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Thursday, 25 May 1972
Page: 2127


Senator BROWN (Victoria) - I join my colleagues of the Australian Labor Party in opposing the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I have the comforting knowledge that whereas the Government may have the numbers in this place we of the Opposition have the numbers outside in the Australian community. My colleagues already have referred to the organisations which have pronounced their unanimous opposition to the proposals contained in this amending Bill. They include the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations which represents some 34 organisations with 350,000 members. Many of those members also have wives who are eligible to vote. In addition, we have the traditional trade union movement led by its national organisation, the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The ACTU represents over one million people employed in industry. There are numerous people besides those, people outside those organisations, who may be describd as liberals - with a small T - and are progressively minded, and they also oppose the terms of this Bill. Then, of course, there is the official opposition, the Australian Labor Party. I think you will have to agree, Mr President, that the aggregate number constitutes a formidable opposition.

I genuinely believe that this Bill is of such moment that it could very well be responsible for sounding the death knell of this Government - and not before time. I am conscious of the fact that the people I represent and with whom I have been associated for over 38 years must be very harshly affected as a consequence of this amending Bill, at least until the Australian community has the opportunity of exercising its democratic vote. I imagine that in view of the record of this Government, particularly in recent times, we can anticipate a change of Government at the end of this year. As my colleague Senator Wheeldon said in his closing remarks to the Senate, we of the Australian Labor Party are pledged to repeal not only the objectionable features that are so pronounced in this Bill but also those already in the Act which will be continued when this Bill is passed and the legislation is consolidated.


Senator Greenwood - Are you able to tell us what you regard as the objectionable features which you will repeal?


Senator BROWN - I think we have said sufficient on that subject. I do not think I need repeat it. However, I will do so for the edification of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood). We will repeal the sanctions and the penal provisions. We have publicly pledged that we will repeal also all the other objectionable features after discussions with the trade union movement. We have been proud to make that commitment and we stand by it.

I have limited time in this debate and this is a major Bill. I do not think any responsible senator on either side of the chamber could approach this matter without great concern. I propose to refer in part to some references in the second reading speech made by the Attorney-General. I trust I shall not traverse unduly references made by my colleagues in the course of their contributions to this debate.


Senator Marriott - You have not talked about the Bill.


Senator BROWN - I propose to say this for the record: I think the Opposition is entitled to examine the second reading speech in detail and to criticise it because the motion before the Senate is 'That the Bill be now read a second time'. That being so, in my view the second reading speech is before the Senate for discussion. It is an important speech because, among other things, the Government seeks to justify the proposed amendment to the existing Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Apart from the justification there is also the announcement of the philosophy of the Government, then the salient features of the Bill and the various intimate details of the effects of the amending legislation. I take umbrage at the suggestion that at this time the Opposition is not entitled to debate the subject matter of the second reading speech. That is precisely what I intend to do. The Attorney-General stated:

The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1972 contains the most significant amendments of the Act since 1947.

Of course my colleague Senator Donald Cameron has pointed out that this is questionable having regard to the numerous and quite substantial amendments to the Bill which have occurred between 1947 and 1972. Nevertheless this is one of the most major reviews of the Bill in the last 25 years. I concede that. The AttorneyGeneral goes on to point out:

This Bill is being brought down when our system of conciliation and arbitration has been undergoing severe strain against a background of increasing industrial unrest and serious wage-induced inflation.

If honourable senators think that the Opposition does not have the right to challenge at least one of those suggestions which are put as justification for this Bill, then in effect they mean that there should not be an Opposition here. First of all I concede - it is understandable that I do concede this - that there has been increasing industrial unrest. But there is justification for it. We on this side of the chamber have said - I believe that we have been able to show this with facts and figures - that contrary to the opinion held by Government senators wages are responsible for the inflationary trends in the community, and it is our view, which we believe is based on sound reasoning, that wages are always chasing prices. I shall make two or three references to bring to the notice of the Government again the reasoning behind that statement. I have said before in this chamber, and I think it needs to be repeated, that up until 1953 in many ways we have a unique system of wage fixation.

