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Tuesday, 22 February 1977
Page: 312


Mr GRAHAM (North Sydney) - I have sat in this chamber throughout the entire debate and have listened with a great deal of interest to my friends on both sides of the chamber expressing their views on this legislation which I intend to support. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) has advised the House that after the proroguing of the Parliament and Her Majesty's opening of the Parliament on 8 March, he will introduce later in the year a new Bill which will contain the decisions of the Government in relation to the various matters that have been discussed during this debate.

It has been recognised by the Labor spokesman, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), that this process will take place. Before I begin to refer to some of the matters about which he spoke, I would like to say that the Minister has made it clear that there will be a widespread opportunity for the general public to have its views considered before the Government reaches its final conclusion. I should have thought that there was ample evidence in the speeches that have been made in this House this afternoon and this evening that this has been true over quite a long period of time. I can find nothing, for example, in the Swanson report or in the last annual report of the Commission which leads me to believe that the people in the commercial world or the trade union world- I know that they are in some way connected with commerce and I indicate to the House that I have heard of a company called ACTU-Solo Pty Ltd and I am aware of their growing interest in commercial matters- have, in fact, been treated in an arrogant, domineering manner, in any manner that would justify the appalling comment made in an earlier speech that an image would emerge in government administration that would be reminiscent of the late Chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler. I really think that was an appalling reference. The Government seeks, and I have no doubt that it is basically accepted by members of this Parliament irrespective of what they may say, to act in the best interests of the majority of the people of Australia.

The description of this legislation as 'ami trade unionism' is, in my judgment, quite wrong. It remains true, and I believe it would be accepted by the responsible members of the Opposition, that trade unions are expected by the people of Australia to act in the national interest. However, Australians are pragmatic and I think they have a great deal more native wit and ingenuity than many of us give them credit for. I think there is evidence of that, and with great respect to the Minister and some of my distinguished colleagues on the other side of the House, it ought to be seen that the legal profession should be well aware that that is the case. However, the Government recognises- I think most Australians do- that the trade unions are subject to that syndrome which has become fairly well known over recent years and which is known in the colloquial expression: 'Bless you, Jack. I'm allright'. At this time in this country with approximately 95 per cent of people gainfully employed, concerned and worried about inflation, approximately 5 per cent of the workforce are unemployed.

The aim of this legislation is to contribute towards a set of circumstances that will allow the national economy to overcome the sickness of inflation, to become more competitive, to become more efficient and to do more for Australians who are prepared to do a reasonable day's work and achieve, in their own way, an advancement in their circumstances. These troubles, in my judgment, are much more profound today than they were when my old friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), introduced his first Budget as Treasurer of the Commonwealth in 1973. 1 recall the feeling I had in my heart. I shall remind the honourable member of the phrase that he used in his speech. He said that the time had arrived when we should begin transferring assets from the private to the public sector.


Mr Crean - Hear, hear!


Mr GRAHAM -My friend says: 'Hear, hear! ' On a number of occasions I have indicated that this process of appropriation has contributed enormously to the sickness that we see in the national economy today and to the fact that 5 per cent of the work force, the bulk of whom honourable members opposite believe support them, are out of work because profit cannot provide jobs for them. I think honourable members opposite carry a great deal of responsibility in these matters.

I turn now to some of the comments that were made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide who talked about the Government's problems within the economy. He talked about competition as being fundamental, in the conceptual sense, to the Act. He said that prices and profits cannot be ignored by companies. I say to him that prices and profits cannot be ignored by governments. If the Labor Party has learnt one lesson in recent years, surely it is that the vast majority of jobs in the community are provided from successful private enterprise and usefully employed people are the greatest national asset we can have.

The honourable member for Port Adelaide talked also about criticisms of trade unions and the Labor Party. He said that the trade unions and the Labor Party were separate in a very real sense. My friend the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) later in his speech made reference to this matter and pointed out that we have all been interested in the activities of the President of the Australian Labor Party in his 2 roles, one as President of that Party and the other as the recognised and accepted trade union leader in Australia. I put it to the honourable member for Port Adelaide that he must have absolute contempt for the Australian people if he really believes that the great majority of them accept the view that when the President of his Party takes off his Labor Party cap and puts on his Australian Council of Trade Unions President's cap he becomes a different man. I say to the honourable member that that is an absurdity. I am certain that a great number of Australians who voted in December 1975 with great clarity to expel him and his colleagues from the Treasury bench did so because they wanted a change of government so that they could at least have government that they could understand, appreciate and respect. They do not have to like the Government. Governments do not have to be popular. Ministers of State do not need to be popular people. What they do need is respect. Honourable members opposite will not get back on to the benches on this side of the Parliament until they earn the respect of the Australian people.

