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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 278

Senator LEWIS(3.30) —This policy discussion paper on industrial democracy and employee participation is somewhat timely and welcome, although on some aspects of it I agree with Senator Siddons. The Opposition is concerned that this should not be used as a vehicle for extending union power. It would strenuously oppose any government proposal to extend union power which is already too great. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that this Government has been putting a massive amount of work into this area. When I looked at the Australian Government Publishing Service bookshop in Melbourne the other day I was surprised to see a whole window set out with reports on industrial democracy and employee participation. So, clearly, a lot of bureaucratic work is going on in the area.

I, and I am sure Senator Button also, would urge managers around Australia to adopt some of the techniques being posed by these discussion papers. I certainly believe that any manager who is managing a business properly would have a large number of these techniques incorporated in his management techniques. One of the great pities is that managers in this country seem to have adopted the Army technique, that the colonel in charge says what the Army does instead of having a discussion with his troops about how the Army might do it better. That is what industrial democracy and employee participation are all about. It should not be about the unions gaining greater control over the management of an organisation. On the other hand, I have to say that industrial democracy and employee participation is not a panacea for the shortcomings in our industrial relations system. We in the Opposition believe that nothing short of a major overhaul of our outmoded system will achieve the flexibility required.

I might add that the paper acknowledges certain benefits in the Opposition's industrial relations policy. We intend to bring greater flexibility into the system by taking decisions on wages and conditions back to the work place or enterprise level where they should be the subject of discussion and agreement between employees and their employers. We have proposed incentives for employee share participation and profit sharing schemes as a means of giving employees a greater stake in the success of their firms. However, we would not support restrictive legislation, as envisaged in option 1 in the paper, and we would not support the creation of further government bodies to talk about issues that are more properly dealt with at the work place level.