We had established what is referred to as a 'basic wage' as 1 of 2 components of the total wage. It operated reasonably successfully for from 30 to 40 years. I shall place on record the way in which it operated. The Commonwealth Statistician was obliged to review the movement in goods and services listed under the C Series index at the end of each 3-monthly quarter of the year. He had to ascertain whether there had been any movement, up or down in the C Series index and in the price of goods and services provided in that index. If the review by the Statistician showed that there had been an increase in prices this was reported and there was an automatic adjustment to the basic wage - the major component of the wage proper. In effect it meant that 3 months had to pass before an assessment could be made. The wage earner was always 3 months behind any movement which had taken place in prices. But in 1953 some serious suggestions were put by the then Treasurer who argued that he felt that one of the major factors contributing to increased prices in that day and age was the continuous adjustment to the basic wage. The court accepted that view in due course and it abolished the quarterly adjustment to the basic wage.

Then we had to rely on an annual review. This meant that the average worker instead of being 3 months behind the price increase was 12 months behind. In recent times, inflation being what it is, there has been a much more rapid increase in wages than there has been in the past. This has only been as a consequence of the dedication shown by the trade union movement which endeavoured to bridge the gap between what one may describe as the nominal wage' and the 'real wage' - that is the purchasing value of the wage consistent with the cost of goods and services by which one lives. I shall briefly refer to an article which appeared in the Sydney 'Sun Herald' of 6th February 1972. It appears at page 57. The caption is:

Never before has the man in the street lost so much of his take-home pay in inflation. Here's why your money buys less.

The article is by Mr Merv Lincoln, lecturer in business administration at the University of Melbourne. The article reads:

In 1971 the average Australian received his biggest increase in take-home pay. At the beginning of the year he was earning $81.90; at the end, about $91.90, an increase of 12.2 per cent.

His previous biggest increase in any one year was around 8 per cent, in 1969 and 1970. However, never before has the man in the street lost so much of his take-home pay to inflation. In 1971 the cost of living increased 7 per cent, far in excess of the previous high for 15 years, of 4.7 per cent in 1970. This, in effect, left him with a real gain of 5.2 per cent (12.2 per cent less 7 per cent), but still a fairly impressive gain by previous years.

The following paragraph reads as follows:

CRIPPLING

Therefore, the 6nal washup for the man in the street looks something like this:

In 1971, average earnings increased from $81.90 to $91.90- an increase of $10, or 12.2 per cent.

 

This is real disposable income in terms of real purchasing power. The article continued:

In other words of the $10 extra he received, he has $2.20 extra in purchasing power - he lost ST. SO in inflation and taxation. Or, to put it another way, he, on an annual basis, received an extra $520 but retained for real gain only $124.

Honourable senators may recall that the week prior to this report appearing in the Sun-Herald'- that was 6th February 1972 - unemployment in Australia exceeded 120,000 people. As I have indicated before, this is purely a guide as to the level of unemployment because these are only people who have gone to the trouble of registering as unemployed. It has been argued that for every one who goes to the Commonwealth Employment Bureau seeking work there could be one or two who do not go. So the greatest regard one could have to these figures is that they are nothing more than a guide. They are purely the minimum. To show the hardship of the unemployed at that time I point out that the poverty line was established at $50 for a man with a wife and 2 children but the same man out of a job received only $27 in unemployment benefits. So on the one hand we had rising wages and on the Other a greater rise in the inflationary trend of prices. The total return in terms of real value diminished to a minimum and at the same time there was rising unemployment.

I.   have a publication here. It is not a publication for which I have a great regard in terms of its political attitudes or expression of opinion. I refer to 'IPA Facts' of December 1971-January 1972. One may be able to concede the figures which it has taken out in relation to the falling value of the dollar. The article shows the falling value of the dollar from 1950-1971. In 1950 the dollar was taken as being worth 100c. But by 1971 its true value, in terms of purchasing power, was down to 42c. Is it any wonder that there has been increasing unrest, with ever increasing prices, on the one hand, and with wages attempting to bridge the gap between the actual remuneration for work done and the cost of goods and services needed to live, on the other hand? The Minister referred to the unrest that was responsible, in part if not wholly, for the 'serious wage induced inflation'. I have indicated, I think in simple terms, that there is an understandable reason for the continuing unrest. It certainly cannot be held that the wage content of the cost structure is responsible for the so-called 'serious wage induced inflation'.

