30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.0 a.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that Senator Carrick and Senator Durack are not in the chamber at the moment. They are in the Cabinet room with the Prime Minister and the six State Premiers dealing with matters which the Premiers wish to raise with the Commonwealth Government. I am quite certain that the Senate, as a States House, will understand that those Ministers have an important relationship with the six State Premiers. Therefore, if honourable senators have any questions to direct to either of those two Ministers or to Ministers they represent I suggest honourable senators direct them to me.
-I regret the statement that has been made by the Leader of the Senate but I do direct a question to him in his vicarious capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer the Minister to the proposed pilots strike which is to take place for 48 hours next week and which will, I understand, substantially disrupt air services and passenger traffic in Australia. I ask: Does the proposed pilots’ strike relate to an industrial matter within the meaning of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? Does it relate to an industrial matter within the meaning of frequent statements made by the Government about what an industrial matter is, or is it, indeed, a political strike? If it is in fact a political strike, what action does the Government propose to take to deal with the strike and which piece of the Government’s vital industrial legislation will be used to stop this strike?
-As I understand Standing Order 99 honourable senators are not allowed to ask for a legal opinion. The honourable senator is asking whether a strike which it is alleged is about to happen falls within a certain definition of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I think that is asking for a legal opinion. Therefore, I do not think I am obliged to give an answer.
-Mr President, there were two parts to the question. I asked, first of all, whether this matter was an industrial matter within the meaning of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I then asked whether it was a strike relating to a political matter within the views expressed frequently by Ministers as to what they describe as political strikes as distinct from industrial strikes. That is a matter of government policy and of government attitude. My question now relates to that aspect of the question I asked earlier.
-I do not know that this can be related to anything. I do not know where the politics are in this matter. I understood that the pilots were going to strike in an attempt to force governments to take proper measures for the protection of themselves and the passengers they fly. I thought that the Labor Party would claim that anything which relates to the safety of the individuals involved in an industry would be an industrial matter and not a political matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. The Minister will have noted the September quarter consumer price index figure of 2 per cent which, added to the June quarter figure of 2.4 per cent and the March quarter figure of 2.3 per cent, is a clear indication of an inflation rate of less than 10 per cent for 1977. Does the Minister agree that this is proof of the success of the Government’s policies in achieving its No. 1 objective of containing and reducing inflation? The Minister may also have noted that the announcement yesterday heralded some of the best lifts in stock exchange prices for months on the Melbourne market -
– I take a point of order. The question seeks an opinion and is giving too much information.
– I shall hear the question out but an opinion must not be sought. Information must not be given; it must be sought.
– The announcement heralded some of the best lifts in stock exchange prices for months on the Melbourne market. Is the Minister aware that this is an indication of the growing confidence of the business community in the Australian economy?
-They are all proper conclusions to be drawn from what has happened. A lot of interest has been expressed in this chamber, naturally, about inflation rates. I have commented on inflation rates from time to time. I have always sought to be extremely careful, unlike lots of other people who have been commenting in the community. There has been a wide range of forecasting. Some has shown itself now to be extremely accurate, and some has shown itself to be wildly inaccurate. What will undoubtedly happen from now on with the consumer price index- it may be useful to be as factual as one possibly can, because of the interest that the Senate and the Government have had in inflation for a long time- is that we will get another range of forecasting. Some will be right; some will be wildly wrong.
What are the facts? The reduction in the September quarter is clearly a further step in the fight against inflation. Clearly, in my view, this has been brought about by consistent application of budgetary and monetary restraint. That has to be said first of all. The outcome is even more impressive when one reads carefully about the allowance and the factors which have added to the price increase in the September quarter. At the end of the price pause at the end of May there was a general conclusion in many places that there would be a catch-up effect in the September quarter. There has also been a seasonal influence in higher than normal food prices, which have risen by 3.8 per cent. In non-food prices there has been a rise of only 1.5 per cent compared to a rise in the June quarter of 2.2 per cent.
As Senator Tehan observed, I think, this is the best position we have had for some time. We have held the rate of increase below 2.5 per cent in three successive quarters for the first time in over four years. It is true to observe that were it not for wage indexation we would have been even more successful. This is a very important matter for the whole of Australia, not only for the Government and its policies but also for the Australian people- those who save money, those who invest, those who hope to see economic recovery clearly sustained and those who hope to see employment improve. In that general area one would expect the Opposition to have the same pleasure and delight in inflation coming down.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations: Has he seen a statement attributed to Mr George Polites, the Director of the Australian Council of Employer
Organisations, that the Government could not expect to settle industrial disputations by putting a Bill through Parliament and that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act should not be a party political plaything? Will the Minister agree that the drama the Government is endeavouring to build up with today’s special sitting of the Senate and its hasty introduction of amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is designed purely for party political grandstanding purposes? Finally, is it a fact that after the Senate last sat on a Friday in June this year for the Government to put through an industrial Bill relating to Commonwealth Public Service, the Government did not even bother to have the Bill proclaimed after it had been dealt with by the Parliament?
-If anyone has been indulging in dramatics about this legislation it has been members of the Opposition. They are the ones who spent a lot of time yesterday afternoon trying to dramatise the whole thing. We on this side of the Senate like to do things coolly and calmly without getting ourselves into a knot. If anyone is interested in dramatics he only has to wait for about another 50 minutes and listen to the highly coloured and emotive speeches which will flow from the Opposition benches.
The honourable senator referred to a Bill that was passed back in June. The Government’s policy that it would not proclaim the legislation unless it was required was stated quite deliberately on that occasion. To date the Government has not been required to take this action. I think there is a great deal to be said for the Government having available legislation which may be used in an emergency. But this does not mean that the legislation needs to be proclaimed the day after it is passed.
The honourable senator in the original part of his question referred to a statement made by Mr Polites. I have not seen this statement. But it is well known in the industrial area- I think this is recognised by all sides-that much of the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act is slow moving and more than cumbersome. Everyone knows that the best way to settle industrial disputes is for people on both sides to show some common sense. Tragically, over a period of some 10, 1 1 or 12 weeks, there has been an absolute reluctance on the part of some communists who have unionaffiliations in Victoria to bring any common sense to this situation. The fact that they have put half a million of their fellow workers out of work does not seem to worry them. I have said in this chamber on a number of occasions that I once thought the Labor Party was all about the brotherhood of man. But here we have a situation in which some 2,000 people care not at all about throwing 500,000 of their fellow workers out of work, with all the enormous inconvenience, distress and everything else that this causes to the families of those workers. I think it is one of the most selfish acts we have seen perpetrated in this country for a long time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce in his capacity as the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask: Will the indicated lower rate of inflation this year, which some commentators estimate to be of the order of 8 per cent or less, substantially assist the finances of the States in real terms this financial year?
– There is now no doubt at all that the inflation rate is clearly coming down. The earlier statments by the Prime Minister which were condemned by various economic experts in the community and indeed in the Opposition in the Senate and other places are now shown to be quite correct. The rate he set out to establish was a little over 9 per cent. At that time there were people, whom one would regard as entitled to comment, saying that the rate by June would be running at about Vh per cent or possibly 8 per cent. I think that a figure of around 7’/i per cent to 8 per cent would be the best figure one could elect to ask for by June next year. If this is the percentage we finally establish it will be of great credit to the Government and it will be an indication of the restraint shown by the community. Such a rate will help everyone, including the States, in respect of their finances. But it Will be no credit to the Opposition which has sought to confuse the issue.
– I address my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. As the Government claims that inflation is coming down, does it also concede that private investment is also coming down, that consumer spending is also coming down and that the rate of unemployment is still going up? Is the Minister aware that the Hill Samuel Australia Report for this month on prospects for 1978 indicates that the weak link in the Australian economy at the moment is consumer spending and that Australia’s economic recovery will not pick up until a level of consumer spending improves substantially? I ask the Minister: In view of the Goverment ‘s continuing policy of reducing the real purchasing power of incomes, what prospects does he see for better economic conditions in 1978?
– When I was listening to all that I was thinking that here we are again with a clear attempt to confuse the scene. I have not read the Hill Samuel newsletter, although I expect to do so on the weekend because normally it is sent to my Sydney office. I have read Press comments on the Hill Samuel newsletter. One Press comment neglected to put in anything favourable at all; it put in all the unfavourable bits. As I read another Press comment it observed that Hill Samuel agreed with the Government’s overall strategy. I will need to read the total document.
It is not true that investment activity is declining. It is true that investment needs to be higher than it is today. It is not true that consumption is declining, because the amount of disposable money in the savings banks shows that that is not the case. It is still true that consumption could be higher. It would be beneficial if it were. It is true that unemployment is a matter of very great concern to the Government. I am always fascinated when I hear talk about unemployment because we have continuous attacks on employment by way of industrial disputes and dislocation but we hear nothing about that from the Labor Party. When the Industries Assitance Commission decided to attack the Government for trying to protect employment in Australian industry, there was a total stony silence from the Opposition and from much of the trade union movement. We are clearly saying that we are seeking to keep employment as high as we can. We would appreciate a little help from the Labor Party from time to time.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Can the Minister say whether the proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which will be passed through this place today, will cover the position -
– I rise on a substantial point of order, Mr President. What are we hearing now? We are hearing a question which anticipates ? decision of this Senate.
– Rephrase your question, please, Senator Walters.
– . . . that are proposed to be passed through this place today will cover the position -
-I rise on another point of order.
– . . . that we hope will be passed through this place today -
- Senator Walters, you cannot anticipate a debate at Question Time.
– I will start again. Can the Minister say whether the proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act -
– You are asking for an opinion, Senator.
– Yes. Can the Minister say -
– An opinion cannot be given. Senator, you can rephrase your question and I will call you again later.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his temporary capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to the announcement made on 19 October 1977 by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs which outlined details of the proposed membership and operations of the Oil Industry Marketing Consultative Committee which will provide a continuous source of information to the Government on marketing aspects of the oil industry. Will the Minister direct the Committee to consider the marketing and other aspects of re-refined lubricating oils and will he ensure that the oil re-refining industry is represented on this Committee so that full attention is given to the urgent national problems associated with the marketing of re-refined oil in this country.
-I am well aware of the honourable senator’s interest in and the number of questions he has asked on this matter of the use of re-refined lubricating oil. As I understand the general thrust of the honourable senator’s question and argument, he asserts that there is an enormous waste of that resource in the Australian community and that more attention ought to be directed to its use in the Australian community. The honourable senator makes a very interesting suggestion which I shall certainly pass on to the Minister for his consideration.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who today is representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The Minister will be aware that Professor Hogan has been used by the Government and by the Liberal Party as an adviser on economic matters. It is said that much of his thinking has been incorporated in the Government’s policy. He has recently made a forecast that in 1978 unemployment will reach 8 per cent. I ask the Minister: Is he able to say whether he or the Government agrees with that estimate? If not, what is the Government’s estimate? Has the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations given the Government a forecast which seems to be accurate in relation to those matters?
-In the absence of the Minister who represents the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, I have elected to do what I can to answer such questions. Many forecasts have been made about unemployment. They vary very widely. Many economists have varying views. Some economists are forecasting a better position than that forecast by the Government and some are forecasting a worse position than that forecast by the Government. I know Professor Hogan very well. I have considerable regard for him. He would be the first to admit that he does not regard himself as being right on every occasion. I think I would share that view. It is a view I hold about myself and I hold it about many people. I get extremely tired of people making forecasts about what is going to happen inevitably down the road in time. There are many variables. But the basic concern is this: If inflation can be kept down, confidence will return. If industrial disputes stop, investment will be much higher, people will be more active and employment will improve. Those are the facts.
-I ask a supplementary question. Senator Cotton has elected to accept the responsibility from Senator Withers for knowledge of these matters. I ask him whether the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations or the Government has in fact made a forecast- presumably they have- about the rate of unemployment in 1978?
-There will be a lot less out of work than those put out of work by the Latrobe Valley strike.
-There you are. I will add to my question as Senator Messner has just interrupted me. I refer the Minister to his previous answer when he said that the trade union movement and the Labor Party ought to pay more attention to unemployment. I ask the Minister
Does he now recognise the constructive appearances by the Australian Council of Trade Unions- I refer in particular to Bob Hawke- in seeking to solve the current State Electricity Commission strike in Victoria and in solving the last two major strikes, including air traffic controllers strike? Does the Government have no regard for that sort of constructive approach?
-Nobody could ever describe me as a union basher and those who try should look at my record. Senator Bishop referred to the activities of the ACTU. When the ACTU takes action which succeeds, of course that action is welcome. But one is entitled to observe that the current strike to which the honourable senator referred was eight-weeks old before anybody acted. In that eight weeks, there was almost a total stony silence. Regarding forecasting economic events and unemployment rates, I do not have any figures before me- and I am sure Senator Withers does not have them- from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations on what it regards as the possible unemployment rate. When these figures are available, I am sure they can be made available to the honourable senator.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Administrative Services. It relates also, in part, to his role at present as Minister representing the Minister for Education. As background information, I point out that at one school at least in the Australian Capital Territory in recent days people, apparently representing the organisation known as the Children of God, have been handing out rather strange literature to pupils arriving at the school and have tried to get these young people to join their organisation. In view of concern that has been widely expressed about this organisation and its activities relating to young people and the natural anxiety of parents when Children of God seek recruits in the immediate vicinity of schools, can the Minister say whether any action can be taken to restrict such activities near schools and attempts to have young people join an organisation such as the Children of God? Will he undertake to have this matter examined urgently because of the concern of many people, including teachers and parents? .
-I do not know how far the authority of the school extends over the pupils once they leave the premises and the grounds of the school. It has always been my view that once my children leave the school gate they are my responsibility and not the school’s responsibility. I think that ought to be a proper view to take. I do not expect a headmaster or a headmistress to look after children apart from the time when the children are at school. Therefore, I doubt whether in some ways this really is a matter for the Minister for Education. I will, however, draw the attention of my colleague the Minister for the Capital Territory to this matter because he may have some jurisdiction once those children leave school and are between school and their home.
This is a difficult problem. As far as I am aware, there are no prohibitions on people in this country seeking adherence to any cause providing the cause they promote is not illegal. For instance, I do not suppose one could go out and recruit burglars or car stealers. That would obviously be an illegal operation. But I do understand the honourable senator’s concern and I shall certainly bring the matter to the attention of the Minister for this Territory and I shall ask Senator Carrick whether his Department can also be of assistance.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer the Minister to the Trade Practices Amendment Act which was rushed through the Senate in the last days of the autumn session and ask whether the sections of the Act dealing with secondary boycotts have been proclaimed. If not, why not? If so, has any action been taken under these sections against trade unions?
– As to the first part of the question, that is a matter of fact. I would have thought that the honourable senator could have outlined that information quite simply by asking the Parliamentary Library to have a search through the Gazette. But if the honourable senator feels that he needs the whole machinery of the Parliament and departments of State to obtain a simple answer as to whether or not the Act has been proclaimed, I shall certainly put the machinery into operation for him.
– You do not know.
-No, I do not know in a personal sense.
– Well, what is wrong with his not knowing?
-Well, I have no desire to know whether or not it has been proclaimed but Senator Cavanagh does. I would have thought the simplest thing for him to do would be to ask his electorate assistant to find out whether or not the Act had been proclaimed. I think a few simple telephone calls to a couple of departments of State would have elicited that information. If the honourable senator likes to go through the long process of a parliamentary question- and he is quite entitled to do so-then I will seek that information for him. As to whether any action has been instituted if the Act has been proclaimed, I have no personal knowledge but I shall certainly seek that information from the AttorneyGeneral, together with the other information for which the honourable senator has asked.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I refer to a front page article in the Australian Financial Review of 1 8 October wherein it is claimed that the Prime Minister has written to the Treasurer and other Ministers concerning further support for industrial research and development in the interests of productivity innovation and sound development of industry. The Minister will be aware that this matter is currently being examined by the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment. As Chairman of that Committee I have a particular interest in this question. I ask the Minister whether the Government will examine the possibility of a scheme whereby the Government could underwrite selected research and development projects either in whole or in part in a manner similar to the guarantees extended by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation.
-In the early time of this portfolio- I think when it represented, as far as we could tell, about three portfolios of the Whitlam Government- industrial research and development were part of the activity associated with the government factories; it was part of the old Department of Supply. I was very interested indeed in it. As the honourable senator will recall, we changed the legislative base for doing things to make a more positive contribution to industrial research and development. I have not taken up any serious interest in this matter other than in the broad in my Department and others with which I work. But the honourable senator’s suggestion seemed to me to have a very great degree of merit. I would therefore take it forward quite happily.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer the Minister to the letter in this morning’s West Australian which suggests that following the consumer price index rise of 2 per cent for the September quarter the Government should not adopt a policy of full wage indexation. I ask the Minister: Did not the present Prime Ministerthe then caretaker Prime Minister- in the election campaign in 1975 give an unequivocal undertaking that his Government would maintain full wage indexation? If so, will the Government now revert to that promise?
– I have never understood why the Opposition keeps asking this. There have been a number of hearings on wage adjustments since this Government came into office nearly two years ago. As I have understood it- it has never been challenged- the argument which the Government has put at each of those hearings has been in accordance with the original decision put down by the Commonwealth Conciliaton and Arbitration Commission on its indexation policy. For some reason or other, people seem to imagine that the Commission originally said that there ought to be automatic full indexation of wages.
– I did not ask that.
-You are saying that that is, in effect, what the Prime Minister said. I invite anybody who claims that the Commission ever said in its original decision that there ought to be automatic full indexation of wages, please to stand up and show us the passage. We have electioneered in the past and have promoted arguments before the Commission in accordance with the decision of the Commission when it first put down the indexation guidelines.
-Mr President, I ask the Minister a supplementary question. At the outset I point out to the Minister with respect that I made no reference to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission as such. I referred to the undertaking by the caretaker Prime Minister in the course of the election campaign in November 1975. From memory this undertaking was given on the night of 26 November 1975. 1 repeat the question: Irrespective of what the Commission’s view may be, did not the caretaker Prime Minister in his policy speech give an undertaking to support wage indexation? If he did, is the Government prepared to revert to that undertaking?
-I thought I had just answered that. I said that we had argued each time for wage indexation in accordance with the guidelines of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. For goodness sake, what more does the honourable senator want me to say? If, of course, the honourable senator is saying that there ought to be wage indexation irrespective of the effects of inflation, then he ought to say that also because no matter what the honourable senator’s reason for raising the matter at this stage, the facts of the economy are that yesterday the consumer price index showed an increase of 2 per cent and that ought to be hailed by everybody as the greatest news this country has had in the last 20 months because the previous Government had inflation roaring along at about 17 per cent and unemployment at, I think, 320,000 when it went out of office. We on this side of the Parliament are well aware that those circumstances were due to the peculiar economic policies of our predecessors who shoved up interest rates from, I think, 5 per cent to 1 1 per cent. They are the people who put up interest rates; they are the people who fed the economy so that inflation roared along; they are the people who decided on a 25 per cent tariff cut across the board and displaced thousands upon thousands of Australians who were in gainful employment. Labor supporters now come in here and ask questions about what the Prime Minister said or may not have said some 20 months ago. I am quite certain that the results of the Cunningham by-election last Saturday prove that the electorate is well aware of what the Government has been doing over the last 20 months and supports totally what the Government is doing.
One of the most vital things that this Government recognises as being necessary is to get interest rates down. It is very easy to get them up, as the previous Labor Whitlam Government did not caring for the people who were in employment; not caring about the burden which would be placed on young people wishing to purchase homes; not caring about wrecking small business; and not caring about anyone. It rather amuses me that in the past few days we have had crocodile tear questions asking about small business from Opposition senators when three years of the Whitlam Labor Government almost totally destroyed small business in this country.
-My question also is addressed to the Leader of the Government in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. It follows a question I asked on Wednesday when I referred to a report of intimidation of a young Tasmanian apprentice by his fellow workers because of his belief that he should not have to join a union. Will the Minister examine the case to ascertain what protection can be given to this apprentice, either through the new Industrial Relations Bureau or through normal criminal law, seeing that the State Government in Tasmania has not seen fit to assist this young man?
-It is no use Senator O ‘Byrne- I think it was- interjecting and saying Scab ‘. I thought there was a right -
– He did not say that.
-If it was not Senator O ‘Byrne I apologise to him.
– It was not I; do not look at me.
-I was not doing so. I should have thought that in this country there was a belief that one had not only the right to associate but also the right to dissociate as a matter of conscience.
– You are not giving them that right under this new legislation.
– Even the doctors were not carrying that out when they would not work with other doctors -
-There we are-I am getting advice from the back perch of the Opposition. I believe that Australians do have an enormous sense of justice and they do not believe that people ought to be forced, against a genuine conscientious belief, to belong to something which they do not believe to be just. I have no desire -
– We might not believe in their belief either.
– Their belief might be wrongly founded- they might be misinformedbut people in this community are entitled to disagree. I should have thought that one ought to have the right to joint or not to join. I do not know whether every member of parliament is a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Is that not a free and voluntary Association? Somehow or another a myth seems to be growing up in this country that there is one sacred group, namely, the trade union movement. Do honourable senators opposite believe that we ought to be back to medieval laws under which it was compulsory for people to belong and go to a church and to pay their tithe. I thought that was something -
– Hear, hear!
-Some people might think that that is a good thing. As an ex-diocesan treasurer, I could say that I often thought I was living in the wrong century as I was trying to make ends meet from synod to synod. That was a system which was in force in feudal times and medieval days. One paid one’s tithe and one was forced to go to church. I thought that one of the liberties that flowed from the rennaissance some 400 or 500 years ago was that we had the right not to be forced to do something. Of course, these days we have a new sort of dogma in the community. I do not know whether I care much for the high priests who run that dogma because there are some very interesting high priests. If one does not have a work ticket from a union one can starve. That in effect is what is happening. I think that is disgraceful behaviour in Australia. Every man should be entitled to work without let or hindrance. I know that in my State of Western Australia, where people have the right to opt out, they still have to pay their union dues. They are not what might be called ‘free-loaders’ on the system. They are still contributing the same share as their fellow workers. Why ought they not be able to do so? If honourable senators opposite think some crime is attached to a person wishing to act as an individual in this community they ought to say so. One of the great problems -
– They live off the backs of others, that is exactly what they do. They are free loaders.
