The Government has given much for this agreement. Firstly, the Bill contained a series of proposals designed to protect the rights of individual employees and others against unfair actions by employers and organisations. Secondly, the range of consequences available to the Industrial Court for breaches of industrial law or of awards was extended by the Bill to provide greater flexibility for the court. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has said that in the Budget session those provisions will be reviewed in the light of their further consideration by the reconstituted National Labour Advisory Council. Those provisions were held in high regard by Government senators and members.
So far in this debate the Opposition has failed to remember that the Bill lay on the table for consideration. In fact some honourable senators today have criticised the Government for failure to implement the Bill earlier. We on this side had our views as to amendments. Senator Wright had his views about contracts and enforcement by civil actions for damages. I have talked with him about his proposals and there is much merit in them. But personally I have my doubts about the ability of employers to enforce them in Australia because of the actions which unions would take against an employer who endeavoured to enforce such a contract. Perhaps it would be enforceable if the company were in liquidation. Those proceedings might work in America where unions are used to them, but personally I doubt that they would work in Australia. For my part, I would have preferred to see the penalty provisions of the present Act replaced by proposed clause 109 (a) in the Bill. In my view, the power to suspend would be of more value to the court than the present power to impose fines. But those provisions are not now before us.
I hope that Opposition members and senators will recognise the sacrifice. We have, of course, gained the Bureau and the National Labour Advisory Council but, much more importantly in my view, a major confrontation has been avoided. The Minister did the right thing by allowing the original Bill to lie on the table for consideration and, during that time, by inviting the representatives of the national employers and the representatives of the peak union councils to meet with him to discuss the Bill. I congratulate the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations for finally recognising the determination of this Government to introduce an Industrial Relations Bureau and then for offering no objection to its formation, on certain terms, and for offering to join the reconstituted National Labour Advisory Council. Those offers were most reasonable. I congratulate the Minister and the Government for taking them up and I congratulate the employer organisations for accepting the compromise. That action demonstrated most clearly that the Government was and is prepared to be reasonable within the bounds of its promises to the people.
I have been concerned about a confrontation between the Government and the union movement, a confrontation encouraged by the irresponsible minority left wing of the union movement. The extremists of the left wing- I refer to people like Halfpenny and Carmichael- believe that their objectives have been achieved when some of the people of Australia are in violent confrontation with other Australians. They have no more than a passing interest in the nature of the confrontation or the result. Their end is the confrontation. When said, usually that is recognised. But unfortunately it is too soon forgotten. We should never forget that the purpose of the extremist is to have a confrontation- it does not matter what about. So long as there is a confrontation the extremist has achieved his object.
In Australia at present we are also faced with the tyranny of the minorities. Of course, minorities are entitled to their say but today they are not satisfied with the right to put forward their views. They have a confrontation if their views are not accepted. They put themselves forward as being infallible. Just as bad, we- I mean the mythical ordinary Australian- repeatedly demonstrate to them that the way to succeed is to be ruthless. Far too often, for example, we find that the union leader who puts forward a proposal with moderation and reasonableness has not been listened to. Far too often his moderation is treated as a sign of weakness and his proposals are rejected out of hand. In due course he adopts an extremist approach or loses his position to an extremist. Then a strike is called or a major confrontation takes place. It seems to me that too frequently it is only at that time that the claim is given proper consideration. We have demonstrated to him and his supporters that the way to succeed is to be ruthless. There should be a more generous understanding of the moderate and reasonable unionist. Their should be unrelenting determination to oppose ruthless minority extremists.
It is most significant that the extreme Left opposed the agreement recognised by the Bills before us. It is disappointing that the Party opposite has determined to oppose the Bills. Legislation by itself cannot solve the problem of strikes. Discussions, understanding and compromise are essential features of solutions to strikes. I should have thought that the Opposition would recognise those simple propositions and recognise that these Bills create that opportunity. Also, it may be that the consultation process will prove to be important in solving some of Australia’s economic problems. Of course it may be that the Opposition has recognised these possibilities and determined, for its own ends, to oppose the Bills. Certainly the extreme left wing has recognised the danger of these consequences because as soon as the proposals were made they were attacked by the communist-dominated unions. The spokesmen for these unions are totally committed to confrontation with the Government. That is their purpose and they recognise that the Bill ‘s before the Senate may prevent them from achieving that purpose. The moderation and understanding shown by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the other representatives of the employers and the employees in seeking the agreement represented by these Bills are to be commended.
– The Bills which are before us at the present time- the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill and the National Labour Consultative Council Bill- are, in effect, the second step with respect to the Government’s dealing with industrial relations in Australia. The first step, of course, was taken some 12 months ago and that was the introduction of legislation which involved compulsory secret ballots for the election of union officials, the object being to encourage trade unionists throughout Australia to take a more active interest in ensuring responsible leadership, to the mutual benefit of the trade union concerned and the individual trade unionist. We hope that in time this will provide Australia’s trade union movement with leaders who are not so anxious to take strike action but would rather provide opportunities for sensible negotiation in order that the trade unionists can be guaranteed a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay and also that the conditions under which they work are in keeping with modern times.
I was interested in the gallup poll to which Senator Scott referred, which was published in the Bulletin of 21 May. It indicated quite clearly the public view with respect to the trade union situation in Australia. As Senator Scott said, the survey found that only 1 8 per cent of the people questioned thought trade unionism should be compulsory and 78 per cent believed it should be voluntary. Fifty-one per cent of unionists believed some unionists should be able to continue work if their unions go on strike and 56 per cent of those interviewed believed a union should be deregistered when it would not agree with the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Seventy per cent said the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should be able to fine unionists. Fifty-two believed the Commission should be able to fine officials, but only 38 per cent thought the Commission should have the power to gaol officials who refused to pay fines. I was interested also to note that the vote in favour of voluntary union membership was strongest in South Australia, where 83 per cent were in favour compared with the average of about 78 per cent.
– Was this poll taken of unionists or just the ordinary public?
-The ordinary public. But it indicates that the ordinary public has some interest in the legislation with which we are dealing.
– So have trade unionists.
– Yes, I know trade unionists have an interest, too. My word, trade unionists have demonstrated that in this gallup poll.
– Would you like to hear about that?
– No, you told me about it. I asked whether it was a poll taken of unionists or the general public.
– If the honourable senator were to read the results of the poll he would realise that responsible trade unionists believe that something has to be done if the union movement in Australia is going to be restored to its proper place in the eyes of the general public.
– Did the gallup poll ask the unions whether they were responsible or irresponsible?
– The honourable senator should read the gallup poll results. He will find them quite interesting. About the time of the Medibank strike, which is now history, I wrote to the Minister of Labour in New Zealand following a suggestion made by former Senator Lillico who, we all appreciate, had a very active interest in these matters. I received a letter from Mr Gordon, the Minister of Labour, which stated, among other things:
In 1971 the Seamen’s Union Funds Act was passed. The Seamen’s Union was deregistered in that year and this Act appointed the Public Trustee as Manager of the assets of the union until such time as a new union was registered. Prior to this piece of legislation the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act contained no restrictions on what a deregistered union could do with its funds. The provisions contained in the Seamen ‘s Union Funds Act have been incorporated into the Industrial Relations Act 1973 and now apply to all deregistered unions.
He went on to describe other legislation that had been introduced in that country and mentioned also the following:
The Industrial Relations Act also lists certain essential industries in which, within one month before striking, 14 days’ notice in writing must be given of the intention to strike. Among the essential industries listed are ‘the operation of any service for the carriage of passengers or goods by water between the North Island and the South Island ‘.
He enclosed also for my information an outline of the National Party policy on industrial relations, as well as some pieces of legislation, about which he stated:
In essence this provides that if the Minister of Labour is satisfied that any discontinuance of employment brought about wholly or partly by any union of employers or of workers has caused, or is likely to cause, serious loss or inconvenience then he may cancel the registration of the union or any specified class of members of the union. The effect of deregistration is to:
exclude the persons in question from the membership rule of the relevant union (ti) exclude the persons in question from the protection of the relevant award or collective agreement (iti) prevent the persons in question from joining a union until the Minister consents otherwise and
vest the assets of the deregistered union in the Public Trustee until a new union is registered in its place or until 6 months (or a further period which the Minister may direct) from the date of deregistration of the union in which case the assets are divided among the former members.
I believe that the New Zealand legislation could well have formed the basis of consideration by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). I took the liberty of forwarding copies of this legislation to him for his information. I realise that New Zealand is, of course, different from Australia. We have Federal jurisdiction over, I believe, some 54 per cent of trade unions; but the New Zealand legislation, in my view, formed the basis of some good suggestions.
I particularly liked the idea of having what amounts to a cooling-ofT period before strike action can be taken in areas of national interest. I notice that Mr McMahon, in an article in the Sydney Sun, paid some regard to the fact that too many strikes are being caused by small groups, particularly in the metal, transport, power supply and communications industries.
– They are all strategic industries.
– They are all very important industries to Australia. If any of these industries suffer too much disruption, then the inconvenience and harm caused to the Australian workers is irreparable. I believe that there is room for further consideration by the Government of declaring areas of national interest so that similar action could be contemplated by the Government to ensure that an appropriate cooling-off period is applied to give a little more time for proper and sensible negotiations to take place. I have had quite a lot to do with the trade union movement in my time, particularly when I lived at Port Augusta. I realise that many people in the trade union movement- I believe the majority of trade unionists -
– You were in the Life Officers Association, were you not?
– I know that Senator Wheeldon is very sensitive about life insurance because he suffered a grave defeat by the Opposition in the days when his Government was in office. It appears to be a running sore with him.
– I was helping you. I remembered that you were a member of the Life Officers Association. You used to march with it.
– I appreciate Senator Wheeldon ‘s help. I should like to continue my remarks in the interests of expediency and refer to the time when I was in Port Augusta. I had quite a few good friends in the union movement there. I recall that soon after Mr Hawke was elevated to the position of President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions he came out and said that direct action would be his policy. I notice that he has moderated his views considerably since then. One of my friends, who happened to be a vice-president of one of the metal unions at Port Augusta, told me that he was delighted because that very week he had been conceded the sixth point in a log of claims that was lodged some 2 1 months previously.
– Twenty-one months?
– Yes. After about two or three hours of consultation with the employers in that town, the union managed to get four of its points in its log of claims granted. With patient negotiation and with a little give and take on both sides, the fifth point at issue was granted in the union’s favour after about 6 months. The other point, which involved serious policy changes, dealt with the matter of the payment of a litt per cent loading on employees’ holiday pay and took considerably longer. This gentleman told me that he would much rather patiently negotiate with management than subject his union members to strike action which would only cause unnecessary hardship to the people he was representing responsibly.
The Bills which we are examining today and which we will pass in due course do not quite satisfy me. I agree with Senator Wright when he said that the original Bill certainly was far meatier; that we have stripped off a lot of the meat and now we have a very skinny piece of legislation. J note that the Government has agreed that until there is further consideration of this Act we should proceed on the course that we have adopted. I support the Bills and sincerely trust that the Government will pay some regard to the suggestions that 1 have made, based on legislation which exists in New Zealand.
-I had hoped that the contribution to this debate by Senator Lewis would have taken more than 10 minutes. If it had perhaps I would have risen at the right time. Nevertheless I follow Senator Jessop in this debate and apologise to him if he had to make his contribution to the debate somewhat earlier than he should have. Of course, the Opposition opposes the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill. I make it clear that we do not oppose the National Labour Consultative Council Bill, although we will move to provide some amendments to it. The Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill, in my view, is an attempt to reduce the functions of unions. It challenges their ability to promote the interests of workers. When something affects the interests of workers, it must be realised by all peopleincluding members of the Government Partiesthat it affects the interests of the community at large.
There seems to be a lack of realisation on the part of Government senators that improved conditions of trade unionists in this country lead to improved conditions in the rest of society. Surely they will not deny that the progress and advancement of the union movement in the past century has led to improved conditions for all people, not just for trade unionists. I take it that that is accepted. We hope that in the underdeveloped countries the same procedure and the same process will take place. That may be to our disadvantage in some areas in that we may have to pay more for tea, coffee or other goods produced in those countries. The improvement of working conditions in those countries, as working conditions have improved in our country, will be for the betterment of all society and the world in general. Surely the Government is not denying that.
Therefore, I warn the Government that it ought not to take any action that disadvantages the unions. It ought not to do anything that restricts the ability of the unions to function. When the Government talks about compulsory unionism, it must realise that the compulsion if for the good of all. It is necessary to accept rules, just as we accept certain rules and abide by them in this place. For instance, we have a rule which says that a quorum consists of 2 1 senators. We have agreed to that and to a variety of other rules in this place.
– Penalties are imposed if we do not abide by them.
– If a senator does not abide by the rules, penalties are applied by his own party- and rightly so.
– And by the President.
– Penalties are imposed by the party system, which the honourable senator concerned should accept.
– And by the President.
-Senator Walters on many occasions has broken her Party’s rules. The acceptance of the party system is to the benefit of society because the party is the watch dog, on behalf of the community, of the behaviour of the honourable senators in this place. That is a most necessary provision.
The rules which say that there ought to be complete membership of a union on a job are to the advantage of the organisations and their members on that job and also to the advantage of the employer, which means that they are to the advantage of the work of the particular enterprise in which the employer is involved. That might sound a little garrulous; but what I am saying is that, if it is necessary to have compulsory third party insurance when one drives a vehicle in order to protect the whole of the community individually and as a group against any problem or action which might arise, then it is also necessary to have laws within the trade union movement. It is also necessary to have these laws within industry and within commerce, and the honourable senator who is seeking to interject would not deny that.
– I was just asking whether you think compulsory national service was a good thing also.
– I would say that in times of an emergency complete compulsory national service which involves everybody and not just some people may in certain circumstances be necessary to protect the country.
– Can we have that in writing?
-You do not need to have it in writing, but it will be in writing tomorrow, if you are prepared to read the Hansard. In certain circumstances compulsory national service involving everybody without selectivity is necessary, in the same way as I say it is necessary within the trade union movement to have rules by which all members must abide and out of which certain members cannot opt. What the Government is doing under this legislation- and I am digressing from my notes- is creating a situation of deliberate confrontation. It is placing control over the confrontation in the hands of a statutory body isolated from the Minister and isolated from the Arbitration Commission. This increases the likelihood of confrontation occurring. By this legislation the Government is increasing the need for unions to defend themselves against any punitive action that may be taken. This can be expensive. This leads, if I may say so, to the unions increasing their fees to meet the added costs brought about by confrontation, and the unionists will resist paying increased fees. What the Government is saying, of course, is that unionists now can opt out of their responsibility to pay their fees, although a majority of the membership will pay their fees to protect their rights. If the Government continues with this attitude the financial position of the trade unions will be weakened. If that happens they will become tame cats.
We finally have before us the legislation that has been reported on the front page of the newspapers over the last few months. It is legislation which this Government and its vested interest supporters and the media are most heartily pushing in the hope of destroying the effectiveness of the Labor movement. That might sound like doctrinaire stuff but that is the reality of the situation. That is exactly what this Government is seeking to do. It is endeavouring to limit the effectiveness of the trade union movement, and so severe is the limitation that it may lead to the destruction of the Labor movement. This would lead to a situation in which the unions would merely respond to the needs of the employers and of the government of the day, and that is not in the best interests of the society. This country’s social welfare and living standards were built on the sweat, toil and blood of the working class. May I use the phrase ‘working class’? I am not ashamed to use that expression. There is still a working class in this country. 1 must admit that the term covers many more people than it used to, but there is a working class in this community and the people in ii toil rather desperately under the present Government to survive economically.
I think this Government is doing its very best to crush the movement. In opposition to the Labor movement this Government has taken certain actions, supported by certain of its friends in the Press, to destroy the Labor movement in the Parliament. We had evidence of this in the month of November 1975 when this Senate itself, strengthened by the outcry of certain sections of the Press, took it upon itself to destroy the Labor Government. A view of the conservative Parties, which the Government represents, is that the rightful place of the Labor Puny is in Opposition- merely an irritant that can be ignored. This Government succeeded in destroying the Labor Government in 1975, but it cannot effectively do it to the trade union movement because the movement is in a position to respond.
– Do you not think that in some areas your Party proved itself totally incapable, senator?
-The question of whether or not we had been proved to be incapable in some areas should have been put to the test at the normal election time. We should not have been subjected to the greed of the Opposition at the time to gain power as quickly as possible, and that is exactly what the honourable senator’s Party did. If your Party had been patient perhaps the result would have been the same, but it was not content to wait until the normal election. It wanted to use the forms of the Senate- and I said this at the time- to get its own way. I have deviated from the Bill, so I will come back to my point.
The reasons the Government has given for the professed need for this legislation are that the unions must be answerable to the Government and should not be allowed to take matters into their own hands. Let us look at the background of this matter. This Government has attacked unions continuously in its 18 months in office. It has reduced real wages by advocating partial and plateau indexation and the fall over the last 15 months in wages, according to the consumer price index, has been considerable. There has been a consistent attack on the unions, but the area which is best organised to redress the fall in living standards by demanding better conditions is the trade union movement. I make no apologies for saying this. The trade union movement is in the best position to seek improvements in living standards. Trade unionists are in the first line and they are the first ones to feel the effects of any oppressive or restrictive legislation. They are the first ones to feel a breakdown in the economy. They are the best ones to respond to such a challenge, and through organised unionism they are able to do this. I would say that it would be grossly unfair to make workers take the responsibility for, shall we say, a better disciplined economy.
I believe this legislation increases the possibility of confrontation. At the present time if an employer feels that he is aggrieved he will make out his case to the Arbitration Inspectorate, and I believe that the Inspectorate is associated with the Commission. The employer will take the initiative and say: ‘I have a complaint’. The Inspectorate will not take upon itself authority to proceed. I do not doubt that it will consult with the Commission. It may consult, through the Commission, with the Government of the day before it takes any action.
Let me put it to the Senate also that the employer, who is concerned with the continuity of production, seeks to avoid confrontation. He will do his best to ensure that the just requests of his workers are met. This Government says this may be to the disadvantage of the economy, but the employer is the best judge of the needs of his workers and he is the best judge of their performance, and possibly he will agree to making an over-award payment when such a request was made. What this Government is endeavouring to do is to force the employer not to pay according to what he judges is best. In my view the employer has always taken a responsible attitude in order to avoid interruption to continuity of production. He does not want to see his workshop stop. He does not want to see a lengthy argument with his workers unless the claims are completely unjust. Normally they are not. When they put forward a log of claim, they put some extravagant canvas to those claims in order to have some sort of area in which they can bargain. That is the general idea. When one sees in the papers a claim by some union which has asked for some extravagant improvement in conditions, they are merely the terms on which the union intends to bargain, perhaps over a period of years. They come back to some reasonable agreement in negotiations with the employer.
The tendency in this country is to go more to conciliation than to confrontation. What this Government is doing is taking us to a position of confrontation. I believe it is doing this for political ends. Perhaps even now it is starting to realise that those ends might not be able to be achieved. The employer does not want confrontation. The union leaders do not want confrontation. This legislation is going to separate, by way of a statutory authority, the powers that were within the Commission. It will put those powers in the hands of a bureau, away from the influence of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, so that he can disclaim all responsibility for what happens. The power will be taken away from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and, so, will become an embarrassment to the Commission. The Government intends to place unlimited powers to initiate in the hands of the Bureau. This will lead to a confrontation initiated by a separate authority, not the employer or the employee, but the Bureau, which may seek to carry out the political ends of the government in power.
This is a dangerous creation and for this reason the Opposition opposes this legislation. This is why the Opposition may be in conflict with the industrial movement at the present time because the Opposition believes that the industrial movement has not been told the complete truth about the Industrial Relations Bureau. The industrial movement does not realise that it will be a separate statutory body which will carry out and supervise the powers of the existing legislation. The penalties within the existing legislation are draconic enough without any of the powers which the Government had proposed and subsequently withdrawn. The existing powers are sufficient to cause confrontation after confrontation within the industrial movement. I say to the Government that this legislation will put the initiative in the hands of the irresponsible minority, both in the trade union movement and in the employers’ associations. That irresponsible minority has an ideology based on confrontation and has a hatred of the trade union movement and those whom the trade union movement represents. This is what I fear the legislation will do by the creation of the Industrial Relations Bureau with the conditions that are laid down in this Bill.
The results of some gallup polls and some opinion polls have been trotted out. I refer to another poll, in answer to the Morgan Poll that was mentioned by Senator Jessop and, I think, by another senator previously.
– It was Senator Lewis.
– It may have been Senator Lewis or it may have been Senator Scott from New South Wales. I suppose that we can quote from our polls and honourable senators on the other side of the chamber can quote from their polls. I would draw the attention of honourable senators to an Australian National University poll commissioned to the Roy Morgan Research Centre and published on page 35 of the Bulletin of 12 June 1976. 1 may seek leave to incorporate this data. It shows that in a poll taken concerning legitimate union activities, the union’s right to negotiate for better conditions received the support of 90 per cent of all people; of 95 per cent of union members; of 89 per cent of non-unionists; of 93 per cent of Australian Labor Party voters and of 89 per cent of Liberal-National Country Party voters. The right to negotiate for higher wages received the support of 77 per cent of all people; of 85 per cent of union members; of 74 per cent of non-unionists; of 82 per cent of ALP voters and of 72 per cent of Liberal-National Country Party voters. With regard to unions trying to improve education, which is something outside the normal rights and conditions which the Government tries to impose on unions, 61 per cent of all people felt that the unions ha ve the right to try to improve education. It also received the support of 67 per cent of union members; of 59 per cent of non-unionists; of 72 per cent of ALP voters and of 52 per cent of LiberalNational Country Party voters. With regard to unions seeking higher pensions, something which, again, is outside normal union activities, this received the support of 61 per cent of all people; 71 per cent of union members; 57 per cent of non-unionists and 76 per cent of ALP voters. The percentage of Liberal-National Country Party voters on this occasion dropped to 49 percent.
To me this poll seems to indicate a recognition that unionists are not a class that can be separated from the rest of society. They are an integral part of society and they have rights. Just as the employer has the right to close down his production line and say: ‘I do not wish to produce for another 12 months; I feel it is not in my interests to produce for another 12 months’, so the employees have a right also to refuse to offer their labour. The employees also have a right, as a part of society, to make a decision on the issues which confront society. The environment is a part of their lives, just as being a part of society is a part of their lives. They have a right to take a position as employees, as members of the trade union movement, against anything that may affect the quality of life for themselves, for their children and for future generations. No one should deny to a trade union the right to take part in what is supposed to be a political strike. Trade unions have an essential right, as an association, to participate and to put a point of view and, if necessary, to take action.
Does any honourable senator here deny the right of trade unionists to refuse to man the oil rigs on the Great Barrier Reef? They refuse to man the oil rigs or to supply any services to them and their stand was acclaimed throughout the country because it stopped oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. Unionists had a right to take that stand. Unionists, whether they are right or wrong on a particular issue, still have the right to take a stand and to withdraw their labour. Surely no one would accept that a trade unionist will apply his effort and his labour to a cause which he considers not to be in his best interests and which, in his judgment, is against the best interests of the nation. I do not agree with any proposition which will give support to any limitation upon the trade union movement to take responsible action in protection of its own conditions, the conditions of families and the conditions of future generations. Anyone who takes that view is, I think, taking a short term view.
By and large, the trade union movement, with the exception of a small, irresponsible group, is a responsible movement and does nothing which will disadvantage its members in the long term. Sometimes those actions may appear to be a disadvantage in the short term but in the long term the movement will do nothing to disadvantage its members. As I have said before, confrontation should be avoided; provocation should be avoided and exclusion should be avoided. I remember the many months that the Mount Isa miners were kept out on the grass. It became obvious in the last months of that dispute that it would be to the advantage of Mt Isa Mines and its overseas associates to keep that mine closed. That was a confrontation which the employer wanted but to us at the time it appeared as if the employees were responsible. It was made to appear so.
I put it to the Government that it should carefully view this legislation and take into consideration what I am saying. This Bureau should not be separated, as a statutory authority, from ministerial control or away from the influence of the Commission. If the Bureau were to be taking the place of the Inspectorate under the present conditions of the Inspectorate I would have no complaint and I do not think the Labor Party would have any complaint. But it seems to me that that is not to be the case. We are injecting into the industrial area a provocateur of immense power. The person who becomes the leader of this Bureau and implements the penalties which exist in the Act will become the most powerful man in this country. He will be able to bring the production of our country to a standstill. He will be able to do so on his own authority without consultation with the Commission and without any influence by the Minister of the Government of the day. What is the Government intending to do? Surely what the Government is doing is not what it wishes to do.
Surely the Government does not want to see, in the present difficulties which the economy faces, continual and aggravated confrontation. The Government can be certain that the unions will adapt themselves to this confrontation, will protect themselves against the penalties and will protect themselves against the increased expenses. They will find the means. Some may suffer, individuals may suffer, but eventually the Government will find that the legislation it proposes here will be unworkable. We will go through a period of disruption and despair which, together with the problems that we face structurally in our economy, will lead to further despair.
