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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 279


Senator MASON(3.32) —The Australian Democrats support Senator Siddons in the attitude that he has taken towards this policy discussion paper on industrial democracy and employee participation. We believe, and have always believed, that a useful system of industrial democracy and employee participation is indeed a long way towards a panacea for Australia's industrial problems and that our problems are probably due basically to the perception by so many people in this country that money is automatically there, that a guaranteed amount of money is handed out every week or every fortnight, regardless of how much work is done, regardless of how productive a worker is and regardless of the fact that a worker may do one-tenth of the work that has been done by the person next to him. Anybody who thinks that any society can continue reasonably and prosperously on this sort of basis is having himself on. There is no doubt about that at all. The proof of that is that the other successful industrial nations, unlike the unsuccessful ones-the absurdly unsuccessful, the brilliantly unsuccessful ones-such as Australia, have systems of industrial democracy and employee participation, for the perfectly simple reason that they have perceived that in this world of the 1980s and the 1990s, not the world of the 1850s, the 1880s and the 1890s, there is not the old sense of conflict and struggle between worker and boss. In this country worker and boss go to the same bowling greens, golf clubs and things like that; there is a need for co-operation between them. That co-operation can come by perceiving that people consult their own self-interest. Even the best of us do that; so do people who work.

Those who work hard ought to be paid more; those who are not prepared to work hard ought to be paid less. It is as simple as that. That ought to be built into a self-regulating system. It can be done by a sensible system of industrial democracy in which work groups are self-disciplinary and will say to a bludger-a lazy man or woman in its midst-`Either work or get out because you are affecting what we are going to get'. I regard that as absolutely fair and reasonable and the only kind of industrial situation which can even begin to succeed with the difficult economic problems that we face now. We are not in the dear old casual days of the 1950s and 1960s when anything went, when we could get money for virtually nothing because that money was not coming from the productive effort of this country-of course it was not, ever-it was coming from the bonanzas from our primary produce and the sale of our minerals including coal.

Let us face the truth at last. For heaven's sake, let us face the truth that it is not that kind of world any more, that we have to have a sensible system of industrial democracy and employee participation. Somehow we have to address the industrial relations problem and see that we can make it work. It is not working now. The fact that this country is ranked alongside Mexico with the third highest rate of debt in the world ought to give us cause for concern; it ought to get us out of the polemic and tired old political positions of the past. I have observed casually some enterprises in this country which use industrial democracy, including Senator Siddons's companies. They work; they are effective; they make money; they do not have industrial trouble. I suggest that the Government, in association with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, for heaven's sake, put policy discussion papers such as this aside; they are not necessary. Already it has been established throughout the world how these things can be done. All we need is the humility and good sense to adopt in our country some of the principles which have been proved to work in other parts of the world.