What concerns me is the false assumptions on which the Government acted in introducing the Bill. The Minister said:

The Conciliation and Arbitration Act is one of the most important statutes of this Parliament.

I certainly agree with him on that statement. The Act and this Bill affect the standard of living of both wage and salary earners and their families. Approximately 86 per cent of the community is categorised as physical workers and professional and white collar workers and their families. What disturbs me is that the Government does not seem to understand or is not prepared to acknowledge the relationship between capital and labour. It has assumed that the 2 components - that is, capital on the one hand and labour on the other - are of equal status. That assumption is far from the truth. Firstly, one has to recognise that capital is the owner and controller of plant and machinery. It owns and controls the production of the labour power that it buys from the worker. It owns and controls the distribution of goods and services that are produced by the worker. How can the Government say that the 2 contestants - they are contestants under this system - are on an equal footing and are of equal status in the eyes of the law?

To make matters worse, the Government makes it more difficult for labour by the trappings of an elaborate arbitration system which diminishes the equality between the contestants in the ordinary market place, in the processes of buying and selling. Whether the Government likes it or not, the basic tenet on which the Government supports the free enterprise system is the so-called competitive system which relies on the free play of the market based

On supply and demand. The Government has to understand that in order to understand why there is this continuing conflict between capital and labour. There is no other area in the market place of supply and demand, of buying and selling, that is subject to the scrutiny and the harsh - I say this without reservation - tyrannical and oppressive laws that are imposed on labour.

With great respect to the arbitration system, I say that it is not humanly possible for that system to provide a worker with an income commensurate with the commodity that he produces in the course of

Using his labour power. It is economically impossible, for the simple reason that what the employer buys is not what the employee produces. The employer buys the employee's labour power and his time. In the course of using that power and time, the employee produces a product of a value over and above what the employer has already paid him for the use of his labour power and time. To aggravate that situation, the employer loads the cost of his production, as he sees it, on to the product, notwithstanding that he has already achieved a gain in the form of a useful commodity that the worker has produced in the course of using up labour power and time. This is all that the employer paid for. The cost of that commodity is loaded with the cost of overhead in the form of plant and machinery. If the employer is relying on some form of loan to capitalise his enterprise, he also loads on te the cost of the commodity the charges that are made for the use of that credit. On top of that the employer puts a margin for his profit. But the process does not finish there.


Senator Webster Wha t point is the honourable senator making?


Senator BROWN Senato r Webster should listen to me for a moment. It does not finish there. When that commodity is transported from the manufacturer's plant after all the costs of manufacture, including the wage content, have been met, it goes to a retailer. Usually the retailer applies what is referred to as sales tax. That tax, as we all know, is imposed by reason of the taxing powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. After the retailer has placed the sales tax on top of the manufacturer's total costs, he places another mark-up on the commodity. It can be anything from 33 per cent to 50 per cent. So the true cost of manufacture, say $100, has probably moved to something in the vicinity of $160. Because most people are not in a position economically to pay cash directly for the purchase from the retailer, they have to resort to the use of credit. We know what that means—hir e purchase. The interest rate can be anything from 10 per cent to 15 per cent flat. So, another $10 .to $15 is added to the $160. The total price is up to about $175. In other words, $75 as a minimum has been added to the cost of manufacture. Can honourable senators opposite tell me how, under this system, a worker can ever receive a rate of pay commensurate with the value of the goods he has produced? It is physically impossible. That is one of the reasons why I am concerned so much about the contents of the Bill.

The real key to the whole issue, the kernel of the whole intent of the Bill, is to be found in this passage in the Minister's second reading speech:

An important element of the Government's policies in relation to inflation has been to encourage wage restraint. As part of this approach, it has intervened in hearings before the Arbitration Commission and it will continue to do so in cases with major economic implications.