There is sufficient unemployment in this country to bring the workers under considerable test. There is so much unemployment in this country that working conditions are being broken down. Too many people are working for too little. I could take Senator Lajovic to Darwin and show him some of the migrants, with whom we are both acquainted who work 6 days a week for $150 take home money when their true rate should be $250 a week. They accept these terms because of their great need. The heavy weight of unemployment in the inner surburbs of Melbourne and Sydney is forcing people to break conditions. These conditions which are broken and those conditions which start to deteriorate affect not only the trade unionist; they affect us all. All of us here are affected considerably because our conditions are based upon their conditions. Poverty is catching. Poverty can spread into the middle classes and even to the higher and to the richer classes.
Let me put this to the Government again: The conditions to which we have become accustomed in this so-called lucky country are based upon the conditions of the ordinary worker. Those conditions should be protected. The real wages of the ordinary person should not be depreciated. That is not the sacrifice that we should ask ofthe workers. The real wages of the workers should be increased. They are the people who will spend every penny that we give to them to maintain themselves and their families. They are the ones who will lead the consumer recovery which the Government is seeking. I say to the Government: Do not destroy those workers’ conditions. Do not do anything to limit their bargaining powers. Do not impose upon them the penalty you intend imposing upon them through legislation. Reconsider what you are proposing to do here and make certain that it does not lead to the confrontation that I believe it will lead to which will be to the disadvantage ofthe whole of the community.
– The Senate is debating the National Labour Consultative Council Bill of 1977 and the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill of the same year. I think I can do no better than to say that the Government has as much chance of achieving the industrial millennium that it is seeking as the organisers of any bodily contact sport have. That would embrace all the football codes and hockey and basketball where people come into collision. We always will see outbursts of physical misbehaviour. That applies equally to the industrial scene. One Opposition senator referred to the metal trades. I think it will be agreed that when an award is delayed or a dispute occurs over confined space, the people involved who are working in hot, cold, or dirty conditions will have a different psychology from people in the clerical callings working in air conditioned offices. It does not matter what statistics are quoted, strikes can occur at any time. It does not matter whether we are talking about West Germany, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand.
I recommend as ideal reading for honourable senators opposite, mindful of Senator Jessop ‘s contribution, a history of the New Zealand trade union movement by a man named Victor Roth. It is a recent publication. Senator Jessop harkened to the watersiders in New Zealand. It is true that in the early 1950s a national government did go in boots and all. But the trade union movement regrouped and dealt with other disputes either with or without the help of the Federation of Labour. For a government to think that it can outlaw any question of industrial confrontation at a given time is wishful thinking. It is obvious that in what we define as a free societythere are limitations on that- we will find these confrontations.
Nobody, I think not even the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), suggested that the air traffic controllers dispute was inspired from the Left, the far Left or even the Australian Labor Party. I suppose the term we would apply to those people would be middle class militants. I think the controllers would be very annoyed if they thought that political parties were more or less calling the shots for them. In fact, while 5 1 per cent of the Australian work force is in trade unions, there has been a drift of membership from the blue collar sector to the white collar sector or even to the professional or subprofessional groups. I think the air controllers strike epitomised the fact that even if this legislation had been on the statute books it would not have solved the dispute. This dispute revealed one of the great difficulties of today. I suppose we could term it a new industrial phenomena. Because of the expansion of Australian Government operations the Public Service Board was not in a position to carry out a fair assessment of these peoples’ duties. It was quite obvious, as the Public Service Board has such a huge umbrella covering a massive number of classifications, that there was a fear that if the Public Service Board took the plunge and met the justifiable demands of the air traffic controllers the relativity amongst the other public service grades would have been distorted. That would have been the latent fear. So, ways had to be found to bring that case before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
I want to take up the point one of my colleagues made earlier. Only after discussions was the union able to tell its members that there was the possibility of a gain. Nobody suggestedI say this particularly for Senator Walters’ benefit- that a minority of these people were intimidating their colleagues. These people had meetings and they reached majority decisions. Nobody should have the quaint idea that some trade union official, to get the applause of the Press, will doublecross his members. If he did he would not last very long and people would say that these sort of trade unionists are like the Jimmy Hoffas of the United States.
Let us get down to fundamentals. In effect this legislation will not apply to the type of positions I have mentioned. Not so long ago I asked Senator Durack a question on this matter. I do not blame him for the answer he gave. He is in the Senate representing Mr Street, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I have in my hand the twentieth annual report of the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. At pages 9 and 10 there are suggestions of ways and means of making the arbitration system work more effectively. Sir John Moore is a man of vast industrial wisdom. There is no question about that. He made several suggestions, including:
The provision in each appropriate Act for the joint sitting of members of State and Federal tribunals.
He had in mind the position which applied when we had some growing pains in the containerisation industry. There was a genuine dispute between the Transport Workers Union, New South Wales Branch, which was a party to a State award, and the Waterside Workers Federation, which was under a different jurisdiction. That dispute was prolonged not only because of the respective unions’ points of view but also because it was not in the acceptable canons of industrial law that 2 tribunals could get together in some bridging operation. There was another situation with the oil refineries. This was the reverse position. The Australian Workers Union, New South Wales Branch, enacted an agreement under the State tribunal. A combination of other forces was fighting the battle and was saying that that agreement should not be enacted and that the workers should be under the Federal jurisdiction. At times when trade unions argue on mergers people opposite question whether it would be a centralisation of power. Conversely, when a trade union exercises, in this so-called free society, the right to opt to stay under the State tribunal rather than a Federal tribunal, the establishment people become very hostile and try to oppose such action.
The real crux of the attitude of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to this legislation is borne out by a 2-page statement it issued, which reads in part: . . if the Government wishes to put the responsibility for dealing with the existing pains and penalties and processes into the hands of a body which they wish to designate as an Industrial Relations Bureau- and there is no explicit or implicit addition to those existing provisions or processes- the trade union movement, while regarding such a move as unnecessary, would offer no objection.
Rather than be accused of taking that statement out of context, I will ask for the permission of the Senate to have the document incorporated in Hansard. I have already conferred with the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) about having this 2-page statement incorporated. It arises from a special conference of affiliated unions held on 18 May 1977. It also contains a statement issued by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I ask that it be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
SPECIAL CONFERENCE OF AFFILIATED UNIONS HELD 18 MAY 1977 IN SYDNEY
The Executive reaffirms the Trade Union Policy that penalties and threats of penalties are not the process whereby the problems of industrial relations are resolved. These problems are best resolved by negotiation and consultation.
The ACTU Executive endorses the action of the Officers in their handling of the ACTU position in regard to the proposed amendments to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That position was contained in the following statement put by the Officers to Minister Street on the 1 1 May 1977:
Having expressed at length the detailed reasons for our total opposition to the Government’s proposed amendments to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Act, we make the following statement:
This existing legislation contains a range of ‘pains and penalties ‘ provisions, lt is known that some of those provisions conflict with the policy of the Australian Trade Union Movement. What we therefore put now does not imply into the future a change of our policy in that respect. However, that is not the current issue.
On that basis we put two propositions for the earnest consideration of the Government. These propositions are put in the deeply held belief that confrontation and massive economic dislocation, if avoidable whilst still adhering to principle, is against the best interests of the Australian community.
First, if the Government wishes to put the responsibility for dealing with the existing pains and penalties and processes into the hands of a body which they wish to designate as an Industrial Relations Bureau- and there is no explicit or implicit addition to those existing provisions or processes the Trade Union Movement, while regarding such a move as unnecessary, would offer no objection.
Second, we would be prepared to join a reconstituted tripartite National Labour Advisory Council which would have, as previously, the responsibility of discussing any issues of national concern in that area of industrial relations. Among the early issues to be considered by the NLAC it would be appropriate to include a thorough going research and analysis of the operations of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act with a view to achieving agreed improvements in that area. Such analysis could well produce positive creative functions fur a Bureau concerned with improving industrial relations within this area.
We believe these are manifestly constructive proposals. From many discussions we have had with a wide range of employers, we are sure that the proposals are consistent with their thinking. We are equally sure that the proposals would recommend themselves to the Australian community. There are now the clear alternatives of constructive consultation and dislocation. We trust that, like us, the Government will opt for the former. ‘
The following statement issued by the Minister on 17 May 1977 appears to meet the requirements of the ACTU as put by the Officers on the 1 1 May.
The Government welcomes the acceptance by the ACTU of an Industrial Relations Bureau and the reconstitution ofthe National Labour Advisory Council.
The Government has decided to pass legislation this Session to establish the Industrial Relations Bureau which will have the function of securing the observance of the Act and Awards in the terms already in the Act.
Pending the detailed consideration of the Act referred to later in this statement, the Industrial Relations Bureau will have the same powers as the Arbitration Inspectorate, no more and no less, and those powers will be exercised according to the same processes as they have been until now.
The Government will also legislate this Session to reconstitute the National Labour Advisory Council to provide a National Tripartite Forum for the consideration of issues of National concern in the Industrial Relations and Manpower areas.
Both these bodies are key elements in the Government ‘s Industrial Relations Policy.
The Government is also committed to legislating for the protection of individual rights in the Industrial area. However, it is prepared to review the provisions on these aspects and on other matters relating to the operation of the Act contained in the present Bill in the light of their further consideration by the reconstituted National Labour Advisory Council.
To enable this, the Government will stand over until the Budget Session further legislation in relation to these matters.’
The Executive authorises the Officers to convene an immediate meeting of the Executive should the Government not act in accordance with our understanding of the Minister’s statement on behalf ofthe Government.
The ACTU stands ready with our fellow Peak Councilswhose steadfast support in these times we strongly welcome and appreciate- to mobilise its resources to protect the rights of a free Trade Union Movement.
To this end we request our State Branches and affiliates to continue the process of informing our total membership of the ACTU’s attitude to the industrial relations policy of the Fraser Government.
We decide to recommend to the Special Unions’ Conference the endorsement of this decision.
– The point I make is this: A report by Sir John Moore for the year ended 13 August 1976 suggests additional lubrication for our arbitration system. The last answer which I received from Senator Durack on this matter was that Mr Street was looking at it. It is not sufficient to look at it. The Government could get through the Parliament legislation to deal with this matter. There would be no opposition.
I want to take a little further this concept of even-handed justice. The Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate report for the period from 1 July 1975 to 30 June 1976 has been tabled. This is June 1977. So we cannot say that we are moving at a breakneck speed, although we are arguing that industrial relations is of paramount importance. It is. People talk about the dilatory approach of the trade union movement, but maybe the establishment could work a little more quickly. Page 5 of that report refers to the Government deciding in December 1975 that the more rigorous award enforcement policy should be reviewed. This was after Senator James McClelland and Mr Clyde Cameron had been Minister for Labor and Immigration. In subsequent years the Government felt that there was no need for that review; that it could have friendly relations with the unions. It decided that if it did not use the big stick it would get better results. That result did not work out very well.
I refer to a recent issue of the Australian Financial Review in which Mr Kidd, the President of the Arbitration Inspectors Association, took up the point about the number of award prosecutions. I am dealing with them in a very broad sense. He pointed out that in 1973-74 there were 1 1 2 cases. I suppose one would say that those cases were in the big league. These were the cases in which the inspectors recommended prosecution. In 1974-75 they recommended 197 prosecutions. Last financial year the number of prosecutions recommended fell to only 95. Is this policy working? I will not weary Senator Durack or the Senate for too long. Senator Bishop and I have been arguing a classic case at Sydney’s international airport. To say the least, the employer is playing it the tough way. He is saying to the arbitration inspectors: ‘When I have the time I will give you the time sheets to look at’. When we are talking about evenhandedness, the idea of sweet reasonableness does not always apply. For that reason I believe that some of this preliminary work suggested by Sir John Moore could come about. It is in an area in which there are new industrial techniques. I refer to containerisation on the waterfront.
Are we geared to deal with these problems? On a cold winter morning a crane driver in the port of Sydney may have to lift a heavy container. There may be excessive wind. There is a risk of unnecessary swinging of the load. Even with modern cranes, there have been mishaps there. At the last Estimates Committee meeting I asked what we were doing about a particular West German line. I asked whether we were utilising these derrick cranes in the right way. I was told: ‘We have written to Hamburg about it’. I wonder what would have happened if the Sydney Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation had said: ‘We will wait until you get an answer from Hamburg’. It did not do that. In cold weather there can be a contraction of metals. There could be another industrial catastrophe. I am using a winter analogy there.
I can remember a case involving metalliferous miners at Cobar. The question was whether the pit props and so on were sufficient. It was an AWU case. I know that very grudgingly the men went back. As they said to the organiser, they went back to that unpalatable job on his telling them that it was a directive and that there might be some litigation. They said: ‘We are going underground, not the conciliation commissioner’. There are the human values of industrial relations. We can do a lot of talking here. We can sit in our nice upholstered chairs. I wonder what would happen if we had to report for work tomorrow morning at a foundry where there was dirt and smoke. I know that conditions in foundries have improved to a degree, but they are still not like conditions in an air conditioned office. If somebody is away, other people are asked to do a little more. It is all very well to talk about productivity. When one has to do a little more, one is sometimes a little less vigilant about safe working procedures. These are the things that can fester. These are the things that worry the Opposition. We worry about whether the millennium will be achieved.
I notice that great stress has been placed on the partnership arrangements of the various groups which will constitute the National Labour Consultative Council. One of the great difficulties today is maverick groups. It is significant that Senator Durack is present, because he is a Western Australian senator. I will go back through the corridors of time three or four years and refer to the case of the VC Mining Co. in Western Australia. That firm engaged 20 men to go about 300 miles from Perth to operate bulldozers and other equipment to lift overburden in the expectation of a nickel mining operation. The venture failed. I know one or two of these people. They never got any money. We got into a real legal hassle about the Western Australian mining Act. Honourable senators will know that I was quite even-handed in my criticism. I criticised certain Mines Ministers. In fact I criticised the Mines Minister of a Liberal government and the Mines Minister of a Labor government for not moving fast enough. I was indebted to a man who was rich in mining industry knowledge, the late Harry Cant. Unfortunately, we did not win that case. The union found that because of the flimsiness of the evidence the case might have finished up in the Privy Council. Unions cannot afford all these legal excursions.
If we are to have this partnership, I think it is essential that when the employers take part they speak for all elements of the employers. The VC Mining Co. was the rock on which we foundered. I took the liberty of taking to task representatives of the Australian Mining Industry Council at a Senate committee hearing. They said: ‘That company is one of the bad apples that we would not accept ‘. It is difficult to get effective industrial relations when people seek to take some advantage. In some of the upheavals that occur there could be speedier decisions. Nye Bevan said that unduly delayed reform bears revolution. I think that applies in the industrial field. It goes much deeper than that.
I have said many times before and I say again that some people get the idea that a trade union secretary is a messiah, that he only has to talk to his members, lift up his hands and they genuflect and get back to work. One of the products of a better educated society is an end to those days. They were on the way out at the end of the Albert Monk era. With all due respect to the eloquence of Bob Hawke, he can only move within a certain area and so can any other trade union official. There are some members on the Government side enlightened on industrial relations, but at one time honourable senators opposite believed that trade union secretaries were too Left or did not earn their pay but simply took trips overseas. The result was that at times the rank and file took a great delight in putting paid officials back on their haunches. There is no doubt about that. I suppose it could be said this is industrial democracy.
Honourable senators opposite cannot have it both ways. Mr Burgess, the pontiff on industrial matters from Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, has stated this and that. If we want the arbitration system to represent the whole of the spectrum of the judiciary we need men like Mr Justice Staples. Maybe Mr Justice Staples often has unorthodox ideas, but he has always been a kind and understanding man. There is no secret that at times he has Utopian ideas, but he is a fair man and he is seeking justice and fair play. If it is good enough to tell the trade union movement that Bill Smith is a good union official or that he should not be a union official, it is good enough to refer to members of the Bench and say, for example, that Justice Staples has his virtues and ask what his future will be. I think he has a role to play. If the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) was here he would say: ‘ Hear, hear! ‘
With more females in the work force and unsupported mothers working, there has been a tremendous tendency to exploit people. Senator Georges referred to this matter in an excellent speech. It may be said that some heavy industries could survive under any legislation. Accusations may be made about people having a triggerfinger reaction, but it should be remembered who the pacesetters are. Girls in domestic service and belonging to the Hotel, Club, Caterers, Tea Room and Restaurant Employees Union have been subject to gross exploitation in the past. The mass media are now educating people to speak up for their rights. Trade union leaders cannot always deliver. At times the Scandinavian unions have met their Government- I think even at the moment they are involved in a number of disputesand have delivered. In West Germany they have delivered too. They have delivered because they have been able to get clear-cut pledges.
If the Government wanted good industrial relations with the Australian Council of Trade Unions it should have accepted the Bob Hawke Medibank concept. I do not agree with it fully, but the Government could have sold it to the trade unions. The difficulty is that it did not buy that scheme but instituted a levy for Medibank which distorted the take-home pay of workers. Now the Government has meddled with wage indexation. Many trade unionists ask: ‘Even if the ACTU Executive met the Prime Minister and Mr Street, how do we know that the Government will not change its mind in 6 months with resultant erosion of wages as will occur under the proposed tax indexation measures?’
Industrial relations depend on one keeping one’s word and on fair play. As in body contact sport, there will be constant eruptions. We have to live with them. We talk about justice for the individual. There is something wrong with the present scheme. I wish Senator Harradine was here. I make a plea for the officials of the New South Wales Branch of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association concerning 50 000 of its 100 000 membership. Senator Durack will remember the Committee debate on the legislation concerning the collegiate system of electing trade union officials. At the time I asked when this union would get reasonable representation on its State council. Like Diogenes, Barry Egan, Brian O’Neil and others are going around with a lamp. They are looking for industrial justice. There is no justice in their union. The longer the litigation in which it is involved continues the higher the bills will be.
I am one of those old-fashioned people who believe that the decisions of a federal council of a union should be accepted. Courses of action are open if there are irregularities in a union ballot. If a ballot is held for the election of a person to the federal council or the State council of a union, people should not go on a crusade to the court to upset the outcome of that ballot. There are some mischievous people. I can speak from experience. When I was in the railways a man got the sack for pilfering. As a trade union member he demanded his rights and went to the Industrial Registrar. The union had to appear before the railways appeal board to argue for his reinstatement. This is where trade unions get into a cleft stick. Senator Wright would agree that the man did not deserve the protection of the law, which forced the union to provide an organiser to appear before the appeals board. But because the man was a rank and file member of the union, there was nothing else the union could do. Senator Wright would agree with me that this man deserved to be hounded out because he was unfit to be a trade unionist, and I mean that. Just as the poor will always be with us, there will always be industrial disputes, particularly in heavy industry where people have to contend with noise and other factors. As to the future, I hope that the qualifications in the first point made by ACTU President Hawke will not be deviated from.
– I come into this debate because of some of the arguments I have heard. I compliment Senator Wright on the contribution that he made earlier in the debate. I agree with him. Probably I would not use exactly the same words, but this patheticBill is really just a skeleton of what the Government apparently intended originally. It is most regrettable that after taking a stand the Government backs down because of certain pressures and fears. As far as I am concerned, if the law of the country says a certain thing the law of the country should be observed by the unions, the employers and everybody else. The arbitration system has operated over a number of years. If the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is recognised as the body which makes decisions about payments to employees, then its decisions should be observed. I take the view that whatever the Commission decides upon is what should be abided by, not only by the employers but also by the employees.
The unions take it upon themselves to strike when they do not like something. If they do not like the decision of the court they go on strike. What would happen if every time employers felt that what the award prescribed was more than they should be paying they decided to close down the factories? One honourable senator spoke about lockouts having occurred sometimes. How many times have there been lockouts in this country? How many times have there been strikes by employees against awards given by the courts. When trade unionists do not get what they want or cannot get the satisfaction that they think they should have, then there is a strike. If we have an arbitration system I believe it should be observed by both sides so that, whether they like it or not, they have to abide by the judgments handed down. A person who goes before a court of justice has to abide by the decision given. In some cases he can make an appeal against the decision, but ultimately he has to abide by the decision made. The same situation should apply in relation to industrial laws.
Apparently the present Government is weak when it comes to standing up to what it believes should be done in respect of industrial disputes: If the Government were to consider what the majority of the people of this country want it would probably act in a much stronger way than it does at the present time. Only a week or two ago I saw the results of a poll related to unions. People were asked whether they believed in compulsory unionism and whether they believed in unions going out on strike and so on. I was amazed at the number of unionists who did not agree with the great majority of actions taken by their union leaders. Very often union leaders take their union out on strike without consulting the individual unionists. There is no question that some of the people who lead the unions today are out to destroy the system that we have in this country.
– If Senator Wood intends to continue to speak in this way he will need the support of an audience of honourable senators from his own side. I direct your attention to the state of the House, Mr President.
– A quorum is not present.
– It was nice of Senator Georges to gather an audience for me. As I was saying at the time when Senator Georges called for a quorum so that honourable senators might hear what I have to say -
– He was not in the chamber himself when I was speaking.
– As I was saying, it is the responsibility of the unions to accept the decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the same way as it is the responsibility of the employers to accept those decisions. The unions have no more right to go on strike after a decision is made than the employers have to close down their factories and shut out the employees because they did not like the decision. Because of the industrial strife that unions have caused over the years, I think the average citizen in this country has just about reached breaking point. Australia has become a very slap-happy country. I think that strikes affect the general prosperity of the country and the welfare of its citizens. Who do the unions really attack when they go on strike? Are they attacking the employer concerned or are they attacking employers generally? No, the people they attack most when they go on strike are the ordinary citizens of this country. They inconvenience people from all walks of life in getting to their place of employment. The strike that took place recently was a very striking illustration of the great harm that can be caused to the ordinary citizen. People were stranded all over the world. Some of them were short of money. Those people were caught in a very awkward predicament. There were people sleeping at airports, and people were placed in all sorts of predicaments because of that strike.
– Only because those striking had been waiting 18 months to have their case heard.
– All right, they had been waiting 18 months. It was the Public Service Board which was giving a decision. The unionists rebelled against that decision. Then, when they were offered the opportunity to go before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, did they go back to work straight away? Of course they did not. When unions go on strike they are really attacking the ordinary citizen of this country and they are doing the country very great harm. There is no question that they are harming this country in a serious way. It has got to the stage where people from overseas who want to trade with this country cannot rely on getting goods. Let us take, for example, the situation in the coal industry and other industries. If the supply of materials such as coal is going to be held up in reaching countries like Japan, what will happen? Eventually those countries will seek other sources of supply. That sort of situation can do us more and more harm. I know that the people of Australia would take the view that not only the employers but also the unions of this country ought to accept the decisions made by our Arbitration Commission. If that were done and if the legislation of this country were strong enough to enforce those decisions we would have a much happier and much more contented population than we have at the present time.
Senator Georges talked about the right to strike in certain situations and he said that such strikes always did the unions good in the long run. I remember the situation that arose many years ago in the sugar industry in my own city of Mackay in Queensland. I used to be pay master for the waterside workers. I know something about union affairs too. I recall that the people who worked on the waterfront were probably the best paid workers in Mackay at the time. The late Jim Healy was one of the fellows I used to pay on the waterfront. I was amazed to find when I entered this place how everybody trembled in fear of him and were timid of him. I remember the arguments that I had with him and how he was put in his place by just a young fellow.
What happened to those waterside workers who formed a very troublesome section of the industrial world? They had strike after strike, and they caused so much trouble that the men on the Harbour Board decided that they would introduce bulk handling of sugar; and they did. What happened? Senator Georges said that industrial strikes bring gains for unionists in the long run. The requirement for waterside workers in Mackay fell from about 450 to about 50 at that time. They lost their jobs and they had to be shipped to Sydney and to other places in order to get work. So that is an indication that very often strikes permanently damage the very people who have been sent on strike.
It is quite patent and apparent that the people who very often cause these strikes- the union leaders- do not lose their pay when they send the union members on strike. However, the poor individual unionists who are on strike lose their pay. I think it would be very good if legislation could be introduced which made provision that when a union went on strike that union ‘s leaders did not receive any pay. I think then we would see a lot fewer strikes than we have at present. As far as I am concerned, the general strikes that are called on are an attack upon the livelihood and working conditions of the people of this country.
Governments should recognise that strong action has to be taken to ensure that all parties associated with industry and involved in arbitration decisions observe such decisions. If they do not, there is no reason why a strong penalty should not be imposed on them. To that end I would like to see much stronger legislation introduced than we have at present. I would hope that this legislation at least might have some effect in meeting the need.