-That is the sort of corny nonsense that has been tossed around for years. There are a lot of free loaders in this community. They are not necessarily those who do not wish to be dragooned into the trade union movement. I should have thought that anybody who believes in a fair go in this community would believe that there is a right not to join a union. I understand that there is certainly a right not to join associations in the Declaration of Human Rights issued by the United Nations, to which I thought the Labor Party subscribed without reservation. I think it is time the Labor Party learned to read that section of the Declaration.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer to the legislation on industrial relations passed by the House of Representatives yesterday, and I ask the Minister. Were the provisions relating to the de-registration of trade unions, the provisions relating to demarcation disputes and the provisions relating to actions under section 141 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, that is, the section dealing with ballots and rights of members- matters covered by this legislationdiscussed in detail at the National Labour Consultative Council?
-I regret that I cannot give the honourable senator the detail for which he asks. All I know, in a broad sense, is that early this week my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, met with the National Labour Consultative Council. I think it was on Tuesday or Wednesday- I cannot recall the day. I have a general understanding that the matters contained within the Bill which was passed yesterday by the House of Representatives were raised with the NLCC. I cannot give the particularity of detail which the honourable senator wishes, but if it is possible I will endeavour to find out for him before the end of Question Time.
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It relates to a secret attempt by a left wing organisation to take over the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council. I ask: Does the Minister realise that five national left wing union leaders yesterday flew to Hobart to organise that take-over of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council? I am informed that the union leaders were Pat Clancy, George Campbell, Ralph Taylor, Harry Mitchell and George Crawford. Does the Minister feel that such a take-over would be in the best interests of Tasmania?
– I take a point of order. Mr President, I put to you that the question in no way relates to the ministerial responsibilities of the Minister to whom it is directed. It is purely a mischievous question and I believe it should be treated as being out of order.
– On the point of order, I think it is a valid question. This morning there have been a lot of questions about industrial relations. I should think it would be of great importance to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations if the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council was taken over by left wing trade union wreckers who would go on to wreck decent trade union relationships m Tasmania. I think the question is in order.
– If the Minister feels there is any aspect of the question which falls within his ministerial responsibility, I will allow him to answer that part of the question.
-Only on the basis that I was informed that there is a story in today’s Examiner in Launceston -
– Have you read it?
-I said that I was informed. I did not say I had read it. I am a little careful about what I say. Merely because I do not read newspapers -
– It is just hearsay.
-No, I am informed.
– It is double hearsay.
-Senator Georges ought to learn about the exceptions to the hearsay rule. They are more important than the hearsay rule. With regard to the matter raised by the honourable senator, I do not know whether these gentlemen flew in secretly or what their purpose was.
-I understand that that is the story the newspaper carried. I am not here to vouch for the accuracy or otherwise of the story. This Government is attempting to do its utmost to establish the best possible relationship between employee and employer groups in this community and I think it would be a pity if that attempt to bring about good relations in Australia were disrupted by a take-over of the Trades and Labour Council in Tasmania. As I understand it so far, the TLC, with the help and support of Senator Harradine, has had a fair deal of sanity in it and has done much to promote good industrial relations in Tasmania. Of course, it is well known that some people in the Australian Labor Party want to sink Tasmania without trace. I well recall Premier Reece, I think it was, saying that Mr Whitlam was attempting to do it by walking all over that State in his hobnailed boots. Perhaps it is still part of the Labor Party’s policy that the best way it can ruin Tasmania is to have industrial disruption to destroy the economy of that State.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. In view of the Government’s assertion, which was reiterated by the Minister this morning, that it applies a uniform standard of conduct to both employers and employees, how does the Minister explain his failure to prosecute James Richardson Pty Ltd, which over the last 12 months defrauded its employees to the extent of $44,000, as was brought out in an Estimates Committee report?
-I must confess that I have never heard of James Richardson Pty Ltd. I have never heard of the $44,000. 1 am unaware that the matter arose before an Estimates Committee. The honourable senator makes an allegation, which he must believe has some sort of criminal element because he is talking about defrauding. I say straight out to him that, if he is making an allegation of fraud against an individual person or a corporate person, he has a duty to go to the police officers, put his case, give his evidence and lay an information. Any trade union involved may do likewise. It is not a question of selective prosecution or otherwise. If the honourable senator believes he has evidence, let him give it to the proper law enforcing authorities.
- Mr President, I have a supplementary question. From sitting in this chamber for the last 12 months, Senator Withers would have been aware of Senator Carrick and Senator Durack mentioning a sum of money, receiving a letter from a solicitor saying that we were wrong and, when the sum of money went to $44,000, saying that we were proved right. I am asking whether, in view of a proven offence, Mr Street will prosecute in the same way as he would prosecute a trade union.
-This is a great example of what might be termed trade union justice. We have but an allegation which the honourable senator now says has been proved, and he now wants someone to be prosecuted. I thought the whole purpose of courts of law in this land was to determine whether a person was guilty or not guilty. The honourable senator is saying that something has been proved. Nothing has been proved. He may have satisfied himself in his own mind.
– And Senator Durack, too.
-I doubt whether the honourable senator has satisfied the Minister to the extent that he is saying. I believe it is for the courts to decide whether something is proved or not proved. I can well understand why the honourable senator makes this Freudian slip, if I may use Senator Carrick ‘s phrase. This is how the trade union movement works. Far too often people are judged guilty before they are tried. If the honourable senator believes that there is reason for a criminal or civil action, why do the employees or the unions not take the correct action? Who is he asking to prosecute? Is he asking this of the Director of the Industrial Relations Bureau, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, the Crown itself or the police? I think the honourable senator should be a little more sure of his facts before he asks such questions.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. In view of the claim that the wooden cases containing knocked down components for cars assembled in Australia are dutiable at the same rate as the contents, despite the fact that the cases have no commercial value and must be destroyed after use, and that one assembling company in Australia paid more than $250,000 in duty on boxes in the past 12 months, will the Minister examine the position with a view to removing this impost which it is stated increased the duty on knocked down car components by between 6 per cent and 10 per cent?
-That is a very useful . question. I realise that from time to time we get useful questions. Most of them come from this side of the House. One appreciates that. I was mixed up in this sort of thing in the early years of the war when there was quite a lot of activity in this area. One of the reasons cases have always been destroyed is the probability of importing some sort of wood pest like sirex wasp. I think it is a good rule to destroy the cases because of the potential danger to the Australian forests and to the timber industry. When one considers, as the honourable senator says, that this adds to the total cost of a car to the Australian public, it seems to me to be something well worth looking into. I will see that is done.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Science. I understand that at the time of relief of our Antarctic bases at the end of the year a special group will be detailed to assess the condition of Mawson ‘s hut with a view to its repair or perhaps removal to a more suitable site. What is to be the composition and competence of the assessing party? What brief will this special group be given?
-The question is one of importance to two Ministers in this place- myself and the Minister for Administrative Services. The Antarctic Division of the Department of Science is sending a four-man party to Commonwealth Bay this summer. It will investigate the state of Mawson ‘s hut, the feasibility of its restoration and the preservation of its contents. I recognise that Senator Devitt has been particularly interested in the subject and has brought to me on a number of occasions the wishes of the Apex Clubs of Australia to perhaps have the hut brought to Australia and restored here. That matter is being looked into. There are problems concerning our agreement internationally about monuments being left in their place in the Antarctic. The Minister for Administrative Services has this matter under his supervision at the moment.
We are sending a party this year. It is interesting to know that the party will leave Hobart in December on the Thala Dan and will be picked up by the same ship some time towards the end of January. The party’s task at Commonwealth Bay will include basically the compilation of photographic records and cataloguing of the artefacts that are in and surrounding the hut and the safe storage of artefacts. I understand that the hut at the moment is a frozen block. The team will find it necessary somehow or other to take the ice out of the hut and get to some of the artefacts that are inside. This is a problem. I have seen the work which the New Zealand Historical Society has done in the restoration of some of the earlier huts on New Zealand territory. Australia has consulted the New Zealand Historical Society concerning the restoration of the hut. My understanding is that the party will consist of four people. I am advised that they are likely to be Dr Trevor Tierney, a medical officer of the Antarctic Division, who will be leader of the party; Mr Guy Macklan, whom I know Senator Devitt knows as an Antarctic Division engineer, and Mr Tony Everett, an expert on building structures who will winter at Macquarie Island next year. We have invited the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions Club to nominate a fourth member to go down. As the honourable senator knows, that club consists of members who have previously wintered on the continent or at Macquarie Island. We are yet to have its advice as to who the member will be.
-I refer the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs to the meeting on Monday next that is scheduled to take place between the Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers with responsibility for water resources in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Will the Minister ensure that sufficient copies of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution are taken to the meeting for all participants to have and read? Will he draw the attention of the several Ministers to the references in that report to the submission made by Mr Simon Pels to the Senate Select Committee and its relationship to a report, also by Mr Simon Pels, which will be before the meeting on Monday? Will he further draw attention to the Senate Select Committee’s recommendations regarding a national water resources policy set out nearly a decade ago which at last seems to be gaining recognition? Finally and most importantly, will the Government give a sympathetic response to the State Ministers’ requests for funds and a Federal commitment to ensure that a national water resources policy will provide better quality water not only to irrigation areas but also to the growing rural and urban needs in South Australia?
– I am delighted to answer yes to every part of that series of questions.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. It follows on a question I asked three days ago about the Karen Green case. Is the Minister now aware that Miss Karen Green’s case is before the Ombudsman? Has the Minister received a report? If not, when she receives a report will she make her decision in this case public?
– I have discussed with the Ombudsman the issues raised by Senator Grimes’ question in Parliament earlier this week. The Ombudsman has authorised me to pass on his personal view that, having regard to the combined effects of sections 8 and 35 of the Ombudsman Act 1976, he ought not to disclose publicly the names of people who have made complaints to him or sought investigations. Their right to privacy arises by implication. He would regard it as being qualified only in cases where the complaint has so entered into the public arena by disclosing the application to the Ombudsman that he feels justified in regarding the entitlement to privacy as having been waived.
The procedure in these cases is that if the Ombudsman is satisfied that there is substance in a complaint he may make a report to the department concerned, sending a copy to the Minister. That is provided in section 15 of the Act. Under section 16 he is entitled to write to the Prime Minister if appropriate action is not taken. There is a final resort under section 17 to report direct to the Parliament. However, the report to be made in this extreme situation would not necessarily disclose personal details of the person whose case has been investigated. I respect the statements that have been made to me by the Ombudsman. I do not feel that I have anything to add to them in response to the question raised by Senator Grimes.
– I ask a supplementary question. I am perfectly aware of those sections of the Ombudsman Act. Has there been a case in the last two years which has entered into the public arena more than the Karen Green case? Will the Minister, at the request of the Opposition or the Senate, ask the Ombudsman whether he does not consider that the Karen Green case has entered into the public arena well and truly? All that is sought are the decision of the Ombudsman and the Minister’s reply, not any personal details of Miss Karen Green.
– I feel sure that the Ombudsman’s attention will be drawn to the question raised by Senator Grimes. Bearing in mind the statements from the Ombudsman I mentioned earlier, I am sure that he will take account of the further question. I am also well aware of the publicity and public knowledge of the Karen Green case. I take this opportunity to say that some of that exploitation of Karen Green by persons for their own motives has been of distress to Karen Green and her family to the extent that she has asked members of the Government parties to see that no further personal publicity is given to her.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. As the Australian National Line accounts reveal that the line would have made a profit of $ 14.4m for the year ended 30 June 1977 had it not been affected by what were termed ‘extraordinary items’, which we may assume to be nonrecurring, can the Minister use his best endeavours to ensure that those areas of Australia with no alternative surface freight systems be assured of either a reduction or at least no increase of freight rates over the next 12 months? Is it the Government’s wish that the Australian National Line should provide the most economical service possible or that it should be a major profit earner?
-It does have a responsibility to service the capital invested in it, which means that it needs to be a profitable operation. Otherwise it will inevitably end up by selling its ships to some knock-down scrapyard. Equally, it needs to provide an adequate and economical service to the community, particularly to Tasmania which is a State to which sea freight is so important.
I am not up to date with the latest accounts of the Australian National Line because I am about third in line at the moment of Ministers who represent the Minister for Transport. But I remember looking at the ANL accounts with Senator Wriedt some time ago during the sitting of an Estimates committee. I am delighted to learn that the ANL has turned from suffering very heavy losses to making profits. This fact gives me the most astonishing feeling of enthusiasm for the competent management of the economy by the Fraser Government. I will certainly direct the attention of the Minister for Transport to the balance of the honourable senator’s questions.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister received a letter from the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, written at the request of the council of the university, expressing concern over the threat to the Australian National University’s independence posed by the Commonwealth Employees Act? Can the Minister confirm that academic staff of the Australian National University are affected by the Commonwealth employees legislation and that therefore the academic freedom of the Australian National University would be eroded by the operation of the legislation?
-I do not know whether the Vice-Chancellor has written a letter; I do not know whether the Prime Minister has received it. The question of whether or not the staff of the Australian National University come under the piece of legislation mentioned by the honourable senator is one on which I have neither the capacity nor the desire to give a legal opinion. I think that the honourable senator ought to put that question to Senator Button because Senator Button is always giving us the benefit of his legal experience and expertise. I suggest that the honourable senator apply to Senator Button and he will give his advice even without the honourable senator seeking legal aid to help pay for it.
The honourable senator raised the question of academic freedom. I do not know whether the honourable senator is confusing academic freedom with licence of academics. There is a vast difference. I do not see how academic freedom can be attacked if a person who does not work is not paid for just attending his place of employment. I thought one of the purposes of the Act was to ensure that people who adopted go-slow and disruptive tactics could not expect to be paid for a full week’s work. They could not be expected to be paid for a full week’s work if they worked for only half a week.
I do not know whether academic freedom means that one need have no regard for the taxpayers who provide almost all of the income received by academics or whether it means that academics need have no regard for the students who one would imagine would be their first responsibility. Frankly, I cannot conceive of the academics I know ever coming under this sort of legislation because they are all hard working people who are dedicated to their students. Peculiarly enough, I have never ever heard them say they are concerned about academic freedom because they have it and they exercise it properly.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I will be very brief-I know the nature of the business before the Senate today. During Question Time yesterday I was involved in cross play with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) on a matter concerning Elizabeth Reid ‘s application for a position in the United Nations. Senator Chaney had asked whether other Commonwealth public servants had been given the opportunity to apply for this job and whether it was the normal practice to advertise United Nations jobs. Senator Withers in his reply said:
I do not know where that organisation advertised. I suppose that it is really none of the Australian Government’s business.
I interjected- I do that by habit sometimes- and said:
Quite right; it is none of its business.
Then Senator Withers said that he did not know why I was so touchy. I said:
I am touchy about it. It is a grave injustice to a very fine woman.
Senator Withers then said:
This sort of Pavlovian reaction makes me wonder whether the honourable senator has something to hide.
In my view, that statement contained a very reprehensible innuendo towards me and I take strong exception to it. I want to have on record -
– Methinks he doth protest too much.
– I wish Senator Walters would keep quiet. She has done so little for women that an honourable senator of the opposite sex on this side of the chamber has to defend Elizabeth Reid. In making this personal explanation I point out that Elizabeth Reid is a friend of our family. She is a very good friend of my wife, our children and me. She has been a guest in my home. To me the remark that was made was more than a political one. It was an attempt to besmirch the character of a person who in many ways has been given a very raw deal and yet who is a wonderful Australian. She is a wonderful ambassador for Australia. I simply point out that at the moment Elizabeth Reid -
– Order! Senator O’Byrne, you may make a personal explanation on a matter of misrepresentation or in respect of a certain matter, but you must not debate the point.
– No, I do not wish to debate the question, Mr President, but I wish to point out the reason I am interested in this matter and the reason it is not a Pavlovian reaction which should make the Leader of the Government in the Senate wonder whether I have something to hide. Senator Walters makes light of that. I will spare her perhaps the indignity of manufacturing some story in which I could impute something sinister in her private life. I would never attempt to do that. But that is what has happened in this case; Senator Withers has done that to me. Honourable senators on the Government side sneer and snicker and that is compounding the offence. The reason I made those interjections was that this Australian woman has been maligned in so many places. She is a distinguished person. She has recently worked with Professor Galbraith as a special guest of the University of California.
– Refer your remarks back to your personal explanation, Senator.
– Yes. Elizabeth Reid is not a public servant, so the matter has nothing whatever to do with the Australian Government. She has applied for a position with an international body- the position of Director of the United Nations Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs. I believe that because an international body is involved the article in the Australian newspaper is an attempt to stir up a storm. The opportunity was taken to raise the matter in the Senate.
- Senator O’Byrne, you sought leave and were granted leave to make a personal explanation. You must do no more than that.
– I just say this: I was very offended by the fact that when I wished to raise this matter last night a very unusual thing occurred in that the Senate was counted out and I was prevented from speaking at greater length on this matter. It is a very important matter and at the first opportunity I shall elaborate on the very grave injustice that has been done to this woman.
- Mr President, I seek leave to withdraw the words I said to Senator O’Byrne.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted?
-I can assure Senator O’Byrne that my remarks were not meant to be construed in a personal sense. I do my utmost not to be personal in this place. They were said in a political sense, meaning the Labor Party. There was a sort of reaction from that quarter. If the honourable senator felt that I was maligning him in a personal sense, I can assure him that I was not. If he took offence, I apologise. It is a very good example of the fact that interjections are disorderly and that one should not interject.
Declaration of Urgency
– I declare the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1977 an urgent Bill and I move:
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Allotment of Time
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:
That the time allotted for consideration of the remaining stages of the Bill be until 4.30 p.m. this day.
Motion (by Senator Withers) put:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put-
That the time allotted for consideration of the remaining stages of the Bill be until 4.30 p.m. this day.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 20 October on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Senate is debating the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1977. I stress that it is Bill No. 3 because in spite all the industrial legislation introduced by this Government the industrial relations climate in this country has not, according to Government sources, improved. So this is Bill No. 3 1977. Although the Senate has just voted to decide that this is a most urgent piece of legislation, it is apparently not regarded by the Government as a most important piece of legislation. For example, one notes that no Ministers are set down to speak on this legislation and one recalls that on the last occasion industrial legislation was before the Senate the Minister in charge of the Bill spoke for one minute. Perhaps it is because the Government does not understand its own industrial relations legislation. Perhaps it is because it does not really regard the legislation as important in terms of its legislative effect. One does not know. One can only surmise.
It is exactly two months ago today that the Senate, at a cost of thousands of dollars to Australian taxpayers, sat on a Friday in order that the Government could rush through legislation which was going to solve the industrial relations problems of the Commonwealth Public Service. That was the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Bill. The dispute which it was alleged caused the urgency in that situation two months ago was settled by negotiation. The legislation which was rushed through the Senate two months ago has never been proclaimed. It has never been proclaimed because it is of doubtful constitutional validity, but more importantly because the Government recognises that that rushed legislation is unworkable. Two months ago the people of Australia were treated to a great performance- a sort of tale told by an industrial idiot, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing in relation to industrial disputes in the Commonwealth Public Service. Every few months now we are treated to the same sort of spectacle in this Senate. Every few monthsperhaps it coincides with the phases of the moon, I do not know- the living dead who sit on the Government side in the Senate stand in their places, stir their bones and rise up to haunt the trade union movement and the industrial arbitration system in this country but nothing follows from that exercise.
This industrial relations legislation is a classic example of a government and a parliament debasing itself and bringing itself into disrepute. Listen, for example, to the authentic words of Senator Wright who spoke on the last occasion the Senate met to discuss urgent industrial relations legislation. On that day Senator Wright said:
Those who are preaching that democracy is on the verge of collapse and allowing the dictatorships of the industrial world and the Arab world to take over will see in this behaviour of the Senate today a demonstration that Parliament is capable of acting promptly when effective action is required.
– Hear, hear!
-What he said at that time was quite correct and he now says ‘Hear, Hear! ‘. The legislation of course has never been proclaimed. It was a political stunt two months ago as it is again a political stunt today introducing the industrial relations legislation before the Senate in the circumstances in which it has now been introduced. Nothing has happened since that event two months ago to indicate the supposed effectiveness of this son of legislative provision. That was rushed legislation. It was illconceived. It was divisive political stunting and it was a waste of public money. Little time was given to the Parliament to debate it. A parliament can spend hours and hours of its time debating in Estimates Committees the cost benefit analysis of pot plants in the Commonwealth Government buildings but it can spend only a few hours of its time debating important industrial relations legislation, so described by the Government.
At the end of the autumn session of this Parliament a most complex piece of legislation, the trade practices legislation, was rushed through the Senate again without adequate discussion. That legislation, which outlaws secondary boycotts in the industrial field, has profound implications for industrial relation. That legislation has never become operative. Nobody nas used it but it was regarded as urgent and as of the utmost importance. It has not become operative because employers know that it would not work. But we were told in the Senate that it was very important. Now today we have the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) which is a complex piece of legislation and it is to be similarly treated by the Government, having been introduced in an atmosphere of high theatricality in order that government supporters may psyche themselves up and persuade themselves that they are really doing something about the industrial relations problems of this country and the profound divisions in the country.
While all the industrial relations gab goes on here in Canberra in government circles, the real talk of course in relation to industrial relations problems is taking place in Melbourne today in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission as it has taken place in relation to every other dispute which was said to be of such importance that it justified the Parliament sitting in this pseudo dramatic way.
– A little bit late, is it not?
-This legislation is not yet effective, it will not have anything to do and it is not in any way relevant to the current dispute in the Latrobe Valley about which no doubt we will hear much from Government supporters.
– I think you protest too much.
-You will have an opportunity, Senator Missen, no doubt to tell us how it is relevant because conceivably the only way that it can be relevant is in relation to deregistration and the honourable senator knows, if he reads the papers, that those proceedings have been adjourned by the Federal Court of Australia to 30 October so the legislaton has only marginal relevance to any matter which could be regarded as urgent.
The Government has now introduced secret ballot legislation, numerous amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission Act, amendments to the Trade Practices Act and the Commonwealth Employees (Conditions of Employment) Bill. All that legislation is in pursuit of one arm of the Government’s industrial relations policy. We perhaps have more legislation with minimal effect than any other country could imagine. I repeat: More legislation with minimal effect.
The real reason for the introduction of this legislation at this stage is that the Government is hell-bent on making cheap political capital out of a tragic and disastrous situation which exists in the State of Victoria resulting from the Latrobe Valley dispute. If one wants a good illustration of that, one can see it very well illustrated in the views of the Deputy Prime Minister who has always been the loudmouth on industrial relations issues but singularly unsuccessful in doing anything about resolving them. On Wednesday of this week in talking to a gathering of farmers here in Canberra the Deputy Prime Minister is reported in a newspaper on the current situation in this way:
He said: ‘Sooner or later the Government has to face up to this issue and go to the Australian people and say: “We are prepared to govern with courage and a sense of responsibility , but you have got to back us “. ‘
The Government could not stand up to the unions knowing that it only had ‘six months life in a parliament’, Mr Anthony said.
