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Thursday, 1 April 2004
Page: 27957

Mr TUCKEY (11:32 AM) —When I spoke on this issue previously I made considerable reference to the fact that modern technology and modern machinery are the alternatives to employment. I spoke about how that varies and is affected by low interest rate regimes and a variety of difficulties that employers must consider. It was of interest to me that the previous speaker on the Workplace Relations Amendment (Award Simplification) Bill 2002, the member for Corio, said during his presentation that part of Labor's policy was to strengthen the role of the Industrial Relations Commission. In Labor's mind, considering the job opportunities that flow to union members from that activity, that may of course be seen as a good thing. It is an interesting aspect that I communicated to the commission on one occasion. They have immense powers, most of which can be imposed on employers relative to the people they currently employ. They have no power to tell an employer to create a new job. They certainly have no power to prevent an employer from purchasing machinery or taking decisions to export their business overseas or buying technology that would allow the employment of people in other parts of the world and would then deliver services or goods back to Australia.

It is quite interesting, consequently, that I picked up today's Australian to discover under the headline `To India for the Wall St news' this opening remark:

Could the “Bangalore bureau” become the cheap new extension of newsrooms in Australia and other English-speaking countries?

It points out that Reuters have now employed six Indian journalists:

... under a scheme which will begin work in Bangalore this month, using email and internet connections to cover financial information released by 3000 medium-sized companies in New York.

In other words, the Wall Street Journal is now employing people in India to do work previously undertaken, presumably, in New York or other parts of the US. It is a very interesting matter to contemplate, because it strikes me that were part of the Australian media to operate out of India it just might be that those people, not having the sort of bias associated with their own vote back here in Australia, would analyse the various aspects of different debates and report accordingly.

Members of the media approached me this morning with the suggestion that somehow or other the Prime Minister had inveigled certain public officials in debate before the House. I pointed out of course that they were dragged into this debate by the Leader of the Opposition after his discussion on the Carlton show. They seemed to have missed that point completely. I point out that even a journalist who thinks it is a good idea to put roadblocks in the way has commented on this. I note the comments made by Barry Fitzpatrick of the National Union of Journalists:

... any category of journalism that can be done on a phone and a computer ... could be outsourced to anywhere in the world ...

The point that I make is that, when we have debates in this place relevant to putting roadblocks in the way of employment within Australia, we should look at the options available consequently in other parts of the world.

In the final five minutes of my speech, I want to provide some examples of how browned off individual workers have always been by the intervention of trade unionists in their own arrangements with employers. Trade unionists live off the members fees of the workers in their award categories. When I went to Carnarvon in 1958 to run a hotel, I might add that women were paid exactly the same wages in Western Australia at that period of time—and, in fact, for some time after that—as men for working behind the bar. So there was no sex discrimination in the hotel industry even back then as far as workers in that category were concerned.

When we arrived in Carnarvon, the award was for a 42-hour week, six days a week. As still applies today, you had rotating shifts so that the days off applicable occurred on different days. It was interesting that that town was 600 miles from Perth, with the sealed roads ceasing 300 miles north of Perth, and it was not very attractive for union officials to come up there seeking membership. In fact, they never bothered. On the other hand, our own association, the Australian Hotels Association, kept sending us changes to the award. Those changes got more and more complex and my wife, who had to do the payroll, found more and more of her time being taken up by working out someone's wage each week, because every week it was different.

That generated all sorts of dissatisfaction in the work force. They would say, `You've underpaid me, Mrs Tuckey,' and she would say, `No, that's right.' They would say, `But I got more money last week,' and she would say, `Yes, you worked Saturday last week or you worked the night shift last week and they are now paid at differential rates, notwithstanding that they're within your 42 hours.' They would never be convinced, so in frustration I called them all together one Sunday morning, having added up every cent of entitlement that they had: their holiday pay, their sick leave—everything. I divided it by the number of hours they worked and arrived at a flat hourly rate. I explained all this to them and asked, `How would you like to work on that flat hourly rate?' It was quite illegal, of course, to make that sort of offer to your workers. They said, `That much! Can I have that much?' I said, `Remember, you get no holiday pay later and, when you leave, you do not get anything other than your pay for that week.' They said: `Yes, but we're going to get this much money in our hand. That will do us.'

Then we came to the issue of rostering. They asked whether they had to work 42 hours and I told them that they could work 10, or they could work 60. They asked when they had to work and whether I was going to write the roster. I told them to write the roster, so away they went and they came back. And do you know what the interesting point was? All the married women with children, remembering that they were now on a flat rate of pay, took the weekend work and the night work, for pretty obvious reasons—their spouse was home to look after the kids and they wanted the daytime to do a bit of shopping. The single girls were all happy to take the day shift so they could go out on the town at night-time. I had an absolutely happy work force. And I had phone calls from the bar workers in other hotels asking: `When can I work for you? You pay more money.' I said, `No, I don't; I just pay it every week.' Of course, the bitumen crept up to Carnarvon and the rent seekers turned up to see if they could get a couple of members and wanted to look at our books. I had to cease that arrangement. We went back to all the complexity and all the dissatisfaction.

I mentioned to the House the other day that I owned a trucking business. If I was interviewing a new truck driver and he asked how much I paid and I said that I paid the award—that wonderful invention of the trade union movement—he would say: `Thanks, Mr Tuckey, but I won't be working for you. I want trip money. I want a flat payment to drive your truck down to Perth and back again and, what's more, you'll win me if you can give me a bit of the share of any backloading I can pick up on your behalf.' These guys did not need the help of someone who had just come out of university and done a course in industrial relations. They are pretty smart. They knew what they wanted: to turn their truck around and get that trip money as quickly as possible. They could see that there was a bit of a benefit.

The trade union movement is an aberration—the people there are Neanderthal. Workers do not want to pay $500 to them for a service they do not even want. Of course, they are frequently forced into it. They would rather have the $500 for their kids' books so they could read to them at night, as the Leader of the Opposition suggests. They do not think they need the union movement, and under the Howard government they have had an ever-increasing disposable income every year we have been in government whilst their own trade union movement has boasted of driving their buying power or their real wages down. This bill is about removing the roadblocks. (Time expired)