– We are debating cognately 2 Bills. The purpose of the first Bill is to establish a National Labour Consultative Council, and I shall deal with that Bill shortly. The purpose of the second Bill is to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to establish an Industrial Relations Bureau. The latter Bill, in another form, was introduced into the House of Representatives and the Government said, throughout the length and breadth of Australia, that it would be the very legislation which would solve the industrial problems of this country. That led me to move an urgency motion in this House which was debated some three or four weeks ago. Much has changed since then but for a while after that urgency debate the Government continued to bombard the electorate with statements to the effect that this piece of legislation, which had been introduced into the House of Representatives, would be the very legislation required to establish industrial stability in this country. Let me give an example of some of the statements made. I refer to an article in the Mercury newspaper of 12 May 1977, headed ‘No Backdown on Bill’, which said:
The Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, yesterday gave an unqualified assurance’ that the Government would proceed with the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation.
We will not give in’, he declared in answer to a question at a luncheon in Hobart.
Mr Fraser said the strike by air traffic controllers, ‘with all its selfishness, with all its disregard for the interests of the overwhelming majority or other Australians’, was the strongest possible argument for the IRB legislation.
Another member of the House of Representatives, who was then accompanying the Prime Minister in Tasmania putting the case for a Yes vote at the referendum, had this to say:
The Industrial Relations Bureau legislation now before the Federal Parliament -
That is not this legislation but the Bill that was before the House of Representatives- was tailor-made for Tasmania.
He said that clause 26 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill would enable persons or organisations engaging in industrial strike action that interfered with interstate trade and commerce to be called on publicly to account for their actions. This referred particularly to strike action which, in Tasmania’s case, isolated the State from the mainland. He said:
Perhaps some of the people who abused me for calling on the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation will now understand why we need a law to protect Tasmania.
That statement was made by a member of the House of Representatives. I will not mention his name because I am sure that he regrets those words. It is of great concern to me that members of the Government should go throughout the length and breadth of this country making statements of that kind, suggesting to the people that the problems of industrial relations can be overcome simply by legislation. Now the Government has brought in a Bill which is an absolute shell of the one that was referred to as being essential to overcome the problems of industrial relations in this country.
Let us analyse the statements made by the Prime Minister and that other member of the House of Representatives who said that the Bill was tailor-made for the air traffic controllers strike. How would it have affected the situation brought about by the air traffic controllers’ strike? Two of the salient features of the Bill which was introduced into the House of Representatives were the enforcement of a secret strike ballot and an additional provision in section 143 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act adding as a further ground for deregistration the ground that the union interfered with interstate trade. On the first point, the air traffic controllers had already had a secret strike ballot and the result was to stay out on strike. Would that legislation have done anything in that particular matter? Of course it would not. What it would have done would have been to give statutory approval for a continuation of the strike.
Secondly, let us consider the deregistration threat. The air traffic controllers’ organisation would not have been worried about that one iota. Honourable senators with memories or those who were in the industrial area at the time would remember the air pilots’ strike some years ago. When the pilots were threatened with deregistration they voluntarily deregistered. It has not affected them. Additions to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act were made subsequently to cover them, establishing a flight crew officers tribunal and the like. Lest I be accused of not being even handed I will refer to what the Leader of the Opposition, Mr E. G. Whitlam, was saying at that time. All he could contribute to the debate on the air traffic controllers strike, which seriously affected Tasmania, was: ‘Well, you see, here is a right wing union full of Liberal Party supporters who are out on strike’. That was an infantile statement to make in respect of a serious industrial dispute. Furthermore, it was wrong.
I have made my position clear in respect of the matter. In my view, the air traffic controllers, particularly those on the first two or three rungs of their career scale, had a case. Frankly, it was one of the worst handled disputes that I have ever seen. The industrial officer of the Association, Mr Bob Garlick, said that for 18 months he had been banging his head against the brick wall of the Public Service Board. That was an extraordinary statement to make. It must have affected him. Surely to goodness anyone with an ounce of common sense and the ability to use the industrial procedures intelligently would have been able to obtain some remedy for his members after a period of 18 months. Great delays took place between the time the letter was first written to the Public Service Board and the time the first application was made to the Arbitrator. That is the matter at which members of that organisation should have a look.
Bob Garlick is one of the new trendy leftwingers who have been emerging in white collar organisations. He left himself no room to manoeuvre. Anyone in the industrial arena knew that. All the people with great responsibility and experience in the field- including Sir John Moore, Bob Hawke and others- had not been able to get him to let a bit of ice form on which he could skate or which he could use as an escape route. Fortunately, that problem was overcome, but it certainly was not assisted by the Prime Minister and other Government supporters going around the countryside and saying that the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation was tailor-made for such situations.
If there is to be responsibility in the industrial relations arena we must have responsible union leadership and responsible leadership in the employer organisations. Industrial relations are best served by the encouragement of effective, responsible trade unions working in the best interests of their members and in the encouragement ofthe members to participate fully in union affairs. The power ofthe trade unions to contribute effectively and responsibly towards industrial progress depends on the co-ordinated and disciplined action of their members. For many years this has been recognised. The rules of individual trade unions registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act have contained selfdisciplinary provisions. Likewise, the central trade union organisations such as the Australian
Council of Trade Unions and the labour councils, have had rules for the conduct and control of industrial disputes with their own internal disciplinary procedures. These procedures are designed and are necessary to achieve the objectives of the unions in a united and co-ordinated manner with the least possible disruption.
Over the past few years a combination of factors has led to a decline in responsible trade unionism. Australia has witnessed organised attempts by the pro-communist left to create anarchy, to disregard the effects of irresponsible industrial actions on other workers and the community, to flout ACTU rules for the conduct and control of industrial disputes and to turn the trade union movement into a political battering ram, by the abuse of the strike weapon for political purposes. Failure to uphold the ACTU and labour councils dispute rules has contributed to the belief of some unions that they can please themselves as to what action they take without regard to the consequences to themselves as ACTU affiliates or to members of other unions.
The sense or anarchy is fostered also by those union officials who, rather than oppose the push towards political strikes, take the easy way out by telling their members it is up to each individual whether he joins the strike action. Such weakness attacks the very foundation of the legitimate strike weapon and the trade union movement, which relies for its effectiveness on the precepts unity is strength’, and ‘united we stand; divided we fall’. Encouragement to union members to shed their collective responsibility for the actions of the unions as a whole and to hide behind their so-called individual rights, as was proposed by the original Bill, leads to anarchy and allows the organised pro-communists to use their unions and the union movement as a whole for their own domestic and international purposes. As is often the case, the backlash to the situation created is an attack not on the cause of the problem but on the institution of unionism itself.
When the Government introduced the original Bill in the other place it stated that its intention was to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and that its amendments would enforce obligations and protect individual rights. I said when this issue was debated in this chamber as a matter of public importance, and I say now, that nothing could have been further from the truth. Fortunately, the Government has realised that large tracts of its original Bill would have been counter-productive to the interests of orderly industrial progress and responsible industrial relations. To show up their previous proposition one need only point to the fact that of 33 clauses in the original industrial relations Bill only 5 clauses remain unaltered. Yet it was about that original legislation that the Prime Minister, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and other government supporters went around the country saying that that legislation provided the answer to all the problems of industrial relations in this country.
– But the Government caved in.
– Of course. One must ask whether they were serious or whether it was an attempt to establish an ambit situation with the trade union movement. In either case, the Government has misled the people of Australia. If it was serious that the legislation, as introduced into the House of Representatives, was necessary for industrial stability- and now we see that only 5 clauses of that legislation- the 5 most puny clauses of it- remain in this legislation, it was fooling the people of Australia and they are now disillusioned. If, however, it was a charade to establish an ambit situation for some negotiated settlement with the trade union movement, all I can say, as one with some experience in industrial negotiations, is that the Government is a very poor bargainer indeed.
I should like to feel that the Government has considered the matters that have been put to it by a number of people and by honourable senators in the debate on this issue as a matter of public importance in this chamber. Perhaps, it has received advice that some of its original proposals were unconstitutional. I was all prepared to come into this place and to show that under the Constitution the Parliament does not have the power to legislate as was intended by way of the original Bill.
– In what respect?
– Let us look at the original clause 4, which attempted to legislate directly in respect of an industrial dispute. Section 5 1 (xxxv) of the Constitution does not clothe the Parliament with that power. As the honourable senator is quite well aware, section 51 (xxxv) of the Constitution entitles the Parliament to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
– But the whole question of industrial organisations is thought to come under the incidental power. As an incidental to arbitration one has to create organisations and define employees.
– The honourable senator is referring to the Jumbunna case; I understand that. What I am talking about is the original clause 4, which sought to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in respect to offences by employers in relation to members of organisations. What it attempted to do was to legislate directly in respect of an industrial dispute situation. It is also interesting to note that the Government has deleted not only the clauses to which I have referred but also clauses 4 and 5; it has left in clause 6; it has deleted clauses 7, 8, 9, 10 and 1 1; it has amended slightly clause 12; it has deleted clauses 13, 14 and 15; it has amended slightly clause 16; it has amended clauses 1 7, 1 8 and 1 9; and it has deleted clauses 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32 and 33. It is an absolute shell of the previous proposition which the Government itself said was necessary to overcome the industrial problems in Australia.
The Government should never again say that legislation is the panacea to overcome the problems of industrial relations. The Government should bear in mind what I have just said, namely, that if it wants responsible industrial relations it should encourage responsible union leadership. But, of course, we have seen how the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), when simple questions are put time after time, to the Minister representing him in this chamber, is unable to answer those questions. I have asked questions without notice here on one particular subject since February. Only today have I received the answer. It is a matter of substantial importance to the moderate trade unions in this country. Only after 5 months have I received the answer. As an official of the third largest union in Australia, which has always played a responsible role in the councils of the trade union movement, I do not accept that sort of insult.
It is interesting to speculate about why the Government wants to establish the Industrial Relations Bureau to perform functions which, at the present time, are being performed by the Arbitration Inspectorate. It is either to establish an unwanted bureaucracy or to establish a Bureau with future capacity. If the Bureau is to have future capacity, the Government should come clean now and tell us what that capacity will be. I am in a difficult position. It has been agreed to, so far as the trade union movement is concerned, and I certainly am not one to interfere with the agreement that has been reached in respect of this matter.
In the short time that is available to me I will deal with the second Bill before us- the Bill which establishes the National Labour Consultative Committee. In this legislation, it is interesting to note, the Consultative Committee is established by statute. That is fairly unusual. Previously, of course, the National Labour Advisory Council was not established by statute. It was a body which met from time to time and discussed problems as they arose. This body which is to be established by statute is to have certain members from the employers and from the unions. The legislation provides also for the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations to be the Chairman and for the Secretary to the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations to be a member.
What it does not say is why this body has to be established by statute. Why does it have to be established by statute? There is no provision in this Bill for it to make a report to the Parliament. There is no provision, for example -
– The Inspectorate has to report, even though it is not established by statute.
– It is established under section 125, is it not?
– Not as a statutory body. Provision is made for the appointment of inspectors. That is not creating a statutory body.
– That is true; but the point I am making is: Why should this Council have to be established by statute? It operated previously as the National Labour Advisory Council and advised the Minister. This Bill appears to establish a Council which comprises the named organisations, the Minister and the Secretary to the Department. They could meet anyway by their own decision, and they could meet on a regular basis.
If this Council is to be established it ought to have powers to co-opt experts when it is considering matters of vital interest to organisations affected by amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. As I see it, there is no provision in the Bill before us which would enable the Council to do that. There is provision only for the establishment of committees- presumably, consisting of some of the personnel of the Council. I point out to the Senate that the Minister, in his letter to me today after all those months, said that the matter about which I was inquiring on behalf of probably more than one million workers- members of registered industrial organisations will now have to go before the National Labour Consultative Council for its consideration. I am referring to amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act governing organisations registered under the Act. Yet, none of the organisations which will comprise the National Labour Consultative Council are organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Some of the employers may be registered under the Act, but the union organisations certainly are not. I put it to the Senate and to the Minister -
– I do not think the employers are, either.
– The National Employers Policy Committee is not; that is correct. I put it to the Senate that the Government should have a good look at this legislation to see whether the National Labour Consultative Council could form expert committees of persons from organisations which would be vitally affected by any amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– in replyWhen this debate began many hours ago Senator Button, who led on behalf of the Opposition, quoted from the policy of the Liberal and National Country Parties on employment and industrial relations- a policy on which the present Government was elected in December 1975. Unlike Senator Button I propose to quote from that policy some passages which are relevant to this debate. That policy contained 2 very important matters which the Government said it would implement if it were elected. One was the implementation of legislation to set up the Industrial Relations Bureau. The policy said:
We propose that a third arm of the Conciliation and Arbitration administration be established whose purpose will be to secure observance of industrial law. It shall be called the Industrial Relations Bureau.
It went on to say that it would have the responsibility for the general supervision and observance of industrial law. Another very important matter which was a feature of that policy relates to the former National Labour Advisory Council. The policy said:
The National Labour Advisory Council will be revitalised and given more effective charter to provide a continuing national forum for discussion on the needs of manpower policies and for the improvement of relations in industry.
The NLAC would become a statutory body ensuring that it will operate with a firm purpose and not merely be available for use if required by a Minister for Labour.
Of course, those statements, particularly in relation to the former NLAC, were made following the experience under the Labor Government which did not in fact call it together during the 3 years Labor was in office.
The Bills before the Senate today implement those two major planks of the policy of the Liberal and National Country Parties and, as I have said, they received the very strong endorsement of the Australian electorate in December 1975. The debate today has ranged far and wide over the whole subject of industrial relations and I think debate strayed a good deal of the time from the actual Bills that are before the Senate.
As far as the Bureau is concerned, I would just like to put its purpose in proper perspective. As the policy which I have quoted says and as my second reading speech says, the function of the Bureau is to secure the observance of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, regulations and of awards. It was never the intention of the policy, nor is it the intention in the provisions of this legislation, that the Bureau should be concerned simply with launching prosecutions and obtaining penalties. In the light of the discussion today on both sides of the chamber it would seem because this had been a subject of complaint by the Opposition, that it is thought the Bureau will behave in that way. It has also been a complaint from certain other honourable senators who have spoken that in fact the Bureau as now proposed is going to be too weak. So what I want to do is to put in perspective for the benefit of those honourable senators who have clearly misunderstood the purpose of the Bureau just what is the nature of this Bureau to which the Government attaches great significance. I would like to quote from the speech which was made by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) when he introduced the Bill into the House of Representatives in the first place on 3 1 March. He said:
The Bureau will not, as some propagandists would have it, be an industrial policeman. It will be an independent body whose basic aim will be to secure the observance of the Act, regulations and awards in a reasonable and amicable manner.
– That is a deception.
- Senator, I know you find this sort of thing quite impossible to understand but I would just like you to listen and try to understand it if you possibly can. The Minister went on to say:
In effect, the Government sees the Bureau as a type of industrial relations ombudsman. In particular it will provide a focal point for non-English speaking workers to obtain assistance when they are concerned about their rights as employees and union members. The Bureau will seek to secure correction of breaches of the industrial law without recourse of the legal processes of the Court. Where the Bureau is unable to have the breach remedied, it will have the responsibility of pursuing the necessary action in the court.
I want, as I said, to emphasise that aspect of the Bureau because it is not presented and it has never been presented simply as an industrial policeman, as the Minister has clearly set out in his speech. The object of this Bureau and the object of having a man of considerable independence and quality as its director is precisely to achieve those objectives and pursue methods of observing industrial peace as set out in that passage I quoted from the Minister’s speech.
The legislation establishes an industrial bureau of that character. The Bureau will be presided over by a director who will be appointed for a period not exceeding 7 years and he will have independence from the Minister. He will- and this is an indication of the status of the director- receive a salary and an allowance comparable to those payable to a deputy president of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That illustrates the status of the director of the Bureau. I had endeavoured to indicate in one of those quotations just what his role will be in the arbitration machinery.
The National Labour Consultative Council Bill before the Senate seeks to establish the Council. As I have said, in accordance with our policy it is a revitalised form and statutory form of the old National Labour Advisory Council which had been an important feature of our arbitration system for many years but which was allowed to lapse under the former Labor Government. When the present coalition Government came into office that Council was one of the first things that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations endeavoured to revive. I am quite surprised about some of the comments that have been made in this debate on this matter. For instance, Senator Button was saying how important it is that we should have manpower policies and that these matters should be the subject of discussion. Of course that is exactly what we have tried to do from the very beginning of our term in office as a government. But it was only after this legislation to establish the Industrial Relations Bureau was first introduced into the Parliament that the Australian Council of Trade Unions was prepared to accept and to participate in a new revitalised national labour advisory council. Under this Bill the former council is to be re-named the National Labour Consultative Council and of course it will revive and revitalise this very important piece of machinery in our industrial relations system. A number of matters have been raised in this debate. I think some of them can be dealt with quite adequately during the Committee stages and I do not want to go into them in detail now in winding up this second reading debate. However, I refer to one other matter which has been mentioned; that is, that somehow or other the Government has abandoned its policies in this area and has brought in something which is a pale reflection of its previous proposals. I emphasise that the Government certainly is maintaining its policies in relation to the protection of the rights of individuals and other matters which were contained in the Bill but which have now been deleted from it.
These matters will be referred- this is made quite clear in the second reading speech- to the National Labour Consultative Council. The Government is committed to legislating for the protection of individual rights. I refer to what has been said on these matters in my second reading speech. As I said, the Government is prepared to have the particular provisions ofthe Bill that was introduced into the House of Representatives in March, and other matters, referred to the National Labour Consultative Council and will give further consideration to them following the deliberations of the Council. As Senator Scott emphasised during the debate, the Government is not engaged in an exercise of union bashing. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is not, as Senator Cavanagh alleged, encouraging a move to destroy trade unions.
– He was.
– I ask Senator Cavanagh what could be a more clear refutation of those absurd allegations that he made today, and which have been made by many of his colleagues around the country, than the agreement that has been reached between the Government, through the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and Mr Hawke, on behalf of the trade union movement- an agreement which has given rise to the legislation which we have before us today. This legislation is a notable example and a notable product of the Government’s rational policies in this area. This is the proof of the pudding. The proof is not in the words and the accusations that are being thrown around; it is in what the Government is doing. The proposals before the Senate this afternoon are clear examples of that.
In conclusion. I refer to the policies on which this Government was elected. They have been quoted by Senator Scott. The Government clearly recognises the importance of trade unions and the rights of people and every employee to join a union. The Government believes that people should be given encouragement to take part in their own organisations and associations. If one reads the Bill with an unprejudiced mind, one will see that throughout the Bill there is support for the institution of the trade union movement and its vital role, not only in industrial relations but also in the community. With regard to these very delicate and sensitive questions of industrial relations, I would like to adopt some of the views that were expressed eloquently by Senator Lewis in this debate. He said that in this whole area one must at all times be prepared to discuss, to understand and to compromise. I believe that this legislation is a notable example of that policy and the Government’s attitude. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
That the Bills be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Condor L. Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! I remind the Committee that we are dealing with 2 Bills, the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill and the National Labour Consultative Council Bill. As amendments have been circulated dealing with the second Bill I suggest that we take each Bill separately. Is it the wish of the Committee that we deal first with the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1977
Clauses 1 to 4- by leave- taken together.
– I should indicate, in speaking about the definitions of Bureau’ in clause 3 (b), that for reasons which may have emerged in the course of the somewhat lengthy debate on the second reading the Opposition is opposed to the inclusion of references to the Industrial Relations Bureau in this legislation. I do not propose to rise on every clause and indicate that position. I indicate it now in relation to the whole of the Bill and take the opportunity of referring to it in dealing with clause 3. We will not proceed further with that objection. We just indicate it in relation to the Bill generally at this stage.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 5 (Offences by organizations in relation to members and eligible persons).
-Clause 5 is a somewhat extraordinary provision. Clause 5 (a) is not very different from the provisions in the principal Act. It is a sort of safety provision. It is rather like what Senator Durack mentioned in his reply- the real purpose of this Act is part of the Government’s ethnic affairs policy to look after migrant workers. This provision deals with safety. Sub-clause 5 (b) states in part that ‘Section 126p applies in relation to an investigation under sub-section ( 1) of this section’. Proposed new section 54(1) states:
Where, in the opinion of a member of the Commission, a matter concerning the safety of employees or of other persons in or about a place of work arises in or in connexion with an industrial dispute, he may request the Bureau to arrange for an authorised person forthwith to investigate the matter and to report to him as soon as practicable.
Proposed new section 126P which appears a little further on in the Bill refers to the question of right of entry by an authorised person. In accordance with the right of entry the authorised person is entitled to enter a building, examine books and so on, and to inspect any work or any material, machinery, appliance, article or facility and, in proposed new sub-section (b) (iii), interview any employee. I draw attention to that. My attention was drawn to it by a distinguished industrial relations scholar at La Trobe University. I think that pan is a hangover from the original legislation which was introduced in the House of Representatives on 3 1 March.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting Senator Button was discussing clause 5. 1 am pleased that the original provision to amend section 54 of the principal Act has been altered. The amending provision was in the Bill introduced in the other House, and read:
Where, in the opinion of a member of the Commission, a matter concerning the safety of employees or of other persons in or about a place of work arises in or in connection with an industrial dispute, he may request the Director to arrange for an authorised person to investigate the matter. . . .
Under section 54 of the Act there is a requirement to make the findings public, if that is thought desirable. I am wondering whether the Minister would advise why the current provision in the Act about publication has been omitted. I defer to Senator Button.
-Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the nature of this clause insofar as it purports to deal with matters of safety. By sub-clause (b) proposed section 126P is brought into the scope of the provisions of clause 5. Proposed section 126P provides a right of entry to an authorised person. Proposed section 126P sub-clause (b) (iii) refers to what that authorised person can do when he enters premises to interview any employee. This matter was brought to my attention by Ms Jackie Fristacki, a scholar in industrial relations at La Trobe University. The suggestion, insofar as the application of the safety function set out in clause 5 is concerned, is an extraordinary one. Insofar as it has application, one would think it would be desirable that the authorised person have other functions, including the interviewing of an employer as well as an employee in relation to safety matters. That seems to be an omission. I draw that to the Minister’s attention.
I draw it to his attention in the context of the amount of talk in this place and elsewhere about man- days lost through industrial disputes in this country. The number of man-days lost through industrial disputes in this country is relatively small, if one compares the man-days lost through industrial disputes with the man-days lost through industrial accidents. That fact is often neglected in discussion of this question in Australia. Senator Lewis, who is attending very astutely to what I say, might reflect on the fact that the number of man-days lost through unemployment is significantly more than the number of man-days lost through industrial action.
– What are the figures? It is over 3 500 000, in respect of industrial disputes. What are the figures for man-days lost through industrial accidents?
– I cannot give the honourable senator the figures.
– Then how can you make such a statement?
-I shall hand Senator Lewis my copy of the Jackson report. The figures are set out in it. The point is made very graphically. I cannot find the relevant page. If he bears with me, I will hand him a copy of the Jackson report. He would be well advised to spend his evening researching it. If he did, he would be better informed when he finished.
The Jackson report drew attention to this point very significantly. In talking about the malaise in manufacturing industry in Australia, it made the point very strongly that the work force had a shocking record of industrial accidents and that that was a tremendously significant factor in man-days lost. The number of man-days lost through industrial accidents was far in excess of the number of man-days lost through industrial action in any year of recorded history in Australia. When I say ‘any year of recorded history’, I mean in the last decade or two.
– Do you mean during the term of office of the Whitlam Government, when the figure was over 6 million man-days lost?
– Why do you have to be so sexist? Why not use ‘person-days’ instead of man-days’?
- Senator Georges raises a very good point. We have no amendments prepared. I hope that the Minister will take Senator Georges’ interjection into account. I do not think the Minister was actually listening. It has been suggested that the Government should amend this legislation so that it refers to persons rather than to men.
– I would have thought the plural was people, not persons.
– Obviously, the reference should be to person-power rather than to manpower. I have no doubt that we will get a great contribution from Senator Georges on that point later. My point about clause 5 and its relationship with proposed section 126P is a small one to which attention has not been drawn in the House of Representatives or elsewhere, but I believe it to be an important one. I am not suggesting any amendment, but I hope that the Government will give consideration to it. We are dealing with only clause 5 at this stage. Those are the only particular matters to which I draw the attention ofthe Committee.
I also draw attention to the fact that the proposal in clause 5 is a very important one. It provides a very constructive function for the Industrial Relations Bureau to perform. I hope that the Bureau is succesful in performing that, and is more successful than its predecessor bodies have been in carrying out that function. As the Minister said in his reply to the second reading debate, considerations of the conditions of members of the work force, whether they are migrant labour or injured labour, are important factors in the success of legislation of this kind.
– Section 54 of the original Act deals with the safety of employees. Sub-section (4) provides:
A report of an Inspector under this section shall be considered by the member of the Commission where it is relevant to the performance of the powers and duties of the member under this Act and, unless there are special circumstances which in his opinion render it undesirable to do so, the member shall make the report public.