We’ve got to know that we’re going to stand up there, be firm, and know that we have a period of two or three years in front of us to try and get this country under control’.
That is what Mr Anthony had to say. It really is an extraordinary statement for a Deputy Prime Minister of a country like Australia to make. It is an extraordinary statement, because, first of all, it contains some quite unusual and interesting admissions. It suggests that the Government has not faced up to the industrial relations problem. We will have to face up to it’, he is reported to have said; and that in future the Government will be prepared to govern with courage if it has an election, that is, if this issue can be used to have an election. Of course, the implications of that are quite clear to everybody. Speaking for the Government he said that the Government had to know that it was going to stand up and be firm. If he does not know that now, one wonders when he ever will. One wonders whether this is not a whole imbibing exercise of raw spirits to inflame the passions and stir the courage. He went on to say that the Government will have to have an election in order that it might be able to govern with courage and to stand up. Those are the words of a Deputy Prime Minister of a Government with the largest majority in this Parliament that this country has known. Yet it still cannot stand up and solve the problems. The reason for this is simple: It cannot solve the problems because it is adopting the wrong approach towards them.
One might ask the question: What happens, in Mr Anthony’s view, if an election is held and there is the unfortunate circumstance that the Government is returned but is returned with a greatly reduced majority? Where will Mr Anthony’s courage to stand up be then? What will the new government with a greatly decreased majority conclude from the ballot box? Will it conclude that it is not to stand up at all- that it ought to embark on some other course? What would the new government do then? What an absurdly specious argument for a Deputy Prime Minister of a country to put. This, of course, has come from a Deputy Prime Minister of a Government which came to power in 1975 in quite extraordinary political circumstances: A strike in the Senate in 1975; a refusal to pass the Budget; a delaying of the Budget. These were extraordinary political circumstances according to the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and according to all commentators. This action was justified in 1975 with the statement that in relation to all sorts of matters, such as unemployment, industrial disputes and the like, which bedevilled Australia, the then Opposition could do better. According to the statements which were made by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) in support of this legislation, this Government cannot do any better at all.
Contrast Mr Anthony’s attitude when talking to a group of farmers, whom he hopes he can persuade to believe that a large number of problems are the responsibility of trade unions and not of the Government, with the statement made yesterday by Mr Georges Polites, the Secretary of the National Employers Policy Committee, a man of vast political experience in the industrial relations area, a man who is intimately involved with that area and knows what it is all about. He was asked at the National Press Club:
Could you explain to us as simply as you can how an election a year ahead of time is going to help curb industrial unrest?
Mr Polites replied:
I didn’t know there was going to be an election a year ahead of time. If you know that I am pleased to hear it. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with industrial unrest.
– Why are you avoiding the terms of this Bill?
-I am coming to the terms of the Bill. If we were given time I should be happy in the Committee stage to expose the honourable senator’s knowledge of the clauses of the Bill. But unfortunately we will not have time for that. Any time outside this Parliament or in it that the honourable senator wishes to discuss industrial relations legislation with me he will be welcome. I made the point that Mr Anthony was talking to a collection of farmers whom he was trying to persuade that their problems were the responsibility of the trade union movement. This has been a diversive and divisive tactic of the National Country Party for many years. The tragedy of that is that really what he was saying was: ‘These poor cockies are a bit simple. I’ll tell them that their problems really are caused by the trade union movement and not by our policies- not the sorts of policies which we promised in 1975 would bring great benefit to the rural sector. I will justify our massive failure in that area by talking about industrial relations. We will get these fellows to blame the trade unions’. That is a totally divisive technique in society. It is part of the whole stand of this Government to try to divide society- to evade responsiblity for its own failures and to put them onto somebody else. Mr Anthony went on to say that it was not the fault of the Government; it was the fault of the industrial relations situation.
This has been the Government’s stance all along. The last big strike-the air traffic controllers’ strike- was said to be the responsibility of irresponsible militants and the stick was to be brought out to settle the strike. The strike was settled in the end by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and no irresponsible militants were involved. The State Electricity Commission dispute in the Latrobe Valley was said to be the responsibility of a well known militant, Mr John Halfpenny, who last week was booed in the Latrobe Valley by strikers because he suggested that they should return to work. Mr Halfpenny might well ask himself why he should do this Government’s dirty work and go down to the Latrobe Valley when no Ministers of the Government are game to do so. That would be a very good question.
At the same time as Mr Anthony is going on like this the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) is boasting about the low level of industrial disputation in Australia, as if that had something to do with his industrial relations policy. I venture the theory that it has nothing to do with his industrial relations policies, but it does have a lot to do with his manpower policies- with the record level of unemployment which we have in this counrty. To that extent the Minister can boast because this Government has been responsible for that. That has had a consequential effect on industrial relations. There is no doubt about that. But it has nothing to do with the blusters and industrial huff and puff which comes from Ministers day after day about issues about which they seem to know nothing.
Let me turn to certain provisions of the Bill. At this stage Senator Missen, who invited me to speak about the Bill, has left the chamber. That displays his degree of interest in the details of the Bill. The comment we make about this legislation is this: It is unworkable: Just as the Commonwealth employees conditions of employment legislation is unworkable, so too will this legislation be unworkable. I repeat that it will be unworkable because I want honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber to remember in a few years’ time what I said. The word I used is ‘unworkable’. If they, slow thinkers that they are, benefit in a few years’ time from that description the whole of this country will have benefited. Society will have benefited if they realise that the course upon which they now embark because they seek an election is quite unworkable.
One of the important provisions of this Bill is the deregistration provisions, which would enable the Industrial Relations Bureau to have a quite simple means of deregistering unions. I do not know whether deregistration of trade unions is offered to the trade union movement in 1977 as a threat or a promise. That is something in industrial law which we will really have to face up to soon. This Government purports to support the conciliation and arbitration system in this country, but it is reaching a stage where the legalisms, the legislative strait-jackets imposed on industrial relations in Australia are so strict that they are totally counter productive. The threat of deregistration will shortly be no longer a threat to trade unions; it will be a promise. It will be nice for trade unions to be outside the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and not bothered with all these legalisms and legalitiesall these pieces of legislation which we keep on debating here in the Senate.
Let me refer very briefly to what a Dr Turner, of the Department of Industrial Relations at the University of Sydney, had to say in a paper entitled ‘The Australian Disease and its Doctor’, which was published in the Australian Bulletin of Labour in September this year: Talking about the industrial scene, he said:
The Australian system of industrial relations is highly complex institutionally, unusually concerned with legalistic concepts and precedents, and singularly dependent on a specialised professional expertise. Anyone who is not intimately familiar with its structure history and detailed operation must therefore be extremely hesitant in commenting on its present situation.
That is the advice which I tender to Government senators. The fact of the matter is that the socalled deregistration provisions in this legislation are potentially disastrous, they will achieve nothing and they are certainly not a real threat to most trade unions these days. In clause 20 of the Bill, to deal with another example, hindering of interstate trade is to become a ground for deregistration of a trade union. I invite honourable senators to compare that expression, ‘hindering of interstate trade’, as a ground for deregistration with the purposes of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which are the encouragement of representative organisations of employees and the settlement of industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration. Under this legislation industrial disputes will be settled not by conciliation and arbitration but by a method of doubtful constitutional validity, that is to say, by deregistration. They will not be settled by conciliation and arbitration.
-It is whole or partial deregistration. There is no magic in the word partial’. I do not know why the honourable senator is parroting that word here. There is no magic about it at all. The next detailed point in the Bill to which I want to refer is the powers of investigation of the Industrial Relations Burea. It is empowered under this legislation to enter premises, something which the police traditionally have had difficulty in doing in the way in which this legislation vests that power in the Industrial Relations Burea. It has power effectively to amend rules of organisations. It has power to hear complaints from anybody who wishes to make them. All these things are contrary to the understanding of the nature of a voluntary association as trade unions, whether registered or not, basically are. Providing access to the courts and access to bureaucratic bodies basically is designed to encourage rather than decrease litigation. As I have said, all these things are designed to put industrial relations in a strait jacket. They are designed to compound the difficulties and make the issues more complex.
Another example in the legislation is clause 19 which deals with trade union demarcation disputes. This is an important matter because demarcation disputes between trade unions have for years constituted about 13 per cent or 14 per cent of all industrial disputes in this country. Between 1972 and 1975, in order to lessen the number of demarcation disputes between unions, the Labor Government on three occasions introduced legislation into this Senate to make it easier for unions to amalgamate. This situation should not really surprise any outside observer when it is considered that we have 300-odd trade unions in Australia compared with 16 in Germany and 20-odd in Sweden, countries which seem a little more successful than Australia. That legislation to enable the number of trade unions in this country to be limited was consistently opposed by the then Opposition. This legislation of course does nothing about it either. All it does is to give the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the power to say: ‘You do not belong to that union. You join this one’. The industrial ramifications of this are absolutely enormous.
Then, there are provisions regarding conscientious objectors. Employers are effectively told by this legislation that if they have somebody working for them who is a conscientious objector to trade unionism, they cannot sack him. It is a lovely situation for the contract of employment in Malcolm Fraser’s free society, in Malcolm Fraser ‘s rugged society of Australia, that an employer is jammed virtually from sacking a man who is a conscientious objector. What sorts of contracts of employment will we have in this country from now on if that sort of provision is to apply? These criticisms add up to the fact that this is not the way to solve industrial problems in this country, and the more intelligent and responsible members of this Government know it. It is a tragedy for Australia that industrial relations policy is in the hands of a few men who like to talk tough and do nothing. They produce nothing and every recent dispute has shown that they produce nothing by way of settlement or resolution. We have a Prime Minister, a sort of affluent bikie who gets high and goes on a trip every time he takes a sniff of power. He is one of the men who is concerned with industrial relations policy in this country. Let me illustrate the tragedy of Australia compared with some other countries in the Western world. Look at the countries with a high level of industrial disputes and unrest. They are Australia, the United States, New Zealand, India, Italy and the United Kingdom. Look at those with a low level of industrial disputes. They include Switzerland -
-I am coming to that. Do not get excited, Senator Sheil. They include Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands. According to International Labour Organisation records the countries with no industrial disputes at all are Uganda, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Chile, Albania and, of course, South Africa. According to ILO records they have no industrial disputes at all. Senator Sheil and all honourable senators must decide which of those groups of societies we want to live in. Do we want to live in the countries which have a high level of industrial disputes or none at all, or do we seek to live in that democratic group of societies, including Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands, which have a low incidence of industrial disputes and a high incidence of industrial performance? What are we seeking? These are the things which I invite Senator Sheil and others to think about. Do we want the best results in this country? Do we want the best achievements? Do we want to get on with the job, or do we want this country to remain as a sort of industrial banana republic with a low level of achievement? We should look at those examples and decide which group of countries we want to belong to.
In none of that group with a low level of industrial disputation and a high level of industrial performance would one find the sort of stunting that goes on in this country, the sort of big stick attitude to industrial relations. Industrial relations problems in those countries are solved by conciliation and not by the sort of approach that is being adopted by this Government. The Government knows this because it sent an expert to Sweden who came back with a report on the relevance of the Swedish.experience to the Australian situation. He concluded, if I may summarise his conclusions, that in times of economic stress, greater degrees of consultation, involvement, flexibility and innovatory behaviour are particularly needed. The alternative of greater control, authoritarianism and rigidity is likely to lead to increasing divisiveness and distrust. It is a conclusion which I hope we would start to think about in this chamber. Of course, this Government thinks that in some way it can legislate for industrial harmony and to make people work. Whilst other countries of the sophisticated group which I mentioned talk about right-to-work legislation, this Government talks about gottowork legislation. There is a very distinct and important difference. We have a scene set by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations who was once a Melbourne Grammar prefect and the Prime Minister who was once a Melbourne Grammar defect. They are the two nien who wield the stick in relation to industrial relations policy in Australia and that is the way the problems arise. I refer honourable senators to the Australian Financial Review editorial of a few days ago which states that this government has no program and no real policies; just a desire for power. In a country which desperately needs manpower policies, which desperately needs employment policies, which desperately needs industrial relations policies, and which more desperately needs leadership, these things are not being supplied by the present Government. The legislation before the Senate is an unworkable course upon which the Government embarks. It is a piece of political stunting. It is designed to get the Government over the next few years by way of an electoral hurdle, as the Deputy Prime Minister says, but it has nothing to do with important issues relating to the future of this country. It has nothing to do with the sorts of things we ought to be thinking about in Australia and it has nothing to do with the sorts of policies which will put Australia into that group of progressive, enlightened and highly successful countries to which every Australian should properly aspire to belong, if we are to see this country no longer a sort of industrial banana republic but a country which has a future of which all Australians can be proud. The Opposition opposes this Bill because the Government again is embarking on the completely wrong course.
-We have listened to a speech which one could charitably call the weakest that has ever been made by anyone leading for a party in this Parliament. It noted none of the important considerations either of the present circumstances or of the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill. It started by referring to other legislation- the Trade Practices Act and legislation concerning stand-down provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service. The House is reminded that the trade practices legislation which was said to have been rushed through Parliament lay on the table for seven, eight or nine months for prolonged consideration before being put to the vote. The stand-down provisions that we dealt with two months ago were not proclaimed, as the Government said they would not be proclaimed unless the occasion arose. The significant sequel to that legislation was that the strike at the Redfern Mail Exchange folded within 24 hours.
It is said that this Bill is being rushed through. The leading speaker for the Australian Labor Party, Senator Button, took more than two-thirds of his time in irrelevant rubbish which was not directed to the Bill at all. Senator Button asked for Australia to take its place among the countries of the world in a position where its industrial and trade policies can be effective and can conduce to the prosperity of the country. At present the maritime and stevedoring unions are preventing trade in wheat to Indonesia. They have made a huge impact upon coal and iron trade to Japan. They have effectively foreclosed trade in wheat to Chile. Those examples illustrate the immense impact that the unions are making on an important area our economy designed to determine our trade policy. But one does not need to be aware of those instances to be enlivened as to the significance of this legislation. Senator Button’s own State, Victoria, has been paralysed now for weeks, and no fewer than half a million of its work force have been stood down. The indirect impact on the community is a disgrace to a civilised State. If a government did not act in those circumstances, not by rushing legislation through Parliament, but after having exercised due restraint and having waited with great patience to enable the processes of arbitration to operate, actually it would not be representing its people.
The fact is that Australia enjoys the most effective and best system of industrial regulation. In 1904, we came from an experience of anarchy that the 1890s had seen, and both major political parties at the time, especially the Labor Party, were enthusiastic in the creation of the arbitration system in this country. In 1917, in expounding the soundness of the arbitration system, justices in the High Court like Higgins and Isaacs, notable for their sympathy for the working man of Australia, said that the arbitration system was designed deliberately as a substitute for economic distress and anarchy due to the primitive method of strike, substituting the reasoned hearing before a tribunal to adjudicate upon disputes. It is central to that system, at the very heart of it, that the system enabled the creation of what are called federal organisations or unions. As we know, the registry of that system was rushed. We have a plethora of unions in Australia disproportionate altogether to the experience of other countries. We have more than 300 unions, not all of which are federal unions. The fact is that the system gave the trade unions the benefit of registration of trade unions under which structure the trade unionist was able to get the benefits that he had secured far exceeding benefits of any other working man in any other country. Yet we have a system that has given to the trade union movement greater freedon and much more strength than has any other system in the world.
– Yet only one of their representatives is here in the chamber to hear about this today.
-Yes. I am saying that that system of arbitration enabled the registration of federal trade unions. The unions have taken advantage of it, and they have used the benefits of it to get from the courts a level and standard of industrial conditions unequalled anywhere else in the world. Australian conditions for workers are immeasurably superior to those existing in the United States of America and Great Britain, to name just two other countries.
The central part of this Bill concerns itself with the operation of those federal unions in the registry using their rights under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act as registered organisations or unions. Realising that the present provision that enables only complete cancellation, if one is to move against a union, may be too drastic and not very effective because of the reluctance of the court wholly to deregister a union, the Government has produced legislation that we have before us now. It is not rushing it through simply because it was introduced yesterday. In effect, it is legislation that was introduced in April, deferred by arrangement with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the employers, and subjected to consideration from then till now. But in these critical days that are facing us, particularly in Victoria, it is most appropriate that it should be enacted.
I come to the grounds for deregistration that the Bill proposes to add to the present legislation. An organisation may be deregistered if it has engaged in industrial action that has prevented or hindered or interfered with interstate or foreign trade, or if the industrial action has hindered the provision of any public service by the Commonwealth or a State or, most significantly, by an authority of the Commonwealth or the State such as an electricity commission. A further ground that the Bill introduces as a basis of cancellation or partial suspension of registration is that the organisation has engaged in conduct or activities not authorised by its rules.
The next step in this legislation which is a remarkable advance is that where cancellation proceedings are before the court, the court can have incidental powers. The first one is that where there has been a finding of conduct causing industrial disruption by a particular class of members of an organisation, the court is, for the first time under the arbitration legislation of our country, empowered to exclude from eligibility for membership that particular disruptive class. If it gives power to scourge a union of the militant troublemakers, often communists, one can see the advantage of that because it will enable the majority of men to get back to work while excluding the troublemakers. So far from going the whole distance of cancellation of the union’s registration, this Bill, for the first time, gives power to the court on a cancellation application, to suspend the rights, privileges and capacities of the organisation or any of its members under the Act or under any award. If it is not wanted to exclude them from membership, the court can suspend their entitlements and benefits both from the point of view of economic benefit and their right to exercise office in the union. That of course operates against the segment that is really saying that anarchy in a situation can be most effective.
The court is also given power to make directions as to the exercise of any rights or capacities that have been so suspended and, more importantly, it is given power to make provision for restricting the use of funds or the property of the organisation or a branch of the organisation. It is given power to give directions for the control of those funds to ensure observance of the restrictions. That is a real step forward. Hitherto on full cancellation an organisation has ceased to exist, but curiously enought the legislation provided that it was converted into an association. Curiously enough it was provided that the property of the union should be vested in that association so the union, by slipping its skin and ceasing to be a serpent, lost its property but when it emerged from the hole without its skin it still had its property and could carry on the benefit. This provision provides that the court can go directly to the particular control of that property and prevent it being used in aid of strikes against awards. This Bill, in the few aspects that I have chosen to emphasise, illustrates that it is a step forward in providing the court with those particular powers which hitherto it did not have. The court was deterred often from using the only power it had- total cancellation.
The Bill not only provides that the parties can apply for this sanction against the union and for the exercise by the court of an application of the bans clause in the award; it also enables the Industrial Relations Bureau to notify a dispute on a bans clause and to apply for the cancellation or for an injunction or for the application of penalties. I suggest therefore that the one particular part of the Bill to which I have confined myself For the sake of clarity and brevity illustrates what Senator Button has failed to perceive, namely, that the Bill puts powers in the hands of the court of great practical utility and effect. I suggest that if that were the only thing that the Bill achieved it would deserve our attention for the day and our approval.
The Bill does go into other matters dealing with individual rights and demarcation disputes. As to them, I refrain from further reference. I only say that if the trade union movement does not realise that the preservation of the arbitration system in Australia is in its interests it will do great damage to the working people of this country. It behoves the trade unions, having been given such a share in the prosperity of this country, to come to a realisation that they are part of the community and are not above the industrial law of the country. No society can continue to exist with effect as the Australian society has done, and will do with prosperity and freedom, unless we ensure that trade unions, incorporated companies or classes of superior position and opportunity are under the law. No community that we call civilised can operate to regulate the rights of its units unless the law is administered by tribunals and courts impartially for the benefit of the people, and that, in the industrial situation is a substitution for the economic chaos which is reminiscent of the outlook of a century ago past which Senator Button’s reading has not come.
- Senator Wright claimed that Senator Button had not dealt with the precise details of the legislation but he spent 12 minutes- I watched the clock- talking about matters about which, of course, he has little knowledge. He talked about conditions in other parts of the world.
The fact is that in every Western democracy great account is taken of the trade union movement. In West Germany, for example, and most of the European countries, trade unions in fact are present on works councils and are part often of the directorships. West Germany is presenting legislation to allow trade unions to run enterprises jointly. In the United States the trade union movement is one of the most well recognised bodies by Congress and by the President. It has greater powers of freedom than does our movement.
This legislation is clearly repressive. It is designed actually to impose more restrictions on organisations and on workers who are about the business of trade unionism. While the Government is saying every day of the week that it supports the trade unions, the fact is that day by day and year by year it is bringing in legislation to make it more difficult for trade unions to work. What is the present position in Australia? There are a great many industrial disputes. Industrial disputation is based on the economy at the present time and on the failure of the Government to produce a situation in which the economy is working satisfactorily, in which employment is high and in which men can apply themselves to productive work. Men cannot so apply themselves. That is the fault of the economy and the wages policy of this Government.
Senator Wright talked today about the State Electricity Commission dispute in Victoria. At no time has this Government attempted to conciliate in that dispute. I asked Senator Durack yesterday and he admitted that this legislation is not the cure for the SEC dispute. It is a system of reforms in industry which the Government had promised after so many years. Did the Government try to solve the SEC dispute? It did not. All it did was to tell the Victorian Premier that it would back him up in whatever repressive legislation he found necessary. The strike goes on. Who will save Australia from that dispute? It will be the Australian Council of Trade Unions and Bob Hawke again. Honourable senators on the Government side are laughing. Directly they will say what a vile bloke Bob Hawke is. Every major dispute since the currency of this Government has finally been conciliated and solved by Bob Hawke. I ask honourable senators opposite to remember the air traffic controllers’ strike. Who fixed that up? Was it the Government? It was Hawke who negotiated the settlement. In the SEC dispute who is carrying on the conciliation? It is Bob Hawke. During the week I asked Senator Durack what the Government had done about the SEC dispute. He did not answer. He knows full well that it has done nothing. The man who is trying to find a cure is the President of the ACTU. That is always the case. In the transport workers case it was the ACTU.
Senator Wright talked about the old days when we supported the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Of course we did. In those days the real planks of the Act were in certain prescriptions. They are still in those prescriptions today. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1976 states:
The chief objects of this Act are-
to promote goodwill in industry;
to encourage, and provide means for, conciliation with a view to amicable agreement, thereby preventing and settling industrial dispute;
to encourage the organization of representative bodies of employers and employees and their registration under this Act;
It also refers to the penal section and the other controlling sections of organisations referred to by Senator Wright. The basic objectives of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are to promote conciliation. As the employers say and as the ACTU says today, the only way in which to settle disputes in Australia and deal with industrial relations properly is to get a consensus between those who employ labour and those who work for their living. Senator Button referred to the opinion of Mr Polites, one of the most important authorities on employer organisations in Australia. He has said that he does not agree with what the Government is doing. Employers said that they did not agree with the legislation introduced in May. So who is providing the advice? Is it coming from Ministers who know nothing about industrial relations. They have never worked in industry. They have never been involved in the sorts of things which make productive work. Yet technically they tell their departments what sorts of laws to prescribe. These laws are not occasioned to provide a conciliation but will restrict the organisation of labour. I challenge any honourable senator here to tell me where the Western world is getting laws like those proposed by the Government.
