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Thursday, 13 May 1965

Senator MORRIS (Queensland) - It is not my intention tonight to deal with this amending Bill clause by clause. Nor do I intend to traverse and examine many of the decisions that have been made by judges and members of our industrial courts and commissioners. I intend merely to look at the Bill as a simple man and to express what I believe is the simple approach to the amendments that we are considering tonight.

I have always tried to do everything in my power to bring harmony into the industrial life of Australia or that section of Australia with which I am most concerned and most associated. Some honorable senators opposite may have a little difficulty accepting that statement. Having held the position of Minister of Labour and Industry in Queensland, I wouldlike to tell honorable senators that one of the very first things I did on assuming office was to invite representatives from all the trade unions in Queensland to come and meet me and also meet the representatives of the employers' bodies in Queensland. That was for the sole purpose of trying to establish a basis of understanding and a basis of greater friendship between the two great sections of industry in order that, perhaps, some contribution could be made towards reducing industrial strife which to me always has been a great tragedy.

At the first meeting of this group - I repeat it was a representative group of employers and employees - I felt that we were going to make a great deal of progress. There seemed to be in evidence a spirit of co-operation and of readiness to meet the other side half way. But at the second meeting it became quite obvious that the harmony for which I had hoped was in fact missing. In the course of time certain of the union representatives advised me that they were not permitted by their organisations to continue attending the meetings. I thought that was a very narrow minded view to take. I believe that people should get around a table and discuss their problems as reasonable men. Representatives whether of employees or of employers are in their various spheres of life reasonable men. I cannot understand why they cease to be reasonable men when they sit around atable to discuss problems. But perhaps, there is a reason. On one occasion a union representative told me his views on certain industrial matters, but he said that he could not express them publicly. He said: " Unless I am a militant, at least to some extent, in the union I shall lose popularity. I will not continue to remain in office." I am not putting this forward in a critical way. I am mentioning it as one of the facts of life. T think it is quite important. The organisation for which I had great hopes, representing both employers and employees, gradually withered away because of the failure of some of the representatives to attend.

I hate industrial strife, and I hate it for many reasons. I think it is a very bad thing for the individual employee. We all know that it is a very bad thing for his wife and family. It is also a very bad thing for the nation, especially at certain periods. It is bad for the employer and it is bad for the general public. Industrial strife hits almost everybody in the community at some time or other. Because I realise these facts., I repeat that I hate industrial strife. But I go further. I hate injustice, too. I think that anybody is entitled to fight if he believes he is suffering a great injustice.

Senator Cavanagh - That was not so until this legislation was introduced.

Senator MORRIS - I am expressing my opinion. The honorable senator may express his opinion later. I have been always very well disposed towards trying to establish better and better industrial machinery. I have tried to think of ways in which to improve industrial machinery. There is in Australia today conciliation and arbitration machinery which, though of course not perfect, has been built up progressively over a period of 60 years. It has been built up by representatives of every major political party. Each party has added its contribution to making the legislation better. 1 believe that this has been done genuinely and earnestly. When I say that I believe it is good machinery, I mean it. I believe that it is some of the best industrial conciliation and arbitration machinery in the world today. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) said something similar when he was speaking. I think he said, without pretending to quote him precisely: " We have a wonderful system of conciliation and arbitration." I think he is right, but I repeat that it is not a perfect system. Every year we will seek ways and means of making it a little better. That is our duty.

While all of us probably agree with that, I am afraid we often cease to agree when we look at the means of improving the legislation. If we could remove from the industrial sphere the extremists on both sides of industry, I think we would find that the present machinery is very good. Up to this point there probably is not much disagreement between us, but I am afraid that we shall start to disagree drastically from here on. The members of the Labour Party feel that there should be no penalties attached to an infringement or a breach of our industrial laws. I cannot go along with that view because I have always believed that democracy is, of necessity, governed by the rule of law. If we are to have laws it is inevitable that we must have penalties for infringement of those laws. There is not a member of this Senate who does not agree with that proposition in a broad way. So why in the name of heaven do our opponents in this chamber agree with this as a general proposition, and almost as a complete proposition, but exclude the thought of penalties insofar as industrial law is concerned?

Senator McKenna - I indicated some 35 penalties to which we were not objecting.

Senator MORRIS - Perhaps I should have been a little more precise when I said this.

Senator O'Byrne - The honorable senator was imprecise before.

Senator MORRIS - As a layman I plead guilty to the charge. First of all, we need to recognise that there must be laws and penalties for the infringement of those laws. If we are on common ground in that respect and, apparently to a degree we are, we must look at the next step. The next step is that there must be someone who administers the law. I do know that governments, irrespective of their political colour, have been unanimous - in some places anyway - on the choice of those who are placed in charge of administering these laws.

I again use Queensland as an illustration, and say that those who were members of Queensland's former Industrial Court and arc now Commissioners of the State's Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Commission were appointed by a Labour Government. Every one of them was retained by the Liberal-Country Party Government w:len it took office. At least some Oi them - I am not sure about all of them - have hae their terms extended during the period of office of the Liberal-Country Party Government. If other Commissioners have not. it is because their terms have not expired. The only change that has been made to the bench of the Commission in Queensland has been the addition of one more Commissioner.

If we are going to have judges - and we must - we need to have a charter. That charter is our Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. My view of this amending Bill - not the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition because 1 just cannot go along with that - is that the measure will make our industrial machinery better. It will no:, I repeat, make the machinery perfect. But in my view, the Bill will make the machinery better. If in conjunction with this amending Bill we could have legislation which would take the step of which I spoke a little while ago and remove the extremists from the ranks of both sides, wc could see the end of the trouble we are having.

There are extremists on both sides. Unfortunately, we see too many examples of their work. I have here a cutting from the "Townsville Daily Bulletin" of 9th November 1964. It refers to a strike by 250 meat workers. The men were on strike over a matter which was so stupid - I say it deliberately and repeat it - that it is impossible to realise that adult males would use it as an excuse to strike. One man came to work wearing thongs instead of the regulation issue boots. I should mention that the regulation issue boots were to be worn in accordance with the recent tightening up of hygiene measures in our meat works as a result of the shipment of beef to the United States of America. The employee was told he could not work in the thongs. He was given the opportunity to go home and get his regulation boots. He did not do so. The next day, he again wore thongs and he was not allowed to work. Surely no honorable senator would disagree with such a decision in the circumstances.

Senator Cavanagh - The honorable senator knows that is not the cause of the strike.

Senator MORRIS - I say that this is no basis on which a strike should occur.

Senator Cavanagh - We all agree with that statement, but this was not the cause of any strike.

Senator MORRIS - I tell the honorable senator that it was the cause.. Mr. President, here is one of the problems that we face. There are none so blind as those who do not want to see. The point regarding the wearing of the thongs has been made an issue. It would be reasonably easy to find a dozen, 20 or maybe even 50 examples of strikes - major strikes - that began on bases as stupid and as simple as this one I am quoting.

Commissioner Gough visited this area. According to the newspaper report, he said that - . . it would never occur to him to doubt the competent, dignity, and dynamic approach of the unions' officers in Sydney, Brisbane and Townsville to a dispute and their wholehearted devotion to the best interest of their members.

The report continues -

On the other hand, he said, at the level of Merinda meatworks itself, where the dispute had grown to enormous size from quite small beginnings- and they were small - . . it was hard to find any element of caution, judgment, or even common sense, in the way the case of the union members had been handled.

I had not intended to quote the whole report but I think it is necessary for me to do so in view of the interjections 1 have had.

Senator Cavanagh - Tell us about the boot.

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