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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2024

Senator JESSOP(6.43) —I have pleasure in supporting the remarks of the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Science, Technology and the Environment, Senator Jones, and also add my thanks to the staff, under secretary Robert King, for the work done in assisting the Committee to carry out public hearings and eventually to compile this report. During the course of our inquiry the Committee dealt with over 120 witness groups at public hearings and gathered a lot of important evidence from that source. As well as that, we had a number of significant written submissions which we considered in the context of the compilation of this report.

The Committee found generally throughout its inquiry that employees are rather apprehensive when technological change is imminent. We believe it is most important that firms throughout Australia contemplating the introduction of new technology should carry out appropriate consultation with the unions concerned and the work force involved in that particular industry prior to the introduction of new technology. We found that there were a few problems associated with that because of the confidentiality of the introduction of new technology. Some firms are a little reluctant to flag their intentions to the opposition, which is understandable. However, having regard to that, we believe that there ought to be a model established whereby firms could consider an appropriate method of consulting with their employees prior to the introduction of technological change. We noted that Telecom Australia had an interesting model that could possibly be adopted in that context.

It is natural that employees should be rather apprehensive, particularly if they are ignorant of the changes contemplated. The Committee gathered during the inquiry that the introduction of new technology need not necessarily mean redundancy, but may well require a system of retraining and re-education programs for the employees in order that they might find work in other areas as a result of the introduction of such technology. This is a very important report and it ought to be debated at length. For that reason I will not delay the Senate any longer. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.