In other words, what the Government is attempting to do—notwithstandin g what I have pointed out, which cannot be challenged— i s to deprive the worker of the true value of his production and, in addition, to impose on him direct and indirect taxation to service institutions such as this and a great range of other institutions not dissimilar to this at the third and second tiers of government, namely, the local and State governments. The worker is required to provide the wherewithal, or a substantial part of it, to service military adventures such as the ones ia wliich the Government recently indulged in South East Asia. I do not mean only in Vietnam. This sector of the community is called upon, because it represents the great bulk of the community, o defend the nation in time of war. The workers are the people who are subject to industrial casualties, to which I will refer in a moment. They are the people who have to face the harsh inflictions and the consequences of the unemployment which we have seen more recently and which was deliberately inflicted on the community by the Government's budgetary measures in 1970-71. The Government is not satisfied with that. It is now trying to impose even greater restrictions. I repeat that they are tyrannical and oppressive restrictions.

I wish to deal briefly with 2 matters before I deal with clauses of the Bill. The Government has been meticulous and extremely zealous in its endeavours to concoct and formulate ways and means of amending the existing Conciliation and Arbitration Act. to impose, as 1 said before, greater restraints and restrictions on the salt of the earth—thos e who produce all the goods and services that cumulatively represent the wealth of this nation and every other nation. But what has the Government done in other directions? I asked the Statistical Service of the Parliamentary Library to seek out for me figures in respect of what I call industrial casulaties but what are referred to by others as industrial accidents. I did so because the Government has said, among other things, that it has been necessary for it to take the measures contained in this Bill to prevent the continuing decline— I do not agree with this—i n the level of production and the continuing decline or stultification of productivity.

Let us have a look at some areas in which the Government is not even interested in so-called productivity. I am sure that honourable senators will agree with me when 1 say that the man hours lost through industrial disputation pale into insignificance compared with the figures I am about to quote. I am sure honourable senators will be so surprised by them that they will have to check them in Hansard tomorrow, as I had to check them myself to ensure that I would not be giving inaccurate information. The paper that the Statistical Service of the Parliamentary Library was good enough to prepare for me is headed 'Civilian Employment, Industrial Accidents and Incidence Rates'. The Parliamentary Library made the following comment in relation to this paper:

The statistics shown below for industrial accidents are those supplied by State authorities, and workers compensation legislation differs in tha several States. Therefore there is lack of uniformity and coverage from State to State. This seriously impairs the comparability of these statistics and it is not reasonable to draw conclusions regarding the incidence of industrial accidents amongst the States.

The Parliamentary Library did indicate to me that because it is able to maintain a consistent error—tha t sounded fantastic to me but I accepted what was said—i n its calculations it has been able to draw the conclusion that the figures that it has been able to produce from time to time on industrial accidents in Australia can be relied on as being reasonably accurate. It would appear to me that the Minister for Labour and National Service also had access to similar figures. I say that because of something I propose to quote from a news release, dated Wednesday, 15th September 1971, by the Department of Labour and National Service, over the signature of the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Honourable Phillip Lynch. Among other things it states that approximately 270,000 workers each year suffer injuries which cause them to be away from their jobs for one or more days and that the total time lost from those injuries amounts to about 680,000 man weeks a year. I repeat that through industrial accidents approximately 270,000 workers each year suffer injuries which cause them to be away from their jobs for one or more days and the total time lost from those injuries amounts to about 680,000 man weeks a year.

I attempted to reduce the statistics produced by both the Parliamentary Library and the Department of Labour and National Service to some tangible and understandable figures. Apart from the pain and suffering and the loss of income to the injured worker, in terms of lost production—th e sort of thing about which the Government is talking in this Bill, apart from wage restraints—14,46 8 man years are lost every year. That is based on the statistics provided by the Minister himself. To put it in another way, those figures indicate that 14,468 men lose one year's work per year. Those are astronomical figures. In addition, one bas to take into account that there has been an average unemployment rate in recent times of about 100,000 and that the figure is still in the region of 90,000, although it has peen as high as 120,000. I repeat that those figures are only for the people who have registered for employment. They do not take into account those who do not go to the extent of registering with the local employment bureau. That would represent an even greater loss of production than the figures I bave already related to honourable senators in respect of industrial casualties.