The second thing I am concerned about- I have already criticised this- is the way in which the Parliament is not consulted about these matters. A law is conjured up in the minds of Ministers and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). No doubt the Prime Minister wants to be a new president. He conjured up this new attitude to industrial relations and instructed the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. With respect to the major piece of legislation which was introduced in May this year, the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill which established the Industrial Relations Bureau and this Bill, at no time has there been proper discussion in this Parliament. In the first case even the ACTU has no knowledge of what was proposed. The National Labour Consultative Council has had more time to consider this legislation than the Parliament has had. Is that good? How can people who talk about parliamentary democracy argue that that is a good thing? It is a bad thing.
When the Opposition tried to get sufficient time to discuss the legislation what happened? The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) moved for the Bill to be considered urgently. Why was it urgent? Why was the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Bill introduced in August urgent? It was going to cure everthing. The Post Office dispute was settled on the day we were sitting to discuss the Bill. If it was urgent why has it not yet been proclaimed? It has not been proclaimed. All the Government has done has been to find Des Linehan to preside over it. If it was an urgent and important measure to give peace to industry why was it not put into effect straight away or the next day? It has no effect on the general run of industry, as honourable senators well know. There has to be proper understanding between employers and employees. This Government has to encourage the sort of attitude which was developed even under Ministers of previous LiberalCountry Party governments. I am thinking, of course, of the late Prime Minister, Mr Holt, who when Minister for Labour gave way on many measures in the punitive sectons of the Act, such as section 109. Now the Government is making sure that these measures will be reinforced and that more prosecutions will be possible.
The issue today in Australia is an issue as to whether the Government can confuse the Australian people by saying that proper economic recovery can be achieved only through repressing the trade unions. The Government is not able to improve the economy. It knows that next year the economy will not be much better. One of its advisers, Professor Hogan, has already told it that unemployment will be 8 per cent next year. The Government knows that but to divert the public’s attention it will have an election. An election is certain. We all know that there will be one. Government supporters have not been consulted. Of course they have not. Nobody over there knows. They cannot find a Minister to tell them. We know that certain arrangements are being made within the Government parties which indicate that an election is on the go. Why is there to be an election? The election is going to be against the union movement as though by some stroke, by some legislation, the Government will cure the troubles in the country. I have said to the Government- it cannot confound this-that at no time did it help the ACTU to solve the SEC dispute. No officer from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations went down to see to what extent the parties could be brought together. The man who will solve the dispute, if it is to be solved, will be Bob Hawke. What irks me is that nowhere does the Government recognise the value of the ACTU.
Senator Durack said that this legislation has nothing to do with the SEC. It has been said in the other place that it is one of those general reforms which has been promised to the country. The record of industrial disputation has dropped. The Government has tried to make capital out of that. It has told the electorate that things must be better under Fraser because there are not so many disputes. If there are not so many disputes why the hell does the Government want repressive legislation? It should be talking more directly and more often to the ACTU. Why does it not take the advice of the employers and the ACTU. In respect of both pieces of industrial legislation introduced this year the employers’ spokesmen said: ‘You cannot solve things this way’. Why try to rush the Bills through the Parliament? Why have a Parliament that agrees with them? This is what astounds me. We talk about the threat of the communist countries with their methods of organisation and control. But in this country the Parliament is becoming a fake. We are not using the Parliament as it should be used. We are not allowing senators to devote enough time to the contributions they wish to make. I reiterate that what has been done in this case is simply an attempt to provide legislation which will not work.
Some of the provisions of the legislation are scandalous. I point out to Senator Missen that I have had some experience in the industrial field. I have worked in many industries and I have been a trades hall secretary. I have been involved with many disputes and I know what occasions men to stop work. I ask the honourable senator to forget the militants and the ordinary disputes that occur every day of the week. No doubt Senator Tehan would know a lot about this matter! Has the honourable senator ever worked in a factory? Has he ever worked with railwaymen or heard their disputes? Let me read clause 3 (b) of the Bill.
– It is about time you read it.
– The honourable senator says that it is about time I read it. We are allowed to speak for only 15 minutes on this Bill when we should be allowed to take as much time as we like. The Government is responsible for this. The honourable senator voted to stop members of the Opposition from talking on the legislation. Clause 3(b) defines ‘industrial action’ in the following terms:
The legislation contains the most extensive use of phrases and prescriptions which are designed to limit the rights of the worker to have a free association with his employer. As has been mentioned, not only is this a bad thing but also it creates a circumstance in which workers cannot act against hazardous conditions. I draw the attention of the Senate to the working conditions often experienced by railway shunters who work in busy railway yards. Because finance allocated to railways is restricted, railway shunters are often forced to work in yards badly damaged by rain and other causes. Under this legislation railway shunters would be penalised if they refused to work under these conditions although by so working they could possibly lose a leg or even their life if they slipped and fell over. Under the prescription proposed in the legislation not only would their refusal to work be an illegal action but the whole of the union could be deregistered.
A dispute in the Mile End yards in Adelaide could lead to the deregistration of the entire Australian Railways Union or the Australian Workers Union. What sort of trade union does the Government want Australia to have?
The Government talks about giving help to the genuine trade unionist, but what about a conscientious objector who does not want to join a union? The provision in the legislation in respect of conscientious objectors will mean that people will be able to refuse to join a union on grounds other than a genuine religious objection. The union movement has always accepted the prescriptions which are at present in the Act. Clause 22 of the Bill states: 144a. (1) Where a person, upon application made to the Registrar in the prescribed form and manner, and payment of the prescribed fee, satisfies the Registrar that the person’s conscientious beliefs do not allow the person to be a member of any association of a kind . . .
This means that people will be able to refuse to join a union on the grounds of a conscientious objection irrespective of whether those grounds are based on a religious objection. There is to be no right of appeal against the decision of the register. This is strange in view of the fact that honourable senators on the other side of the Senate talk about the rule of law. Who is to say the registrar will be correct, even according to the prescriptions of the legislation, in determining who is or who is not a conscientious objector?
– I would rather he did it than a union official.
- Senator Messner should be the first one -
– Do you mean Senator Missen?
-I am sorry-Senator Missen; I have no doubt that Senator Messner will support what I am putting. Senator Missen often gets up in this place and talks about matters of principle. I would ask the honourable senator to look honestly at this position. A registrara bureaucrat- may not always be an inexperienced person- in the arbitration field the registrar is often experienced- I believe that the legislation should contain the right of appeal against his decision.
– It is against the action of a trade union official.
– As the honourable senator well knows, the real principle in these repressive pieces of legislation is to make sure that the trade union system does not work at all. The old idea of freedom of association and the old British concept of trade unions are being knocked bit by bit.
The legislation is also concerned with demarcation. It is proposed that a union can be told not to take a certain class of employee. When the Labor Government introduced legislation into this Parliament which was designed to make sure that demarcation disputes would not occur so frequently the then Opposition voted against and denied that legislation. Honourable senators opposite would vote against such legislation again and again.
Unfortunately I have just about used all the time available to me in this debate. I conclude my speech on the same theme as I began it. I am astounded that members of the Senate should allow legislation like this to be called urgent legislation. It is not urgent because it is not designed to solve any of the disputes that are currently taking place in Australia. These disputes are being handled separately by people other than the Commonwealth, mostly by the trade union movement. The disputes are not being handled by experienced officers of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. If the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) told those officers to go out and help employers and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to solve disputes I am sure they would be competent and happy to do so. Instead of that the Government is laying down prescriptions which are repressive and which will not solve anything. Finally, we will have to come back to a situation that has always existed in Australia, namely, more conciliation and less arbitration.
-We have heard Senator Button tell us how unnecessary this legislation is, how it will not work and that it is being rushed through Parliament.
– All true. You are right on every point.
-Senator Ryan agrees. Let us have a look at the contention that the legislation is being rushed through the Parliament. As Senator Wright pointed out earlier, this legislation was laid on the table five months ago. At that time we were assured by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) that those pieces of legislation that were not passed with the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation would be introduced this session. So honourable senators opposite would have had plenty of time, if they had so chosen, to have a good look at this Bill. They have had all the time in the world to study it carefully.
The reason the Senate has taken the unusual step of sitting today to put the legislation through is because of what is happening in Victoria at the moment. This legislation will be able to deal effectively with that position. Senator Button and Senator Bishop have both said that the legislation will not be effective. They said that the legislation we previously passed in respect of Commonwealth employees was not effective. They said that we have not proclaimed it. We have not proclaimed it; we have had no reason to do so. As soon as the legislation was passed, the strike which prompted it was resolved. That legislation proved effective simply by putting it through the Parliament.
– But you got the awful Bob Hawke to help you!
-We have heard a lot about Bob Hawke, but I will come to him later. I would like to draw to the attention of the Senate the volume of trade union action that we have had to put up with lately. Because of the amount of time I have at my disposal I will not be able to cover a quarter of the examples I would like to mention. However, I shall refer to some of them. Senator Bishop said the number of days lost in the life of this Government due to industrial disputes is less than those under previous governments. I answer that by saying that the unions today have become more sophisticated in their approach to strikes. They are putting out key men in various areas. This is causing far more disruption to the community than was ever experienced under the previous Government. This action is far more disruptive to the community in general. I believe there has been an actual attempt in these last two years to overthrow the elected government. I ask honourable senators opposite to answer this plain question: Who should say whether we will trade our wheat with Chile? Should it be the elected government or a union? I ask honourable senators opposite to answer that question because at the moment the union and not the elected government of this country is saying whether we should trade our wheat with Chile.
Let us look at the situation with the builders labourers in Victoria. The Collins Place complex is to cost $130m. There are 1,850 people debarred from working on that project. On the State Bank office complex, which is a $50m complex, 1,150 people are debarred from working. We just do not know how many people in the retail trade would be provided with jobs if the
Knox City shopping complex were ever to be completed. We have now come to the situation where building projects have been scrapped altogether. People will not go ahead with building projects and the plans have been abandoned. That is the situation simply because of the disruption caused by the builders labourers in Victoria.
– What about the disruptions of the Fraser Government?
– Honourable senators opposite are objecting and saying that these activities are all quite legitimate, that all of these people should be put out of work, that all of these building projects should be abandoned because of industrial strikes. The unions have absolute power to do that. Honourable senators opposite agree with the situation of all of these people being put out of work. The Redfern Mail Exchange so far has taken a year -
– Have you ever worked there? You would be a better parliamentarian if you did some of that sort of work.
– I have not worked in the Redfern Mail Exchange but I certainly have worked as a nurse in the large hospitals of this country. I have worked in the dirtiest of conditions. I have worked in pan rooms week after week. I have worked harder and for longer hours than the people at the Redfern Mail Exchange have ever worked. I was working at that stage a 70-hour week, and in that job I was not working for a salary as good as is provided today. We were treated as students. We were getting 18 shillings a week, and that was not all that long ago. Honourable senators opposite should not try to tell me that I do not know the conditions under which people work. I have worked under far worse conditions than do the workers at the Redfern Mail Exchange. Of course, the Opposition is saying that all of these disruptions are quite legitimate and that they should go on. I come now to the Burnie strike, which is something very close to the hearts of the people of Tasmania. The Burnie Marine Board lost $80,000 in just one month. No doubt honourable senators opposite think that that is all quite legitimate. There was a dispute between the transport workers and the waterside workers about who should actually tie up the ships visiting Burnie, and that cost the Burnie Marine Board $80,000. That loss, of course, is apart from all the money that was lost to business in that area as a result of their cargoes not being discharged. The Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd considered closing its mills in Tasmania at that time because of the disruption. Tioxide Australia threatened to close its Tasmanian branch because of the disruption by this handfull of people on the waterfront. Do not tell me that legislation does not work or that the Government cannot make it work. I refer back to the air traffic controllers strike and the threatened strike of the pilots. What happened when Mr Fraser said ‘We will bring in the Air Force to fly planes down to Tasmania’? The pilots immediately went back to work and there were planes flying to Tasmania.
– Put them in gaol, Senator.
– We did not put them in gaol. We said that we would bring in the Air Force to fly planes to Tasmania so that my State would not be cut off from the rest of the country by those threatened strikes. Now we find that two thousand workers of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria have put half a million people out of work. Again the Opposition thinks that that is perfectly all right. It says: ‘Give them their $40 a week extra so that everybody there can go back to work’. Now we are told that Bob Hawke is rectifying that disaster. But how long has that taken? Bob Hawke was sick. Do not honourable senators opposite remember that he was incapacitated right up to the time when the whole thing was brought to a head by the Victorian Government when the Victorian Government threatened to deregister the unions involved. Then a magic wand was waved and Bob Hawke was suddenly better and decided to enter into the proceedings at the eleventh hour. Quite frankly, the Australian people are fed up with pleading with the unions to behave and to be reasonable. We find that the headlines in the Tasmanian newspapers are along these lines: Mr Lowe pleads with the air pilots’. He pleads with them: ‘Please do not cut us off’. He does not say: ‘Get back to work because you are acting illegally’. He simply says: ‘Please do not cut us off’. Then we have Mr Lowe pleading with the Seamen’s Union to discharge the cargo at Burnie: ‘Please will you not just take the cargo off for us?’ He does not say to them: ‘Behave in a legal fashion and behave within the laws of this country’. He pleads with them. We then have Mr Lowe pleading with the employees of the Australian National Line: ‘Please off-load the cargo at Bell Bay. Do not hold our State to ransom ‘. He gets down on his knees and he pleads with them. It is time that that sort of pleading was over.
– What would you do, Senator?
- Senator Georges asks me what I would do with them. We are passing legislation which will have the effect of insuring that that sort of activity is stopped. We are not pleading with them, as Senator Georges obviously thinks that we should. I would like to find out just what the Opposition would suggest should be done. It is against any legislation which suggests that unions should be subject to normal law and order. That, of course, is just the end. The Opposition suggests that we should not bring them under the normal provisions of law and order. It says that unions are outside the normal provisions of law and order. It says that these matters should be handled by Bob Hawke. I remind honourable senators opposite that $80,000 was lost to the Burnie Marine Board. What did Bob Hawke do about that? I remind honourable senators opposite that half a million people are out of work in Victoria. What did Bob Hawke do about that? Of course, I could go on and on and mention the builders labourers. What has Bob Hawke done about that situation? He has done absolutely not a thing.
Perhaps we could look at the record of the Labor Party when it was in power. In 1973, 2.6 million man days were lost, and in 1974, 6.3 million man days were lost. That latter figure represents a record; it has never been surpassed in any other year. In 1975, 3.5 million man days were lost. By gee, Bob Hawke helped the Opposition a lot, did he not? It really did amazingly well. Honourable senators opposite do not believe in passing legislation; they say that all these things should be left to Bob Hawke. But just look at their record.
– What about your Medibank squabble with the trade unions?
-Part of the Labor Party’s policy is that it agrees with political strikes. It is all right for the unions to say whether we should trade with Chile. That is quite legitimate! Such matters should not be left to the Government to decide! We should remember that. It should be left to the unions to say with whom we should trade! Do not forget that Bob Hawke can be sick whenever he likes until he finally realises that matters are being settled and then enters the proceedings.
– You had better not be sick here, Senator. I will ask that your pay be stopped. You chew on that. You should be paid on performance.
– I feel that Senator Mulvihill is begging the question of whether or not I have been sick. I now turn to individual rights. I shall deal with the provisions that will be introduced under this Bill. On the question of individual rights, it will be interesting to see just whether the Society for Civil Liberties will back our proposals, because it must surely agree that the proposals in this legislation relating to individual rights are essential to this community.
– How about the rights of society?
-That, Senator Georges, is exactly what I am talking about- the rights of this society and the rights of the individuals in this society. What about those people who have a conscientious objection to joining a union? Honourable senators opposite say that pressure should not be placed on people to work. Honourable senators opposite believe that if people do not want to work they should not have to work but that they must join a union if they work. This, to me, is an anomaly in anybody’s thinking. It is something that I just cannot understand.
– What about the Australian Medical Association?
– There is no compulsion about membership of the AMA. Only about twothirds of doctors in Australia belong to the AMA. There is no compulsion on doctors at all. This legislation seeks to cover the situation where a union might apply pressure. In this respect, I refer to the position in Tasmania at the moment where we have a young apprentice who says that, according to the conditions of his apprenticeship, he should not join a union. Because he will not join a union his fellow workers are calling him a scab and are not associating with him. That action will no longer be permitted under this legislation. Once it is enacted, if any pressure is put on that poor young apprentice, the person applying the pressure will be acting against the law and action can be taken against him. The right to work is protected in this legislation. A little while ago, Senator Bishop said that the right to work was not contained in our legislation. It is. The rights to work and not to strike are contained in the legislation. People who want to work and do not wish to strike cannot be discriminated against. Once the legislation is passed, to do so will be completely illegal. It will be up to the rank and file unionist now to make up his own mind whether he wants to strike. If he continues to go to work- as the majority of unionists did during the Medibank strike-he will be able to do so without the discrimination, threats, abuse and physical violence that went on during the Medibank strike when some people decided that they would go to work and would not go on strike.
– There were one or two.
-Only one or two, Senator Georges? A majority of unionists attend work. Discriminatory action was taken against those unionists who went to work.
I turn now to proposed new Part VIIIAA which deals with the accounts and audits of unions. These amendments will provide that records be kept and made available to all members of a union. The records must be open and accurate. Financial returns will be filed with the Industrial Registrar. Investigation of any irregularities will be made by the Industrial Relations Bureau. We will be able to overcome quite a few of the irregularities that have occurred.
– What irregularities?
-Senator Melzer asked: What irregularities?’. Obviously, she has not read the report from the Royal Commission into Alleged Payments to Maritime Unions. If Senator Melzer had read that report she would be moved in some way to agree with the findings of that investigation. If any honourable senator opposite disagrees with this section of our legislation, I invite him or her to examine some of the findings of that Royal Commission. They would make anyone’s hair stand on end. We find that the unions at that time were trying to get payments for not supplying work. Further, on occasions when they were asked for labour but could not supply it, they demanded money for the work that was being done by the crews. The unions were demanding money even when they could not supply the labour. We find that the Royal Commissioner said that all this work that was claimed for the shore unions was never, at any stage, a justified claim. The money should never have been given to them. There were no grounds for them to have received it. These payments amounted to thousands and thousands of dollars and put our international trade in jeopardy. That money found its way into individual official unionists pockets. The union held big dinner parties. More than $1,000 was paid for such dinner parties. The money went into the purchase of pool tables and all sorts of things.
– Your legislation is going to stop that, is it?
– I sincerely believe that the legislation will stop it. When the legislation is passed, it will make unions accountable in respect of such activities. I turn now to the deregistration of unions. I have been told that I have only one minute remaining to speak, so I will be able to make only a passing reference to deregistration of unions. The present process of deregistration is long and tedious. The new process will allow partial deregistration for certain sections of a union. Specific areas may be dealt with. But more importantly, I believe, is the section of the Bill which gives the right to suspend the rights, privileges and capacities of a member or all members of a union. It restricts also the use of funds and properties. These processes will be able to be instigated far quicker than the existing process of deregistration which takes such a long time. I support the Bill. It will be passed in the Senate today. By the time the amendments to the Act are enacted, we will find that this legislation has made a big difference to the current strike in Victoria.
– I hope that during my address honourable senators opposite will not take points of order on the basis of repetition. I recall that, at the end of every session of the Parliament, I rise in this place and protest about individual legislation being introduced in the last few days of a sitting and about the use of the gag by the Government. For some reason the Government is not prepared to have a full and frank discussion on industrial legislation. I think a good example of the Government’s attitude is what happened in this place yesterday. The Government moved a motion yesterday that the Senate should sit today for the purpose of discussing this industrial legislation. We opposed the Senate sitting today because of the brief time available to us to discuss the Bill. After two Opposition speakers had spoken to that motion, the Government moved that the question be put. The next motion dealt with was the suspension of Standing Orders for the purpose of permitting the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill 1977 passing through all its stages without delay. The Opposition opposed that motion and we were allowed to speak on it until we had exhausted our supply of speakers. We were allowed to speak on that unimportant motion. The Government was not concerned about how much time we spent on that question so long as we were not speaking about industrial relations about which the first motion was concerned.
The Minister for Administrative Affairs (Senator Withers) in reply told us that the reason the Government had moved for the suspension of Standing Orders to permit the Bill to pass through all its stages was that if that was not done passage of the Bill would be delayed for three days. We were accused during the debate of denying benefits to farmers, cane growers and to the electors of Hawker during that period. We found out that its purpose was to extend the bounty that expires in December this year until next year. There would have been no adverse effect on the people involved if this legislation had been delayed for three days. The Opposition was allowed to speak on the useless motion for the suspension of Standing Orders if it so desired, but it was not allowed to talk on the question of industrial relations. One would have expected that this matter would have been raised in the Adjournment Debate last night. This Bill is of great importance, but what happened? The Government took the unusual and, I think, derogatory step of organising a count-out in this Senate so that no honourable senator could speak on the adjournment. The Government thought Opposition senators would refer to industrial relations matters which are dealt with by this legislation. My complaint is that the Government does not allow the Opposition to discuss industrial legislation.
However long the Bill may have been debated in the other place, we have only one day in which to discuss it. The Act was consolidated in 1976 and there are pages and pages of amendments. Now we have 28 pages of this Bill to consider. We are being asked to discuss in one day intricate, controversial legislation. And why? As Senator Bishop said, it is just for the political purposes of the Government.
We should not discount everything that the over-worked, under-paid, ex-slave nurse, Senator Walters, contributed to this debate. Disputes and stoppages do occur. The construction of buildings has been held up in Melbourne and cargoes have been held up. The State Electricity Commission dispute in Victoria is the concern of us all. Such disputes should never happen. We should be working towards creating the machinery to ensure that they do not have to happen. When such disputes occur, honourable senators opposite immediately say: ‘The workers are to blame’. As Senator Wright has said, Australia has built up a high standard of living because of community interest and community cooperation. In the early days citizens were working towards the development of Australia and citizens’ organisations were formed. Through the struggle of the ages we have reaped a great reward today, but it has not been without struggle. I recall the words of Henry Lawson:
May be in those old days remembered now by few, We did bite off in various ways but more than we could chew, We paid in sodden strikers’ camps upon the black soil flat, We paid in long and hungry tramps and I ‘m too old to rat.
