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Wednesday, 14 October 1964

Department of Labour and National Service

Proposed expenditure, £3,423,000.

Senator CAVANAGH(South Australia) 110.151. - Mr. Chairman, I first wish to refer' to Division No. 330, sub-division 4, item 01 - Apprentice Training - Financial assistance. I raise this matter because there is a system in operation whereby the Commonwealth Government gives financial assistance to apprentices from the country who have to live away from home in order to obtain an apprenticeship and to follow it. I knew of a case in Western Australia where a country apprentice was forced to live in the city in order to obtain an apprenticeship. On making inquiries in South Australia I found that this position is more serious than it is in Western Australia. Where there are a number of small country centres with juvenile populations growing up and where the population is declining, so that opportunities of employment are lessening, it is necessary for these young lads to travel to other centres in order to obtain employment and to receive tuition.

With the concentration of the population in the cities, there are few country centres where these boys can receive apprenticeship and it is oft times necessary for a country lad wishing to obtain an apprenticeship - thereby, 1 suggest, benefiting the nation - to leave his home and live in the city. There he is faced with a higher rate of board than if he were to remain in the country centre. He is also faced with living away from home expenses for which he does not get any reimbursement. I suggest that there should be an allowance for country apprentices who find it necessary, in order to obtain proper training, to leave their homes and live in another area. I do not suggest that this should be extended to those who do so by choice. But those who find it necessary to do so should receive some reimbursement from the Commonwealth Government under this scheme which was inaugurated to encourage apprentices. Because of these circumstances we are losing a number of apprentices who would become skilled in an occupation. Lads arc forced to take any job available in country areas although they have the brains and education to accept an apprenticeship and be thoroughly trained in some occupation.

I also want to refer, in connection with the administration of the Department of Labour and National Service, to the assistance afforded to physical and mentally handicapped people in finding employment. In Adelaide there is a rehabilitation centre which seems to have worked out its own method of finding employment for physically and mentally handicapped citizens. There is also an office connected with the. Department of Labour and National Service which has two officers especially for the examination of these people so as to assess their capabilities for employment and, if possible, to find work for them. While it is a service to these people to assess their capabilities, the Department is doing insufficient in the way of finding them employ-i ment. It also seems to be a service that is not known greatly to the employer organisations, or to particular employers associated with organisations, and it is extremely difficult in South Australia to place physically and mentally handicapped people in employment. We also find that when jobs are found for them there is a lack of understanding of their position. There is no officer to look after their welfare in such employment with a result that problems arise. If there were some understanding and some liaison between the physically or mentally handicapped and the employer this might overcome the position and these people would be able to continue their work. On a number of occasions we find that employment is terminated because of some difficulty that arises between the employer and the employee. The employee has been dismissed because no-one from the Department has seen the working conditions and no-one has properly explained to the employer the handicap of the particular person. While the employer knows that there is some handicap he does not have the value of a departmental report as to the capabilities of the employee and, during the time of employment, does not see what difficulties arise and does not discover whether they could be overcome.

I do not know the position in the other States, but I suggest that in South Australia there should be an enlargement of this section of the Department that deals with physically and mentally handicapped people. There should be a welfare officer who could regularly discuss working conditions with employers so that greater opportunities of employment could be found for these people and so that they might keep the positions which they presently occupy.

Under Division No.330 - Administrative - I want to refer to the important duties of the Department of Labour and National Service in obtaining employment for people and in keeping them in peaceful employment where there is no necessity for them to take action such as that which we are seeing at the present time in the dispute at General Motors-Holden's Pty. Ltd. Unemployment has been created through the strike action which the men at that plant have found it necessary to take. I was interested in and impressed by the reply of the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) to a question asked in the Senate. He said it is the policy of the Department to call employers and employees together to see if there is a basis of settlement of a dispute that has occurred. I have not known of a time when there has not been the possibility of settling a dispute if both parties sit around a conference table, under the guidance of a good chairman, ventilate their grievances and seek a just and equitable solution of the problem that has arisen.

From reading the report of " Hansard " in another place, I am not convinced that in this particular dispute, which is possibly the biggest dispute that Australia has had for some years, the Department is lending its good offices for the sole purpose of making an effort to settle the dispute. We shall not settle a dispute by referring to a person as a Communist or as the biggest menace in the trade union movement in a particular State. We should make every effort to keep personalities out of the matter and to see whether we can have discussions with a view to settling the dispute. No good purpose is served by people referring to Communist activities because the biggest industrial organisation involved in this dispute is the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation, which has one of the best records in Australia for the absence of industrial strife. No-one can point the finger of scorn at a Communist in the management of the union in any State of the Commonwealth.

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