I point out that the underemployed also have not been taken into account. For those people who do not seem to interest themselves in this matter I point out that it is generally known, particularly by those people who are from the trade union movement, that at various times of the year—i t is a seasonal feature with many manufacturing industries— a period is reached where it is impossible because of the level of demand to continue to produce at maximum capacity. What happens is that agreements are entered into between the employee organisation and the managements of those industries which enable the employees to work less than a 40-hour week. To my knowledge no statistical data has ever been prepared on that aspect and no thorough calculations have ever been made as to precisely what it would mean in respect of total loss of production.

I again ask honourable senators to direct their attention to the figures I have quoted. I repeat that those figures cause the figures for the working days lost through industrial strikes, as the Government refers to them, to pale into insignificance. Of course, the figures in respect of industrial stoppages which cause a loss of working days are a little dubious, as are the figures in respect to industrial accidents. There is a host of reasons for this but I will not weary the Senate with them this evening. The recording method adopted is one of the principal reasons.

The next matter I wish to raise has been referred to already by some of my colleagues. In an address that the Minister for Labour and National Service made to the Industrial Relations Society of Queensland at the Chevron Hotel on 2nd October 1971, on the subject of strike statistics, he said:

Let me begin by examining briefly our recent experience in relation to strikes, as tliis will indicate the magnitude of the problem we are currently facing. Over the years 1966 lo 1970 there has been a rising trend in the number of strikes and in the amount of time lost, the numbers of workers involved and wages lost.

Of course, I have not calculated the loss of wages incurred by those who have been injured or those who have been unemployed but again it would cause the strike figures to pale into insignificance. The Minister went on to say:

Over this period the number of strikes increased by approximately 115 per cent from 1,273 to 2,738, the number of workers involved increased by approximately 246 per cent from 394,900 to 1,367,400, the number of working days lost increased by approximately 227 per cent from 732,100 to 2,393,700. . . .

The comparison between the figures in respect of, first of all, the number of people involved and the number of working days lost through industrial disputation and those I have given in respect of industrial accidents, unemployment and underemployment would show a relationship of less than 0.0001 per cent I am sure, but that is a very rough rule of thumb calculation.

So much for the concern that the Government has about 2 of the most important considerations. The Government would be better employed using all the resources it has at its disposal in examining ways and means, in co-operation with the States, of providing improved physical conditions of employment and safe working conditions of employment to avoid, first of all, accidents which cause injury, suffering, pain and loss of income to the worker. It would be one of the greatest means of creating goodwill between employer and employee within industry. If the Government were to exercise as much zeal and determination in an attempt to stamp out industrial accidents as it directs towards attempting to impose greater restrictions on the workers who are trying to maintain their standard of living it would be better engaged.

If the Government applied as much zeal to the management of the economy to avoid the errors for which it can be legitimately held responsible, again it would be better employed. For example, through the last Budget the Government caused over 120,000 people to be placed on the unemployed list. Just on 100,000 are still unemployed and there are numbers under-employed. I f the Government would turn its attention in those directions it would be doing a great service for the community as a whole, apart from the trade unions.

I wish now to refer briefly to the Minister's second reading speech. The Minister referred to a strengthening of the sanctions provisions of the Act, including a review of all penalties provided by the Act. The Commonwealth Government bas tremendous facilities at its disposal and, of course, it has the wherewithal to send Ministers and senior officers to other parts of the world to observe at first hand precisely what is taking place, so that comparisons can be made with industrial development in Australia. The Government seems to ignore responsible local opinion outside the trade union movement, apart from what we have been saying for years. It is certainly evident that it ignores responsible opinion from overseas. Obviously it does not take the opportunity to allow its Ministers or heads of departments to observe at first hand what takes place overseas because it has been shown over the years that the use of sanctions and penalties does not have the effect desired by the Government.

