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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1296


Senator COOK —My question is directed to Senator Walsh, wearing his hat as Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. It relates to the need, manifested in this chamber today, for improved research into industrial relations issues in Australia and improved teaching of industrial relations. Is the Minister aware that appendix IV of the report of the Hancock Committee of Review into Australian Industrial Relations Law and Systems argued for improved provision of industrial relations courses in `advanced programs of management education', and for continued Commonwealth Government support for independent university-based research into industrial relations issues-research such as that carried out by the Industrial Relations Research Centre of the University of New South Wales? Is the objective of improved university level teaching and research in industrial relations furthered by actions such as that of Mr Charles Copeman, who last week sent a letter to a senior lecturer in industrial relations at the University of New South Wales?


Senator WALSH —I will not claim to be completely familiar with the substance of appendix IV of the Hancock report, but I believe it does contain the recommendations or opinions which Senator Cook has attributed to it. I am aware, via a Press report published in the Sydney Morning Herald two days ago, that Mr Copeman has written a letter to Mr Dabscheck, who is a senior lecturer in industrial relations at the University of New South Wales, which could only be regarded as an intimidatory letter, arising from a lecture which Mr Dabscheck gave to first year students in which he said, among other things, that the confrontationist tactics adopted by Peko-Wallsend Ltd at Robe River had failed and that Peko-Wallsend had lost that particular dispute. I think it is difficult to reconcile any other conclusion with the empirical facts. Even if that were not so, I find it a little alarming that Mr Copeman would attempt to intimidate a university lecturer in that way, particularly a university lecturer such as Mr Dabscheck, who, in the lecture in question, explicitly told his students that they should question everything, including what Mr Dabscheck was telling them at the time.

Those who really believe that the spirit of inquiry, intellectual freedom, excellence, and all of the things that are supposed to be associated with universities, are the standard ethos of university teaching, research and discussion would believe that everything should be questioned and nothing should be taken as infallible. Mr Dabscheck explicitly said that. I understand that he also has the reputation in a more general sense of being somewhat of an iconoclast-a sort of Dick Klugman of the University of New South Wales. I do not know whether I should say that I find it surprising, but certainly I find it alarming, that Mr Copeman should have reacted as violently as he did. The report of the Hancock inquiry states that uiversity researchers in industrial relations should be able `to pursue their research without ``fear or favour'' '. Those who want to look that up or put it into context will find it at page 48 of volume 3 of the report. The general view put forward in the Hancock report is that industry and the country would be better off if both management and unions were better informed, more fully aware of each other's views, and sought to reach agreement, or at least reconcile those views, in the context of negotiations rather than industrial confrontation and standoff. There is, of course, an alternative view to that view-that is, that knowledge and comprehension should be subsumed by ignorance and bigotry. That appears to be the view which is held by Mr Copeman and, much more seriously, by the Federal Opposition, which gleefully anticipates five years of industrial warfare and which stated in a paper prepared towards the end of last year: `Prepare for a general strike'. That is not this Government's preferred outcome in industrial relations in Australia nor, I would have thought, that of any sensible or responsible person.