28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the law of this land a principle which violates a fundamental right, the right to life.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Stewart, Mr Connor, Mr Les Johnson, Dr Everingham, Mr Bourchier, Mr Calder, Mr Donald Cameron, MrDavies, Mr Erwin, Mr FitzPatrick, Mr Malcolm Fraser (2), Mr Hamer, Mr Hewson, Mr Holten, Mr Kerin (2), Mr Luchetti, Mr McVeigh, Mr Riordan, Mr Sinclair and Mr Wallis.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That grave concern is felt at the imminent introduction into the Commonwealth Parliament of legislation to permit abortion on demand.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the laws of this land a principle which violates a fundamental right - the right to life. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Hayden, Mr Adermann, Mr Bennett, Mr Cross, Mr Drury, Mr Malcolm Fraser (2), Mr Giles, Mr Hallett, Mr Jarman, Mr Katter, Mr Keating, Mr Luchetti, Mr Lucock (5), Mr McLeay, Mr Maisey, Mr OIley, Mr Scholes, Mr Viner, Mr Whan and Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable House will not extend the laws governing abortion and will uphold the right to life of the unborn child.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Hayden, Mr FitzPatrick, Mr Kerin, Mr Luchetti and Mr Martin.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain citizens (electors of the Division of Eden-Monaro) respectfully sheweth:
That citizens of this division place great value on the sanctity of human life, on the right to life of each, individual, and on the physical, mental, and social welfare of mothers and children;
That we are perturbed by proposals to alter the law to allow termination of pregnancy for non-medical reasons; and
That extension of the law to allow abortion on demand is totally unacceptable to the people of this Division.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable House will not extend the laws governing abortion and will maintain the right to life of the unborn child.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Whan.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth humbly showeth:
That the undersigned believe that,
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should maintain the existing laws covering abortion and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bourchier, Mr Hamer and Mr Jarman.
Imprisonments in Vietnam
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we are concerned about the treatment of our brothers in South Vietnam unjustly gaoled for political reasons.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives urge the Government to use appropriate channels to seek the release of all political prisoners in South Vietnam especially those who have been declared innocent, to urge speedy trials for all those held on political charges and to arrange for an international inspection of conditions existing in gaols in South Vietnam particularly political prisons.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever humbly pray. by Mr Connor.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of the electorate of Higgins showeth:
That the undersigned believe:
That the unborn child from the moment of conception enjoys in full the right to life, and should therefore receive the full protection of the law against any violation of this right.
That legalised abortion at any stage of pregnancy is a violation of this right.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that you will oppose any legislation which would liberalise abortion in any circumstances. by Mr Gorton.
– Mr Speaker, may I inform the House that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, left Australia last Friday to discuss the Five Power arrangements with Malaysia and Singapore. He is expected to return to Australia tomorrow evening. During his absence the Minister for Repatriation, Senator Bishop, will act in Mr Barnard’s portfolios. I shall represent Senator Bishop in this House in both his acting capacity and in his capacity as Minister for Repatriation.
I also wish to inform the House that the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry, Dr J. F. Cairns, leaves Australia today to lead a trade mission to China. He is expected to return to Australia on 30th May. During his absence the Minister for Northern Development, Dr Patterson, will act as Minister for Overseas Trade and the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, will act as Minister for Secondary Industry and will also represent the Minister for Customs and Excise, Senator Murphy. I also inform the House that the PostmasterGeneral, Mr Lionel Bowen, will be Deputy Leader of the House.
– I address a question to the Acting Minister for Overseas Trade. I have been wanting to ask this question for weeks. I am sure the Acting Minister should give it all his attention.
– Why is the Government placing in jeopardy the livelihood of some 200,000 textile workers by its revaluation policies and without any compensating factors to aid the textile industry? Why has the Minister for Overseas Trade included in his trade mission to China, which apparently leaves today, representatives of at least 3 large retailers, presumably to import into Australia more and more textiles at cheaper and cheaper prices? Does he know that already numbers of employees have been stood down as a result of the Government’s recent decisions?
– It is the objective of the Australian Government to increase trade between Australia and China, both ways. Last year Australia’s exports to China totalled about $37m and imports about $41m. This does not include the large contract of wheat which will be shown in this year’s trading figures. It is true that there are representatives of textile industries and other major industries in this delegation who will be going to China to explore the possibilities of trade between that country and Australia. The Australian Government is fully conscious of the repercussions which large amounts of imported textiles could have on employment in Australia. This matter is under active consideration by the Minister for Overseas Trade and the Government. I can assure the honourable member that the matter will continue to be kept under active consideration and that any major contracts or major trading arrangements between China and Australia involving textiles or for that matter any product which will endanger employment of the work force in general in Australia or have an effect on our trade will be kept under close scrutiny and policy action will be taken accordingly.
– I ask the Minister for Education a question. Is he aware of Press reports that Mr Scanlan, the Assistant Minister for Education in Victoria, has said that the Federal Government through the Minister has refused a request for an emergency grant of $17m for handicapped children in Victoria? The Victorian Minister went on to say that special grants had been made for technical education and isolated children without reference to the Interim Schools Committee on a previous occasion. I ask: Did the Minister refuse this request on the basis that it should go to the Interim Schools Committee, and if not, will he give the reasons why?
– Within 3 weeks of assuming the portfolio of Education I called on Mr Thompson, the Victorian Minister of Education, at his home on Saturday, 6th January. Mr Scanlan was present at the time. The purpose of my visit was to offer them full cooperation in any joint action the Commonwealth and the State of Victoria might take in the field of education. Mr Scanlan took exception to the terms of reference of the Interim Schools Committee relating to the education of the handicapped. He pointed out to me that the Victorian Government had set up what he regarded as the finest committee of inquiry in the world into the field of education of the handicapped. I responded to his enthusiasm and said how valuable it would be to the Interim Schools Committee if the report of the State committee could be given to the Interim Schools Committee. I said that this obviously would short-circuit a lot of work they would have to do in Victoria.
Subsequently I received a letter on 15th January pointing out that his expert committee had been appointed in November 1972 and that he thought it would take more than a year to report. So obviously an interim report of the Schools Committee coming at the end of May would be made earlier than the report of the other committee. With the Victorian election campaign on he wrote me a letter setting out the plans over a number of years of the Victorian Government in connection with education of the handicapped which presumably were adopted before the finest committee in the world could report on them. His statement that I refused is an extremely grave misrepresentation which calls into question whether one should have any dealings with him. I replied to him thanking him for the care and compassion of his letter on the needs of Victoria in the area of handicapped children. I said:
As the points in your letter involve a plan of several years, I presume you have sent similar material to the Interim Committee of the Schools Commission, but in case you have not, I am taking the liberty of doing so. I presume, also that Mr Hamer will be briefed on these points for the Premiers Conference.
I also said that there was a report of a Senate standing committee and that I would shortly be tabling the report of the Cohen Committee, which was established by my predecessors, on the training of teachers for handicapped children. I will table that report today. Chapter 6 deals with the training of the handicapped. I said:
These, with the recommendations of the Interim Committee of the Schools Commission, expected at the end of May, should all enable the Commonwealth to act intelligently to back your efforts.
I have the outrageous statement in the Melbourne ‘Age’ that this is a refusal.
– Will the Prime Minister give consideration to the financing of a country university which is to be divided between Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong?
– In the brief period that I was the Minister for Education and Science I asked the Australian Universities Commission and the Australian Commission on Advanced Education to make recommendations on the siting of further universities in and near Sydney and Melbourne and Albury-Wodonga. The report was compiled very promptly and was tabled by my colleague the Minister for Education last week. My memory of the report is that the proposal by the Victorian Government that there should be a country university dispersed over Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo had not been supported by any facts or figures for the 2 Federal commissions inquiring into this matter. They reported that it would be more appropriate at this stage to establish a new university at, say, Dandenong than to establish the university proposed by the Victorian Government, for 2 principal reasons.
The first is that most of the students at the dispersed university would have to come from the metropolitan area, if it were to be viable. Secondly, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo each already has a teacher’s college and a college of advanced education. In these circumstances it seemed that rational planning would lead to a priority for Dandenong. Be that as it may, the Commonwealth of course is prepared to consult with any Victorian Government on this subject. I regret that assistance was not forthcoming from the present Victorian Government on this matter. We have to face up to the fact that in Australia no university will be established or significantly extended without Commonwealth co-operation. That has been the position for at least the past IS years.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that Japanese nationals visiting Australia can obtain 90-day visas, that they can bring into Australia goods that are duty free which, 1 understand, in cases are often resold and that they can take employment while they are here? Is it a fact that Australian nationals visiting Japan receive only a 60-day visa, that they cannot take employment while they are in Japan and that if they wish to stay longer than 60 days they have to seek renewal of their visa? Are steps being taken to remedy this imbalance of rights which presently operates to the disadvantage of Australian citizens? If so, when is it expected that such changes will be made?
– It would not be correct to say that Japanese people who come here under the visa arrangements for business and other purposes are misusing their visas. The experience we have had is that they do, in fact, honour their obligations particularly well. I should like that fact to be placed on record. It is the desire of the Government to ensure that there is the best facilitated - if I may put it that way - movement between Japan and Australia and, indeed all the countries in the Australasian region, for the purposes of trade, culture, education and friendship. It is true, I understand, that there are some differences between the terms which are given to Japanese people coming for short term stays in Australia and those applying to Australians going to Japan. I am studying those differences at present. I hope that in our excellent relations that we have at the moment we will be able to end some of the differences which concern the honourable member for Shortland. I place clearly on record the fact that visas issued to Japanese people coming to Australia have been honoured particularly well and I pay a tribute to them.
– I address a question to the Acting Minister for Overseas Trade. Does the Government support the Seamen’s Union’s ban on French ships entering and leaving Australian ports as a means of protesting against the French nuclear tests in the Pacific? Is the Acting Minister aware that last year the value of Australian goods exported to France was $153m, while the value of our imports was $70m? Is it not a fact that more than 65 per cent of our sheepskins are exported to France and are valued at approximately $34m? Would the Minister agree that the proposed action by the Seamen’s Union would, in effect, force the sheep farmers and other exporters to pay the price of the Government’s failure to dissuade the French Government from its nuclear testing in the Pacific?
– The honourable member will be well aware that the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and other Ministers over the years have taken extensive action in an endeavour to minimise and to stop French nuclear tests in the South Pacific. The Australian Government will support any legal action which will prevent these tests being carried out in the South Pacific.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen the open letter addressed to him in the ‘National Times’ quoting the case of a migrant who, it is alleged, was trapped by a particularly pernicious home buying deal? What action has the Minister taken to end such exploitation of newcomers?
– I saw the article in the “National Times’. The case mentioned therein is typical of some cases that have been brought to my attention in recent times. Unfortunately there are people who act as predators on newcomers. I suppose one of the best examples was that of individuals who were charging $30 to act as interpreters in certain instances. I am happy to say that that practice has been overcome by the initiation of the emergency interpreter services in Sydney and Melbourne which might be, and could well be, extended to other capitals if the need exists. If I remember rightly the case to which the honourable member refers occurred in Sydney. I have drawn the attention of the Sydney task force to this specific case for investigation and for examination of the whole problem of predators who undoubtedly take advantage of migrants’ lack of knowledge of our language and lack of knowledge of Australia to take their illegal or improper exactions. They may not be illegal, so I withdraw that term, but they certainly are morally indefensible.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Has the Minister for Housing discussed with him a proposal to eliminate stamp duty and legal costs for home builders and home buyers? If it has been discussed, can the Treasurer inform the House whether he, the Treasurer, supports the proposal? What is the arrangement for reimbursement to the States of revenues which would be forgone, and what is the estimated Commonwealth expenditure in the first full year?
– My colleague the Minister for Housing and I have had considerable discussions about the problems connected with housing. He gave a key note address to a conference of master builders yesterday and indicated that this year we are faced with the situation of some builders telling us that costs of a completed house are likely to rise by 15 per cent. We propose to grapple with this wherever and whenever we can. We arc having substantial discussions about it. I have not yet considered the particular matters that the Leader of the Opposition has raised. All I can say at this stage is that his information is incorrect.
– Will you repeat that?
– All I can say at this stage is that his information is incorrect; that is, we do not propose to abolish State charges without consultation either with the States or with anyone else.
– Do you intend to do it as a matter of Government policy?
– No. We are looking at a number of means of reducing costs, but this one has not received any final consideration at all.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Education, relates to the report prepared by the Australian Universities Commission and the Australian Commission on Advanced Education which was tabled in the Parliament last week and in which it was suggested that a university should be situated in the vicinity of Dandenong. When was the Victorian Government asked for detailed information regarding its proposal for a 3-campus country university? Was this information supplied? Has Victoria proposed at any time that Victoria’s fourth university should be sited in the eastern part of Melbourne with branches in country centres?
– The story of the fourth university in Victoria goes back a long way and I could not propose to cover the whole field. But it was a promise before the State elections of 1970 and it now is a promise before the State elections of 1973. The Victorian Government did set up a committee to examine this question. The Committee did not report in favour of a tripartite university. It did report in favour of a university which, as I understand it, was nearer to Melbourne. But the Victorian Cabinet decided upon a country university.
– For decentralisation.
– That is entirely its business, whether it is decentralisation or not. I am asked a question of fact about the approach by the Victorian Government presumably for financial assistance for this university. On 27th July last year the Victorian Government wrote to my predecessor about it and he replied that it was now the normal practice of the Commonwealth for these requests to go to the Australian Universities Commission and the Commission would be the adviser of the Commonwealth Government on the matter. My predecessor, the honourable member for Wannon, arranged a meeting of the Universities Commission and the Victorian education authorities on 13th October last year. On that date the Universities Commission asked the Victorian Gov.vernment for these points: It said that it would be unable to advise the Commonwealth until it knew the location of the proposed buildings; that it would need to know the number of students contemplated initially and the growth envisaged in the first 5 years; that it would need to know the details of the proposed relationship between the university and local teachers colleges and colleges of advanced education; and that it would need to know the foundation departments and the academic pattern. This advice was promised.
On 5th February, not having received the advice promised on 13th October, the Universities Commission wrote to Mr Thompson reminding him of the advice that had been promised but not received. On 12th February the Premier of Victoria announced that a new university would be established. On 22nd February, without giving the information asked for Mr Thompson wrote to the Universities Commission. The letter for some reason was not received until 1st March. On 2nd March the Universities Commission again wrote to Mr Thompson asking for the information and had not received it last Thursday when I tabled the report. However, on 13th March Mr Thompson announced in the Victorian Legislative Assembly that the Victorian Government took full responsibility for the fourth university. Not having got a negative from the Commonwealth, because there had not been a request put to us, Mr Thompson invented a negative last Thursday for the sake of his election campaign.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. It follows that asked by the honourable member for Gwydir of the Acting Minister for Overseas Trade and relates to the placing of a ban by the Seamen’s Union on French ships. The Minister completely dodged answering this question. So I ask the Prime Minister: In view of the very serious implications that this ban has on the export of Australian goods, particularly on skins from Australia to France, will he say whether his Government supports the action of the Seamen’s Union and will he say what action he will take against this sort of industrial, political action which is having such serious effects on some of Australia’s industries?
– I have read that the Seamen’s Union is proposing to take action against French shipping in the light of the French Government’s refusal to abandon nuclear tests in the atmosphere of the South Pacific. The same union took the same action last year. My Government proposes to take the same action as our predecessors did.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. By way of preamble I refer to the recently announced decisions to abolish subsidies to companies searching for oil and to eliminate tax concessions on mining shares. Has the Treasurer seen the article in today’s Australian’ headed ‘Decision will put companies out of business’ and implying that Australian exploration companies will be put out of business? Is this so? If not, can the Treasurer explain the intention of the proposed legislation?
– The action has been taken after the most careful consideration. We have found that over a period of years those taxation concessions given to so-called private enterprise have cost revenue $250m. Currently, if continued, they would run at an annual rate of $50m. Of course, one has the predictable and often primitive reaction from those who claim to believe in both privacy and enterprise about cutting off what is nothing but a government subsidy. It is the belief of the Government that we can use public funds better perhaps for those purposes and for other purposes than to give it indiscriminately in this particular direction. The other unfortunate thing about it is that here again is an example of something ostensibly given to benefit genuine exploration being perverted by shrewdies in the game simply to dodge taxation. It is for that reason that the concessions have been taken away. We believe that a sum as vast as the amount involved can be better used for other public purposes, or perhaps the Government could even decide directly which areas of oil exploration and mineral research it will pursue for itself.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise in his latter capacity. I refer to the decision of the Minister for Customs and Excise to refer to the Tariff Board the question of allowing duty free entry to Australia for a wide range of basic construction materials - a decision of which, with his characteristic reticence, the Attorney-General and Minister for Customs and Excise did not, according to Press reports, inform his Cabinet colleagues, even though as the ‘Australian Financial Review’, for instance, rightly suggests this move by the Minister for Customs and Excise is worth a dozen inquiries into meat prices on which Cabinet placed such stress at the time in its fight to contain inflation. Will the Minister give urgent consideration to including sawn timber on the list of materials in the reference as this would lead automatically to a significant reduction in the cost of home building which, as has come out this morning, is a matter of some concern to people, including his colleague the Minister for Housing?
– My answer is a simple one: I will refer the question to my colleague. It will be examined. The honourable member will be informed of the answer in due course.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I preface it by saying that a short time ago I received in my mail a circular which states: ‘Illegal abortion - tonight at 7.30 p.m. in the Senate- ‘
-Order! This matter is on the business paper and will be discussed by the House. In any event, the honourable member should not quote from the circular.
– I received information that a certain film on a certain subject that is very important to the people of Australia and to this Parliament is to be shown tonight in a Senate room. Is that in order, Mr Speaker?
– Yes, that is in order.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Is the film worth seeing? Has it been shown on national television? If it is worth seeing, will it be shown before Thursday next, for certain reasons? ls it likely to be offensive to me?
– I have prepared a reply to an honourable senator which bears upon this matter, but from memory the senator’s question does not refer to a film. When this matter was first drawn to my attention, I took steps to see what could be done to inform people along the lines proposed in the question which is on the notice paper and to which an answer will be supplied today. I was not able to follow up the suggestions of the honourable senator. That is why I arranged for this film from the film collection of the National Library to be shown this evening. I have not been able to see it myself but I am informed by a member of my staff that it is the least committed material that was available at the time from the Library to inform honourable members and honourable senators of some of the human issues involved in the question of abortion law. I hope that those persons who wish to look at these problems from the aspect of a young couple who are placed in a dilemma in such a situation will gain some food for thought by seeing this film. I do not think there is anything really original in it but I hope that it will be helpful. I will follow up the honourable member’s suggestion about seeing whether it can be shown on television.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether he has had any discussions with the Minister for Urban and Regional Development about the shortages of building tradesmen such as painters, carpenters, tilers, builders labourers and planners. Has he had any discussion with the Minister about amending the way in which migrants are selected to come to Australia, that is, has he discussed whether the Government will recommence recruiting migrants to Australia according to their skills for work in the work force and not rely solely upon family reunions to answer the need of Australia’s development and the shortage of workers in, for instance, the important building industry?
– The position in regard to the migration target, or the level of migration, for each year is exactly the same as it was when the Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Immigration. The whole of the associated problems of determining the target are examined by the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council.
– That is not the question. Have you discussed it with your colleague?
– As I was saying, the level of migration is a matter for recommendation by the Immigration Planning Council. At present the Immigration Planning Council is considering all of the factors to be taken into account in determining the level of the intake for next year. The Leader of the Opposition referred to shortages of skilled tradesmen. This matter will also be dealt with by the Immigration Planning Council. The Council brings in the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Labour, representatives of industry, the trade union movement and all of the relevancies in this situation. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. I hope that the Prime Minister will approve of that Department at its most senior level joining the Immigration Planning Council so that the needs of decentralisation will be considered particularly by the Government in the migration program.
– I approve now.
– I am pleased to have the Prime Minister’s public approval. It will save the red tape of letters. I thank the Prime Minister. This means that in future the Immigration Planning Council will have a representative at the most senior level, I repeat, from the Department of Urban and Regional Development. All of the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition will be considered together.
– The Minister for Urban and Regional Development has raised them. Have you had discussions with him?
– We have had discussions about migration and we will continue to have them. In relation to the supplementary question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, I am delighted to have discussions with all of my colleagues on the migration program. Indeed, I do so with great regularity and will continue to have those discussions.
- Mr Speaker, my question is directed to you. Will you confer with the Joint Statutory Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings to see whether it will be at all possible to televise the debate on the private members Bill to be determined on Thursday of this week because of the tremendous interest which has been evoked throughout Australia on the importance of this social matter?
– By resolution of this House a couple of weeks ago it was decided to refer this matter to the Joint Statutory Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings for a report. The Committee will meet next week to map out an agenda. It will possibly take at least 6 months to present the report to the House. I presume that at that time there will be an open vote for every honourable member to decide whether he wants proceedings to be televised. But that inquiry will not get under way until the parliamentary recess, at which time the Committee intends to visit every capital city. It would be impossible to present a report before Thursday because the resolution of the House was that the matter be referred to the Committee. That resolution could not be broken unless the matter were recommitted.
– I again address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of his rather slick answer in which he said that his Government would take the same action as his predecessors took relating to the ban placed on French ships by the Seamen’s Union of Australia, I inform the Prime Minister that the previous Government supported protests and condemned the action of the Seamen’s Union to such a point that the union withdrew the ban. I now ask the Prime Minister: Do I take it that his Government also condemns the action of the Seamen’s Union and that it will take action similar to that of the previous Government?
– As I understand it, there is no difference between members of the parties in this House concerning the French nuclear tests in the atmosphere. Our predecessors raised the matter in the United Nations General Assembly, with our approbation and support. I am happy to see that yesterday the Leader of the Opposition received a call from the French Ambassador on the same subject.
– As a matter of fact, I have not yet.
– I thought I read that you had. j Mr Snedden - It will be on Wednesday. j
– I applaud the fact that the 2 gentlemen are meeting on this subject. There should be no impression given within Australia or outside that any members of the Australian House of Representatives are wavering in their opposition to these tests. My memory is that the previous Government did nothing about the union bans associated with this matter. My previous answer stands. I will amplify it, however, by quoting the right honourable gentleman: ‘We will not sell our soul for trade’.
– The honourable member, and honourable members generally, know that the Act was introduced by the previous Government. I cannot give any undertaking about the matter that the honourable member mentioned. I am concerned about the point he raised, but the fact is that an increasing amount of evidence reveals that the legislation is plagued with anomalies and problems. The more one tries to deal with them the more one adds to the anomalies and problems of that Act. I am concerned about complaints which I have received suggesting that the legislation is open to abuse. I am afraid I will have to arrange for a full review of the Act. It is quite clear that it was rushed in during the last Parliament by the previous Government in a desperate effort to buy votes and without full consideration of the implications which would arise once it was brought into operation.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. As a preamble I refer to a question asked of him by my colleague the honourable member for Murray on 13th March 1973, in reply to which the Prime Minister said that a Cabinet decision on the matter referred to by my colleague could be expected within a week. When will the Government announce its policy as contained in the election policy booklet “It’s Time - Rural’ of long term low interest loans for farmers? If it has no intention of so doing, will the Prime Minister publicly state that the election Press statement of 2nd November 1972 by the honourable member for Riverina of the Labor Government’s policy of $500m to be lent at 3 per cent interest was, as the Minister for Health stated in answer to a previous question, a cheap pre-election political trick?
-Order! The honourable gentleman is giving information. Will he please ask his question.
– I accept your ruling, Mr Speaker. If the Labor Government intends to advance this money, will the Prime Minister say when that is to be done, bearing in mind that he stated in answer to a question asked by my colleague on 13th March-
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to complete his question.
– Will the Prime Minister state when such an announcement can be expected?
– The question of long term rural finance is still before the Cabinet. It has not been determined as quickly as I had hoped because, as honourable members will know, the Minister for Primary Industry has had to attend overseas conferences.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory, who represents the Attorney-General in this House. In view of the widespread public interest surrounding the private members Bill listed for debate in this House next Thursday - the Bill that has become known as the ‘Abortion Bill’ - will the Minister inform the House of the legal consequences for a person involved in the unlawful termination of a pregnancy in those Territories as at this date?
– In the case of the Australian Capital Territory the offence carries, I think, a liability for 10 years imprisonment. In the case of the Northern Territory the liability is for life imprisonment with, I think, hard labour.
– My question, which I address to the Prime Minister, follows on 2 questions asked by my Leader of the Treasurer and the Minister for Immigration, both of whom read in this morning’s Press statements on policy affecting their own portfolios by 2 other Ministers. I ask the Prime Minister: In view of the statements made yesterday by the Minister for Housing and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, purporting to be Government policy but which apparently are not government policy, and which have not even been discussed between the Ministers involved, let alone the Cabinet, will the Prime Minister instruct all his Ministers not to make such statements before proper consideration by Cabinet so that industry will not be put and kept in utter confusion?
– My colleagues were not enunciating policy. They were discussing matters of public interest with people particularly involved in those subjects of public interest. There will be no delay in announcing government policies and decisions. I apprehend that government decisions have never been announced so promptly and so publicly as by the present Australian Government. There has been no government decision or even debate on the matters which were raised in questions on those matters in isolation. The general question of building costs and the costs of land on which houses are being built has been the subject of frequent discussions. I have had quite a deal of correspondence with all the Premiers concerning the cost of land for building, which is the biggest and least controlled element in the cost of housing as a whole. My colleagues and I aim to encourage and participate in discussion on these matters. We have consistently taken the attitude that the Government does not necessarily know best. It is certainly not the only collection of people with worthwhile views to be considered in relation to these matters. Yesterday when my colleagues discussed these matters with master builders and other people they were seeking their views and, of course, giving theirs. It is from the interchange of views between governments and master builders that something will be done for electors and for the customers of the respective persons in discussion.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Treasury Committee on Superannuation. The Government has taken no stand on the report at this stage and would be interested in receiving comments from interested persons and organisations. Copies of the report will be made available to honourable members as soon as possible.
– For the information of honourable members I table the report on teacher education prepared by the Australian Commission on Advanced Education. Copies of the report will be made available to honourable members as soon as possible.
Debate resumed from 12 April (vide page 1436), on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Deputy Leader of the Opposition speaking for a period not exceeding 70 minutes.
– It is a matter of national concern that a Party which has had 23 years in opposition to formulate a comprehensive and constructive industrial policy should introduce into this Parliament a program which fails so lamentably to address itself to the inherent problems of industrial relations in Australia. The Bill before the House is the manifestation of a policy based on the shibboleths of the past. It is an inappropriate response to contemporary economic and industrial realities. It is consistent with the development of monopoly union power. It is sectional in its intent and application. It represents a total abdication by the Government of its national responsibilities in favour of the demands of the left wing of the trade union movement. The Bill has been presented to the nation in a manner which is both myopic and biased. There can be no justification for the introduction of industrial legislation so deeply characterised by partisan objectives.
The Australian Labor Party has claimed a monopoly of expertise in industrial relations. Its pre-election propaganda sought to convey the distorted impression that a Labor Government would herald a new era of industrial peace and co-operative endeavour which would provide substantial real benefits to employees while ensuring national productivity gains in the interests of all sections of the community. However, industrial relations under the new Labor Government have been notable for a record increase in the level of industrial unrest, the development of unprecedented inflationary pressures, the blatant abuse of union monopoly powers, Government antagonism towards and confrontation with industry and Government capitulation to every demand placed upon it by the union movement.
It is a matter of considerable irony to recall statements of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that a Labor Government would not be the unthinking mouthpiece for trade union officialdom and that the first great aim of Labor’s industrial policy would be to reduce government interference and intervention in industrial matters. Those statements have been totally discredited by the Government’s unconditional endorsement of union demands in the national wage case, Government support for compulsory unionism, Government backing for industrial concessions in excess of $6,000m per annum, Government manipulation of a labour code and Commonwealth contracts, Government abuse of the Public Service to achieve political objectives, and tacit approval of political strikes directed towards Australian allies.
The Opposition believes that the conciliation and arbitration system, since its inception in 1904, has been an integral force in the social, humanitarian and economic advancement of this country. It is a system which has evolved , over the years as a result of statutory enactment, reflecting changes in community standards and judicial decisions. It is a dynamic and flexible institution which has been supported by governments of all political persuasions. Australia’s statutory process of conciliation and arbitration has established a code of wages and working conditions which has enabled the worker to obtain an equitable share of this country’s material advancement. The concept of the basic wage and, more recently, the minimum wage has ensured that he cannot be exploited regardless of the weakness of his union representation or the industry in which he is employed.
The Opposition supports the concept of effective and responsible trade unionism. Employees should be encouraged to join appropriate industrial organisations and those organisations must be encouraged to register under the Act. Organised unionism has played a significant role in the achievement of improved wages and conditions. However, we believe that the trade union movement must accept that its significantly changed status in the community and the substantial improvements which have been attained, call for an acceptance of duties and responsibilities. The union movement is no longer weak or ineffectual; it is one of the most potent vested interests in this country.
The Opposition believes that the Bill contains proposals which are designed to weaken our conciliation and arbitration processes and which will seriously impede the Commission from dealing effectively with problems now experienced in the contemporary industrial environment. Specific provisions of the Bill are designed to destroy the authority of the Commission and to erode the effect of the legislative framework in which our industrial system operates. The acceptance of this Bill would set the stage for the introduction of collective bargaining in this country under which gains in wages and working conditions would be commensurate with a union’s industrial strength rather than the merits of the case. Such a system would be anathema to the egalitarian traditions of this country.
Under Labor’s industrial policies, those who are suffering most are the pensioners, fixed income earners and those on superannuation benefits, whose assets are constantly eroded by the continuing escalation of prices, and the small unions and the small employers who do not possess monopoly power. The Government, in its manic preoccupation with the operation of industrial power and bargaining by duress, would be well advised to recall the words of the Oxford economist and a former senior economic advisor to the previous United Kingdom Labour Government, Lord Thomas Balogh, who reported the industrial relation experience of the last British Labour Government in these terms: Free bargaining Increased inequality; it resulted in a relative ‘worsening of the position of the poorest paid and least aggressively organised classes of society . . . Trade union action was successful in certain instances in increasing the share of certain privileged or closely organised groups such as tally clerks, dock workers and so on. The lower paid, the defenceless and the handicapped, despite the declamation of the unions, have not been protected.
This, of course, is consistent with the following observations on direct negotiation by the Committee of Economic Inquiry appointed in Australia during 1963:
The benefit to employees lies in receiving wages out of line with the general pattern of wages, and this is a benefit which obviously cannot be extended widely without losing its significance. Thus, it must not be assumed that a general extension of direct negotiation would reproduce the improvements in industrial relations that existing arrangements have brought. Furthermore, these arrangements accentuate the problem of earnings drift and introduce elements of inequity into the wage structure, by making it more favourable to workers in strong and militant unions and less favourable to those whose weaker bargaining position leaves them more dependent on arbitration. One of the notable gains from arbitration is thereby forfeited.
The inherent deficiencies of collective bargaining were clearly recognised by the Labour Party Secretary of State for Employment in the United Kingdom when she said in 1969:
It perpetuates the existence of groups of employees who, as the result of the weakness of their bargaining position, fall behind in the struggle to obtain their full share of the benefits of an advanced industrial economy.
In the same statement she adverted to the question of public interest and free bargaining in the following terms:
Imperfect competition in many industries may enable unions and employers to combine to exploit their market power at the expense of other members of the community.
The Government’s industrial policy, as outlined in this Bill, is paradoxical to the philosophy expressed by the Prime Minister in his policy speech when he said:
The Australian people shall be restored to their rightful place … as equal sharers in the wealth and opportunities that this nation should offer in abundance to all its people.
The Minister’s second reading speech is totally devoid of the philosophical considerations which the Australian people have the right to expect from a Government which lays a major claim to the principles of social justice and equality. He deliberately avoided discussing the integral role of industrial relations in the determination of Australia’s national goals. In fact, the thin veneer of his statement is inadequate disguise for the real thrust of the Government’s legislation, which he knows to be an unprecedented concession to the union movement and a fundamental abrogation of the Government’s national responsibilities.
It is not sufficient for the Minister to assert that the real problems of industrial relations are the subject of consideration by the recently appointed committee of inquiry, the terms of reference of which leave a great deal to be desired. At this stage, even the Australian Council of Trade Unions has shown its dissatisfaction with the nature of the inquiry by its reluctance to participate. It is a matter of very great concern that the Government has moved so precipitously to bring a major industrial Bill before the Parliament when that Committee has not yet commenced its work. By acting in this way the Government has necessarily pre-empted the findings of the Committee and cast grave doubts on its objectivity in setting up the inquiry.
In the same way, the Government has introduced this Bill without any real consultation with the principal parties in the industrial relations community. It is a significant contrast to the manner in which the former Government introduced its last major industrial legislation. The major terms of that legislation were brought before this House on 7th December 1971 following extensive consultation with unions and employers and widespread coverage in the Press, allowing the public to be informed and to make representations to the Government. It was not until 26th April 1972 that the Bill was formally presented to the Parliament after the Government had fully considered the reaction to its initial statement. The present Government’s methods are a marked contrast and are consistent with iti aim of forcing an unprecedented number of major legislative measures through this Parliament with a minimum of discussion and scrutiny by the House.
The Opposition believes that a Government must play a vital role in industrial relations. However, it is evident that public policy cannot be exclusively governmental and to be fully effective must carry the commitment of industrial organisations, notably trade unions and employers. The inherent difficulties which are experienced by all governments in liberal democratic societies in regulating the economic behaviour of these private organisations - and particularly the less disciplined elements within them - must command particular attention:
However, the Minister, in introducing this Government’s first major industrial legislation, failed to refer to many df these difficulties. In fact, the nature of his statement is best characterised by the vital aspects which it ignores. It ignores the concept of public interest, it ignores the responsibilities of the principal parties in industrial relations, it ignores the disabling and deleterious effect of industrial unrest, it ignores the economic implications of industrial legislation and particularly the inflationary effects of this legislation, it ignores the vital role of the Commonwealth Public Service in relation to movements in wages and salaries in the general community, and it ignores the manner in which the Government has sought to cut across the traditional independence of the Public Service Board.
I turn now, simply because of the pressure of time, to the specific legislative measures before the House. In doing so I record my protest on behalf of the Opposition Parties at the amount of time which the Government has been prepared to allow for debate on this legislation. It is totally inadequate. It is an abuse of the context of the legislation and the matters of substance which the Government alleges are inherent in the legislation. The amount of time to be provided on this occasion is approximately half of that which the former Government allowed the then Opposition to deal with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1972.
The Bill now before the House seeks to remove from the Act all the provisions under which a penalty can be imposed upon a trade union or member of a trade union because the union is involved in or threatens a strike, baa or limitation on work. In simple terms, the Government is now proposing that the observance of awards on the part of unions and members of unions will rest solely on the good faith of unions and officials who cannot be called to account if they breach agreements into which they have freely entered. The facts belie the assumption that the good faith of union officialdom should be the basis of our industrial system. Awards are now seen as minimum standards which are to be capitalised on in a cynical way by striking against employers as a form of pressure on them to grant over-award benefits. Moreover, it is pertinent that a substantial degree of current strike activity occurs in respect of matters which have no relation whatever to industrial issues. This Bill seeks to provide unions with a carte blanche to engage in political strikes with no prospect of redress for those directly affected. Every industrialised country in the world has a method of restraining or penalising strike activity in certain circumstances.
The Opposition can see no valid reason for the removal of these provisions. Unions want sanctions against employers who do not observe awards but are not prepared to accept penalties for their own breach of awards. We believe that any system of industrial relations which provides for industrial awards to regulate with the force of law the relations between employers and employees must also provide for these awards to have the legal force which they purport to have. Australia’s system of industrial relations is based on the principle that industrial disputes should be settled by impartial tribunals and that the decisions of those tribunals must have the force of law. No decision can be effective unless it is enforceable and, of course, it cannot be enforceable unless there be a proper and adequate sanction for its breach.
The Government has contrived to imply that Australia is unique by virtue of its industrial sanctions. This of course is fundamentally untrue. There are clear penalties in countries such as Canada, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway and Israel for the contravention of collective agreements. In New Zealand, penalties are recognised by industrial legislation and remain in use. The mechanics of sanctions may differ between countries but their existence remains fundamental to any society which values and relies upon the rule of law.
The conciliation and arbitration system is designed to provide employees with the maximum benefits which are consistent with an industry’s capacity to pay and the economy’s capacity to sustain without harmful consequences. Awards of the Commission grant substantial benefits but in so doing they place obligations upon both parties. Employers are bound to apply the provisions of awards to their employees and employees are bound to accept these provisions. This is neither an unfair nor an inequitable proposition. But those who would have sanctions abolished are also those who cannot accept the obligations which are basic to this system. They seek to bring about a situation in which they can apply economic coercion, with impunity, in support of their vested interests to the detriment of their fellow workers and the community at large. The sanctions provisions of the
Act have been described as vicious and discriminatory. But it is a matter of record that both the Prime Minister and -the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) have indicated that they support the principle of industrial sanctions.
The present Minister, in talking about the removal of restraints, stated in October 1971:
No one with authority to speak for the Australian Labor Party has ever committed the Party to such a course.