I do not have to recite the history of arbitration in Australia since the establishment of the Arbitration Court and the inclusion of sanctions and provisions for fines in arbitration legislation. I thought that the lesson the Government learned in May 1969 may have been really worthwhile. I asked the Parliamentary Library to take out some information for me going back as far as June 1970. I have here an article which appeared in August 1969 in a publication entitled 'Outlook'. The article is entitled 'Penalties for Striking—th e Case Against the Penal Powers'. Both of the gentlemen responsible for the compilation of the material have given themselves over to an examination of the industrial laws of Australia and the general ramifications of industrial relations. One is Mr G. H. Sorrell, a lecturer in industrial relations at the Sydney University. The other is Mr G. W. Ford, a senior lecturer in industrial relations at the University of New South Wales. Mr Ford is co-editor with Mr J. E. Isaacs of 2 books of readings, 'Australian Labour Relations' and 'Australian Labour Economies', with P. W. D. Matthews of 'Australian Trade Unions', and editor of 'Automation: Threat or Promise?'. Honourable senators opposite may concede that both these gentlemen are sufficiently well qualiiied to express opinions. They have drawn together expressions of opinion from responsible professors and persons engaged in the same form of occupation. They refer to an article that appeared in the 'Australian' on 15th July 1969 written by Professor E. L. Sykes. Professor Sykes wrote:

There is no necessary connection between the system of compulsory arbitration and the legality or otherwise of the strike.

Then the authors refer to the Penguin publication "The Worker and the Law' by Professor Wedderburn, in which he wrote:

In no modern industrial community is there evidence that industrial conflict is controlled or even lessened by more severe legal regulation.

The authors went on:

And, too, official devotion in this country to penal powers and to the use of them stems from an authoritarian element in the Australian background. They also serve to reinforce the authoritarian streak. There remain fellow countrymen who would be happy once more to have wages and conditions of employment regulated by the edict of Governor Hunter and backed by the sanctions of flogging and imprisonment with bread and water.

Frankly, I believe that those observations are genuine. I have pointed out before that the Government seems to have simply rejected the advice that was offered by the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in his Fifteenth Annual Report on 13th August 1971. Whilst he did not refer to the sanctions and penal provisions there is no doubt that he implied that the mere tinkering with the Act itself by the legal authorities is not an answer to the problem. The President said at page 10 of the report:

I feel it my duty to report my strong opinion, based on my experience as a Judge of the old Court and as President of this Commission for its first 15 years, that in the long term a reduction in strikes can only be brought about by an improvement in industrial relationships, and that this is far more likely to arise from changed attitudes of the organised employers on the one hand end the organised trade union movement on the the other hand than from mere changes in Acts of Parliament. I can suggest no significant area where amendment is required without bringing myself within the area of party political conflict.

It would appear that there was a serious attempt, from the information I have had at first hand, to find a measure of understanding between employer and employee organisations before this Bill was introduced. Notwithstanding the fact that a measure of agreement was reached, the Government determined to set aside any agreement reached between the 2 major participants in this area and to introduce this Bill. I want now to refer to a publication by Professor H. A. Turner entitled 'Is Britain Really Strike Prone?', produced by the Cambridge University Press in May 1969. Many honourable senators may have read it. It is a review of the incidence, character and costs of industrial conflict. Extensive inquiries have been conducted by a number of commissions, one of which was the Donovan Commission. Extensive inquiries have also been conducted by employer organisations and the trade union movement itself. On page 7 of the publication is a table which sets out international comparisons of statistics relating to stoppages through industrial disputes in mining, manufacturing, construction and transport. Tbe table sets out the average annual figures for the 3-year period from 1964 to 1966. These figures should be treated with a little reservation, although Professor Turner did indicate that he relied substantially on figures obtained from the International Labour Organisation. I understand that the ILO does correct discrepancies which are taken into account in trying to unify and establish a great common denominator in the definition of a strike. Having done that the table was produced showing a comparison between IS nations and the United Kingdom. With the concurrence of the Senate I should like to incorporate the table in Hansard.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie)—I s leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

 