The initial Bill to establish the Industrial Relations Bureau, which was introduced in the House of Representatives, did not include that requirement to make the report public. I note with pleasure that the Government, after a good deal of discussion on this matter, has seen fit to reinstate the original amending sub-clause. I apologise for not finding the appropriate reference earlier, but it is difficult when the Government introduces in the other place legislation which it says around the countryside is essential for the maintenance of industrial stability and then introduces another Bill in which only five of the original 33 clauses remain intact. Indeed, most of the others have been deleted.
- Senator Button- jointly or severally with Senator Georges, I am not sure which- raised the question of powers granted under clause 5, which proposes a new section 54. The proposed new section provides that when a member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission raises a matter of safety, the inspector, among other things, may enter premises and interview any employee. One has to refer to proposed new section 126p, which is a rewording of the existing section 125. It contains the same provisions as to the interviewing of an employee. It gives power to an inspector to enter the premises of an employer to interview employees, but of course the employer might not be agreeable to the interview taking place with the employee. It does not mean that the employee actually has to answer questions. It simply gives an inspector the right to interview an employee whether the employer is agreeable or not. Senator Harradine raised a point. I am advised that clause 5, by reference to other sections, contains the same powers as exist at present.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 9- by leave- taken together.
-We in the Opposition express our regrets about the repealing of section 125, which is dealt with in clause 8 of the Bill. Sub-clause 8 (2) provides that where a party to proceedings before a court under this Act was an inspector the Industrial Relations Bureau will replace him as such a party in those proceedings. We assume- I reiterate this point for the purposes of the record, if nothing else- that that reference to the powers of the Bureau will be construed in the light of the statement by the Minister that these powers will be no more or less than the powers exercised by the inspector whom the Bureau is to replace and whose function is now to be exercised by the Bureau. We do not pursue any objections to the provisions of clause 8.
– Again I raise a point that I raised in a question upon notice concerning the composition of the Industrial Inspectorate. For a considerable time I have had on the notice paper a question addressed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) requesting the number and names of the personnel of the Inspectorate. Clause 8 repeals section 125 of the principal Act. That section provides that there shall be such inspectors as are required for the purpose of securing the observance of the Act, the regulations and the awards. The Minister may appoint a person to be an inspector for the purposes of the Act.
I would like to know 2 things. First of all, why have I not received a reply to my question upon notice- a reply has been outstanding for a considerable time- as to who are the inspectors, how many there are, by whom they were appointed, in what circumstances they were appointed and what qualifications they had to be appointed as inspectors in the first place? Of course the dogs are barking that under a previous Administration the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) appointed all sorts of people to the Industrial Inspectorate. It is said that he appointed broken down union officials and the like.
What I want before I vote on this legislation is an answer to my question upon notice. Surely to goodness the Minister would have been able to reply to it in one day. Month after month since December I have asked the same question in this place on an industrial matter affecting more than 1 million unionists, and only today did I get an answer. How can I make up my mind whether it is appropriate for me to vote for the repeal of section 125 of the principal Act, presuming that people who are appointed currently under section 125 of the Act will form the Industrial Relations Bureau? It is not fair to ask anybody to buy a pig in a poke, but that is what the Government is asking us to do tonight. I ask the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) when I may expect from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations answers to my simple questions upon notice. The information sought is required by me to enable me to make a reasoned decision in respect of this legislation. I also ask what is to happen to all present members of the Inspectorate. In fairness to the Inspectorate, I must say that 99 per cent of those employed are very hard working people. Most are overworked. What is to happen to them? What is to happen to their permanency? Are they to be transferred to the Bureau.
– I understand that it is the intention to transfer the present staff of the Inspectorate to the Bureau on proclamation of this legislation. I cannot see what difference this fact makes to whether Senator Harradine votes for this legislation. If he has any objection to any members of the Inspectorate presumably he will continue to have objections to them when they are transferred to the Bureau. I think this is irrelevant to whether he supports or opposes clause 8.
-I am grateful to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) for the last piece of information he gave. I just wonder whether the Minister is able to inform the Senate of the attitude of members of the Inspectorate to their proposed transfer to the Industrial Relations Bureau. There has been a degree of Press speculation on this question, and I wonder whether the Minister can inform the Senate about that and whether Press speculation that members of the Inspectorate are not happy about their proposed new functions is correct.
– The present inspectors operate under the Public Service Act. Their functions under the new provision will be the same.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 10 (Industrial Relations Bureau.)
-The Opposition regards as important one or two objections which it has to the provisions contained in clause 10. 1 shall deal with the clause in globo. Clause 10 provides for the establishment of the Industrial Relations Bureau and the office of Director of the Industrial Relations Bureau who, in the words of the clause, ‘shall control the Bureau’. We heard much comment from Senator Durack earlier this evening about what the Director will do and what the Bureau will do, but we have heard nothing about the qualifications of the Director of the Bureau and whence he is supposed to come. There is a hint in subsequent sub-clauses of clause 10 ofthe Bill that he might be a presidential member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. However, that is only a hint that one can draw from subsequent subclauses. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s views on the qualifications which the Director of the Bureau will be expected to have. One would hope and assume that the Director of the Industrial Relations Bureau will be a person who is experienced in industrial relations matters and, for that matter, in industrial law. We are concerned about that aspect of the Director’s function.
The clause goes on to say that the Director may, on behalf of the Bureau, exercise any power conferred on the Bureau by this Act or the regulations. Contained in the Bill, of course, are a number of other provisions relating to the functions of the Bureau. What is most frightening, if I may say so- I am sorry that Senator Wright is not here to support me on this question, because I am confident that he would- is the fact that the Director reports annually to the Parliament but otherwise is completely free of ministerial directional control. At an earlier stage when the legislation was being discussed, I was facetious enough to suggest to the Minister- 1 hesitate to recall it- that Norman Gunston might be an appropriate figure to direct the Industrial Relations Bureau; that is, when it had its full powers and was in its full glory under the legislation as it was previously drafted and not under the emasculated Bill which we now have before us.
Let us assume a situation in which the Director appointed to the Bureau has as an isolate a particular view of what the functions of the Bureau ought to be and the way in which they ought to be exercised. He seems to me under this legislation to be entirely free in the way in which he behaves and in the way in which he exercises those functions. I would have thought that industrial relations was too important an area for a Minister to abdicate his responsibilities to a Director who is appointed by statute and who holds a statutory office as head of a statutory body, which the Industrial Relations Bureau will be. In the last week or two we have had cited in this Parliament instances of what I would regard as a political abdication of responsibility in relation to the Director-General of Social Services. It is quite true, as Government Ministers have said, that in the Karen Green case it has been the responsibility of the Director-General to determine what will happen. I think it is unfortunate when Parliament, by virtue of legislation of this sort, puts the onus and responsibility for administering a body of this kind on a statutory head who is really quite free of government direction. Assume the horrifying possibility, for government senators, of having in this country again a dreaded socialist government and Mr Whitlam the elder, as he would then be, appointing some outrageous figure to be head of the Industrial Relations Bureau.
– You have not done much recently to help this fantasy.
-Senator Hall has not done much recently either, I have noticed. He has been very quiet indeed. 1 can imagine Senator Hall, if he is still in the Parliament in about 1984, in all his outrage saying: ‘Look at this dreadful Government. With all these industrial stoppages that are going on, with wages going up, with profits going down, with manufacturing industry being ruined, with the whole country going to the dogs, with the work ethic declining, the Government is hiding behind the head of this Industrial Relations Bureau and saying: “It has nothing to do with us; it is all his fault because he has not been exercising the powers properly”.’ We see that as a fundamental objection to the provisions of clause 10 of this Bill. I indicate that it is the Opposition’s intention to vote against that clause, although we do not propose to divide the Committee on it.
A number of other provisions in clause 10 are a little vague. They go to the question of the functions of the Bureau and so on. However, I think that most of the comments that one might wish to make about those other provisions really can be taken up by what I have said about the role and function of the Director of the Bureau. I refer particularly, of course, to proposed section 1 26f which deals with the powers of the GovernorGeneral to suspend or remove the Director for misbehaviour or incapacity. That expression might not include a very bizarre view of industrial relations.
– I also am opposed to clause 10 of the Bill because I believe that it undermines the fundamental objectives of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, particularly those set out in section 2 (a) (b) and (c). Section 2 of the Act reads:
The chief objects of this Act are-
to promote goodwill in industry;
to encourage, and provide means for, conciliation with a view to amicable agreement, thereby preventing and settling industrial disputes;
to provide means for preventing and settling industrial disputes not resolved by amicable agreement, including threatened, impending and probable industrial disputes, with the maximum of expedition and the minimum of legal form and technicality;
As has been pointed out by other honourable senators on this side of the chamber, clause 10 seeks only a change of words in the Act; it simply replaces the Arbitration Inspectorate. The clause provides for a fancy change of words to give the impression that the Government is honouring an election reform that it said it would introduce if elected. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) who represents in this chamber the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has already pointed out that there were 3 arms to that reform which Mr Fraser promised to introduce, the first one being secret postal ballots. We all know how farcical a promise that was, because 98 per cent of trade unions already conduct secret postal ballots. Therefore there was no need for the legislation to be changed.
The Opposition regards the watering down of the Industrial Relations Bureau by the Government, because of pressure from the trade union movement, as only temporary. Government senators today have made it abundantly clear that this is only a temporary phase designed to satisfy the trade union movement for the time being. The Government knows very well that it will tighten up this legislation in the Budget session. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has made this clear and Government senators have made it clear here this afternoon, particularly when they were challenged by Senator Wright, who has criticised his own Government for backing down on legislation that it wanted to introduce to create a head-on confrontation with the trade union movement. Any Government that is performing as badly as the Fraser Government is performing, with problems of inflation and unemployment, will be looking for a scapegoat. Of course, the scapegoat will be the trade union movement. If the Government can put the blame onto somebody else, people will not notice the Government’s faults. I think that after 18 months in office the Government has had ample time at least to show some evidence that it is getting the country out of the economic mess that it has created.
The change that we find in this Bill is only a change in name. In his second reading speech the Minister pointed out that the Bureau will have exactly the same powers as the Arbitration Inspectorate. Therefore it seems obvious that the Government has some other motive for introducing the Industrial Relations Bureau. Whether the intention is to conform with similar legislation or laws operating in the United States of America, I do not know. But we do know from listening to honourable senators opposite this afternoon that the Government will re-introduce the provisions that have been deleted from the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill that we are debating tonight. I believe that in the Budget session the Government will re-introduce those other provisions under which the Industrial Relations Bureau will be able to enter trade union offices, to order the secretary of the organisation to provide the membership roll for inspection, to ask for an audit of the books, and to ask for a balance sheet to see where the money is banked and where the assets are held. It will permit all these sorts of interventions into the internal affairs of the trade union movement.
In addition the Bureau will be able to interfere with what is now a fairly satisfactory arrangement between employer organisations and the trade union movement regarding membership of the various unions. Employers with any common sense at all, particularly the big employers, have been aware for many years that there are enough problems in running the day to day affairs of a business without the extra worry of whether one of their dissident employees, for some spurious reason, does not want to join a union. We know that this situation if farcical and that some employees would not want to pay into any organisation. I believe that that part of the previous Bill which was introduced and which has been deleted from this Bill will be re-introduced in the Budget session. I believe we will be back to the legislation that was introduced in the House of Representatives in March of this year.
For those reasons I strongly oppose the whole of clause 10 of the present Bill. I hope that it will be defeated so that at least the Government will recognise the folly of its introduction and what it may lead to later on in the year when the Government tries to implement the whole of the legislation and carry out its threats of confrontation with the trade union movement.
– I would like some information about clause 10. Senator Button said that he was sorry that Senator Wright was not here because he felt that Senator Wright would back up his argument on the appointment of the Director of the Industrial Relations Bureau. I think that Senator Wright did that in anticipation this afternoon. He strongly condemned the establishment of a bureau which comprises only one man. It seems to me that we are setting up a dictatorship. Previously the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations was responsible but now the Director is to have complete control and to decide whether a prosecution should be instituted and how the Bureau will operate. Sub-section (5) of proposed new section 126a reads:
The Director may, on behalf of the Bureau, exercise any power conferred on the Bureau by this Act or the regulations.
Sub-section (6) says:
Where the exercise of a power referred to in sub-section (5) is expressed to be dependent upon the opinion, belief or state of mind of the Bureau in relation to a matter, that power may be exercised by the Director upon the opinion, belief or state of mind of the Director in relation to that matter.
Obviously the Director is to make a decision in accordance with his state of mind or his opinion. That was our whole complaint in the Karen Green case. In that particular case it is alleged that the Director-General of Social Services acted in accordance with his state of mind. I wonder how far the powers of the Director of the Industrial Relations Bureau are to extend. Is he to have control of the whole operation of the Act and regulations? Perhaps the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) can tell me what sections of the Act are dependent upon ‘the opinion, belief or state of mind’ of any individual. Are there any regulations which depend upon the opinion, belief or state of mind of an individual for their enforcement or is there some idea of formulating such regulations in the future that would be enforceable depending upon the opinion, belief or state of mind of the Director? The Opposition wants to know the extent of proposed section 126a (6). What power are we putting in the Director’s hands and how is he to exercise that power?
The other point that sets me thinking is that the Minister said in reply to the second reading debate that this is just another body to be set up for the purpose of ensuring the enforcement or observance of the Act, the regulations and the awards. Proposed section 126a (5) says:
The Director may, on behalf of the Bureau, exercise any power conferred on the Bureau by this Act or the regulations.
Proposed new section 1268says
The function of the Bureau is to secure the observance of this Act and the regulations and of awards.
There we see that its function is being extended to include awards. These are not included in proposed section 126a (5). In one part of this proposed section there is a reference to awards and in another there is not. This suggests that in the draftsman’s mind an award is something different and is not part of the Act. Proposed new section 126c states:
In addition to any powers that are conferred on it by any other provision of this Act, the Bureau has power to do all things necessary or convenient to be done to enable it to perform its function and, in particular, may institute proceedings before any court of competent jurisdiction for an offence against this Act or the regulations.
In proposed new clause 126C the draftsman has left out mention of a breach of an award. Whilst proposed new section 126B states that the Bureau is to secure the observance of this Act and the regulations and of awards, proposed new section 126C by the omission of the word awards’ would seem to deprive the Director of the Bureau of the power to institute proceedings for a breach of an award. Is that a correct interpretation of the situation? If it is not a correct interpretation, can the Minister explain the absence of the word ‘awards’ in two of the proposed new sections, whereas it has been included deliberately in the third proposed new section? What are we to infer to be the distinction between those sub-clauses?
– I thought it opportune to raise a matter at this time before the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) replies to my colleagues. The Minister said when we were dealing with a previous clause that the existing
Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate would be absorbed into the functions of the Industrial Relations Bureau. All right, we accept that. But, as he knows from cases in which he and I have been involved, that Inspectorate is well and truly overworked. Can he hazard a guess about the extent of the increase in the field staff for these investigations? I raise a second delicate issue. Perhaps we can look upon these officers as something akin to the federal marshals in the United States who helped to break down segregation in the southern State universities. The Minister will recall the exciting period when Robert Kennedy had to put federal marshals into Alabama. With all due respect to Senator Chaney and the Minister, but knowing the susceptibilities of Premier Court, I ask whether, if there were a genuine dispute in the Pilbara region of Western Australia the officers of this Bureau could be sent there or would that be only at the behest of the State Industrial Court of Western Australia? In relation to Queensland, the other citadel of reactionaries, where such matters are controlled largely by the State Industrial Court, could these Federal officers be sent there to get law and order?
-I wish to raise a matter of concern. I think I expressed that concern during the second reading debate.
– We cannot hear a word you are saying.
-You cannot hear me?
– You are muttering.
-The problem with the honourable senator is that when I am shouting he complains, when I am smiling he complains and now he says I am muttering.
– I preferred the lower key, senator.
-Yes, I shall come back to my restrained delivery. I wish again to express my concern about clause 10. As I read it I see the dimensions of the intended Industrial Relations Bureau and the standing of the Director. I now ask simply of the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs (Senator Durack): Will he explain the exact difference between the standing of the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate and the standing of this proposed new Bureau? If the status is so considerably increased by this legislation, as I fear it is, does that not support my concern that the Bureau may on its own, without ministerial supervision and without the supervision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, take initiatives which could cause constant and irritating confrontations within industry?
-Earlier in this debate in Committee I drew attention to what I regarded as a substantial point in government and administration which I thought would interest Senator Wright. It related to the powers of the Director of the Industrial Relations Bureau and the fact that there was no real ministerial responsibility for that Director. He will be required to report to the Parliament once a year and between making those reports he will be free without any responsibility to the Minister for this very important function of government. I am glad Senator Wright has joined us in the chamber. He may have some contribution to make on that important matter.
I refer to proposed new section 126P, which relates to the right of entry onto premises. As I have already said in the earlier stages of this debate, this proposed new section is related to clause 5 of the Bill, which entitled a member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to allow authorised person to enter certain premises on safety matters. There does seem to be some confusion in this legislation, in relation to which I should be grateful for the Minister’s assistance. Can he tell us the difference between the function of the Industrial Relations Bureau in relation to an industrial dispute and the function of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in relation to an industrial dispute? The functions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission are quite well spelled out in certain sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I do not have the Act in front of me, but certainly section 28-1 think it is now section 25- and subsequent sections of that Act set down quite clearly how the Commission will act in pursuit of its statutory function of settling industrial disputes.
This legislation contains a number of references, of which the entry onto premises is one, to other clauses of the Bill which refer to the functions of the Industrial Relations Bureau in relation to industrial disputes. I for one am not clear whether those functions are either separate or distinct and at what points they meet. There is a provision that the Commission might certify that it is appropriate for the Bureau to intervene where, in the opinion of the Commission, the safety of employees is involved, that opinion of the Commission having been expressed. Of course, there are other references to the right of the Bureau to intervene in an industrial dispute. I ask the Minister to clarify that position as it relates to the other provisions of the Act.
– A number of matters in relation to the proposed Industrial Relations Bureau have been raised by honourable senators. I was glad to find the attention of the Opposition being directed to details concerning the Bureau at long last in this debate because during our 5 hours of debate on the second reading members of the Opposition did not have much to say about the Bureau. The Senate decided at the conclusion of the second reading debate to establish the Bureau. Clause 10 is really the basis of the whole Bill. The intention of the Government is that the Bureau should be independent. There is no doubt about the fact that this is why the Bill was drawn in the way it has been drawn. The Director of the Bureau will be independent of the Minister and charged with securing the observance of the Act, the regulations and awards. In the Government’s view, that is a great point in favour of the Industrial Relations Bureau. Furthermore, it will be accorded a higher status than the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate. As I pointed out at the second reading stage, the Director is to have the salary of a deputy president of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That is the nature of the Bureau and of the Director’s salary. Those are 2 important features of the Bill.
The Director and the Bureau, however, are not charged with settling industrial disputes. That is a function of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commision itself- the President, the deputy presidents and the commissioners. The Director is concerned with the observance of the Act and Regulations. As I quoted from the second reading speech of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), when considering the observance of an award or regulations there may well be discussions and attempts to settle disputes. For instance, I refer to the type of matter that Senator Mulvihill raised, in which there are complicated and controversial issues about whether an award has been broken. Naturally, there is great room for negotiation and discussions, but that is not the same as settling an industrial dispute; that is trying to settle some matter which is in dispute regarding the actual application of an award. It is quite different. The Bureau and its Director have nothing to do with the ordinary settlement of industrial disputes, as we understand them.
Senator Cavanagh was concerned about the fact that reference is made in some clause to Acts and Regulations and in others reference is made to awards. I have looked carefully at these clauses. They seem to be perfectly proper, to my mind. The point is that the offence and the penalty are attached to the breach of an award. The penalty is attached by the Act or Regulations. The award itself does not contain penalties for breaches of it. That is why in one clause reference is made to an award and in another clause no reference is made to an award. Senator Mulvihill referred to State awards. This Act applies Australia-wide. It applies in any situation in which there is a breach of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In relation to any particular employee or industrial situation, it depends on whether the employee is working under a Federal award or a State award. The views of State government officials and so on would have no bearing upon the application of this Act where a Federal award applied to the people in a State. If the people were under a State award, then the Act would not apply and the type of conflict about which Senator Mulvihill seems to be concerned would not arise. I think I have covered most of the points that were raised by honourable senators. If there are any other points with which I did not deal, I am sure I will be reminded.
– Yes, you will be reminded of the points I raised.
– Obviously I am going to be reminded.
– I wonder whether I can draw the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) out a little further on the question which I raised relating to the qualifications of the Director of the Industrial Relations Bureau. It does not seem to me to be an answer to say that the Director of the Industrial Relations Bureau will enjoy the same salary as a presidential member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is quite possible that there are people who draw that sort of salary but who could not run a pie stall if they were asked to do so. The Minister did not give me an answer about the qualifications of the Director; he merely spoke about the remuneration that the Director will receive. 1 am seeking information from the Minister about what sort of qualifications the Government anticipates the Director will be required to have.
– My questions were ignored by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack). I should like to take them up again. I raised the matter of the difference between the Inspectorate and the new Industrial Relations Bureau. It seems to me that there is a tremendous lift in status. If there is a tremendous lift in status, there will be greater responsibility. If there is greater responsibility, there may be a desire to take on initiatives simply to justify that responsibility. It seems to me that the question I ought to be asking follows the question that Senator Button asked. What will be the remuneration of the Director? What qualifications will be required? What is the anticipated cost of this Bureau? In these questions. I believe, rests the answer as to what this Bureau actually will be and what it will do. The Minister said that it was not to settle disputes. He said that it was not to take any sort of -
– I said ‘industrial disputes ‘.
– Yes, industrial disputes. It seems to me that its operations will initiate disputes. Rather than lessen the work of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, it will increase it. Rather than lessen confrontations, it will increase confrontations. I want to know exactly what the difference will be, in nature and character, between the Bureau and the old Inspectorate, and what is the difference in cost.
– I was not happy either with the answer I received from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack). I asked a question in relation to proposed section 126a (6), to which I did not receive a reply. Can the Minister direct me to any part of the Bill where the exercise of a power relies upon the opinion, belief or state of mind of any individual? I am trying to envisage how this will operate. 1 appreciate the answer that the Minister gave to my question relating to proposed section 126. Proposed section 126B, which states that the function of the Bureau is to secure the observance of this Act and the Regulations and of awards, is very plain. Of course, proposed section 126c gives the Bureau the power to prosecute for any breach of the Act or Regulations.
I take it from the Minister’s reply that, if a bans clause is contained in an award and it is broken, the breaking of that bans clause is a breach of the Act. Therefore, the word ‘award’ does not have to be repeated in proposed section 126c because power is given to the Bureau to act on a breach of an award, it is a breach of the Act, and the Bureau can then institute proceedings. This is the very point that we on this side of the chamber have been complaining about all afternoon. Surprisingly, the Minister said that no honourable senator had spoken about clause 10. That is what we have been speaking about all afternoon. I do not know whether he was asleep or whether he did not comprehend what was being said, but the fact is that that is what we have been complaining about.
Previously, it was necessary for the employer concerned to institute proceedings, or the Minister had the responsibility of instituting proceedings under certain regulations, but now the Bureau will become the prosecuting authority. No Minister has prosecuted any trade unionist since the O’Shea case, because of public disquiet about the gaoling of unionists. The responsibility is now taken away from the Minister and given to the Industrial Relations Bureau which is a statutory authority. As a statutory authority it will have the authority and the obligation to prosecute where a breach of a bans clause occurs. Another authority is being established now for the purpose of getting over the dissatisfaction with or the dislike of political interference in trade union affairs. This is being done by the establishment of the Industrial Relations Bureau as a statutory authority.
This is the very point we have been raising all afternoon. This action differs from the agreement which was reached with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It places the whole imposition of penal provisions, with which we disagree and which have never been enforced, with the Industrial Relations Bureau. The Minister says that the process will be the same; so he will not enforce them. However, he is establishing the machinery whereby the Director will enforce penal provisions and prosecute trade unions where a breach of a bans clause occurs- a provision to which the unions are opposed. I interpret what has been said by speakers on this side of the chamber throughout this afternoon as condemnation and criticism of clause 10 of this Bill, yet the Minister says he has not heard us mention it.
– I go along with the Minister in respect of there being a predominance of State awards in Queensland, but I raise something that could happen in any State in which federal awards apply. There have been situations in which somebody who has professed to be a Jehovah’s Witness and has claimed to be a conscientious objector has been involved in a dispute about refusing to join a union or opting out of a union. The case I have in mind arose in Queensland, but I think it was under a State award. Supposing a person alleges that the way the sub-branch or branch of a union arrived at a decision was wrong in his eyes, is that when these representatives of the Bureau will want to come in and check the minute book to see how the decision was arrived at? Is this one of the functions of the Bureau?
– Just on that last point, I am advised that the Bureau will have nothing at all to do with the questions of conscientious objectors. As to the qualifications of the director of the Bureau, a matter which was raised by Senator Button- and Senator Button has left the chamber before he has the answer -
– That is quite unfair. I rise to explain -
– I was just about to answer the honourable senator. I said that he was not in the chamber.