That, of course, was true at that time. But this Bill represents, for the first time, a proposal to commit, not simply the ALP, but the whole industrial relations community in Australia to such a course; and the man who fought so hard against such a course of action is now charged with the responsibility of its direct implementation. The Minister’s personal view is well known and, as he correctly said when this issue was widely discussed in 1971: lt cannot be denied that hundreds of thousands of unionists hold the view that some form of enforcement is necessary in industrial relations.
The Opposition and indeed, I believe, the general community, share the Minister’s view. There are advantages in enforceable agreements for employers and unions. This view is also shared by the Minister. I quote what he said on that question in 1971:
The main advantage of having an enforceable freely negotiated agreement is that it gives more bargaining power to the unions. Employers will almost always give higher wage and conditions increases if they have some guarantee of industrial rest.
The inconceivable aspect of this is that the Minister is now introducing a Bill which forbids this very thing taking effect. This Bill prevents employers and unions from registering an enforceable agreement with the Commission even though both parties are in full accord with the terms of the agreement and the manner in which any breaches of the agreement are to be enforced.
It is a matter of record that both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour were completely repudiated by the Labor Party Caucus on the question of sanctions. The Bill before the House is a testament of that repudiation and a reflection of the Government’s complete and hapless inability to withstand the pressure of the more militant sections of the trade union movement. The present Minister knows full well that the removal of all restraints on strikes, both political and industrial, is a proposition that no Govern ment and no community can responsibly support. The former leader of the Australian Labor Party, Dr Evatt, said, in introducing the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill of 1947:
The maintenance of industrial peace and the adjustment of terms and conditions of employment, are matters not merely of local and private concern but also of vital importance to the community as a whole.
It was for this reason that the previous Labor Government retained the principle that there should be sanctions for the enforcement of awards. But this Government is now prepared to divest itself of that type of industrial responsibility which characterised the Chifleys, the Evatts and the Cahills Federal and State Labor leaders who were not prepared to subordinate the national interest to the demands of the union movement.
The Opposition vehemently rejects the provisions of this Bill which confer civil immunity on trade unions members and their officials. The Minister has unconscionably described this proposal as a protective measure for union members. In doing so he gave this House a facile history of how an immunity for trade union members from actions for tort was obtained in England. In his statement the Minister ignored completely the development and effect of the compulsory conciliation and arbitration legislation in Australia. He ignored the absence, and the reasons for that absence, of this immunity in Australian industrial legislation. He ignored any logical or practical justification for granting to union members an immunity from the consequences of wrongdoing causing loss to others; and he ignored the fundamental fact that members of other great corporations and associations do not enjoy any such immunity.
Significantly, the full scope of the immunity was not adverted to by the Minister. He based his alleged justification on what he called the ‘strike’; but it is clear that other actions by unions and their members which do not amount to strikes will be protected so that the persons harmed will be denied civil remedies.
It is important that members of this House and the general public should be aware of what the Government’s proposals entail. Civil immunity would apply to every union and to every official and member of a union. It would place them in a privileged position which other citizens and sections of the community do not enjoy. It removes from persons injured by union action a right of redress which they currently have and which they will continue to possess against all other persons who act unlawfully. When placed in the Australian context, the proposal amounts to giving to unions and to their members an almost completely open go in the actions which they can take to achieve industrial objectives. It amounts to conferring upon unions and union members the ability to break contracts or agreements; to picket premises; to boycott employers and anyone engaged in business; to engage in conspiracies to prevent contracts being performed; to generally harm or interfere in a manner that is intended to injure another person’s trade, business or employment; and at the same time to suffer none of the ordinary civil consequences for such actions.
When examined in the light of the proposal to remove penalties for strikes, bans or limitations on work, it will mean that there will be no hindrance to a union taking whatever action will cause loss to an employer in its pursuit of industrial objectives. The immense power of the union movement - backed by the concept of the solidarity of all unions which the ACTU can promote - will ensure that in the so-called direct negotiations for agreements the union movement will be allpowerful and subject to no restraint.
The Bill contains several provisions to facilitate the amalgamation of trade unions. The amalgamation of unions and of employer organisations is a characteristic of industrialised society in the western world. The Opposition recognises that there can be substantial benefits for members of organisations in combining their resources to undertake more effectively their responsibilities with respect to industrial relations. Furthermore, it can be argued that further amalgamation within the trade union movement may assist in a reduction in the incidence of industrial disputes which arise as a result of demarcation issues. But we believe that the general community has reasons for considerable concern about the amalgamation of trade unions. Amalgamation concentrates major power in the hands of a few officials and there are a number of officials in Australia today who are clearly using their office for political objectives, as is the case with the major left wing trade unions. The concentration of power and additional resources in the hands of fewer officials will be an inducement to those officials to engage in political and industrial activities not consistent with the public interest of the nation. The concentration of power must be examined in the context of this Bill, which seeks to confer civil immunity to those officials and to remove the liability for actions contrary to the terms of agreements by removing the threat of sanctions. The Government’s clear intention to cause the rapid concentration of union power we believe to be misconceived. The resultant numerical and financial power of giant unions may become too great for employer organisations, the ACTU or even the Government to deal with effectively. The effects could be of vital national importance where the unions concerned have members in critical sectors of the economy.
Other industrial countries are now finding that the restraint of union power is a most intractable problem and one which has not been satisfactorily resolved. Yet this Bill clearly foreshadows a considerable increase in the monopoly and coercive power of the labour unions. The Minister adverted to the fact that, at the end of December 1970, there were 305 separate trade unions in Australia. He then developed an argument that amalgamation will reduce demarcation disputes and the inefficiencies and handicaps caused by the present situation. However, his figures ignore the fact that approximately 65 per cent of unionists are members of 21 trade unions. In addition, it is demonstrable that the current drive towards amalgamation is not directed at absorbing the small and inefficient unions but rather towards the bringing together of large and medium sized unions to a more concentrated body. The present moves for amalgamation are taking place at the apex of the pyramid of unionism and not in fact at its base. Amalgamation in this sense is to the detriment of rank and file control and membership participation. The assertion, loosely made, that amalgamation necessarily produces economies of scale and provides better services for members at less cost is weakened by the experience of the most recent major amalgamation which resulted in the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. The secretary of that body forecast, at its recent Queensland State Conference, that union dues would have to be almost doubled to provide service in the amalgamated trade union.
The Opposition is not opposed to the principle of amalgamation as such. However, we believe it is imperative that there be democratic participation in the amalgamation process. History clearly demonstrates the need to have measures in the legislation to protect the democratic rights of union members. In spite of this, the major effect of the Bill in respect of amalgamation is to remove the provision which requires that for an amalgamation proposal to be approved 50 per cent of those eligible must vote and, of those voting formally, more than half must approve the proposal. The Government proposes, as distinct from what is in the existing Act, that an amalgamation is approved if a majority of those voting approve. Theoretically, this provision would allow 2 members of an organisation of 1.000 members to approve an amalgamation. We believe that this is entirely contrary to the Minister’s public posture that unions should be democratically controlled and that rank and file members should be provided with the maximum opportunity to express their views. The new voting proposal must be examined in the context of the other provisions of this Bill relating to amalgamation, which call for the repeal of the requirements to gazette the commencing and closing dates for the ballot and which provide facilities for members opposed to the amalgamation to forward a case against the amalgamation with each ballot paper. The Minister is very well aware from his personal experience that this Bill provides substantial opportunities for amalgamations to take place against the wishes of the majority of members.
The Opposition is particularly concerned by that part of the Bill which now allows the Industrial Registrar to fix a date for an amalgamation to take effect while there are proceedings pending against the de-registering organisation under this Act or under any law of the Commonwealth and in circumstances where the organisation has not paid outstanding fines. This proposal is consistent with the Government’s jaundiced approach in respect of law enforcement where unions are involved - but not, of course, in relation to employers. The proposal means that any union will be able to absolve itself from its obligations under the law merely by deregistering to amalgamate with another trade union. A comparison with the provisions of the Companies Act and the procedures now enforceable with respect to companies shows the demonstrable inequity of this basic proposal.
The Bill proposes that there will be no longer any separation of the functions of arbitration and conciliation commissioners and that a commissioner will be able to arbitrate on a matter where he has exercised conciliation, provided that there is no objection from the parties involved. This proposal must be examined with the Bill’s intention to require that a commissioner, before certifying an agreement, must have produced to him a statutory declaration by an officer of each union affected declaring that the committee of management has approved of its terms and is of the opinion, after consulting with the members of the unions, that the terms are acceptable to a majority of the members. The Minister justified this proposal in terms of the preservation of democratic participation in the affairs of unions. It is, however, completely impractical and denies the right of properly elected union officials to negotiate responsibly on behalf of union members who have entrusted them with that authority and responsibility. The inevitable result of this proposal will be a tendency for matters to be resolved by agreed arbitrations. This in no way facilitates the Minister’s stated objective to put conciliation back into arbitration and denies the basis of the Act which states that employers and employees should come together to make agreements.
The former Government expressly separated the functions of conciliation and arbitration to strengthen the process of conciliation and to endeavour to stem the trend towards parties reaching agreement outside the provisions of the Act through private agreements which they then sought to have legitimised by the Commission. This, we believe, is clearly contrary to the public interest. The Bill provides that in respect of certified agreements relating to standard hours of work, national wage cases, minimum wage applications and annual leave cases, a decision with major flow-on ramifications could be made by the Commission without being considered by a Full Bench. Because the discretion of the Commission to refuse to certify a memorandum is now more limited, a major concession in, for example, the metal trades award, could flow generally without adequate consideration and, since the matter would not come before a Full Bench, the Commonwealth would have no right to intervene in the national interest. The Opposition believes that these matters are of such national importance that they must, as a matter of course, be subjected to the consideration of a Full Bench. Furthermore, we believe that this is a device to facilitate the achievement of some of the Government’s major industrial concessions without having regard to the national interest. In the same area the Bill proposes to prevent the Full Bench from confining a minimum wage decision to adult males. This is a blatant attempt to circumvent by means of legislation the current decision of the equal pay case and to remove a further area of discretion from the Commission.
– He should be ashamed of himself.
– Of course he should be ashamed of himself. It is a matter of great national interest, if I may use this interjection for the purpose of comment, to observe that the decision which has been brought down today by the Commission in terms of the minimum wage and the total wage question is in itself a total rebuff to the present Government. What the Commission has brought down is, I believe, a responsible decision which seeks to put responsibility back into the economy contrary to the Government’s approach. Of course a major area of concern to the Government at the present time is to seek to narrow even further the discretion of the Commission because it knows full well that the Commission will be responsible in matters of major judgment, contrary to the narrow manner in which this Government is seeking to implement its industrial concessions, which this year will cost Australia in excess of some $6,000m.
The Bill proposes to give a trade union official the right to enter premises where work is being undertaken under an award binding the organisation at any time during working hours for the purpose of ensuring the observance of the award and to inspect any work, books or documents and to interview any employee. This provision is a fundamental interference with private property. There is no reason why union officials should be permitted to enter any place of work purely on their volition and for motives which may not be legitimate. Any matter of concern can be properly handled by the arbitration inspectorate. This provision is clearly open to unlimited forms of abuse. It provides that union officials may interview on the premises persons who are not members of their organisation or, indeed, of any organisation at all. Officials would be able to harass non-unionists at will, to enter premises for the purpose of inciting employees to strike, to procure the names of persons who were working when the union had attempted to call a strike and to cause disruption by interviewing employees who might be strategically involved on a production line which would be required to cease operations while the interview took place. The Opposition rejects this provision as unwarranted, irresponsible, conducive to the fomenting of industrial unrest and open to widespread and absolute abuse.
The Bill proposes to allow employee organisations to include in their membership persons who follow an occupation in or in connection with an industry and persons engaged in an industrial pursuit otherwise than as an employee. This is the proposition which the Government has advanced as a partial solution to the very vexed problems of the case of Moore v. Doyle. It is a stopgap arrangement more pertinent to the problems created by the power struggles within the Transport Workers Union than to the central difficulties created by the judgment in Moore v Doyle. It is, in fact, a legislative measure which the Minister has borrowed from the working papers of the National Labour Advisory Council and, as such, presents no real indication of the Government’s proposed solution to the problem.
The Opposition believes that there are 4 possible solutions: The enlargement of Commonwealth power to legislate for terms and conditions of employment in industry and for trade unions; the transfer of certain powers to the Commonwealth by the States without referendum; complementary State and Federal legislation; or the encouragement of unions to go through the procedures required by law for the dissolution of State unions and the formation of State branches of federal unions. However, the Government has made no real progress in seeking to overcome the difficulties created by the Moore v. Doyle judgment. What has been brought down as a partial exercise in the seeking of some form of early relief in fact provides for no solution of the inherent problems of that major legal case.
The Government proposes to permit union officials, including shop stewards, to undertake any function in a place of work providing it can be related to union interests and is not an offence in criminal or civil law, other than a breach in their contracts of employment. The effect of this would be to place shop stewards in permanent employment no matter how detrimental their actions may be to their employers. This proposal can only be a further incentive for irresponsible officials to undertake direct industrial action at the plant level without restraint. The Bill also seeks to repeal Part X of the Act, which makes provision for industrial agreements for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration. Although this Part has not been used extensively, it provides for parties to make agreements to be followed in the event of a dispute. There can be no real justification for the repeal of this provision. In fact, the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in his 8th, 9th and 10th annual reports, emphasised the value of Part X and urged employers and unions to make wider use of it for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes - especially in respect of over award payments.
The Opposition believes that the terms of this Bill represent a major threat to the future conduct of industrial relations in Australia. The concept of public interest, which should be a prime consideration of any government charged on behalf of its people with a sense of national responsibility, has been completely abandoned. Our clear duty in our constitutional role as the Opposition and as the legitimate alternative government of this country is to safeguard that public interest. We will do so by rejecting the major provisions of this Bill.
There is a final point which I wish to make and which no doubt other speakers will take up in this debate. I regret very much indeed, on behalf of the people of this country, that the Government is using its numbers in this House to force a debate which will be so truncated as not to allow the major proposals contained in this legislation to receive the full scrutiny of the House, whether in the second reading or Committee stages of the debate. The Government is making a farce of our democratic procedure. The Opposition rejects the reasons put forward as to why the Government is seeking to force this Bill through the House.
– It is an absolute disgrace.
– It is an absolute disgrace, as my colleague has pointed out. No doubt that is a matter which will be adverted to as the debate on this Bill goes on. My comments on this Bill have been very greatly condensed simply because of the pressure of time and in order to allow other speakers to make their contributions to the second reading and Committee stages of the debate on this Bill. The Opposition completely rejects the BUI.
– Perhaps it might be advisable to remind honourable members that it is not and has never been the purpose of conciliation and arbitration in Australia to weaken or destroy the bargaining power or capacity of employees. I want to point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) that much of what he put is worthy of discussion but that he served little useful purpose by engaging in hyperbole.
– It would have been nice to have had a discussion, though, would it not?
– I am sure that we are going to have a discussion on this legislation, both in the second reading and Committee stages of the Bill, for the rest of today. I find myself in the position where it is necessary to discuss this Bill in somewhat superficial terms and to reserve the right to go into more specific aspects in the Committee stage. I suggest that the honourable member might do the same. Those who pioneered the concept of conciliation and arbitration in Australia saw it as a civilised and efficient way of resolving the inevitable conflict between employers and employees. There are some people who seem to believe that conflict between employers and employees is something to be avoided at all costs. Of course, to suggest that is to suggest a drive into the world of unreality. To resolve disputes without the economic losses and personal hardship which frequently are the result of long strikes is the noble motive of our system of conciliation and arbitration. But it is worth remembering that the primary objective of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is to promote goodwill in industry. That is provided in section 2 of the Act and has been there since the Act commenced.
Other objects are designed to give effect to the primary objective of creating goodwill in industry. The whole emphasis of our industrial legislation and the whole emphasis of our conciliation and arbitration procedures should be directed towards the prevention of industrial disputes rather than the settlement of disputes which occur. That is the way in which it is desired in our Constitution - it is the purpose of the conciliation and arbitration power. It is significant that the word ‘prevention’ precedes the word ‘settlement’ in referring to industrial disputes and also that the word ‘conciliation’ precedes the word ‘arbitration’ in describing the method by which disputes shall be prevented and/ or settled. The amendments proposed in this Bill, particularly those proposed in respect to the consultation of employees and the encouragement of greater conciliation, will have far-reaching beneficial results. This Bill, read as a whole, will be seen as a major step towards the achievement of industrial peace. It will be seen as a step towards the elimination of the - need for strikes. lt is wrong to criticise a section or sections of this Bill in isolation without looking at it in its totality. It is unfair to predict any effects of the elimination of certain penal provisions without giving adequate consideration in calmness and tranquillity and giving due weight to the amendments designed to create far greater involvement of the individual employee in the establishment of his own conditions of employment. This Bill creates the means for a bold and courageous new experiment in industrial relations. Those who are harsh in their criticism of it show little faith and scant respect for the honour and collective integrity of Australian workers. My experience is that working men and women do not break arrangements made when they have been directly and fully involved in their making. We ought to remember that the process of conciliation and arbitration is a means to an end; it is not an end in itself. The historical purpose of arbitration in Australia is to prevent exploitation and to give the working man an effective voice without forcing him into a strike and without forcing him into unfair and inequitable working conditions. lt has been part of that scheme to achieve justice and equity in a relationship which tends to be one of the dominant factors of life.
It is worth remembering that the people of Australia and of the world work in order to live; they do not live in order to work. Work forms a dominant part of their lives. It is impossible to live without working. The job that one has, the benefits that arise from that job, the rewards that flow from that employment determine the standard of living which all of us enjoy.
The evolution and development of the great industrial society have brought changes to our system of industrial relations. We ought to recognise these things at least in part: Firstly, the worker is better educated than he was in years gone by. He is better informed of developments in our country and elsewhere in the world. The development of better news services and a more enlightened Press and the great technological advances made in television and telecommunications have assisted in the achievement of a far better informed population and a far better informed work force. This has its effect on industrial relations. Secondly, the relationship between employers and employees has become more impersonal. The development of the giant international corporation and the emergence, of a professional management class are 2 factors which have led to this impersonalisation of the industrial relationship in our community. The structure of the management of an enterprise makes the decision makers in Australian industry further and further removed, as each year goes by, from the work place and from the aspirations, feelings and fears of the Australian worker. One might well measure the concern of Australian enterprises for their employees by looking at the role and the status which are given to the officer or executive in charge of industrial relations.
We should recognise as a fact of life that trade union militancy has increased and will continue to do so irrespective of the political colour or flavour of the Australian Government. There are. a number of reasons for this. Firstly, it can be shown that in recent years strikes have resulted in better conditions being achieved. It can be shown that strikes have resulted in conditions being achieved that would not have been achieved if the strike had not taken place. Secondly, the employee has far more resources, and his unions are bigger and stronger. Thirdly - this is a very important consideration - we have a growing number and a very much higher proportion of married women in employment. They are not totally dependent on their wage, or salary. Therefore, they are better equipped to withstand the rigours of strike action than they would be if they were totally dependent on their wage or salary. This also means that the family income is not totally dependent on one wage or salary. Therefore, the worker today is better equipped to cope with a strike than he, was 10 or 15 years ago.
It is in this setting that quite significant changes are being made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as a first step. Why are these changes necessary? I put to the House and to honourable members that the existing laws are not as effective as they ought to be. For too long the capabilities of our tribunals have been ignored. It is ludicrous that after almost 70 years of Federal conciliation and arbitration we are still arguing in the High Court as to what is meant by an industrial matter. Is it not ludicrous that important considerations such as the reinstatement of an employee in his previous employment can be held to be beyond the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission?
In other words, the fact that a man is dismissed unfairly cannot be determined by a conciliation and arbitration procedure. The arbitral tribunals have no jurisdiction. Yet the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would brutally and viciously fine the employees who sought to strike to correct the serious injustice which has no other means of being resolved. Is he serious? The answer is that he is not serious. He is not serious because in instances where unions were fined he did not collect the fines. He refused to collect them. He declined to exercise his obligation - his right.
The separation of conciliation from arbitration has not worked. The provisions of the previous Act did not work mainly because of a half-hearted approach by the previous Government and a milk and water type of separation. No one was really sure that the separation was anything more than a formality. No one was sure that the conciliator did not tell the arbitrator what had occurred at the conference. Of course, such a formality meant the inevitable demise of that scheme. We should consider just how effective were the so-called penal provisions. They provided that either a union or the individual employees could be fined. They were nothing more and nothing less than a source of irritation. The fines which were imposed under the penal provisions and under the leadership and jurisdiction of the previous Government were not collected in recent years.
The prospect of action for damages or the possibility of charges of conspiracy in industrial relations should be removed because of its irritant effect. It is nonsense in this democratic society, this free economy, to suggest that workers who participate in a stoppage of work because little Mary Jones has been sacked out of turn are engaging in a conspiracy, and that a jam company for which she worked should be able to sue the workers individually and collectively through their union for damages. Is it suggested that 2 or 3 members of a furnishing trades union who are employed by a corporation such as General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd or the Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd who go on strike because of a safety issue, should face the prospect of being sued for conspiracy by that poor little corporation? General-Motors’ Holden’s is the largest corporation in the world? Is that seriously suggested by the honourable member for Flinders? I doubt it. I give him credit for more sense and for more industrial integrity and honour. But why does the honourable member raise these issues in this manner to detract from this Bill? Why is it that members of the Opposition in this House insist on injecting into every debate petty party political considerations, particularly on the question of industrial relations? I hope that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), if he does speak on this occasion, will not inject these considerations. 1 hope that in his speech he will rise above that level and will look at the real issues involved.
I find it impossible to argue that we should remove the civil right of any person to sue for damages if there were an attack on his property where wilful damage was done or he was the victim of a personal assault. This is in a vastly different category and the Bill recognises that. This Government does not, and I am certain will not, support physical violence, whether it be in the field of industrial relations or elsewhere. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) fully supports that concept. However, the Government is not prepared to leave on the statute book ludicrous propositions which have not found favour anywhere in the world, with the possible exception of totalitarian countries. We prefer to have legislation consistent with legislation in more enlightened countries rather than those countries which are under a totalitarian dictatorship.
The removal of the penal provisions will place a far greater obligation on unions and employees to honour agreements which are made. Time alone will tell whether this will be so. After all, if agreements or awards were broken in the past the employer had a remedy whereby he could seek to have a fine imposed on those responsible for the breach. What has to be recognised here and elsewhere is that the old penal provisions, which even the previous Government would not tolerate, should not continue to be on the statute book. For industrial relations they were a disaster but for lawyers and members of the legal profession they were a bonanza. There was double indemnity in that employers consistently used Queen’s Counsel when a junior clerk from a solicitor’s office would have sufficed. Costs were mounted in order to get a double penalty.
The Australian work force is a strong, virile and articulate group. It was amongst the earliest in the world to organise trade unions. We have one of the highest rates of trade union organisation to be found anywhere in the free world. Trade unions in Australia have always been relatively free. There have been some attempts to shackle them, but they have failed. The concept and spirit of trade unionism will continue. It will not be fettered by law* which are unenforceable - which Governments of all political flavours find impossible to enforce. There have been strikes from the earliest days of trade union organisation. Our fathers and our grandfathers before them withheld their labour from employers as they fought for recognition and the right to improve their conditions of employment. They fought for the right to provide sufficient food, clothing and shelter for their families. They refused to work in dangerous conditions or for less than a living wage. They refused to be treated like slaves, and because they so fought we have the conditions that we enjoy today.
They were met with the same kind of argument as we hear today. I say to honourable gentlemen opposite that rhetoric and name calling were then and are now no answer to logic and certainly are unacceptable as a reply to the legitimate claims of employees. It is foolish and unfair to compare and relate the bargaining power of the corporation with the bargaining power of individual employees. There is no legitimate comparison possible in the sense of there being some kind of equality. How often have we heard the gibe that if a worker does not like the conditions he should go and work somewhere else? Perhaps there is nowhere else, or it may be that economic conditions are such that no other jobs are available or that the skills of a particular class of employee are unique to a special industry. It is in such industries that the col lective bargaining power of the employee is important; otherwise he is powerless as an individual. He certainly does not have all of the legitimate choices of a free man.
When we speak of union power we speak about something which is irrelevant alongside the economic giants which have been developed in recent years. Let me say something about this equality argument - that the Opposition stands for equality, and that if it is proper to penalise the employer, so also should we penalise the employee. If the largest corporation in Australia refuses tomorrow morning to employ a man because he is a union member, that corporation faces the prospect of a fine of $400. If, in retaliation for that act, 10 men decide to withhold their labour from that giant corporation, they, through their union, face a fine of $1,000 a day until they offer for work. That is the legislation of honourable members opposite, that is their answer, that is the proposition which they put forward. Their Act provided that General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd or the Ford Motor Co. Aust. Ltd or the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd or the biggest corporations in Australia were treated as individuals and that if they were guilty of contempt they could be fined $400 a day. But a little union of 100 men could be fined $1,000 a day. Where is the equality of honourable members opposite? Where is their equity?
Penalties of this kind eroded the confidence of working men in the system of conciliation and arbitration and in our Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Those who put that legislation on the statute book did a great disservice. In spite of the Opposition’s attempts to frustrate it, this Government is determined to establish industrial peace and harmony in Australia and thereby lift the conditions of employment and the standard of living of all the Australian people. I commend the Bill.
– I think that all of us in the last few years have become increasingly concerned about the number of man days that have been lost annually through industrial trouble of one sort or another. We are concerned about the loss to the economy of the nation caused by the failure of industrial arbitration to solve the problems of the dominance of the left wing unions in our current industrial scene. The previous Government last year introduced a wide range of very significant changes to existing legislation to ensure that the procedures of conciliation and arbitration were adequate to meet the circumstances of Australia in the 1970s, to ensure the divorce of conciliation from arbitration, to ensure that there should be available to the working men in Australia a procedure which would be adequate to ensure for them a reasonable and equitable part of the changing productivity and available wealth in this community but to ensure also for the consumer, the producer and the citizen on fixed income a protection against excesses.
The legislation introduced last year was wide ranging and it brought in very valuable changes to some past procedures. It was legislation which to date has not been demonstrably proved inadequate. Yet we have before us now in the Parliament another Bill with very profound series of changes. These changes are not designed to improve the conciliation and arbitration system but to destroy it. They are not designed to protect a system which has been proved adequate for the negotiation of changes in the terms and conditions of salaries and wages over the years but are designed to introduce a new system, a system of collective bargaining without the capacity for any enforcement of any contractual obligations which unions or officials on behalf of unions might enter into.
It is interesting in this place to hear the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) propound the strength which he sees in the administration by the present Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) of his portfolio. It is interesting because it is not so long since there were some quite fundamental differences between the honourable member for Phillip and the Minister on a question of flat rate increases and matters of that sort. Of course, the Minister has been well known for the continued harmony he has enjoyed in the field of industrial relations. The late Tom Dougherty and he, of course, were great colleagues and friends. They saw eye to eye on many great industrial issues. The only trouble is that I can recall no occasion when they came into agreement. The notable thing about the Opposition, as the Government was last year and as it should be today but regrettably is not, was the changes which the present Minister, then spokesman for industrial relations for the Labor Party in opposition, suggested should be made to the conciliation and arbitration system and which all members of this House will remember. They included a significant range of sanctions to be applied against trade unionists. I wonder where the honourable member for Phillip stood on that issue. He then, of course, was a trade union official. It is notable not only that the policy of the Labor Party as proposed by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the present Minister for Labour was rejected by Caucus but also that the Bill that is now before this Parliament reflects the changes which Caucus imposed on the Minister. So the Bill that we have before us is one that does not necessarily reflect the Minister’s own attitude towards conciliation and arbitration but one which apparently, at least to some degree, has been forced upon him.
The other feature we need to be concerned about in the radical changes which this Bill propounds is that the influences which forced the Minister and the present Prime Minister to change will be significantly benefited by these changes. The concern is twofold. The first area of concern is the whole question of union leadership itself and the second is the degree to which the left wing of the trade union movement is wagging the right wing tail in order to ensure that the changes will bring greater and greater power to people outside the Australian parliamentary system.
Why, even this morning in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ we read of a further amendment to this legislation which apparently the Minister for Labour is to introduce, or it is rumoured he is to introduce, later in the debate today. We are told that the purpose of the amendment is to exempt trade union leaders from facing ballots in the transitional period of up to 3 years following union amalgamations; that is, the time between the legal clearance of an amalgamation and its final consummation. This is a further step towards strengthening the position of the trade union leadership and a further step towards eroding the real responsibility that the trade union leadership should have for the men it is supposed to represent.
Of all the diabolical conclusions that the Minister for Labour has reached in his implementation of these changes, I think there is none more so than his desire to increase the status of the trade union leadership and to destroy the relationship between the people it represents and the conclusions it reaches in negotiations into which it enters. The protection which the envisaged amendment reflects and many of the individual changes proposed by the Bill are designed to improve and to strengthen certainly the position of shop stewards but also union leadership in general. They are designed to protect that leadership from the whole of the procedures of law which were designed to ensure that union membership was protected; for example, in the field of amalgamation, that union membership had an adequate opportunity to express its point of view and that the public at large - the producers, those persons on fixed incomes and those persons outside the ambit of the provisions of this measure - also had its interest taken into account. Generally, in terms of industrial relations I see this Bill as effecting a significant and adverse deterioration of procedures which are available for the protection of trade unionists and members of our community.
The second area on which I wish to speak is the impact of this Bill on the inflationary pressures that are at work in our community. I think that all of us are aware that inflation regrettably has become a fact of Australian life. The previous government, last year and over a successive number of years before that, took a number of measures which without doubt, towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year led to not only a recovery from the general depressed state of the economy but also a return to full employment. Those measures at the same time were intended to reduce the impact of the costpush pressures which are certainly the significant factor in aggravating prices and the erosion of the returns to wage earners and others in our community.
On the other hand, this Bill is designed to remove the wage adjustment procedures from the protective device which conciliation and arbitration has afforded, for example, by deleting sanctions which are designed to remove the restraint on the trade union movement and on trade union officials in particular and to ensure that they act responsibly. The Bill is designed to remove the taking into account of the public interest in procedures before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is designed to give to the trade union leadership significantly greater bargaining power than it has had before without the legal responsibility which sanctions enforce upon it. Of course, in making adjustments, the Bill continues the restraints which applied to employers and removes only those sanctions which are applicable to trade union leadership.
The result will be that the inflationary forces of wage adjustments will be aggravated significantly. Yet last week we had supposedly one of the new Government’s major attacks on the causes of inflation in our community. The first 2 references to the Joint Committee on Prices were made and the constitution of the proposed prices justification tribunal was outlined. We have seen over the weekend statements by the Prime Minister that if, as a result of the continued escalation in the projected Government deficit this year - it is projected at the moment as being in the order of $ 1,200m, which is by far the largest deficit this country has ever suffered - there are to be any consequences in the inflationary sense they can be offset by social measures to be introduced by the Government. One must not forget, of course, that the Government’s social measures will cost the taxpayer money and will ensure that the application of tax to the individual citizen will be further increased in the future.
The Opposition sees this Bill as aggravating the wage-push factors. It sees the Bill as part of the Government’s program for a $l,200m deficit. It introduces significant changes by the denigration of the Public Service Board, such as arbitrary adjustments in the terms and conditions of employment of public servants,, annual leave and hours of work without reference to arbitration. Inflationary pressures will be established through the pace-setting role of the present Labor Government in its industrial relations with members of the Public Service. In the last few days 2 public comments have been made about inflationary pressures in our community. I would like to advert briefly to them. At the weekend Mr N. Mason, Director of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures, pointed out that the high costs of labour services have increased considerably. He said that in the period from September 1966 to March 1973 local government costs rose by 63.6 per cent; fares rose by 66.9 per cent; motoring services and registration rose by 66.9 per cent; postal and telephone charges rose by 58.9 per cent; and radio and television licences rose by 34.4 per cent. All these adjustments in the public service sector are coming through as distinct contributors towards price increases in the community. Yet the tribunal that was constituted - the Joint Committee on Prices - has not been charged with looking at the area of government services. Let me say that all the above increases were characterised by the fact that they are generally government or semi-government charges and all highly labour intensive. In the same period the cost of household appliances fell by 1.2 per cent while the cost of food, where there is a mixed private and government responsibility, rose by 28.6 per cent.
So in the whole area of major cost increases in our community there has been a high labour content. In those circumstances there is no denying that this twofold aggravation of inflation by the Government will further aggravate pressures in the future. The first area is in the manipulation by the Government of the terms and conditions of employment of public servants, consequently aggravating the cost pressures on Australian citizens, and the second area is the aggravation in the private sector provided by the terms and conditions of this Bill. Mr George Polites of the Australian Council of Employers’ Federations was speaking at a conference at the weekend, at which I understand the Minister for Labour also spoke, on general trends in industrial relations. Mr Polites said that the general trends of the share of wages and salaries in gross domestic product have been upwards. Of course we are all aware of that fact, but let us look at the statistics. It has risen from SO per cent in 1953- 54 to 55.3 per cent today. In the same period the share of company income has fallen from 10.9 per cent to 8.4 per cent; that of farm income has fallen from 10.7 per cent to 2.9 per cent; and income from other incorporated enterprises has fallen from 9.3 per cent to 6.2 per cent. That is, as a percentage of gross national income. Since 1969-70 the average annual increase in the consumer price index has been 5.9 per cent. The gross domestic product rate increase has been 3.6 per cent a year, while productivity has increased by only 1.6 per cent a year and average earnings have reached a new high of an average annual growth of 10 per cent.
The product of those figures is that, under existing procedures, opportunities obviously have been available to the Australian work force to get a greater share of gross national product, that is, increases in productivity. So the Government’s motivation cannot be to get a better deal for the worker. For that reason we need very seriously and critically to look behind the Government’s facade to see the real motivations for the introduction of this legislation. There is no doubt that tha reality of the circumstances has changed because of the dominance of the left wing of the Labor Party and the degree to which the Labor Party sees itself as subservient to the present leadership of the trade union movement. The Labor Party seeks to assert an increased role for trade union leaders and shop stewards and to achieve a complete destruction of private enterprise in our community. By an erosion of the certainty of a uturn for private enterprise and erosion of the employee’s preparedness to work the percentage of our gross national product represented by the public sector can be significantly increased and the percentage presently achieved by the private sector reduced. It is, of course, an avowed objective of the Labor Party to ensure that the private sector is significantly reduced and the public sector increased.
Other areas make quite fascinating reading but I do not have time to go into them ‘.his morning. I find it quite fascinating to see Mr Bob Hawke in his newfound role in the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He seems to be one of the major capitalists in our society. Day by day I have read with some fascination of his involvement. He is in housing one day and tourism the next. That is very commendable. I suppose he is looking after the rights and the role of the trade unionists. But where does that activity fit into the concept of capitalism and all those apparent ills of our society which Mr Hawke has criticised for so long? There is no doubt that this area represents a fundamental difference between the Labor Government and the Opposition. We on our side are sympathetic to meaningful adjustments to wages and salaries to the advantage of the trade unionists. We believe that the trade union movement has served Australia well. We believe also that by acting responsibly the trade union movement and the employers and employers’ organisations can continually advance our living standards and provide opportunities for the betterment of the lot of the individual. But we believe it is necessary to have a reasonable distribution of wealth between employees and employers. We do not believe in the class demarcation which the Labor Party, for so long, has sought to provide on economic grounds.
We accept that the conciliation and arbitration system should not be fixed and permanent and that it should be examined. It was for that very reason that such significant changes were introduced to the legislation last year. Having introduced those widespread legislative changes and having ensured in so many ways that there was an adaptation in areas of continuing criticism of the procedures, we do not believe that the changes have been given adequate trial.
We believe that there is no justification today for this legislation. We are certain that no mandate for the detailed changes was given at the election. We believe there is no justification for the removal of the sanctions provisions or for the civil immunity which is to be accorded to trade union officials and to members of trade unions. We believe that the changes proposed in the field of amalgamation could weaken the role of the trade union member and destroy the opportunity of people outside the trade union movement to have their interests taken into account. We see in this significant range of proposals many things which are not in any way directed to the betterment of the lot of the trade union member or to giving the worker a better role in the future. Nor will these proposals in any way secure for members of the Australian public a better opportunity to contain the inflationary forces which for so long have aggravated our society. For those reasons the Country Party joins completely with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) in his substantial attack on the Bill introduced into this House by the Minister for Labour.
– This important Bill has 2 key facets for the Government and the trade union movement. I refer first to the aim of simpler amalgamation of unions and second to the provisions of the Bill dealing with the abolition of the penal sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That amalgamation of unions is to be made earlier will be of great benefit not only to trade unions but also to society generally. It is certainly important to the trade unions because, by being able to amalgamate into larger union bodies, they can operate much more efficiently and effectively than as a group of small unions. This comes about in many ways. Where unions have amalgamated it has been notable that they have established research facilities. Such facilities have been appallingly absent in the trade union move ment until the last decade or so. Amalgamation has enabled unions to establish effective research sections which, in turn have enabled them to operate much more effectively for their members. I do not wish to list all the advantages gained by unions through amalgamation, but it is clear that the greater size of union bodies makes them more efficient in their operations.