Senator BROWN- An extensive investigation was conducted to ascertain whether it was appropriate to apply some form of legal restrictions to the unions which would have included sanctions and penal provisions. The table was prepared before the investigation was conducted. In the United Kingdom the number of stoppages per 100,000 employees was 16.8 per cent and the number of working days lost per 1,000 employees was 190. In Australia, the number of stoppages for every 1,000 employees was 63.8 per cent and the number of working days lost for every 1,000 employees was 400. In the United States of America, the number of stoppages for every 1,000 employees was 13.2 per cent, and the number of working days lost for every 1,000 employees was 870. In Sweden, which has been referred to on a number of occasions by honourable senators, the number of stoppages for every 1,000 employees was 0.5 per cent and the number of working days lost for every 1,000 employees was 40. What does this all mean? The United States of America had fewer stoppages but they were of longer duration. At page 16 of the report, under the heading 'The Comparative Strike Propensity', Professor Turner said:

Thus, taking the loss of working time per employee as the only comparative index to which much significance can be attached for international purposes, it seems immediately obvious from Table 1 that there is not much intelligible connection between the extent of legislative regulation of industrial relations in different countries and their respective strike-incidences. Nearly every country in Table 1 has a higher degree of legal intervention in industrial relations than does the United Kingdom, yet the strike-incidences of the various countries involved range very widely on either side of the United Kingdom figure. So that the presence of a 'comprehensive legal framework for industrial relations' would certainly not seem to lead automatically to a low national incidence of stoppages from industrial disputes. And the supposed absence of any such a framework for the United Kingdom docs not endow it with a strike-liability in any way unusual.

In the following paragraph - this is important for the record - he said:

A particularly interesting case is perhaps that of Ireland, which had before Independence (and for some while after) an industrial relations structure and a system of labour law very similar to those of the United Kingdom. Since that country became the Free State, however, it has added a number of additional controls on industrial disputes or labour relations which go some way on the lines of certain of those at the present time being canvassed as desirable for Britain. Under present Irish law, for instance, it is by no means clear (the point does not appear to have been tested) that there is the same protection for unofficial strikers against claims arising from breach of employment contracts as in Britain. Trade unions must acquire a 'negotiating license', which amounts to compulsory registration. There is a provision for legal enforcement of collective agreements with mutual consent, and a restriction on the power of unions to use normal pressures to secure a 'closed' or 'union shop'. But Ireland has apparently experienced an increased strike-liability, and now shows the highest reported strike-incidence of all.

Finally, he said:

There is no indication from the average experience of other countries, that a higher degree of legal regulation leads to a reduction in industrial conflict.'

And 'the presence of a comprehensive legal framework for industrial relations' would certainly not seem to lead automatically to a low national incidence of stoppages from industrial disputes.

I urge the Government to consider seriously those authorities which prove conclusively and support what has been said by every member on this side, namely, that experience in Australia proves conclusively that sanctions and penal provisions do not materially affect the incidence of strikes or the level, high or low, of industrial disputes. This is clear when one compares the situation in Australia with that in other nations where there are no such legal trappings. In my view, there is no substance in the Government's claim that its industrial legislation over the years, and particularly this Bill, provide the wherewithal for industrial harmony and improvement of industrial relations to the point of providing a suitable climate for the settlement of disputes. This legislation, if put into effect, will provide for exactly the opposite set of circumstances and conditions.

In the course of speeches by Labor senators, most of whom for obvious reasons have been outspoken in their opposition to the Bill, interjectors have asked what the Labor Party would do in this field. I shall refer only briefly to the proposals for amalgamation of organisations. I agree with my colleagues that it is an affront to the unions for the Government to intrude into the affairs of such democratic organisations. I have had first hand experience of trade unions over a long period. I am amazed at the constant attacks levelled by members of the Government against unions and the so-called union bosses. I take strong exception to that criticism, which shows a deplorable lack of knowledge of what goes on in the trade union movement. In my view, this constant criticism of the movement, particularly the socalled bosses who are supposed to lead the workers by the nose in every strike, is not only an uncalled-for reflection on the movement, but also an insult to the intelligence of Australian workers. Do honourable senators think that the Australian worker is damned fool enough to go out on strike simply because somebody in the Trades Hall in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney or Hobart presses a button or rings on the telephone and says that ne must stop work, and that he automatically does so? This shows how far removed the Government parties are from the realities of the trade union movement.