– You have given the impression that he left the chamber because he has no interest. Senator Button received a telephone call and he is answering it.
-The qualifications of the director are not stated in the Bill. I think the reason for this is that the qualifications of a man of this sort will be particularly special. It is very difficult actually to put down in a Bill just exactly what they ought to be. The Government will be looking for a person who has special qualifications to fill this position. Obviously it will be looking for a man of high calibre and high integrity as is indicated by the salary to be paid and the independence that he will have of the Minister and of the Government, which is also a feature of his office. I have said this on a number of occasions during the second reading debate and again in Committee. I do not think there is anything more that I can say on the matter.
asked about the inspectors. I have already said that the existing members of the inspectorate will be transferred under the Public Service Act to the Bureau. Just what the cost of the Bureau will be is a little difficult to say at this stage. Obviously there will be the additional costs of the director on top of the previous cost for the Inspectorate, but I cannot give any specific figure. Obviously it is not going to be very much more expensive than the present machinery.
I overlooked a question Senator Cavanagh asked me earlier about clause 10 in relation to proposed new section 126a, sub-section (6). Senator Cavanagh was concerned about the wording of the proposed new sub-section which in part reads: . . upon the opinion, belief or state of mind ofthe Bureau in relation to a matter, that power may be exercised by the Director upon the opinion, belief or state of mind of the Director in relation to that matter.
I think that clause is in the Bill because of legal requirements. The Bureau itself cannot have an opinion or a state of mind. It has to be an opinion or a state of mind of a person, and in this case it is the director. I am advised that this provision refers to some sections of the Act or the regulations where the opinion or the belief of a person determines another person ‘s rights. Presumably it is in the Bill out of caution in case there is some power in the Act or the regulations, as amended, which may depend for its exercise upon the opinion or the belief of the Bureau. Therefore there is a need for someone to form that opinion or state of mind, and the director is the person chosen for that purpose.
– I wonder whether the Minister would be good enough to hear me on 2 questions. One arises out of clause 10, proposed new section 126C, which says: . . the Bureau . . . may institute proceedings before any court of competent jurisdiction or an offence against this Act or the regulations.
It is confined to ‘an offence’. I am interested in this because of the emphasis that I place upon civil proceedings and I want to draw it out. Section 1 19 (3) of the principal Act says that where proceedings are brought for an infringement of the Act or the regulations a penalty may be imposed and the ‘Court may order that the employer shall pay to the employee the amount of the underpayment’, which is in the nature of a civil remedy attached to a proceeding for an offence. I draw the Minister’s attention to this and I ask whether or not the Bureau will have the function, which is now carried out by the Inspectorate in the course of the enforcement of awards, of recovering underpayments that should have been made under an award. If the Bureau is to have this function I would expect it to be entitled to institute action for a recovery of moneys as well as to institute proceedings for an offence. I am sure that the Minister will appreciate the purpose for which I ask for clarification because it dismays me to find that semi-civil jurisdiction is attached to proceedings for an offence, yet the Government is so nervous about extending the civil remedy for these matters specifically in the Act.
The second matter on which I would like to trouble the Minister is some clarification on what is a bureau. I made reference to this in my speech on the second reading debate. I said that it is not a corporation; it is not given a legal personality. If I wished to sue the Bureau for defamation by reason of some defamatory statement on the part of its officers or authorised persons, what would be the position of the Bureau from the point of view of liability in that respect? Why is this form of official preferred to a statutory corporation? I do not know whether in any country where there is a director of public prosecutions, for instance, he is regarded as a Bureau. I would think not. I do not know whether he would be regarded as a statutory corporation. If not, he is a straight out individual personal officer. It is said that the Bureau shall consist of the director and the staff referred to, and then in a later part of the Bill it talks about authorised officers. Under clause 10 proposed new section 126Q (2) says:
The Director may, by writing signed by him, appoint persons to whom this section applies to be authorised persons for the purposes of this Act.
I take it that the Bureau is intended to be vicariously liable for any trespass on the part of an authorised person. That raises the question of just what is the entitlement of persons who have to complain about wrongdoing, trespass or defamation or that son of wrongdoing inadvertently committed by officials. Those senators who sat with me on the Estimates Committee the other day will remember that this sort of wrong occurs. I refer to the case of officers who shot a whole herd of cattle and, by reason of not having the requisite authority in writing, exposed the Commonwealth to a liability of some $38,000.I mention that to indicate that I am not trespassing into an abstract world. I want to get clarification of what a bureau is. Is it a body that can be sued in the law courts in that name, not having a corporate personality? What is the vicarious liability of that body for wrongdoing, say, in trespass or in defamation? I would be obliged if I could be assisted on that point.
- Senator Wright asked 2 questions. The first refers to the powers under proposed new section 126c enabling the Bureau to institute proceedings for offences. This would cover the power under existing section 119 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to recover under-payments by employers. The Bureau has been included in another amendment to section 1 1 9. That is in clause 7 of the Bill which has already been passed and which relates to proceedings against an employer. Senator Wright has mentioned this matter. The Bureau definitely is included in those powers. With regard to the juridical nature of the Bureau, it is not constituted as a corporation under this clause. Members of it clearly will be public servants, as defined under the Public Service Act. The Director will, of course, be a legal person in his own right. The legal consequences of the actions of the Bureau are matters which I should have thought Senator Wright would understand probably better than I can. With regard to breaches of the law committed by public servants, either by defamation or anything else, I suppose that employees have rights against them and against the Commonwealth, depending on all sorts of interesting legal questions, which would be the subject of litigation. The answer is that the Bureau is not constituted as a separate independent legal entity.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 1 1 and 12 and Title- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
National Labour Consultative Council Bill 1977
– I have an amendment to clause 6, which reads: 6. (1) The Council shall consist of 1 6 members, namely-
Government Employee Organisations.
Clause 6 of the Bill provides for the composition of the National Labour Consultative Council. It provides for the Minister to be a member of the Council. It also provides for the Secretary; a member chosen by the Minister to represent public authorities; 6 employer representatives and 6 representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Sub-clause (2) provides for the Minister to appoint the members, other than the Minister and the Secretary. Although it is not mentioned in my amendment, it might have been advisable if the Government had given consideration, in relation to this problem, to having representatives of both the Government and the Opposition on a body of this kind. I do not press that point and it is not in the amendment. But it might have been advisable. It is a provision which has been included in similar legislation of this kind.
The purpose of the amendment, most specifically, is to deal with the situation of the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations. It is one of the peak trade union councils covering what are commonly called white collar workers in private employment. It embraces a number of organisations and I think I am right in saying that the organisations represent approximately 400 000 members. Paragraph (g) of the Opposition amendment provides that one member of the Council shall be a member nominated by the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations. Other peak councils of the trade union movement are included in this legislation. The Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations is included and, of course, the Australian Council of Trade Unions is included, with 6 representatives in the Bill and 5 representatives in the amendment.
What the amendment does is to take one of the representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and replace that representative with a representative of the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations. One wonders why when the Government expresses, in the terms that were discussed in the second reading speech, its public rhetoric and commitment to the idea of consultation in industrial relations- the idea that the Prime Minister expressed in the industrial relations policy of the Government announced in August 1975 that there can be no successful industrial relations without discussion and harmony and consultationsthis Government, for some reason, excludes the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations from representation on this body. The reason it has been excluded comes back to what we were discussing earlier in the debate on the second reading speech. It relates to the schizophrenia of the Government ‘s industrial relations policy. It has been excluded because it was told that the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation, which is now before us and which resulted from consultations between the ACTU and the Government, had to be accepted by everybody. The Council was told: ‘Take it or leave it straight away. There will be no argument about it’. The Council said that it was not prepared to agree with the Industrial Relations Bureau immediately, so it has been excluded.
This is just a silly, shortsighted piece of pique which this Parliament has been asked to enshrine in the form of a statute. Why should the Senate, this proud institution, pass legislation in relation to a subject like industrial relations which, because of a fit of pique by the Government, excludes one of the most significant bodies in this country concerned with industrial relations? Why should the Senate pass that into law? It is just a piece of temporary idiocy, a madness ofthe moment which possesses the Government.
-Does ACSPA wish to join the Council now?
-Yes, it does. One of the reasons why one wonders about this, Senator Wright, is that in the House of Representatives on 27 May the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations said that ACSPA had not agreed to the proposals which had been put forward about the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation. He said:
It was in the light of that statement that ACSPA was excluded. It will be noted that 6 members are to be nominated by the ACTU, and if at some future date ACSPA changes its mind and abandons the stand it took in paragraph 4 of the statement of 1 7 May it may well be that it can persuade the ACTU that one of the 6 members nominated by that organisation should be a member of ACSPA.
The Minister put forward the suggestion which is implicit in the amendment which I have moved.
– What about the ACTU? Is it happy about it?
-Yes, it is. We have discussed this matter with the ACTU. The ACTU is quite happy about it. Mr Hawke is on public record as having said that he is happy about it. One might disagree with Mr Hawke from time to time but he is not a man who would indulge in such pettiness in the industrial relations arena as this legislation does. He immediately said to the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations that the ACTU can have 5 positions and the Council could have the other position.
There have been telegrams between the Secretary of the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and the Minister but there has been no resolution of this problem. We will pass into law at the whim of this Government a piece of legislation which carries in it this little punishment for a peak council of Australian trade unionism because of its failure to immediately accept a proposition that was put to it by the Government in May 1977. It is quite absurd. As I understand it, the latest situation in the exchange of telegrams is accurately reported in today’s newspapers. A newspaper report regarding that matter states under the heading, ‘Street studies Hawke offer over council’:
The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, is examining a proposal to give the white collar union, the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations, one of six ACTU positions on the National Labour Advisory Council.
The ACTU president, Mr Hawke, made the offer on Monday.
That is last Monday-
The reconstituted council- a key part of Mr Hawke ‘s industrial peace plan- appeared to be getting off to a shaky start when Mr Street excluded ACSPA from legislation setting up the council.
ACSPA-a confederation of 37 unions with 400 000 membershas consistently opposed the proposed Industrial Relations Bureau, and the union’s president, Mr Philip Reilly, last night repeated its continuing opposition to any penal clauses.
Continued opposition to penal clauses is nothing new in the industrial relations scene in Australia. Senator Wright, in his speech to the second reading of the Bill, today expressed logical and sensible reasons for the non-application of penal clauses- the same position in substance as ACSPA, but for different reasons.
– But it is still opposed to the principle of it.
-Let me finish and perhaps the honourable senator will understand better. The report continues:
Mr Street claims that ACSPA has excluded itself from the council by rejecting an ACTU package agreement on industrial relations. But ACSPA officials are considering Mr Hawke ‘s proposal and the executive will discuss it this week.
Mr Street’s office said it was unlikely that he would accept ACSPA as party.
As I say, it is really silly to carry into legislation for all time the petty quarrels of May 1977. It is really absurd. If I might say so, the Government ought to be ashamed of itself for going on with this silliness.
– It was reprehensible.
– Reprehensible circumstances, yes, Senator Mulvihill. We recall the phrase. I think this is absolutely absurd and I invite the Senate not to be carried along as a party to this piece of political idiocy of May 1977. The other point I raise relates to sub-clause 2 of my amendment. Clause 6(2) of the Bill which relates to the membership of the National Labour Consultative Council states:
The members, other than the Minister and the Secretary, shall be appointed by the Minister.
The amendment I have moved reads:
The members, other than the Minister and the Secretary, shall be appointed by the Minister, provided that, in the case of nominated members, appointment by the Minister shall be on the nomination of the organisations concerned.
When we were in government we introduced, for example, the Trade Union Training Authority Bill. It was passed by this Senate unanimously, indeed with the approval of the then Opposition. Everybody made very me-too noises about it, and said what a great and good thing it was. That legislation provides quite specifically that the nominations to the Australian Council for Union Training, which is a body appointed by the Minister, shall be made by the nominating body. That is to say the union body or the employer body, whoever it happens to be, shall nominate the particular persons to go on that Council. In 1974, in the dreaded days of Whitlam socialism, the Opposition in this place supported that legislation. Now, in 1977, the Government- the then Opposition- has introduced legislation which simply provides that the Minister shall appoint the representatives of the various organisations. So the Minister will select who will represent the Australian Council of Trade Unions. That is what the legislation says. The Minister shall select who will represent the Australian Council of Trade Unions, who will represent the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations and who will represent the National Employers’ Policy Committee. The Minister will make the selection. It reminds me of the Premier of Queensland selecting a Labor replacement.
– It does say ‘nominating’, does it not? We might be at cross purposes but clause 6 refers to members nominated by -
– I am referring to clause 6 of the amendment.
– I am sorry; clause 6 of the Bill.
– I am looking at clause 6(2).
– But you could not construe sub-clause 2 as authorising the Minister to appoint anybody who was not nominated.
– I do not know, Senator.
– It is a good question for the Minister, anyway.
– It is a nice question for the Minister to answer. The amendment, of course, is taken from the Trade Union Training Council legislation. It is in identical terms in that situation. Senator Wright may be correct. I hope he will speak to the point. I am sure that he will agree with me that it is a sloppy piece of drafting which is open to the interpretation which I have put upon it. If it be right that clause 6(2) entitles the Minister to appoint in those circumstances -
– It does entitle him but it will give him an extra power to appoint someone who is not nominated.
– That may be so. Senator Cavanagh is always one of the most imaginative lawyers in this place. I am sure Senator Wright will agree with me. I am grateful to Senator Cavanagh for his interjection because I was slightly troubled by Senator Wright’s interjection. If that point is correct we could get a quite ludicrous and divisive situation. If the ACTU has not nominated people the Minister may appoint union officials of his own choice. That would be a divisive situation and not one conducive to the good working of the Council. The main point which the amendment is concerned with is paragraph (g) of sub-clause 1 relating to the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations. I invite the Senate to adopt the amendment I have moved for reasons of logic and maturity which become a chamber of great dignity and authority in this land.
-The Government is opposed to the amendment moved by Senator Button. It is not the Government’s wish that the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations should not be a member of the National Labour Consultative Council. Unfortunately, that appears to be the decision of ACSPA.
– It is not.
– I have a document which states that it is. Perhaps Senator Cavanagh can produce a subsequent, more authoritative document which denies that it is. The Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations has issued a document on this whole question. It is dated 17 May 1977. As honourable senators will know, that was the critical day when the discussions between the Government and the peak union councils were brought to fruition. The document states:
A pre-condition of ACSPA participating in such a council would have to be an indication by the Australian Government that it will not proceed with the present Bill and that it will refer same to the NLAC.
ACSPA is opposed to any proposal which indicates to the Government that if it wants to put the responsibility for dealing with the existing penal sanctions into the hands of a body which it wishes to designate an Industrial Relations Bureau, the union movement would offer no objection.
That refers clearly to the statement made by Mr Hawke on behalf of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. ACSPA could not have made it clearer that it will have nothing to do with the whole basis of this legislation. In those circumstances it would be totally absurd for the Government to include ACSPA as a member of the National Labour Consultative Council. If ACSPA changes its mind and wishes to take up the offer made by Mr Hawke on behalf of the ACTU to give ACSPA one of the places given to the Australian Council of Trade Unions, certainly the Government would raise no objection whatsoever to that. At this stage the Government has not evidence that ACSPA has officially changed its mind. The Government has had some telegrams from officials of organisations which I think are associated with ACSPA and from Mr Richardson, the Federal Secretary of ACSPA. The Minister has replied to Mr Richardson as follows:
Agreement between the Government and ACTU supported by CAGEO based on 2 propositions by ACTU during discussions on the C and A Bill. These involve creation ofthe Industrial Relations Bureau and the National Labour Consultative Council. On evidence of statement of 17 May appears clear ACSPA participation in NLCC contingent on Government not proceeding with IRB. Would have preferred ACSPA to have participated in agreement but in face of this statement Government had to proceed with the Bill.
That is as far as the discussions with ACSPA have reached. I am afraid that at this stage the Government has to proceed with the Bill. It has no evidence that ACSPA has officially changed its stand of 17 May, which I have read out. Regretfully and reluctantly, the Government is unable to include ACSPA officially in the constitution of the National Labour Consultative Council. However, it raises no objection to ACSPA taking one of the places offered to it by the ACTU.
The other point raised was about the Minister appointing members. It seems clear that the ACTU and the National Employers Policy Committee will each nominate 6 members to the Council, although the actual appointments are to be made by the Minister. That is a common provision in Acts in which there are nominations for particular positions. The Minister decides who the members actually will be. It seems inconceivable, I suppose, that the Minister would not accept the nominations made by these highly responsible and important bodies. This is a standard provision. In the case of repatriation boards and tribunals where nominations are made by ex-service organisations in the case of marketing boards where nominations are made by producer organisations, and so on, the actual appointment is made by the Minister on the nominations that the made. It is a standard procedure for the Government actually to make the appointment. That is why that provision is in the Bill.
– I reside in the electorate of Lowe. My member is a former Prime Minister, the Honourable William McMahon. He was always renowned as an inveterate telephone caller. So, I wonder whether I might put something forward as the germ of an idea. The Minister said that up to 1 7 May the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations had not indicated that it would change its attitude. I wonder whether Mr Street has attempted to telephone ACSPA and get its viewpoint, or does he feel that that is infra dig- the old mountain coming to Mahomet attitude? The Minister keeps referring to 1 7 May. This is early June. Are we sure that there have been no overtures to that organisation to come to the party?
– I wanted some clarification of the Minister’s position. I would like it to be on the Hansard record; so I seek a reply from him. Is the Minister saying that since 17 May there has been no communication between the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations which in any way qualified ACSPA ‘s position of 17 May? Is the Minister saying that his colleague has no information as at today’s date about whether ACSPA is prepared to accept the offer made by Mr Hawke of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to ACSPA on Monday of this week? I would be very grateful to have the Minister’s answer to that question. That would seem to me to be a matter of importance. It is a matter of importance because the Minister’s statement tonight amounts to nothing more than this sort of proposition: Because the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations expressed hostility to one piece of legislation which the Government was introducing into the Parliament it will not be a party to a council established by another piece of legislation.
Let us look at the purpose of the National Labour Consultative Council. It is set out in clause 5 of the Bill. It states:
The purpose of the Council is to provide, in the public interest, a regular and organised means by which representatives of the Government of the Commonwealth, of employers and of employees may consult together on industrial relations matters, and manpower matters, of national concern.
It states when the Council will meet and so on. That is the high sounding and high flying rhetorical purpose of this legislation. The Government is embarking on a new era in industrial relations. Big stuff! We are told that there are to be consultations with the trade unions regularly. In the light of the purposes of the Bill as set out in clause 5 and those high sounding objects, the Minister says tonight that because of a statement ACSPA made on 1 7 May about another piece of legislation it cannot take part in fulfilling those purposes as clause 5 contains the words ‘in the public interest of the people of Australia’. The Minister in this place responsible for employment and industrial relations says: ‘No, that does not relate to the public interest of the people of Australia. We will exclude 400 000 people working in private industry from the deliberations of this Council ‘. As I said before, it is childish of the Government. It is immature to ask us to pass legislation on an important subject matter with those purposes, with those petty, childish reasons being given by the Minister as to why the amendment I have moved should not be adopted. That is the sort of exercise we are indulging in tonight and that is the sort of hope the highfalutin industrial relations policies of this Government have of success in the future if because of the reasons given 400 000 workers organised in 37 organisations are to be excluded from the deliberations on industrial matters, manpower policy and other matters of national concern. That is what this Bill is about and what the Minister’s answer amounts to in terms of the purposes of the Bill.
If the Minister were mindful to be conscious of the purposes of the Bill and anxious that it should be something more than mere window dressing, perhaps he should adjourn the proceedings and consult with the Minister in the other place. Perhaps such a course could lead to a telephone call such as Senator Mulvihill has suggested or to the Minister obtaining from his colleague in another place more up to date information about the telegrams which have been exchanged between ACSPA and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Otherwise, as I say, we are indulging in childish, silly exercises, and that is not the sort of thing Parliament should be doing because of the reasons which have been given by the Minister.
-I would have thought that the purpose of consultation between the unions and employers and the Government was to achieve co-operation in the functioning of the National Labour Consultative Council and the Industrial Relations Bureau. The unions have agreed to abide by the principle of the Bureau. Mr Hawke recognised that penalties would be incurred, and he has agreed to them. The fact that the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations has disagreed with the whole principle of the penalties and with the Bureau from the beginning and, as Senator Button said tonight, still disagrees with the penalties in my opinion rules it out completely as a participant in the Council. The result of the consultation was agreement that the Bureau and the Council went hand in hand.
I am reminded of the prices and wages freeze. Mr Hawke wanted to call a conference, but he wanted to go into that conference with decisions already made. The attitude of ACSPA is the same. Until ACSPA agrees that penalties ought to be incurred where necessary it has no place on the Council. It cannot come in with decisions already made. It is a consultative council and we want co-operation.
– Naturally I support all that Senator Button said and support his amendment. Whether or not the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations is prepared to come into the proposal at this stage, we must recognise its importance as an industrial organisation and make provision in the Bill so that it may come into the proposal. The latest indication is that ACSPA would accept the proposal of the Australian Council of Trade Unions or one of its delegations. The fact that ACSPA put out a circular saying that it would not be party to the Industrial Relations Bureau while there were penalty provisions was not the deciding factor in drawing up this legislation. When the Bill was put up in the other place the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) never mentioned the reluctance of ACSPA to join but only said that it was not part of the agreement. He said that if it wanted to take the place of one ofthe ACTU representatives he had no objection.
I would have thought that the discussion on this Bill this evening would have been on the basis of trying to get a workable consultative group for the purpose of seeing whether we can achieve more industrial harmony within the work force of Australia between employers and employees. Such harmony is never achieved by provoking untrue statements that honourable senators go out of their way to make. We have just hear one from Senator Walters. If there is any interest in industrial peace it should be realised that nothing is achieved by making such statements in this chamber. Mr Hawke in a statement made after his pact with Mr Street, as read out by Mr Street in the House of Representatives, said: ‘We do not believe in pains and penalties’. Street remarked upon the words ‘pains and penalties’. At no time did Hawke agree to endorse recognition of the penalties. He said: ‘We are opposed to penalties, but to get rid of what you are putting up to us now we are prepared to agree to the Bureau if there are no more penalties’.
Again it is untrue to say that he would enter a prices and wages freeze conference only if he laid down all the terms. He was anxious that such a conference should be held and said so. But the Government suggested a price freeze that had no hope of success. It was a failure before it started. If it is sincere about a price freeze, let us call a conference of all interested parties and work out the position. Hawke adopted a remarkable attitude during this crisis. He was the only one with concrete proposals for introducing a price freeze that had any hope of working. Now he is slandered because he would not go along with the freeze which he knew and proved was impossible of ever working. All those parties upon whom the success of a price freeze would depend should have had an opportunity to consider it.
I am concerned with the question that Senator Button raised about sub-clause (2) of clause 6. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) said that it would be unthinkable that the Minister would appoint someone not nominated. He said that he did not believe that could happen. The question is: Could it happen? Is there power for the Minister to reject a nomination? If the ACTU nominates six, can he appoint five of them and reject one, or can he appoint five of them and leave the other position unfilled? Has he that power? Can he appoint men of his own choosing? If one of the ACTU nominations was Halfpenny, and he did not like Halfpenny, would he have the power to appoint the other five and leave out Halfpenny? Would he have the power to reject the leader of a union involved in a dispute when the application for appointment was made?
– Somebody from ACSPA.
– Yes, it could well be ACSPA. The Minister obviously is anxious to accept a representative from ACSPA rather than from the ACTU to make it look all right. But as Senator Button said, because of pique and for prestige purposes, the Minister will not accept as a representative ACSPA ‘s own appointment because he takes the attitude: ‘You do as I tell you before you are allowed to discuss peace in industry’. What a farcical situation that is. Do we want industrial peace or do we want authority? The Government insists on authority. I would like the Minister’s definite advice on whether the relevant Minister will have authority to appoint only five of the six members and whether he has the authority to appoint a representative from a body which is not nominated. What authority is given to the Minister under sub-clause (2) of clause 6?
– I speak to the point raised by Senator Cavanagh. I drew a rather hasty and perhaps ill-conceived analogy with the appointment by the Premier of Queensland of Senator Field to this place. We all remember that event. What happened was that the Labor Party, as was the custom and convention, nominated the gentleman who subsequently became Senator Colston. The Government of Queensland said: ‘No, we will not accept that nomination. He is not the right person to be nominated by the Labor Party. We will appoint somebody else’. It seems to me that the point Senator Cavanagh made is one which is worth consideration by the Government in view of the sort of attitude which it has taken to other provisions in this Bill. It says that the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations cannot be considered because it does not agree with the Government on something else. Supposing, as Senator Cavanagh said, the Australian Council of Trade Unions was to appoint Mr Halfpenny to the Council? I am sure Mr Halfpenny does not dissent from the views held by ACSPA on penal clauses. I am not totally conversant with his current view on all matters, but one is confident in suspecting that he shares the sort of view on penal clauses which ACSPA, Senator Wright and others have. But it is quite possible that he could be a nomination of the ACTU but could not be appointed. That is the point about sub-clause (2) of clause 6 which I wish to make. But I am more concerned at this stage that the Minister answers some of the questions which were directed to him in relation to sub-clause ( 1 ) of clause 6.
