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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2708


Senator SIDDONS(8.33) —I can only say that I am very disappointed by the Opposition's attitude to the amendments. I did not find Senator Chaney's comments convincing. The facts are that the public is beginning to believe that the Government and the Opposition are paying lip-service to the principles of employee participation, but are not prepared to act on them. I can well imagine that the Government is not too keen to have too much employee share ownership. I can well imagine that many business leaders are not too anxious to have employee share ownership. We are trying to strike a middle course between unbridled socialism and unbridled capitalism-an alternative to either of those extremes. Lip-service has been paid to these principles. Ever since 1982 I have heard that there is agreement that there should be more employee participation, that we should respect what individuals have to say about their work situation, that they should have a slice of the action and be rewarded for their efforts in industry. We hear it time and again, but there has been no action. An industrial democracy Bill was passed by the Senate in 1982 with the support of the present Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, who was then shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and Mr Cliff Dolan, in particular. I asked the Prime Minister, when he formed the Government, whether he would support the Bill that he had supported when he was in opposition. He told me: `Yes, it will be one of the first Bills off the rank'. That was in 1983. Three years later that Bill is still not off the rank. We do not even have the white, green or whatever colour paper it is that will eventually come out.

I can assure honourable senators that people who have a more enlightened attitude to our industries and have respect for modern approaches to management of enterprises are becoming very disillusioned. This was an opportunity for us to force some immediate action. It costs nothing. Senator Chaney said: `We don't like the idea of compulsion'. He answered his own question-there is no compulsion. If companies do not want to initiate employee share ownership schemes, they do not have to accept the bounty. The whole thing is wide open. It is simply stating that these two things should be tied together. We should spread the benefits of government handouts to industry as widely as we possibly can. I have heard no argument as to why the amendments should not be supported. I think, if the truth were to be known, the real reason that it is not supported is that neither the Opposition nor the Government is prepared to say: `We will support any initiative, even if it doesn't come from us'.