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Thursday, 11 April 1957

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Discussions have been going on, I understand, for some considerable period between the representatives of the pilots and of the management of Qantas. The differences had been narrowed very considerably, and it was hoped that a settlement was in sight. If the reported news of a likely strike of Qantas pilots is correct, it is not only a very unhappy development but also a deplorable one. because it cannot fail to damage Australia's standing in international commercial aviation. I think I can say with justification that Australia's commercial aviation record, both internally and internationally, is unsurpassed by that of any other country of the world. We have a splendid body of capable men in the service. They have served the nation well and have established an excellent record for safety and efficient operation. Having said that, and without wanting to canvass the merits or the details of the matters in dispute, I want to say that one proposition has been put forward on which something should be said quite emphatically. I refer to the proposition that justice will not be done to the Australian pilots while they are not in the same position as the pilots of international airlines operated by other countries. Honorable members have only to reflect for a moment to see where that proposition would take us if it were applied to Australian industry generally. Would it be argued seriously, for example, that Australian seamen, because they serve abroad, should be given the same rates of pay and the same working conditions as the seamen of other countries who serve abroad? Would it be argued seriously that Australian coal-miners should receive the same rates of pay as coalminers in some European countries or in other parts of the world? I do not think it would be argued seriously that politicians in Australia should be paid as much as politicians in the United States of America or Canada, although the rates of pay are considerably higher in those countries than in Australia. The proposition is absurd on the face of it. Wages in Australia must be related to the Australian scene and to Australian conditions. Tribunals have been established to determine just rates of pay and working conditions and to do justice to the different sections of the Australian industrial community. So I say that that proposition cannot be accepted, but, having said that, I would most certainly urge - speaking not only on behalf of this Government, but also on behalf of the Australian people, who have an interest in the standing of our international air services - that the men reflect on where their course of action is taking them and that they recognize that impartial arbitration tribunals are available to determine the merits of their case. Arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes is resorted to almost without exception by Australian industry, other than on some occasions by those sections which are Communist controlled. I urge the pilots to accept the general practice of Australian industry of submitting disputes to the appropriate arbitration tribunals.

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