Those who paid in strikers’ camps contributed to the standard of living we have today. They played a part in our history. Until the injustice which we are now prepared to recognise was rectified, there was rural revolt in our community. But we seem to have gone backwards today. We are not trying to rectify causes. Like Senator Bishop, I have had some experience in the trade union movement. Whether the leadership is communist, militant or reactionary, the men involved who make sacrifices, who deprive themselves and their families of income and the necessities of life, of their savings and of the goods they have on time payment, do not make these sacrifices at somebody else’s persuasion unless a just cause is involved. Why are we not looking at the causes of the Latrobe Valley dispute? It is admitted when the strikers are told to go to arbitration. Bob Hawke is doing everything to try to find a way around the technicalities to enable them to go to arbitration. Everyone recognises the fact that arbitration could give them the rise to settle this disagreement. But we are tied up because of the whole technicalities involving the Arbitration Commission. Because of wage indexation, the maintenance men at Latrobe Valley cannot receive an increase in wages. Therefore they cannot receive comparable wage justice to which everyone recognises they are entitled. If Senator Walters had any concern for settling this dispute, she would realise that the solution is not to threaten and to wield a big stick. These men were unknown a few weeks ago. Today I am a contributor to a strike fund to assist them in their struggle. Money for this fund is being collected right throughout Australia. They will probably get more assistance now than they have ever had before. It is a reaction to persecution, a wrong doing towards decent citizens who are co-operating and assisting in the development of Australia. In assisting in the development of Australia, Mr President, they are assisting in the support of you and me.
– Order! The sitting of the Senate is, by mutual agreement, suspended until 2 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was saying that there is some justification for strikes but I think we all have a common interest to ensure that strikes do not occur. It is the method by which we prevent strikes that we all should be interested in, and it does no good to call anyone who is leading a strike or anyone who is striking a communist or to call them that because we think it is the most derogatory term we can use. As I have said, you cannot get workers to make the sacrifice of going on strike unless there is a just grievance. I tried to illustrate my point by referring to the grievance that we upheld yesterday in respect of salaries forjudges. I have no opposition to the Chief Justice of the High Court getting $57,000 a year if we think that is a proper remuneration but the principle we acted on was that of wage justice. It was a matter of seeking wage justice. That is how we approached the matter of judges seeking $57,000 a year. All that the workers in the Latrobe Valley are seeking is wage justice in relation to workers doing like work. This was not a strike directed by the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union or by any other union. It was a decision by the workers on the job. Irrespective of whether there are Halfpennys or militants at the top, the decision by a section of workers to go on strike is up to the workers on the job. Whether the Government permits these workers to remain in a union, whether it gives a court power to expel workers from their union, it is still up to the workers on the job to decide whether to strike. The main thing to consider is that these workers are not enemies of Australia. These are the people who have helped Australia develop. They are the men who have helped to make Australia. This country is able to pay judges $57,000 a year because the country has been developed to the stage that it is by the workers of this country from the time of colonisation. We know the disruptions that strikes cause. If we want to prevent strikes, let us accept this section of workers as part of our community, as people doing a service for this country.
We heard Senator Walters speak about suffering from working 70 hours a week in the pan wards of the biggest hospitals in Australia for 18 bob a week.
– What is wrong with that?
-Would you want those conditions back? If Senator Walters returns to the nursing profession she will find that through the activities of those girls who joined trade unions and through industrial action in the hospitals throughout Australia, those sorts of conditions do not apply today. Is this Government going to treat as outcasts in society those people who improved working conditions to the level which we think is acceptable today? Those who have engaged in strikes have not been enemies of Australia. Despite the disaster and the upset that they have caused to society, let us treat them as brothers.
Senator Button has said that the least strike prone countries are those which have social democratic governments, governments which are sympathetic to workers. In South Australia we have possibly the most liberal industrial code in Australia. The strike record in that State is less than it is in any other State. The State Government has been criticised because it gives preference to unionists in the government service. Ever since it has given preference to unionists in the Government services there has not been a strike except for one” in the tramways system in South Australia which was of short durationless than 24 hours. There is the record but today people talk about the freedom of the individual to join or to refuse to join a union. Clause 19 of this Bill seeks to give a court power to take away the right of an individual to belong to the organisation of his choice. If the Declaration of Human Rights means anything, while it may not force an individual to join a union, it does not mean that there should be power to prevent a person from associating with an organisation with which he wants to associate. If the Government is honest with itself as regards freedom of the individual, it must say that it is against human rights for a court to be able to say to a person: ‘You want to belong to that organisation, you want that organisation to protect your rights but we are saying that you cannot belong to the organisation’.
The Opposition sees this legislation as an attempt to divide the unions into smaller splinter groups. The employers say that to avoid demarcation disputes they want amalgamation of unions- a bigger combination of unions. The Government says that to control the unions it wants them in splinter groups. Under this legislation the workers in the Latrobe Valley could be told by a decision of the court: ‘You cannot belong the the Metal Workers Union, you cannot belong to the Electrical Trades Union; you have to belong to some other union or form a union of your own so that we can deal with you as a small group’. I make a final appeal. There are thousands out of work not only in Victoria but also in South Australia as a result of the Latrobe Valley dispute. I make a final appeal. No one has come out and said there is no justification for the wage increase sought by the Latrobe Valley workers.
– The Arbitration Commission did.
-The Arbitration Commission did not.
– It said what the men were asking for, the $40 a week, was not justified.
– It did not. All it said was that there was no provision within the guidelines to grant it, therefore they could not succeed. No one said it was not justified. It was left to Bob Hawke to find a technicality. Who is now saying that the increase which is being sought is not justified? Government supporters are now tied up in finding technicalities. I put this to the Senate: Over the last fortnight the wives of the strikers have been interviewed on the AM program, on television and reported in the newspapers. They have said that they find the struggle hard; their children are deprived. When asked whether they would give up this campaign the answer was: ‘No. We have not been out 10 weeks for nothing’. Do honourable senators opposite think they have made this determined sacrifice without realising the consequences. It is for real. They are people. It is something of which we must take cognizance. I would say that there is justification for their claim. We must find a solution and not go in with the big stick to batter them down.
– I rise to support this legislation and I at once correct the misapprehension that both Senator Button and Senator Bishop are labouring under. They say that this legislation is unnecessary. For the third time in 10 days I accuse Opposition supporters of being like the proverbial ostrich and hiding their heads in the sand. Anyone who is aware of the situation in Victoria today would say that this legislation is necessary and timely. Senator Cavanagh said something about today being the last day of the session. Well, it is not the last day of the session. The session still has some time to go. He expressed some surprise at the provisions in this legislation. I remind honourable senators of what the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) in the other place said in his second reading speech on this Bill. He said:
The Bill proposes important, far reaching amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The measures it contains give effect to the Government parties’ industrial relations policy which was overwhelmingly endorsed at the last election. This policy reflects a fundamental review of the rights and responsibilities of the parties engaged in industrial relations and the demands of the contemporary community.
That policy was enunciated in our policy speech delivered at the previous general election. The Minister went on to state:
Much of the substance of this Bill was introduced into the House in March of this year.
So there is no element of surprise in this legislation. Indeed, on 17 May the Minister made a further announcement, which is included in this second reading speech. I do not want to take up the valuable time allotted me by labouring the point. But the Government in its general election speech did flag its intentions to introduce this legislation. This second reading speech contains a major instalment of what was said in the general election speech.
Senator Cavanagh went on to ask us to say something about the Latrobe Valley dispute. I accept his challenge. I want to devote at least some of the time I have available to me in this debate to saying something about that dispute. I think it is very important that not only the Opposition but also the people of Australia listen to what I say about the history of this dispute. I begin by quoting from an article by one Vincent Basile which appeared in the Melbourne Age of 12 October last, when he claimed that the recent power dispute was ‘unique’- that was his term. He stated that the dispute will ‘make history in Australia’s postwar industrial relations’. They are powerful words. In Victoria today we have half a million people who have been thrown out of work through no fault of their own. Their wives and their children are starving and have nothing to keep them going. We are at the cross roads, certainly in Victoria’s history if not in Australia’s history. So I think it is important that we look at this dispute.
Why is this dispute unique? It is unique because it has placed in the hands of a few irresponsible shop stewards the future and the economic destiny of half a million workers in Victoria and beyond. In this dispute there has been a radical departure from the established practice and precedent of the trade union movement in settling industrial disputes -
– You would not know. You are not a practitioner in that field. You cannot be a very good practitioner in your own field.
– If Senator Brown does not want to be educated, a few other people might. The standard practice is that initially the control of disputes is in the hands of the union executive. If a dispute affects a number of unions within a State it is then under the control of that State’s Trades Hall Union Disputes Committee. If it goes beyond that into the higher realm and spreads interstate it becomes a matter for the Australian Council of Trade Unions. As I have understood it and as other people have understood it, that has been the gospel- the policy- of the trade union movement in Australia since we have had a trade union movement. What happened in the Latrobe Valley? The workers went on strike. It affected some nine unions, four of them very important unions. It was eight weeks before we had any intervention at all at either the State or Federal level of the trade union movement. Let us look at the Victorian Trades Hall
Disputes Committee. History records-not methat this Committee has hardly met for the past two years. Two decades ago it was the most important factor in settling these sorts of disputes.
– It is on strike too, do you think?
-The point I make, Senator Missen, very briefly is that the irresponsible shop stewards, who are acting outside the trade union movement, are responsible for this strike. The trade union movement either has neglected established procedures for settling such a strike or has chickened out of taking on the irresponsible shop stewards. No one can deny that in either case, whatever the reason, there has been industrial anarchy in Victoria. The situation is not new. There has been a trend in the trade union movement for shop stewards to take over this role, whereby we have the irresponsibility of the few against the rights of the many. The message I give today to those upwards of half a million people in trade unions who are out of work is: Blame the irresponsible shop stewards at Latrobe Valley.
As has been said, it is no excuse to claim that the Morwell strikers had no confidence in their union leaders and left the matter to the shop stewards. That is what has been said down there. They have said: ‘We do not trust Halfpenny. We will run our own ship’. Honourable senators have to remember that nine unions are involved. I have set out already the three-tier system the trade union movement adopts in settling these disputes. They have some justification in respect of Mr Halfpenny. I resort to history because his record is not all that good. We had the General Motors strike of 1960, the Ford strike of 1970 and the Victorian power strike of 1972. Despite lengthy and costly strikes on each of these occasions, no real results were achieved. No money was placed in the workers’ pockets as a result of those strikes.
Senator Bishop said that there is no need for this legislation. Events in recent months, unauthorised strikes caused by shop stewards prove that this legislation is needed. In recent months we have seen a series of cruel, destructive industrial actions by oil tanker drivers, aircraft refuellers, air traffic controllers, building workers, post office employees, public transport employees and I am reminded by the Australian Financial Review-the darling of the Opposition from which its members are always quoting- on page 16 of today’s edition, that this is the 77th day of the Bass Strait oil strike. If honourable senators want further instances there are plenty of them. Let us return to the situation at Latrobe Valley. If it is to become a general situation that shop stewards are to take control of major strikes, there will be longer stoppages and greater confrontation. This is so for the very simple reason, if for no other reason, that shop stewards lack the particular expertise, status and experience to negotiate settlements which the authorised trade union movement has.
I have criticised Ken Stone, the Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the ACTU, and Bob Hawke for not intervening earlier. I will give the reason, and Ken Stone has acknowledged it. He said that the matter was outside his control; that the shop stewards were acting irresponsibly. All Ken Stone could do was on the front page of the Melbourne Herald two or three nights ago, to beg, beseech and implore the unionists to go back to work. He did everything but pray. Some of us would pray to see them go back to work. Perhaps we could go first to Bob Hawke, who his supporters believe is not all that far removed from the Almighty. I acknowledge the efforts of Stone and Hawke in various areas. That is the point I make in this debate and I make it with a great deal of force because I think it is essential that the people of Australia grasp it. I acknowledge their expertise in the field of behindthescenes negotiations. What can a few shop stewards down at Latrobe Valley do to solve a strike which affects the whole nation?
In the time left to me I want to refer to the history of the trade union movement in Britain which shows that as far back as World War II there were concerted efforts to substitute irresponsible shop steward leadership for constitutional union leadership. The argument sponsored by the Communist Party is to transfer power over disputes to shop stewards on the basis that it will eliminate the old craft unions as we know them and to have one union and one union only in each factory controlled by shop stewards. My colleague the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair) had something to say about the British disease. I acknowledge, and I have said it today, that there is a handful of shop stewards in the Latrobe Valley controlling the economic destiny of upwards of half a million citizens of this nation. I say againand it is not directed at the great majority of migrants, British or otherwise, who come to this country- that there is a British disease. I do not know whether it is a cause or a symptom. It is those people who want to put the shop stewards in the place of the authorised union movement. Armstrong, a confessed communist, exported from Britain, is the irresponsible fellow running the show in the Latrobe Valley. We ought to examine the position of these people. I pay tribute to the vast majority of responsible trade unionists in Australia who are powerless to control their own economic future while there is this small, irresponsible and powerful group of people outside the movement who control it, as Ken Stone has acknowledged. This legislation will allow the responsible movement to which government looks, to control its own members. When there is industrial anarchy it is time for government to act and that is precisely what this Government is doing in measured fashion. As I have said, this was announced in the Government’s policy speech. George Polites has been quoted here today. This is what he said in part, to the National Press Club yesterday: perhaps the real incidence for the high level of disputation over wages is the fact that the unions have a monopoly power over the supply of labour.
The essential thrust of this legislation is to preserve the rights of the individual. A lot has been said here today about the rights of the individual. What about Noel Latham, whose individual right to work is guaranteed, as honourable senators opposite have said, by the Declaration of Human Rights. What rights does he have? What rights did Kratulis, who was sacked from the Tramways Union in Melbourne and blackballed out of the job, have? The right to work has a hollow sound unless government is prepared to back it with legislation to protect the rights of individuals in Australia. This legislation was supported in the Government parties’ platform. We had one instalment in the last session and this Bill is a further instalment. I am confident that if the people of Australia have to pass judgment on this Government for doing what it can to destroy industrial anarchy, to restore the legitimate right of the individual trade unionist to work and to provide a meal for his wife and children, the people of Australia will support this Government.
-I rise to oppose this Bill in this place in the limited time that has been made available to the Opposition. As a practitioner in the field of industrial affairs I propose to exercise every power that I have to oppose this legislation outside this chamber. I am probably one of the few members of this SenateI doubt whether there is anybody else- who is still practising in this field. I am President of the Victorian branch of the Federated Furnishings Trade Society of Australasia and also Federal Vice President of the Society. I make no apology for what I say. I join with my colleagues to protest at the contempt and complete disregard which has been shown for the normal forms and procedures of this Senate. Last evening a complex piece of legislation, some 28 pages, was introduced into the Senate. This morning a motion was moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) to apply the gag to this important debate. At 4.30 p.m. this afternoon, irrespective of what has been said or what is unsaid, this Bill will be bulldozed through the Senate. I remind the listening public that we have had a display of shabby double standards in this chamber today, which- is not peculiar to this chamber.
I refer now to the misleading comment that was made by Senator Wright about a Bill to amend the Trade Practices Act. I do not say his conduct was shabby. Senator Wright said that this Bill lay on the table for six or seven months or thereabout. In order to tell the Senate what Senator Wright did not say, I quote from page 2217 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 20 October 1977, from a speech made by the shadow Minister, Mr Willis:
The amendments to the Trade Practices Act, which were extraordinarily complex and which were amended time after time, were finally passed through this House. When I rose to speak on the part of that Bill dealing with industrial relations I was faced with 12 pages of amendments handed to me across the table, amongst which were details of amendments affecting the industrial relations section of the Trade Practices Act.
That is even worse than what we have experienced today with this Bill. I turn now to the remarks of Senator Walters. I think we reached an all time low when, by snide innuendo, Senator Walters suggested that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions was feigning sickness at some given time. I repeat that we have reached a pretty low standard. Senator Walters also mentioned the maritime unions. I remind the Senate that in 1968, nine years ago, the Senate saw fit to establish a select committee on the securities and exchange industry. Senator Rae was one of the chairmen of that committee and presented its report to the Senate. After its investigations that committee unanimously recommended, which means that it had the support of both government and opposition members on the committee, that the Government take urgent legislative action to regulate the industry to outlaw the malpractices, bordering on corruption in that industry. Those malpractices, that corruption cost not only big but also small investors, who have never had any opportunity to recoup their losses, millions of dollars. Yet nine years later, have we ever seen even a draft Bill or a statement of intent to introduce a Bill to regulate those malpractices? This is clear evidence of the shabby double standards in which the Government indulged. I turn briefly to that part of the second reading speech to which Senator Tehan referred. It points up and fortifies what I have said before about the Government’s double standards. It appears at page 4 of the second reading speech of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). I think the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) reiterated it in this place. It states:
One of the fundamental tenets of the Government ‘s industrial relations policy is that each member of the community has both rights and obligations: Those rights must be protected and the obligations must be met.
It is true that people have rights and people have obligations. People employed in industry have a right to expect and in fact to receive the appropriate rates of pay applicable to the classification of work that they perform. They also have a right to enjoy those physical conditions of employment which accompany rates of pay in their industry in respect of hours of work, overtime payments, penalty rates, annual leave, sick leave, et cetera. I concede that they have that perfect right. What they expect to have by way of right in respect of the payment of wages, rates of pay and physical conditions of employment are those standards which have been achieved by people who associate in an organisation of employees. Opposition members would be the last to say that they are not entitled to those rights, but we also believe they have an obligation to make their contribution towards securing and sustaining those rates of pay and conditions of work.
The mere fact that they have been won does not mean that the employees will always have them unless they are prepared to take a position to protect them. We believe that they are entitled to make a contribution to preserve what they are enjoying and likewise to contribute to the ever increasing and on-going work to ensure that the standards are maintained consistent with relative standards within the community. It is fair and reasonable to say that there are rights and obligations. Certain clauses of this amending Bill provide an opportunity for people to avoid their obligations. I am not talking about people who have a genuine conscientous objection to contributing to union funds. Believe it or not, I have been associated with the union movement now since 1935. 1 do not speak as one on the outside. I speak with personal experience as a shop steward, an organiser, and a State and Federal secretary. I have always found that a person who has a genuine conscientious belief which prevents him from joining an organisation of employees is prepared to say: ‘I cannot join the union because . . . but I wish to make a subscription to charity equal to the union contribution’. We have no quarrel with that, but this legislation purports to enable any person to be a freeloader.
– A free person.
-We will talk about free persons in a moment. The legislation will enable a person to be a freeloader who may enjoy all the hard won conditions and rates of pay but never contribute towards them. Of what value to a union, which may be the only organisation that can represent an employee in an industry before both State and federal industrial courts, is a contribution to some charitable organisation?
– He is not a freeloader though; he is still paying.
-He is a freeloader. If honourable senators opposite are so concerned about the freedom of the individual, I ask them to hark back a few years and think about what happened during the period from 1965 to 1972. Youngsters, 20-year-olds, who were deprived of a vote -
– Oh, God!
-It is all right for you to say Oh, God’, Senator Tehan. You were not one of them.
-I did not say it at all.
– I heard you say it distinctly. What I am saying is that this Bill again points up the Government’s double standards. It conscripted youths into the armed services against their wishes. It was not concerned about their rights or freedoms. In fact, when they had the temerity or audacity to stand up for what they believed to be their right, the Government pursued them relentlessly as if they were common criminals until such time as it was able to apprehend them and gaol them as common criminals. What double standards the Government has.
I was invited to speak on Sunday night to a meeting in Albury organised by the Young Labor Association. The meeting was attended by representatives from both sides of the border and non-members of the Australian Labor Party. Among other things, I referred to the imminent announcement of a general election this side of Christmas. I said:
From now until then we can expect further provocative and inflammatory statements by the Prime Minister and his stalking horses (chiefly Sinclair and Anthony) and further repressive legislation bulldozed through Parliament.
That was said on Sunday night, and four days later what happened? Do not think for a moment that I claim to be a seer or a clairvoyant. I do not have to be. I went back through the record and tabulated it for the purpose of this meeting. In November last year the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) did his best to buy into a dispute in Victoria over the Newport power station. Subsequently, on more than one occasion he attempted to intrude into a matter which was peculiar to Victoria only, namely, the tanker drivers dispute. In April this year he pushed through legislation creating the Industrial Relations Bureau. This is known to be a pet project of the Prime Minister. As he has said all along, the object was to smash so-called militant unions. In May this year it appeared that he would attempt to take advantage of the air traffic controllers strike, and the Government prepared emergency legislation. That legislation was not introduced before the strike was completed or the Parliament could be recalled. Let us have an understanding about whether that legislation, had it been law at the time, could have been invoked. If honourable senators opposite are prepared to be objective about this, they will realise as well as I do that there was no way in the world that the powers of that emergency legislation which was subsequently introduced could have been applied to the air traffic controllers strike for the simple reason that nobody in this country has the skills required to control air traffic at civilian airports. Not only was it repressive legislation, but also was it quite selective. Of course in August it was introduced into the Parliament.
The time allotted for consideration of this important legislation is limited, but I want to say more before I finish. Today’s Melbourne Sun reports a meeting of the Municipal Officers Association and a statement by its industrial officer, Mr Ken Minster, that if the State Electricity Commission sacked strikers or employed outside labour MOA men would strike after securing the plant. In other words, notwithstanding the fact that the Victorian Government has revived the 1948 Essential Services Act with all its powers that go far beyond any other piece of legislation bar probably the Atomic Energy Act 1953-1973, and notwithstanding the repressive, excessive powers contained in the Essential Services Act, other workers in the Latrobe Valley are prepared to say that if certain things happen they will join the SEC maintenance workers in the Latrobe Valley. I cite that matter for one reason. One thing is consistent about conservatives. Of course honourable senators opposite are conservatives. Conservatives can never appreciate the important lessons to be learned from history. The most significant lesson appropriate to this legislation is that the more repressive the law, the greater the resistance. As it has been in the past, so it will be again.
There has never been any piece of legislation in respect of pains and penalties which could ever be held to have in fact settled an industrial dispute. If anything, such legislation has precisely the opposite effect. What it does do- thank goodness for this-is to galvanise what might be divided people within the work force and the trade union movement into one force. Those people have a philosophy of mateship which h onourable senators opposite would not understand. It is as simple as this: A hurt to one is a hurt to all. One thing I am sure will happen, as sure as day follows night, is that if there is ever an attempt to introduce any of these repressive measures against any individual, group of individuals or officers of unions we will find again happening in 1 977 or whatever year it may be, precisely what we saw happen in 1968 when the present Governor-General, then the presiding officer of the Industrial Court gaoled one trade union officer.
