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Friday, 25 May 1973
Page: 2714

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr SINCLAIR - This is another step, undertaken in a sly and underhand way, to intrude into the life and livelihood of each of the small businessmen around Australia. This overwhelming inspection capability is likely to prejudice very seriously their future competitiveness. There is no doubt that in the normal context of a statement of this character all members on this side of the House would support the rationale behind the endeavour to implement the procedures necessary for the ratification of International Labour Organisation Convention No. 81 of 1947 which the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has given as the reason for the presentation of this first report of the Arbitration Inspectorate.

But the facade of the report should not be regarded as the only motivation for the whole purport of this further intrusion by this Labor Government into the livelihoods of so many Australians. All of us are aware that by far the biggest percentage of Australian enterprises employ fewer than 50 people each. Regrettably, many of these enterprises are in circumstances where perhaps the standards all of us desire them to maintain are not always maintained. It is necessary that, to the maximum degree, they be brought up to date. But it is also necessary that there be no undue intrusion into the privacy of these businessmen or the basis on which they carry out their operations. Indeed, it is rather ludicrous that only last year the Australian Labor Party, then in Opposition, moved a series of amendments pertinent to inspection procedures regarding packing houses in particular. Those packing houses were ones in which fruit packing was carried out in conjunction with various types of processing, particularly the. handling of fresh fruit for export, and also ones handling dried fruits and others in the field of primary industry generally. In that area the Labor Party was suggesting that there would be an undue intrusion into the normal lives and livelihoods of growers and people operating those packing houses. Yet here we see a significant increase in the number of persons who will be responsible for the field of arbitration inspection. One can only hope that there will not be an excessive intrusion into what must be seen as the normal business responsibilities of employers.

It is obviously essential that there be a compliance with the reasonable provisions of awards and with those forms of employment restraints which are set down by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, by legislation at the State and Federal levels or otherwise. It is of interest to note in the annual report of the Arbitration Inspectorate at page 9 that inspectors recommended proceedings against 25 employers; 13 were approved; 5 were not approved; and one was withdrawn. In effect, proceedings were instituted and concluded in only 6 cases, and in only one of those cases was a penalty lodged. So, one would hope that, with this significant increase in the number of inspectors in this arbitration inspectorate, they will act responsibly, in accordance with the traditions that have always been part and parcel of the Commonwealth civil service, and they will not prosecute without due and proper reason.

It is of some concern to me and to others on this side of the House that the Minister referred in his statement to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and to amendments which are envisaged in that context. Any increase in the onus placed on employers must be matched by an increase in the undertaking of responsibility by employees. The only way in which this country can continue to prosper industrially is by there being an effective partnership between employers and employees. If this Government pursues its vendetta against employers it will be very much to the detriment of all of us. I do not believe that the significant increase in the number of inspectors, which the Minister's statement presents to us, will necessarily be for the advancement of that partnership to which I have referred.

Unfortunately my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), was unable to be in the House this afternoon to comment on this statement. He has asked that I, on his behalf, express his reservations about the direction in which the Minister is leading us. He agrees, as I do, with the tabling of the report and the ostensible reason for its presentation. One hopes that in this pursuit of the employer the Labor Government will not kill the chook that is providing employment for so many people in the Australian community and will not destroy the vitality which has been a significant part of Australian life. For that reason, whilst the Opposition takes note of the tabling of the report, it has reservations about the increase in the Inspectorate and very sincere and profound reservations about the degree to which it will represent a further obstruction of those Australians who work in the private sector.

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