Society as a whole also has a vested interest in larger unions because of the obvious likelihood of reductions in the numbers of demarcation disputes. Demarcation disputes have aptly been described as the cancer of the trade union movement. Certainly it is desirable that everything possible be done to eliminate them and the best way to eliminate them is to have larger trade union bodies. The aim of the Australian Council of Trade Unions is to establish industrial unions. Where industrial unions have been established in other countries there has been a marked reduction in demarcation disputes. In that respect 1 refer to the October 1972 edition of the ‘Australian Director’. Is contains an article by Dr Buttner, Director of the West German Productivity Organisation. The article is entitled: ‘Higher Productivity - The West German Experience’. The author explains that in West Germany one of the reasons for the tremendously high productivity there is the small number of unions. At page 67 of the publication Dr Buttner writes:
There are 16 industrial unions who organise 7 million workers on the principle of one plant - one union only, so demarcation disputes which are frequent in England for instance are completely unknown in Germany.
By enabling simpler amalgamation of unions this measure will help in the establishment of industrial unionism. This will certainly bring about benefits for industry generally and a reduction in the number of disputes. An even more important function nf this Bill is the removal from the principal Act of the penal and sanction provisions. The main targets in this respect are the provisions relating to contempt of court. These provisions have been tremendously important to the trade union movement in this country. They have involved a mammoth payout of funds, particularly in the period from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s, until they became virtually inoperative in mid- 1969.
I wish to cite some figures relating to the period from 1957 to 1968. In that period the greatest number of contempt of court proceedings were instituted in the history of the Act. In that period 788 fines totalling $280,210 were imposed on trade unions. The costs associated with these proceedings generally work out to be roughly the same as the amount of the fines. Using that rough procedure this means that from 1957 to 1968 the trade union movement was fined by the Commonwealth Industrial Court, in contempt of court proceedings, well over $500,000. This is a tremendous sum. Certainly it is one which caused a tremendous reaction within the trade union movement. Of course, it is obvious that once enormous sums like this are imposed on trade unions there must come about not the settlement of industrial disputes but the exacerbation of industrial disputation. That is what happened, climaxing in the events of May 1969, after which the sanctions clauses became inoperative.
One can use various arguments against the contempt of court proceedings. I shall go through a few of them. The first is the obvious one which I have mentioned, that is, the sheer counterproductive nature of such penalties. They exacerbate industrial disputes; they do not settle them. If we keep fining unions heavily we do not settle industrial disputes. We do not establish greater rapport between unions and employers; we just divide them into warring parties. This is certainly no way in which to bring about a better industrial environment. Secondly, fines have been imposed where the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has refused to arbitrate. This is totally objectionable. An example of this is the General MotorsHolden’s Pty Ltd case in 1964. This was a very big dispute which was brought about largely by the enormous profitability of GMH, which was making annually many times the total amount of funds which had been invested in the company by the parent organisation. In 1964 a big dispute developed and the unions went on strike for the best part of a month for a S6 increase in pay. As a result of that strike the unions were fined $19,000, and when they finally agreed to go to arbitration there were potential fines of some $30,000 hanging over their heads.
The case went to arbitration. It took almost 2 years to settle. When the decision was finally given in 1966 the Commission said that it did not arbitrate in cases of that nature and that it was not there to settle industrial disputes relating to over-award claims for one company. It said that it settled industrial disputes on an industry basis, providing the same rates for all people in the industry, and that it was not there to deal with industrial disputes relating to over-award payments within one company. Nevertheless, the unions had been fined $19,000. That amount was doubled with costs so that altogether the penalties approached $40,000. The dispute related to a matter on which the arbitration system was certainly entitled to adjudicate but on which it was not prepared to adjudicate. It is totally objectionable to the trade union movement that this sort of thing can happen. Of course, this is what happens. Over-award payments disputes often lead or in the past have led to industrial court proceedings. Often they have been against a particular company and they have been nonarbitral. But despite this fact the Industrial Court has imposed heavy fines on unions. This is a totally objectionable procedure and obviously one which favours the employers rather than the trade union movement.
Thirdly, fines have been imposed where the Commission wanted to arbitrate but the employers denied that right to the Commission. Nevertheless the employers were prepared to use the Industrial Court to impose fines. A good example of this kind of dispute was the tramways dispute in 1965. This dispute built up over some time and it involved one-man buses. It involved the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board which tried to introduce one-man buses on certain routes in Melbourne and refused to negotiate with the unions about the matter. The unions asked the Commission to put in the award a clause which would require the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board to negotiate with the unions on this matter. The Tramways Board went to the High Court 4 times to try to stop the Commissioner inserting such a clause in the award because it said that this was a management prerogative and that the unions just had to cop it. While the Tramways Board, by going to the High Court, was frustrating the desire of the Commissioner in his attempts to settle this dispute the union was involved in a number of stoppages over the issue in protest against the action of the Tramways Board. They were taken to the Industrial Court by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board and fined $7,200, again plus costs. So the penalty imposed, in a matter in which the
Tramways Board was saying that the Commission did not have the right to arbitrate, was about $15,000. But while the Tramways Board claimed in the Arbitration Commission that the Commission did not have a right to arbitrate in the matter it was quite prepared to have fines imposed by the industrial court on the union in respect of this same dispute - again a totally objectionable procedure.
There is a fourth reason, which is a general conceptual one and which has certainly been used by the trade unions and members of the Labor Party in the past to justify arguments for the abolition of the contempt of court procedures. This is the general conceptual point that whilst the trade unions are obliged to accept decisions of the Arbitration Commission and the employers must pay the rates awarded by the Commission the employers can, in effect, evade their obligations in this regard by raising their prices. It is certainly true that so long as employers can raise their prices following an arbitrator’s decision on wages they are effectively evading their responsibilities under that decision by reducing the real wages of the employees which is what really matters.
It is hypocritical for employers and members of the Opposition to say that unions have an obligation to accept decisions of the Commissioner relating to wages when employers are free to raise their prices. I must admit that this fourth factor, to which I am now alluding may, in fact, have to be modified slightly depending on the effectiveness of the proposed prices justification tribunal. But certainly it is true that so long as employers can use a wage increase granted by an arbitrator as a basis for justifying increases in prices, there is no justification for having penal clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to punish striking unions.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) said that other countries have sanctions applying to unions. The only country which has an industrial system similar to Australia’s is New Zealand. According to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition this morning sanctions remain in use in New Zealand. I do not know quite what he meant by that statement. To my knowledge those sanctions have hardly ever been used in New Zealand. Certainly they remain in the legislation, but they have practically never been used. There was an amendment to the New Zealand act in 1962 to enable employers to initiate proceedings to invoke sanctions. Previously only the Government could take this action. Only twice between 1962 and 1968 was any action taken by employers in New Zealand in regard to sanctions.
In 1968 the secretary of the New Zealand Department of Labour, Mr Woods, produced a report on industrial legislation. In this report he set out a number of reasons why penal legislation to deal with strikes is impossible to enforce. I will just give a summary of those reasons. The first one was that international trade unionism holds firmly to the right to strike as a fundamental human freedom. The second was that there was no means of making people work if they stand firm on a refusal to work. The third was that it is unlikely for workers to inflict loss of earnings on themselves and their families without feeling that they have good reasons for the action they are taking. Fourthly, penalties against strikers cannot be enforced because the objective of industrial relations is to maintain, and, in the case of a breakdown, restore relations. Penalties merely inflame the situation. Fifthly, since in most cases of strike action both parties are to blame, the fact that only workers are penalised causes permanent alienation of the work force.
Sixthly, if workers have won their claim the infliction of a penalty appears absurd; if workers lose, their grievance is compounded. Seventhly, where workers concertedly refuse to pay fines, imprisonment is no solution since it removes the work force more effectively from its work place than the strike itself. Eighthly, fining unions instead of workers may destroy unions as effective organisations; yet the existence of strong partners in negotiations is recognised by employers as a prerequisite of successful industrial relations. That is a summary of 8 reasons given in 1968 by the Secretary of the Department of Labour in New Zealand, Mr Woods, as to why the penal clauses in that country are impossible to enforce and should not be enforced. He made it quite clear in that report on industrial relations that it was his opinion that sanctions should not be used in industrial relations contexts.
One other factor to which I have time to refer quickly is the proposed protection of unions from actions for tort. The Minister in his second reading speech has mentioned that this system already operates in Queensland and has operated in the United Kingdom since 1906. I mention only that in 1968 the British Royal Commission into trade unions brought down its report in which it found that the system which had operated from 1906 until 1968 in that regard should continue. lt had been argued by the employers that that should not be the case, that unions should be capable of being sued for actions for tort. The Royal Commission found against that view. So there has been a long and detailed analysis of this matter in that country from 1965 to 1968. It took 3 years for the Royal Commission to make its report and it found that the situation should continue. By means of this Bill we simply are introducing that system which has operated in the United Kingdom since 1906.
I would like to refer very briefly to section 138 of the Act which is known as the incitement to boycott section. This is a quite repugnant section of the Act which involves fines being imposed on individual persons for incitement or encouragement of people to go on strike. This provision has not been used extensively but it was used in the late 1950s and in 1960 in a couple of quite famous cases, the most famous being the Mclvor case which involved a Queensland meat industry union organiser who advised a fellow member of the union to leave a place of employment. He was found guilty under section 138 of the Act of incitement to boycott. He .was fined $20 and ordered to pay $372.44 costs. I might say that eventually he was declared a bankrupt because he did not have the money to pay. When the case went to the High Court it was found that he did not have to pay anyway after being declared a bankrupt. Another case involved a Mr Taylor who was also a meat industry unionist. He was convicted in 1959 of 2 breaches of section 138 of the Act. He was fine $230 and ordered to pay $1,400 costs. He never paid those costs, and I am glad to say that he did not. They have never been collected. Section 138 has been virtually inoperative since 1959-60 when those 2 cases I have mentioned came about. The amendment to remove this quite repugnant section from the Act is certainly worth while. I strongly support the Bill.
– Naturally enough I listened with a great degree of care to what was said by my predecessor in this debate, but I have to admit, even though I listened to him with good will, that he did not touch the substance of any single section of this Act. Instead in a somewhat desultory and perfunctory way he attempted to defend those clauses .which I think were technical even though contrary to the best interests of this country. It is my view - and a very strong view, too - that we must look at this piece of legislation in perspective. 1 believe it is one of the worst pieces of legislation ever introduced in this House, and 1 have been here for more than 23 years. I believe it must be looked at in perspective from 2 different points of view. The first one undoubtedly is its general relationship to social, economic and industrial conditions in this country and the other one, which is not generic but specific, is the way in which this Act will virtually destroy the objectives that are set out in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act itself.
Let me turn first of all to the present economic conditions. No one can deny that, after some years of efforts, the former Government - that is, my own Government - was able to reduce the rate of inflation from about 7 per cent, 8 per cent or 9 per cent per annum potentially to something of the order of 4.6 per cent. But now we know that in present circumstances the actions of the Government not only in a fiscal sense but also in terms of conciliation and arbitration, will have the inevitable consequence of creating a rate of inflation much in excess of anything we have known during the course of the last few years. In a statement made in this House not so long ago, I said that I believed the rate of inflation during the next fiscal year would be at least 7 per cent. Fortunately for us, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in defiance of the request of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), made a decision this morning which I think will, to some extent in any event, ensure that the actions and demands of the Government are not the predominant influence and that we will not have inflation of the kind that would occur if the Government had a free opportunity to do exactly what it wants to do.
Let me return to the specifics of the matter, namely, the provisions of the Constitution and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill itself. I am sure that what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) said is correct. In his presentation of his case, to the House, the Minister for Labour did not deal with the philosophical concepts behind the actions of the Government. I will in a few moment’s time mention the motivating force behind this legislation and I believe it will explain completely to the Australian people why action is being taken in this Bill.
But let us look at the philosophy of the Constitution and the Act. Section 51 of our Constitution provides that the Parliament shall have power to legislate for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to conciliation and arbitration. The legislation, that is, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that there shall be action to promote goodwill in industry and to encourage and provide means for conciliation and arbitration with a view to an amicable settlement on a voluntary basis. There is also an overall concept that the nation’s interest should be predominant. This view has been favoured by many leaders of the arbitration system, particularly presidential members or, in other days, when the Commission had judicial as well as conciliatory and arbitration powers, those who happened to be the head of the institution for the time being. So, we must ask ourselves 2 simple questions: On economic grounds, do we feel that the actions of the Government, particularly in relation to conciliation and arbitration, will be favourable to containing inflationary forces? The answer is unmistakably no. Secondly - this is the point that I want to prove in a specific debate of this kind - will the actions of the Government in introducing the proposed new clauses to the Bill in effect destroy arbitration in this country? I believe that it will and I will cite the various clauses in a few moments to indicate why 1 have come to that conclusion. ] said that i would mention the motivating forces behind this legislation. Every member of this House will remember that, prior to the elections, the then Leader of the Opposition met the members of the executive of the metal trades union and agreed with them that, if there were a $25,000 grant to the compaign funds of the Australian Labor Party, he would ensure that fines would not be imposed on the unions and that the bans clause in the Act would be abolished - in other words, to some extent reducing the effectiveness of the Commonwealth Industrial Court and the Arbitration Commission. I will elaborate on this particular aspect in a few moment’s time but I believe and I think it can be easily proved that this was the motivating force behind this legislation. However, I have to go further and say that because of his continued hostility to arbitration, the present Minister for Labour is being ever so much more drastic than we would have contemplated from our knowledge of what occurred at the meeting between the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the executive of the metal trades unions concerned.
I turn to those clauses that I believe ought to be considered carefully by the House. Firstly, I refer to clause 5 of the Bill which, I believe is extraordinary. It introduces a concept of employment that is totally alien and foreign to any concept of employment that we know in Australia today. In effect, it says that if a person happens to be a job delegate or a member of a trade union who holds any official position, he can virtually disobey the law of contract that exists between his employer and himself. What does the Bill actually provide? I am glad to see that at least some honourable members opposite are taking an intelligent interest in this. I believe that they are men who will try to exercise an independent judgment of the position. It is proposed to amend section 5 (1) of the principal Act by inserting a new paragraph (f) to provide that an employer shall not dismiss an employee or in any day affect or prejudice him because he has done or proposes to do an act or thing in an industrial establishment or elsewhere - not only in the industrial establishment - for the purpose of protecting the union’s industrial interests providing only that he feels he has directly or indirectly some authority from the union. In other words, this proposed new paragraph puts him in a position of permanent employment. It permits him the opportunity to walk around the factory and other places in order to decide whether the union’s interests are being furthered without the risk of being dismissed. This can be done notwithstanding that sound economic management and sound practices of administration will demand that that employee should, in fact, be dismissed because he is working contrary to the interests of the company, contrary to the interests of the other employees and contrary to the interests of the nation.
It is true that it is proposed to introduce a new sub-section (2a) that states:
In a prosecution for an offence arising under paragraph (f) of sub-section (1), it is a defence if the employer satisfied the court that -
the act or thing done or proposed to be done by the employee was or would have been unlawful under the Civil or criminal law, otherwise than by reason only of its being a breach of the contract of employment;
That is in regard to an individual who may be employed, perhaps, by a corporation. In other words, the proposed new sub-section breaks down the whole concept of the agreement or the arrangement that relates to the employment of the individual. It gives these union officials and others the right .to defy the law and an agreement for employment and virtually to have carte blanche to do whatever they want to do providing that they think that what is done is in the interests of the union concerned, no matter what the consequences may be to the other employees. Associated with this is section 138 of the Act to which reference has been made already. I believe that this existing section was not only valid and vital to the system of industrial arbitration but also should have been protected. Under section 138 a union official was, in fact, prohibited from inciting a union member not to comply with an award, to go slow, to refuse to offer himself for work or to take any other action which was not consistent with an award.
The present Bill provides for this to be repealed, supporting the action that has been taken already in clause 5 and giving the union representatives power to do virtually whatever they want to do. If this does not mean effectively the destruction of arbitration and conciliation in the sense that we have known it since, the present Act was first brought into force, nobody will ever understand what it means. There is a third and very relevant section, again referred to by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). That is the reference to obligations under the law or obligations with regard to contracts and the breach of those contracts. Honourable members can quote in an emotive way the Taff Vale case or the case of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
But anyone with a knowledge of English and the changing definitions of English will know that the interpretations previously given by the courts on such matters as the constituents of a conspiracy or whether picketing would, in effect, be legal or whether there was a civil status in law for a trade union organisation are no longer valid. All these have been overcome and no one would attempt to argue this way in a court of law or, 1 hope, publicly.
What does proposed new section 146a provide? It states: 146a. (a) . . .
An act done by a person to whom this section applies in connexion with an industrial matter … is not actionable in tort on the ground only -
I ask whether any honourable member in this House believes that he should have a right to break a contract legitimately made or whether he should have a right to break an award, made under the conciliation and arbitration provisions of the Act, to which he has agreed and which he has accepted. This applies to every organisation and to every person who holds an office in the organisation and who has authority to act or believes he has authority to act for that organisation. Now it is said that no action for tort will lie if contrary action is taken by a union official. The reservation to which I want to refer is that the proposed new section does not extend to a wilful act that directly causes death or physical injury to a person, physical damage to property or a threat of such act or a wilful act that contitutes defamation or a threat of defamation.
– Do you want that added to the Act?
– It has not been added to the Act yet. I think it would probably be rejected by the Senate but of course it is a provision with which I would agree. I ask the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) whether he would argue that a person could wilfully injure an individual or murder an individual without there being a provision like this in the Act. We on this side of the House believe that in any system of law there must be sanctions and penalties. I suppose that in conciliation and arbitration I have had more experience than, or at least as much experience as, any other honourable member in this House. I had the good fortune to be Minister for Labour for some years when we at least were able to establish conditions for industrial peace which meant that for the succeeding three or four years we had constant growth, a degree of inflation that was minimal and acceptable, and an industrial community that was prepared to accept what was done by the Government. But in this Bill there is discrimination and, I believe that proposed new section 146a is another clause which is designed to destroy arbitration in the way we understand it. A tort under the circumstances I have mentioned can no longer be committed by a trade unionist, but every other member of the community still has to obey the law of the land and adhere to contracts he has made or the obligation the law imposes. I believe that this clause, in conjunction with other clauses of the Bill, will be damaging to Hae system of arbitration.
I turn now to one other clause of the. Bill. Prevously I referred to the motivation behind this Bill and to the action taken by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) immediately before the election. What he then promised - the pay-off - is shown in proposed new section 46a which, taken in conjunction with proposed new section 119, takes away effectively the right to put a bans clause into an award and, if a bans clause is broken, the right to insist that there should be some penalty or sanction on the union concerned. For the benefit of those who have not had a long experience in industrial matters, a bans clause is one which, under the provisions of the Act, can be inserted into an award because there has been a consistent line, of action and policy by a trade union of defying the provisions of the Act and award and causing industrial disputation, lack of production and, therefore, a failure in productivity despite the benefits that increased productivity can bring to the Australian people. Proposed new section 46a provides:
The Commission is not empowered -
to include in an award, or to vary an award so as to include, a term … by virtue of which engaging in conduct that would hinder, prevent or discourage -
the performance of work in accordance with the award; or
the acceptance of, or offering for, work in accordance with the award, is, to any extent prohibited.
I repeat that that kind of action by the Commission is now to be prohibited.
That supports what I have said, namely, that the trade unions are now put in an ever so much stronger position than before. The balance of strength as between the trade unions, the employers, the Government and the Arbitration Commission is changed so seriously that no longer can one think that influences other than the predominance of trade union power can play an important part in ensuring the public interest in the way in which the former governments since the time of Sir Robert Menzies have incorporated this concept in the Act; in other words, to further the objectives of inducing co-operation between unions and employers and trying to engender a far better feeling throughout the whole complex of industrial relations and to establish the Arbitration Commission as a body that can respect the public interest, bring the parties together and bring about an award that we all hope will be for the benefit of the country rather than for the destruction of arbitration itself.
Before I come to the conclusions that I draw from the Bill now before the House and to what should be done, let me refer to a matter that some honourable members on the Government side of the House have mentioned, namely, that we did not collect the fines that were legitimately imposed under section 119 of the Act as it exists today. It is true that 3 sets of fines were not collected. They were not collected because the Act had been amended and the amendments had brought in a totally new set of conditions. But at least during the period when I was the leader of the Government we collected every fine that was outstanding and we strengthened the provisions of the Act relating to bans clauses - section 46 - and the right and duty to collect the fines under section 119A of the Act.
Now, what conclusions do I draw from the Bill before the House? The first conclusion I draw - I think that most sensible members of the House will agree - is that it will destroy conciliation and arbitration. I believe that because of the 3 clauses I have mentioned, whether there is a change or whether a section has been abolished altogether, it does in fact open the door for intimidation and, I believe, fraud. We will all pay the penalty when intimidation becomes the rule of conciliation and arbitration - if one cares to use that phrase although, as I have said, I do not believe it can ever again be effective if this does become the law. The Bill puts the employer in a hopeless bargaining position by comparison with the employee and the Left Wing trade unions. It strengthens one and weakens the other and in a sense it weakens the Arbitration Commission because no longer will the public interest provision be as strong as it was and as it is in the present Act. As I have said, the nation’s interest is not really protected. It can be defied and, no matter what the consequences are, we will have to live with them. Economically, I believe it will be bad because it will permit the Minister - particularly a Minister such as the one we have today - to pressurise the Arbitration Commission into giving award increases that are in excess of productivity increases. Therefore, an in-built inflationary pressure will be introduced into the Arbitration Commission itself. Finally, it will mean that people will move outside the Commission in order to obtain awards made not voluntarily but under pressure, intimidation and threats. If this does not lead to the destruction of the arbitration system, nothing else will.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti>Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.54 to 2.15 p.m.
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that there is no Minister in charge of the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! There is no provision in the Standing Orders which states that the House has to be in the charge of a Minister.
– No. But I do take the point-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is nothing in the Standing Orders which requires a Minister to be in charge of the House. I call the honourable member for Burke.
– 1 will disregard the unwarranted intrusion by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) who on a previous occasion occupied the office of Minister for Labour and National Service, as it then was. The honourable gentleman had the pleasure of addressing this House this morning and, if I may say so, his speech was as fatuous as his interruption. Today the House also had the pleasure of listening to the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). I must now point out, in view of the recent interruption by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is the honourable member for Flinders, that the
House has been addressed by one ex-Minister for Labour and National Service, one Country Party lawyer and also by the right honourable member for Lowe, who is an exMinister for Labour and National Service, an ex-Treasurer and an ex-Prime Minister. It was only by the grace of God that he is not an ex-member of this House.
Having said that I must now make some comment upon the remarks that were made by those honourable gentlemen, each of whom claimed to be an expert in his field at a particular time in history. Running right through all the comments that they made to this House was one theme only, a theme which they had used over the years, namely to bash the unions in order to attain what they call industrial stability in this country. The right honourable member for Lowe did say that this legislation was one of the worst pieces of legislation to come before this House. The right honourable member had the good grace to add that there were 2 points of view on the matter and that it was quite right that there should be 2 points of view on every matter that comes before this House. But to refute the argument that this is the worst piece of legislation to come before this House I quote words which were used by a most respected ex-commissioner of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Mr T. C. Winter, who on his retirement in 1971 made an address to the industrial relations seminar at the Monash University. He was reported in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 19th May as saying:
It would be ‘ultimate in idiocy’ for employers and the Government to ‘go to war’ with the trade unions……
Mr Winter was quoted on the same date in another newspaper, the ‘Australian’, as saying that penal action was ineffective. So there are 2 points of view on this matter. The Opposition’s point of view is that in order to maintain what Opposition supporters have called industrial stability and industrial peace it is necessary to have penal sanctions against the trade unions. The Opposition believes that when the trade unions step out of line they should be penalised. In other words, the only bad boys in the whole matter are the trade unions. The Opposition’s view is confirmed and supported by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia which in a circular dated 21st May 1972 said, among other things:
In particular, the use of the strike weapon over issues unrelated to industrial matters cannot be condoned. The extension of this practice will only lead to the breakdown of law and order. Means must be found to deal wilh this type of situation which falls outside the ambit of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
So we have an expression of opinion by many members of the community - I must say unrepresentative members of the community - that the unions must be wrong on all occasions. (Quorum formed.)
Mr Deputy Speaker, may I from the floor of this House inform the nation that that was the second time that this debate has been interrupted by the Opposition, which has claimed that it does not have enough time to debate the matter anyhow? A considerable amount of the time of the House has been wasted by these negative and puerile activities. The Bill that is before the House is a very important piece of legislation. Perhaps the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), who drew the attention of the Chair to the state of the House and who, incidentally, is a former Minister for Labour and Industry, does not want the truth to come out. Perhaps he wants to disrupt the debate by continually interjecting, lt is a shame that so many members of the Opposition have not been present in the House to hear this debate. If they had been here H would not have been necessary to call for a quorum. The fact of the matter is that they are still not here and an important issue on which they make so much noise - the issue of industrial law and order - is being debated in their absence. I have also noticed that no member of the Opposition is sitting at the table. That is indicative of the sort of interest the Opposition is taking in this debate.
The whole debate has taken place around the subject of arbitration. 1 did not hear any of the 3 members of the Opposition who have spoken so far in the debate speak of negotiation or conciliation. In fact, the last member of the Opposition who spoke in the debate - a former Prime Minister of this country - boasted about a reduction in the rate of inflation whilst he was in charge of the affairs of this country. The right honourable member for Lowe said that it had been reduced from 7 per cent to 4t per cent. I am not in a position to challenge him as to whether that is right or wrong, but I would point out to the right honourable gentleman that whatever was achieved was achieved at very great cost to the 130,000 Australian families which at that time found that a member of the family was unemployed.
The purposes of this Bill, as I understand them, are numerous. That is because a number of corrections have to be made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which was amended by the Opposition when it was in government. There can be no question about the need for trade unions in the community. We live in an organised community and society and unless every section of the community, including the working class, is organised there will be a breakdown in our whole system. So there can be no question about the need for organisations of working men. These generally come under the heading of trade unions.
The attitude of the Opposition has been one of the destruction of the trade union movement. When the Parties opposite were in a position to wield power they worked very hard to bring in legislation which was designed entirely to destroy the powers of the trade union movement and the effective organisation of working men into bodies that could take a role in the whole field of the betterment of society. Speaking in broad terms there are 4 proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Although this is not the total number of proposed amendments, the 4 amendments I have mentioned are, broadly speaking, the important ones. The first and most important amendment was outlined by my colleagues the honourable members for Phillip (Mr Riordan) and Gellibrand (Mr Willis). I refer to the removal of the onerous, useless and provocative penal provisions from the existing Act. These provisions have done nothing to promote industrial peace in all of the time that they have been included in the Act. I could give the example of the waterfront where there has been industrial peace in regard to all of the stevedoring agreements around Australia since the trade unions in that area have entered into agreements with employers rather than being thrust into the position where a third party would inflict its will upon them.
The Metal Trades Union, which comes under most attack from members of the Opposition, has had far less warfare since there has been agreement in the trade unions than was the case when the situation was thrust upon them by arbitration. The provocation by those who now sit in Opposition - those of them who are left - when they sat in government is very manifest when one looks once again at the waterfront, provocation as evidenced by their insistence that there be penal provisions against men who withheld their labour. As was explained to this House only last week in the debate on the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill, the previous Government refused to allow a proper payment Of the levy provided for under that legislation even though the shipowners and the employees agreed that it should be paid. The reason for the refusal was that with the fund being rather short of money and because there was a surplus of waterside workers around the ports of Australia, the then Government endeavoured to persuade the shipowners and the employers of waterside labour to enforce compulsory retirement upon waterside workers who were redundant knowing full well that there was not sufficient money in the fund to pay them their entitlement. The then Government knew that if such a situation occurred there would be conflict on the waterfront between employees and employers. It knew that its action was provocative. The then Government proceeded with its proposal until the shipowners - and 1 do not speak in praise of employers - told the Government to do its own dirty work and refused to carry out this proposal.
The then Government’s second provocative act on the waterfront occurred at a time when there was complete agreement between employees and employers on the question of a 35-hour week on the waterfront. The then Government intervened on the specious ground of public interest. The Commonwealth Government at that time took the matter to arbitration and to its eternal credit the Arbitration Commission refused to deal with it, saying that it refused to start a dispute that could not be resolved. That is evidence of the provocation of the working people that was practised by the previous Government Many other instances could be given. The whole question of trying to fine, to prosecute and to gaol trade union people when such penalties do not apply against other sections of the community does not stand the test of logic. In the minds of reasonable Australians, how can it possibly be said that either a working man who refuses to provide his labour - the only bargaining power that he has is his ability to labour and his skills - or his organisation should be prosecuted and fined and he in the long run, under the present provisions of the Act, gaoled?
But when did the previous Government at any time say to an employer who had surplus money: ‘You shall invest your money in a particular area, whether it is a profitable area or not, and if you do not we will prosecute, fine and gaol you’? The previous Government never did. It drew a distinction between those who offered their labour for sale and those who offered their money for investment. When workers refused to work the previous Government wanted to drive them to work with a whip. When investors refused to invest the previous Government said:- ‘That must be your decision. That must ‘ be a commercial decision. If you are not guaranteed a profit on your investment why should you be made to invest?’ But the previous Government drove men to work to earn $50 a week when it required $60 a week to keep them.
– That is disgraceful.
– Of course it is disgraceful.
– Your statement is disgraceful.
– It . was the attitude of the Government of which: you were a Minister. I can hardly say that you were a responsible Minister, but I can: say that you were a Minister. That was the -attitude of the previous Government. It has always been the attitude of the previous Government and of those honourable members opposite who have spoken in the- debate and who have never belonged to a union organisation but who have appeared in positions’ in which they opposed industrial organisations and trade unions.
– And made a fortune out of them.
– And made a fortune out of them, as my colleague interjected. Tell me how people of this sort can be in a position, in all conscience, to tell the working people of this country what is good for them?
I support the Bill. I have some doubts as to how far it will go in the other place. It will undoubtedly be passed in this place. I have some doubts about its future in the other place because one of the members there is a union member and an ex-trade union secretary who now sails under false colours. I wonder whether he will strike his true colours and raise the Jolly Roger when the Bill comes before the Senate. The matters which the Bill calls into question are important. There is the question of the law of torts, as it applies. Is it to be said by those in Opposition that an employer should have 2 barrels on his shotgun? Is it in their minds to say to the House that not only should industrial law be applied but also civil law should be called into question to charge people with conspiracy if an employer is not successful? I think one law applies in this country. We accept the industrial law. In that case there is no need to call into question the civil law, unless something of a civil nature is done. There is no provision in the present Act to protect trade union officials from the iniquitous charge of conspiracy in a civil court. The Act places them at the mercy of those who indict them. I say to the people of Australia that it is not a fair situation and that the officials and members of unions should be protected from the second barrel of the employer’s gun.
A good deal of time in this debate has been wasted by the Opposition. In the time that is available to me I am not able to cover all the points that were raised. Suffice to say that one very important feature of the Bill is the provision which will encourage amalgamations. The previous Government made it very difficult for trade unions to amalgamate. It did that for a very good reason. They were afraid of the trade unions becoming large enough to challenge the interests of the employing class. The whole attitude of the Australian Labor Party, especially in government but also out of government, is that the trade unions should be encouraged to amalgamate so that many questions that can arise on a job - questions of disputation over who does which job - will not arise because the people concerned are members of the same union. We encourage amalgamation. We abhor the penal sanctions that have existed. I trust that this Bill will receive the approval of the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– No-one on this side of the House denies the need for trade unions in Australia, nor does anyone on this side of the House deny the right of working men and women to organise themselves into trade unions. I was interested to hear the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) say that no one on this side of the House had any right to speak about the subject because none of us had ever been a member of a trade union. I cannot claim to be a member of a trade union but I have had a long association with trade unions and I am grateful to those trade unions in Western Australia which have shown their confidence in me because whilst they have known what my politics are they have given me plenty of work to do for them. I find it a healthy sign that I can walk into the office of Jack Garland of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, sit down in his chair and have a talk to him about trade unionism. In the same way, I am grateful that I can walk into the office of the Australian Workers Union in Sydney and have a long talk to Frank Mitchell about trade unionism there.
– That would not surprise me. You have got something on me there.
– That is certainly more than the Minister for Labour could do. I have some, interest in this subject and I am glad it has come up for debate so early in this Parliament. This Parliament has power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of our Commonwealth with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of interstate disputes. The good intentions of our constitutional fathers are obvious. They wanted an end to industrial warfare which disrupts industry, hurts men and their families, weakens the national economy and above all pits Australian against Australian in unremitting conflict in the false name of the class struggle. Are the good intentions of this Parliament any different? I would think not and I would hope not. Then what is this Government trying to do? Nothing is more calculated to bring war, disorder and bad government to industry and to the economy than these, the Cameron proposals which we are debating today. This Government has no mandate for that. The will of the people has no expression in this Bill. In truth, it is only the expression of the Australian Council of Trade Unions wages policy, and that is something to which J will return later.
This Bill, by its central provisions, in one calculated step, will cut the heart out of the arbitration system and leave the limbs twitching in helplessness. This Bill is aimed at leaving unions uncontrolled and uncontrollable by law or government at every point in the process of conciliation and arbitration. In what must be a classic example of words running riot and being used without meaning the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) said:
This Government will not abolish conciliation and arbitration; it will reconstruct it and strengthen it to eliminate features repugnant to harmony and good relations in industry. . . .
The result of this Bill must be for the trade union movement to move further and further away from both conciliation and arbitration - certainly by those major unions formed by amalgamation. They will not need arbitration once they have an absolute right to strike, and conciliation will be only window dressing for collective bargaining backed by strike. Shorn of all the trappings of the Minister’s hour-long speech, what the Bill does is to remove all constraints upon a union to conciliate or go to arbitration. It is free to strike or place a limitation upon work throughout all efforts by a commissioner to conciliate and whilst a commissioner is sitting to arbitrate. Negotiated agreements cannot contain an anti-strike clause, so unions are free to overturn an agreement at any time. A union cannot be disregistered. nor can any provision in an award or an agreement be cancelled or suspended because of any strike action during its term. At the same time, unions are given immunity from civil action. It is ironic that at a time when the United Kingdom has just repealed laws passed in 1906 giving civil immunity to unions, the Minister is aiming to introduce those same laws into Australia. It might be said that the Minister is some 70 years behind the times.
An individual or employer economically hurt by calculated industrial attacks launched by unions intending to harm or destroy by strike, boycott, picketing and sundry other sophisticated techniques of industrial coercion, is to be prevented from suing for compensation in a civil court. With a magnanimous gesture, of which I am sure only the Minister is capable, he will kindly let a widow sue if her husband is killed in a brawl with a picket line as he tries to get to work, and let a person sue if he is hurt or his car is damaged by that picket line, or his building is damaged by hooligan builders labourers, or if he is defamed. But a man may suffer a financial death when his business is destroyed by boycott, or he loses his job because he will not join a union, or his truck will not run without petrol which the union has refused to supply. To whom can his wife and family turn? Death and injury are not the exclusive preserve of negligent drivers on the roads. It would indeed be a strange society which would allow no compensation to a man or woman injured by deliberate, calculated, conduct, and yet in the end this is what the Minister’s Bill would do.
One need not speak here, in justification of the Bill, of the likes of General MotorsHolden’s Pty Ltd; one can think also of the small businessman who can equally be the subject of union action. There is a danger in monopoly power of any kind. This is what this Bill aims at giving to unions for not even the Government, acting in the public interest, is to be allowed any right to control unions when they use their industrial strength. Corporate monopolies are acknowledged to be against the public interest; price rings and. trading cartels likewise. Governments have struggled for years to win this control over business activity. Is union monopoly any different in quality? No power or privilege - private, business or union - within a community should be allowed to go unchecked.
The Government’s proposals in this Bill place industrial relations in Australia at the crossroads. Recent history, both industrial and legislative, shows that the Federal arbitration system is now neither one thing nor the other; neither a system of arbitration nor a system of collective bargaining. The machinery of arbitration has lost any sense of sureness of approach or acceptance. Wage fixation principles, so reliably turned to in the past by unions, employers and the Commission have been fragmented and eroded. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act today does not express any plain and unmistakable social policy for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, and that is the constitutional charter given to this Parliament. In effect, what the Minister is doing is the antithesis of this. His policy is an open door policy to foster and create disputes. The Minister’s proposals will not help because they try to graft full-blooded collective bargaining on to a system made for compulsory arbitration within which unions and employers were bound to accept a measure of control, and self-control, in return for the benefits which arbitration was intended to bring.
If Australia is to have collective bargaining, let the legislation plainly and unmistakably spell it out, together with the rights, obligations and privileges of the participants and the protection for the public from the monopoly power of unions and of employers. If we are going to have arbitration, let us just as plainly and unmistakably spell out the system of arbitration, and in that sense it might do the people of Australia well to look back on the origins of the unique Australian arbitration system. The economic implications of this Bill are as important as its social implications, particularly in view of the current debate on inflation, price control, price justification and an incomes policy.