– I want to clear up this matter a little, because every time I have said that Mr Hawke accepts penalties, Senator Georges interrupts and says that he does not, and Senator Cavanagh has since disagreed with me too. I want to read to the Senate what Mr Hawke did say. He said: . . we put two propositions for the earnest consideration of the Government. These propositions are put in the deeply held belief that confrontation and massive economic dislocation, if avoidable whilst still adhering to principle, is against the best interests of the Australian community.
First, if the Governments wishes to put the responsibility for dealing with the existing pains and penalties and processes into the hands of a body which they wish to designate as an Industrial Relations Bureau- and there is no explicit or implicit addition to those existing provisions or processes- the Trade Union Movement, while regarding such a move as unnecessary, would offer no objection.
To me that sounds very clearly as though he is saying that the Australian Council of Trade Unions would offer no objection to the penalties and processes that already exist in the hands of the Bureau. That is Mr Hawke ‘s statement. Mr Hawke recognises that these penalties and provisions exist and that they are now in the hands of the Bureau, as they rightly should be. He says- it is here in black and white- that he has no objection to that. The Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations has such an objection, and that is why it is not included and the ACTU is.
– I would not like to say that Senator Walters is dishonest but she did not read the first 2 paragraphs of Mr Hawke ‘s statement. Let me read the first 2 paragraphs of the document from which she read. It is entitled: ‘ACTU Statement for Conference with Minister Street, 1 1 May 1977’. I shall also read from another document entitled: Special Conference of Affiliated Unions held 18 May 1977 in Sydney’. The first document reads:
Having expressed at length the detailed reasons for our total opposition to the Government’s proposed amendments to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Act, we make the following statement:
This is the document that Senator Walters has. It that correct?
-The statement continues:
This existing legislation contains a range of ‘pains and penalties’ provisions. It is known that some of those provisions conflict with the policy of the Australian Trade Union Movement. What we therefore put now does not imply into the future a change of our policy in that respect.
I emphasise the words ‘a change of our policy in that respect’. The ACTU has not changed its policy. The statement continues:
However, that is not the current issue.
Senator Walters has already quoted the next 2 paragraphs of the document. So Bob Hawke was prepared to come to a compromise in relation to the legislation that we are now considering and say: ‘Well, in order to avoid a confrontation, in order to avoid the massive dislocation that the community was going to face, we will accept the Bureau for the moment, provided you abandon the present amendments and you keep in mind that our policy is that we are against all pains and penalties’. Senator Walters was not reading the statement correctly.
– He has no objection; he says so.
-Next time read the first 2 paragraphs. I shall read into the record 4 paragraphs of the other document entitled: ‘Special Conference of Affiliated Unions held 18 May 1977 in Sydney’. It reads:
The Executive reaffirms the Trade Union Policy that penalties and threats of penalties are not the process whereby the problems of industrial relations are resolved. These problems are best resolved by negotiation and consultation.
That is the policy ofthe trade union movement at the moment, although it is prepared to compromise. The document continues:
The ACTU Executive endorses the action of the Officers in their handling of the ACTU position in regard to the proposed amendments to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That position was contained in the following statement put by the Officers to Minister Street on 1 1 May 1977:
Having expressed at length the detailed reasons for our total opposition to the Government’s proposed amendments to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Act, we make the following statement:
This existing legislation contains a range of ‘pains and penalties’ provisions. It is known that some of those provisions conflict with the policy of the Australian Trade Union Movement. What we therefore put now does not imply into the future a change of our policy in that respect. However, that is not the current issue.
If what Senator Chaney is doing is a sign for me to conclude my remarks, can he advise the senators sitting behind him to be less provocative and more accurate. In any case, I merely put into the record the exact position, which is not the position which Senator Walters put.
-Perhaps I could add something further in answer to the way in which Senator Walters interpreted or misinterpreted the statement as meaning that the trade union movement accepted the position. What she has put is very unfair. As I said before, to anyone trying to promote industrial harmony, the harping on this matter and trying to denigrate or degrade one party at the industrial bargaining or bartering table at this stage is very dangerous. Senator
Walters has displayed that she is not concerned with industrial peace. She wants the Fraser policy of confrontation with the unions to continue. She wants the fight with the unions to continue rather than wanting to get a settlement. In his second reading speech Mr Street quoted a letter which he received from Mr Hawke which said in part: we put two propositions for the earnest consideration of the Government. These propositions are put in the deeply held belief that confrontation and massive economic dislocation, if avoidable whilst still adhering to principle, is against the best interests of the Australian community.
Honourable senators will notice his conciliatory attitude there. The letter went on:
First, if the Government wishes to put the responsibility for dealing with the existing pains and penalties and processes into the hands of a body which they wish to designate as an Industrial Relations Bureau- and there is no explicit or implicit addition to those existing provisions or processes- the trade union movement, while regarding such a move as unnecessary, would offer no objection.
He is offering no objection to the transfer if it has to be made. On no account can that be interpreted as an endorsement of the ‘pains and penalties’, to use the vocabulary of Bob Hawke.
– The document from the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations dated 1 7 May, to which I have already referred and on which the Government is working, begins by making the following assertion:
The Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and its affiliated unions having met on 2 May to make a detailed study of the Government’s Bill to introduce an Industrial Relations Bureau declares-
Then it goes on with a long declaration and makes the statement that a precondition of ACSPA participating in such a Council would have to be an indication by the Australian Government that it will not proceed with the Industrial Relations Bureau. That is an official statement of the attitude of ACSPA and the Government has been presented with no official evidence that ACSPA has changed its attitude.
Admittedly the Government has received some telegrams from officials of ACSPA which indicate that they would now like to take up the offer from Mr Hawke to participate, but in the absence of any evidence of an official change in the attitude of ACSPA, the Government has not felt that it can include it in this legislation. That is the position. If ACSPA can come in as one of the 6 representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions the Minister is perfectly happy to accept that situation.
-Do I now understand the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) to be saying that there is evidence that the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations is prepared to take up the offer?
– No. We have had approaches from the officials; that is all.
-The Government has received telegrams from Mr Richardson, has it not, saying that that is so? Perhaps the Minister will answer that question. Has the Government received telegrams from Mr Richardson, the general secretary of ACSPA, saying that it is prepared to take up the offer of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
– One from Richardson and one from Reilly.
– The Government has received telegrams from the general secretary of ACSPA and from the president of ACSPA saying that they will take up the ACTU offer to be one of the representatives to be nominated by the ACTU. If the Government has any conferences with the representatives of those 400 000 white collar workers in Australia, the people to whom the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) in the lower House will be talking will be Mr Richardson and Mr Reilly. They represent those people. If under the legislation which the Government may introduce it wants to put officials of ACSPA in gaol it would choose Mr Richardson and Mr Reilly because they are the secretary and the president of ACSPA. After a lot of prevarication here tonight on this question, after reading documents dated 1 7 May and standing on them, the Minister now says that, in response to telegrams from Mr Richardson and Mr Reilly indicating that they are prepared to take the position, he does not recognise them because there is no official statement from that body.
What has to happen for the Minister to recognise them? What has to happen now? Does the Minister have to receive 400 000 telegrams? That would be good for revenue but bad for industrial relations. The Minister knows perfectly well that Mr Richardson and Mr Reilly are the responsible people. If the Minister was not behaving as childishly as the Government is behaving on this issue he would recognise that fact and accept the offer which was made by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations himself on 27 May. He is reported in Hansard as having said: . . and if at some future date ACSPA changes its mind and abandons the stand it took in paragraph 4 of the statement of 17 May it may well be that it can persuade the ACTU that one of the 6 members nominated by that organisation should be a member of ACSPA.
That is what has been done. Mr Hawke went to ACSPA and offered it a position. ACSPA has now indicated to Mr Hawke and to the Minister, according to those telegrams, that it accepts the offer. The Minister says: ‘ Well, they are not the proper people. We have not heard officially from ACSPA’. The Minister cannot deal with industrial relations on such a petty basis and say that these people are spooks because he has not met them. That is just ridiculous. Perhaps what the Minister should have said- probably he now has been instructed to do so- was that the offer of acceptance which has been communicated to him should have been accompanied by a humble apology for the errors of the past. It is absurd. The amendment which I have moved on behalf of the Opposition should be accepted by the Government. Quite frankly, if the amendment is not accepted by honourable senators opposite they will have egg all over their faces because the Parliament is passing legislation which has the purpose of improving industrial relations and consulting about manpower matters and matters of national concern. They will look silly and childish from now on. This body will not work- I hope that the Government wants it to work- if people are excluded on this petty basis.
– The only person who seems to be throwing any eggs around here is Senator Button. I do not know on whose faces they are sticking but they are not making much impression over here. Senator Button is very good at trying to put me in the witness box but I put this question to him: Is he suggesting that it was Mr Reilly and Mr Richardson alone who produced this decision and this document? Are they the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and its affiliated unions which met on 2 May? That is nonsense. ACSPA is an official body containing many more people than Messrs Reilly and Richardson. What has happened now is that, as a result of them realising that they would not be able to take part because of that attitude, it seems that they have reached some satisfactory agreement with Mr Hawke and the ACTU to take one of the places of the ACTU. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has raised no objection to that and is happy that ACSPA should be represented. It looks as though the matter has been settled pretty amicably. Any disruption has been created by the Opposition.
– Perhaps we can leave that fight to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) and Senator Button. I think it is very obvious that the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations has established its desire to be represented and the Minister is adamant at present that it will not be represented. It is peculiar that the law accepts that the organisation is responsible for the actions of its servants and the industrial code makes provision for the punishment of the secretary, yet his words in a telegram are not sufficient to represent the voice of the organisation.
– If you want to tell them to go back to work it is good enough.
-Yes, at the present time. I am forced to rise because the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) did not answer the question I raised on clause 6 (2), which relates to the power of the Minister to appoint persons or, as I suggested, not to appoint persons. He may reject one nomination. I have mentioned Mr Halfpenny. Suppose it was Mr Pat Clancy, who is on the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. One would think that obviously such a prestigious person in the organisation, if he desired to stand, would get selection for the ACTU executive. But the 20 members who voted against the acceptance of the pact in the federal union conference were led by Mr Pat Clancy, which puts him in the same position as the Australian Council for Salaried and Professional Associations at the present time. I think it is important to obtain an answer from the Minister concerning his power under clause 6 (2). If I can get an answer to that it will throw some light on a question I should like to raise about clause 10. But I think it is important first to have an answer on this matter.
-I should like to suggest that the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs (Senator Durack) ring the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), whom he represents, and suggest that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations accept the proposed amendment. It is a simple proposition. Really, what the Minister is saying is that the Australian Council for Salaried and Professional Associations is unacceptable. He persists in that, otherwise he would accept the proposed amendment. He says: ‘That organisation is unacceptable to us at the moment because the secretary and the executive officer were the only ones who communicated with us. Even though they are unacceptable on that basis, they became acceptable by right of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. ‘ I cannot understand that at all. Why should this unacceptable organisation be able to make a sort of back door arrangement to receive representation?
What Senator Button has said is correct. The Minister is approaching this legislation in a way which causes me fear when 1 consider again what the Industrial Relations Bureau will do. If this is going to be the attitude ofthe Minister, what will be the attitude of the Bureau? I add to Senator Button’s remarks and suggest that the simple proposed amendment will merely formalise the arrangement which has been made between ACSPA and the ACTU. It will merely formalise that arrangement in a correct manner and not an incorrect manner.
Resentment runs deep in the union which the Minister is disadvantaging- I should say ‘not recognising’, which is worse than disadvantaging and not respecting. From where I stand it seems to be inconceivable that the Minister cannot accept the change of position as expressed by the secretary and the president of the union concerned. The Minister seems to say now that the union concerned will have to hold a full council meeting to reverse its previous attitude- it is not sufficient for the 2 executive officers to indicate such change.
– There may have been a council meeting.
-A full council meeting possibly could have been held. Perhaps the Minister would indicate whether he investigated whether the telegram resulted from a full council meeting. Surely he would not expect the full council to put their names to such a telegram. There is a stubbornness I cannot understand. Maybe it is because the Minister has had such a long and tiring df -‘. We may have inflicted some of the tiredness on him. But will he reconsider accepting the amendment? If he feels he cannot do so on his own, all he has to do is to consult the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. They can undertake to accept the amendment without calling a full Cabinet meeting or a full party meeting. Surely that is the case, or does he believe that he has to go back to a full party meeting with every small amendment to improve a Bill that is put to him. Of course, that is what he is expecting of ACSPA- he is saying that they should go back and hold a full council meering because their 2 executive officers do not properly represent them.
What the Minister is saying is that he does not properly represent the Government because he cannot make a decision on this amendment. In my view, he can. By simple arrangement with the Minister he represents, he could normalise the situation and make the position of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, on which this legislation depends, much easier.
– I do not want to delay the Senate, but throughout this evening we have heard discussions about what Mr Hawke said. What he said was accepted by the Government, by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack), by Senator Walters and by others who have spoken, as being the authentic voice of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. If he sends the Government a telegram, it is all right. But the Government does not happen to know Mr Riley and Mr Richardson as well as it knows Mr Hawke.
– Do you?
-I do. But if they send telegrams to the Government it is not all right. That is the position into which the Government has placed itself. With respect, that is silly.
– I simply ask the Minister: Is he refusing to answer my question concerning clause 6 (2) of the Bill?
– I have expressed already the view of the Government as to the powers of the Minister in this respect. I am not entitled to give a legal opinion as to what the clause might mean. I have said what the Government intends it to mean. I do not think there is anything more to be said.
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) has said that it is not his duty to give legal opinions. That raises an important question. I take it that what the Minister says could mean-I take it no further than that- that the Minister could legally refuse a nomination. I take it that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs is not in a position to give a definite assurance that the Minister could not refuse to accept a nomination. I ask whether that is the case. It is as well to know the situation when it is desired to appoint a delegate who it is thought will not be acceptable to the Minister. Could a delegate who is acceptable to the Minister be appointed and the provisions contained in clause 10(2) invoked? That clause reads as follows:
Where a member of the Council other than the Minister or the Secretary, is unable to be present at a meeting of the Council, then-
if that member is a member referred to in paragraph 6 (1) (d), (e) or (f)-
That refers to the employers, the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations and the Australian Council of Trade Unions - the organization on the nomination of which that member was appointed may nominate a person to attend that meeting in the place of that member.
Clause 10 (3) states:
A person nominated under sub-section ( I ) or ( 2 ) to attend a meeting of the Council in the place of a member of the Council has, and may exercise, at that meeting all the rights of that member.
If the Minister has the right of refusal and if the ACTU were to nominate a member acceptable to the Minister, could an unacceptable member attend by virtue of the accepted member’s failing to attend meetings, with the ACTU appointing a proxy under clause 10 (2), in which the Minister seems to have no say?
Bill agreed to.
– The question now is that the Bills be reported without amendment.
– I raised a matter in the second reading debate with which the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) has not yet dealt. It related to clause 1 2 which reads as follows:
The Council may, at any time, cause to be constituted a committee to consider, and report to the Council on, any matter relevant to the purpose of the Council referred to it by the Council.
Sub-clause (2) deals with the question of entitlements. The phrase ‘any matter relevant to the purpose of the Council ‘ refers to clause 5(1), which states:
The purpose of the Council is to provide, in the public interest, a regular and organised means by which representatives of the Government of the Commonwealth, of employers and of employees may consult together on industrial relations matters, and manpower matters, of national concern.
It is very likely that, during the course of the Council’s consultations, matters will emerge which will require expert committees to be appointed to consider those matters. 1 give one instance- that is, matters concerning amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Government, it appears, will consult with the National Labour Consultative Council on amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
As I mentioned in the second reading debate, none of the organisations mentioned in clause 6 of the Bill as being members of the Council are registered industrial organisations. Some of the members appointed by the nominated organisations mentioned in clause 6 may well be officials of registered industrial organisations, but not necessarily so. They could well be secretaries of labour councils, for example. The Australian Council of Trade Unions may well appoint as its representatives its President, its Secretary and four of the 6 secretaries of State trades and labour councils. The point I am making is that in those circumstances none of those persons, although being extremely efficient and effective in their own organisations, are in touch with the day-to-day problems of administering organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In these circumstances, the Council may well consider that proposed amendments require examination by a committee comprising people with day-to-day experience in the administration of organisations which are registered under the Act and which would be vitally affected by proposed amendments to the Act.
As I read clause 12, it does not enable such committees to be appointed and to report to the Council. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs can correct me if I am wrong; but it appears that the membership of such committees would be confined to the membership ofthe Council. On manpower planning matters, again it may well be that it is necessary to appoint expert committees in respect of various areas of manpower. Again there appears to be nothing in clause 12 which would enable the Council to establish such expert committees. I am wondering whether at this point the Minister will give us some information about whether such expert committees can be appointed.
– A telegram from Mr Richardson ofthe Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations to Mr Willis, Parliament House, Canberra, has just come into my hands. It sets out telegrams that have passed between ACSPA and Mr Street. This makes one wonder whether the true position has been put before us tonight. I am wondering whether the Minister or someone else is trying to hide something. The telegram states:
Reference exclusion of Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations from National Labour Consultative Council. I wish to advise you of contact with Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Street in this regard. ACSPA telegram to Street Thursday May 26 reads:
Reference Bill presented yesterday relating to establishment of NLCC and which will be debated tomorrow. Amazed to learn today that ACSPA is not included in representation thereon. I believe this must be an oversight and must be corrected. I am concerned at the omission and seek explanation. Representation is consistent with ACSPA policy of several years standing on tripartite consultations. Representation is also consistent with recent Government consultations with major peak councils on economic labour resources and industrial relations questions. Remind you of Cabinet approval of 4 May to involve ACSPA in pre-Budget labour resources (manpower) discussions. I assume Bill will be amended to provide ACSPA representation alongside other union peak council and am available for consultation. (Signed) Richardson.’
Obviously, Mr Street was fully aware from an official telegram that ACSPA was prepared to participate in the National Labour Consultative Council. The Minister read from a document which indicated that ACSPA was not prepared to participate. I think that the document to which Mr Richardson referred makes it clear that ACSPA is prepared to participate in the Council. I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to table the document from which he quoted and which indicated ACSPA ‘s position. The telegram continues:
Reply received from Street May 27:
Establishment of the NLCC and Industrial Relations Bureau represents “package” agreement arising out of views and proposals put by ACTU (supported by CAGEO) and employers to Government re Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill ‘.
That was the package deal. The parties which took part in the tripartite consultations were the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisation and the employers. They were to be represented on the Council. ACSPA was never asked to participate in the Council. That is Mr Street’s attitude. The telegram continues: 1977. ACSPA statement of 17 May on its position re ACTU proposals of 1 1 May and in particular paragraphs 3 and 4 of that statement clearly indicate ACSPA ‘s attitude to NLCC and IRB. In the light of that attitude no alternative to proceeding with NLCC Bill as drafted. (Signed) Street’.
Telegram to Street May 27:
ACSPA is not aware of any package. As union peak council representing four hundred thousand workers appalled at attitude denying membership of NLCC which is to discuss wide issues of industrial importance. ACSPA ‘s preparedness to participate in NLCC clear from ACSPA statement of May 17 to which you refer and subsequent Federal Executive resolution of May 25. Are we to assume that membership of NLCC is contingent on withholding contribution unless there is total agreement by all parties on al) issues? Urgent reply is awaited.
– We have just received some very interesting information. The telegram is dated 27 May, which is the very same day that this legislation was being debated in the other place. 1 would assume that as the legislation was being debated in the other place at about 5 o’clock, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) was in possession of the information set out in the telegram. To me the questions that were asked during the debate in the other place were not answered satisfactorily by him. I think that had the telegram been made available it would have cleared one or two matters.
– On the point Senator Harradine raised, it is the Government’s understanding that clause 12 of the National Labour Consultative Council Bill permits the appointment of specialist subcommittees, and I hope that the Council does do that.
– The second point that I wanted to raise- I raised this in the second reading debatewas that the former National Labour Advisory Conference, a body of similar composition and functions to the National Labour Consultative Council, was established but not by statute. Under this Bill the Council is established by statute. Yet this statutory council is one of the very few if not the only one not required to report to the Parliament. I wonder why provision for an annual report to be made by the Council to the Parliament has not been included in this legislation. I think it is important, if we as a Parliament clothe a consultative committee such as this with legislative respectability, that it should be required to report to the Parliament from time to time. There may be a valid reason for this ommission. If so, I am prepared to accept that. I would be prepared to accept an assurance from the Minister that both Houses of Parliament will be given at least annual reports on the functions of the Council.
– The question is: ‘That the Bills be reported without amendment’.
- Mr Chairman, could I have an answer to my question?
– That is not for me to decide. It is up to the Minister. I am putting the question.
– I propose to move an amendment to the legislation.
– The Committee has agreed that all the clauses in both Bills stand as printed. You are now seeking to move a motion to the question that the Bills be reported without amendment. You cannot move an amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion ( by Senator Durack ) proposed:
That the Bills be now read a third time.
– I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to table the document of 17 March published by the Australian Council for Salaried and Professional Associations from which he quoted.
-Yes, I am happy to table that.
– Perhaps the Minister will also table the telegrams bearing the date 27 May and any subsequent telegrams between the Australian Council for Salaried and Professional Associations and the Minister.
– I am not satisfied that I have in my possession the whole series of telegrams that have passed between the Australian Council for Salaried and Professional Associations and the Minister. I have seen some telegrams. There have been references to others and replies but I would not feel competent to say that it is the complete series or sequence of documents. However, they could be put together and I will see what I can do. I would not feel happy about tabling bits and pieces of what is obviously a sequence of documents that have passed between the 2 people.
– Perhaps the Minister would be prepared to undertake to table those documents tomorrow.
– I will discuss the matter with the Minister concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a third time.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion ( by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1977 and the Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) 1977 being put in the one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speeches read as follows-
Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1977
The Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (1977) now before the Senate proposes amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. The Bill, which contains 14 schedules, brings before honourable senators for their consideration tariff changes made since the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976 was passed during the Budget sitting last year. All the changes were incorporated in Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 23 to 26 ( 1976) and Customs Tariff Prosposals Nos 1 to 10 (1977) which were introduced into the Parliament at various times since then. In the main, the amendments give effect to decisions by the Government in respect of the following reports of the Industries Assistance Commission and the Temporary Assistance Authority: ADP Equipment and Parts; Agricultural Tractors; Animal Foods, etc.; Brassieres; Calcium Carbide; Certain Man-Made Fibres, Yarns and Fabrics- Interim Report; Copper Foil; and Primary Shapes Produced by Rolling, etc.; Cosmetic and Toilet Preparations; Electric Motors, etc.; High Alloy Steels-Interim Report; Leather and Leather
Substitute Products; Multilateral Trade Negotiations; Review Inquiry No. 12- Clothing- Interim Report; Sheets and Plates of Iron or SteelImport Restrictions; Sheets, Curtains, etc.; Soaps and Detergents; and Bench or Pedestal Drilling Machines, Not Power Fed.
Honourable senators may recall that when the Tariff Proposals were introduced in another place a comprehensive summary in respect of each of Proposals was circulated to senators which set out the nature of the change in duty rates and the origin of each change. A consolidation of those summaries has been prepared and copies may be obtained from the Bills and Papers Office. I commend the Bill.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) 1977
This Bill provides for the validation until 3 1 December 1977 of duties collected in pursuance of Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 11 to14 introduced into the Parliament during the current sitting and not covered by Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1977. The Bill is essentially a holding measure pending the introduction, anticipated for the Budget sittings, of a Customs Tariff Amendment Bill to enact the changes contained in the proposals. The tariff changes validated by this Bill relate to the following reports by the Industries Assistance Commission: Tyres; Olive Industry; and Monochrome Television Receivers and Certain Electronic Components. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a first time.
Senator GUILFOYLE (Victoria-Minister for
Social Security) ( 10.40)- I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
Honourable senators will be aware of the importance attached by both the Government and the community to the need for restraint on the burgeoning medical benefits expenditure on pathology services, this is a problem all over the world, but the increase in Australia in recent years has been out of all proportion to the growth in the cost of other medical services, by way of illustration, for the half year ended December 1974 the medical benefits expenditure for pathology services was $22m whilst for the half year ended 1976 it had risen to $5 3 m. The Government is determined that medical benefits expenditure on pathology services will be restrained, accordingly it has accepted and acted upon proposals submitted by the pathology services working party, the final report of which was tabled in another place on 25 May 1977.