Having said that, I object strongly to the Government's intention to interfere with the democratic rights of unions to determine the necessity to amalgamate with other kindred organisations. The majority of federal trade unions, if not all of them, are obliged to have their rules registered in the Commonwealth court. Those rules provide for such a measure, that is, amalgamation of their organisation with kindred organisations. The Government is not satisfied with this. It wants to superimpose measures of a kind that will make amalgamations, if not impossible, well nigh impossible.

Honourable senators on the Government side have repeatedly asked what Labor will do in this area. I go on record on behalf of the Australian Labor Party to say precisely what we will do. Labor has given a public undertaking on this. Labor's shadow Minister for Labour, the honourable member for Hindmarsh in another place (Mr Clyde Cameron), who I anticipate with great confidence will be Minister for Labour in the new government - not Labor's Minister for Labour and National Service, as there will be no national service after the end of this year,1972 - has issued a statement of Labor policy on this matter on behalf of our Party, with which we unanimously agree. That statement, issued on 23rd May 1972 reads:

The Australian Labor Party Industrial Committee met today and decided to recommend outright opposition to the amalgamation proposals now before the Senate and to vote against other negative restrictive and repressive clauses of the Bill.

The Australian Labor Party wholeheartedly supports the principle of union amalgamation. A Labor Government undertakes to enact legislation to facilitate amalgamations and to repeal the Government's proposal now before the Parliament.

A strong and vigorous trade union movement is an essential element towards sane industrial relations. World experience is that a strong trade union movement is vital to a strong democracy.

Australia has too many unions. Many are too small to be effective or efficient. The amalgamation of unions into larger and more representative associations is an urgent necessity. Progressive and intelligent people including large sections of the employers have welcomed moves towards amalgamation because they recognise that compact and representative unions are absolutely essential for prompt and reliable negotiations and communication between employers and workers.

Industrially efficient nations with which we compare ourselves have welcomed the trend towards amalgamation. For example, West Germany with a population of 61 million has only 16 unions.

The Industrial Committee endorses the statement of the Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, Mr E. G. Whitlam, of15th May 1972:

Truly patriotic Australians should get behind the efforts of key unions to amalgamate. These unions represent employees who, increasingly, are employed by foreign, international corporations. While they remain weak and divided, they have not got a chance of dealing effectively with their supra-national employers.'

The present federal government has introduced legislation deliberately designed to impede or prevent amalgamation. In doing so it has succumbed to DLP pressure in utter disregard of the interests of Australia, of industrial efficiency, of sane industrial relations and of the interests of the Australian workers. It is a deliberate attempt to keep unions weak, to undermine workers' living standards and to involve unions in drawn out costly legal processes.

A Labor Government will repeal these obnoxious proposals of the McMahon Government.

The Industrial Committee of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party is now preparing a draft bill which a Labor Government will introduce to replace the repealed sections with provisions which will facilitate amalgamations.

The bill will embody the following proposals:

Once a proposal for amalgamation has been adopted by the management committees of unions wishing to amalgamate and the required constitutional and rule alterations have been approved by the Industrial Registrar, the proposal will be put to a secret ballot of members. The ballot will be conducted in accordance with union rules.

If the proposal is approved by a simple majority of these voting, the Registrar will confer with officers of the unions concerned about a suitable date for finalising the amalgamation. On the determined date the union or unions which plan to go out of existence shall be automatically deregistered.

Under Labor amalgamation proposals it will be possible to complete an amalgamation in less than a year, whereas under the McMahon proposal amalgamations will take up to 5 years to complete.

That is the stated intention of the Australian Labor Party in respect of the amalgamation of unions.

Finally, I wish to say this, and it is not a frivolous thought that has just passed through my mind: The more I have read this Bill the more I have come to the conclusion that it ought to be edged in black and the title should be changed. The title should be 'An Obituary to Industrial Relations, Conciliatiation and Reasonable Expectation of Industrial Harmony in the Commonwealth of Australia'.







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