The past history of the Australian arbitration system can be seen as an expression of an acceptable wages policy for unions, employers and Government. This Bill, on the other hand, can be seen to be the implementation of the wages policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a policy designed to shift union action from achieving its wage claims inside the confines of the arbitration system to breaking those confines and moving outside arbitration. This is clearly reflected in the ACTU wages policies decided at the 1969 and 1971 congresses. There is a direct link between congress policy on the so-called penal provisions and its wages policy on over-award payments. I was thankful to hear the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) refer to the General Motors-Holden’s case in 1964 and confirm my own conclusions for me, because he put it clearly, in what he referred to as a non-arbitral area of over-award claims, that when the unions went on strike in support of their over-award claims they opposed the attempt by employers to have the penal powers exercised against them. It also interested me to hear him say this because I had the unique experience in 1969 of presenting a pay claim for the metal trades unions in Western Australia based on the capacity of Western Mining Corporation to pay an industry allowance, being in effect the same as an over-award payment. I have also had the unique experience of having Mr Bob Hawke, in arguing the 1970 General Motors-Holden’s case, accepting my arguments and propounding them before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It was also significant to observe that in that case the Commission very largely accepted those submissions.
I turn to the congress decisions themselves. There are 2 policy statements. I shall quote only from the 1971 Congress decisions. The first one, under the heading ‘Wages Policy’, states:
Congress declares over-award payments negotiated or obtained by collective bargaining where practicable incorporated in voluntary agreements to be an essential part of Trade Union wages policy. The application of this aspect of ACTU policy since the mental article of faith of the buyers of our labour in creases being negotiated by collective bargaining, and we urge affiliates to continue this activity. Congress will not accept any absorption of over-award payments.
Then under the heading of ‘Penal Provisions’ the congress decision states:
The authority of the organised Trade Union Movement should not be impeded in the performance of responsible traditional functions which must include the right to withhold labour or impose limitation of performance of work- otherwise the minimum wage and conditions of work awarded by tribunals become the maximum and inhibit the possibilities of improvements.
I ask for leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard the full text of the wages policy and the penal provision statement from that ACTU congress.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Congress declares that the real value of workers’ wages in no way reflects any equitable share of the wealth being produced in Australia from the national resources and the level of available technology.
Monopolies and other large enterprises many of which are foreign-controlled and aided and abetted by government, deny the Australian people their right to a higher standard of living, while enjoying unprecedented profits.
We declare that:
Award rates generally are inadequate and continually fall behind rising living costs. Low wage rates and multiplicity of classifications for semi-skilled and female workers especially in mass production industries, results in a high degree of exploitation.
Congress adopts the following principles:
Within all Awards and Determinations there must be a basic or foundational wage element which must provide for the reasonable needs of a married wage earner and bis family. This element is to be assessed without any regard to any over-award payment, service grant, industry allowance, or similar payment; what are reasonable needs being determined from time to time in the light of standards generally accepted in progressive communities, and the social aspirations of the Australian people. On current pay levels we consider this element should be in the order of $70 per week.
This wage shall be adjusted automatically each quarter to reflect movements in the Consumer Price Index and there shall be an annual review of the wage to determine the increase warranted on general economic grounds including movements in productivity.
Beyond this basic or foundational element wages must be fixed at levels which fully reflect the true value of work performed by all grades of wage and salary earners in this country. At least consistent with the standard relativities achieved in 1947. These wages shall be adjusted annually to reflect movements in prices and productivity.
The form of application for wage increases at such annual fixations shall be determined by the Executive in the light of existing circumstances; in making decisions as to the form of application, the Executive in conjunction with the ACTU Wages Committee and in consultation with the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations, shall seek to ensure the establishment of appropriate relativities between classifications.
Congress declares over-award payments negotiated or obtained by collective bargaining where practicable incorporated in volutary agreements to be an essential part of Trade Union wages policy. The application of this aspect of ACTU policy since the 1969 Congress has resulted in many substantial increases being negotiated by collective bargaining, and we urge affiliates to continue this activity. Congress will not accept any absorption of over-award payments.
Congress calls upon the ACTU Executive to consult with State Branches, ACSPA and CCPSO in order to develop a strong campaign by the whole of the Trade Union Movement in support of our wages policy, and in particular to combat the utterly false propaganda of Federal Government spokesmen and employer interests that the Unions’ claims for proper wage rates are inflationary. For the purpose of conducting this campaign Congress requests affiliated unions to make their research facilities available to the ACTU and would welcome the co-operation of the entire research and campaigning facilities of affiliated unions. That a pamphlet on wages/prices be prepared and circulated to the affiliated unions.
The Penal Clauses of the Arbitration system in this country have been strenuously opposed by the Australian Trade Union Movement from inception as a direct attack on the fundamental right of workers’ organisations to use industrial strength in support of legitimate claims.
This 1971 ACTU Congress declares its belief in the right of organised trade unions to strike.
The authority of the organised Trade Union Movement should not be impeded in the performance of responsible traditional functions which must include the right to withhold labour or impose limitation of performance of work - otherwise the minimum wage and conditions of work awarded by tribunals become the maximum and inhibit the possibilities of improvements.
Congress reaffirms its opposition to continuation of penal provisions and demands the repeal of all legislation which protect employers from normal bargaining procedures yet discriminates against the unions.
Congress declares that the amending legislation of 1970, whilst eliminating the Contempt proceedings, nevertheless continued Penal Provisions which can be invoked against the unions, and therefore is unacceptable to the Trade Union Movement whilst these Penal Provisions are retained. Essentially we say that these penalties are immoral in that they constitute a double standard which operates against wage and salary earners and their unions. Workers and their organisations are concerned with selling labour. The buyers of this labour are employers who must recognise the human dignity of the worker. As sellers we desire to obtain that price which represents a proper return for skills, talents and energies which we have to sell.
That position is not only allowed to all other sellers in the Australian market economy; it is the fundamental article of faith of the buyers of our labour in their capacity as sellers of goods and services. The. Government shares this article of faith with employers in their capacity as sellers - but does not extend the same right to us. It denies that right by imposing discriminatory penalties upon us. This double standard can have no moral justification and is certainly unacceptable* to us.
Congress instructs the incoming Executive to continue negotiations and make submissions to the Commonwealth Government and Employers and through the State Branches negotiate with the State Governments where necessary with a view to achieving the implementation of the aforegoing policy.
Pending a satisfactory conclusion to those negotiations and submissions Congress determines:
Congress welcomes this development and resolves that industrial agreements must be observed, and instructs the incoming ACTU Executive to work out ways and means of ensuring that industrial agreements are honoured by the Trade Union Movement.
– This policy decision was a calculated turning away from the arbitration system at the top end of wages, leaving the Commission to fix a minimum wage and unions free to bargain in the market place for anything above that. Thus it was intended that there be no regulation at the top end of wages. Yet the Treasurer (Mr Crean) as recently as 13th April, in an address to the Companies Directors Association of Australia said this:
The Government believes wages are already regulated through arbitration.
That statement shows a complete failure to understand trade union policy and an apparent failure to appreciate the economic significance of his Government’s own legislation.
– And he is the Treasurer.
– Yes, he is the Treasurer. The effects of this Bill, if it becomes law, are of the greatest social and economic significance to Australia. They cannot be lightly ignored because Australia today is on the threshold of the greatest public debate on inflation that it has seen in recent times. Inevitably this debate will lead this Government to a confrontation with the unions because, whatever else an incomes policy might be, it necessarily involves control over wages. For 65 years, history shows the Arbitration Commission and the State industrial tribunals have been a stabilising influence on the economy, for in the process of preventing and settling disputes the Commission, by arbitration, shaped a wages policy for the nation, fought over but accepted broadly by unions and employers alike. That is basically what industrial arbitration is about - the fixing of wages and basic conditions of employment like annual leave, standard hours of work, concepts like the basic wage, margins, work value, comparative wage justice and conciliation, all principles turned to by unions, employers and arbitrators. But all these will count for nought in the new bargaining atmosphere which this Bill is intended to create.
Through all the years of pioneering, war, depression and post-war reconstruction the arbitration system in Australia largely kept in step with the economy - the one reflecting the other - and thereby established acceptable patterns of economic adjustment of incomes. The Commission looked upon itself as performing - it was performing too - a wage-fixing function. It was precisely that function which made Australian arbitration unique and, in many quarters of the world, the envy of other Western industrialised nations. Whilst wages were fixed in that way by both Commonwealth and State industrial tribunals there was an inbuilt national wages stability and consequent price and economic stability. I do not try to over-simplify the most inexact of sciences - that is, economics - as my colleague the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) confidently acknowledges, but there is an undoubted thread starting with arbitra tion and running through our economic history.
This legislation is nothing more than an expression of ACTU wages policy coupled with some peripheral matters. It had its genesis in the absorption struggles of the trade union movement in 1967-68 over the 1967 metal trades work value inquiry. That was a struggle to maintain a wages policy based on the over-award rate. The trade union movement then won a complete victory over the Commission which sought absorption and the employers who also sought it and who tried to use the penal powers to uphold it. As a result of that victory the over-award area of wage fixation has become the greatest distorting factor upon the Australian arbitration system.
If this Bill succeeds it will fundamentally shift wage fixation from arbitration to the market. Only the minimum wage will be left for arbitration, for there will then be no need to speak about over-award payments in context of negotiated agreements. This legislation will mark a fundamental change in Australian social and economic policy. The centre point of that change, as it has been so euphemistically expressed by Mr Hawke himself, is the concentration of union energy away from arbitration and into bargaining. The complete immunity of unions from strike action, either within the arbitration system or within the civil courts, marks the completion of the change. But nothing is more certain than that as the arbitration system through its wages policy largely kept in step with movements in the economy, the breakdown of arbitration means that Australia is presently in the throes of working out new patterns of economic adjustment of incomes. It is not without significance that at a time when a prices policy is in its infancy in Australia - the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Labour reluctantly concede that the Government may have to turn to an incomes policy to defeat inflation created by the Government - arbitration and the Commission are being rendered impotent as a force in regulating wages. The action of the Government by this Bill will inevitably mean a convulsion in the Australian economy and in the relations between employers and employees before this country finds itself having to embark upon a full blooded prices-incomes policy. Within the life of this Parliament the Government will have its own confrontation with the trade union movement because it will be obliged to introduce a prices and incomes policy to contain inflation of its own creation. Of necessity the policy will need to control wages, and of further necessity will require some control over the right of trade unions to strike. Like Harold Wilson and Barbara Castle before them, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) will soon find their own place in strife.
– I support the Bill, which was introduced by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), lt represents a departure in the handling of industrial disputes in Australia and should meet with the approval of the people. Since the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was introduced in the early years of Federation industrial relations have been the subject of much argument and discussion throughout the nation. The Act has been altered on quite a number of occasions since its introduction. This measure certainly takes a new look at the whole question of industrial relations in Australia. It takes a completely new look at various areas of our industrial life. As the Minister for Labour stated in his second reading speech, the Bill examines the need of trade unions and employer organisations for amalgamation, trade union education and closer consultation between unions, employers and the Government. The Bill seeks greater social justice and harmony in our industrial relations and it will go a long way towards achieving those aims. The Minister also said in his second reading speech that the powers of the Federal Government will have to be expanded in the field of industrial legislation in line with the growth of nationalism. I consider that this is a natural course of events, but at this stage the Government does not intend to press that point. The Minister also referred to workers on the shop floor level, the need for worker participation, the role of shop stewards and shop committees and the concept of works councils.
This Bill is also directed towards the removal of the penal provisions as they at present affect employee relations. These provisions have probably been the most vexed question in the whole of our industrial relations. They have had the dubious honour of creating more disputes than they have solved. On numerous occasions disputes of a minor nature were expanded into major disputes because the penal provisions were invoked. Many disputes which could have been solved by round table discussions held in a conciliatory atmosphere finished up in major confrontations because of the use of these powers. The operation of these provisions has proved to be a failure, as we are all aware. They have failed to such an extent that even the previous Government had to recognise that they had failed by altering the manner of their operation following the confrontation in 1969 with the tramways union. The ordinary trade unionist on the job would harden his attitude after seeing his union dragged before the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
The previous Government and its predecessors have always taken the attitude that the conciliation and arbitration laws of this country could not operate unless penal provisions were included to back up the legislation. History has shown that the inclusion of penal provisions has not achieved the results that were claimed for them. This Bill takes a completely new course in removing the major sanction provisions from our industrial relations. In view of the failure of past penal provisions included in the Act, their removal will mean that we can enter into a new era in our industrial relations in which the threat of the operation of the penal provisions will no longer act as a spectre in the background of industrial discussions.
Another important aim of the Bill relates to the amalgamation of unions. The honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch), the previous Minister dealing with industrial matters, stated in his speech that honourable members on his side of the House do not oppose union amalgamation in general. However, their’ actions in the past cast doubt whether that statement correctly reflects their attitude in this matter. (Quorum formed). Last year we saw efforts to stop the amalgamation of the metal unions, something the unions involved had been working towards for years. As a member of one of the amalgamated metal unions I have personal knowledge of the discussions to achieve amalgamation that took place over many years, not only between the officials of the unions involved but also right down to the level of the member on the shop floor. Those who voted in the ballot on the amalgamations were overwhelmingly in support of what was proposed, namely, the amalgamation of the 3 metal unions. But after many years of negotiation between the unions involved, legal moves were made to throw a spanner in the works - moves that were supported by the honourable members opposite and their allies in the Senate. Fortunately the legal moves failed and the amalgamation of those unions came about.
At the present time a number of proposed amalgamations of unions are being discussed. The alterations proposed in this Bill will pave the way for those amalgamations should the unions still wish to amalgamate. When one considers that there are about 350 industrial organisations of employees throughout Australia and that some of those organisations have memberships that can be numbered in the hundreds, there is no doubt that there is certainly a need for a reduction in the number of unions. No doubt those who believe in the divide and rule principle will support a situation in which there is a large number of unions with small memberships. But if we are seriously to consider our industrial relations a strong case exists for reducing the number of unions covering workers throughout Australia.
The Opposition is using the matter of union amalgamations as a big bogy in an effort to frighten the Australian people. But as the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) mentioned in his speech, in other countries many fewer unions than there are in Australia cover work forces much larger than ours. His special reference, of course, was to West Germany where, I think he said, the number of industrial unions is 16. It would be interesting to compare the amount of time lost by Australia and West Germany in industrial disputes, and to compare the size of work forces in the 2 countries. I can remember the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) when he was Minister for Labour and National Service, stating in answer to a question that demarcation disputes represented 11 per cent of all industrial disputes in Australia. My own experience as a member of one of the amalgamated metal unions showed me the wastefulness of unions fighting unions over which has jurisdiction over a certain class of work. Most of these disputes finished up with hard feelings existing between the unions involved. The problem of demarcation disputes in the metal industry became a thing of the past following the amalgamation of those unions. I think that such amalgamations are to be supported for this fact alone. I should imagine that most employers would welcome the elimination of demarcation disputes.
Mention was made also by the honourable member for Gellibrand of union research and the greater use of unions resources in setting up research centres etc. The existing combined research centre operating in Sydney was set up by a couple of unions of the amalgamated trade unions prior to their amalgamation and certainly is an example of what can be achieved when union resources are pooled for the benefit of the members of those unions. These kinds of activities can be brought about only by employee organisations amalgamating for the benefit of their members and in this way, greater use can be made of the resources that they have. This Bill will make it easier for these amalgamations to come about and it will be welcomed by all those interested in industrial relations in Australia.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also mentioned the inclusion in the Bill of provisions to give greater rights of entry to union officials. Here again, if one takes an antiunion stand, some employers would see dangers in this, but the employer who is interested in maintaining good industrial relations would not raise any serious objection to such a provision. It also is important that in many matters facing a trade union official, investigations must take place while normal work is being carried out. For example, if it were felt by the employees that a certain operation was a safety hazard, would it be unreasonable to have the union official make an inspection or investigation on the job, while work was being performed? Refusal to allow right of entry on the job to a union official has often been the cause of a dispute. I know of a number of occasions when a union official has been refused entry and the employees, of their own choosing, have decided that if the official could not come and see them, they would go and see him and, as a result, they walked off the job. I feel that it is a provision that would not be opposed by responsible employers interested in maintaining good industrial relations with the employee organisations. It certainly is not the bogy that the Opposition is trying to make of it.
The Minister for Labour in his second reading speech had quite a lot to say about industrial agreements. There is no doubt that the most effective manner of resolving industrial disputes is for the parties involved to sit down at the table and thrash out a settlement. It also is a fact that any settlement achieved in this manner is treated with a great deal more respect by all concerned than is a decision that is forced on the parties involved. The Minister went into some detail on the matter of industrial agreements. He referred to the Government’s intentions to do everything possible to see that the terms and conditions of employees be regulated by freely negotiated agreements, and said that these agreements then would be certified by the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. They would have the full force of an award and would be preferable to an award arbitrarily forced upon them.
There are many other altered provisions covering the matter of industrial agreements. These reflect the different attitudes of the Government to the entire area of industrial relations and should, we hope, result in a greater confidence in our industrial relations by all concerned. We are quite confident that the operation of the new provisions will result in a new era in our industrial relations. Members of the Opposition have always been loud in their concern for the rights of the rank and file trade unionist, although whether they have been sincere in this is another matter. If they are concerned they will, no doubt, welcome the provisions in the Bill that safeguard the interests of the rank and file unionist. This is in line with the aims of the Australian Labor Party which has included in its platform provisions to ensure that unions in Australia are subject to the control of their members and allows the member the fullest participation in the affairs of his organisation.
The provisions in this Bill give effect to that platform as they refer to the rights and safeguards of the individual member of a union. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been altered on many occasions since it became law in 1904. The alterations proposed in this Bill probably are the most farreaching, in that they are a departure from ideas on industrial procedures which have shown in the past that they have failed. The Bill deserves the support of this House.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) on the soothing qualities of his speech but I must confess to him unblushingly that he has not completely relaxed me. I begin on a mild note of protest and that is to this effect: I understand it is the wish of the
Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) to conclude the second reading of this Bill this afternoon and to complete all the Committee stage by early tomorrow afternoon. I think it is one of the most disgraceful parliamentary performances I have ever seen. Here is the honourable gentleman, the one-time rider of the white horse. Those of us who were here in years gone by can recapture the vision of the honourable gentleman sailing forth on the charger - Clyde, the one of courage, with lance out, railing against all suggestions that there should be any truncation of parliamentary debate. But now as a Minister of the Crown, the first substantial piece of legislation that he introduces is to be treated in this fashion. I was puzzled why, so I made some inquiries and I understand that the honourable gentleman is keen to get off to Geneva to see the sights. I do not want to upset him but he labours under a massive misapprehension if he believes for one moment that the people of Geneva are enthusiastic about the prospect of seeing him.
I would have thought that when dealing with a measure of this nature we would have approached it with a spirit of leisure in terms of examining it critically and in a discriminating fashion as befits the national Parliament. But no, the honourable gentleman says: I want it put through in one day’. Putting it in homely language, we had to kid to the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) because he was minded at one time to have the whole performance over and done with today. At least he responded to some of the milk of human kindness that flows so readily from me and he has abandoned that idea.
– I am on water now.
– My one regret about that is that there is not enough to pour over you. This is the fifty-fourth occasion since 1904 on which this Parliament has considered in one form or another the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Bill before us can best be described as a mixture of radical sentiment and dubious propositions expressed in poor English. This is what has been brought forth by the Minister for Labour. I am bound to tell the House that I now occupy the office once occupied by the Minister for Labour simpliciter - he is no longer called the Minister for Labour and National Service - and honourable members can use the term .A–’:-:.-, how they like. I find in occupying that office that he has left behind him a collection of evil spirits and it would put to the test the combined efforts of all the bishops hi Christendom to get rid of them. When I went there, admittedly some of them fled and I think the ones that did move out have fled into this Bill.
I hope that no person in this country is under the slightest misapprehension as to what this Bill is all about. This Bill is the first major step to dismantle the arbitration system in Australia, and the House should be indebted to the very thoughtful speech made by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) this afternoon in which he adverted to the drop by drop, bit by bit eroding of the whole of the Australian arbitration system. The Minister began his speech by saying that we are to have an inquiry into the whole of the conciliation and arbitration system in Australia. I said to myself: ‘What a remarkably good idea*. However, I reminded myself that that was a proposal which I had made last year and nothing, of course, delights the heart more than to see the vindication of one’s views by their acceptance by one’s opponents. But the honourable gentleman, instead of stopping there and saying: ‘I have announced this committee of inquiry’, then proceeded to enunciate some - the emphasis should be on the word ‘some’ - of the proposals in his Bill. If the honourable gentleman were really serious he would have set up an inquiry and stopped at that. So one would be entitled to say to him that we suspect his intentions. Why does the honourable gentleman not await the report of this committee of inquiry. Let me ask the honourable gentleman: ‘What if the committee of inquiry brings in recommendations with which the honourable gentleman does not agree, or vice versa?’ What he is doing, in effect, is to frustrate in advance the work of a committee.
– Pre-empting, as the honourable gentleman says. If submissions are made to members of the committee about a particular proposal someone would say: ‘Oh, you remember the Minister for Labour; he wiped that idea in his amending Bill in May last year - or whenever it may be - so there is not much point in putting that forward.*
So one is left to draw the conclusion that the honourable gentleman’s mind is made up, although some may take the view that that was not a very elaborate process. It seems to me to have all of the overtones of a farce to appoint this committee, to allow it to operate for 6 months, 12 months - nominate whatever time you like - and to squander public funds. Why does the honourable gentleman not pull this Bill out now and say: ‘Look, I have had a change, of heart. It is perfectly true, Killen, that I am going off to Geneva, but / am impressed.’
– How does he go there?
– I assure you that he could swim there if I had my way. If the honourable gentleman were serious about the committee he would pull the Bill out now and say: ‘We will await the word of this committee”. I just want to say to the honourable gentleman, who has an old world charm and an elegance which is redolent of the most courtly days of the court of St James, that he. would do the cause of arbitration and conciliation and employer and employee, relations a signal service if he were to pull this Bill out and to say: ‘We propose to await the report of the committee’. But as I say, one must draw the conclusion that his intentions are not well founded and he leaves to us all an entitlement to be. cynical about his motives. I would like to examine 3 heads which. I. have culled, not necessarily in” terms of importance but as 3 aspects of this Bill to examine with respect to the committee of inquiry and how genuine the honourable gentleman is. The first of those 3 heads is the observance of the law. This covers what are described frequently and contemptuously as sanctions. The second head is the role of the Arbitration Commission, although my duty in that sense has been rendered largely unnecessary by . the very able and thoughtful speech of the honourable member for Stirling. The third head is the function of conciliation in this country.
I turn very briefly to the first head which embraces the principal proposals of the Bill which seek to dismantle all the sanction provisions. The Bill provides for various laws but it withdraws all provisions for the observance of those laws. I do not want to engage in any philosophical or metaphysical discussion with the Minister for Labour because I feel that one would reach a point of no return. But I want to say to the honourable gentleman that to establish a law and not provide any means for its observance is to give respectability to anarchy. There has never been a society in existence anywhere at any time that has established a law and not provided the means whereby the law is to be observed. As the great Mr Burke wrote: ‘Men cannot enjoy the rights of a civil and uncivil state together*.
That is perfectly true and those words of the 18th century have as much moment today as they had then. One cannot say: ‘Well, I am going to enjoy such benefits, transient as they may be, of an uncivil state’, and at the same time say: ‘I want a well ordered and a civil state’. Some clever men may take the view that they can escape from that, but in the ultimate they will come back to the realisation that there is no escape to be found.
We are not dealing in this matter with some mean quibble. We are dealing with what is a basic principle of the whole of our society. The Minister himself only a few months ago recognised just that point when in what was described as the ‘mini-campaign’, the honourable member for Hindmarsh, as he was felicitously known in those days, made a brilliant suggestion. He suggested that trade unionists should be fined $20 if they were involved in a strike. I think that one is entitled to ask the honourable gentleman what drew him to that conclusion 6 months ago; what forces gathered together and prevailed upon his cerebral processes to say that a $20 fine a day is an excellent idea. His leader at that time - now the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) - agreed with him. But had there not been a feast day I think his colleagues in the Labor Caucus would have resorted to cannibalism, and that was the end of the idea.
Why does the honourable gentleman say: This is an excellent idea’, and then abandon it? 1 have never seen anything quite so ridiculous as the occasion when I saw a bullock in a dam and a character get a rope, put the rope round the bullock’s head, then round his own waist, get back on to the horse and dig his spurs into the horse. I have never seen anything quite as absurd. The honourable gentleman now wants to outdo that celebrated bullock in the dam. What if the committee comes along to him in 12 months time and says to him: ‘Minister, you know you were right: your idea of establishing the $20 fine for each unionist for each day they are out on strike was a splendid idea’. What will the honourable gentleman say to the chairman of the committee as they sit over lunch discussing that proposal? I just mention this because this is precisely the position in which the Minister puts himself today.
Let me turn to the second consideration that I have invited the House to look at - that is, the role of the Arbitration Commission.
This is a role which is to be largely truncated; it is a role which compared with its previous role is a diminishing one. Who is the author of this great idea? It is the Minister for Labour. What this proposal does under clause 17, which amends section 28 (2) - or if I could put it in shorthand, amends section 28 - is to provide for a single Commissioner to approve of consent agreements. There is no means to secure a review of those agreements unless the Commissioner forms the opinion that there is to be a major detriment to the public interest. A little further on one finds that the Commissioners in many instances can be people of quite unstated qualifications. Put in another way, this amounts to the introduction of collective bargaining by the back door.
– No, that is not so.
– I say to my honourable friend that I am quite prepared to listen to an argument on the merits of collective bargaining, but I still maintain my attitude that there is splendid virtue in frankness. Why does not the Minister say in this instance: ‘We propose to introduce substantially in one area of Australian economic activity collective bargaining’. But again I am indebted, and the House should be indebted, to the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) for pointing this out to us. This is what it is all about. One Commissioner with unstated qualification can approve of a consent agreement and unless he forms the opinion that there is a major detriment to the public interest it is not to be reviewed and it cannot be reviewed by the Full Bench of the Commission. The Commission may form the conclusion upon the most objective of criteria that the public interest is plainly involved but there is absolutely nothing that the Full Bench can do to bring the matter before it. In contrast to this, in the same provision which the Minister for Labour proposes, if the commissioner is in some doubt as to whether the members of the unions are in favour of the agreement he can approach the Registrar and secure a ballot. An incredible situation arises in which there is an appeal from his doubt but there cannot be an appeal from his error. But the author of this, the Minister for Labour who wants to go off to Geneva - the tourist at large-
– To Sweden then. I suppose he can stir up goodwill there just as well as he can here - and he has not been much of a success. Let us assume that the chairman of this committee of inquiry has lunch with the Minister for Labour and says: ‘You know, Mr Minister, you were wrong. You should have provided means whereby there was an appeal to the Full Bench from a consent order given by a single Commissioner. You should have made that provision’. Nobody seriously suggests that the Minister will introduce an amendment to that end. He has, quite effectively, stultified and frustrated, in advance, all of the work of the committee of inquiry.
I turn to a further point which, of necessity, must be my last point. I refer to the function of the conciliator. The Minister has rejected the suggestion that if a conciliator operates on his own, people who are in argument with one another will be disposed to go before him and put all their cards on the table. The Minister rejects that idea. He has had precious little to do with hard negotiation if he advances to the House that if 2 people in conflict with each other know that the man with whom they are discussing the issue ultimately will abandon one hat - the hat of the conciliator - and put on the hat of the arbitrator they will never be as forthcoming as they are when they know they can deal, in complete honesty and complete frankness, with one man carrying out one function.
The late Dr Evatt recognised this in 1956 when he put down a long, compendious amendment to a Bill amending the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Act contains a provision, written in impeccable English - clear as a bell - for conciliation. Who was one of the honourable gentlemen who voted for the provision on that occasion? It was the Minister for Labour, who now comes into this House and says: ‘We must abandon the good sense of experience. We must bow to the doctrinaire demand of the movement’ - that is the Labor movement - ‘as I see it’. The honourable gent is wrong. What would happen if the chairman of the committee of inquiry approached the Minister in 12 months time and said: ‘You were wrong’. I appeal to the Minister again. I suppose it is an appeal which will be a splendid exercise in futility, but indulge in it I will. I appeal to the Minister, before he goes on his way to see the sights of Geneva and Sweden, to withdraw this Bill and give the Parliament and the people of the nation an opportunity to examine in detail the comprehensive report of a committee of inquiry.
Declaration of Urgency
– Mr Speaker, I declare that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1973 is an urgent Bill.
– Order! The question is that the Bill be considered an urgent Bill.
– I wish to speak to it.
– You cannot speak to it.
That the motion (Mr Daly’s) be agreed to.
The House divided.
Ayes . . . . . . 59
Noes . . . . 40
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time
– I move:
That the time allotted in connection with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill be as follows: la) For the second reading, until 5.30 p.m. this day.
For the Committee stage, until 3.15 p.m. tomorrow.
For the remaining stages, until 3.30 p.m. tomorrow.
This is an important Bill and it is also urgent. It is one on which Party members on both sides desire to express their views within the limits of time but it must be realised however that, in a Parliament of 125 members with a heavy legislative program, to give every member or even those who desire to speak on this measure an opportunity to do so is not really possible. I have endeavoured without success to arrange with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) a mutually acceptable period of time for debate at the second reading and the Committee stages. It has therefore been left to me, in consultation with the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), to lay down a course of action which we believe will give, within reason, time for discussion. The proposed allotment of time as shown on the list 1 have sent to all honourable members will enable 12 members to speak on the second reading and not fewer than 34 at the Committee stage, a total of 46. If honourable members restrain themselves and are not too voluble 40 or 50 could participate, which would be to the benefit of the House. The time allowed for the second reading is 5 hours 55 minutes, for the Committee stage 5 hours 45 minutes and for the remaining stages 15 minutes, making a total of 11 hours 55 minutes. This will be one of the longest debates that has been held in this Parliament for some time. I wish to incorporate in Hansard for the benefit of honourable members a list of the debates that have taken place on the Conciliation and Arbitration Act between 1951 and 1970, giving details of the second reading and Committee stages of the legislation. Let me summarise the list. The average time allowed in the second reading stage was 4 hours and 3 minutes; the average time allowed in the Committee stages was 1 hour 22 minutes; and the total time for the whole debate was 5 hours 25 minutes. That was the average for the last 20-odd years. I seek leave of the House to incorporate that list which was presented to me by the Clerk of the Parliament.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) - (
– I thank the House. The amount of time allowed for debate on this occasion compares very favourably with the times in that list. It is well in excess of the total debating time average of 5 hours 25 minutes. The Government proposes to set a limit of about 12 hours in the second reading and Committee stages, which bears more than favourable comparison with the record during the period in which the present Opposition was in government. The present Government has one of the heaviest legislative programs in history and still has many important legislative Bills to be debated before the House adjourns on 24th May. I say in all charity to honourable members opposite that this should be a lesson to them to debate the things that matter and not frivolous things as the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has endeavoured to do from time to time.
The time allowed in this debate is the maximum that can be permitted. The Government has no desire to curtail debate, but it should be remembered by honourable members opposite that several limitations are imposed on this Parliament because of what I consider to be horse and buggy Standing Orders in this jet age. They are outdated. The methods of presentation and debate to which we are tied in the discussion of legislation in this Parliament must be overhauled if the Parliament is to work effectively. Otherwise it will have to sit throughout the year. I say in all sincerity to honourable members that, without any endeavour to limit the time, I find there is no alternative on a Bill of this nature. I am hopeful that in the not too distant future honourable members from all parties in the Parliament will discuss amendments to the Standing Orders and procedures to conform with the needs of these times, so avoiding the curtailment of debates on important issues like this one and on other important matters that come before the Parliament from time to time.
– The alleged sincerity of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) evokes no response from honourable members on this side of the House. In fact we are totally and completely opposed to the manner in which the Government is seeking to make a complete .farce of what it alleges to be one of the most important pieces of industrial legislation it has brought down. This is a mockery of the procedures of the House, and it exposes the industrial legislation for the sham which it is. It is all very well for the
Minister to give us the details of the average periods of time in which conciliation and arbitration measures have been debated since 1951.
– How much did you allow us?
– I will come to that if the honourable member will restrain himself for a moment. I am only surprised that the Minister did not go back to 1904, which would have been equally as irrelevant. The Minister knows full well, because he conveniently has overlooked it, that when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1972 was debated in this House, in the second reading stage the former Government permitted 25 honourable members to speak covering some Si hours of debate. During the Committee stage some Hi hours of debate were allowed. What the Government is now seeking to do on this occasion is to provide for only one-half the number of speakers and markedly to reduce the amount of debating time.
– They are scared stiff.
– Of course they are scared stiff, because the Bill is a sham. It is one of the worst pieces of draftsmanship that has come into this House. That might well be the case because I understand it was drafted outside the House by one of the Government’s counsel in New South Wales. The simple fact is that it is not possible - it is impossible - to deal with this Bill in any meaningful fashion. The fact that the Government has the hide to bring down a motion of this type indicates full well that it knows that the legislation is regarded outside this House for what it is - a sham. This is the most sectional legislation in the industrial area which any government has ever brought down. The Minister sought to make, a comparison with past conciliation and arbitration measures, and I am glad that he raised this analogy. He knows full well that not one piece of legislation brought down by previous Labor administrations - I refer to the Chifley and the Evatt administrations in the Commonwealth, and the Cahill administration in. New South Wales - sought to take from the conciliation and arbitration area the concept of penalties against the use of the strike weapon. Not one piece of that legislation sought to confer civil immunity on trade unions. Certainly not one piece of legislation sought to build into the trade union movement the vested interest which it undoubtedly will acquire under the terms of the legislation now proposed.
The manner in which the Government has dealt with this legislation is revealing, not simply for what the Bill includes but for the various concepts which it seeks deliberately to exclude. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) who is in charge of this Bill knows that he has totally ignored the concept of public interest and the responsibilities of the principal parties in industrial relations. Not a word was mentioned about strike action because, of course, the Government is unconcerned about the effect of strike action on the general community. It could not care less about the nature of public interest. In fact the Minister for Labour is on record as supporting strike action. Inflation is another major area which the Minister conveniently has ignored. In summary, the procedures now laid down make a mockery and a farce of this legislation. I can understand why the Government seeks to do this because the legislation itself is a mockery and a farce, but the Opposition will not be party to dealing in this fashion with a 67-clause Bill covering some 24 pages. The Opposition totally and vigorously opposes the motion which has been moved.
– I will not suggest that the Opposition is being hypocritical, Mr Speaker, because if I did I know that you would rule me out of order for making unparliamentary remarks. Instead 1 would say that the argument which has been put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition,(Mr Lynch) is a phoney argument.
– A complete lack of consistency.
– I fully agree. The honourable member has said that it was completely lacking in consistency. I remember that during the last Parliament 17 Bills were guillotined through in 27 hours and the gag was applied on 3 other Bills, making 20 Bills in all.
– They allowed 2 minutes.
– As the honourable member for Banks has said, in one instance the previous Government allowed 2 minutes for discussion of the Bill. The Minister in charge of the Bill at that time - I am sure his conscience has struck him many times since - was able to speak himself for only 2 minutes finally. Imagine that. Yet honourable members opposite having been given a magnanimous timetable by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), something which was never given to us when we were in Opposition, now come forward with this - I will not say ‘hypocritical’ because that would be unparliamentary - phoney argument.
– Tell the truth.
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley will address the Chair.
– I was addressing the Chair. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
– Would you stop pointing at the Chair?
– It is very difficult to go on when there are so many interjections from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I am sure you will understand how I feel. However, I also recall when we were dealing with a Health Bill, surely one of the most important items of legislation ever to come before this Parliament, the present Opposition, which was then in government, gave us 6 hours to discuss that measure.
– And guillotined it all the way.
– Yes, and guillotined it right along the line. Yet it had spent 6 months discussing the Bill with the doctors previously. The doctors got 6 months-
– Got 6 months!
– That is the inference drawn by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, not by me. The doctors got 6 months discussion. This Parliament got only 6 hours discussion. I also remember the occasion when we were brought back to this Parliament in 1969. If ever there was a farce it was that so-called opening of the Parliament. The firing of the 21-gun salute took longer than the Governor-General’s Speech. They are some of the problems we have had to deal with over the years. We sat in Opposition for 23 years. We met the complete and utter arrogance of the Government of the day. The performance of the then Government reached its apex when it guillotined 17 Bills through this House in 27 hours and at the same time gagged debate on another 3 Bills. They were 20 important items of legislation including, if I recollect correctly, conciliation and arbitration matters. Such actions are a disgrace to the Parliament. I compliment the Leader of the House on being so magnanimous in the time he is allowing for this debate.
– I join with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) in protesting about the treatment which the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) seeks to mete out to us. The Leader of the House and the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) are critical of the Opposition because we are protesting about the attempt of the Government to muzzle our opinion and to ride roughshod over what I believe to be an increasing measure of public opinion which is diametrically opposed to that of the Government. If Government supporters doubt that, I suggest that they read the results of last Saturday’s gallup poll to see. just how much out of step they are with public opinion. The honourable member for Chifley referred to a similar debate which took place at about this time last year. As a matter of fact, he should have referred to a situation in May 1971 relating to the debate on a number of Bills which did not include, as the honourable member for Chifley suggested, the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I suggest that not one of the Bills involved at that time was anywhere near as important or far reaching in its effects as the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill we are discussing today.
I wish to quote a statement made at that time by a very prominent member of the present Government whose name I will tell honourable members later. The then Leader of the House said that he had sought unsuccessfully to negotiate with the Opposition over the Bill. I remember that our Minister explained that he negotiated with the Opposition and that it was aware of the time, to be allotted for the debate. The very prominent member of the Labor Party to whom I referred had this to say:
The Minister said that he consulted the Opposition. What he did was to walk around to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and say: ‘This is what we are going to do. We will bring it in this afternoon.’ That is the Liberal method of consultation with the Opposition. When a party is a few numbers short, what can it do with an arrogant, overbearing Government which is perpetrating at this moment what we might term the rape of democracy?