Let me relate briefly a matter from my own experience. I was invited to speak at a meeting of unionists at the Morwell oval in the Latrobe Valley. About 5,000 workers were there. The gentleman who presided at that meeting- he was 100 per cent solid in support of the action of the trade union movement- was a member of the Electrical Trades Union. He was known to be not only a supporter but also a member of the Democratic Labor Party. So, it could be said that while we may have been diametrically opposed politically, on an issue such as this we were one. As it was then, I repeat: So it will be in the future.
This Bill, as I see it, is nothing more nor less than a continuation of a scenario that was commenced some two years ago to attempt to justify the need for a general election before time. It is a recipe, regrettably, for industrial disputation and confrontation that this country has never witnessed before. I am reasonably confident that the Federal Government along with the Government in Victoria- the Federal Government cannot be said to be sensible or it would never have entertained the idea of introducing such legislationwould not be stupid enough to attempt to implement this legislation in terms of the law and to apply it to the field of industrial relations.
-The most revealing factor to emerge so far in this debate is that Senator Bishop and Senator Brown have every intention of subverting this legislation should it pass this House today. They intend to go out of this House and work against a properly passed piece of legislation which has been deliberated on by two Houses of Parliament.
- Mr President, I claim to have been misrepresented. I would like to make my point at this stage. At no time did I say -
– Order! Misrepresentation is not a point of order. Senator Bishop may show where he has been misrepresented at the end of the speech.
– I hope that Senator Hall has regard to my interjection.
– If the word ‘subvert’ offends Senator Bishop I withdraw it. All I can say is that he does not therefore know the meaning of the words he used in this debate which were simply aimed at conveying to the Senate the meaning that he would make this legislation unworkable. If that is not subverting the legislation in my view, I do not know what is. If the honourable senator objects to my interpretation of his own meaning I withdraw the words I used. Most certainly the meaning that has been conveyed by Senator Bishop and Senator Brown is that they will move out against this legislation. That means they will join the sort of threat that is given by Mr Hawke who was given in today’s Age this headline: ‘Unions threaten walkout. Hawke hits IRB bill’. Once again we wonder who governs Australia. So the Labor Party will not co-operate with a properly passed and properly considered piece of legislation. Members of the Labor Party will use the politics of Dr Cairns who says that he does not believe in the finality of Parliament, he believes in the streets. That is the sort of attitude taken here today by honourable senators opposite.
The basic problem in unionism in Australia today is that the union management has lost control of the unions. The power to represent unions so often no longer resides at the top of the union structure. It has been taken over by shop stewards. This is the basic problem in the economy and in the industrial front today. Who speaks for the union movement? Not the elected leaders, however the election may be made; certainly not the elected leaders in relation to the strike in Victoria. It is the shop stewards in the Latrobe Valley in defiance of their own union leaders. What does the Labor Party say about the challenge to the very authority of the people who sustain it here? What does Mr Hawke- the death-knock doctor-do? He comes in at the end of every industrial dispute and then claims the salvation of the dispute and says that he solved it. What does he do to prevent disputes at the beginning? What does he do to put the management of unions back where it ought to be- at the elected management level of the union structure? He does not use the needle to immunise against trouble. He simply uses the axe to clout people at the end of disputes so that he can have his own glory. What sort of glory is it? I refer to the Adelaide Advertiser of Wednesday. On the front page, below a fairly comprehensive report of the situation in Victoria this headline appears: “Bastards” says Hawke of Bench.’ This is the famous Mr Hawke.
– What did he say?
-This is what the report states:
The ACTU President (Mr Hawke) last night described the three-man Full Bench that rejected the power workers pay claims as ‘those pack of bastards’.
This is the sort of man that the Opposition today defends. This is the man who apparently is the salvation of the Australian industrial scene. I say: What humbug! What rubbish! The man simply plays with the Australian industrial community. He comes in at the death-knock on every occasion to claim victory. It is a facade. Opposition senators know very well that it is a facade.
Let me examine the matter of contention at the moment- the destructive and wilfully harmful dispute in the Latrobe Valley. A report by Mr Claude Forell in the Age I think of yesterday, had this to say:
It may also be significant- even though it has become unfashionable these days to say so- that Mr Sam Armstrong, the ringleader in this affair, is a member of the Communist Party of Australia.
His activities in the Latrobe Valley should remind us of the purpose of the shop steward movement as denned by the Communist Party’s former secretary and theorist, Lance Sharkey.
The quote attributed to Mr Sharkey reads:
In a revolutionary struggle shop committees would be the chief instruments for drawing the whole of the working class into the fight, into the street and the general revolutionary struggle.
Let us move on to the Latrobe Valley Express, the local newspaper, which deals with this issue in its Letters to the Editor column. One letter written included this excerpt:
However, on June I S, an organised group calling itself the SEC Latrobe Valley Shop Stewards Committee under the leadership of Amalgamated Metal Workers’ Union official S. Armstrong, took it upon itself to call a mass meeting of
SEC workers in the Latrobe Valley in order to discuss the Log of Claims issue. At this meeting S. Armstrong, after a reprehensible and completely unjustifiable attack on the VTHC, moved a resolution that the Latrobe Valley work force ‘go it alone’ in pursuing a Log of Claims with the SEC. This resolution was narrowly carried.
The letter, which has other things to say, is signed by G. Kroezen, State President and Secretary of the Morwell Sub-Branch, and H. Coffield, Secretary of the Yallourn Sub-Branch. A union out of control, led by communist shop stewards, is holding up half of Australia and causing destruction and poverty to hundreds of thousands of people. Honourable senators opposite defend that. They promise to go out and destroy this legislation. Where do they stand? The great difficulty of Labor, as I have said before in the Parliament and in other places, is its origins. Practically all honourable senators opposite owe their position here to some part of industrial labour. They do not have the courage to say anything that is condemnatory of this disruptive influence. Who of them has said anything? I have listened carefully to the debate. Where has there been any criticism? Apparently these people are blameless. No honourable senator opposite will say a thing. Of course, this goes to show how restricted and impossible is the Labor Party’s position from Mr Hawke down. As I have illustrated, they have used the axe instead of the preventive medicine of conciliation and reorganisation of the union movement.
I glanced again at the Bill before us. I notice that honourable senators opposite, even Senator Button who, one must concede, knows a great deal about industrial matters, refuse to deal in any sense with the provisions of the Bill. The Labor Party has not explained to the Senate why it opposes this Bill. Nor has it explained for the benefit of anyone in this country who may be listening what is in the Bill that it happens to oppose so strenuously. Perhaps, in the short time available, one should consider some of the subtitles at the side of the clauses in the Bill to see what Labor so vehemently opposes. One subtitle ‘Secret ballot may be ordered’. I suppose that the Labor Party opposes this. I remind the Senate that the Labor Party has not proposed any amendments. It has not been through this Bill and selected any one part of it as being desirable. It is opposing every provision in this Bill. It opposes the clause in which a secret ballot may be ordered.
The Labor Party opposes the clause which makes it an offence to force independent contractors into unions. It therefore supports the naked power of those people in the union movement who will use gangster tactics to force into their organisations independent contractors in this community, who drive cement trucks, brick trucks et cetera that they themselves own. This is a practice which, to my regret, is widespread in my own state of South Australia under the direction of a Labor Government. Honourable senators opposite oppose giving freedom to those who own their own businesses but are bullied by the lowest of tactics into joining a union. Labor also opposes rules to provide for elections, secret ballots and certain other matters. It opposes elections to be held by secret postal ballot. It opposes other clauses concerning the direction for performance of rules. It is anathema to honourable senators opposite that there should be any discipline over the union movement. It was all very well for them to gain support when they were in government, as they gained mine, in introducing restrictive trade practices legislation to ensure that the commercial rules of this country were fair and just. It was all very fine for them to introduce that legislation. Why is it that, having dealt with the business sector, when we look at the other side of commerce and industry, the greatest power groups in the community, to see whether they are fair, it is wrong to ensure that they have fair rules.
I turn now to the sub-title ‘Representation of employees by an organisation’. This again is a move aimed at getting right at the heart of one of the most destructive matters in the Australian community, that is, demarcation disputes. These are the sorts of disputes which left millions of dollars of steel and steel products on the wharves of Port Adelaide unused and rusting for five months. For five long months South Australian industry was at the mercy of warring union factions. Labor apparently stands behind the rules that prod uce that sort of dispute.
– Why do you not explain it?
-Senator Bishop has explained enough in this chamber. He should go back to South Australia and explain it to anybody he likes.
– Tell this to the people in Hawker.
-For Senator McLaren’s benefit, he can explain in the seat of Hawker too, if he likes, why he opposes this legislation in toto. Honourable senators opposite are also against the provisions which provide for democracy in the industrial community by making it an offence to force individuals to join unions. Some people have a conscientious belief which may be well held and well founded. It may happen to be a political belief. The Labor Party does not believe in freeing people from joining a union. They do not believe that the union movement should be competitive and that its leaders should have to look to their laurels and provide an attractive organisation. They believe that unions should attract people by dictatorial methods and union steward dictatorship. That is what the Labor Party believes should rule the industrial community, not the freeing aspects of this legislation.
Another clause provides that records should be kept by organisations. If I had the time I would read to the chamber a speech I made in the South Australian House of Assembly in 1 974. It would shock even the hardest honourable senator here as to the practices of the Storemen and Packers Union of South Australia prior to 1974. If ever we needed a clean up of the type that this Bill can give there is a visual demonstration in the Storeman and Packers Union and in many other unions.
– You will go well in Hawker with this stuff. You will go, all right.
– I challenge Senator McLaren to go anywhere and defend the embezzlement of union funds and the cover up that goes on continually. Union members need to be protected from their crooked leaders in certain instances.
– Why do you not go outside and say so?
– Why do you not go outside and say so?
– Order! Senator McLaren, when I call the Senate to order I mean it. You are interjecting against my instructions. When I call for order, interjections must cease. Will you please observe that.
- Mr President, Senator Hall provoked me when he talked about certain union leaders in South Australia being crooked. That is not true. We should not put up with statements like that.
– Order! I call Senator Hall.
-Because I do not have time to read it, I refer Senator McLaren to page 2163 of the South Australian House of Assembly record of 26 February 1974. He will find there a complete vindication of the remark I have just made. Labor stands against clause 23 of the Bill which deals with records to be kept and filed by organisations. It stands against proposed section 158ac, which deals with the keeping of proper union records. It is against the standards which this Bill applies to the appointment of auditors. Labor is also against the provision for copies of accounts to be supplied to members and presented to meetings. It is against other clauses which deal with union organisations and such matters. It is against the Industrial Registrar making arrangements to conduct elections, as laid down in clause 27. As I said earlier, it is against every single provision that this legislation contains. I suppose that beyond all else it is opposed to the provisions which seek to enable the people to move in the community free of fear and intimidation. It is widely known within the union movement that fear and intimidation affect people. This Bill aims to reduce those factors and hopefully to remove them. Those provisions which prevent unions from bullying people to join them against their will and conviction are no doubt the test of it all. We find that Labor in this place today stands for its base- a union movement that has lost control of its membership, a movement the most visible part of which can generally see success only through dictatorial methods developed over a long time of frightening supervision of its members. In saying that I want to make it clear that I also believe there are many well run unions in this community.
– Such as? Could you give us an example?
– I will not give any names. Senator Wriedt would know that there are a considerable number of well run unions in this country, lt is extremely disappointing that this legislation has to be brought in to deal with a very significant group of unions- but not all unions- which throttle this community by seizing its pressure points and its economic arteries. When we find that power, fuel and transport are held to ransom by a handful of people, this legislation, of course, becomes not only desirable but also absolutely essential.
I commend this legislation to the House. I decry the fact that the Labor Party has not supported one clause of it. I trust that, because of the discipline contained in this legislation, those who do run the unions responsibly will provide the lead in this community for others who must follow.
Senator BISHOP (South Australia)-I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Does the honourable senator wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. To make sure that at least someone listens to my personal explanation
I must raise it at this stage. I refer to the distortions about my attitude to this legislation made by Senator Hall during the earlier part of his speech. He also referred to Senator Brown. However, I shall content myself with explaining that what he said about me was, I think, quite scurrilous. At no time during my speech did I make it anything else but clear that I oppose the legislation for the reason that sufficient time was not given for the Senate to consider it properly. I referred to three matters in particular. First, I referred to clause 3 which relates to the definition of industrial action. The honourable senator may remember that I mentioned the possibility of railwaymen conducting a safety go-slow. I said that it was quite improper for a union to be deregistered in these circumstances. I also complained that the legislation contained no right of appeal against decisions taken by the registrar in respect of conscientious objection. I also referred to that very poor power of increasing the ability of the court to say who should belong to which union.
I think I could say as a modest bloke that my record in South Australia, as Senator Steele Hall knows quite well, in respect of industrial matters is pretty good. Nobody can charge me with what he alleged in a general way.
– If he asked the people of South Australia he would find he is wrong.
-I have no doubt about that. He could ask ex-Premier Playford about it if he likes. The other thing I am concerned about is this: Honourable senators opposite in Opposition pledged their policies -
-The final point I want to make concerns the attitude of Senator Brown and myself to this legislation. We oppose the legislation but we announce publicly that when Labor gets back into power we will amend it. That was the tenor of my speech.
– We expected this debate to be somewhat emotional, of course, and Senator Hall has not disappointed us. I would have thought he would attempt to give us some reasons why this legislation was worth while and justified on the part of the Government. Of course he spent his time rubbishing Bob Hawke, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and he then went on to make some comment about the Labor Party not moving amendments to the legislation but in fact opposing it in its entirety. First, let me say something in defence of Bob Hawke. If he happened to hear Senator
Hall’s comments I am sure that he would not be worried very much by them.
A more emotional contribution came from Senator Shirley Walters, that self-appointed siren of trade unions from Tasmania. Of course she must have rocked Bob Hawke, if he had been listening to her, because she said after Bob Hawke ‘s name was mentioned: ‘I will come to Bob Hawke later’. I bet Bob Hawke is still running. Senator Hall asked us why we did not have amendments. I would suggest the reason we are opposing this legislation in its entirety is because of the very words that Senator Hall used towards the end of his contribution when he talked about the dictatorial methods of trade unions. We oppose this legislation because it is in fact dictatorial legislation. If Senator Hall and his colleagues are prepared to bring to this Parliament legislation involving industrial relations which is based on reasonable arguments and which give us a reasonable basis on which to debate them, we would welcome that legislation and we would be prepared to debate it. But we certainly will not be a party to showing any support for legislation which is reminiscent of the tactics used by Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. This sort of legislation will not solve the problems we have. Senator Hall also made reference to the fact that there are some well run unions in this country. I asked him whether he would care to name them. Of course, he would not. We all know that generalisations are always handy in debate.
Senator Withers really set the tune this morning during question time when he said that, of course, the dispute in Victoria is the result of communists. I do not doubt that there are communistled and communist controlled unions in Australia that go on strike. But there are also anti-communist unions that go on strike. I remember reading that the union involved in the largest number of industrial disputes in 1 976 was the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. I understand that union is known as one of the left wing militant unions. But the union that came a close second was the Federated Ironworkers Association which I am told is an extremely right wing union. I am sure that Mr Laurie Short, the Federal Secretary of that union, would be the first to object if there was a suggestion that his union was under any communist influence.
Why do we not get rid of all of this nonsense about differentiating between the Corns and the rest, the left and right wing unions and try as a Federal Parliament to analyse the problem with which we are confronted. The strike is the last weapon a union wants to use. Unionists and their officials do not want to be involved in strikes if they can through arbitration get what they believe to be a reasonable solution to what they consider to be their justifiable claims. Unfortunately it is not possible for us to remove the differences that exist within our community. The employer wants to maximise the return on his capital; the employee wants to maximise the return on his labour. In order to achieve what we might imagine to be a fair balance we have established over the years our arbitration system. But that system does not fulfil, and cannot fulfil, the functions which we expect of it. How can it fulfil these functions when we have governments, especially this present Federal Government, which will use every avenue available to them to influence the decisions of that court for what can only be described as short term political expediency, and not for the question of resolving the basic differences that exist.
Let us have a look at some evidence to support that claim. Earlier today Senator Button, who led for the Opposition in this debate, made reference to the number of disputes and strikes that occurred in Australia as a result of demarcation disputes, that is to say where one union says that work should be done by its members and another union says that the work should be done by its members. The result is a dispute and unfortunately very often a strike is called. That is a major cause of industrial disputes in Australia. Between 1972 and 1975 the Labor Government introduced legislation to enable unions more easily to amalgamate and to overcome one of the main problems facing the trade union movement. This was not legislation to give the workers of this country more money, better conditions, more leave or any of those things that would cost a Federal government anything. All that the legislation would have done would be partially to remove one of the sores in the industrial scene. But the Liberal-National Country Party Opposition defeated the legislation. It did not want it. The employers wanted it, the employees wanted it and the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission thought it was a good thing. But the Liberal-National Country Party Opposition said: ‘No, it is a bad thing because it will take away from us one of the weapons we use at election time to stir up industrial strife and to convince the Australian people that these are issues they should be looking at’. I shall say more of that matter in a moment.
Let us take the promises made by this Government in relation to wage indexation. Mr Fraser said in his policy speech that he supported the indexation arrangements that had been introduced in 1975. That was a move which was supported by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and by the employers and the employees in an endeavour to get some industrial harmony on wages and conditions- wages especially- in this country. Yet the first thing that this Government did when it came into power, despite its undertaking, was to go to the Arbitration Commission and destroy the indexation principle and argue against the employees and the unions in this country getting what had been agreed upon between them and the employers in the Commission in 1975. The same situation occurred in relation to the Government’s promise on Medibank and its promise of jobs for all. It is all in the record. All of those promises have been broken.
These are the sorts of things that have made the industrial scene that much more difficult over the past two years. There are natural advantages involved in being a worker in industry- a fitter and turner, a boilermaker, a person who is involved in heavy industrial work. Those people have to work long hours. They have to work in a hostile environment. They do not receive every year the incremental payments that people in salaried jobs receive. Is it not understandable that they are tougher in their negotiations as a result of working in that more difficult atmosphere? I do not blame them. I would do the same myself if I was placed at a disadvantage apropos other employees in the community.
In my own shadow ministry of education I became aware only this week of research which is being done in this country and which shows that the brighter young lads who come out of school are not entering the metal trades. They do not want to take on an apprenticeship in the metal trades because they know that over the period of their expected time in the work force they will be disadvantaged as compared with other members of the community. So we can see where the seeds of this sort of industrial dispute and trouble are planted. That situation will not be helped in any way by the introduction of legislation of this nature.
Obviously we have seen examples before of Westminster governments which have thought that they would introduce legislation to bludgeon the unions. Even honourable senators on the Government side admit that there are good unions and there are bad unions. But they intend to bludgeon the lot of them- not just the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union but also the Federated Ironworkers Association. All of the unions will be subject to this sort of treatment once this legislation is passed. Is it any wonder that the union movement as a whole has the greatest reservations about what is intended by the legislation?
Because of the limitation of time I want to make just one more point. What is the purpose of this legislation? If we in the Opposition believe that it is not designed to overcome industrial disputation in this country, what is the purpose of the measure? The Bill, of course, is a cover up; it is a smokescreen. It is designed to divert the attention of the Australian people away from the real issues that are confronting this country at the present time. Currently 330,000 people are unemployed, an increase of 70,000 on the number unemployed 12 months ago, and the number will increase by another 80,000 by this time next year when 450,000 people will be out of work. Private investment has taken one of the greatest hammerings, despite all the Government’s claims about how much it is helping the private sector. If we look at new capital raisings in this country we find that at June last year the total amount of new money raised was $534m, and that at June this year it was $3 17m. That is indicative of how much confidence the business community has got in this so-called free enterprise government. The manufacturing sector is performing at 77 per cent of capacity, and the number of employees in that industry is falling all the time. State governments are being starved of capital funds. That means that less and less money is being made available for education, roads and hospitals. There will be more and more unemployment. The situation is irreversible. I understand that even this morning at the Premiers Conference which is taking place here in Canberra the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) finally succeeded in bludgeoning the State Premiers into line. We will see in 1978 -
– Why do you not want to talk about the Bill?
-I have already said that it is a smokescreen. I have suggested to the Government what it should do. Let the Government introduce a decent Bill and we will be prepared to debate it. This smokescreen has been brought in solely for the purpose of diverting attention away from what really matters. In 1978, as a result of the decision made today, we will see the introduction of State income tax in every State of Australia. The States will be forced into it, and they know it. They have finally buckled under, it seems. The so-called taxation concessions which were given away by the Federal Government will be taken, on the other hand, by the State governments. That is what the second stage of the new federalism is all about.
I conclude where I began: As I said earlier, we accept the fact that these divisions exist in our community. We cannot resolve them easily. We cannot resolve them quickly. But we must work at least to try to resolve them. This legislation will do nothing towards that end. It will exacerbate the divisions within our community. It will make it infinitely less likely that the trade unions will have any hope under the arbitration system of this country, when they know that there is a government which has a weapon in the form of this legislation with which to hit them over the head at any time it suits it to do so.
– The most significant point that has so far arisen in this debate is that the Australian Labor Party senators have done nothing but condemn the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) in totality- and I emphasise the word ‘totality’. They have not admitted to any one thing in this Bill which could help their working comrades. They have not at any stage admitted any concern for the people who at the present time are being so terribly disadvantaged and whose lives are being disrupted by their husbands, being out of work. All they have done is to come out in total condemnation of the legislation. Quite frankly, they have given the impression that they are the lackeys of the bosses.
The Government has taken it upon itself responsibly to bring in legislation to protect the rights and the freedoms of individuals in this country, and that includes members of the trade unions in this country who at the present time are bring tied down by so many of the radical shop stewards involved in some of the trade unions throughout Australia. I say at this stage, as has been said before by other honourable senators on this side of the chamber, that there are many good trade unions in this country. I support wholeheartedly the trade union movement. But I do not support some of those people within the trade union movement who are doing their best to destroy not only this country economically but also the trade union movement which has done so much for so many of the working people in this country.
-It is all very well for Senator Georges to say that. What has happened in this country in recent times? One could refer to the oil tanker drivers dispute, the aircraft refuellers dispute, the air traffic controllers strike and the spot strikes of the building workers. On occasions concrete has been poured on building sites and the workers have walked off the job.
That concrete has had to be chopped up afterwards, and that adds to the costs. All of those disruptions have taken place by key unions in key areas. One could go on and refer to the strike of the postal employees and the public transport employees.