The principles inherent in the Bill have been worked out carefully over a period of 1 3 months by the pathology services working party. The working party is constituted by persons nominated by the Australian Medical Association, the Royal College of Pathologists of Australia, the Society of Pathologists in Private Practice, and the New South Wales Health Commissionapart from officers of the Department of Health, the working party’s report has the support of these professional bodies. I am confident that the Government’s actions, with the support of the profession and the community, will reduce the mounting costs of medical benefits for pathology services within the bounds of the proper practice of medicine.
Before becoming involved in the details of the Bill, I wish to emphasise that the working party has recommended that a new schedule of pathology services and fees for medical benefits purposes will replace the existing schedule. The existing schedule is totally out of date, and the Government has accepted this new schedule. The new schedule is set out in appendix A to the working party’s report. It will be introduced by regulations to operate at the same time as the revised pathology benefit arrangements covered by this Bill come into operation. The new schedule will maintain the current two-tiered levels of benefits. However, the present three item rule for multiple services will be replaced by in-built multiple service rules in the items, where appropriate. The Bill deletes the current provisions in the act relating to the three item multiple services rule. New section 4B introduced by clause 4 of the Bill before the Senate, enables the new inbuilt multiple services rule to operate.
Clause 4 also introduces a new section 4a. This provision enables interim variations to be made to pathology services set out in the schedule. At present the schedule is updated twice a year by regulations promulgated under section 4. This method is not sufficiently flexible to cope with technical breakthroughs which almost overnight can and do substantially alter the costs of pathology services, accordingly the Bill provides for the Medical Benefits Advisory Committee, following a reference to it by the Minister for Health, to investigate existing or proposed pathology services and recommend whether they should be varied or included in the schedule and, if so, the level of fees applicable. The Minister may issue a determination specifying the new service and fee which will apply for medical benefits purposes for a period of 6 months. Within this time action will be taken to formally include the particular procedure in schedule 1 . The Bill provides for the Minister’s determination to be tabled in Parliament and to be subject to disallowance on the same basis as a regulation. This arrangement will provide the necessary flexibility to adapt to technical changes while providing time to include new services in the schedule as part of the regular updating machinery.
I am sure honourable senators will readily appreciate that where pathology services are rendered by a practitioner as a result of a request by another practitioner, the initiative for the rendering of unnecessary pathology services lies with the requesting practitioner. The existing legislation does not formalise, in any way, the manner in which requests must be made. The working party has recommended and the Government has accepted that requesting practitioners should be accountable for the payment of medical benefits following the rendering of services requested by them. This decision complements the approved pathology practitioner arrangements. I will spell out the details shortly.
Accordingly, clause 6 of the Bill inserts a new section 16a. The new section provides that a medical benefit is not payable in respect of a pathology service unless the service was, firstly, determined by a practitioner to be necessary; secondly, with one exception to which I will refer shortly, was rendered by or on behalf of an approved pathology practitioner; and finally, when rendered as a result of a request, the practitioner made the request in writing. The precise details that will be required to be included in the request will be set out in regulations, but in general will be: Name and address of the patient’s doctor and the practitioner requested to perform the service; the date of the request; the name and address of the patient; and the pathology services to be rendered by the approved pathology practitioner.
I should emphasise that the written request which each requesting practitioner must use and complete will not be a standard form. The form of the request will be up to the individual practitioner. The only requirements are that it must be in writing, signed personally by the practitioner, and include such details as I have just specified.
It is recognised that in some circumstances verbal requests for urgent pathology services are essential. The Bill acknowledges the necessity for this practice, with the proviso that before medical benefits can be paid for verbal requests they have to be confirmed in writing. All written requests are to be held by the approved pathology practitioner rendering the service for a period of 1 8 months after the date on which the service was rendered and, should the Minister so direct, must be produced for examination by officers of the Department of Health. In view of the importance of the requests as source documents for investigations into the possible initiating and rendering of excessive pathology services, failure to hold the request for the specified period has been made an offence.
New section 16a also provides that for a medical benefit to be payable, there shall be recorded on an account, receipt or bulk-billing assignment form, prescribed details in respect of the pathology service. Where services are rendered as a result of a request, these details will be similar to those I have already mentioned in respect of the written request. Where the service does not involve a request, that is, where an approved pathology practitioner both determines the necessity for and renders the service himself, the essential details will include the name of the doctor rendering the service; the date the service was determined to be necessary and the pathology services rendered.
I mentioned earlier that there was an exception to the general rule that medical benefits would not be payable where pathology services were rendered by other than an approved pathology practitioner. Medical practitioners will still be able to provide 17 specified simple basic diagnostic pathology services for their own patients, or patients of their own practice, without becoming approved pathology practitioners. These tests are listed in division 9 of appendix A to the report of the pathology services working party. They are the 1 7 tests that were listed by the joint pathology working party on accreditation as being tests for which accreditation would not be required. The Government has accepted the working party’s proposal that certain of these tests, namely haemoglobin estimation, determination of erythrocyte sedimentation rate, microscopical examination of urine concentrate, which are currently not eligible for medical benefits unless referred, will be eligible in future, even when not referred. This will recognise the importance of doctors being able to carry out certain important simple basic diagnostic pathology tests on their own patients, without having to wait for results from a pathologist. In addition to the new provisions concerning the payment of medical benefits for pathology services, clause 6 of the Bill also provides for the giving and acceptance of undertakings. New section 16B provides for the Minister for Health to draw up common forms of undertaking to be given by persons wishing to become approved pathology practitioners. Provision has been made in the Bill for the form to be varied by the Minister for Health only where the variation has been agreed by the Medical Benefits Advisory Committee.
In essence the undertaking will require persons wishing to become approved to agree to provide pathology services in accordance with a code of conduct which is based on the code of conduct in the report of the joint pathology working party on accreditation. The code of conduct will cover such matters as the sharing of fees and benefits, the offering of incentives for the requesting of pathology services, billing practices of the approved person and controls on advertising to stimulate the ordering of pathology services. Persons eligible to give an undertaking are defined in new section 16C of the Bill. These are medical practitioners, persons employing medical practitioners, a State or State and Territory authority specified in writing by the Minister for Health and a very small number of persons, who have for some years provided pathology services in country areas at the request of medical practitioners. Provision has also been made for the Commonwealth to be deemed to be an approved pathology practitioner. This means that Parliament approves the Commonwealth as an approved pathology practitioner rather than the Minister for Health giving and accepting an undertaking on behalf of the Commonwealth. However, the Commonwealth will, of course, abide by the code of conduct and other matters to which approved pathology practitioners are bound by their undertakings and will conform with relevant provisions of the Bill.
The Government has given careful consideration to the arguments put forward by the working party that for pathology services bulk-billing should be limited to those services provided to eligible pensioners and their dependants and not allowed for other patients of Medibank. The Government has also given full regard to the wishes of segments of the population that this restriction not be introduced. The Government has accepted on balance the views put forward by the working party, for 2 reasons. The first is that there is often not the contact between the patient and the pathologist, which allows the patient to sign the bulk-billing form. Moreover few patients are able to, as they are supposed to do, sign the bulk-billing form after the pathology services have been performed, and certify that the services itemised on the claim form have been performed. The second is that there is a substantial correlation between the provision of large patient profiles or health screens, largely consisting of pathology services, and bulkbilling. In many cases there is no indication that the patient is not well, and these large profiles or screens are fostered only in a situation where the patient has nothing or little to pay. Such profiles and screens with benefits in each instance in excess of $75 were responsible for some 25 per cent of the total medical benefits expenditure on pathology services in September last. The figure in New South Wales, for instance, where this practice is more common, was nearly 40 per cent.
I wish to point out to honourable senators that bulk-billing for services other than pathology services remains untouched by these changes. The question of whether there should be any changes in respect of bulk-billing for medical services other than pathology services will be considered when the Government receives a report which the Minister for Health has requested from his Department. At present the Health Insurance Act provides for the establishment of medical services committees of inquiry, consisting of 5 medical practitioners, whose function it is to inquire into references to them by the Minister concerning the possible rendering of excessive professional services which attract medical benefits payable by Medibank. These functions are being extended to enable the committees to also investigate the rendering of excessive services which attract medical benefits payable by private medical benefit organisations registered under the National Health Act.
The Government is conscious that breaches of pathology undertakings are also professional matters. It is therefore appropriate and just that determinations concerning breaches of pathology undertakings should be the result of consideration by a group of professional colleagues with expert knowledge of the field involved. Accordingly provision has been made in clause 27 of the Bill to expand the functions of the medical services committees of inquiry to authorise the committees to inquire into matters arising out of pathology undertakings.
If, following an investigation, a commute considers that an undertaking should not be accepted or the undertaking has been breached, then it may, by virtue of the amendments made in clause 32, recommend to the Minister an appropriate course of action including reprimands, withholding benefits or requiring the payment of medical benefits for pathology services in respect of which the practitioner has failed to comply with the undertaking or revocation of the Minister’s acceptance of the undertaking. At this point, the existing provisions of the Health Insurance Act will apply. Therefore the Minister may give effect to the recommendation by issuing a determination against which the practitioner may appeal.
The investigating of requests for excessive pathology services is again considered to be a matter that should appropriately be handled by the medical services committees of inquiry. Accordingly, in clause 27, the Bill confers a further new function on these committees by providing for the existing powers, functions and procedures of the medical services committees of inquiry to be extended to conduct investigations into excessive requesting of pathology services. Should the committee consider that excessive services have been requested, provision is also made in clause 32 of the Bill for the committees to recommend the reprimanding of the practitioner concerned or the withholding of, or payment by the practitioner of, an amount equal to the amount of benefits, or a specified part of the benefits, applicable to the services considered by the committee as being excessive.
The Government is confident that the adoption of this system of review provides the fairest mechanism for enforcing the approved pathology practitioner scheme. However, it recognises that as determinations of the Minister concerning breaches of undertakings vitally affect the livelihood of those practitioners, there may well be an argument that an appeal against such a determination should be heard by a court and not by a review tribunal. Accordingly the Bill provides, in these circumstances, for a choice of appeal against a determination of the Minister, following a recommendation of a committee of inquiry, to either a medical services review tribunal or to a prescribed court as defined in clause 38- new section 107- of the Bill. The new functions of medical services committees of inquiry will also apply to the rendering of services under pathology undertakings and the requesting of pathology services which attract medical benefits payable by either Medibank or private medical benefit organisations registered under the National Health Act.
Honourable senators will be aware that, for the purpose of payment by Medibank of medical benefits for optometrical consultations, the Health Insurance Act currently provides for a participating optometrists scheme, based on undertakings given by optometrists. The extension of the functions of an optometrical services committee of inquiry to consider optometrical consultations attracting medical benefits payable by registered medical benefits organisations, has been provided in clause 35 of the Bill. The alternative of appeal to a court concerning undertakings rather than to a review tribunal should apply equally to the participating optometrist arrangements as it will to pathologists, and the Bill therefore provides accordingly.
The opportunity has been taken in the Bill to deal with 2 matters, unrelated to pathology, associated with the establishment and operation of committees and tribunals. The first of these is the discretion currently included in the Health Insurance Act for the Minister to consult with professional colleges and organisations other than the Australian Medical Association in choice of members to be appointed to certain committees and tribunals established under that legislation. In practice this discretion has not been used, since the Government recognises the AMA as the most appropriate body to represent the medical profession in consultations with the Government. Accordingly the Bill provides that the AMA is to be the sole body consulted by the Minister in the choosing of members for appointments to appropriate committees and tribunals established under the Act. Secondly, the Health Insurance Act at present contains common provisions which apply to both medical and optometrical services review tribunals. Provision has accordingly been made in clause 38 of the Bill to amalgamate these provisions, thus considerably simplifying the structure of the legislation.
During its investigations, the working party became aware of certain practices in which considerations are offered to induce practitioners to initiate or provide unnecessary pathology services. Provision has therefore been made in clause 50 of the Bill- new section 129AA- for the creation of a specific offence to prohibit persons from seeking or offering a payment or consideration, for the requesting or providing of pathology services attracting medical benefits, other than in the ordinary course of proper professional practice. In order to determine whether an offence has been committed, provision has been made in the Bill for a person authorised by the Minister to enter premises, either with the consent of the occupier of the premises or on authority of a warrant issued by a magistrate, to search for and inspect and take copies of documents. I emphasise that a warrant would only be issued where a magistrate is satisfied by information on oath that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that there is on the premises evidence as to the commission of an offence. This offence relates to pathology services which attract either Medibank medical benefits or medical benefits payable by registered health insurance organisations. The Government considers that the combination of this offence, together with disciplinary action through the medical services committees of inquiry, will considerably reduce the incidence of unnecessary or extravagant use of pathology services.
The Bill also provides for increased penalties to apply in relation to offences under section 129 of the Act. The existing level of penalties for these offences, which relate to false statements or the submission of false information in connection with payments under the Health Insurance Act, have been found to be inadequate. The Bill also provides for the increased penalties under existing section 129, together with the new offence introduced by new section 129AA, to be made indictable, the maximum level of penalties relating to each provision to be set at a fine of $ 10 000 or 5 years’ imprisonment. The Government is conscious that the severity of the offences will vary and, accordingly, provision has been made in the Bill that by agreement between the prosecution and the defence, and subject to the court being satisfied that it is proper to do so, less serious offences can be dealt with summarily by a lower court, in which case the maximum penalty will be $500 or 6 months ‘ imprisonment.
Further matters included in the Bill relate to health program grants. Provision has been made in clauses 13 to 18 to broaden the scope and purpose for which health program grants may be given. At present the Health Insurance Act permits health progam grants to cover only the cost of the approved health service given by an organisation, including associated management expenses. The Government considers the situation is unduly restrictive and accordingly the Bill provides for two additional measures to increase the scope and impact of the health program grants arrangements.
The first measure is designed to further facilitate the establishment of health maintenance organisations. Standard Medibank contributors will be able to join such an organisation when established simply by registering with it. They will then be able to avail themselves of the health services provided in the same way as members who pay their contributions to the organisation. Where any members, whether standard Medibank contributors or members paying contributions, need to obtain medical services elsewhere, the organisation will pay medical benefits for those services. For Standard Medibank members, the organisations will be reimbursed by way of health program grants. The second and perhaps the most important innovation is to authorise the payment of health program grants to enable the development and evaluation of new, improved health care delivery systems. This has been too long neglected and the funding of projects aimed at introducing and evaluating methods of streamlining existing practices and developing innovative alternatives will significantly increase the effectiveness of health program grants. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill has two main purposes: To establish a Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission to operate in conjunction with State and Territorial Legal Aid Commissions, and to provide for the preservation of the rights of staff of the Australian Legal Aid Office who transfer to State and Territorial commissions. The Bill is a basic element in the Government’s announced policy to establish a comprehensive legal aid scheme in
Australia involving a co-operative exercise between the Commonwealth and the States in the provision of legal aid. Under the scheme, legal aid will be provided in each State and Territory through a single independent statutory commission, established by legislation in each State or Territory. It is intended that each State Commission will take over the existing Australian Legal Aid Offices and any State or Law Society schemes in that State. The Territory Commission would do likewise. In accordance with the Government’s policy of self-management by Aborigines, the Aboriginal Legal Aid Services will continue to operate separately.
Honourable senators will observe that under the Bill the Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission will have an advisory, co-ordinating and monitoring role in the comprehensive scheme. The new arrangements will eliminate duplication and confusion in the minds of the public caused by the present multiplicity of schemes. It is the Government’s intention to maintain a continuing and direct involvement in the delivery of legal aid. This financial year it is estimated the amount expended on legal aid, other than Aboriginal legal aid, will total $ 1 7.95 million. This is 43 per cent more than the amount expended in the previous year. The continuing interest of the Commonwealth in the quality and economy of the provision of legal aid in the Federal area will be given effect to in the following ways: Firstly, there will be a formal agreement between the Commonwealth and each State under which the Commonwealth will provide funds for the provision by the State legal aid commission of legal aid in the Federal area. Secondly, the legislation establishing State and territorial commissions will require them to have regard to the recommendations of the Commonwealth Commission in providing legal aid in the Federal area. Thirdly, the Commonwealth will have a nominee- ordinarily a member of the staff of the Commonwealth Commission- on each State and territorial commission and a small expert staff that will monitor the provision of aid, conduct research, maintain statistics and examine the needs of the various commissions within budgetary limitations.
I would also like to emphasise that it is the Government’s intention that the provision of legal aid through salaried officers should continue. Many of the initiatives in legal aid have come through the work in recent years of salaried officers in the Australian Legal Aid Office. Amongst these are the shopfront, the duty lawyer and the mobile lawyer service. The staff of these offices have performed and will continue to perform a very valuable community service. I know that honourable senators value the relationship they have built up with the legal aid offices. The salaried service is now an acknowledged part of legal aid.
I shall now deal with the Bill. Under the functions set out in Part II of the Bill the Commonwealth Commission will keep under review the extent of the need for legal assistance in Australia and will make recommendations from time to time to the Attorney-General as to the most effective, economical and desirable means of satisfying that need. It will make recommendations to the Attorney-General and to legal aid commissions of States and Territories concerning the provision of legal assistance by those means in respect of Commonwealth matters. The Commission will be a monitoring body. It will collect and publish statistics concerning the operation of legal aid. It will report to the Attorney-General on the financing of legal aid commissions of States and Territories. It will as requested by the Attorney-General, report as to the provision by the Commonwealth of financial assistance to Legal Aid Commissions. It will also have power to determine applications for the provision of legal aid in specialised areas referred to it.
Under Part II, the Commission will be constituted by a chairman, a deputy chairman and 6 other members reflecting the various interests involved in legal aid. The chairman will be a judge or a former judge or a lawyer of eminence. Two members will be nominated by the AttorneyGeneral, two by the State Attorneys-General, one by the Law Council of Australia and one by the Australian Council of Social Service. It is envisaged that, by arrangement among the Attorneys-General of the States, the 2 members nominated by them will be drawn from each State in turn and will serve for an appropriate term of office agreed with the Attorneys-General. All the commissioners except the Deputy Chairman will hold office on a part-time basis.
Considerable progress has been made towards implementing the comprehensive scheme in discussions at ministerial and officer level between the Commonwealth and the States and the Attorney-General has had discussions with the executive of the Law Council of Australia to explain the Government’s plans and to enlist the support of the private legal profession. Two States- Western Australia and South Australiahave already passed Acts to establish State Commissions to operate in conjunction with the Commonwealth Commission. Discussions will take place with the Attorneys-General of each of these States with regard to amendments to these
Acts thought by the Commonwealth to be desirable. The Attorney-General expects that Ordinances to establish Commissions will be made in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory by July or August this year. The Government hopes that, before the end of the next financial year, legislation to establish Commissions will have been passed in all States.
Honourable senators will recall that the AttorneyGeneral has previously stated the Government’s intention that salaried lawyers should have an acknowledged role in the delivery of legal aid. This was confirmed in the draft Territory ordinance circulated in March last. Part IV of the Bill seeks to preserve the rights of ALAO staff who transfer to State and territorial commissions. It does this in two ways: Firstly, by requiring certain minimum terms and conditions to be included in any arrangement for the transfer of ALAO staff; and, secondly, by applying the second tier of the revised officers’ rights declaration scheme to staff transferred. Honourable senators will see that these provisions give effect to the statements that the Attorney-General has made in Parliament- and to undertakings that he has given to ALAO staff- that arrangements for their transfer to State and territorial commissions will be on the basis of terms and conditions of service no less favourable than those they presently enjoy.
The terms and conditions that, under Part IV, must be included in any such arrangement are the basic rights to present salary, leave and superannuation entitlements. These are minimum conditions only and, in discussions with staff associations and the States, the Commonwealth will be seeking to have included in any arrangement the preservation of various other rights such as those dealing with allowances, increments and probationary service. ALAO staff will not be asked to elect concerning transfer to a State or territorial commission until a satisfactory arrangement has been concluded by the Commonwealth in the relevant State or Territory and the staff are fully informed about the terms and conditions that will apply to them.
The second tier of the revised officers’ rights declaration scheme is part of a proposal developed by the Joint Council of the Australian Public Service- a consultative body of staff and management- to replace the existing Officers’ Rights Declaration Act. Part IV of the Bill makes interim provision for the application of the second tier to ALAO staff transferred to State and territorial commissions pending the introduction by the Government during the Budget sittings of legislation to implement the full scheme for the whole of the Australian Public Service. Under Part IV, ALAO staff transferred may seek transfer to or promotion in the Australian Public Serviceand may appeal against provisional promotions- as if they had remained members of that Service. They will also have access to special re-entry provisions should their employment with a State or Territorial commission be compulsorily terminated.
To meet the concern of ALAO staff about their career prospects in legal aid the AttorneyGeneral is asking State Attorneys-General to include a provision in State legislation enabling legal aid commissions to make reciprocal arrangements with each other for transfer of staff. Similar provision would be made in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
Part V of the Bill provides, in effect, for progressive repeal of Commonwealth legislation referring to the Legal Service Bureaux and the ALAO as State and territorial commissions take over their functions. It also provides for the staff of the Commission to be employed under the Public Service Act, 1922. The Commission will be required to provide an annual report to Parliament. The Attorney-General has already received submissions from staff associations and the Law Council of Australia. He will be giving these and any other submission serious consideration. If agreed to, any appropriate amendments necessary to implement them will be made to the legislation during the Budget Session.
The delivery of legal aid services to those in need is a continuing aim of the Government. The provision of that aid requires, in effect, a partnership between the relevant governments, the legal profession (including private and salaried lawyers) and the community. There is a need for all to be involved. This Bill provides an important part of the framework within which that partnership will be conducted. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Telegrams Dispatched by State Premier- The Senate- University Guild Fees- University Students’ Publications- South Australian Government
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I raise a matter this evening which has caused me some great concern. It concerns a
Press release which appeared on page 8 of today’s Advertiser. The article is headed Dunstan Gives Views for S770-MP’. The article was reported by Mr Brett Bailey with a Canberra date line. It states:
A Liberal back bencher said last night the South Australian Premier, Mr Dunstan, had sent telegrams to every South Australian senator at a total cost of about $770. Mr Porter, South Australia, said the messages could have been hand delivered at a cost of only $ 1 78, the cost of a first class air fare. He said the 650-word telegrams, costing about $77 each, had apparently been sent on Monday to each of the 10 South Australian senators. The subject of the telegram was the States (Personal Income Tax Snaring) Amendment Bill introduced into the House of Representatives on Thursday. The Premier had about 4 days to let the South Australian senators know his views. After the first 9 months this year, Mr Dunstan had a surplus of $37. lm. . . .
I do not know what those last 2 lines have to do with the telegrams but I want to advise the Senate that Mr Porter rang me last night. I think that the purpose of his phone call was to try to have me associated with his Press release criticising the Premier of South Australia for sending lengthy telegrams, of which I have a copy, to all South Australian senators on a matter which is of grave importance to the smaller States of the Commonwealth. This matter is so important that the Tasmanian Premier and the South Australian Premier have the full support of the Western Australian Liberal Premier and the Queensland Country Party Premier in what they are endeavouring to do to persuade this Government not to go ahead with that particular legislation. It is all very well for Mr Porter, the member for Barker, which borders on the electorate in which I live in South Australia, to come out and criticise the South Australian Premier for an expenditure in his words- I have not checked it out to see whether it is correct- of $770 to send telegrams to South Australian senators to try to inform them, as quickly as he could, of the events that were about to happen and to ask them to safeguard the interests of the smaller States of the Commonwealth.
I want to refer to the telegrams that were sent out by a Minister of this Government during the last election campaign. I refer to the present Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott, who sent out very lengthy political telegrams making false statements to Aboriginal communities all over Australia, claiming that the Government of which he was a member, the caretaker Government, would not do certain things if elected. Of course, no sooner was it elected than it did the very opposite to the promises which were made by Mr Ellicott. It has been claimed that many thousands of dollars in costs were involved in the telegrams that were sent out by Mr Ellicott who was then, I think, the caretaker Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Not only did Mr Ellicott mislead the Aboriginal communities by making certain statements to them but also he used a massive amount of taxpayers’ money to try to influence the people on Aboriginal settlements and the people who, perhaps, were not on Aboriginal settlements but living in closer areas, that they should vote back into office the Liberal-National Country Party caretaker Government.
I think it is a very sorry state of affairs when we find the South Australian Premier criticised for putting not only his own views but also the views of 3 other State Premiers to senators in this place asking them to do all in their power to have legislation deferred so that they might have a closer look at it. That is something about which I have complained in recent days in this Parliament. Legislation is coming in here- we saw another example of it tonight- like meat coming out of a sausage machine. As has often been claimed by honourable senators on the other side of the chamber, this is a House of review. As I have said in the speeches that I have made this week, there has been conclusive proof, by the action of this Government, that it does not consider the Senate to be a House of review. No time is given to senators in this place to review the legislation that is coming forward. I want to lodge the strongest protest against the South Australian member of the House of Representatives- that is, the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter)- for his criticism of the South Australian Premier. He must answer for this when he goes back to his electorate. He must answer for the claims that he has made that Mr Dunstan is wrongfully spending South Australian taxpayers’ money in alerting not only the Labor senators in this chamber as to what his Government is doing, but also in alerting the senators who sit opposite.