He went on to point out that every member had a right to speak in any debate whatsoever in order to express the point of view of the people he represents. The honourable member for Chifley suggested to you, Mr Speaker, that he would not use the word ‘hypocrisy’ because you would rule him out of order, and quite rightly, too. But let me tell you this: Webster’s dictionary says that the actual prac tice of pretending to be. what one is not or pretending to have principles or beliefs that one does not have is an act of hypocrisy. I will not use the word because you would rule me out of order.
-Order! The word ‘hypocrisy’ has never been ruled out of order. It is out of order to call an honourable member a hypocrite.
– 1 see. I will not call anybody a hypocrite because you would rule that out of order, but l ask you, Mr Speaker: How would you describe a person who, when in the Opposition, complains about not having the right to speak on behalf of his constituents and says that he places on record his condemnation of the Government for its treatment of the people even more than for its treatment of the Opposition, but changes his attitude when his Party achieves office? The honourable gentleman to whom I have been referring is the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who is now Leader of the House and is meting out to the House exactly the same treatment that he previously condemned. I ask you, Mr Speaker: Would you describe a person who adopted such an attitude as a hypocrite? I will leave it to you.
– I will express myself in a few words. I do not think this debate needs a great deal of elaboration. This is not a new found enthusiasm of mine for adequate parliamentary debate. This is a point of view I have adopted for years, even against my own Party when it was in office. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to accept that I speak now with sincerity and not for party advantage. I appreciate that that may be regarded as a stupid and unusual thing to do in this House. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has excused what he has done on the basis of a list he produced a few minutes ago showing the time allotted for amendment of industrial arbitration Bills over a period of 20 years. It is most important for us to realise that the Bill before us represents a fundamental change in the law, and the kind of argument produced by the Leader of the House has no validity whatever in this instance.
Already the point has been made that the time allotted on the last occasion of a fundamental change in industrial arbitration legislation was twice as much as the time allotted on this occasion. The Leader of the House has fulfilled my belief in what has happened to the Parliament. It has become a mere rubber stamp for the Executive and is not the great forum of the nation where debate is carried on. This Parliament has handed over that function to the Press, television and other media which seek simply to entertain and not to debate. This is a decline and fall of this institution which is signalised with peculiar emphasis on the present occasion.
That the motion (Mr Daly’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I support the Bill and in doing so I pay a tribute to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) for the effort he is making to bring peace to Australian industry. When he was shadow Minister for Labour the present Minister freely expressed his views of opposition to unreal conciliation and arbitration laws and the unrest which these laws brought to industry in Australia. It is apparent that as Minister for Labour he has applied his knowledge of industrial affairs and he has worked tirelessly to improve the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. He has done a good job for Australia and the Australian people despite the bleating of members of the Opposition in this Parliament.
The approach of the Labor Government to industrial matters and its sincere endeavours to bring about industrial peace are welcome changes in government attitude. It is clearly the sort of attitude Australian people respect and, I believe, accept. It is in direct contrast with the dictatorial and muddling policies of the previous Government, The great difference in this Government’s administration is that the Ministers and the members of the Labor Government possess a wealth of knowledge of the trade union movement. They know that industrial relations can and should be improved. The previous Government had no practical knowledge in this field. As a result the previous Government was responsible for fostering bad industrial relations. This proved to be to the detriment of the nation.
I do not speak in this debate as a theorist but as a person who was a trade union official for 14 years. I have knowledge of how industrial law operates and of how it has operated to the detriment of the work force and trade unionists in Australia and of how it has been responsible for a lot of industrial unrest in Australia. Over a period of years the Liberal Party-Country Party Governments relied on industrial laws which were directed against workers and industry to deprive workers of justice in the areas of wages and conditions. Ministers of those Governments exhibited little or no understanding of the work force. When disputes arose they mistakenly believed that Australian men and women in industry could be stood over through the agency of savage penal provisions. How bad was their judgment of the average Australian worker. The Government did nothing to prevent disputes. Therefore they did nothing to tackle the problems which caused industrial unrest.
Their policy was to rely on the big stick and to wield it against members of the trade union movement in an attempt to bludgeon them into submission.
Any Government with such an approach shows its lack of understanding of the Australian people. Liberal Party-Country Party Governments mistakenly believed that at all times they were assisting employers in their endeavours. However, history has shown that all employers were not appreciative of those Government’s actions. The great body of Australian employers found themselves embarrassed, I would suggest, by the previous Government’s policies and its interference in industrial affairs. I was rather interested to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) just a little while ago making reference to the public interest. An article appeared in the ‘Australian’ of 2nd August 1972 in which it was stated that major oil refineries had finally decided that the cost to the industry of going along with the McMahon Goverment’s election strategy of industrial confrontation was far too high a price for the companies to pay. The article stated:
Despite pressure applied to the industry by Mr McMahon not to enter meaningful negotiations with the unions over the Federal oil industry agreement, the companies had capitulated.
The wonder is that they did not see where their long term interests lay much earlier in the dispute.
It would have been rather amusing if it were not so serious to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition talk about public interest. In fact, whilst in government the Opposition, merely as a means of endeavouring to bring about some confrontation with the trade unions and hoping to gain electoral support, apparently was prepared to bring about a situation in which industrial unrest was encouraged.
– That story is absolutely incorrect.
– I know that the truth sometimes is a little difficult to accept. Many employer organisations prefer to negotiate with trade union representatives. They prefer a system that permits agreements to be reached between the parties associated with the industry. Members of the Opposition spoke about getting advice from people in industry. Somebody in the Opposition mentioned this morning that this Government had not consulted all people in the industry. I am personally aware of one employer group in Bris bane whose spokesman claimed that, over the years, the previous Government had no lines of communication with its members or its association. As a matter of fact, during discussions with representatives of this employer group, one of my parliamentary colleagues and I were told that they welcomed the attitude of the Labor Government because we were prepared to listen to suggestions and have discussions with them.
Many suggestions have been made during the debate on this Bill. It has been suggested that people on award wages will be at a distinct disadvantage when compared to workers whose unions are able to negotiate with employers for over-award payments. This was one of the arguments that was put forward in opposition to the Bill which is currently before this House. This may be true to a point However, I think it must be understood that tribunals assessing wage entitlements of the former group of employees take into consideration the wages paid in other sections of industries where over-award payments certainly are agreed to and recognised.
I have listened to honourable members opposite speaking on this Bill and have heard them say mat they are concerned at the power to be given to trade unions, that the Government Bill ignores the effects of industrial unrest and seeks to give unions carte blanche to become involved in industrial disputes and that no decision could be effective unless it is enforceable. Of course, to enforce a decision it is claimed that provision must be made for penalties in the Act. I believe that, if the Opposition or any group of its supporters claims that in order to bring about a situation where we have peace in industry we must have penal clauses in the respective industrial Acts, we should have a look at their record when they were in government. I have consulted the Year Book’ and extracted information which is provided and which relates to the past 3 years. I examined the record of the previous Government in the field of industrial affairs. After all, if honourable members opposite tell the Labor Government that this progressive < move being made by the Government is not good for the nation, we should judge them on their efforts and see what sort of industrial peace they were able to bring to this country. , I found that in 1969 there were 1,957,957 working days - just under 2 million working days - lost because of industrial disputes. That is a pretty high figure. In 1970, a year later, under a Liberal-Country Party government, the figure had risen to 2,393,700. In 1971 I found that the working days lost because of industrial disputes rose to 3,068,600. So, there was an increase in the loss of working days due to industrial unrest in Australia in 2 years of almost 40 per cent.
That is the history of the Liberal-Country Party Government at a time when the Act contained penal clauses by which they are telling the people of Australia and this Government that they could bring about industrial peace. Why did the previous Government not do something about it? I submit that penal clauses within any industrial Act do nothing to bring about industrial peace. On the contrary, they do nothing but bring about industrial unrest because I repeat that the workers of this country will not be bludgeoned into submission through the agency of penal clauses in an Act. One would think, listening to some honourable members opposite who have spoken here today, that they have an inveterate hatred of the Australian worker. Of course, Government supporters understand and realise the wonderful job that the Australian worker does in the progress and prosperity of this country and I for one as a Government supporter throw back the words of honourable members opposite who seek to degrade the Australian worker- the trade unionist. I have the greatest admiration for these people because it is the work force of this country - the trade unionists - which is responsible for the progress of our country. It is responsible for a better Australia and I for one will not accept some of the comments which have been made here today. (Quorum formed.)
It is very evident that some members of the Opposition do not like the. truth being told about their record in government in regard to maintaining industrial peace; they do not want to hear the truth. It is rather strange, considering the importance of the Bill which is before the House, to find that most members of the Opposition have been out of the chamber during the debate. As a matter of fact, there are not too many members of the Liberal Party in the chamber at present; there are only four or five of them. They talk about wasting time and try to tell the Australian people that the Government is not giving the Opposition a fair deal in respect of debating time. Honourable members opposite waste time that could be taken up by genuine debate and on 2 occasions when a division has been called we have found that one-third of the members of the Opposition Parties did not come into the chamber. So, their sincerity in respect of some of the claims they have made must be questioned. 1 refer now to the amalgamation of unions. An honourable member opposite - I think it was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) - mentioned earlier that two out of 1,000 members of a union could bring about a situation where amalgamation of unions could result. Of course, that was taking the question a little too far. One could apply the same, sort of theory, I suppose, to the election of trade union officials; two out of 1,000 members could also elect a general secretary or any other officer. However, this does not occur. I was mentioning before the recent interruption the record of the previous government in industrial matters. I can recall no occasion during my lifetime when a member of a government has asked a foreign firm to fight workers of this country in an endeavour to deprive them of industrial justice in respect of conditions of employment. As all Australians know, this occurred about June last year when the Acting Prime Minister, now the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony), called on the assistance of several international firms to oppose union demands for a 35 hour working week. The Opposition talks about trying to develop good industrial relations but when it was in government a Minister, whom we believe should have been a responsible Minister, was calling on foreign firms to fight Australian workers in an endeavour to deprive the workers of improved conditions of employment. The Opposition should hang its head in shame.
By its actions the previous Government during its term of office was developing opposition to the arbitration system which it claims now it wants upheld. It was developing a lack of respect for the system among those who were involved with it on both the employer and employee side. Judging from the opinions so far expressed in this debate by Opposition speakers, there is a hatred of trade unions. This is very much apparent. While that sort of attitude is in the minds of people who should adopt a responsible role we cannot expect to have peace in industry. The Opposition appears to believe that Australian men and women who are trade unionists and workers in industry have only one role on this planet and that is to do as they are bid by certain people, with no say in the industry in which they are employed and apparently with no right to seek improvements in wages and conditions. Under the stewardship of the previous Government we witnessed opposition by that Government to applications to the national wage case hearings. The interference of that government in those proceedings showed its contempt for the Australian workers. We saw attempts being made to influence the thinking of this Commonwealth wage fixing tribunal against workers claims. In 1972 we had, on the one hand, the previous Government having an official submission made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the national wage case and, on the other hand, the then Prime Minister making a statement that the Government wanted the minimum wage to be increased significantly by the Commission. This statement fooled no one.
On the question of amalgamation, contrary to the claims by Opposition speakers, fewer unions will mean fewer disputes, better understanding and a higher standard of union management. Anybody who thinks about that proposition must agree with it. Surely a better system will develop with fewer unions being responsible for award matters. The present Deputy Leader of the Opposition on 2nd March 1972 agreed that there are many advantages which could accrue from amalgamation but apparently he has changed his mind in the interim. At that time he said one thing but, apparently meant another because legislation introduced following that statement did nothing to assist amalgamation. The present Government’s intention to facilitate union amalgamations shows a desire to permit unions whose members seek amalgamation to make a decision and thereby to run their own affairs. I repeat that fewer unions and a higher standard of representation of unionists will result in better industrial relations in this country. Much emphasis has been placed on the removal of penalties. As a former trade union official, I know that penalties imposed on unions do nothing to prevent disputes. After ali, the fine generally is paid after the dispute is won. It is rather significant that the Opposition is so intent now on having penalties remain in the Act but while it was in government it did nothing to collect the fines that were imposed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The action taken by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) this afternoon to stifle debate on this important measure is to be regretted. To me, it points to what we can expect in this House in the future under this Government. I was here when it first came into this Parliament as the Government. It talked about open government, democratic government, but when what has been always recognised in this Parliament as one of the most important pieces of legislation is brought before, this House in the first Parliament under this Government, the gag is applied. Last year the previous Government introduced many amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1972. On that occasion we debated that legislation for some 19 hours. That time has been cut in half by this Government. There seems to be a reluctance by the Government and the Leader of the House to debate this measure. There is also a reluctance, judging from statements made on the Government side of the House, to allow honourable members on this side to debate the measure. It is claimed by honourable members opposite that we know nothing about conciliation and arbitration or about unions. There are 2 sides to this penny and it would be as well for the Government to understand that.
This legislation directly involves millions of people in Australia while indirectly it involves all Australia. The majority of people cannot be employed if we do not have employers, men of initiative to set up employment opportunities, to put in capital - in many cases, risk capital - to set up factories and build industries. Somebody has to take the initiative. What would be the situation if we did not have employers and the billions of dollars being invested in employment opportunities for the people of this country? During the last 23 years we have seen a complete change in this country in the building of industrial works. It is as a result of the policies of the past 23 years that millions of people now employed in Australia can be employed under good conditions. Let us not lose sight of that fact. Obviously members of the Opposition understand the total scene in relation to this Bill. They understand that it is brought forward entirely for the sake of the employee, certainly not for the employer. But this job opportunity must be given by employers throughout Australia if we are to put our work force to good use.
The employment record in Australia compared with the employment record in other parts of the world - I can go back 10 or 20 years- shows that Australia stands second to none. That was the situation in the past and it will be interesting to see what the situation will be in the future. If the last 3 months have been any guide - people can see exactly what is happening to capital investment in this country - the Government might be wise to take heed of the situation. Capital available for investment from overseas has dropped $ 1,050m in the first 3 months of this calendar year - January, February and March- below the amount for January, February and March 1972. In that 3 months period in 1972 we had a net inflow of capital into this country of, from memory, $435m. In the last 3 months we have had a net outflow of capital of something like $621m, a difference of over $ 1,000m. No country can stand that sort of situation for very long without very serious consequence to its development. It is this development which has made possible the jobs that we are talking about in dealing with this legislation. The Minister for Labour, who is in charge of this Bill - I notice that unfortunately he is not in the House at the moment - should understand the situation, although often I think he does understand it a little better than he says he does sometimes when making public statements.
It was suggested by this Government when its members were in opposition that if they were to hold the reins of government they would be in a better position to understand the unions, that they would be in a better position to avoid strikes and that, therefore, there would be greater harmony in the work force in Australia. It is interesting to note that the Commonwealth Statistician is reported on 17th April 1973 as saying that in January last year §773,700 was lost in wages and in January this year the loss amounted to $1,365,700. He said that there were 153 disputes in January this year and 125 disputes in January last year. That does not speak very well for this Government and its claim that it Would understand the situation in relation to conciliation and arbitration and the work force generally in Australia, or that it would do a better job than the previous Government did. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future in relation to all those things. As I have said, in relation to our capital situation in Australia we must view all things with great care. Inflation is rearing its head in no uncertain fashion and it will have a detrimental effect on many people in the wages and salary area, including those who are involved under this legislation. Unless this Government takes note of that situation it is obvious from the figures which have been given that the position will become extremely serious.
This Bill threatens to break down conciliation and arbitration as we have known it in the past. This step, I believe, will be very detrimental to Australia. One has to go back some years to recognise what the system has meant to Australia. We know that many years ago when the work force could not get a reasonable deal it looked in many cases for some means of conciliation and arbitration so that its interests would be looked after. This system has been with us for a long time. I believe it to be a good system. But we cannot have it both ways. We cannot have collective bargaining and at the same time expect to get conciliation and arbitration because this is just not possible. There must be a recognition of this by both parties - employees and employers - if we are to have settlements of disputes in this country. But, of course, this has not always been the case. If we have collective bargaining I do not know what will happen in this country. Evidence overseas has indicated that collective bargaining has its real problems, although this depends largely on the way in which the legislation is drawn up.
The Minister indicated in his second reading speech that the Government had a clear mandate in regard to this legislation. I question that claim. From whom has it a clear mandate? The Minister has in operation at the moment a committee to look at points in relation to conciliation and arbitration. If he has all the answers and if he has a clear mandate in regard to what he intends to do, why have a committee? Since this Government has been in office it has been setting up committees and commissions at a great pace. I do not know how many have been set up, but to set them up and not to wait for their considered reports is, to my mind, a useless expenditure of public money. I ask the Minister whether he has consulted those who are affected by this legislation. No doubt he has consulted with the employees. There is no doubt about that at all because the employees or their representatives have been stating what should in fact be done. But has he consulted with the employers in relation to these things? As I have said, the employer is all important in legislation of this kind because it is the employer who has to find the wherewithal to set up the various industries throughout Australia.
Let me pause for a moment to say something about collective bargaining as against the conciliation and arbitration system. If in fact - this may have been stated earlier this afternoon - the Government wishes to introduce legislation in regard to collective bargaining, let it do so, but it should not try to bring it in through the back door. That is what is happening in regard to this legislation at the moment. We cannot have lopsided legislation in respect of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. As I see it at the moment the legislation will be lopsided. It favours the employee. It takes away from all employees sanctions and areas of responsibility, so far as I can see, and it leaves intact those provisions so far as the employers are concerned. I understand that when collective bargaining arrangements are made in some countries a contract with a company is made, probably for a period of 3 years or thereabouts, and the agreement lays down precisely what is going to happen during that time. In that instance the employee and the employer know precisely what their position will be for the next 3 years. Under this type of legislation nobody will really know what in fact will happen, except that probably there will be many problems. Therefore I suggest that if the Government wants to introduce legislation on collective bargaining it should come forward with the legislation and not try, as I have said, to do it through the back door. But no doubt it has bad its instructions and this is the way it intends to do it.
In relation to sanctions it is interesting to note in the Act - no doubt these words have been in it for a long time - the words which describe in section 2 sub-section (d) the chief objects of the Act. Sub-section (d) states:
How can we get that sort of message into this new legislation? It is built into the present Act. That is the objective of the Act. A chief objective of the Act is the observance and enforcement of agreements. So far as I can see this Bill before the House takes out of the
Act all responsibility on employees in relation to standing by agreements that are made. The Minister for Labour was adamant for some time about the direction that he was going to take before he introduced this legislation. It is interesting to note a statement which he made in February this year. A report of his remarks stated:
The Federal Government is to launch a vigorous campaign against employers who breach industrial laws.
The Minister for Labour, Mr Cameron, yesterday outlined proposals to speed up the prosecution o£ employers who did not comply with awards and safety regulations.
I say at the outset that safety regulations should be .applied at all times. I have always been an advocate of that sort of thing. But what I do not like about that statement by the Minister is that he was directing his attack in one direction and in one direction only. As I said, if there is to be harmony and agreement in industry there must be a sense of responsibility on the part of both the employer and the employee. The Minister has been reported on a number of occasions as making statements similar to the one I have fust outlined.
In regard to sanctions - and this is appropriate to the sort of message that I have just been relating - apparently the Government intends to carry this legislation through the House. The effect will be that when an agreement is made there will be no responsibility, as far as the employee is concerned, to stand by that agreement. This is the way in which I read the Bill. If there is no responsibility on one side I fail to see how any of the agreements can in fact be observed, especially when one considers many aspects of the Bill.
Something should be said about the area of the legislation which deals with the public interest. I think that the Minister referred to this area in his second reading speech. I cannot see how the Bill is related to the public interest. Of course, consideration of the public interest is important. If it is not important, with so many people involved, to consider the public interest, then what is the Bill all about? Surely it should be to the advantage of any legislation which is to pass through this House for the public interest to be taken into consideration. It does not matter whether the legislation under consideration is concerned with economics, conciliation and arbitration or any other matters. The Bill we are considering at the moment seems to leave aside the public interest. The Minister in his second reading speech said:
The Bill provides that the Commission shall not refuse to certify an agreement made in settlement of an industrial dispute unless the certification of it would cause a major detriment to the public interest.
Who will sit in judgment and how will such a proposal work out? These are the questions that 1 ask the Minister.
I cannot see in the Bill any opportunity for the public interest to be taken into account. After all, was not this consideration the whole crux of conciliation and arbitration legislation in the Commonwealth? We did not have the power under the Constitution of the Commonwealth to do any more than we have done up to the present - that is, to establish the conciliation and arbitration machinery that will in fact settle a dispute. If the conciliation and arbitration legislation was brought into being to settle disputes, obviously the public interest must be taken into consideration. As I have said, consideration of the public interest is a very important aspect of the Bill before us. As I see it this legislation is neglecting the public interest. If this is the case then 1 believe disputes will increase rather than decrease in the future. In this type of legislation we must at all times take into consideration the interests of the people themselves.
The Government in this legislation has introduced measures concerning the amalgamation of various unions. If I remember rightly previous legislation brought down in 1972 dealt with this subject of amalgamations. The legislation now before the Parliament indicates to me that amalgamation of unions will be able to take place with very little interest being taken by the members themselves. I appreciate the point that it is up to the union members to take an interest in their own affairs. I also appreciate that any major change involving the amalgamation of unions should take place on a more democratic basis than is proposed under the Bill that we are considering. I do not believe the proposal that an amalgamation can take place with a majority of those voting - which could be very few indeed in the case of some unions - is in the best interests of the union movement. No [ doubt there are far too many unions in Australia Iia at the moment - I think that in all there are more than 300 unions - but I do not believe that this piece of legislation now before the House is the right way to achieve amalgamations in relation to those unions.
– The problem of the greatest magnitude which Australia faces today is that of inflation. There can be no doubt about that. Inflation, as was said by a management consultant yesterday, is something which people come to learn to live with. But the fact is, of course, that while they live with it for a while they soon learn that the effects of inflation upon them as individuals are very damaging indeed. Inflation has 2 major faults. One is the harm it does while it is running, and the second is the harm which is created by action taken to cure it, if that action is not taken quickly enough. While intiation is running, it causes a vicious redistribution of income in the community. Inflation does not barm the speculator but it harms the person on a low income. Inflation does harm the person who is a member of a union without great industrial power. Inflation does hurt the person on a fixed income. Inflation does hurt people who have worked all of their lives and saved and who are relying on money which they have saved to give then the added comforts in their declining years or old age - call it what you will. Also inflation redistributes in an economy where work is done.
During an inflationary period the public purchasing patterns are quite different from what they are at other times. But when they want to buy goods of a luxury kind before the price goes up - or ‘buy quickly while money still has some value’, as I heard someone explain the situation the other day - they are entitled to be fearful of the future. Therefore while inflation may seem to be something that people can live with for a while, it is not long before it becomes realistic to people that inflation does do them a great deal of harm. Even the trade unions will not support the Government if it stands by and not only allows the inflationary pressures to rise but also contributes to them by such actions as arguing in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that there should be an $11.50 flat rise. Indeed, Mr Jolly, the Australian Council of Trade Unions advocate, said that he thought the rise should be about $5. In fact, the rise was $2.50 plus 2 per cent. If the Government continues with this attitude it is as inevitable, as that night follows day that it will have to take action to protect the economy. When that action is taken to protect the economy the Government will enter into a deflationary period in which people will be thrown out of work and there emphasise that I am talking about powerful groups like the Amalgamated Metalworkers Union which is a combination of what were formerly the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society, the Sheetmetal Workers Union, and the. Amalgamated Engineering Union and has about 180.000 members - have immense political and economic power. If they wish, they can call a political strike and say: ‘We strike because we do not like the government of another country’. What can an employer do to rectify that situation? He cannot do a thing about it. He cannot answer their complaints. But the political strike is a method of serving a political philosophy. The fact that it disadvantages the workforce in a community - fellow workers - and that it makes life intolerable for those people who rely on electricity, transport, power or bread and children who enjoy drinks and ice cream, matters not when a political strike is called for the trade unions’ purposes. This Bill builds up the strength of unions. One example - I will not spend much time on it - is that under the. Bill there will be no penalties on persons for entering any premises for the purposes of inciting a strike. What an extraordinary immunity is given. will be dislocation of economic activity. What will happen is that we will lose growth. Apart from the social harm there will be economic harm, and this harm will continue into the future.
One of the problems which the Labor Party in government faces is that while it is obliged as the Government to take responsible decisions, in fact it is not free to take decisions on its own beliefs. The Government knows that it is confronting a problem of this kind and I have no doubt that it would like to be able to do something about it. But it dare not do so because the base of the Labor Party’s political support lies in the trade unions and the trade unions are totally unwilling to accept that wage increases increase costs and that costs increase prices. The unions will not permit the Labor Party to take action on this matter. Therefore we will go on for a considerable period of time with all sorts of nonsense that in some magical way the Government can stop price increases even though it permits excess wage increases, and I emphasise the word ‘excess’. But the base of the Labor Party’s support really explains this legislation. This Bill is a way of giving to the trade union movement - the powerful sections of the trade union movement - tangible thanks for the support that was given to the Labor Party to get it into office. In other words it is discharging a debt in paying that price. It is a pretty severe price to pay. I doubt that Government supporters really understood what they were doing. They surely could not have been prepared to have legislation introduced in the House which would put the unions in such a privileged position. The Government talks about socialist philosophy, about a classless society, but by this legislation they are creating a class society in which the dominant class comprises the officials of powerful trade unions. These officials will be given an immunity that nobody else in this community will have. I will refer to this aspect later.
The Government will provide for union domination on national events. The unions’ views will be the dominant views of this Government - and by this legislation the Government will strengthen the unions. I am not talking about small unions but about the powerful agglomerations of unions that the Government wants to see become even more powerful in amalgamation. Trade unions today - when I use the term ‘trade unions’ I
I want to deal with the 3 major issues of the Bill. The first is the abolition of sanctions. This word ‘sanctions’ has dropped into our vocabulary. What is really meant is the absence of any penalties, but the absence of penalties, of course, is related entirely to the absence of penalties on unions. If this Bill is passed, a union may strike with impunity. No penalty will be attached to an order from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or the court for men to go back to work. In future the unions will be able to do exactly as they wish. It will not please the Government when it has a rash of strikes but it will be disastrous to the Australian people for undoubtedly the strike rate is building up.
Secondly, because there is no penalty provision there is no way in which the arbitration authorities can intervene in a strike so that the public interest can be safeguarded. When a strike occurs those concerned are not just the employers and the unions. A very real public interest is involved and our arbitration system, until now, has enabled the public interest to be taken into account. No longer will there be that opportunity. The penalties are maintained for breaches of awards. By the very nature of those penalties, which have been increased to a maximum of $1,000 they are referable only to the employer. This is a totally biased piece of legislation. It is not only biased but also retrograde.
I am sure, that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) would regard himself - though perhaps he would not find many sharing his view - as a forward thinker in industrial relations. In fact, what he is doing is going back 70 years. In 1904 Mr Justice Higgins, of the then just formed Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, said of that Commission - or Court as it was then called - that it would end the law of the jungle and bring back order and reason into industrial affairs. What is now happening is that by taking out these provisions there is no way in which the public interest can be heeded. The Government is returning industrial relations to the law of the jungle. Even awards or agreements which voluntarily include any strike penalty provisions can no longer be registered with the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Yet only a matter of a year or 2 ago the Minister for Labour and the Australian Council of Trade Unions were saying that sanctions were all right provided they were agreed upon between the parties and that the agreement could then be. registered with the Commission. What has happened to that concept I do not know. Quite clearly this is a vastly biased piece of legislation which will disadvantage the Australian public.
The next matter to which I refer concerns immunity from tort which, in simple words, means that a person who can at present be sued in the civil courts for an action which damages some other person will be free to conduct that harmful action and the person who is harmed will not be able to sue him. This is an extraordinary provision. I personally doubt its constitutional validity, but 1 am not arguing that at the moment. The doubt I have about its constitutional validity is this: How can the Commonwealth pretend, under an industrial relations provision, to deprive^ one citizen of his civil right against another citizen to be enforced in the civil courts. I put that question aside and deal with the provision simply as though it were a valid enactment if it were passed. The civil actions which at present can be brought for damages against a person, will be confined and will not be available unless that person’s actions cause death, physical injury, damage to property, threat of damage to property or defamation.
The Bill tries to confine the provision, which was first introduced by Senator Murphy in the Senate last year, which applied across the board and which got nowhere in that form. So the Government has attempted to confine it. But the situation still exists that if a trade union leader takes his union members and pickets a particular factory, prevents goods coming in or going out and prevents workmen going to work, the employer suffers immense damage. The employer cannot sue the people who are inciting that action. To give this sort of immunity to a trade union officer and to put him above the law as distinct from any other citizen in the Commonwealth is quite clearly a retrograde action. Because also the bans clauses are to go, as are the penalties relating to strikes, and because the possibility of public interest being involved will be ignored, we have returned to the law of the jungle where the only way of settling a dispute is by strike or lock-out. There is no penalty for strike and no penalty for lock-out. What this really amounts to is an invitation by the Government to an employer, when confronted with this sort of situation, to lock-out his employees. If that does not mean going back to the law of the jungle I cannot understand what it does mean. It would prevent also fellow-employees, intimated by a union or union officers, from suing the intimidator to obtain relief from that intimidation.
– What is your authority for that?
– The Bill. In conjunction with the abolition of sanctions, it will grant to the unions and union officers positions of privilege not enjoyed by other sections of the community. Therefore, quite clearly, it is biased legislation. The third point about which I wish to speak concerns the amalgamations of unions. Under the present law, before unions can amalgamate there must be a ballot. That ballot must be controlled by the court. It is mandatory that the court conduct the ballot. Under the provisions of this Bill all that is taken away. There is to be no court controlled ballot for the amalgamation. It is to be just a matter of the union itself deciding how it will conduct the ballot.
There has been a removal of the penalties provisions. The fines for conduct which is an irregular use of the balloting system have all gone, although there are still some penalties under section 46, which is a very genera] section. It needs to be specific and relate the offences and penalties to irregularities in the conduct of the ballot before amalgamation. There is a removal of all requirements to gazette dates on which the ballot will commence, open and close. All those things have gone. There is no time limit now for the period during which the ballot can be conducted. What will happen is that the ballot will be decided in any way that the union chooses to have it decided. This is not really a fair go for the Australian people, who are very greatly affected by what happens in amalgamations of unions, the putting together of very powerful groups in the community.
I understand that there are just over 300 unions in Australia today. There are a number of people who say that amalgamations would be a good thing because there would be fewer unions to deal with but the amalgamations of which we are speaking are not the amalgamations of the small unions to make them more efficient and to take away the need to negotiate with several unions. It is not the small unions that are affected by the amalgamation clause. There is in fact very little impetus for small unions to amalgamate. The major force for amalgamation is in the big and powerful unions. One instance of this, as I said at the outset, is the Amalgamated Metalworkers Union, which now comprises 180,000 unionists who were formerly members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society and the Sheetmetal Workers Union.
There is a great deal of talk about a proposed amalgamation of unions in the transport complex. Negotiations are taking place between the Transport Workers Union of Australia and the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemens Association of Australasia. I understand that enticement is being put out to the Seamen’s Union of Australia and the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia to join in this transport complex. Can the House imagine what would happen with amalgamations which would form a big transport group and a big metal workers group and the power that these groups would bring to bear upon a government? Can the House imagine the power that would be brought to bear on the public when these 2 amalgamated union groups get together or future amalgamated groups get together?
Quite clearly the public interest must be considered in this matter. If the public interest is to be considered, is it not fair to say that before there can be an amalgamation at least 50 per cent of the members should vote and that of the 50 per cent of the members who vote there must be a majority in favour of the amalgamation? Is that 50-50 proposal not fair? But not a bit of it in this Bill. In this Bill the Government says it is just a simple majority. It could be 2 members, the president and secretary, voting. No rules say when the ballot is to be open to union members or state the period of time during which ballot papers have to go out or during which any argument can be put for and against amalgamation. The union management executive alone could have a vote and that could result in amalgamation proposals. I believe that to take away any statutory provision relating to amalgamation is simply to turn over to the powerful officials at the top of the trade unions a tremendous accretion to their power. They are already powerful men. After this Bill becomes law they will be excessively powerful men. I am quite sure that the Minister for Labour will live to regret this day because he will have to deal with this power, and what we have seen in the past is that when a Labor politician is confronted-
– He will not have to deal with them for long.
– Three years perhaps. The Government has stopped talking about an early election. It is afraid of that. The Minister for Labour will have the problem of dealing with them, and everybody knows that when he has been confronted in the past with trade union power he has buckled. That is what will happen in the future because he will be confronted with even greater unions power. I think that this Bill ought to be rejected.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The right honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to speak to this Bill gratified by the presence of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). Apart from the Minister, up until the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) walked into the House a moment ago not one single other Government supporter was here to consider or to join in these deliberations on this most important measure. What we are concerned with in this Bill is in essence another episode in the continuing search for a satisfactory adaptation of the conciliation and arbitration system in this country to the circumstances of full employment which have prevailed since World War II. This situation of continuing full or near full employment is a most important aspect to be taken explicitly into account. It contrasts, of course, with the situation which prevailed before World War II. Many of us fail to bear in mind that even as late as 1935-36 the proportion of trade unionists unemployed was 12 per cent to 13 per cent. Of course in 1932 it was up around the 30 per cent mark. Let us hope that that sort of situation never recurs. But by contrast in the post World War II period an unemployment rate nudging 3 per cent in 1961 all but unseated the then Government.
The implication of this situation of full employment is that there is in this country a dual system for the determination of wages and salaries. There is on the one hand the system operated through the arbitration tribunals which fixes minimum rates of pay and other conditions. We have in effect superimposed on that a system of negotiations between employers and employees a form of collective bargaining. The 2 - the system of statutory minimum wage fixation and the system of negotiated payments, particularly overaward payments - go hand in hand. It is not realistic any more to pose the 2 as alternatives. The arbitration system has been with us for a long while and, as the Government professes to be and as we are most concerned to be, we are determined that it should continue. After all it contributes to the solution of the preponderating number of disputes. The persistence of the other system is, as I think the Minister put it in his speech, inevitable. I concede that. It can be neither ignored nor, as I think he put it, ended. In these circumstances we have to consider what we would do. We on this side of the House would seek to bring the agreement area within the ambit and purview of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission with a view to preserving and upholding the public interest in the context of the settlement of industrial disputes. The Government’s approach is different from this although in a sense, the broad objective is similar. To repeat, the objective is to arrive at a meshing of the Commonwealth conciliation and arbi tration system with collective bargaining and to do this within the total social and economic process. It is a matter of the procedures for the settling of industrial disputes, but as my colleague the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) mentioned, the problem is not only that industrial relations are of key importance to the economic management of the country. They are necessarily involved in the effective economic management of the country in achieving the major objectives of economic policy - a reasonable distribution of the national income between the different sectors of the community, as well as in coping with the central problems of achieving full employment and minimising inflation - with a reasonable degree of price stability. So we must face the fact that, with continuing full employment, the area of negotiated agreements - the collective bargaining area - is inevitable and cannot be ignored. A number of important implications are involved in this. One that we need to note and which we must fit into our scheme of things is that the more extensive the area of negotiated agreements becomes, the less scope there is for the centrepiece of the present arbitration system, namely, the national wage case, in which judgment was given this very day with a very substantial and, indeed, a very proper rise in the minimum wage along with an increase in the total wage. The scope for the national wage case decision is obviously constrained by the extent to which wage increases are granted in the outside area, in that there is a limit - a constraint - on wage increases which can occur without accelerating inflation. The more that is appropriated outside the arbitration field in the area of negotiated agreements, the less there is available for distribution by the national wage case decision. Therefore, in this Bill the Government is allowing an open season for the negotiation of agreements outside the system without restraint and is thereby substantially narrowing the scope for sizable increases in awards within the major wage case heard by the Arbitration Commission. Does the Government really mean to do this?
– The Government does not know what it is doing.
– As my colleague said, the Government does not know what it is doing. Nevertheless, we are confronted with the difficult issue of meshing the 2 parts of our dual system in a way which is consistent with the achievement of the major objectives of national economic policy. So far as one can judge, the meshing, the reconciliation, of the 2 parts of the system which the Minister offers will promote without restraint the development of the collective bargaining area. That is done with very little reward for the third party in these matters - that is to say, the public at large - and also with very little regard to the enhanced inequality in wages and conditions which is likely to be the result of this unrestrained development of the collective bargaining sector.
If it is a correct interpretation that the Government would foster this part of the system, I draw attention to the view expressed by the Minister for Labour in an address to the sixth annual convention of the Industrial Relations Society in October 1971. He said:
The general principle of honouring a voluntary agreement is one that cannot be repudiated. It is fundamental to better industrial relations that agreements be honoured. Unions and employers have a moral obligation to abide by their agreements and I can see no reason why parties acting in good faith will object to agreements becoming legally enforceable.
One might ask: How legally enforceable? Clearly not by statutory penalties, as would be appropriate to cases where the public interest is truly and seriously threatened; by this Bill the Government will do away with those penalties. Clearly not by some form of civil procedure for the recovery of damages, which procedure 1 gather was, in an earlier time, advocated by the Minister.