Let us consider the ban imposed at the present time by seamen on tankers coming to this country. That strike has been caused by their excessive demand to have one Australian tanker crewed by Australian seamen. We have in this country at the present time the dangerous situation of the unions banning the movement of tankers into port to replenish the crude oil supplies of refineries until the refineries are down to only a few hours of supply. That is the situation in the port of Sydney. That is also happening in the port of Adelaide, and that is affecting the Stanvac refinery in Adelaide. One could go on mentioning these things. Container cargoes have been locked up for ages.
Then I could turn to the spot strikes that have taken place in the motor car industry. What have they cost over the years in terms of motor cars? What have they cost the industry? What are they costing our fellow Australians who buy a motor car today? These strikes add so much to costs within the industry? The tragedy today is that so many workers are locked into their own unions. It is all very well for honourable senators opposite to groan, but that is a fact of life. We know that to be so in many cases. No longer is the union the servant of the worker; tragically we are rapidly reaching the stage where the worker is becoming the servant of his union. That development is entirely wrong. It is all very well to say that workers have their power. But what real power do workers have today within a trade union? If the stewards decide that a union is going on strike, what happens? How many innocent workers are forced out on strike even though they are opposed to going on strike? How many times have we had this said to us by our own friends who are involved in a union? They want to work. They say quite frankly that they are not able to work because they would be banned, ostracised and discriminated against by the union itself if they did so? That is a fact of life. Honourable senators opposite know that it is a fact of life because we all know of personal examples of this state of affairs. It is entirely wrong.
As I said earlier, frequently people occupying key positions in key industries hold up a whole industry. We find that happening at the present time in Victoria. We have members of one industry who have been out on strike for some 11 weeks. What has this strike done? This strike in that period-a strike caused by some 2,000 workers- has resulted in some 400,000 to 500,000 workers being stood down. That in itself is bad enough. But what has this action cost industry? I repeat: What has it cost industry generally? When I refer to industry, I do not refer to industry in Victoria only. If people examine the figures today, they will find that people are being stood down in New South Wales and South Australia. Even if the strike finished tomorrow, further people would be stood down in those States because of the delaying effect of this strike in Victoria.
Perhaps one of the greatest problems and tragedies is the fact that it has been estimated that some 2,900 workers could lose their jobs permanently because of this strike. We heard Senator Wriedt, who spoke before me, say that unemployment is a problem in this country and that the Government should try to do something about it. What are honourable senators opposite doing about unemployment? What is it doing to support this legislation? Nothing! What criticism has any honourable senator opposite made of the current strike in Victoria which is causing so much tragedy? I repeat that it could cause 2,900 people to lose their jobs permanently. Yet honourable senators opposite stand up here and have the audacity to say they are concerned about unemployment. What have they said about the families- the wives and childrenwhose lives are being disrupted at the present time? Nothing! All they have done today is to condemn totally the legislation. Honourable senators opposite have not even admitted that there is one iota of goodness in the proposition that the Government has put forward today. We are faced with a tragic situation.
What about those workers who do not want to be out of work, who wish to go back and carry on working? I am referring to the honest, conscientious Australian worker. There are many of them in this country. The bulk of Australian workers are honest and conscientious. What will happen to the man who has been prepared to work overtime to earn some extra money to save up to buy something for his home, perhaps a new car, or has been saving for a holiday for his wife and children? All his savings are being eroded by this strike. How much concern has been expressed today by honourable senators opposite about these people? They have expressed no concern whatsoever. They are supposed to be representing what is called the labour component in this country.
– You are supposed to be the Government.
– This clearly shows who honestly represents the workers in this country. Senator Button interjected that we were supposed to be the Government. That is what this legislation is all about. It is high time in this country that the shop stewards were made to realise that they are not the Government of this country but that the elected Government is the government of this country. It is up to the Government to govern and to give protection to the honest workers who need and want protection in this country. There is concern in the community today that the unions have too much power. It is interesting to note that a survey done by the Roy Morgan Research Centre in 1976 showed some very revealing figures. The proportion of trade unionists whose unions were affiliated with the Australian Council of Trade Unions who believed that unions have too much power increased from 35 per cent in 1969, when the last survey was conducted, to 57 per cent in 1976. Amongst non-ACTU unionists the increase was from 43 per cent to 53 per cent. The honest working person in this country is concerned because the unions are losing control and because a few radicals have moved into key positions. I refer in particular to shop stewards who are disrupting the trade unions and also are destroying the benefits that have been built up over the years for the protection of their fellow workers.
In the few minutes left to me to speak in this debate, I will deal with another area. I asked earlier: What do these strikes cost Australia? What do they cost industry? Already it has been estimated that 2,900 people could lose their jobs as a result of this power strike. Over the years, what effects have these disruptions had on costs? We are worried about unemployment but what has happened to our export trade at present? Today, we tend to export industry rather than goods. Why? This occurs for the simple reason that there are people today who are not prepared to invest in Australia, because they are concerned at the union situation in this country. Senator Primmer shakes his head. Recently I attended a working session of the European Parliament with parliamentarians in Europe. We were talking about trade, industrial development and investment in Australia. The key point in the conversation was that we have too much industrial unrest in this country.
– What rubbish!
– That is on the record. It is all very well for honourable senators opposite to hoo-haa. But that is a fact of life. It is all very well for those who sit opposite to stand up and hoo.haa but they know themselves what strikes cost. They know themselves what dargs cost. They know what bans cost. We, as a government, at least are aware of this situation and are prepared to face up to these problems. We as a government are prepared to stand by the honest, decent working men and women of this country. We have introduced these amendments to the legislation to make sure that the rights of the working men and women of this country will be protected. If the Labor Party is not prepared to support us, we are proud to go it alone. We know that the electorate will be behind our propositions. I support the legislation.
– For the edification of Senator Young, I point out that, in his second reading speech, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) said:
Industrial relations is a dynamic process, ever-changing in response to the interplay of economic and social forces.
Those forces must be married to the functions of the trade union movement. The movement’s purpose is to maintain existing standards and to avoid wage relativity disputes. We have heard some interjections about how long it is taking to solve the dispute in Victoria. One does not have to be an industrial Einstein to realise that, if a fitter at a power station in New South Wales or South Australia is on a higher rate of salary for performing the same duties as fitters in another State, discontent will erupt like a festering sore. It is no use seeking to say that the present dispute is the fault of the shop steward or the federal management committee of their union. The Government is trying to create a cult of individuality. If that is developed to its logical conclusion, the Government should say that the federal officers of a union are not important. I am one who believes that the resolution of any industrial dispute will be found at a mass meeting of unionists. That is where the final decision is made. The Government cannot seek to approach the matter from both angles.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) indicated clearly that health services, including Medibank, are a vital component of wages. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has found out that it was conned through the ditching of the uniform levy. Senator Young talked about our European trade union counterparts. He would know that all over Europe a far more effective health coverage is provided. At least the people there know what they are up for. Anomalies still exist in the payment of the Medibank levy because this Government refused to accept the compromise that the much maligned ACTU President Bob Hawke, suggested. The moment you disturb relativity of wages, the moment you upset the Medibank component, you have industry in turmoil. If the Government wants to emulate Peron or Franco in regard to the trade union movement and the power of government, it is going the right way about it. At a later stage I shall take up the point that Senator Hall made about our not going into detail on the Bill. The Government introduced the Bill yesterday. I was able to talk about this matter to a prominent union official, Mr Walsh, State president of the New South Wales branch of the Transport Workers Union. I discussed with him the industrial Pandora’s box that the Government has opened.
Section 142a states that the Government, mark you, will determine what say the members will have in a part of an industry. Traditionally in the engineering area fitters of the Australian Society of Engineers and fitters of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union work side by side. It is not a sinister plot. There is freedom of choice. One shop steward may be a little more progressive than another in connection with details concerning members. If the Government is going to take sides and say that workers in one shop will be in one union and workers in another shop will be in another, it is asking for trouble. These are the things about which the Government will not give us a chance to ask questions in committee. Let us consider people who operate all types of lifting appliances such as cranes. Already the Government has problems here in regard to the Transport Workers Union, the Federated Ironworkers Association, the Australian Workers Union, the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association and the Waterside Workers Federation. There are inferences that the Government parties’ famed industrial committee thinks that the Government will get even with the WWF by keeping it out of bulk handling in certain areas. The Government will get a dispute there. Even the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has conceded that Mr Fitzgibbon and the WWF have been very co-operative in relation to certain redundancy on the waterfront.
From the day when this Government came to office it expected the trade unions to be docile. That is the big problem. There is another question concerning the railway industry which the
Government has never answered. The Government has at the back of its mind the idea that if there is a dispute over uranium and the Australian Railways Union shunters or members of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen jack up, it will use members of the National Union of Railwaymen as political mercenaries. So it is not merely a question of a dispute in the Latrobe Valley where we are talking about the unfair treatment of a metal trades fitter compared with his counterpart employed by the Electricity Commission in New South Wales. Senator Walters referred to the right of the individual. I wonder how many of those young nurses, those Florence Nightingales in all the States took on tough sergeant-major matrons, and hospital boards to get a better deal, and in so doing mortgaged their own careers ‘?
The matter does not end there. I think it is significant that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) happens to be in the chamber taking charge of this Bill. He would say- and I think this is the blueprint of this Government- ‘Have peace and harmony and we will have a wonderful society’. But does it work in that way? We had meekness and docility amongst female operatives in certain concessions at all the major airports. But what was the payoff? They were swindled of $44,000 in underaward payments. The firm involved- James Richardson and Sons Pty Ltd- wrote a letter to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). He treated it with the same contempt as I did. There was $44,000 of award evasion. Yet the Government blandly says to me: ‘There is no need to have militant shop stewards’. Does the Government mean to say that it is not human nature to want better conditions? Is not life a battle? Most of us on this side have had to struggle for everything we ever got. One does not get anything on a platter. The people undergoing these hardships do not have air-conditioned offices. They have to struggle all the time. Life never changes.
Let me relate a human interest story. One of the persons involved- Mr Justice DrakeBrockman of the Arbitration Court- is a relative of the Deputy President. In the immediate prewar years the Mortlake gas works employed 20 gas retort operators. They shovelled coal into retorts to create gas. Mr Justice Drake-Brockman brought down a decision about this matter. As a result, the operators were to get longer fire irons with which to heat the furnaces. This was to give them more protection. Everyone would appreciate that in these times with equipment like masks and visors there is protection. Twenty-one days after the award was made those men were still using the old fire irons. The gas stokers knew that the fire irons were locked up in a store. Eight of them-one of them happened to be my fathergot sick of the situation and threw their old fire irons into the furnace. The boss soon got them the new fire irons. It was proposed that those eight men be cited for contempt. To his credit, Mr Justice Drake-Brockman said: ‘I ought to have the Australian Gas Light Company directors before me because they prostituted the award I made’. That is what is meant by industrial relations. That is what the job is all about. I think that if Senator Withers had been employed by that company as a stoker he would have been in it, too, because I know his temperament.
The point is that you do not get anything easily. The whole concept of this measure is that the Government is going to meddle in every union because the right of an individual to take on his trade union secretary at State or federal level is there. I knew Albert Monk in the same way as I know Bob Hawke. One of the products of our education system is a better educated trade union movement. The men in that movement will not be talked down to. We were given a litany today about the trade unions that have been on strike in key situations. I think the Government would insult the air traffic controllers if it suggested that they were part of the Peak Council or of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. One might even call them middle class militants. The ones I know are certainly not socialists and that is not good, bad or anything else. Many of them are Liberal voters. But it seems that the Government is saying: ‘Here is a power dispute.^ People are disadvantaged’. That is fair enough,* but when people have a wage claim they say: My case is different’.
It is remarkable that when the Commission dealt with the claims of medicos, the medicos got about 8 per cent. What about the workers in the Latrobe Valley dispute? What did they get- a lemon. They got nothing. The Government, in its calmer moments, will acknowledge that this is the only occasion on which some interim award decision has not been made. That is what it is all about. This involves the Government’s economic policy. The Government is here to govern. I say to the Government: ‘ Why not be honest about it? If you are going deliberately to depress wages and depress social welfare, what do you think the trade union movement is going to do?’ if the Government reaches the millenium in two years wages and conditions are going to be X per cent lower.
I give Senator Young one thought for the road. He talked about the role of trade unions in job making. The fact of the matter is that the maritime unions have never been able to get to first base with the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) on a maximisation of Australian crews. It is all very well to talk about Panamanian and Liberian flag tankers. President Carter has made it mandatory for a certain percentage of American exports to be carried in United States flag ships. I defy anybody here, including Senator Wright, to prove to me that maritime conditions on American ships are in any way cheaper than ours. The name of the game is economic nationalism. The Government may think it can undercut Asia by depressing Australian wages, but I say that it will not make a bit of difference. All it will do will be to reduce Australian purchasing power.
I simply end my remarks as I began. It takes a lot of courage to move up to the position of shop steward. Obviously Senator Walters did not lead any agitation when she was a nurse. Some other woman must have done so. She should reflect on her speech today. I could take her into the printing industry and show her instances where, because a female member has had the temerity to question lack of toilet facilities, she has been regarded as a trouble maker. This is not idle fantasy. I have had such situations, as Ministers opposite will know, brought to my attention. For instance, in a case concerning one or two Latin American girls it was said that because they came from Chile they must be corns. If a woman is called a com because she demands female toilet facilities it just shows how perverted industry has become. The personnel officer of W. D. and H. O. Wills- I hope he is listening- said that every Latin American woman was flighty. He said that because these women told him that he was not interested in providing amenities. So let us get down to realities. Never mind the fact that we happen to be sitting here of a Friday. It will not matter what the Government rams through because this will only create more disputes and then the Government will crawl to Bob Hawke and ask him to settle them. I warn the Senate that if Senator Walters is going to put a tab on every senator, we will put a tab on every senator when he is away, whether he is sick or not. I have had my differences with Bob Hawke, but he has plenty of guts. I know that it is not an easy job to have to face people who have a cause and try to convince them otherwise. I thought it was the most contemptible thing I have ever heard in this place, and if the honourable senator is going to do this every time an honourable senator is away I will want to know whether there is a medical certificate and whether he is really ill.
Let us be frank about it. If honourable senators opposite are going to push the Bob Hawkes and other trade union people out of public life, those people will be able to earn a salary a lot easier than they do now when they have to suffer these foul canards that have been put up here today. I simply say this to Senator Young: Yes, we are represented by the trade union movement and a lot of other people who are not organised. For example, the $44,000 swindle happened because there were divisions in the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union. It was up to Senator Bishop and me to expose this. It is to the credit of Senator Durack that he did not back off when he got this infamous letter. Nothing would please me better than to have some of these crooks employers brought before the Bar of this Senate in the same way as the Government brought before the Senate some of the so-called bankers. If Richardson and Son were in front of us here, they would be the subject of perjury charges.
– It is a shame that such emotional tones have entered the debate today but I suppose it was to be expected that Opposition supporters would react in the manner that they have reacted today rather than sitting down and properly assessing the issues before us in this legislation. In fact, it is pretty clear from the things that have been said that very little regard has been had for the actual statements which are clearly made in the legislation. We have to recognise that laws of any description that are passed through this Parliament must reflect the current conditions in the community. That is what the Parliament is all about. We are here to make laws on behalf of the people in such a way that justice not only is done but is seen to be done, and certainly in the circumstances that we see before us to-day generally throughout the community we have an understanding of the changing nature of industrial disputation in this country.
No longer are mass strikes held across the country or one whole union going out. Rather, it is the development of guerrilla style tactics at the shop floor level within organisations which are disrupting extensive areas of the economy and of the community generally, bringing hardship to all sorts of people who are not involved at all in the dispute in question. People are being affected by issues far beyond their personal control and in that way those stricken are destroying the operations of the nation. Of course, at this very time we cannot afford these sorts of disputations which are becoming increasingly apparent in the community at a critical time of economic recovery. I believe that this legislation strikes at the very core of the problem in that the growing number of individuals in strategic situations within industry can now be dealt with under it. In that way this Parliament and this Government are reflecting the needs and the wishes of the community and are ensuring that justice is seen to be done.
There are a number of key issues that I would like to discuss today. The main one, in my mind, is the emphasis given to individual rights. It is not good enough for honourable senators opposite to say that unions must remain solid in all situations and in fact that membership of unions means that we all become mates headed in the same direction. The fact is that the unions themselves are undertaking activities outside the wishes of vast numbers of people who are members of those unions. There is clear evidence of the use of the political strike which is becoming increasingly evident across this nation. Consequently, people who have a genuine objection to that sort of activity must have the opportunity of opting out of it. I applaud the clause in this legislation which enables individuals to contribute to charities an amount equivalent to the union subscription. The legislation aims also to ensure that individuals who are involved in strikes but who have no wish to be involved in strikes are not penalised for taking part in them. In fact the legislation gives protection to those people who wish to take action through the Industrial Relations Bureau. Furthermore, the creation of the Bureau will ensure that there are additional powers to secure the observance of the Act for and on behalf of individual unionists. Those regulations and powers to be properly exercised obviously need support at all levels because individual members would find it extremely difficult to undertake all legal obligations. It is necessary also that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission itself should have additional powers in today’s industrial climate to ensure that demarcation disputes are properly dealt with. We have seen the complete disruption of the Whyalla shipyards in South Australia as a result of petty demarcation disputes that have occurred over the last several years. In fact those disputes have led to the destruction of the yards and the future disemployment of some one-third of the working population of that city. This is a direct result of that sort of activity. I applaud the Government’s action in introducing legislation which aims to assist in that direction.
One of the most important areas from the Commonwealth Government’s point of view and from the point of view of the rights of this
Parliament is in the extension of the activities of the Government and the IRB in respect of cancelling the registration of a union or any other organisation. It will be able to extend the areas of trade and commerce across the State borders. I believe that this is a very worthwhile activity and it certainly highlights the legislative problems and the constitutional problems which the Government faces in dealing with these sorts of disputes. Furthermore, there will be extensions so as to avoid loopholes in respect of the secret ballot legislation which was introduced in June last year, and I applaud that amendment. The move towards the establishment of secret ballots in trade union affairs needs to be recognised at all levels and the opportunity taken in this legislation to extend that deserves applause from the community.
Finally, the requirements for unions to ensure that their accounting and reporting practices are in line with those required by shareholders of companies and all other organisations in the community are to be extended. Trade unionists must know what is going on inside their unions. The only way they can find that out is to be provided with information by the unions themselves. To avoid having to do that is something approaching criminal behaviour, in my belief Unions are able to avoid their obligations and are able to make sure that trade unionists are kept in the dark. I am not talking about just some sectors but about the broad section of the trade union movement whose members are kept in the dark about the financial and other affairs of the operations of the trade union, and consequently are not able to exercise their proper democratic rights when it comes to electing leaders of the trade unions or taking part in the ordinary affairs of trade unions.
I also might mention that there is in many unions no provision that a set of the rules of the union should be given to a member when he first joins. I have heard unions claim that it is too costly to provide a set of rules, but how can an ordinary member extend his influence and use his democratic rights to the full unless he fully understands what the organisation is about and what the rules are that have been made by the organisation which is controlling him? The essential thrust of this legislation is selective. It is aimed at trying to get at that hard core that is developing in trade unions- people who are using trade unions for their own affairs and for their own political objectives rather than those of the community as a whole or those of the union membership. We have the example of the
Latrobe Valley strike, where unionists are seeking not to obtain further benefits for the membership as a whole, but rather to hold the rest of the community to ransom. It is that sort of activity which we are seeking to control through this legislation. That is its main thrust.
I applaud the Government for the introduction of this legislation. Right at the core of it is the matter of the individual rights of trade unionists. In no way can this Government or any supporter of the Government in the Senate be described as a ‘union basher’. What we are seeking to do is to ensure that an ordinary member of a trade union has a right which he can exercise; that he is in a position to be able to exercise that right; and that he can influence the affairs of the union in the proper democratic way. I am sure that this legislation will bring that about.
– I rise to oppose this legislation. I think it is a cheap political gimmick to hide the real economic conditions of this country and to give this Government what it thinks will be an easy ride into an election. Senator Walters said with some pride earlier that she had worked in the dirtiest of conditions for 70 hours a week for 18s a week pay. There were a lot of latter-day Florence Nightingales like Senator Walters because they, like Florence Nightingale, had somebody to keep them. They worked in slave labour conditions, they had appalling pay and appalling conditions until intelligent women worked in the area and moved to reform it. They worked to give women who had the real talents to be nurses- not the lady bountifuls- the right to work as nurses in decent conditions for decent pay. They could not afford to be martyrs like Senator Walters but they wanted to be nurses. Until they had decent pay and conditions they could not work as nurses so they formed a union.
If they were to form a union now and demand better conditions and better pay- pay commensurate with the skills they use in their job- and were to take action to ensure that they obtained those better conditions and better pay under this legislation they could find their union deregistered. Senator Walters and her friends say that that is right. Nurses could have to go back to being dependent on greedy hospital boards and rapacious State governments; they could have to go back to working as slaves for little pay. Presumably, because the work they perform is an essential service, they are not allowed to ask to be paid properly for their work. I wonder how Senator Walters and people like her would have got on if they had had to house, feed and clothe six kids on 18s a week pay for their 70 hours’ work a week.
This Bill will allow this Government to force women workers back to working for the least possible pay that industry will pay them. Already this Government has claimed that women demanding equal pay is a cause of inflation. For 23 years a Liberal-Country Party Government allowed women to be exploited and to work for the worst pay in the worst conditions. A Labor Government provided equal pay for work of equal value. Now, with the new powers of deregistration contained in this legislation, equal pay for work of equal value will go out the window. Presumably nobody can do anything about it. Thousands of working women are dependent on awards for their legal entitlements. This Bill could be used to reduce the standards of these women. Unions are the only backstop working women have as a reference for wages and conditions. In many cases they have been a pretty poor backstop, but they are the only backstop the women have. If the unions are deregistered, they will have no help and no backstop whatsoever.
The Anti-Discrimination Board in New South Wales has said that most of its complaints have come from women in industry and that this is really the area in which women need most protection. What sort of protection are they going to get if their unions are deregistered and the women have no reference point. If they fight and use the only weapon working people have, namely, to withdraw their labour, they will be penalised. If a group of women were really concerned about and fought for, say, child care facilities and their union backed them, it could be deregistered. If women, say, objected to producing munitions for the next war and went on strike because they had a moral feeling about the material they were producing, their whole union could be deregistered. If they complained about their low pay, bad conditions of work, or ill treatment they would have nowhere to go if their union had been deregistered and they would have no money for legal assistance. They would be left at the mercy of the employer in industry. That is what the Government wants. What about their individual rights then, Senator Messner?