In the referendum campaign a few honourable senators on the other side of the chamber claimed most strongly that this is a States House. This will be one instance, during discussion of this piece of legislation, to see whether it is really a States House; to see whether those senators who represent States like Queensland and Western Australia, the senators who are Government supporters, will prove to the electorate at large that they believe what some of their colleagues said during the referendum campaign. There were some Western Australian senators who came out openly- Senator Sim was one and Senator Wright from Tasmania was anotherand vocally opposed the referendum. One of the strongest arguments which Senator Wright used was that the Senate would no longer be a States
House if there was a Yes vote for simultaneous elections. Senator Martin and Senator Bonner from Queensland were doing the same thing. They will be put to the test whenever this legislation comes before the Parliament. We will see whether they will protect the interests of their State and cross the floor and reject this legislation. That is when the test will come. I have been informed already not only by the Press but also by people who speak about this place that Senator Wright has voiced his strong opposition in his Party room to this piece of legislation. We look forward, when the vote is taken, to seeing Senator Wright coming across here and joining the Opposition in rejecting the legislation.
– Order! The honourable senator must not anticipate legislation on the notice paper.
– I will leave it at that and get back to the purpose of the telegram which was sent by the South Australian Premier and which, in my view and as I told Mr Porter last night, was not strong enough. I would not have complained if the South Australian Premier had sent all 10 South Australian senators a telegram 4 times as long. As usual the South Australian Premier, Mr Dunstan, was looking after the people he represents in South Australia. He has done it very creditably ever since he became the Premier of that State. Even Senator Hall would have to agree that Mr Dunstan has done a good job in the interests of the South Australian electors. Senator Hall well knows that when he had been the Premier of South Australia for 2 years he went to the people on a certain issue and the people rejected him and elected Mr Dunstan to office. Mr Dunstan has been in office ever since and he will continue to be in office in South Australia for many years to come.
I do not think that Senator Hall will be in this chamber when he sees the Liberal Party in South Australia- the Party which he rejected but to which he has now returned- returned to the treasury bench. I have always paid tribute to Senator Hall in the past for being a Premier who brought about some form of democratic electoral redistribution in South Australia, even though he was forced to do so because he made a rash promise in regard to a by-election for the seat of Millicent. He was forced to keep his promise. Let us give him credit because he was the Premier when the redistribution was carried out.
However, when we get a further democratic redistribution by the present Labor Government the Liberal Party is going to all pains, even as far as the Privy Council, to try to upset it. Now the matter has been settled the next election in South Australia will be fought on the most democratic boundaries we can get in that State. It is a really good example to all the other States of this Commonwealth. They should do likewise and let the whole of the electorate in every State go to the polls and vote in a democratic system so that the party which gets 50 per cent plus one of the vote will be the Government irrespective of its political colour.
I return to the telegrams again. Mr Porter will have to answer, as will his Party which no doubt has backed him in the Press statement that he put out criticising Mr Dunstan ‘s telegram, if South Australia among the other 3 States has to suffer because of what might happen in this Parliament. Mr Porter will be one of those people who will have to answer to the South Australian electors in the very near future. I believe that Mr Fraser will have an election in May of next year for half the Senate and the House of Representatives. As I live so close to the electorate of Barker I will be reminding the people there- I spend a lot of time in the electorate- of the actions of Mr Porter in criticising the South Australian Premier in his efforts to protect the interests of South Australian residents not only in the Labor held seats but also in the safe Liberal seat of Barker. I am sure that Mr Porter’s vote will drop dramatically from what he got at the last election.
– The matter I wish to raise tonight concerns the payment of student fees to university guilds. It was stated by Senator Carrick in reply to a question on 4 May- I think that Senator Carrick has made similar statements on other occasions- that the determination of guild fees was a matter for university authorities and not something with which the Government should concern itself. Whatever merit there may be in that view it clearly is not shared by the Government in Queensland which already has brought down legislation on the subject. It has been reported and acknowledged by the Government in Western Australia that its intention is to do the same thing. The question revolves around whether payments of fees to university guilds should be compulsory for all students who are enrolled. I will deal with that question and also relate to it a series of events flowing from the publication of a magazine known as the New Libido, a magazine which was distributed during orientation week at the University of Western Australia in March this year.
Senator Carrick has stated that this matter should be left to university authorities. The Queensland Government has already intervened and acted contrary to the view of Senator Carrick. It has been stated by people associated with the Queensland Government and by Ministers in the Western Australian Government that it is quite acceptable to have a compulsory fee to a guild to provide sporting facilities and so on but it is quite unacceptable that fees should be compulsory when money is used by guilds for affiliation with the Australian Union of Students, for travel services and for other activities. I find the view being proposed rather extraordinary. Apparently it is acceptable that money should be conscripted to fund university football teams for travel from one State to another to play in intervarsity competitions, to fund university cricket teams or any other type of sporting activity but it is quite unacceptable, according to the people who put forward this view, that money which is compulsorily acquired from fees should be used for other purposes such as affiliation with the AUS, involvement in community issues or sometimes activities which are on the periphery of politics.
My other question concerns the series of events that flowed from the distribution of the magazine called New Libido. It is put out as the orientation edition of 1977. It is published monthly by the University of Western Australia Liberal Club. The editor of this publication is Simon Withers who is, I understand, the son of a well known Liberal politician.
– Are you talking about a member of this chamber?
– I understand that the person concerned is the son of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers). In this publication there is what is called A Freshers A-Z Guide to the Guild. It says things such as A is for arts and B is for something. It contains this sort of comment:
T is for Trendy- the pre-requisite for membership to lini ALP. Must be totally devoted to Abbo’s; the PLO; AUS: Women’s Lib; Woodchip bombings; Anti-Uranium Demonstrations; Russian Imperialism; Gough Whitlam and poofters.
Q is for Queen- And there are plenty around. They pursue a policy of total agression towards hetrosexuals, and anyone who is even half way straight is ipso facto a poofter-basher.
It continues on in that vein:
V is for Vice President (of the Guild)- Turd position, traditionally given to a noisy female Guild Counsellor as a token gesture, to shut them up for the year.
I will not quote very much more. The first item in this A Freshers A -Z Guide to the Guild is:
A is for Arts Union- Compulsory Union for Arts students. Manifestly corrupt- run by the Executive of the Uni ALP.
Rigs elections and gives away money to trendy left-wing causes.
I find that reference to rigging elections in this publication put out by the Liberal Club at the University of Western Australia and edited by Simon Withers very interesting.
Some 6 months ago another publication was sold on the streets of Perth in association with the annual university procession. It was a facsimile of the West Australian and was called the Worst Australian. On page 4 of this issue there is a story about a meeting at the University of Western Australia attended by, among other people, Senator Withers, his son Simon and Greg Sheppard, who was President of the University Liberal Club in 1976 and who is, I think, still President. There is a report of a discussion between members of this group about the approaching Guild elections. The transcript, as published in this paper, refers to R.W., who is Senator Withers, and S. W., who is his son Simon Withers. It reads:
R.W.: And the AUS ballot?
S.W.: At least one’s on our side. (Here it is believed Simon was referring to Mr Tony Nutt, a member of the Liberal Club and returning officer for the coming Guild elections ).
That was not directly from the transcript. The transcript continues:
Greg Sheppard: One’s a member of the Liberal Club.
R.W.: Are the ballot boxes safe?
R.W.: Couldn’t you have managed to have stuffed a couple of thousand of yours in them, like the way they used to when I was here?
So the transcript continued. I find it more than a little amusing that a University Liberal Club publication edited by Simon Withers could accuse the Arts Union of being manifestly corrupt, of being run by the executive of the University Australian Labor Party, of indulging in the rigging of elections and of giving away money to trendy left wing causes, when evidently it was being privately canvassed by Senator Withers that the University Liberal Club should arrange to have stuffed a couple of thousands of yours in them, like the way they used to when I was here ‘.
The distribution of this publication during Orientation Week caused a disturbance. Some people found the material in it offensive. It subsequently provoked an advertisement in the
West Australian, from which I will quote an extract in a moment. That was followed by a series of letters in which charges and counter-charges were levelled by one group at another group, and so on, for several weeks. I will not bore the Senate with all the details of it. The advertisement in question was signed by a number of people, some of whom were trade unionists, some of whom were members of the ALP, some of whom were members of the academic staff of the University of Western Australia and of the Western Australian Institute of Technology, some of whom were members of student organisations, and so on. I quote the part of the advertisement that is the most relevant to my comments this evening:
The undersigned demand that a public statement be issued dissociating the UWA Liberal Club from the outrageous sexist and racist remarks contained in this issue of New Libido.
That was the issue from which I quoted. The advertisement continued:
We further demand that the UWA Liberal Club undertakes disciplinary action against the individual members responsible.
I have not the date, but I think it was published towards the end of March. That led to a story in the Daily News of 1 April, which reported:
An 18-year-old student at the University of Western Australia said today she had changed her study program because she felt intimidated by her tutor.
Her tutor was one of the people who signed the advertisement. The story continued:
The girl, who asked that her name not be published, said: I am a member of the Liberal Club and I feel that the tutor’s action in signing a petition against the Club is an act of intimidation against me’.
It seems to be an extraordinarily sensitive reaction on the part of that student. She regarded her tutor’s signing an advertisement which was critical of the Liberal Club, of which she was a member, as an act of intimidation against her.
– Was her name Withers?
– No, her name was not Withers. I do not think it was. Her name was withheld. I do not know who she was. Even more extraordinary is the fact that the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) saw fit to take up this matter in the House of Representatives during the adjournment debate on 30 March. Normally he is associated with causes such as the Festival of Light. He described the pamphlet New Libido as mildly satirical material. I wonder whether the Festival of Light, whose views normally are compatible with those of the honourable member, would regard such a publication as mildly satirical. However, that is his problem.
So far as he is concerned, this displays once again a comfortable flexibility of viewpoint or of political principle of the type which facilitates frequent changes of political parties.
When the honourable member for Swan joined the Liberal Party in Western Australia he was interviewed on This Day Tonight. He was not the honourable member for Swan then, lt was suggested to him that he had travelled right across the political spectrum- from the ALP to the Australian Democratic Labor Party and to the Liberal Party. It was said that some people might suggest that his political principles were, to say the least, flexible. He replied that his principles had not changed; that it was just that all the political parties had changed. He said that when he joined the Labor Party there was none of this socialist nonsense in the Labor Party; that it had been taken over by the left wing since then and had become a vehicle for socialism. I think the honourable member for Swan joined the Labor Party in about 1948. Those who choose to cast their minds back might remember that at that time there was a considerable furore in Australia about the then Labor Government’s proposal to nationalise banking. It was described by the other side of politics not only as socialistic but also as communistic and the beginning of the end of democracy, free expression of views and, of course, free enterprise in Australia. But I digress.
The honourable member for Swan, when taking up this question of the extremely hypersensitive female student who believed she had been intimidated, said:
Already one Liberal girl has been terrorised into changing her tutorial group at the university because her tutor signed this hysterical and politically motivated advertisement.
He later said:
Who can blame students for adopting cynical attitudes towards their quest for truth when morally bullying tactics are employed by a collective of academic thugs who use their status and the status of the learned institution as an imprimatur for their own personal political prejudices.
I think this whole matter probably would have been best ignored by all the people who subsequently became involved in it. Since the honourable member for Swan chose to speak in such hysterical terms on the adjournment in the House of Representatives on 30 March and since so many academics at the University of Western Australia have been accused by him under Parliamentary privilege of political thuggery, of attempting to intimidate their students and to impose by intimidation the views of the tutors on the students and so on, reply by me was warranted. The initial foolish actions of the Liberal
Club at the University of Western Australia started a chain of reactions and overreactions which finally reached their zenith with the hysterical attack by the honourable member for Swan on 30 March, to which I felt obliged to reply.
– At times I have wondered what were the numerous reasons that kept the Australian Labor Party in a minority position in Western Australia in both Federal and State areas. I can see that Senator Walsh is certainly a very large contributor to its present position, and I hope he keeps up the standard. I want to reply very shortly to Senator McLaren, who I notice was getting a little nervous when Senator Walsh was speaking because I know he did not approve in any way of what Senator Walsh was saying. Senator McLaren’s contribution this evening was not of a very much higher standard. He tried to defend the South Australian Premier, Mr Dunstan. Of course Mr Dunstan is wrong on 2 counts. He is wrong in the substance of his telegram to South Australian senators and in the wasteful method by which he contacted them at a cost to the South Australian taxpayer of more than $700.
– Did not Ellicott do the same?
-The honourable senator refers to some other action which he says is wrong to try to justify Mr Dunstan ‘s action. One knows that cannot be done. Mr Dunstan ‘s action stands by itself and can be examined by itself. The facts are that the South Australian Premier is the most extravagant Treasurer South Australia has ever had. In his extravagance he has imposed on his constituents taxation increases which no other State would have tolerated. At the same time he has obtained a great deal of finance from the Federal Government. He is unrepentant in being the most extravagant Premier in all Australia. In setting an example for the rest of the community, he has increased costs in South Australia to the extent that in the most vital area of housing they are the greatest in the Commonwealth. It pains me greatly to look back to the time of the Playford Administration, when South Australia was the envy of the nation in relation to ability to provide cheap social housing and cheap high quality housing. In every area South Australia was supreme. Experts from other States used to travel to South Australia to see what organisational ability the State Government had that led to such a favourable comparison. The extravagance of this Premier whom Senator McLaren defends tonight in contacting South Australian senators and his actions in managing the State he has taken over have resulted in this sort of report under the heading ‘Adelaide is dearest for building’:
The cost or building a house in Adelaide is now the highest of any mainland capital city.
This is shown in Housing Industry Association figures released today of building costs in all capitals.
In the past three financial years the cost of building a house in metropolitan Adelaide has increased by SO per cent.
In 1973-74 it cost, on average, $122 a square metre to build a house in Adelaide, and latest figures disclose the cost per square metre is now $ 1 84.
In the same period, the cost of a house in Sydney rose from $ 1 30 to $ 1 7 1 a square metre. In Melbourne the rise was from $ 1 20 to $ 1 78 a square metre.
The price rise in Brisbane was from $ 1 27 to $ 1 69 a square metre. In Perth prices rose from $ 107 to $ 159 a square metre.
I remind Senator McLaren that the price is $184 a square metre in Adelaide. The report goes on:
Association president, Mr M. J. Lloyd, said today the steep rise in South Australia had been caused by a number of factors.
Among these was the cost of transporting many building component pans from the eastern States.
On-costs had hit the building industry very hard in South Australia.
Mr Lloyd said: ‘These include lavish workmen’s compensation payments, imposed by the State Government, and which hit hard at sub-contractors.
In addition, we face builders’ licensing charges which contractors in other States do not have to deal with.
Government charges, plus the cost of transport can be blamed as the two major reasons for the high prices in South Australia ‘.
That is the product of the Premier who so carelessly fritters away $700 as an example to other people in the community. Why not spend it? It is only other people’s money. South Australians are becoming aware of the penalty they now face, and the Premier knows that they are aware of it and he looks for diversions. He particularly looks for diversions as his regime in South Australia becomes repressive of personal freedoms. I certainly congratulate the Leader of the Opposition in South Australia, Mr Tonkin, for the very fine campaign he is now leading to free South Australia from the tyranny of the Dunstan Government in relation to its shopping freedoms. Polls have shown that well over 80 per cent of South Australians are seeking to enjoy the freedoms that Victorian and New South Wales people enjoy and they will vote accordingly at the next State election.
Mr Dunstan has obviously contracted the Whitlam disease. He has the disease of spending. He wants to spend in a fashion which was exemplified in the Senate yesterday by a remark from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) that I never thought I would hear from him. He said that a social service program was economically justifiable because it was desirable. That appears to be the general economic approach of Labor across Australia. Of course that is the attitude Senator McLaren defended tonight and which will be rejected utterly at the next South Australian election.
– In recent months I have been very good in not speaking on the adjournment. I only do so when provocation arises, as it has tonight. We lose our admiration for people when we see political partisanship and when they depart from the truth and honesty for which we once admired them for the purpose of making statements that do not coincide with the true position. Senator McLaren said that he thought Mr Porter was trying to ridicule the Premier of South Australia for doing a State service. It is claimed that it cost him $700 to send some telegrams. The telegrams asked South Australian senators not to vote for the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill and set out the reasons. This made the telegram lengthy. It was good logic. I am convinced that any senator who received the telegram saw the argument and saw the disadvantage that would flow to South Australia from the legislation. No South Australian senator on either side of the House who read the telegram could vote for the legislation when it comes before this Parliament. I do not know whether telegrams were sent by other Premiers, but Mr Dunstan ‘s resistence to the Bill was endorsed by four of the six States. The Government has decided now to withdraw it. Therefore, apparently by sending $700 worth of telegrams, Mr Dunstan -
- Mr President, I would like your ruling on whether Senator Cavanagh is addressing himself to a Bill which has yet to be discussed by the Senate.
– Under standing order 4 1 9 an honourable senator must not make reference to that which is on the notice paper.
- Mr President, I accept your ruling. I do not want to canvass it. I was a member of the Standing Orders Committee that was responsible for standing order 419. I think the standing order says that it should not be done unless it is necessary to make coherent debate. It is necessary on this occasion. But here we have a position -
– Order! I might indicate to the honourable senator that there is no mention in standing order 419 of anything being necessary. It simply reads:
No Senator shall . . . anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the Notice Paper:
– Yes, I accept your ruling, Mr President. I am not referring to the Bill, but let me say that the expenditure of $700, which was mentioned by two other honourable senators who apparently were out of order- I refer particularly to Senator Hall whom Senator Messner did not seek to have called to order- has saved the State from the disadvantage of a financial loss which would have occurred if the telegram was not sent. Because of that action Mr Dunstan is called the most extravagant Premier in Australia. No consideration was given to what he was saying or to the way in which he has benefited the State. It was financially beneficial to the State that that expenditure was made. He made it in the interests of the State. Those who have political considerations and not State concern disagree with his sending the telegrams. We heard raised such matters as high levels of taxation in South Australia. The people of South Australia returned Mr Dunstan as Premier. If we have high levels of taxation, they must like it. They even dumped Senator Hall, preferring the Premier despite his high levels of taxation. He will be returned at the next election also. Those are the sorts of accusations that have been made. The people are getting from Mr Dunstan a bigger return than they ever got before. Comparisons have been made between the housing provided under the Dunstan Government and the temporary incinerators of Tom Playford which burned 12 children in South Australia. Under the Playford Government we had temporary homes adjoining Housing Trust homes. Those temporary homes are now the slums of the metropolitan area. The volume of Housing Trust construction today has enlarged. A comparison should be made between the amenities and the furniture provided now- I do not know what is provided in the other States- with that which Tom Playford provided. Tom Playford ‘s housing in South Australia was shocking.
It has been said that Mr Dunstan has been very repressive in his policies. Even now he is accused of being repressive in regard to the freedom of people because he will not allow shopping hours to be extended. Since the advent of the Dunstan Government South Australia has become notorious for leading the country in introducing legislation in relation to racial discrimination, Aboriginal affairs, abortion and homosexuality. South Australia is leading the country on all these matters. I believe that it leads the world with the provisions it recently introduced into the Judiciary Act. Now the Premier is said to be repressive. He held a referendum in those areas where shops remained open but in relation to which the law provided that they close. Mr Tonkin went to the people, but they rejected him. He is very little improvement on Senator Hall. How can he ever lead his party to power? How can he ever get to power? He is appearing on television at the time when commissioners are considering extending trading hours. The Dunstan Government tried to benefit the people of South Australia by introducing legislation to refer the issue to the Industrial Court which could take into account working class considerations when examining the matter, as well as consumer interests and the interests of the shopkeepers. That legislation was rejected by the Liberal dominated Upper House of South Australia. No Premier in Australia has got a better record than Don Dunstan. A member of this Senate should be castigated for his criticism of the outstanding Premier of Australia who was trying to protect and save his State. That senator’s condemnation was scandalous.
– I assume that I am replying on behalf of my colleague, Senator Durack, who moved for the adjournment of the Senate. I do not wish to get into too much disputation at 24 minutes past 1 1 on a Wednesday night. I would have thought that rather than spend $700 on sending telegrams, which are sent at a loss to Australia Post, as I understand its mathematics, it would have been far cheaper for Mr Dunstan to come over here in a gold-plated 747 aircraft and talk to his senators personally. However, I do not suppose he would have had the time to do that.
– We would not have had time to listen to him, the way you are pushing Bills through here.
-That is an interesting allocation of the honourable senator’s time. Senator Cavanagh feels that he is so deeply involved in the legislation which is before the Parliament he would not have had time to spend an hour with the Premier of his own State at breakfast with him. I thought that some of Senator Cavanagh ‘s colleagues had sufficient time to have breakfast with a number of interesting people, and not just those from interstate but even some from overseas. I think we have almost got to the stage where we ought to measure Mr Dunstan ‘s telegrams not by the dollar but by the feet. If Mr Dunstan feels so sure of his position, why does he not face the electors? It is as simple as that. We will have the opportunity later to debate what Senator McLaren has said. I rather rise to respond to the matters raised by Senator Walsh. I must say that I got a great deal of wry amusement and, indeed, paternal pride out of the fact that my son Simon is now immortalised in Hansard. I only hope that I will be able to contain his ambitions when he realises that his name will appear in print other than in the telephone book.
I thought perhaps that Senator Walsh might have mentioned a few of the other points in relation to what happened in the Guild of Undergraduates of the University of Western Australia. As a result of all of those terrible things done and alleged to have been done on that day on which orientation took place at the University of Western Australia, a committee of inquiry was set up. I cannot think of who the third member of that inquiry was, but one was the President of the Guild of Undergraduates. He is a law student who is not known to me or my son as being a member of the University Liberal Club. He was democratically elected by the students. Another member of the inquiry is a lecturer in law at the University, but I do not think anybody has put a political tag on him; and there was one other person. Those 3 people investigated the whole of these incidents and found that what was done by the University Liberal Club on that date was reasonable in terms of the politics that they play on the University campus. In fact, they found also that the actions of those who tipped over tables and heaped abuse on the University Liberal Club were not in accordance with the normal standards of conduct indulged in by students in student politics on the campus.
If Senator Walsh wishes to raise a matter such as this I think he ought to tell all the facts and not just part of them. I might say that some time ago I warned Simon that if he were keen in his campaign to try to make the Australian Union of Students a democratic body representing the students of Australia- I admired him for it- he would be vilified, he would be abused, he would most likely have physical violence wreaked upon him. It is not an unusual thing for the opponents of certain left wing organisations in Australia to have that done to them.
– No, listen, you are extending this beyond the matter raised in debate.
-I say that quite brutally. A Mr Danby of the University Labor Club of the Melbourne University has said far worse things about the Australian Union of Students than has any member of a University Liberal Club in Australia. Michael Danby is in print as having talked about violence and disruption wreaked by the left wingers on those who dare to oppose freedom of speech within university campuses.
– Do not just blanket left wingers.
-I am just saying that even Mr Michael Danby of the University Labor Club in Melbourne is worried about it. In fact, I think Senator Carrick said here the other night that an alliance is developing among the more responsible members on the university campuses in Australia. The Liberal clubs and the Labor clubs are trying to rid the student movement of some of the bad elements at present within the Australian Union of Students. I pay tribute, as does my son, to the Labor clubs on the campuses which are determined to bring true democracy onto the campuses. I think that Senator Walsh ought to be ashamed of himself tonight. He ought to find out what is really happening on the campuses.
Two lads from Sydney wrote articles- one for the Australian and one for the Bulletin- exposing the excesses which occurred at the conference of the Australian Union of Students at Monash at which Simon was present earlier this year. I am certain that those excesses would be condemned by most honourable senators opposite. I believe that most of my friends opposite, if not colleagues opposite, share the view I have- that the student movement in this country ought to represent students, that it ought to condemn violence and that it ought to condemn intimidation.
– They do.
-They do. I think that honourable senators opposite ought to be ashamed about the sort of thing Senator Walsh has trundled forth. Honourable senators opposite may expose themselves as those who are not prepared to condemn the sort of antics that the AUS has been getting up to. The voice of the student movement is not confined to the student movement. The present undemocratic election of those bodies, the present conduct of their meetings, the present character of the organisations, the funds that they have at their disposal which are used for extreme left wing causes have been condemned not just by the Liberal clubs on the campuses but by the Labor student movements also. One thing that we have in common in this place is a desire to see decent democracy in this country and to see decent elections so that people elected to office really represent the groups whom they allege they represent. I repeat in the gentlest of forms that Simon will have great satisfaction as a result of the remarks made by Senator Walsh tonight. What he has done is to ensure his re-election to the Guild of Undergraduates at the University of Western Australia at the next election.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.33 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 June 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770601_senate_30_s73/>.