– He is not here. There is only one Labor member in the House.
Order! We will proceed with the debate.
– I am delighted that the Minister has now returned to the chamber. For his information, I have just cited his remarks made at Surfers Paradise, with the tang of the salt air around him, to the effect that it is fundamental to better industrial relations that agreements be honoured. He went on to say that he could see no reason why parties acting in good faith would object to agreements becoming legally enforceable. Earlier in his remarks he referred with approval to the fact that the ALP Federal Executive’s Policy Committee on Industrial Relations had decided to recommend that the Federal Conference of the Party - adopt a policy for establishing machinery for the encouragement, registration and observance of industrial agreements made in lieu of awards, or providing for over-award payments or benefits, with agreed penalties recoverable only at the suit of the employer or union in civil proceedings.
How is that now to be possible with the provisions in this Bill relating to putting officials and unions above the law in respect of torts? Perhaps the Minister has had a change of mind in that regard.
How are these agreements to be made to be honoured? I read elsewhere in this interesting document the answer to that question. I repeat the Minister’s statement:
It is fundamental to a successful system of collective bargaining that voluntary agreements, freely negotiated, be honoured by the parties thereto.
I hope that the Minister can work out a system to ensure that this happens. The most frequent complaint I receive from my constituents who are businessmen or who are running businesses is that when they negotiate with the unions, they reach an agreement today and it is broken tomorrow. So how are we to ensure that these agreements are to be honoured which, as the Minister says, is fundamental to the further development which he foresees for this sector. Here we have the answer in the following passage from the ALP platform:
It is fundamental . . . that voluntary agreement, freely negotiated, be honoured by the parties thereto. The ACTU has never repudiated an agreement, and has always ensured the observance of agreements made under its auspices and has publicly stated its intention to adhere to such a policy. Given the kind of industrial law reform proposed by Labor-
I am aware of some of the longer-term proposals implicit in this Bill which will bear on this issue - the existing machinery of the ACTU and the various Labor Councils (with variations if necessary) would be adequate to ensure observance of all agreements made under the auspices of the ACTU and/or the respective Labor Councils concerned.
Perhaps a solution lies along those lines, but I doubt it. If the Minister were to tell that to the people of ICI, who recently were coping with a severe strike, probably they would say that he should go and tell it to the birds. The Bill proposes to encourage the development of voluntary negotiation with a consequent downgrading of the established machinery of the arbitration tribunals. During the Minister’s absence from the chamber I pointed out that it involves a downgrading of the significance of the national wage case. We of the Opposition maintain that if there is to be a province of law and order, the law can be meaningful only if it is enforceable and it can be enforceable only if it contains sanctions.
I do not necessarily advocate the sanctions in their existing form. I concede that a key problem of the present sanctions is that they cannot be said to have expressed any clear policy or principle, in particular as to which strikes should merit and which should not merit the imposition of penalties. I think it is reasonable to suggest that had that sort of provision been made the system may well have worked better and would not have fallen into the difficulties it has encountered in the last couple of years. There can be little doubt that the question of whether strikes should be prohibited in an industry is up to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the practice generally has been to treat all strikes as equally serious. That is not appropriate. It is true that the concern of the Commonwealth Industrial Court has been simply to determine whether an award has been breached and not to judge the industrial merits of cases. It is true that the final decision to press for penalties is up to individual employers acting in accord with their own best interests. The public interest at that point has not necessarily been given sufficient weight.
The Government has not been involved, by and large, until the time has come to collect the fines. That situation has been unsatisfactory in many ways, not least of all to the Government. Nevertheless, it is the opinion of the Opposition that where the public interest is truly and seriously threatened the penalty against strikes should be retained somewhat in its present form. In other cases, a method of bringing to bear the force of the law to ensure that agreements entered into shall be observed during their currency is necessary. As the Minister has said, this is fundamental to an effective operation of the system. That method should be and can be devised. This Bill, which throws all such matters to the four winds, is totally unacceptable.
– I think honourable members will appreciate that the measure before the House is in a sense incoherent because it reflects the divided personality and purposes of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). From his own personal experiences the Minister has come to hate his own union and to be in opposition to it. Yet as a member of the Australian Labor Party he is perennially dedicated to the proposition that the unions are above the law and that the unions should make the law. Because he has these divided purposes the present measure is in a sense incoherent. On the one hand the power of shop stewards is to be exalted and this will make for disruption in a sense directed against the central powers of their own unions. On the other hand, the unions as a whole are to be put above the law and are to be made free of any responsibility for what they do. This division of purposes probably illustrates the influences of people in the unions who are out not to help the members of their own unions but to cause disruption as a settled policy. We have heard of the law of the jungle but this is the first occasion on which I can recall the Parliament being asked to license tigers.
The unions under our present system, and even more so under the proposals before us, have become law making bodies. In a sense, as I have said, they are law making because they are above the law. Too often a union is able to impose a sanction on its own members. The impression has gained currency too often in the community that union law is in some way superior to the law of the Australian nation. This is one of the most dangerous delusions that we could possibly entertain.
A proper Bill should have 2 purposes. The first purpose should be to protect individual members of trade unions against terror and victimisation by some kind of kangaroo court in their own unions. Any parliament should have the desire to protect members of trade unions against that kind of tyranny and abuse. The second purpose - and some people would think it a greater purpose - should be to preserve industrial peace in the community. I believe that many trade unionists have now become thoroughly sick of being called out on senseless strikes over trivial matters and have become even more disgusted at being called out on strikes which are not senseless but are evil in regard to political rather than industrial matters with which they have little concern. In point of fact, they may disapprove of the announced political actions of their own unions. I believe that we have to try to protect not only the whole community but also members of trade unions against that kind of abuse of power. If we are seeking a rise in living standards in the community - and surely we all want that and surely we all want to pay the highest possible wages consonant with avoiding inflation - that can come about only through increasing productivity.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The time allotted for the second reading stage has expired.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr Berinson)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
– Is it the wish of the Committee to take clauses 1 to 19 together?
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Objects of Act)
– This clause seeks to amend that section of the Act which describes the objectives of the Act. The Opposition has no real objection to this section but I must observe, without dealing with the issue at any great length because of the question of time, that the subsequent clauses of this Bill in fact render the objects of the Act quite meaningless. If the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) had been in any way consistent he would have sought to repeal sub-section (d) of section 2 which reads: to provide for the observance and enforcement of agreements and awards made in settlement of industrial disputes.
I simply wish to observe at this stage that the major terms of the legislation before the Committee with which we will be dealing later in the Committee stage make it impossible for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to provide for the observance of awards and to ensure that the terms of awards are enforceable. In other words, we are saying to the Government that its retention of this provision makes the balance of the Bill a complete sham.
– I want to ask the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) whether he would mind doing me a favour. The Minister has used a word in the proposed amendment to clause 3 which, with very great respect and diffidence, I suggest is simply not available in the English language - the word ‘fullest’. The Minister has asked for the ‘fullest participation by members’. I say to the honourable gentleman that if a receptacle, a Parliament, a person or, indeed, participation is full, it cannot be transported beyond that state; it is a finite state. I am not quibbling. It is one thing to put persiflage into a statute; it is another thing to put in ideas which I rate as being curious. But, please, why must we suffer inelegant language? Would the Minister mind removing the word ‘fullest’ and substituting the words the complete participation by members’? I do not think this will in any way injure the Bill and, with great respect, it would make for a more elegant arrangement of words.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 - (Parts)
– This is a machinery clause to amend the table of contents in section 3 of the Act and is necessary because Part X is to be repealed by clause 67. I simply want to state that the Opposition is completely opposed to the repealing of Part X of the Act which makes this amendment consequential. Part X, of course, makes provision for industrial agreements for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration. Although it is fair to say that this is a section in the legislation which has not been resorted to on a number of occasions, it provides for parties to make agreements to be followed in the event of a dispute.
I would ask the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) to clarify for the edification of the Committee what purpose will be served by the repeal of Part X because the Opposition does not see any real justification for the proposal before the Committee. In fact, if the Minister were to read, as I mentioned during the comae of my speech in the second reading stage of this Bill, the eighth, ninth and tenth annual reports of the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, he would see that the President emphasised the value of Part X and urged both of the principal parties - the employers and the trade unions - to seek to make more extensive use of that part of the legislation for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, particularly those in relation to over-award payments. If the Minister believes, as he may well now contend, that these agreements can in fact be so registered elsewhere, he might also inform the Committee of the reasons why the President of the Commission made that observation.
– I shall reply briefly to the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch). The purpose of the deletion of Part X of the existing Act which deals with the registration of industrial agreements is to enable those agreements which legally could be registered under Part X to be registered under section 28 of the Act It has been held by pretty high and eminent counsel that there is nothing that Part X can do that cannot already be done under section 28, because it has been pointed out that if Part X agreements deal with matters that are truly industrial agreements, then those industrial agreements can be registered under another parliament. If they are dealing with agreements that are different from industrial agreements, then of course they are invalid. Any agreement that was not a truly industrial agree,ment could not be registered under the Act because the High Court of Australia has held that an agreement cannot incorporate things or be certified by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission if it includes anything which could not be included in an award.
– For example?
– For example, an award cannot be made unless there is a dispute and there cannot be a dispute unless the parties have been served with a log of claims. The parties cannot go outside the log of claims in pursuance of that dispute; if they do they are out of ambit and the award could not be made out of the ambit of the original log of claims. That would be one reason. We also could not make an agreement which dealt with things that impinged upon managerial prerogatives. If this occurred, it would be outside, the power of the court or the Commission and if the Act purported to give the Commission such power, the Act would be ultra vires the Constitution. It is as simple as that and I hope that the honourable member for Flinders will now see that to retain Part X of the Act is a superfluity which cannot be justified in the circumstances.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Interpretation).
– I move:
At end of clause 5 add the following paragraph: (h) Notwithstanding anything else contained in this Act, all courts, commissions and tribunals set up under this Act shall have regard to any obligations undertaken by the Commonwealth under any convention of the International Labour Organisation which has been approved by, the Parliament or is otherwise binding on the Commonwealth and shall make no order, ruling, award or decision which would involve a violation of any such obligation.
I believe that this amendment will commend itself to the Government.
– Order! Could we have a copy of the amendment?
– Yes, I have a copy of the amendment.
– What do you think I am?
– Out of respect for the Chair, ] will not reply to the question: What do you think I am?’
– Order! The Chair would like a copy of the amendment. The Minister has one but the Chair has not.
– The purpose of this amendment is simply to declare a position which exists and make certain that the courts, especially in interpreting section 142 of the Act, are aware of our international obligations. Only a few weeks ago the Government, without any notification to this Parliament, ratified Convention No. 87 of the International Labour Organisation. This Convention is entitled ‘Convention concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise’. Article 16 of that Convention states:
A Member which has ratified this convention-
That includes Australia - may denounce it after the expiration of ten years. . . . Each member which has ratified this convention and which does not, within the year following the expiration of the period of ten years mentioned in the preceding paragraph, exercise the right of denunciation provided for in this Article, will be bound for another period of ten years . . . Australia has undertaken through its Government, without thinking about what it was doing, to be bound by this Convention. Pacta servanda sunt - obligations should be kept. We have undertaken certain obligations. I do not think that the Government understood the full import of what it was doing but, unhappily and without consulting this Parliament, precipitately the Government undertook those obligations. I want to read from Article 2 of this Convention which is a binding obligation upon Australia in terms of what the Government has done. Article 2 states:
Workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organisation concerned, to join organisations of their own choosing without previous authorisation.
This is a binding obligation which, without consideration and by some precipitate action, the Government undertook on behalf of Australia. It is binding now. I want honourable members to consider how this affects section 142 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which provides:
The Registrar shall, unless in all the circumstances he thinks it undesirable so to do, refuse to register any association as an organisation if an organisation, to which the members of the association might conveniently belong, has already been registered.
This means that if there is a union in the field, dissatisfied members who dislike the union, for example, like the Minister who disliked the Australian Workers Union in his time, will be able and will have the right under this Convention which is binding on Australia to establish another union. Any law which would be repugnant to this Convention would be, I think, one of which this Parliament would be heartily ashamed, lt is true that section 142 is permissive and not mandatory in a sense. It says that the Registrar shall refuse to register but it gives him an out. It then says:
A new circumstance has now been brought before the Registrar. The new circumstance is that Australia is now a party to and is bound by Convention No. 87 of the International Labour Organisation. I repeat that Australia is bound by it. When any group comes before the Registrar and says: ‘We want to be registered’, it is mandatory now for him to say: ‘I will abide by the provisions of Article 2”. I will read Article 2 again for the edification of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and for the information of honourable members, lt says:
Workers and employer-., without any distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and. subject only to the rules of the organisation concerned, to join organisations of their own choosing without previous authorisation.
Of course, this has never been brought to the attention of the Registrar because, as I understand it, in no application that has yet been before him was Australia a signatory and a party to this Convention. The circumstances are now changed. They were changed by the precipitate action of this Government, taken without consulting Parliament and without, [ believe, any understanding of its true consequences, but the Convention is now binding on Australia. When any organisation or group of employees comes before the Registrar and asks for registration he must, I think, say: Yes, you are entitled to be registered because I recognise now the special circumstances’. There could scarcely be circumstances more special. The special circumstances are that the Commonwealth of Australia is now bound by a solemn international obligation which it has ratified and undertaken. Therefore the Registrar, whether he likes it or not, must say: “This group must be registered as an organisation’. A quibble might be raised that the group can be registered as an organisation but not as an organisation under this Act. That is a quibble, but if it is good in law the High Court will tell us that it is good in law. It seems to me that the Government will be dishonest if it refuses to allow to be put into the AC t simple injunction to all courts, tribunals and commissions established under the Act that in all their decisions and proceedings they shall have regard to the solemn international obligations of the Commonwealth of Australia, and shall not give any award or decision which would be in violation of those undertakings. Surely it is unexceptionable to put into the Act the simple declaration that the Commonwealth Government proposes to keep its word. Honourable members can argue about the legal effect which the High Court may have to determine. These are arguments appropriate to the High Court and not to the Parliament but surely there can be no hesitation in putting into the Act this declaration. That is all that is in the amendment I have moved. I do not say in the amendment that it has any specific consequences although I have outlined to the House what 1 believe those consequences would be. However, that is a matter which the High Court could have to determine in due course. Whatever the consequences are-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think I can set the Committee at rest on this proposal. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) began by wanting to add a new sub-section 6. It would be nice if he could find sub-sections 4 and 5 first because the section ends at sub-section 3. But that is not important. It would look a bit funny stuck out on its own, that is all. What the honourable member does not seem to understand, although I believe he has had some legal training, is that there is no constitutional power to write into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act any international obligations under conventions of the International Labour Organisation. I wish it were possible to do so. I looked at this matter myself because, like the honourable gentleman - but for different reasons - I was hoping that it may have been possible. The honourable member is wasting his time talking to the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) about constitutional law. If the honourable member is caught for drunkenness I suggest that he go to the honourable member for Moreton, but he will not help him with constitutional law. I was told by an eminent counsel - I suppose one of the most eminent Queen’s Counsel in Australia - that it could not be done. The reason I asked for advice was that I was concerned about Convention No. 100 which provided for equal pay for the sexes. It seemed to me it would be a waste of time for unions to be arguing the principles enunciated in ILO Convention No. 100 when all that they would need to do would be to remind the courts, the commissioners and the tribunals that they had a bounden obligation to carry out our obligations under these conventions.
But that was not the only convention in which 1 was interested. 1 was terribly concerned because there was a convention that banned payments of as little as $2.50 a month for plantation workers in Papua New Guinea. It occurred to me that as the ILO had banned this sort of thing and as an ILO convention had banned also the payment of wages in kind, among many other things that it banned, we ought not have our courts and tribunals supporting these kinds of departures from international agreements.
The honourable member for Mackellar is quite wildly astray - it is unusual for him to be wildly astray on things, but he is on this matter - when he suggests that there is anything in any of the ILO conventions that would impinge on the obligations set out in the Act surrounding the registration of industrial organisations. There is nothing in the Act to stop a person joining whatever organisation he likes. He may join any organisation that starts up tomorrow morning. The organisation may call itself whatever it chooses. It may cover as many different kinds of people as it chooses. All that the Act says is that it cannot seek registration. There is nothing in the Act about ILO and registration. The ILO convention talks about the right to join and, of course, a person has the right to join. I received a letter today from an organisation which calls itself the Private Secretaries Association. It is not registered as an association. I understand that my own private secretary is a member of it. My secretary has informed me that members of the Association propose to go on strike shortly unless the Government does more about overtime than the former Government did. I was asked whether they had the right to go on strike. There is a private secretary sitting in the precincts of the chamber now. I have not had time to answer that letter formally, but 1 can answer the question informally by saying that of course they have the right to go on strike. That is a right which distinguishes the free man from the slave. These people may do as they please. If people want to join the Private Secretaries Association or an ex-Ministers association they may do so. Nobody can stop them from doing that. The 1LO does no more than say that we must not stop them from doing that.
But what we are not going to do is have our system of conciliation and arbitration ruined by giving effect to the honourable member for Mackellars interpretation of what an ILO convention means. What a monstrasity of an Act and a system we would finish up with if everybody who works for a living had the right to join any organisation. The simplest way to get customers under that system would be to set a rate of 50c a year and, on the basis of a big turnover, to say: ‘Well, you can all join us’. They could be shearers, nit pickers and all sorts of people. All sorts of people could join the one union. Girls working in hospitals could all join that same union. If the honourable member had his way presumably they would have the right to go to the Registrar and to say: ‘Look, here is a wonderful union. It is not very efficient but it has constitutional coverage to deal with nurses, boilermakers, shearers, ex-members of Parliament, ex-Ministers and the like and we want the cover of registration for these kinds of people.’ The whole thing would end up in chaos. The honourable member, who now seems to be looking a little more sensible than he did earlier, is, I think, beginning to gain a faint glimmer of comprehension about the difficulties that would be created if effect were given to the sort of thing that he advocates. lt is so ridiculous that I must dismiss it as being a ‘try on’. 1 do not think the honourable member was really serious. I think that he was just trying the Committee on to see how little I knew about the laws of conciliation and arbitration. He knew that if I fell for his silly little bait it would be proof positive that I knew nothing about the Constitution and that i knew a lot less about the operation of the arbitration system.
– The Minister for Labour in addressing the Committee on this matter has not given any assurance that the
Government in the operation of this legislation will take steps to ensure that Convention No. 87 and Convention No. 98, which it recently ratified, will be observed. If it were a matter merely of the constitutional point that the Minister raised one could have some sympathy with it, but one has very grave doubts as to whether the explanation given by the Minister is in fact correct. I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee at any great length. I wish merely to seek the Minister’s assurance that steps will be taken to ensure that these conventions will in fact be followed and enforced under the arbitration and conciliation legislation. Are we to ratify conventions of this significance and then have legislation which is administered in a way that rides roughshod over the sentiments expressed in those conventions? It would be a hypocritic government that claimed credit for ratifying what it regarded to be significant international conventions and then refused to adopt legislative machinery whereby this country and the workers of this country could be assured they would have the protection of those conventions. I think it important that this matter be given very great attention. If the Government is not prepared to give these assurances we must make the public aware that the adoption of the conventions was but a facade.
– I can only say in reply that I will send a copy of the conventions to the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) with a simple statement explaining what all the words mean. He will then see for himself that it is not a matter which can be dealt with under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I can, however, give him the assurance that he seeks by saying that the conventions will be observed. But they cannot be observed under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. There are 2 reasons. Firstly, it is not constitutional to use the Act for the implementation of international agreements. Secondly, it would be an inappropriate Act to use in any event. But, of course, we will honour those conventions that we ratify.
– I thank the Minister for Labour for his assurances. 1 believe that he is wrong in bis interpretation of the law. But whether he is right or wrong, there is no objection to putting in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act a clause like the one I have referred to. lt does not affect our obligations under the conventions. It simply says - and it should declare - that we intend to keep those obligations, whatever they are. The questions of law that the Minister raised - and 1 believe that he was egregiously wrong - are ones which no doubt will come before the High Court of Australia in due course. Whether or not that happens, surely the Government does not object to the insertion in the Act of its own intention, which the Minister for Labour has now declared, to act in good faith. We have had in this and in other matters evidence that the Government does not always act in good faith and that Ministers’ assurances given in this chamber and elsewhere cannot always be trusted. If the Minister believes that what he says is correct, why does he object to putting into the Act the simple pledge that the Government will do what it has pledged itself to do? The question as to what that is is a matter which is left undetermined. The courts may look at that in the future. But what is the objection, Mr Minister, to putting into the Act - and it can validly be put in in spite of what you say - the pledge that you gave verbally at the table a moment ago and which unfortunately is not legally binding? If you believe your own words make them legally binding now.
– I join this debate only because I am afraid I have become very confused by honourable members opposite and particularly by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth).
– That is not unusual.
– It is quite correct to say that it is not unusual to be confused by what the honourable member says. In fact, on occasions I think the honourable member himself is very confused, ft seems to me that the honourable member is arguing at crosspurposes with himself. I am wondering whether he is asking the Government to write into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the requirement that people should become members of an organisation. As the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) correctly explained, Ihe International Labour Organisation convention says that in effect there shall be no prohibition on people belonging to organisations. Surely it is our aim - it is the aim of this Government anyhow - to place no impediment in the way of people who wish to become members of an organisation. In my view it was certainly the aim of the previous Government to prevent people from organising and to prevent groups from organising.
As the Minister quite rightly pointed out - and I do not know whether it was by accident or design that the honourable member completely ignored the Minister’s words and overlooked the wisdom and logic of what he was saying - section 142 of the Act speaks not so much of membership of an organisation as the registration of the organisation itself. The honourable member will know, if he has any knowledge of the industrial world, that on occasions more than one union covers much the same field. If he knew a little more about industrial matters he would know that the existence of perhaps 2 organisations causes a good deal of confusion. If the honourable member cares to examine this matter he will see that the very thing about which he and his colleagues screamed for so long when they were in government in regard 10 loss of production, loss of man hours, industrial disputes and other kinds of terrible practices, on occasions was caused by more than one union operating in the same field.
It seems to me that the honourable member, by pursuing his proposition, intends mat there should be a continuation of these sorts of disputes. I believe that the Act we are considering, if strictly adhered to, will prevent a lot of demarcation disputes and a lot of membership disputes between unions. There can be no doubt whatsoever - or there should be no doubt because obviously there is - after the Minister’s explanation of the position that there is no relationship whatsoever between the ILO convention which the honourable member drew to the attention of the Committee and section 142 of the Act as it stands. One speaks of the right of people to belong to organisations and the other speaks of the right of organisations to be registered and Ihe obligation of the Court to register th:m
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)- Mr Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, most certainly. I did not speak only of the phrase in the convention to join; I spoke of the phrase in the convention to establish, without any distinction whatsoever, organisations. Secondly, I did not advocate that there should be any industrial disruption. All I said - and I stick by this - was that the Government has done something and it has to abide by the legal consequences, whatever they are, of what it has done.
– The question is:
That new sub-section (6) be added at the end of clause5.
Question resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
– Is it the wish of the Committee to take clauses 6 to 19 together?
Clause 6 (Certain offences in relation to members of organisations, etc).
– Quite frankly clause 6 is an outrageous clause in terms of all of its implications.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Constitution of Commission)
– This Committee is now invited to consider a clause which goes to one of the most fundamental aspects of the Bill, namely, the division of the arbitral and conciliatory functions involved in the discharge of the role of a conciliation commissioner.I am sorry that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) is not in the chamber. No doubt he is preparing for his jaunt abroad, which is one of the reasons why he is rushing this Bill through the Parliament. It is a thundering disgrace that the national Parliament should be called upon to consider such a complicated measure in this fashion. The Minister does not even do the Committee the courtesy-
– Here he is!
– At long last he has arrived - Elijah come back to his own. The Minister is literally hung up on this issue. He wants to insist that there is a splendid sense of virtue in having one person discharging the functions both of a conciliation commissioner and, ultimately, if need be, of an arbitrator. I do not know why the Minister has this sense of obstinacy on this crucial matter.
– He is quaint.
– My honourable friend should not be so charitable and generous because to describe the Minister for Labour as quaint seems to me to be a massive misunderstatement of his position. If the Minister looks at what a former Leader of the Aus tralian Labor Party, the late Dr Evatt, decided upon this issue of conciliation and arbitration he will find that Dr Evatt took the position that if a person is to be a conciliator he should fulfil that role and should not be called upon to engage in arbitral functions. I suggest that the Minister for Labour should try to shed some of his obstinacy; we would then warm to him a little. As things are at present we look upon him as an individual who literally has come from either the North Pole or the South Pole - he is hard to warm to.
I invite the Minister to consider what he is doing. The supreme function in this sphere is that of a conciliator. A person who has the skills of a conciliator can do far more to ensure the sweet running of an industrial organisation, however it may be expressed or however it may be shown up, than any other person. Not many people have the skills of a good conciliator. If 2 parties to a dispute appear before a man who is sitting as a conciliation commissioner and they realise that at some point of time he will take off the hat of commissioner and put on the hat of an arbitrator, to that extent they will be reluctant to place all their attitudes before him. I do not know why the Minister does not give this bifurcation of the 2 functions a run. Will it hurt him? Will it hurt his sense of vanity? I do not know why he is so obstinate about this. Why does he not allow this to operate, say for the next 12 months, to see how it works? I invite the Minister to give any illustration of where, since amendments were made to the provision, it has fallen down. I must confess that I know of no cases where it has fallen down.
– You do not know very much if you do not know that.
– Apart from the honourable gentleman’s speciality in being associated with one trade union I have probably had far more to do with the trade union movement than has the honourable member who interjects, and I can assure him that this has been not with tame cat unions. As I said, the Minister has a complete hang up about separating the functions of conciliator and of arbitrator. I think a real responsibility falls upon the Minister to ensure that he gives to the Committee an explanation why he is so persistent with respect to this clause.
– I am not sure whether the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) was speaking with tongue in cheek or whether he intended to spend the time allotted to him to debate this clause in talking about himself. Clause 7 relates to section 6 of the principal Act and, as the honourable member rightly pointed out, it removes the distinction between a conciliation commissioner and an arbitration commissioner. However, from the way the honourable member put his proposition to the Committee one would think that this was of some significance when, in fact, all it is is a matter of semantics. The honourable member assured the Committee that he knew quite a deal about trade unions and their operations. That may be true - I am not prepared to argue it - but it is obvious he knows nothing about the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904- 1972 because sub-section (3.) of section 6 states:
The Governor-General shall designate each Commissioner
That is, a Commissioner of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission - (including a Commissioner appointed before the commencement of this sub-section) either as an Arbitration Commissioner or as a Conciliation Commissioner, and-
The following are the pertinent words - may at any time alter the designation of a Commissioner.
From the way the honourable member for Moreton was speaking one would have thought that some special function was attached to a person designated as an arbitration commissioner and another special function or attribute attached to him who acted as a conciliation commissioner. The very Act to which the honourable member agreed simply leaves it to the Governor-General to decide which terminology shall be applied to which person. This Bill does not change the intent of anything that was intended in the principal Act. It seems to me that it is incumbent upon any member of the Opposition who opposes the Bill to make sure that his criticism of the Bill is based on fact and not on his own emotions. It is only in this way that the Committee will see the wisdom of the Bill now before it.
– It is a pity to hear the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) speak as he did trying to interpret a section of the Act when obviously he is unable to do so.
– He does not understand it
– He does not understand it at all. When the sub-section to which he referred speaks of the Governor-General designating a person in a particular capacity, what the Governor-General is saying is that Mr X will be a conciliation commissioner and Mr Y will be an arbitration commissioner.
– Or vice versa.
– Or vice versa. What does it matter? The point is that the GovernorGeneral appoints him in a certain capacity. Pursuant to the provisions of the Act, once he is designated in that capacity, he fulfils the function which the office carries with it. The clear intention of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) is that rather than the Governor-General designate a person as a conciliation commissioner or as an arbitration commissioner, those functions will be merged and the one person can fulfil the 2 functions. As my colleague the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has amply demonstrated, the Minister has not shown any reason whatsoever for changing the provisions that were introduced in 1972 aimed at separating the functions of conciliation from those of arbitration. In his second reading speech he says this:
Grave problems have arisen in the operation of these provisions.
– What are they?
– Precisely. As the honourable member for Moreton says, what are these grave problems? It is very easy to make an assertion, as the Minister has done, but it is very much harder to justify the assertion made, more particularly when there is no attempt whatsoever to justify that assertion. The Minister goes on to say:
The best talent for the one function or the other has not always been wearing the right hat.
If Bill Smith has not worn the right hat, does that give any reason why he should wear 2 hats? If he is incapable of wearing one, how is he shown to be capable of wearing two? The proper solution to the problem with which the Minister has been confronted is to make sure that he wears the right hat, not to make him carry the additional burden of 2 steel helmets. So the point is that nowhere has the Minister demonstrated the need to change what was introduced in 1972. One might well, and justifiably, understand that, given a reasonable time, a person in a particular capacity fulfilling special functions will develop the skills appropriate to that function. No man is so perfect that he can always place all people in the right categories. Some of us at least are prepared to acknowledge that we might be skilful at one thing but that we are hopeless at another. So it is in arbitration, as in any walk of life. Certain persons will be skilled in certain areas.
The intention of the amendments which were introduced in 1972 by the then Government was to provide that a person should try to develop special skills in the area of conciliation or in the area of arbitration. 1 would suggest that it is obvious that if a person has sat as a conciliator asking both parties in a spirit of frankness and goodwill to lay their cards on the table with the object of settling in a fair and frank manner a dispute that has arisen, both parties or at least one of them could well hold the belief that the person who has sat as conciliator in an attempt to negotiate a settlement might well have built up prejudices or, if not prejudices, at least attitudes which, if he sat as an arbitrator, would prevent a spirit of fairness prevailing in the arbitration. That is not suggesting that a man who is thrust into this position deliberately takes one side or another. The 1972 proposals, which were accepted by this Parliament, are aimed at separating the functions of conciliation from the functions of arbitration. It is not a unique proposition that was put into operation at that time. It is something that is well founded in good sense and sound judgment. Unless both parties agree to a person who has sat as chairman in conciliation, that person should not sit in arbitration upon the dispute. I know from my own experience in Western Australia, looking at the industrial legislation of that State, that that principle has been accepted for many years and has been acted upon by both parties.
So what the Opposition objects to is that without any justification at all, without showing what the problems are that have arisen and without demonstrating how the one man can fairly wear 2 hats the Minister is seeking to overturn an existing situation and compel the one man to be both conciliator and arbitrator. The Minister goes on to say in his second reading speech:
Parlies have sometimes expressed a preference for arbitration to be carried out by the person who attempted to conciliate the differences between the parties.
The Minister says that parties have sometimes expressed this preference, but I ask him how many times. He had not told the Parliament how many times. What is the proportion of the number of cases when the parties have wanted the same man to conciliate and arbitrate to the number of cases when other parties have wanted a different man to arbitrate? What an argument the Minister then uses. He says:
The work load between commissioners has varied substantially.
That is not a matter of policy; that is a matter of mere administration, and it is up to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to administer the Act in an appropriate way so as to put the work load fairly upon all persons working within it. Then he goes on to say:
There has been an increase in internal paper work.
Since when has the weight of paper determined the policies of government and the principles upon which our arbitration system operates? Since when has mere weight of paper justified a change of the kind that the Minister proposes? The simple answer is to cut out the paper work and let the commissioners, both conciliation and arbitration, get down to business. If they are allowed to get down to business, no doubt what was written into the Act in 1972 can operate in the effective and proper way in which it was intended.
– I am sorry that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) chose to speak disparagingly of my colleague, the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan), because he should realise that the honourable gentleman, until he came into this Parliament, was easily one of the most eminent trade union officials in Australia. He had been a prominent trade union official for all his working life. He came into the trade union movement as the State Secretary of the Federal Clerks Union of Australia when he was only 22 years of age, and he is regarded by all sections of the trade union movement - whether they are communists, supporters of the Democratic Labor Party, Labor Party people, right, left or centre - as the most competent and one of the most capable men in the business. So to suggest that the honourable gentleman does not know what he is talking about is something which the honourable member for Moreton will live long enough to learn to his regret is not true. 1 do not want to take very long and I will invite the honourable member for Phillip to cite examples of where the present system has not been operating. All that 1 intend to say is that the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) and his learned friend who preceded him, the honourable member for Moreton, do not seem to understand what the amendments are all about. This particular amendment simply says in ordinary lay language that no longer will we have people called arbitration commissioners and others called conciliation commissioners. In future we will have commissioners and presidential members. But the commissioners, the ones we are now talking about, will be people who will be free and who will be authorised to carry out arbitration proceedings and conciliation proceedings. If the honourable gentlemen will look at clause 12 of the Bill they will see that it alters section 22 of the Act.
– Exactly. You have identified the problem.
– My dear friend, if you understand that this is dealing with section 22, you make the mystery even deeper that you should then go on to say that there is anything wrong with the proposal we are now discussing. We are proposing that in future a commissioner will have the right to carry out both functions unless one of the parties objects. All that has to happen where a party to the proceedings believes that something that was said during conciliation proceedings could prejudice that person’s position should the event have to be arbitrated upon, is for him to say: ‘I object’. If he objects we are then back to the position that now appertains. We are back to exactly where we were. Once an objection is taken it is fatal. The person who dealt with the proceedings up to that point has to retire from the case, and another person who had nothing to do with conciliation proceedings enters the picture and proceeds to carry out the arbitration proceedings.
I said in my second reading speech that I was not prepared at this stage to knock out completely the separation of conciliation and arbitration powers. I said that the Government proposed to continue the experiment for a little longer. I acknowledge that there may be some merit in separating the 2 functions but I do not want to see the farcical position that now operates continue for much longer where, in order Vo get around the present provisions of the Act, presidential members have had to invoke sections of the Act that would allow them to use both conciliatory and arbitral functions. By a mere device which, if tested, would probably be found to be illegal they have brought about the very situation which we now say should be formalised. All that needs to be done by anybody who wants one man to step out once conciliation has broken down and arbitration has to be entered upon, is for him to object. The new Act will provide for the objection to be upheld. The honourable member for Phillip can cite plenty of examples of how the present system has not worked. I will not enlarge upon them because there are many of them.
– Give us one or two examples if you can.
– I am sorry, sir. There are plenty of them. The honourable member for Phillip, who is a practitioner in the field, and who has only just left this jurisdiction as a court advocate and an advocate before the Commission, can cite plenty of examples. I will now resume my seat so that he may do so, because what I would have to say would only relate second hand the first hand information that the honourable member for Phillip can give to the Committee.
– So you admit you do not have them?
– I have plenty of them. I have a whole bag full of them here.
– Will you table those? Mr Lynch - Mr Chairman, 1 would be very happy to give the Minister leave.
– No. The honourable gentleman can cite them to you.
– I am sure that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) are not very serious in their opposition to the amendments because what the Bill does specifically is to prohibit any person exercising the power of conciliation, and subsequently arbitration, unless both parties to the dispute consent to his exercising the arbitral function. That is a most necessary provision. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) would know from his experience as Minister for Labour and National Service, it is necessary to legitimise a very successful and very convenient illegality which has been occurring in the Arbitration Commission over the last 2 years. I invite the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to confirm that what 1 am saying is true because he knows it to be true.
Presidential Members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in other words, the judges of the arbitration system in Australia, have been conveniently practising an illegality in order to improve industrial relations in a number of industries. What they have been doing, with the consent of parties in a number of industries, is to act as conciliators in the first instance and, if the conciliation procedure fails in part or in total, they have then been acting as arbitrators. I instance a number of Presidential Members. The Acting President of the Commission, His Honour Mr Justice Moore and Deputy Presidents, His Honour Mr Justice Aird and His Honour Mr Justice Ludeke, in recent weeks, months and years have been practising this art of conciliating and subsequently arbitrating. The difficulty is that if a party to such a proceeding, having given his agreement in the first instance to proceeding in this way which, I inform the house, is very convenient and speeds up the procedures enormously, were then to say ‘I do not agree with this procedure any further’ the whole of the proceedings would become abortive.
We then find a difficulty, due to the previous Government’s legislation, where there are teams or panels of arbitrators and conciliators, in that the top man or the head of the team is eliminated from the process of arbitration. This is a grave fault in the legislation of the previous Government. It is full of real and practical difficulties. This is not some question of party political philosophy; it is a question of how the Commission can best work. Nobody came along to the Liberal Party, the Australian Labor Party or the Australian Country Party and asked: ‘What is your philosophy on this?’ This Bill is merely to give effect to what employers organisations and companies, trade union organisations, trade unions and members of the Arbitration Commission have found to be a very convenient and very useful method of performing the work of settling disputes. Do not condemn the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) for doing what is eminently sensible. Do not condemn him for doing what every section of the industrial relations world has asked to be done. I am amazed that honourable gentlemen opposite do not know about it.
Let me cite some examples. This practice has been carried out in the metal trades industry. The procedures have operated with substantial success in that industry as well as the stevedoring, container and power and fuel industries. The effect is that the parties confer. When they cannot reach agreement a conciliator, being a presidential member of the Commission or a commissioner, tries to assist by making suggestions of a compromise. When this has failed to resolve the issue the parties have said to members of the Commission: ‘If you express a view about this particular issue we will accept it as our will. We will make an agreement in the terms of your opinion.’ That has been done very successfully.
