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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 2677


Mr FitzPATRICK - Is the .Minister for Labour aware of the considerable difficulties which arise in respect of the establishment of harmonious industrial relations in some industries because non-English speaking migrants have no easy way of ascertaining their rights and obligations under awards and laws made pursuant to the Australian and State industrial laws? Is he aware of disputes which have occurred as a result of the consequent breakdown of communications? Did the previous Government take any steps to overcome these difficulties?


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I do not know whether I favour the publication of awards and other information in various languages because it could have the tendency to create a multi-lingual community which, of course, is not what the Minister for Immigration and I wish to see. At the same time I am impressed by the reply given yesterday by the Minister for Immigration to a question asked of him by my colleague the honourable member for Phillip in which he asked the Minister to consider issuing this information in various languages. There is a strong case for doing so in certain circumstances. For example, safety regulations ought to be published in various languages because one of the biggest disputes of all in Newcastle arose from the fact that the tradesman was not properly protected at his back by the tradesman's helper who was a migrant and did not understand the instructions that were issued to him for the observance of safety regulations. That led to a big dispute.

I want to take this opportunity to say that I believe there is a great merit in the system that operates in Scandinavian countries. I commend to the Minister for Immigration, to whom I have already spoken about this matter, the practice adopted in those countries which requires that each employer who enlists or recruits migrant labour shall be obligated to provide 300 hours in working time to study the Swedish, Norwegian or Finnish language or whatever the language happens to be in the particular country. This has the effect of taking away any advantage in the matter of wage payments in employing migrant labour because when an employer provides its employees 300 hours of working time to learn the language of the country the cost involved does take away the advantage which otherwise applies.

I want to say just one thing more about this, and I hope that it is something that will be read by those who sit on the arbitration bench, by the unions and by the employers. I believe that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and members of the various State tribunals have a much greater influence upon industrial relations than they imagine. It would be a good thing if they would give greater attention to the reasons for their judgments when they are issuing them. I remember very well when I was the secretary of a union that we had a very difficult dispute at Iron Knob. We had a team of men there who were angry; they were militant. They were not prepared to accept the decision of the court until I read to them the excellent and logical judgment by Sir Edward Morgan, as he later became when he was appointed to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, because the judgment was so packed with logic, such compelling logic that when I read it to the men I did not have to make a speech to give them the reasons why they should go back to work and accept the decision. The judge's own reasons for judgment contained the logic of the case that anybody would want to put to persuade men to return to work.

In the case of the Ford dispute, Mr Justice Moore was absolutely correct in issuing instructions that his reasons for judgment be issued in various migrant languages because there was some evidence that until then the migrant workers in the Ford factory were not really understanding what the dispute was all about, nor were they understanding fully the negotiations .and the compromise proposals that had been worked out by the unions and the employers. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that had the suggestion of the Minister for Immigration been adhered to before the strike reached the crisis stage that dispute may never in fact have occurred at all. I see great merit in the suggestion he put forward. I hope that he will consider what I have said about the practice in Scandinavian countries.







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