The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) made an interesting speech. He talked about the Government's denial of adequate support for the Trade Practices Commission in terms of finance and staff. I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs whether he would be kind enough in due course to make a specific reply to the honourable member for Grayndler, because I can find no evidence of similar complaints in these reports that I have studied. I noted his comment that he thought that it was improper or wrong for the Commission to indicate that it anticipated the support of the Parliament. I do not believe that a commission of this description has displayed evidence that that has been part of its thinking.

The honourable member for Grayndler also said that section 49 would be repealed without much support for such action being given by small business. All I can say is that I can find no evidence in the Swanson Committee report to support that proposition. I therefore say that if it is true that the repealing of section 49 will lead to small business associations complaining to the Government, no doubt the Minister will receive those complaints within the next few weeks.

The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) talked at great length about the trade unions being democratic. He talked about the right of people to band together to protect their interests, and he said that is how trade unions operated. But, he said, they were not corporations. I am prepared to accept in the terms of the law that trade unions are not corporations, but what I am not prepared to accept, and what I do not believe the majority of the people of Australia are prepared to accept, is that trade unions are bodies which, at the expense of the national interest, may further their own selfinterests. In fact, there are in the industrial world many disputes known as demarcation disputes, because, as I understand it, the 'Bless you Jack; I am all right' syndrome begins to operate and we find large trade unions endeavouring to deal with smaller trade unions, to take them over and to deny them their right to be exactly what the honourable member for Burke suggested they ought to be. So this internecine strife that we have seen has characterised the last several years, and the industrial record during the 3 years that the Labor Government was in power was worse than it had been for a very long time.

In my judgment, this country is the most magnanimous in industrial issues. I know of no other people who have a greater magnanimity towards industrial issues than have Australians. I remind the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) that that has been true for 50 years, because in 1927, which is 50 years ago, he may recall that a distinguished Prime Minister lost his seat because a couple of trade union fellows had been put in gaol. One of them was a member of this House when I first entered it in 1 950. He had been here for a very long time and he had been a Minister of State in the 18th Parliament under the then Prime Minister, the Rt Hon J. B. Chifley. In that respect, therefore, I feel that the comments made by the honourable member for Gellibrand were designed more for the consumption of some of his colleagues in the trade union world than they were a proper expression of his own judgment.

The problem that emerged, as the honourable member for Gellibrand saw it, was as described in his words, the creation of 'the most vicious legislation'. He talked about the enormous fines.

He talked about section 45D as though the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, for example, did not exist, as though there were no conciliation commissioners, as though people would automatically be found to be guilty by the Commission. I find recommendations emerging in the reports and in the Swanson Committee's report on its examination of the Act- these are to be found in paragraphs 1 1.34 and 1 1.35, which I am sure the Minister and his colleagues will be considering- which seem to me to suggest that the commissioners be made available for discussions with people so that it will be clearly understood what actions are being taken and how they contravene the legislation.

If this is the attitude of the Trade Practices Commission, it seems to me that the more rational line of conduct for those who would speak for the trade union membership would be for them to take the view that no decision should be made on the hindering or prevention of the supply of goods or services by an employer or corporation until the picture is clear in the minds of all those people who are part and parcel at least of the trade unions. I remind honourable members that the postal workers made it clear to their union leadership that they were not prepared to go along with the denial of the right of the Sun newspaper company of the Fairfax Press to receive its mail. I would have thought that that was an expression of judgment which meant that within the trade union movement there were sufficient people with enough good sense to realise that there was a limit to the type of conduct in which these people could indulge.

I trust that when the Minister answers these questions that have been raised he will deal in particular, if he can, with some of those matters that were referred to by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi), who has been in the Parliament now for some years and has an awkward habit of referring to matters as though they were peculiar to South Australia and quite unknown elsewhere. He usually manages to use expressions such as 'consumers being taken to the cleaners'. I do not find that a particularly attractive expression. I suppose if I had any shares in a cleaning company I would be most embarrassed to admit it. I do not believe that consumers are taken to the cleaners. I believe that in most of the Australian cities- from what I last saw of Adelaide a few weeks ago it is the case there also- there are plenty of opportunities for people to shop around and for them to go to a variety of companies where they can compare prices before they make their decisions to purchase.

The fact remains- this is the most important part and the reality of this legislation- that we have to stimulate the Australian economy. We have to get people back into employment. As I said earlier, the social effects of long-term unemployment, particularly dreadful as they are, will be remembered by those whose memories go back to the years From 1932 to 1939. 1 suppose the only thing I can say in conclusion is that I gain from the honourable member for Hawker the impression that there is only one cake manufacturer in Adelaide. I am quite sure that the Austrian Queen of King Louis XVI could not have said: 'If they can't get bread give them cake'.







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