I can give honourable members another example of where this procedure has worked very successfully. Recently in the paper industry a long strike could not be resolved. A presidential member of the Commission said to both parties: ‘This matter will now be set down for arbitration. I have done my best to conciliate. I will now set it down for arbitration.’ It was then possible for both parties to reach agreement, and they did. It was equally possible for either party to say to the presidential member: ‘You have been conciliating and under the provisions of the Act you may not now act as arbitrator.’ There was no provision for the parties to waive objection in the initial stages as there will be provision when this Bill is passed. I appeal to honourable gentlemen opposite seriously to consider this matter. It contains no deep philosophy. It is a practical solution which is required by people who work in the Commission, by both sides of the argument as it were, by both employers and employees. Not all employers and not all the trade unions want it, but a significant number want it. Why should they be denied a procedure which has been proved in practice to work so effectively? This practice has been approved by members of the Commission. I suppose the only way to describe it is to say that it has been approved illegally, but it has had great and beneficial results for the community as well as for the parties involved in industrial disputes. I sincerely put that view to honourable members and particularly to the honourable member for Moreton.
I am not denying the past experience of the honourable member for Moreton in industrial matters, although it has not been my privilege ever to have witnessed him in action in my 20 years experience in Commonwealth arbitration tribunals. He assures the House that he has had that experience and I accept that.
– You have seen him in action here. That is enough.
– I hope he will improve a little on his actions so far tonight. It seems that he has not read the Bill. I suspect that he was filling in time until the Deputy Leader of the Opposition turned up. I cannot believe that a gentleman as responsible as the honourable member for Phillip - I mean the honourable member for Moreton - would raise such a petty point and would try, as the honourable member for Moreton did, to deny the benefits of the amended legislation to those people who practice in the industrial relations sphere and are seeking the amendments.
– In my 18 years in this Parliament I have suffered a variety of insults but I am bound to confess that for the first lime in my life I am upset. I am upset that I should be confused by the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) with himself. I thought the honourable gentleman made out a perfect argument for the case that I was putting, that a clear distinction should be drawn between a man discharging the role of conciliator and a man acting as arbitrator. I would not like the honourable member to think that I whistled up a curious idea while walking across the carpet from the door to my seat simply, as the honourable gentleman said, to fill in a few moments because my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) was prevented by an unhappy gathering of facts from being here. But he is here now. I have long held the view that I have put and 1 am not alone in having held it. The honourable member for Phillip surely will not say that the former right honourable member for Barton was seized with a curious idea. T am referring to Dr Evatt who in 1956 stood at the table near the dispatch box and moved an amendment which included this provision:
The making of special provisions, strengthening the processes of conciliation, including the appointment of additional commissioners charged exclusively with the function of mediation.
The key word is ‘exclusive’. I am delighted that the honourable member for Phillip agrees with me. I will not argue again as I have argued in years gone by. The grave difficulty in any industrial dispute occurs when the parties say: ‘We are at loggerheads and this situation must involve the discipline of an arbitrator.’ That is where a skilled negotiator, mediator and conciliator is priceless beyond all description in getting the 2 parties together and saying to them: ‘Look, gentlemen, you have differences. I want to assist you to negotiate them.’ I agree with the honourable member for Phillip that there is no doctrinaire attitude in this debate save that injected by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is so overcome by the prospect of his visit to Geneva that he seems to be beyond himself. I have never heard an employer organisation thunder about this point. I have never heard anyone in the trade union movement complain about the attitude that if you can get a sound conciliator he is the man who can achieve a great deal in this field.
I am worried because the Government is seeking to abandon recognition of the true value of a conciliator. I must confess, for all of my manifest imperfections, that 1 am not persuaded to the view that you are correct merely because one or other of the parties would say: ‘We object to your now sitting as an arbitrator’. My complaint is simply that you do not put the proper emphasis upon the role of a conciliator. I hold strongly to the view that if the parties to a dispute realise that a man can sit as an arbitrator - albeit they may say that they do not want him to sit as an arbitrator - they will not be as forthcoming as when they know that they can put all their cards on the table. That has been my experience. 1 have not moved in the crepe de Chine industrial circles in which the honourable member for Phillip has moved. Mine has been but a humble pursuit, but I have dealt with some rather rugged trade union leaders. I am delighted to have had their confidence.
– I support the clause in particular and the Bill in general. We have heard today from honourable members opposite a great story which, when closely examined, can be reduced to the category of calamity howling by individuals who have had little or no experience in the field of industrial relations. Alternatively, they are determined to continue their historic role of rushing to the defence of the people they represent in this Parliament. [ refer to the employers or that section of the community which alone controls in this country the forces of production. The debate on the clause we are discussing has been taken out of perspective. A conciliator has an important role. Any honourable member who has had experience in honestly and sincerely trying to resolve an industrial dispute appreciates that in so doing one looks for people who will explore the conciliatory prospects to their logical conclusion. A number of examples in the recent past have been shown to reinforce my argument. The provisions of the Act show that we seem to be running away from this position. In the Act 2 fundamental areas are dealt with. Ons is conciliation and the other, as the last resort, is arbitration. We ran into difficulties through the 1960s when the employers’ organisations were reinforced by the interference by the previous government which wanted to see the Conciliation and Arbitration Act used as a regulator of the economy rather than for the purpose for which is was set up, namely, to resolve industrial disputes. Influence was brought to bear on employers’ organisations not to take to its logical conclusion the course which was available to them within the conciliatory arm of the Act. Under section 28 of the Act action can be taken at the conciliatory level.
In practice people used to give lip-service to section 28 of the Act. People would appear to negotiate under that section of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and talk out time, but no genuine effort was made to negotiate. Therefore the process lapsed at that point. What used to happen subsequently was that employers would use that procedure as a fishing expedition to amass sufficient evidence to take unions before the industrial court. No genuine attempt whatsoever was made to conciliate.
What is recognised by this clause, and what the previous Government did not realise, is that experts in resolving industrial disputes are readily available. Judge Aird and Judge Robinson were important appointments to the Bench. They were respected by the trade union movement and had tremendous capacity to resolve industrial disputes. As my friend the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) properly pointed out, they acted in a proper and responsible way to resolve disputes despite the fact that they were probably operating illegally. The amendments made by the previous Government precluded them from operating in an effective way. This clause gives the scope and the ambit for both parties to a dispute to agree to the whole concept of taking advantage of the skill of an individual who has a knowledge of the beginning of a dispute and of using that knowledge right to the end of the dispute, going through the whole ambit of the Act. In the first instance a conciliator has preliminary handling of the dispute and listens to the parties when all tempers are flared and when people tend to take fixed positions. The very fact that the conciliator has had experience in that field is acknowledged by those who have had any experience at all in industrial disputation. The parties then can see the possibility of properly sitting down, under the concept of this Act, without a bludgeon hanging over their heads, and of trying to resolve their differences in a proper and amicable fashion. After having gone through the preliminaries at the conciliation stage, if there is no possibility of a solution at that stage then under the concept of this proposition that authority cannot arbitrate if one party rejects the proposal that they should have him as arbitrator. What is fairer than that?
However, as I pointed out previously, the most important factor is that an individual who is to make the final decision should clearly understand the whole concept of the particular dispute. I have been involved in disputes of this nature. I refer to a classic example heard before Judge Aird, namely the Ericsson dispute. This case involved a very bitter argument and a wrong concept about compulsory unionism. It was taken completely out of perspective. If a conciliator who did not understand just precisely what the case was all about had handled that case in the first instance he could have made a devil of a mess of it. But Judge Aird, who did a magnificent job in the resolving of that dispute, had the flexibility to take the case from the beginning to the end. The only reason that that action could succeed was that the parties agreed that that process should be adopted. That is a practical example.
If anybody knows anything about the recent history of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission he would quickly realise that the case I mentioned involved a very difficult dispute. From that case came an area of agreement between the 2 parties which Judge Aird handled in a very fine way. He was able to do that only because he did a number of things. He took the case through the whole process of conciliation. He examined what was, in fact, the real difficulty between the 2 parties, and that was a series of about 22 complaints of all the unions against the company involved. Judge Aird then set the machinery in motion to examine the complaints. He took off the robes of a Judge and got down to the basis of talking across the table in the way in which that kind of dispute should be handled. He examined each area of the dispute in turn. He came up with a format that we said we would try, and Ky it we did. In trying that format we resolved the dispute.
Harking back to what this clause really means, we have taken away the ridiculous concept under which an individual starts to hear the original aspects of a dispute and, after reaching the point where he knows something about it, is suddenly told that he docs not have the jurisdiction to handle it, and that he has to hand the matter over to somebody else for arbitration. That process is ridiculous and shows the ineptitude and lack of experience of the people who framed the amendments which provided for this course to bc adopted. The proposal now before us is constructive, objective and practical and it can work. Therefore, I commend this clause as it is to the Committee.
– 1 rise to support the action taken by my colleagues in suggesting to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) that he again give the most careful thought to deleting this clause from the Bill. I do so because I believe that this clause will do great harm. If his Government looks at it in total - not as representing the trade union movement alone - it will come to the conclusion that this clause is contrary to the best interests of the nation and contrary to the system of conciliation and arbitration. It will take us back to where we were before the Hood award, which was one of the actions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which, I believe, had a substantial impact on inflation.
When the previous government was considering the problem that began in 1970 with the national wage case award, we felt that the impact of inflation would become so severe that it would rise to a level that could well be as high as between 9 and 1 3 per cent. That was a very dangerous position for any government to face, whether it happens to be a Liberal or a Labor government. Later, somewhere in the middle of June of 1971, a very cosy agreement was made between trade unions and manufacturers, particularly the manufacturers in the metal trades industry.
The parties made an agreement which resulted in the so called conciliated Hood award. I remember giving instructions that this cosy agreement was to be opposed before the Commission. But when the Government decided to appoint representatives to appear before the Court we found that the agreement had already been completed. We, as a government, then had no power of intervention in this case whatsoever. This is the way in which it was approached. Our attitude as a government, therefore, was a pretty clear one. We did not want consummated and completed a kind of agreement that we would not in future be able to oppose in the national interest and be able to ensure that the national interest was respected.
We say this about this clause, first of all, that we believe that in very important cases there should be a right of recourse to arbitration and, ultimately, to the Full Bench. I do not want to see the Australian Labor Party faced with identical problems - dangerous problems - of a kind which can disturb the national economy and create conditions where there might be subsequent unemployment and where there might be a slowdown of business operations and of orders to the factories. If this occurred, we could have, no matter what the Government might do, stagflation of the type that other countries have had to a severe degree and which we fortunately have escaped to a considerable extent.
I believe this is a bad clause and, for the reasons I have given, I believe it is necessary to separate the 2 functions. I am a little astonished that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) could not give us a single practical example of a failure under the present Act. From all the advice that we have been able to obtain from the employers and other sections involved, we have not been able to find any strenuous objection to the Act as it exists at the moment. Even when the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) came into this chamber - I nearly said Minister because one day, 20 to 30 years hence, he may be a Minister in governments, perhaps, succeeding the Whitlam government
– He wants to be a Minister now.
– I know he does: he is a « cv hungry person. But there is little prospect of him becoming a Minister. I was surprised that he, wilh all his articulation and with his attempted mock seriousness has not been able to give one practical illustration of a case where such a clause would have been desirable in the interest of the nation as a whole. This should not be looked at as a single case but in the widest perspective, taking a national and overall view of the economy and of the industrial arbitration system.
– I gave you an example.
– The honourable member for Melbourne was not asked to do so;I asked the honourable member for Phillip. I believe that the honourable member for Melbourne might be able to do a little better than the honourable member for Phillip but I have no reason at all to want to establish a competitive spirit between those honourable members and to have one arguing against the other. I want the question answered. We have not been able to get the answer to that question from the man to whom it was directed.
In our view this clause is not necessary. The Government’s case has not been proved. In our view, the proposal will destroy the effect of the measures put to us by the then Department of Labour and National Service as something that was critically important if we wanted to prevent inflationary forces of the kind that I have mentioned being generated in 1973 and 1974 in the same way as happened in 1970 and 1971. I urge the Minister to have another look at this question. I believe it is one clause that could very well be deleted and its deletion would be of benefit to the Labor Party as well as to the country.
Clause agreed to.
- Mr Chairman, with your indulgence and leave of the Committee, I suggest that we reconsider clause 6.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Opposition Parties totally oppose clause 6 which is now before the Committee. It is a very curious proposal indeed. It is one which we see advancing to a considerable extent, present moves at the grass roots of industry to build the power of the shop steward movement throughout the trade union area. The proposal itself permits trade union officials including shop stewards but not, of course, confined to the category of shop stewards - no doubt, however, they will be the front line men in terms of the operation to which we will refer briefly - to undertake any function at a place of work provided it can be related to union interests and this will not be an offence under criminal or civil law, other than a breach of their contracts of employment. The effect of this provision will be to place certain categories of persons in the union movement, particularly shop stewards, in permanent employment no matter how detrimental their actions and activities may be to their employers. This will be only a further incentive for irresponsible officials to take direct industrial action at the plant level, without restraint.
The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) must appreciate that one of the emerging problems which has caused concern to governments around the world in relation to the trade union movement has been the increasing power of the shop steward. This has applied in the United Kingdom and I regret that we have imported some of those problems; however, I advert to that only briefly. The problem of shop stewards and related categories also exists in countries such as Germany. This movement has seen the breakdown of the structure of the senior union body. I invite Government supporters to address themselves to this problem because it poses considerable difficulty for the entire area of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The Minister for Labour knows full well the many disputes pertinent to this point, which have taken place in this country in recent years. I instance the Latrobe Valley as one major area of concern where the militants and the shop stewards have taken control and are responsible to a large degree for the industrial unrest which has taken place in that part of Victoria. The proposal before the Committee would allow, for example, a shop steward to refuse to undertake any work on the ground that he must pursue his union activities full time. It should be noted that, under the terms of this clause, if an employer dismissed a shop steward because of his activities, the employer must prove that the shop steward committed a civil or criminal offence.
There is no doubt that throughout industry - I am glad that the officers of the Department of Labour are in attendance, because they understand the problem full well - one of the emerging difficulties in the future will be the rise to power of the shop stewards. This measure considerably advantages shop stewards in industry. I would have thought that the first thing that the Minister would have sought to do with this legislation would have been to protect elected union officers at the senior levels from the grass fires that can take place because of unwarranted and unjustifiable direct action by persons such as shop stewards taking the affairs of particular disputes into their own hands. This, of course, is consistent with the whole sectional intent and application of the legislation. As one listened to the Government supporters participating in this debate, one wondered at their allegations - I remember the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) making this point - concerning the expertise they share as if there were no expertise in industrial relations on this side of the House. One wonders if the Government has all this expertise to bring to bear, how it could be at present that there is such a major increase in industrial unrest.
We and, I am certain, the Australian community recall the pre-election days when the now Government went on to the hustings and sought to herald a new era of industrial peace. I ask Government supporters during the debate on this or any other clause of the Bill to tell us where the lesson has started to sour, because we know that if there is one area in which the Government has been notable during its first 150 days, it is the industrial area. What has been the lesson? The lesson has been a marked increase in industrial unrest; a rash of strikes and, for the first time in the last quarter of a century, strikes which have been officially blessed by the Government, and honourable members know the examples of this in recent times; the rapid escalation in inflationary pressures; the build up of union monopoly power. These are problems of very great concern to the people of this country and this Government has failed to solve them. The solution it is bringing forward in terms of the shop steward area-
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member come back to the clause of the Bill.
– I would suggest to the Chairman, if I may-
– Order! For 5 minutes the honourable gentleman has been speaking away from the clause being dealt with. I ask him to observe the direction of the Chair and not to direct me on how to conduct the Committee.
– I would not seek to direct you for one moment, Mr Chairman, but I take the point that anyone who is involved in the industrial jurisdiction knows that the dynamics of power in relation to industrial disputes, and the lesson that the Labor Goverment is now learning, are very much tied up-
– Order! I suggest to the honourable gentleman that he come back to the clause of the Bill now being debated. The second reading stage-
– If the Chairman will allow me to finish the sentence I will do that.
– Order! The second reading debate concluded some time ago. We are now debating the detail of the clauses, and inflationary pressures and so on are hardly relevant to the clause under discussion.
– If you recall, Mr Chairman, I was referring to (he dynamics of power in the trade union movement. No one would see those dynamics of power as being in any sense irrelevant to the activities of shop stewards and trade union officials at the grass roots level. The Opposition asks the Minister for Labour and other honourable members opposite to justify this proposal in a manner in which it has not been justified during the second reading stage, and to bring forward the substantial reasons why they feel compelled to so advantage shop stewards who unfortunately have tended to become the playthings of the communists in some industries. I do not take a broad gauge brush on this. J speak responsibly to the point. Honourable members know that shop stewards in certain critical industries have become the playthings of the Communist Party which seeks for its own reasons not simply to abuse the conciliation and arbitration system but to destroy the processes which we in this debate support. No power of this type can reasonably reside in the areas in which the Government is prepared to place that power at present. I ask the Minister to ponder full well on the experience of the United Kingdom, Germany and so many other European countries because the lesson to be learned from that experience is that if we build up the grass roots level of the union movement, we do so at the peril of the elected officials at the level of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. No dispute is more uncontrollable than a dispute which is not in the hands of the senior elected officials of the union concerned. This’ clause will certainly advantage considerably the shop steward area. To that extent, if you will forgive this observation, Mr Chairman, it is directly relevant to the concept of the dynamics of power in the trade union movement. This is an outrageous proposal. It is sectional and partisan in its intent and it will not redress the problems which the Government apparently believes it can resolve.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) expressed concern for the threat to the leadership of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I find that very touching, if a little hard to believe. In the far ranging way in which he went around the bush that time - it has to be remembered too that you, Mr Chairman, had to bring him back to the field on at least 2 occasions - he used his usual rhetoric when speaking about the rash of strikes, communist control of this and communist control of that and the sort of - I was about to say garbage’ but I suppose that would be unparliamentary - that we have had to listen to since I have been in the House anyhow. Had the honourable gentleman bothered to read the whole of clause 6 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and tried to comprehend what it was all about, I am sure he would have made a different speech from the one he did make. I speak from personal experience in this area as one who has been a shop steward and never a threat to the leadership of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, as one who has never been under the control of communists and as one who has always tried to do a good and honest job on the factory floor on behalf of the fellows who did me the honour of electing me. Had the Deputy Leader of the Opposition ever had that experience he would understand and appreciate the very great risk that a working man places himself in when he takes on the troubles of his fellows in the factory; how he runs the risk of, if not being blatantly dismissed, being placed in a position in the factory and given work to do that is completely unacceptable to him and having no redress in the matter. The proposed amendment to the Act seeks to make some protection, and I believe it is very good protection, available to those people because if that protection does not exist we have the sort of situation which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and those he repre sents - those who employ - want, that is, a situation where they have a completely subservient work force in their factories and men and women who are disinclined to take any action or to complain about any action taken against them for fear that their elected representatives and they in turn would be dismissed. The Bill does not give a carte blanche to the actions of the shop stewards, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would have us believe. Instead it spells out very clearly the sorts of situations in which the shop steward is not entitled to any protection. They are situations which anybody would regard as being reasonable. The words in the Bill are of the unlawful nature’, an expression that is used more than once. Proposed sub-section 2a (a) states in paragraph (a): the act or thing done or proposed to be done by the employee was or would have been unlawful under the civil or criminal law, otherwise than by reason only of its being a breach of the contract of employment.
This is protection for the employer, if he needs it, against his employee or shop steward or whoever is performing any unlawful act. It is not a question of placing shop stewards or employees above the law as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested. Rather it works the other way. It gives to employees a degree of protection which they do not have at the moment and prevents discrimination against them because of their activities on behalf of their colleagues. As I said before, there is no colder place in this world than that occupied by a shop steward who has to take up a case on behalf of those who have done him the honour of electing him, and who finds himself at the mercy of the employer. This Bill offers protection to him.
One other point that the honourable member made that requires some answer - once again he spoke from a position of distance - is the impression he gave of shop stewards somehow or other being guided missiles, though he did not explain of whom. He seems to overlook the fact - if he had had any practical experience of this he would know - that in all industrial matters the people on the job, the union members, will express their point of view, in fact have expressed their point of view, and their elected officials, whether shop stewards or full time officials of the union are there to do the bidding of the members. The reverse is not the case. I speak from personal experience and I am sure that the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) and the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) will agree with me. So the rhetoric used by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is of no avail, lt leads the debate into areas where it should not be. lt gives a false impression to those who are listening of what clause 6 of the Bill is all about. The record should be kept straight. These amendments are designed to strengthen the existing provisions for the protection of members of organisations. It is as simple as that. It means that. The words mean that it gives nobody a right to do anything that could be considered unlawful or unreasonable but that it gives a very high degree of protection to those who on occasions really need it.
– I find myself in agreement with the honourable member for Burke.
– I am wrong, then.
– I will put you at risk in that count. I find myself in agreement to this extent, that there would be some virtue in looking at what the clause is all about. Therefore, I am disposed to read the principal provision in the clause, lt is to this effect: Thai a person being an officer, delegate or member of an organisation, has done, or proposes to do, an act or thing, in an industrial establishment or elsewhere, for the purposes of furthering o:protecting the industrial interests of the organisation or of its members, being an act or thing done within the limits of authority expressly or impliedly conferred on him by the organisation. What goes before that is this: An employer shall not dismiss an employee
Minister to speak at. But imagine that gathering. The members are told by some individual: Everybody out. Clyde is arriving.’ One can imagine the hushed scene and the honourable gentleman arriving at, shall we say, a shearing shed back of Bourke or somewhere. Does the Minister seriously say that that gathering would be for the purpose of furthering or protecting the industrial interests of the organisation? In a few words what this provision amounts to is this: lt is for the purpose of making political strikes legal. That is the position that the Minister is in.
The second aspect about this clause is that the onus of proof is put on the person who is charged. J say to the Minister for Labour that I have some degree of affection for him, but because of the way he is behaving at the moment it is waning pretty quickly. I hope that if I ever hear the honourable gentleman mention ‘onus of proof again the words will choke in his throat. This is what the honourable gentleman proposes to do under clause 6 (b), which is to be a part of section 5 of the Act. This provision will make it an offence if an employer simply tries to persuade an employee not to take part in a political strike which it is argued is in furtherance of an industrial interest. If an employer says to a man: ‘Look, old chap, if you want to go about your business with this hair brained scheme and stop the factory for half an hour for the purpose of listening to the Minister for Labour - that is. the honourable member for Hindmarsh - I must inform you that you had better go right along and collect your pay and get out’, ff the employer does that he commits an offence against the Act. What happens then? He is charged.
– He is liable to $400.
– He is liable to a penally of $400. Where does the onus rest in this case?
– He is liable to a fine for listening to the Minister.
– Yes. A person would need more than S400 to listen to the Minister; he would need a knighthood given by a Labor government. Under clause 6 the onus is put upon the employer to prove his defence. The employer has to satisfy the court. Here he is, this great defender of Magna Carta, the one who stood up in this place year after year talking ad nauseam about the onus of proof. But in this legislation the onus is put on the employer. Why should the onus of proof not rest upon a person to satisfy the court that the stoppage was for the purpose of a legitimate industrial dispute or, indeed, for furthering or protecting legitimate industrial interests? In this legislation the Minister makes a provision for the purpose of legitimising all political strikes in the future. Then he turns around and caricatures the substantial basis of our system of jurisprudence that puts the onus of proof on the person who makes the charge. No clause in this Bill is more revealing of the Minister’s philosophy towards the whole industrial movement in this country or indeed of his philosophy towards the whole economic base in this country than this clause. This is a contemptible provision. It deserves to be thrown out.
The Minister is sitting at the table reading a newspaper. It is all very fine. I do not know what he is reading about. The honourable gentleman does not even pay the Committee the courtesy of listening to a debate on a clause. He chuckles away: i am on my way to Geneva’. That is all that is on the honourable gentleman’s mind. It is said about the Minister that he is mean. I’ll say he is mean! The honourable gentleman is so mean that he would stand outside the office of the RegistrarGeneral for births and deaths on a wet winter’s night merely to check up on the age of a woman. I say to the honourable gentleman: This is a totally irresponsible provision to put in a statute of the Commonwealth Parliament. I know he is keen to get to Geneva, but if this is the sort of provision he wants to put down, the sooner he goes the better.
– Once again we have been entertained by an act that would win an academy award. If it were not such a serious matter we could claim that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) is the greatest performer on the other side of the chamber. I think that this matter is far too serious for us to be deferred from considering its real relevance and importance, and the genuine concept that this clause implies in coming to grips with real industrial problems. Insofar as the shop steward is concerned, we have to realise that this individual is democratically elected. Union rules provide for this. The relevant Act provides a procedure by which the people who represent the members of the union are elected in a proper way. Under the rules the person who is elected is not a free agent. He does not act off his own bat. He has to subscribe and give effect to the view and the will of the majority of the people he represents. This matter ought to be brought back to that concept.
This clause is not designed to protect people about whom the honourable member for Moreton tells us such heart rending stories, such as the poor employer who, having sacked an individual because he is a shop steward of an organisation, should not have the onus of proof put on him to satisfy a tribunal as to why he sacked the steward. The impression that has been given in this chamber is that it is par for the course to hear the honourable member for Moreton and other honourable members on that side of the chamber speak about- communists under tram tickets and communists under the bed. I wonder how they sleep at night. It is an insult to those people who are properly elected to those positions to be accused of being instruments of anybody. If they are instruments of anybody they are instruments of the people whom they represent. They are the people who play an integral part in the whole operation of industrial relations. We are trying to achieve an optimum level in industrial relations which will act in the best interests of the employer, the employee and the community in general.
Reference was made by the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), who is an ex-Prime Minister, to the Hood award and the fact that there was collusion between parties - the concept that there were devious activities by individuals. He actually is accusing people who represent employers and employees, people who are coming to grips with a problem and reaching a solution, of being criminals. These are people who are trying to bring about an agreement that is going to act to the detriment of the country in general and to industries in particular. The shop stewards and union officers have an integral part to play.
Mention also was made of the fact that the shop stewards movement took action in the Latrobe Valley that was not in conformity with the rules of their organisation and which in fact brought into question the authority of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Let us have a look at that question. It was the action, the activity and the policies of the previous Government that brought about a state of affairs which existed in the Latrobe Valley in which the job expectancy of people in that area was at rock bottom. People who had spent their whole lives in that area had to pull up stakes and shift out because there were no jobs available. All workers in the area, including shop stewards, were driven to distraction. The situation in the Latrobe Valley did not arise because of the actions of irresponsible shop stewards. The responsibility can rest squarely on the shoulders of the previous Government. The situation which fermented the problems in the Latrobe Valley was the responsibility of the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government.
– What about the Victorian Government?
– As my friend has pointed out, the Victorian Government was part and parcel of the activities and it is equally responsible. As I indicated the other day, the Hamer administration in Victoria has gone to great lengths to dissociate itself from the sort of things which brought the previous Federal Liberal Government down and which I believe will bring the State Liberal Government down on 19th May.
The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) raised the case in which union members might attend a meeting addressed by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). If they were brought out to listen to the Minister speaking in defence of individuals like the honourable member for Moreton, it would be legitimate for people to defend their own rights in considering what they had to consider in terms of legitimate union business. If an employer sacked a shop steward for convening a meeting such as that I believe that in conformity with clause 6 the employer ought to be charged with the responsibility of showing cause why he dismissed that official.
– We know where we stand.
– The honourable member always knows where he stands, or sits or gabbles or does whatever he likes. But all he has done this evening has been to challenge a legitimate clause that in fact tidies up the discrimination that has existed for quite some time under previous governments. These are governments that at the drop of a hat have discriminated against union representatives such as shop stewards when they have legitimately gone about their business. Unions are responsible bodies of people and if people step out of line and do not act in accordance with the rules of unions, the unions will certainly deal with them.
The rules of organisations registered by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration
Commission have to comply with certain regulations. This provision is not being changed. What is in fact happening here is that legitimate protection is being given for properly and duly elected officers of unions. This is all that the clause provides for. It does not protect individuals who step out of the bounds of the rules of unions which were set out when the union concerned was first formed. Yet, this is what is implied by the people who oppose the clause. If shop stewards who deserve the protection of the Act are sacked, I believe that the provisions contained in clause 6 of the Bill ought legitimately and correctly to be used. All of the argument that we have heard against this clause has been put forward in an endeavour to hinder the role of the shop steward, a man who performs a very important role in the involved system of industrial relations. I think that honourable members opposite who have spoken in the debate on this clause obviously have not talked to any of the employer organisations. If they had they would have seen one section of the industrial complex that is relevant and important. In the eyes of responsible employers the shop steward plays a most important role in industrial relations at the grass roots level. I commend the clause and I do not think it ought to be altered. I think that the hysterical outbursts from members of the Opposition have meant nothing. I think that this clause contains a vital principle and ought to be supported.
– In this case we are dealing with a new, and as I said this morning, alien provision in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is new in the sense that never before have we had a similar type of provision incorporated in any Act of the Commonwealth. Certainly we have not had anything approaching it incorporated in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act itself. I believe, as I said this morning, that this clause has to be read alongside section 138 of the Act which at present prohibits a boycott or action being taken by a member or officer of a union which is designed to prevent a person complying with the award or with his contract of employment. This provision prevents him from inciting people to go slow or inciting people not to work in accordance with the contract which they have made with their employer. The Government seeks to remove this provision. In other words, this clause, if it becomes law, will permit a shop steward or official of a union to incite people to break awards. This clause will permit people to incite other people to act in a way which is contrary to the contract of employment that they have and to the award which covers the whole of the industry
If we take it a little further we find that the proposed new sub-section (f) of section 5 of the principal Act relates not as section 138 relates to an official but applies to any employee. We find that it applies to any action which he might take either on the shop floor, within the industry or anywhere else, as is clearly set out, provided only that the employee believes that it is for the purpose of protecting the industrial interests of the union. So here we have a situation in which an employee can turn round and, no matter what he might have agreed to and no matter what the award might say, decide to take action to pull men out on strike. He can say: ‘I can take action to ensure they go slow. I can take action to ensure that anything that I believe is in the interests of the union or its industrial interests I can in fact do’. This, as I have said, is totally alien. No case has been made out why we need a clause of this kind in the Bill which will subsequently be incorporated as a section of the Act. No justification has been given whatsoever.
It is true that the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) attempted to give 2 hypothetical illustrations and the example of the Latrobe Valley. Fortunately he was corrected by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) who sits beside him. The honourable member for Burke pointed out that the problems of the Latrobe Valley were ones about which the Commonwealth did not have jurisdiction, and that this jurisdiction was exercised by the Victorian Government. So he was blown out on this score. He referred to 2 hypothetical problems which need not arise and have not arisen and which, quite frankly, cannot be judged as cases which would in fact justify the incorporation of a clause of this kind in the Bill.
One other part of the Bill, already referred to by my colleague the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), is the so-called protective provision. It provides that if, through sound managerial practice and in the interests of the corporation in which the employee works, the employee is dismissed because he has done something which is contrary to the best inter ests of the company, in the case of a prosecution the onus of proof shall be shifted from the employee who was sacked and who would have had the obligation of proving that the employer had no right to dismiss him. Thus the onus of proof provision is completely changed.
We have heard in this chamber tonight of occasions when the late Dr Evatt - previously held in high esteem by the Australian Labor Party - has said that certain action should not be taken. We know also that the very same Dr Evatt won a referendum that went to the Australian people on the onus of proof clause. The people of Australia decided that when onus of proof was involved it should not be shifted but should reside where true onus of proof should reside and that the dismissed person should have the obligation to prove that he was unjustifiably dismissed or unjustifiably affected in his employment.
In this Bill is a clause which shows a preference for a particular type of official or person in a union. My colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), has pointed out the growing might of the shop steward. He has pointed to the analogy that exists between Australia and the United Kingdom. Not ons honourable member tonight could deny that the people in the United Kingdom have been virtually driven to their knees by inflation and large scale unemployment, to a large extent as a result of the unco-ordinated activities of shop stewards and the anarchy that they have introduced into British industry, making it impossible to fulfil orders. As a consequence they have been competed out of international markets and slowly and steadily we found, until the Heath Government came to power, the United Kingdom balance of payments changing too rapidly and Britain losing its competitive influence in world affairs.
Do we want that same kind of anarchical condition to be introduced to Australia or do we want to stand on the law as it exists at me moment and ask that these people observe section 138 of the Act and not be put in a privileged position with power to do whatever they feel is right and which they think is in the interests of the organisations they represent? I wonder what could be worse than giving individuals like these the great power that is vested in them. Here is another example of the Acton dictum that absolute power inevitably corrupts. Undoubtedly it would inevitably corrupt in a place where a man is given the privileged and protected position that members, and particularly shop stewards, are given in these particular circumstances.
The Opposition regards this matter seriously, being alien as it is and obviously designed to impair the authority of the arbitration commission and the position of management in any industrial concern or industrial business. As we believe it is likely to destroy arbitration as such and lead to the necessity for other kinds of industrial arrangements to be made, the Opposition of necessity will, unless the Minister for Labour is prepared to agree, have to divide on this clause. I warn the Minister for Labour that it is contrary to the Labor Party’s interests and to the interests of this country. I hope that in a case like this the Minister will have the common sense not to be guided by some hypothetical sets of considerations and at least will sit down and think hard about it. Is this in the interests of the nation? As a sensible and realistic man the Minister for Labour will come to the conclusion that it is not - that is, if he is a sensible and realistic man. If he does not come to that conclusion, the Opposition will have to put up with this legislation and hope for the early defeat of the Labor Government.
– I rise only because members of the Opposition do not understand the Bill. In a very helpful manner I should like to try to put them right on this clause. The way that the clause will work - and let us not get stirred up about it - is that the employee or union official who has been victimised, to use a word that paraphrases the complaints or the offences in the provision, is required to lay a charge, launch a prosecution and prove the facts. Once he is able to prove the facts it becomes, as a consequence of this amendment and not of anything which is already contained in the Act, a defence on the part of the employer to satisfy the court that:
Proposed sub-section (2B) states:
In a prosecution for an offence arising under paragraph (c) of sub-section (1A), it is a defence if the employer satisfies the court that -
the act or thing which the employer intended to dissuade or prevent the employee from doing would have been unlawful under the civil or criminal law, otherwise than by reason only of its being a breach of a contract of employment; and
the conduct of the employer that is the subject of the charge was reasonably justified by reason of the unlawful nature of the act or thing referred to in paragraph (a) of this subsection.
If employees at a particular factory decided to knock off work to listen to the Minister for Labour and decided to remain off work until they felt tired of listening to what the Minister for Labour was saying, it would mean that they would have the whole day off, in which event the employer would be able to satisfy me court that his conduct that was the subject of the charge was reasonably justified by reason of the nature of the behaviour of the employee concerned.
Much has been said by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) about this terrible reversal of the onus of proof. He is already smiling because I think that he realises that he has put his foot in it again. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) does not think it is funny because he has a very sharp, penetrating and agile mind and has already discovered that the subsection, as to which the honourable member for Moreton complained that the onus of proof was being reversed, was put into the Act by his party when it was in government. It is nothing new. That is already in the Act. I will read it to die honourable gentleman. Subsection (4.) of section 5 states:
In any proceeding for an offence against this section, if all the facts and circumstances constituting the offence, other than the reason for the defendant’s action, are proved it shall lie upon the defendant to prove that he was not actuated by the reason alleged in the charge.
– Not in relation to this clause.
– Yes. This is an umbrella sub-section which applies to all those that rest within the section. That is not new. That is the section of which the honourable gentleman complained, but that section is not a section we put in the Act. It is not a section that is being injected into the Act by this Bill; it is a section that was there all the time. This section has been unaltered by the
Bill, and I read what it states:
In any proceeding for an offence against this section, if all the facts and circumstances constituting the offence, other than the reason for the defendant’s action, are proved it shall . . .
So it is quite clear that the section as amended by the Bill will still place the onus upon the employee or the union official to prove all the facts and to prove all the circumstances constituting the alleged offence, and when that is done the Bill, not the Act as it now stands, gives the employer for the very first time another defence. The defence is that which is set out in proposed sub-section (2a) and sub-section (2b). I will not read them again. So the honourable gentleman is complaining about something which has been in the Act ever since 1928. It has remained in the Act ever since that time without being altered by the governments that followed its introduction by a former nationalist government, and now the honourable gentleman makes this wonderful discovery. He has now discovered that the Bill is injecting into the Act the reversal of the onus of proof, when it has been there all along. If this is the nature of the Opposition’s real objection to the Bill so far, all I can say is that its objection is based upon rather flimsy ground. I know that the honourable member for Stirling, having heard that explanation, can see the point. Even though it has escaped the notice of the honourable member for Moreton I am certain that the honourable member for Stirling can see it, and I would hope that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) can also see it.