Why have legislation which will create a haven for scabs? Why have legislation which will destroy trade unions? It is because, by dividing people against each other, the Government thinks it will then be able to manipulate them to wherever it wants them to be. Honourable senators opposite talk about shop stewards running the Latrobe Valley strike. The vote down in the Valley to continue the strike was 2,500 to 20, after 10 weeks on the grass. Against all the pressure of a distressed family they voted not to go back.
– Who would dare to say no?
-I suppose they had their arms bent up behind their backs and were told: Say no, say no’? They are men with a lot to lose. They are men who have never been ahead. They way it looks at the moment they will never be ahead. They have one asset, namely, the hands with which they work. On the Channel 7 program Willesee at Seven a poll was conducted over 2 days. Willesee asked people: ‘Do you think the Latrobe workers should be paid more?’. Forty-eight thousand people said yes and 22,000 said no out of 70,000 phone calls. That is how the people of Victoria feel about the workers in the Latrobe Valley and about the justice of their cause.
The Government supports companies which demand a return for their capital. The Government says that if the companies put up the capital and the expertise they are entitled to a fair return. We are not quite sure how large that return has become, but that is what the Government believes. So are workers entitled to a fair return for the only capital they have, which is the work they can do with their hands. They are entitled to go out for the highest return for their investment. Honourable members opposite sit there and smirk because men have the guts to go without for 10 weeks and to demand some sort of wage justice. All the Government can do is to bring in this fascist legislation so it can tell people what to do. As Senator Walters said, the Government will not beg people to go back to work; it will tell them to go back to work. The way the Government is heading, it will be telling them to go back to work with a machine gun in the middle of their backs. That is what the Government wants this country to come to. It will decide how unions will spend their funds. It will decide how union property will be disposed of. So much for the Government’s brand of democracy.
Why does the Government not apply this same feeling to the firms which create artificial shortages to promote increased prices? Why does it not promote those ideas to firms which cut corners on conditions and safety features? Why does it not apply those sorts of arguments to firms which cheat on just wages or on the taxes they should pay? No, that area is sacrosanct. The Government has the nerve to say that the unions run the country. Let us look at these four gentlemen: Sir Ian McLennan, Sir Ian Potter, Sir Brian Inglis and Rod Carnegie. What makes these four people special? I quote from a pamphlet put out by the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations.
Well, Sir Ian McLennan is the chairman of Australia’s biggest company, BHP. Sir Ian Potter sits on the boards of 1 9 companies. Sir Brian Inglis is managing director of the Ford Motor Company. And Rod Carnegie heads Australia’s biggest mining company, the British owned CRA Ltd. Together with a few dozen other top managers and directors they control a huge proportion of Australian industry, employing millions of workers. They’re the decision makers in the 200 giant corporations that together account for over half of our industrial output.
Who decides the prices? Who makes the policies? Who controls the wages in respect of which this Government applies pressure in the courts? Huge funds are spent on propaganda. Who has the power? The poor little shop stewards down in the Valley fighting for the livelihood and the life of their people, or people like those four who sit back and manipulate little people and do not really care if they do sit on the grass for 10 weeks. So many companies are saying at the moment: This strike has been a God-send in some ways! They have been able to put off their men on a fortnight’s holiday at a cheaper rate than they would have to pay at Christmas and they have been able to reduce the great backlog of goods on the floor that they cannot sell. Why can they not sell those goods? It is because this Government has reduced the power of people to buy. Government supporters have the nerve to blame shop stewards in the Latrobe Valley and not the people who really have the power. I invite honourable senators to remember the golden rule. It is whoever has the gold that makes the rules. Those are the people the Government supports.
Honourable senators opposite say that excessive strikes cause our economic problems. I quote to them a gentleman who is close to their hearts, the Premier of Victoria. In February this year he told a news conference in the United States that reports of strikes and industrial unrest in Australia are exaggerated. In 1976 wages in Australia rose by 11.6 per cent. prices rose by 14.4 per cent and profits rose by 22 per cent. So who is kidding whom about who runs this country for whose benefit? Who is greedy? Is it shop stewards and the little people in the Latrobe Valley who want to live at least something like human beings, or is it the people who screw them for every penny they have? How high do honourable senators opposite want that profit percentage to go before they decide that industry as its fair share of the cake? Why do they not take away the fascist legislation that they have introduced to undermine the ordinary working people in this country and give decent men a fair go?
– I rise to support the legislation that is before the Senate. I am somewhat surprised and a little disappointed to see the total opposition to this legislation from the Opposition this afternoon. After all, it is not really legislation of a nature to bring out the sort of emotionalism that we have been listening to for most of the afternoon- in fact, for most of the day. This legislation amends a very basic section of Australian industrial law. It relates to the establishment, one would hope and believe, of industrial peace and proper relations between the mass of trade unionists and government and employers in this country. It is only when we reach a proper measure of industrial peace and responsibility that this country will climb properly and totally out of the gulf into which it has fallen in recent years. The purpose of this legislation is to protect the individual and the public interest. I believe there would not be one Australian in a hundred who would not say that to protect the individual and the public interest is not a proper and tremendously important objective.
I noted with interest that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) and a number of other Opposition speakers have referred to this legislation as being dictatorial. It seems a strange confusion to suggest that something which seeks to allow the individual a greater measure of freedom and to allow him to take action behind an authority which he may not seek to take as an individual for various and proper reasons is dictatorial. There is no suggestion whatever in this proposed legislation that dictatorship is the matter. Indeed, the contrary is the case. This legislation aims to give a real measure of freedom to the individual within the industrial sphere and a greater measure of protection to the Australian public. The suggestion that it is dictatorial is quite crazy. Senator Wriedt went on in his usual pattern, a pattern that has been accepted as typical of the pattern of the Opposition in any debate in this chamber for a considerable period, to promote doom. He went on to say that next year unemployment will be worse, the economy will be on the slide and so on, when the facts and figures prove that that is not the case. That sort of promotion and prediction is the best contribution that Senator Wriedt and the Opposition could make in regard to the slowing-down recovery in this economy.
Once again he referred to indexation and suggested that the Government had dishonoured an election promise referable to indexation. That of course, is not the case. Indexation, as it was promoted in days prior to the election of December 1975, referred not to a mere statistical, mechanical exercise of adjusting wages exactly to movements in the consumer price index every time there was a move. That is not what indexation had to be related to purely and simply. It has to be related to the capacity of an economy to pay. It has to be related to productivity if it is to be of any use at all. Otherwise, it is merely a measure by which is built into the economy the ill that may happen to be there. One of the other remarkable features of the performance of honourable senators opposite today has been that almost to a man they have complained -
– And woman.
-In fairness to Senator Melzer, I do not think she actually complained about this matter. Opposition senators certainly complained that there has been too much haste; that they have been rushed into the piece of legislation; that there has not been time to consider it; that it is perhaps ill-conceived; and that they have not had the time to see what the ills may be. Yet, with the opportunity to spend at least two or three hours discussing the legislation, they have probably spent less than 20 per cent of that time referring to the legislation itself. Let us see whether it is really a hasty piece of work. After all, the legislation before us is the introduction of the final chapter of the industrial relations policy of the Government parties prior to the 1975 election. It is almost identical to the policy that was expounded in those days. Since those days there has been a very gradual approach to this ultimate position. The policy became a reality in March of this year when the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation was introduced. In May of this year the establishment of the Industrial Relations Bureau with the powers of the Inspectorate was accepted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Also accepted was the re-establishment of the National Labour Consultative Council. Since those days there have been three meetings of the NLCC. The provisions in this legislation have been discussed at the highest levels referable to the employer, the employee and the Government over a period of months. To suggest that this is something that is ill-conceived, that it is rushed, that it has come out of the blue, and that there has not been enough time to talk about it is a pretty pathetic and shallow criticism.
In the few moments that I have at my disposal I intend to refer to one or two of the statements I have listened to in the chamber during the course of the day. Senator Button who opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition mentioned that it is not possible to legislate industrial peace. Of course it is not possible to legislate industrial peace. It is not possible to legislate anything in a democracy. The only time legislation has little chance of failing is if it is introduced in a society that holds a gun. Senator Melzer referred to people with guns. Thank goodness in Australia we do not associate legislation with people with guns. We cannot legislate industrial peace, Senator Button says, and I agree that we cannot; but we can and we must legislate in a manner in which industrial peace can be achieved responsibly.
That is what this legislation is all about. Whether it is successful partially or totally is almost entirely dependent on the determination of the great mass of Australian trade unionists, the great mass of Australian employers and the Government and the Opposition. Legislation is a vehicle, a mechanism. It is up to all of us in Parliament and up to Australians across the country to make sure that the vehicle, the mechanism, that the Government provides in fact achieves the objectives that it sets out to achieve. Senator Button was quite right in saying that we cannot legislate industrial peace, but I hope that he goes on to recall that he and those who are with him have a responsibility to see that legislation that has the capacity to bring about industrial peace and all those things consequent upon it such as the achievement of the potential of this country for the people and for the country itself is effective.
Today Senator Bishop’s speech seemed to be typical of Senator Bishop because he appeared to have some sort of Bob Hawke phobia. He said that the trade union movement is of great importance all around the world. No one will disagree with that statement. Of course it is. It is of great importance in Australia, although its importance has changed over the years. It has changed its character, and that is why this sort of legislation is necessary. No longer are trade unions in Australia basically concerned with the conditions and wages of their members. No longer is that their number one priority. Instead they have moved towards a position where they tend to promote political ideological and related economic and social goals. It is time that we in this country realised that economic and social goals run on parallel tracks and not on divergent tracks. It is high time that all Australians and all members of Parliament recognised that these things are parallel to each other and do not run at cross purposes.
Senator Bishop went on to say that the problems are not the fault of the trade union movement but are the result of the state of the economy. I must remind him and the Opposition that the state of the economy is showing a significant move upwards. When it reached its lowest point, it was the result of the actions of Senator Bishop’s Prime Minister. He was the architect of that magnificent fall over a period of three years of socialist experiment. Senator Bishop also said that the issue is whether a government can confuse a people. Of course the main contribution of the Opposition in this debate today, if it has been a contribution at all, has been a contribution of confusion. This is the one thing that will make industrial peace and economic and social recovery more difficult to achieve. Confusion is the Opposition’s contribution. Confusion certainly will lead to problems lasting over a much longer time than necessary.
It is a red herring to talk about a reduced level of industrial unrest. In fact, it is just another debating tactic. A few people are creating immense problems for literally hundreds of thousands. That is an industrial exercise, and it is being practised by the radical Left in Australia today. One of the ways to overcome it is to implement the legislation that is before us this afternoon. Mr President, I commend that legislation to the chamber.
– The Senate is debating a most complex piece of legislation. It is interesting that every time we deal with matters relating to the trade union movement and the working people of this country, we are denied any effective opportunity for discussion. Today we are unable to do more than register a protest against the limited time that is available to us to discuss a Bill which has very widespread ramifications. It has already been said, so I will not press the point, that power does not reside in the trade union movement. Senator Melzer has indicated very clearly where the real power exists in this country. It is to be found in the big corporations, areas of the judiciary and other places where the real decisions about the economy are made. It is interesting that we never have legislation dealing with the role that capital might play in this country or, if we do, certainly it is never presented with such short notice as we have had for discussion of this legislation. I do not believe that a few hours is sufficient to canvass adequately this very important legislation.
The historic facts are that for two centuries the conservative elements in the community have sought in one way or another to contain the trade union movement. In fact the very history of our country is related to the attempts by those who produce the wealth, those who use their hands, to establish fundamental rights to sell their labour for a reasonable rate of pay. The class composition of this Senate is not without significance. With one or two exceptions honourable senators opposite fall into the categories of estate agents, businessmen, lawyers, company directors, graziers, doctors and so on, and they always join in unison the chorus attacking those who only want wage justice and who have submitted themselves to the independent arbitration process to achieve some relative share of the wealth that is produced in this country.
I find the contribution by Government senators today incoherent and confused. For example, Senator Hall made a very emotional contribution. Clearly he is trying to win from the Liberal Party his passport to pre-selection in South Australia. He says that the rank and file, the people at the grass roots and in the workshops, have too much power; that they are the people who are causing the trouble. He said that a handful of people in many places in the work force throughout Australia are causing the problem and therefore legislation should be brought down to deal with them. Yet Senator Young, and he is joined by even Mr Fraser and other leaders of his Party, says there is too much power in the hands of the elected trade union officials.
The plain facts in respect of the Latrobe Valley despute are that Mr Halfpenny, the Victorian official of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, finds himself in difficulty when he tries to suggest to workers in the Latrobe Valley certain courses of action in respect of the dispute there. In fact this is the grass roots organisation. The people at the level of the workshop are determining what action they want to take. This is freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom to elect their officials and to determine the course of action that should be taken in a particular industrial dispute.
What clearly comes through in all of the debates on industrial matters in this place and in the other House is the complete and utter failure of the conservatives in the parliaments of this country to understand industrial issues and the trade union movement. They have no comprehension of what it is like in the work shop, of the provocations that take place or of the need to maintain some parity in respect of their wages and salaries. Let me relate one experience to the Senate. The one and only job I had before I went to work in a family business was a job for four years with a company in Sydney. I came to be put in charge of one section of that organisation. Because of the Depression people needed jobs. One of the directors brought a relative to work in that firm. A short while later that person was elevated to a leading position in the company. The girls in that factory who had never belonged to a trade union came to me for advice because they knew of my interest in trade unions and in the political movement. They joined a union and went on strike in order to protest not because the girl had a job but because she was elevated to a senior position above girls who had worked there for some 20 or 30 years and had much more experience and competence in the production line in the factory. The only course of action that was left to those girls was to withdraw their labour. If we look at what strikes are about we find the reason is that people believe they have a grievance and so they withdraw their labour. That is what a strike is about. That is the only course of action available to them.
Invariably the only steps available are for the union leadership to take the matter up with the employer or it finally finds itself in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or in the State Conciliation Commissioners’ jurisdiction.
Let us take some random samples of how other people take courses of action which are independent and which militates against other people. Let us take Senator Hall, for example. When he disagreed with the attitude of his own Party in South Australia what did he do? He withdrew his labour from the Liberal Party and formed the Liberal Movement. He took the only course of action available to him by walking outside his Party and taking direct action. That is what a strike is about. What happened when a vacancy was caused in this place because of the death of Senator Milliner? What did Mr BjelkePetersen do? He took direct action and broke the convention that had been established for a number of years. What did the Senate do in respect of the Supply Bills? It went on strike and refused to consider or pass the Bills which was legitimately the responsibility of the Senate? We can talk about when the Labor Government brought in the Medibank legislation. What did the Australian Medical Association and doctors in this country do? They said they would not cooperate with the Government for the purposes of making the medibank scheme operate. They withdrew their labour. This course of action is available to people in order to express a point of view. There is nothing wrong with that particularly when it is done at the grass roots level.
Let me give some examples in respect of my State of New South Wales. In the last four or five months strikes have occurred in the Australian Workers Union, the Storemen and Packers Union, the Shop Assistants Union, the Transport Workers Union, the Air Controllers Association, the Pilots Association, the clerks who work on the Sydney Waterfront and the Electrical Trades Union. Not one of those unions has taken the action because of militancy or communist influence. I would venture to say that we would be battling to find a communist in those unions, least of all a communist occupying a position of influence. Yet those are the unions in which the rank and file members have exercised their democratic rights by going on strike, in some cases after having availed themselves of the only opportunity to seek some for of justification and negotiation in respect of the matters before them.
If we are concerned about industrial relations, I suggest that honourable senators opposite should take some advice from one of the principal proponents of industrial activity in this country, Mr Hawke. There is no point honourable senators opposite smirking and deriding Mr Hawke every time his name is used. If they knew the process of the industrial scene they would not suggest that he could take over the air controllers strike. That organisation is not even a member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It does not fall within the ACTU’s purview. The same applies to many of the other industrial disputes that develop. The very organisation of the trade union movement prohibits Mr Hawke entering a dispute unless he is requested to do so. The other principal proponent is Mr Polites. He represents the other arm of the wages and employment situation. It seems as though he talks to a blank wall when one hears the comments that are made by honourable senators opposite in this debate. The other day Mr Polites, the Executive Officer of the Australian Council of Employers Federation addressed the National Press Club. He enjoys the support of all the employer organisations in this country. I know that he expresses the view of dozens of employer representatives who have spoken to me over a period about their concern at the provocative actions that have been taken by this Government. He said:
Industrial disputes could not be solved by governments fiddling with legislation in Parliament. Deregistration of unions could be useful in bringing persons to their senses.
He did not think this legislation would have any effect on the dispute in Victoria. He appealed to the federal authorities. He appealed to his own side to get out of industrial relations. He said.
I don’t think industrial relations should be a partypolitical plaything.
Of course we all know to what Mr Polites is referring. We know that during the whole of 1977 polls have shown an increasing disenchantment with the Liberal Party, and that there is a swing back in support of the Labor Party. Therefore Mr Fraser and his cohorts have sought in every possible way to manufacture some issue upon which to have an election. Mr Polites says:
I think the only way we’ll get out is if the unions and ourselves come to terms, or if both political parties can come to an understanding to get out and stay out. It would be better if they would. Our system of conciliation and arbitration is not responsible for strikes. If the incidence of strikes is any criterion, then the industrial relations system of almost every Western democracy has broken down.
That coming from Mr Polite” ought to be a warning to this Government that it will shortly have not only the united voice of the trade union movement and the Labor Party but also the united voice of employer organisations telling the Government that this is not the way to get industrial peace, that this is not the way to get the Australian economy going. The Government will be sorry the day that the Parliament passes this sort of legislation and seeks to have it proclaimed. It will not achieve the objective which it so simply believes can be achieved by the passing of legislation in a very hasty way without adequate public or parliamentary debate.
– One would gather from listening to Senator Gietzelt that this Bill has something to do with banning strikes. It is quite clear to me that the Bill is about the preservation of individual rights and is in keeping with the Government’s industrial relations policy which has certain principles. One of them is that each member of our community has rights and obligations. Individual rights have to be protected, and we intend to see that they will be. Equally obligations must be met and the rule of law must prevail. As far as I am concerned my view, which is shared by a majority of the people in South Australia, is that the strike in Victoria demonstrates clearly what has happened in Australia when a relatively few people in very powerful positions have sought to inflict their will upon a large number of people. When strikes such as have occurred at the State Electricity Commission prevail for some ten weeks and overflow into other States, I believe the Government has to do something about it. This Bill, as far as we are concerned, will achieve that objective. It has the complete support of responsible trade unionists to whom I have spoken. They believe that the way the militant left wing in the trade union movement has been carrying on in recent years is a disgrace. They blame the left wing quite clearly for the way in which the trade union movement’s credibility in Australia has been dragged down to the lowest ebb in our history. We, as a government, believe it is our responsibility to do what we can to restore the trade union movement’s credibility in Australia. I believe this Bill will go a long way towards doing just that.
I get alarmed when I read things such as this headline in the Australian this morning: ‘Strike blocks $50m container cargoes’. This applies to the ports of Sydney and Melbourne. How can we, as a country, maintain our credibility as a reliable trading partner when that sort of thing persists?
– Order! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill having expired, I put the question:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Bill read a second time.
That the remaining stages be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President-Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to draw to the attention of the public the fact that the Government has gagged debate on a very urgent and important Bill.
– I rise to order. I take the point of order that, on the motion for the adjournment, debate that has been proceeding cannot be revived.
– You must not revive the debate, Senator.
– I raise the matter because I am wondering whether the Bill will be proclaimed. It is a Bill of 31 clauses and 28 pages. However, there has not been a committee stage debate.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) put:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President-Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.46 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 26 April 1 977:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Bank of Adelaide
Bank of New South Wales
Bank of New Zealand
Bank of Queensland
The Commercial Bank of Australia Limited
The Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited
The National Bank of Australasia Limited
Banque Nationale de Paris
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited
Australia and New Zealand Savings Bank Limited
Bank of New South Wales Savings Bank Limited
CBC Savings Bank Limited
The Hobart Savings Bank, trading as The Savings Bank ofTasmania
Launceston Bank for Savings
The Commercial Savings Bank of Australia Limited
The National Bank Savings Bank Limited
The Bank of Adelaide Savings Bank Limited
Bank of New Zealand Savings Bank Limited
Australian Resources Development Bank Limited
The Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia are banks authorised by the Commonwealth Banks Act 1 959 and are banks for the purposes of the Banking Act 1959.
In regard to the trading banks I would refer the honourable senator to the annual reports published by the individual banks and to material prepared and published by the Investment Service of the Sydney Stock Exchange Research Service.I understand that these documents are available in the Parliamentary Library.
The Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) and the Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) are branches of overseas banks: BNZ is wholly owned by the New Zealand Government while the French Government holds at least 75 per cent of the capital of BNP.
Of the nine savings banks listed in ( 1 ) above, two- the Hobart Savings Bank and the Launceston Bank for Savings -are ‘trustee’ banks which operate for the benefit of their depositors. The remaining seven are wholly owned subsidiaries of the associated trading bank.
The Australian Resources Development Bank is owned equally by the seven major trading banks.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 5 May 1977:
Did the Minister state, when opening the Society for Automotive Engineers Conference in Melbourne on 2 May 1977, that the Federal Government has placed much of the responsibility for finding alternative energy fuels, for the future needs, on private enterprise; if so, how can the Minister reconcile this statement with the Government’s stated energy policy, where it indicates that it will give high priority to energy research; if not, how is his statement in harmony with the Government’s stated energy policy.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes. The Minister for Transport made the statements attributed to him, but since the matters raised by the question are primarily the responsibility of the Minister for National Resources, Mr Anthony has provided the Minister for Transport with the following answer:
The role of Government is to provide a suitable legislative and economic framework, within which the energy industries can develop in the national interest. It is also clear to the Government that Australia’s energy research must be stepped up significantly as a matter of urgency if we are to developthe required technological capacity to participate in advances taking place elsewhere in the world.
The Government will be looking to the tertiary academic institutions, industry, and its own organisations to co-operate in the research and development necessary to provide Australia with alternative fuels.
The Australian Minerals and Energy Council at its last meeting was unanimously of the view that there is a need for an active and co-ordinated energy research and development effort, and will be considering this and related matters at its next meeting. The National Energy Advisory Committee is also preparing advice on the development and administration of a programme for energy research and development in Australia. Furthermore, the Department of National Resources has underway a national survey of energy research and development which is an integral and important part of energy policy.
In addition to the proposed increased Government activity in energy R&D there will be a great need for increased industrial involvement and support, especially in the development stage.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 October 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19771021_senate_30_s75/>.