– I am grateful for the Minister recognising the sharp and agile mind that I have. Not having been very long in this House, I notice how percipient the Minister is in realising my attributes so soon after I have arrived. But I also have the capacity to read, which no doubt comes from that sharp and agile mind he has recognised, and I notice on reading the Minister’s own Bill that proposed sub-section (2b) of section 5 of the principal Act is the one shifting the onus of proof to which the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) referred. I notice also that that proposed sub-section refers specifically to paragraph (c) of sub-section (1a), and paragraph (c) of sub-section (1a) happens to be one of the proposals of the Minister in his Bill. The Minister says that his proposal under proposed sub-section (2b ) is a specific defence to the offence created by proposed sub-paragraph (c) of sub-section (1a) of section 5. I notice the Minister nodding; so he follows what I have been saying. Of course, if proposed new sub-section (2b) does what the Bill says, obviously existing subsection (4.) of section 5 does not apply.
– Yes, it does.
– lt applies, of course, but it applies to other sections, and what the Minister’s Bill does is specifically to provide for a special defence in the special circumstances proposed by the Bill. My having explained that to the Minister, if the Minister cannot follow it, as my colleague the honourable member for Moreton says, what it shows is simply that the Minister has not the sharp and agile mind that I have.
– I refer again to the matter that has just been raised in an endeavour somehow to give an impression of refuting the statement made by the Minister or the explanation given by the Minister. I do not pretend to have a sharp and agile mind and on many occasions I think it is rather obtuse, but the provision seems very clear to me. I read again from sub-section (4.) of section 5 of the principal Act. It states:
In any proceeding for an offence against this seclion . . .
That to my rather dull mind would mean section 5 - if all the facts and circumstances constituting the offence, other than the reason for the defendant’s action are proved it shall lie upon the defendant to prove that bc was not actuated by the reason alleged in the charge.
It seems to me that what we are doing with clause 6 in this Bill is simply adding to section 5. So if we add to section 5, I cannot follow the argument of the learned honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) that subsection (4.) ceases to exist, lt seems to me that it exists as if nothing had been done to the Act and that all that is being done to vection 5 is that words are being added. They do not subtract from or add to sub-section (4.). lt seems that the Opposition’s argument is simply another device to draw a smokescreen across this very important question. So many fallacies have been raised by honourable members on the other side in this debate that on occasions I have been wondering what honourable members on the other side have been debating. It is also very interesting to note - and it is appropriate to mention it at this stage in view of the furore that went on in this chamber this morning when it was claimed that the Opposition was being gagged in its opportunities to speak on this Bill and that it was being limited - that only 6 members of the Liberal Party have spoken in this debate and that there has been ample opportunity in the Committee stage for more members of the Opposition to engage in the debate but they have not bothered. Once again the remarks this morning were another smokescreen. Incidentally, only one member of the Australian Country Party has spoken.
– That is not right.
– I am sorry. There have been 2. The whole purpose of this clause of the Bill, as has been adequately explained, except obviously to the understanding of the Opposition, is to provide protection for employees who are engaged in legitimate union business. The right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) spoke about great difficulties being experienced in Britain, and he attributed those difficulties to the unions in Britain. He gave me the impression that since the change of government in Britain and the ascension of Mr Heath and his Conservative Government there had been less industrial trouble in Britain. As I read the newspapers, it seems to be the other way. It seems that the trade unions have resented the oppressiveness of the Conservative Government in Britain and quite naturally have reacted against that oppression. The right honourable gentleman told us that we must learn lessons. The lesson to be learned in Australia is that the oppression of trade unions will bring about exactly that sort of situation. It is also interesting to note that whenever the right honourable gentleman speaks in this House on this matter he continually uses the word arbitration’. Never does he use the word conciliation’.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable gentleman that he confines his remarks to the clause and does not deviate too far.
– With respect to you, Mr Chairman, I am trying to make a point. To make the point I must draw a distinction between conciliation and arbitration. The purpose of clause 6 is to bring about a position in which there is less inflammation of industrial situations. The general inflammation of industrial situations starts in the factory. I drew attention to the right honourable gentleman’s continual use of the word ‘arbitration’ because that is the way in which his mind functions. He and the class of people he represents always think of arbitration. The trade unionist thinks of conciliation and negotiation. If one thinks of negotiation one will start thinking about the people on the factory floor, on the job, negotiating directly with their employer or his representative. They are in a very weak position to negotiate if they run the risk of being railroaded out of the factory simply because they have had the courage to stand up to their employer on behalf of their fellow employees.
This clause seeks to prevent that sort of situation occurring. It seeks to encourage negotiation at the factory level where uninhibited negotiations can take place within the rules. Obviously honourable members opposite have not read the Bill. Clause 6 (a) seeks to insert the following paragraph in the Act:
The organisation in this case is the union. Shop stewards will not be acting unilaterally or as free agents in this matter. They can only act lawfully. They can only act within the limits of authority expressly or impliedly conferred on them by their unions. They are in an excellent position to open negotiations, and on very many occasions they settle disputes.
No reasonable person would expect a single employee of a corporation or a group of employees of a corporation - the word ‘corporation’ has been used continually during the course of this debate - to stand alone against that corporation unless they in turn were guaranteed some form of protection. The Bill provides that protection. No reasonable person could dispute the terms of the Bill. All sorts of nit picking have been engaged in by the Opposition in an endeavour to show that this Bill has some ulterior motive. One would think that, with the passage of this Bill, the revolution was about to start, to paraphrase the remarks of the honourable member for Moreton. I am sorry to be boring him so much that he has to yawn continuously.
– I apologise. It is just tiredness, not boredom.
– Thank you. The matter deserves the wholehearted support of this House. I trust that it will have that support. The right honourable member for Lowe has promised us a division on the matter. That shows how strongly he feels about it. Perhaps that is not such a bad idea. Let us show the trade union movement and the 5i million people who work in this country to provide the other 8 million people with the goods and services they need, exactly who stands where when it comes to the protection of the employees and the privilege to be retained by die employing class. The measure will certainly pass this House. There is no doubt in my mind that there are sufficient people with sufficient wisdom in this chamber to support such a measure.
– I did not intend to speak on this matter but, in view of some of the remarks that have been made, may I speak very briefly. I did not believe that the onus would ever fall on me of standing in this Parliament to say a word in defence of the employers, particularly to defend them against a move by the Liberal-Country Party group in this Parliament which would deny them a defence under a prosecution pursuant to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The nonsense that has been put forward tonight in respect of proposed sub-sections (2a) and (2b) of section 5 of the Act on the basis that it is some reversal of the onus, is sheer and utter humbug.
– Nonsense. You are a humbug yourself if you say that, because we have the best legal advice there is.
– 1 know it has been a long time since the right honourable gentleman was the Minister for Labour and National Service but surely he must still be vaguely familiar with the provisions of the Act. If the right honourable gentleman glances at this clause he will see that it provides that where there are grounds for the conviction of an employer, even in a situation where there is sufficient evidence to convict the employer of an offence, no conviction will be made against him if he can satisfy the court of certain facts. In other words, where it is proved that he has intimidated or threatened a unionist with disadvantage, or threatened to dismiss an employee for certain things which are an offence, and he can satisfy the court that those things occurred because of something that was unlawful under the civil or criminal law, no conviction will be made in spite of the facts being proved. That is what it says.
– Go on with the last part which says: ‘Otherwise than by reason only of its being a breach of the contract of employment’.
– The right honourable gentleman is trying to give the clause a meaning which it simply does not have. He has suggested that the provision be excluded from this Bill. Frankly, my whole history and all of my instincts are in favour of agreeing with him. It would not upset me one iota if the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) agreed with that proposition and deleted the clause from the Bill. I can tell the right honourable gentleman that the people who would be writing to him and criticising him for what had been achieved would not be trade unionists. They would be those who elected him and who are at the moment keeping him here. I refer to the large corporations.
Some suggestion has been made that the total proposal to amend section 5 is in some way a move to give improper power to shop stewards to build up union monopoly power, as I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) put it. In its present form section 5 is practically meaningless. It is practically impossible to get a conviction. I invite honourable members opposite to indicate where the rs has been a conviction in recent years. I invite them to look at the cases which have been heard and the results of them. Even though facts have been clearly established, convictions have not been possible. I speak of facts, not fiction. These are facts. There is no case, nor is there any need for a case, under section 5 where there is strong union organisation. Where there is union power, to use the words of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, this provision is not required and it certainly is never used.
If an employer in a strongly organised shop attempts to intimidate or victimise a union delegate another action occurs. Victimisation simply does not occur where there is adequate union organisation, where there are properly regulated industrial relations. Most responsible employers I know are very sensitive to the charge that they may be victimising a union delegate. They are very sensitive indeed on that point and are most anxious not to put themselves in a position where that charge may be levelled against them. The provision is necessary to protect a union delegate in a poorly organised plant or establishment conducted by a fly by night or reactionary employer. There are still some such employers who would seek to prevent union organisation in their establishments. To speak of the whole problem of shop stewards and the finish of negotiation in the trade union movement is to draw a read herring across the trail.
I am the first to admit that there have been problems and I have no doubt that there will be problems in the future when shop stewards in some industries take matters into their own hands. There will be defiance of union leadership and objectives. There has been in the past and undoubtedly will be in the future, but that has absolutely nothing to do with section 5 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The way to fix that problem has already been outlined by the Minister. At least it will be a concrete and positive step along the road. The Minister has reported to the Parliament his proposal to establish schools and training procedures for union delegates, shop stewards and the like. 1 deny that this proposal would in any way add to industrial disputation.
In my opinion, a great deal of what has been said about this provision has been ill informed. To suggest that this provision will allow shop stewards to subvert their authority and to take more than their authority is to deny the words of the Bill. The Bill refers to an action being an ‘act or thing done within the limits of authority expressly or impliedly conferred on him by the organisation.’ In other words, an officer, delegate, shop steward or other official may not be victimised if he is taking an action which is within his authority so to take. I believe that this is a direct contradiction of the proposition put forward by honourable members opposite.
I repeat that where there is a strong organisation - where there is union power, as the Opposition puts it - whether monopoly or otherwise, there is no need for statutory protection of shop stewards, because they have it in a much more effective way. I commend the provision and the Bill to the House. I believe that the opposition to the clause has been ill informed. It has been emotional rather than logical. I suggest that members of the Opposition should have a further think about the provision to which they strongly object. It is in fact a protection to employers and certainly it is not something to which employers will object.
Mr McMAHON (Lowe) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Phillip. In my statement relating to clause 6, which seeks to amend section 5 of the Act, I stated on behalf of the Opposition that we would divide on the whole of clause 6. We will divide on paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). As we eliminate the first part it will necessarily mean that we will have to divide on the proposed new sub-section (2a). The honourable gentleman tried to create the impression that we would divide only on the proposed new subsection (2a). He was not present to hear what I said. Consequently, he can be forgiven for misunderstanding or misrepresenting what I said. But even if he had been here, to say that we would divide only on the proposed new sub-section (2a) must be absolute nonsense because that proposed new sub-section does give some protection, although only partial protection, to an employer who might justifiably dismiss an employee but is subsequently prosecuted. I will not touch upon the question of onus of proof because we have legal opinion to justify the contrary case to that put by the honourable member.
– Order! I suggest to the right honourable gentleman that if he wishes to speak in the debate he may do so, but he sought to make a personal explanation.
– I agree with you, Mr Chairman, so I will come immediately to where misrepresentation occurred. The honourable gentleman will be proved to be wrong because he will find that we divide on the total amendment proposed to section 5 and not on only one part of it.
Mr RIORDAN (Phillip)- I wish to make a personal explanation as I claim to have been misrepresented. I did not at any time during my address refer to the right honourable member for Lowe as having said that the Committee would divide on any sub-clause, or indeed, on the whole of the proposed amendment to section 5. The right honourable gentleman is confusing what I said with what was said by the honourable member for Burke. I forgive him for misrepresenting me. He was talking about somebody else, not about me. I referred to what the right honourable member said about the proposed new sub-section, not about whether the Committee would divide. That is a matter of complete indifference to me and would not be worth taking up the time of the House to comment on.
That the clause be agreed to. : The Committee divided.
Ayes . . . . . . 57
Noes . . . . . . 46
Majority .. ..11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 8 to 19 - by leave - taken together.
– I want to draw the Committee’s attention to the content of clause 17, which is of far-reaching importance. By way of illustrating its importance I state that the present provision of section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that if there is a consent agreement between 2 parties–
– Order! There is too much audible conversation in the chamber. I ask honourable members to resume their seats immediately.
– This is fairly typical of the attitude of members of the Labor Party. When we are considering far-reaching economic provisions they are walking out.
– Order! I was referring to the fact that honourable members on both sides of the House are conversing in the aisles. I suggest that they resume their seats and be quiet. I suggest that the honourable member for Moreton should address his remarks to the question before the Committee.
– I am. I am doing it in the most explicit terms. But I will forget about honourable members opposite. They are not worth worrying about. Section 28 provides that if there is a matter of public interest involved relating to any consent agreement, that agreement is reviewable by the Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In clause 17 the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has put such sweetheart agreements quite beyond any review or appeal.
I remember vividly that when this Act was last before us the Minister put his position clearly. He said that if 2 parties make an agreement in no circumstances whatsoever should that agreement be reviewed. The honourable gentleman had some difficulty on that occasion understanding what was meant by the public interest. I endeavoured to explain to him, I thought in terms of utter simplicity, what was involved. The fact that I failed rouses in me no sense of lament.
– He does not understand.
– As my friend interjects, the Minister still does not understand. I would have thought that after 5 months experience as Minister for Labour he would have been brought a little closer to a realisation of what is involved. In clause 17 the Minister proposes that if a member of the Commission forms an opinion that a consent agreement could result in a major detriment to the public interest the matter can be reviewed by the Full Bench. A person with unknown and unstated qualifications may sit as a commissioner and may approve of an agreement which may have far-reaching economic effects on the whole community. There is absolutely nothing that the Full Bench can do about such a decision. I shall give one illustration without arguing its merits at all. Last year an agreement was made between the shipping companies and the Waterside Workers Federation. The effect of that agreement was that increased shipping costs were passed on to the Australian consumer, the Australian taxpayer. Plainly that was a matter in which the public interest was involved. The Minister for Labour now says that unless the commissioner forms an opinion that the consent agreement involves a major detriment to the public interest the matter cannot be reviewed.
Firstly, the commissioner must form that opinion. That is largely a subjective assessment. lt is particularly subjective as far as the non-lawyer is concerned. No person illustrates that more vividly than does the Minister. There is no person in this Parliament who should be more indebted to lawyers than the Minister for Labour; and there is no person in this Parliament more begrudging in his recognition of lawyers than the Minister. With unstated qualifications a commissioner may approve of a far-reaching arrangement that could have the most shattering economic effect. Not even the Minister for Labour could do anything about it. The Full Bench could not do anything about it. I do not know what has got into the honourable gentleman. There were the occasions when I thought there was common sense in his being.
– He has been carried away by his office.
– I suppose that might be the case. Some horses cannot take corn and this may be the case with the honourable gentleman. I want to appeal to the Minister again. Surely my appeal does not fall on deaf ears. I want to appeal to the Minister to think about the economic significance of what he is proposing. I do not know why the Minister does not call off the guillotine and let us sit down and have a chat about the significance of some of these proposals in a nice, quiet, leisurely fashion. I know the Minister is dead keen to get to Geneva but, as I explained to him this afternoon, Geneva is not dead keen to see him. If the honourable gentleman would sit down and discuss in a quite, civilised fashion the significance of this clause I think it would be to the immense advantage of the Minister, his Department and, of course, ultimately of the country. But I do not know - the honourable gentleman seems to be doing more than his fair share of sulking these days. We cannot get very much from him. Ever .since his application to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to be known as the Good looking Australian’ was turned down, he has been really upset.
I ask the Minister to recognise that here is collective bargaining by the back door. I suspect that there is no person in the Committee who realises that more readily than the Minister does and he pretends that it just does not exist. As I said earlier this afternoon, there may be a case to be made out for collective bargaining, but why not make the case out in the open instead of coming in and using this back door method. The honourable gentleman this afternoon rejected my entreaty to him to delete the word ‘fullest’ from clause 2 of the Bill. Last year, the Minister contended that he had a full understanding of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I will be grateful indeed when the day arrives, to use his own language, when his understanding will be fullest.
– The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) just cannot seem to understand what words are all about. He said that, even if an agreement had the most shattering economic effects, there is nothing anybody could do about it.
– That is right.
– Not even me?
– No, not even you.
– Even if I exercised my fullest authority?
– That is right; not even your fullest authority would help you there.
– There is nothing I could do about it?
– What the honourable gentleman seems to have missed is an important part of the amendment which states:
That means an agreement -
– That is right; even I follow you so far.
-It continues: or make an award … in accordance with this section unless he is of the opinion that -
– What was that for?
– For your information, conversely it means that if the commissioner thinks it is going to cause a major detriment, which is another way of saying a shattering economic effect, upon the community, he would not make an agreement.
– But what if he fails to recognise that?
– The people we have on the Commission now are the people appointed by the previous Government.
– We are thinking of the people you are going to appoint.
– We have not appointed any yet. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) appointed, I think, 6 commissioners in October, just before the election. Some did not take office until after the election. So, we have all those and all the others who are still there. I take it that they are men of great erudition, intellect and especially integrity.
– We do not deny that but they have a different kind of power. There is a major detriment on this occasion but not contrary to the public interest.
– That is right- a major detriment. A thing that would have a most shattering economic effect on the nation would be the sort of thing the commissioners would most certainly move in to prevent. But of course the honourable member for Moreton, who wanted to try to make a point, just could not control his glib tongue; so he said: Let us see how bad I can make it sound’. So, lie said that even an agreement that had a most shattering economic effect on the country could not be stopped. The right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) who is sitting at the table virtually said that the honourable member for Moreton does not know what be is talking about and that he is talking through the back of his head. I have heard the right honourable member for Lowe say it about the honourable member for Moreton before. One minute the honourable member for Moreton was Vice-Admiral of the Fleet and the next minute he was sweeping the deck. That is why I believe the right honourable gentleman was so amused when he heard the honourable member for Moreton chattering away about the most shattering economic effects.
– Edgar Williams was asking after you tonight.
– Well, will the honourable member for Moreton give him one of those messages 1 ask him to convey to him each week? Will he convey another one? Tell him that 1 am well and I hope that he is, too. The amendment goes on to say:
the terms of a memorandum in respect of which proceedings . . . come before a member of the Commission include terms of a kind described in any of the paragraphs of sub-section (J) of section 31; and
the member is of opinion that the question whether the inclusion of those terms would result in a major detriment to the public interest should be considered by a Full Bench, he shall report to the President accordingly, and the President may, if he thinks fit, refer that question for consideration by a Full Bench-
– That is 2 steps.
-It does not matter how many steps it is. The honourable member who interjects took more than 2 steps to get here this morning but he got here, it does not matter; 2 steps are not many. I should like to remind honourable gentlemen opposite that last year we had the waterside workers agreement which was heard before a lawyer, Mr Justice Moore. Parts of it dealt with hours and were before the Full Bench. The courts have not hesitated to approve of these agreements, even when they altered hours. They did it in the case of the containerisation industry and the stevedoring industry and they will, of course, do it again when they are satisfied that it does not result in a matter of major detriment to the public interest. The Opposition is really hard done by if it is trying to seize on this.
The main purpose of the Bill is to settle industrial disputes - disputation between management and labour. If we find that it is possible for people to settle an industrial dispute by way of industrial agreement, why should they not have the right to do it? Under the Act as it now stands, as a consequence of amendments made by honourable members opposite when they were in government last year, there is the ridiculous situation in which, although the parties concerned enter into an agreement to settle a dispute, a member of the Commission has the right to set the agreement aside. But in setting the agreement aside he immediately creates the dispute which the agreement sought to remedy and to end. Although the agreement ends the dispute, the previous Government said: ‘Oh, but that is no good to us; we want an Act that will force the Full Bench to open up the dispute again by disallowing the instrument which settled the dispute’.
– If it has a shattering effect, that is what we want to happen.
– If honourable members opposite would disallow every agreement that has any economic effect-
– The word ‘shattering’ is not in the Act, thank goodness. It is like the ‘fullest’ of co-operation. It is a word we do not see put into Acts. I have never seen the word ‘shattering’ in case law spelt out by the judges; I do not suppose we ever will. That was a phrase that was coined by the honourable member for Moreton a moment ago. The honourable member can always be relied upon to use some exaggerated expression and this was another example of it. Nowhere in this or any other Act is there any mention of shattering. The existing Act mentions something being contrary to pub ic interest. The law now gives the Full Bench the right to set aside an agreement which settles a dispute, but the moment it sets aside the agreement which settled the dispute it opens the dispute again. Surely that is simple enough for Opposition members to understand.
– Not quite.
– I think the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Birrell) is right, perhaps it is not quite simple enough. But I do not care if the Opposition wants to waste time arguing about these silly little points-
– Like public interest.
– This is not a matter of major public interest. We are concerned about major public interest but the Opposition is not talking about major public interest, it is talking about something that is not in the Bill. The Opposition is saying that the Bill proposes a situation in which major public interest would not be taken into account but it would, and anything which had a shattering effect on the economy would, of course, be a matter of major interest to the community and would be covered by the Bill. Anyhow, honourable members opposite can go on for as long as they like, it does not worry me.
– The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) asks: What is wrong with this clause? We have made provision for major detriment to the public interest’. It has been properly pointed out that before a matter can get to the Full Bench under the Minister’s proposals it has to jump 2 hurdles. First of all, it has to jump the hurdle of the commissioner to whom application is made to certify the agreement, and it is the commissioner who must first form the opinion whether a matter of major detriment to the public interest is involved. What happens if the commissioner incorrectly forms the opinion that it does not involve a matter of major public interest? There is no provision in the Bill for an appeal against an error of that kind by a commissioner. It is a matter of complete and unfettered discretion. The second hurdle arises when the commissioner, having formed the opinion that it does amount to a matter of major detriment to the public interest, must refer it to the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The President might have a different opinion from that of the Commissioner in the first instance and he might say: ‘No, I do not think it does have that effect’, and that is where the matter ends. It can never then get to the Full Bench. Contrast that with the existing provisions of section 31. There is a clear obligation on the Full Bench to deal with an agreement that is presented for certification where the specific matters set out in the section are affected by that agreement.
– That is the present legislation?
– That is the present legislation. The Minister proposes to do away with that requirement. One would have thought that if a matter of major detriment to the public interest was involved in an agreement to be certified, automatically it should go before the Full Bench and not have to jump 2 hurdles before it can get there. That is the centrepoint of the objection of the Opposition to these proposals. The Minister in whatever he has said has not touched upon that. He has not given any reason, let alone any good reason, why the provisions of section 31, as presently framed, are being set aside and this other procedure is being set up. What the Minister proposes to do must be looked at in the light of the intention to remove sanctions, to remove the bans clause, to remove any control over an agreement that has been entered into. What greater love affair can there be between employer and employee than is this situation where there is no sanction upon the parties, where they can reach any agreement they want to reach, where a commissioner, either through blindness or some other cause, does not recognise a major detriment to the public interest? That is where the matter would end. There is an agree ment entered into which is certified and effective as an award.
The other important matter 1 would mention now is the proposal in clause 17 dealing with the requirement, as contained in proposed new sub-section (2a) of section 28, that before a memorandum is certified in accordance with the section there must be produced a statutory declaration by the officer authorised by the committee of management that the principles are agreed to or there can be required a declaration that the members affected by the agreement have been consulted and agree to it. This diametrically cuts across the fundamental basis upon which unions are registered, and authority is granted to a committee of management to stand in the place of the members when an agreement is entered into or when an application is made to the Commission for an award. The proposal is that there may be required approval by the members who are affected by the agreement. This will localise approval to the shop or to the section of the industry or to the individual employer involved in the dispute. This is a straight collective bargaining concept. One goes down to the floor level, the shop level, to see whether the men approve of what is being done.
– Shame. What is wrong with that?
– The honourable member might say ‘Shame’ but where do the officials of the union fit in here? They are clothed with authority within the organisation to manage its affairs, and generally within the rules of an organisation they are clothed with authority to conduct negotiations and to make references to the Commission and to act for the organisation in the place of, for example, the 180,000 members of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. That is the foundation and function of a registered organisation and of its officials under our Conciliation and Arbitration Act. But what is proposed here is that what the officials do, what they might agree to in conciliation, can be completely overturned by the men at the shop floor. Who is to hold ultimate control or authority within the organisation? It is to be a yo-yo affair between the nien at the shop floor and the management? Where will it end? When does the yo-yo stay on the floor and when does it rise to the top? This can be and is an eroding and weakening of the authority of official management of unions.
I know that so often the management of a union, in order to get out of difficulties - may be it is in order to get out of an agreement it does not want to enter into - will go back to the men and, if the word goes around in the right way, of course the men will not agree. This is the perfect let-out for management. So there is in this provision an insidious sort of eating into the authority of official management. The Minister has not given any reason for introducing this provision except in the euphemistic name of participatory democracy. Really, what kind of union organisation does the Minister want? To come back to a point I made at the second reading stage, what kind of system does the Minister want to operate? Does he want a hybrid affair or does he want something which is clear and unmistakable in its terms, something which puts management in a position where it can exercise the function of authority that it should have, or will the Minister go to the other lengths and give that authority to the men on the shop floor? These 2 things clearly run in harness and it is more than coincidental that they appear in the one clause, clause 17. So these 2 things are removed. I refer to the removal of the automatic authority of the Full Bench to approve an agreement which has far-reaching consequences, as is already outlined in the existing section 31, and the altering of wage rates, the altering of the minimum wage, the altering of wage rates for females, annual leave and so on. Now it comes down to the mere discretion of a commissioner. Couple that with the provisions I have mentioned already in regard to going back to the men for approval and what in the end do we have? I should like the Minister to explain really want is at the heart and core of his thinking on this.
– I should like to explain to the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) what is at the heart and core of this clause of the Bill. We who have been brought up in the trade union movement - and on this side of the House there are about 20 who have spent a lot of their working lives as trade union officials - know perfectly well that you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink and that you can make an agreement but you cannot make the members accept it. Making an agreement in a board room with the employers’ representatives is one thing, but getting the members to honour the agreement outside is another thing, as union officials and management have often learned to their dismay. If we want conciliation to work it has to be carried out in a democratic way - not in a bureaucratic way. If we want the rank and file of a union, who are covered by an agreement or, if you like, a consent award, to honour that agreement or consent award they ought to be consulted because it is their labour that is being bargained and sold. The union representative is their agent and he has, in my view, every obligation to consult his principals on the kind of agreement that he ought to make on their behalf. If he does not do that he cannot complain and neither can the other party to the agreement complain if the principals repudiate the agent who acted in their names. lt is not good enough to say that in respect of the negotiation of agreements the unions’ chief officers or their management committees stand in the shoes of the membership. They do in respect of the ownership of property, they do in exercising property rights; they do in exercising certain other statutory obligations and requirements which are set out in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act; but they do not and they should not be seen to be standing in the shoes of the membership in relation to the negotiation of an agreement. When the agreement is put to the membership and the membership has an opportunity of considering it, if the agreement is accepted by the membership, who are bound by it after they have had it explained to them, the agreement becomes the agreement of the members - of the union in its real sense - and it is binding and should be honoured and carried out by those members. But when the agreement is made behind the closed doors of some board room and the people who have work under it - those who have to sell their labour under the terms of the agreement - are not even consulted, is it any wonder that they repudiate the agreement about which they have had no say at all? Half the trouble with industrial relations today is that the membership are not taken into consultation to the extent that they should be.
– By union officials?
– Of course, it is by union officials. That is what I am saying. When I was the Secretary of the Australian Workers Union we used to negotiate agreements with the-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage) - Order! lt being 10.45 p.m. and in accordance with the order of the House of 1st March, I shall report progress.
– It being after 10.45 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Due to the respective numbers of the Parties in the House and the fact that I believe the Speaker has very fairly tried to allot questions according to those numbers, it is a little difficult for members of my Party to ask many questions because, in effect, we are able to ask one question in every 6 that are asked. I have been attempting to address a question of some urgency to the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen). Today, when I felt that I might have had an opportunity to address the question to him at question time, he was not present in the House. 1 do not want to be unfair. He might have a very valid explanation for this. But I hope the Government will realise the importance of question time to backbenchers who are so regularly precluded from asking questions because of the applica tion of the gag.I hope that Ministers will endeavour to be present to allow backbench members in particular at least an opportunity to ask questions.
The matter about which I wanted to ask my question is so important that I feel I must now speak in the adjournment debate to ventilate it. I refer to the planning and construction of a new post office at Nambour in Queensland. The previous Government had received deputations and made inspections and had agreed that the present premises were antiquated and totally inadequate. A promise was made by that Government to acquire a site and to complete plans for a new post office in this financial year which is fast running out. I believe that construction was to be undertaken in the next financial year. We were assured that the present Government would proceed along the same lines and adhere to the same program. I believe that this was a specific promise by the PostmasterGeneral. Accordingly, a site tentatively was chosen in an excellent position in Currie Street, Nambour. But the owner of the premises became frustrated by procrastinations by the Postmaster-General’s Department and by the fact that the Department just would not indicate when it would proceed. It would not resolve the question of price. There was a great saga of indifference, indecision and dillydallying by the Department.
Property values in Nambour are rising rapidly and finally the owner sold the site and premises to another purchaser. The seller, through legal advisers and through every other available channel, just could not obtain any satisfaction or answers from the Department. Now the site is lost. I lay the blame fairly and squarely at the door of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. As the local member, I have been unable to find out any details of the intentions of the Department. I believe that this is a shocking state of affairs. I have learnt everything I know about the matter from estate agents. They tell me that some time ago an inspection was made of other possible sites. But apparently, the Department is still proceeding at the same pace and with the same indifference. These sites also will be lost unless the Department takes meaningful action to honour its promise. Can I be blamed for coming to the conclusion that it now appears that the promises and the expressed policies of the Government cannot be taken seriously? What can I believe in the matter? 1 am happy to see that the PostmasterGeneral has entered the House. Quite frankly, I want some answers. I want to know what is being done in the matter. Is he aware that in Nambour, where development is proceeding so rapidly, a site must be acquired quickly because they are so few that Nambour is missing out all along the line. For 6 months I have been trying to get my parliamentary office shifted from Brisbane to Nambour. I know personally how difficult it is to obtain sites and premises. I hasten to assure honourable members that I do not blame the Department of Services and Property. It has worked very hard to assist me. I appreciate this. The remarks that I make tonight are not meant as criticism of that Department. I have received cooperation and I believe that we might be getting somewhere. However, I raise this matter as an example to show the Postmaster-General that the longer there is a delay in this area the dearer will be the price and the more difficult it will be to acquire a site. It is not stretching the position to say that it might be impossible to acquire an adequate site.
I want to know what the Department is doing. Will the Minister tell me? I believe that as the elected member I have a right to know. I saw some statements in the local Press some months ago to the effect that the Department was to proceed on the original site, was to stop the sale and was to implement the acquisition of the site. I asked the Director of Posts and Telegraphs about this development and he said: ‘Yes, that is right’. I believe that planning had been done on that basis and that this planning could be completely wasted and useless if, because of the delay and dillydallying, the site has been lost. I want to be told something that is concrete and something that I can believe. I want to know when an announcement will be made. As a member, I object to having to find out crumbs of information by quizzing estate agents. I object to this blanket of silence. Why should this be? 1 hope that this case does not reflect the Government’s attitude to members who are on the Opposition side of the House.
I am worried because we have spoken before on matters which involve the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and about which we are very concerned. I have written a number of letters, both to the Department and to the Minister, who is aware of the scores of representations that I have made. Members of my Party have asked questions and have spoken on these matters during adjournment debates. I believe they are relevant. We country people are beginning to know the score because we have seen reduced mail services, the closure of post offices and the impossibility of obtaining country telephone connections. We are aware of the chaotic telephone conditions on the Sunshine Coast. It is not a question of economics. The Minister said in this House - I hope that he said this facetiously - that it is cheaper to buy a farm than to connect a telephone to it. I assure him that that remark was noted in country areas and that country electors will not forget it.
Another matter which I wish to raise is the serious delay in the opening of the Maroochydore post office. The building of this post office has been delayed because an underground spring has been tapped and water cannot be kept from seeping through the floor. I do not blame the Minister for this. I am aware that it is an engineering problem. However, I hope that he will tell us now what the position is, what is being done and what remedies are being taken. I hope that the Minister will not leave it to us to guess the answers. Can he give us a timetable for what will be done in that area? All the Department in Queensland said to the Press was: ‘No comment’. I ask the Minister strongly and sincerely to say without prevarication what is happening in regard to the Nambour post office. We want to know whether the whole project will be pushed back another year or longer. Will the Minister tell us when we can expect some movement and when the construction stage will be reached? My electors and I want to know when action will commence. I ask the Minister to keep me fully informed on this matter because I believe that that is my right and that is what the electors expect of me.
– J will not delay the House. However, I would have thought that the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) would have had the courtesy, if he was so interested in this matter, to let me know that he intended to speak on it. If he had done so 1 would at least have had an opportunity to give him a reply.
– A message was sent to you.
– No message was sent to me. I knew nothing about this matter before 1 walked into the House. I will find out what I can and give the honourable member that information in the House tomorrow night. I am not aware of the situation in respect of the Nambour post office. I assume, in trying to get some impression from what the honourable member said, that we have lost a site. We do not acquire the sites. We have a lot of difficulties because we are not able to acquire the sites; it is done through another department, which was the system under the previous Government. This is one of the defects that a Postmaster-General has to put up with. This may well be the problem in Nambour; I do not know. But the honourable member should not blame it on the poor, unfortunate Director in Queensland, alleging that he is inefficient and not able to cope with the situation - which is what the honourable member is implying.
– No, it is not.
– Yes, it is, because it is his responsibility to do these things. This is not the first occasion on which the honourable member has stood up in this House recently to malign people and to indicate there is something radically wrong all of a sudden with the Postmaster-General’s Department. It is quite ridiculous to suggest it was facetious to say that a telephone cost $20,000. The honourable member said that tonight. It is the fact. It is one reason why there is so much trouble with the economics of the situation. The honourable member’s Party provided certain telephones at great expense just to buy votes. The former Government spent that money and I am still saddled with the consequences of that Budget. We are running at losses - enormous losses which mean we can never get an economic return - and now the honourable member is saying what a dreadful tragedy it is. Most of the honourable member’s submissions to me have concerned commercial and business telephones. I will indicate tomorrow night the record concerning him. He is only a new member and is entitled to some leniency. I had permitted him to proceed on the adjournment debate 2 or 3 times thinking he might improve in his submissions but I have found that they are getting worse and are put on the basis that now somebody sinister has the job of Postmaster-General and that this can cause untold damage to him. That is not the case at all.
– I am not frightened.
– Nor should you be frightened. But let us be fair and reasonable about it. The honourable member got up in the House one night and said he would submit a medical certificate in order to get a telephone. I shall tell him tomorrow night, I think, that it would cost some $7,500 to install. But if the Department is to spend all that money in that particular section, what is it to do about the 2,500 people in the queue in Brisbane and those in other areas? Where was the planning of the Liberal-Country Party Government? What did the previous Government intend when it knew that these growth centres existed? Why did not the former Government allocate the funds? It was elected on that policy. Looking at that particular policy, was it not put on the basis that there was some particular association with automatic exchanges? Was it not the real policy? How did it come about? Was it because some graziers’ association in Queensland - not this Parliament - decided in June 1970 that it would be the policy? That became the policy, with the disastrous financial results about which the honourable member for Fisher is complaining this evening. There is insufficient capital and increasing debt loads. The Government has now had to set up a royal commission to try to find some better way of managing the structure of the organisation, yet the honourable member walks in here tonight, without telling me one word about it, and asks why cannot a post office be erected in Nambour. I can find out the answer tomorrow by ringing the director in Brisbane. I will give the honourable member the answer in the adjournment debate tomorrow night.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise for the 2 or 3 minutes that are left to draw the attention of the House, as one has tried to do by interjection on occasion, to the lack of full and responsive answers by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and Ministers of this Government to questions put at question time in this House by members of the Opposition. I think the House will simply have to hear more of this because the evasion that has been witnessed by us has been tremendous, and I protest on this occasion and I hope that the Opposition, if it continues, will take stronger action. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to come in here - he is a man with many abilities - and to wipe off the questions. It is all very well to assume that every one of them is asked for a Party political purpose. Members are entitled to receive information, given to the best of Ministers’ ability, in reply to questions which they raise.
Time and time again, particularly in the last few sitting weeks, we have seen a deliberate attempt to evade. That is put into some relief by the detailed transcripts of Press conferences which the Prime Minister is holding almost weekly, at which journalists sit about in some room - I do not know where it is - and put to him a number of questions. They have a number of advantages over members of Parliament; they are able to follow up some of their questions and they receive, on the whole, answers, and full answers, from which one can elicit some information. I compliment the Prime Minister on circulating those Press releases because we learn far more facts and Government reasoning from those transcripts than we do at question time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! It being 11 o’clock, the House stands adjourned until 1 1 a.m. tomorrow
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following information in reply to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers to the honourable member’s question:
The policy of the Australian Wool Corporation is:
a competitive enterprise structure is maintained in wool testing, should a substantial proportion of the Australian wool clip come within the Corporation’s control.
Between 1st June 1972 and 31st March 1973, testing by the Wool Commission and the Wool Corporation has been allocated to:
Australian Wool Testing Authority- 28,500 bales Wool Testing Services- 2,500 bales Auscore - Nil
Medical Benefits (Question No. 401)
asked the Minister for Social
Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has supplied the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 May 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730508_reps_28_hor83/>.