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Tuesday, 18 May 1965

Senator MORRIS (Queensland) .- When the Senate adjourned on the night of Thursday last, 13th May, I was partially through the comments that I wish to make on this measure. I had expressed myself as being strongly in support of every effort that is made to reduce industrial unrest. I had also stated that in far too many instances industrial unrest was the result of the work of extremists. I cited one illustration to lend point to my comment, and I was rather astonished to hear Senator Cavanagh challenge what I said. I had explained that one strike at the Bowen meatworks, situated at Merinda, was caused because certain employees, knowing full well that they were required to wear issue boots, arrived wearing thongs and repeated the offence on the next day. I had said that that was the basic cause of the dispute. Senator Cavanagh then said that I knew that that was not the cause of the strike. I have checked the facts to make sure that my memory was not playing me false and I have learned that I was quite correct in making that statement.

I had intended to use that illustration merely in passing. I thought it was well known to honorable senators opposite as well as to those on this side of the chamber that many strikes are the result of petty, stupid and simple acts, and that they ought never to occur. When Senator Cavanagh speaks I disagree with him quite frequently, but I never challenge his sincerity. Because I do not challenge his sincerity, I am forced to the conclusion that he does not know the detail--

Senator Dittmer - Does the honorable senator say that the cause of the Mount Isa strike was a petty one?

Senator MORRIS - I repeat that I am forced to the conclusion that Senator Cavanagh does not know the detail of industrial trouble, which is often the result of silly and stupid acts. Therefore I propose to do what I had not originally intended to do and to give to Senator Cavanagh - apparently his colleagues need the lesson too - a few facts which no doubt he will find to be somewhat unpalatable. First, I want to refer to some very interesting figures that were mentioned by Senator Cant. The honorable senator pointed out that of a total of 869 strikes in the year 1959, 105 occurred as a result of disputes over wages, hours and leave, and 556 as a result of disputes over physical working conditions and managerial policy. He quoted figures through to 1963. In every instance that he quoted, physical working conditions were the greatest cause of industrial unrest. I would add that they covered both Federal and State jurisdictions. That is an important point. I also point out that in that category not only was there the greatest number of disputes, but also the greatest number of working days lost. Senator Cant, after giving those figures - and I make it clear that I am not challenging them - said -

These are the disputes that worry the Australian Council of Trade Unions and they are the spontaneous disputes that occur on the job. They are rather short in duration but, nevertheless, they tend to disrupt industry.

I agree with that. He went on to say -

They are not, generally, disputes authorised by the registered organisations concerned. These are the disputes that the legislation proposed by the Minister will do nothing to cure . . .

I join issue with him there on one point, that the Commonwealth legislation, which this Bill proposes to amend, does a great deal to create unnecessary and frivolous strikes. I shall give illustrations to prove the point that I am making.

I have already given one illustration which dealt with the meat industry, and because time will not permit me to traverse the whole industrial field, I shall confine my remarks to the disputes which have occurred in the meat industry. I may say that I had considered referring to the Mount Isa dispute. But on further thought I recognised that that dispute came within State jurisdiction and not Federal jurisdiction, and as the Bill which we propose to amend deals with Federal jurisdiction, I would be out of order in referring to Mount Isa. Therefore, I shall refer to the meat industry. Over the years some of the meatworks in Queensland have operated under Federal awards and some under State awards. In 1960 there was a fairly concerted move away from State jurisdiction towards Federal jurisdiction because of the fact that under Federal law it was possible to impose additional penalties. This resulted in much more industrial harmony or, shall I say, much less industrial disharmony, than existed under the State law.

The meat killing industry is unique in some ways. It is very vulnerable. Of course, every industry has its area of vulnerability, but the meat killing industry is vulnerable for two specific reasons. First, the cattle which are killed at our meatworks are frequently drawn from tick free areas. Anybody who is familiar with the cattle industry knows that if cattle are moved from a tick free area into an area where ticks exist, there is considerable danger of them developing red water within 10 days. Consequently, it is necessary for the cattle that are brought to the meatworks to be killed and treated within this period so that they do not become ill. That is one area of vulnerability in the meat industry. An urgency exists in this industry that does not exist in other industries.

The second area of vulnerability and of urgency is concerned with the fact that at the present time a great deal of beef is sold as boneless meat. Beef which is to be sold as boneless meat is slaughtered and placed in a chiller. Then at a certain period of time and at a temperature of between 45 and 60 degrees, it is boned and prepared for export. Only a short period of tolerance is allowed there. If the period exceeds 10 days the meat is frequently useless and has to be disposed of. In order to illustrate this point I shall refer to meatworks which, incidentally, had been operating under State jurisdiction but which had moved into the Federal jurisdiction. At one time there was £50,000 worth of beef in the chillers awaiting boning when a strike occurred. Had the meatworks been operating under State jurisdiction and had the strike been prolonged beyond 10 days the meat would have been useless, but because they were operating under Federal jurisdiction and sanctions could be imposed, the meat was saved. It would not have been saved had the company not moved into the Federal jurisdiction in the period prior to this incident. I think that is a very important point to bear in mind.

The meat industry, in common with other Industries, has been subjected to very many petty strikes. Indeed, I would say it has been subjected to hundreds of them. That statement might appear to be an exaggeration, but I refer honorable senators to the official records. I have one or two copies of them here. Reference to the records shows that at the Brisbane Abattoir alone - forgetting about all the other meatworks in Queensland - in a 10 months period in 1961-62, 188 separate stoppages took place before the Abattoir moved into Federal jurisdiction. The stoppages occurred during the time it was operating under State jurisdiction when no sanctions could be applied. I think all honorable senators - even honorable senators opposite who so strongly oppose sanctions - will agree with me when I say that to have 188 stoppages at one meatworks in a period of 10 months is a ludicrous situation. 1 shall now explain what happened when the Brisbane Abattoir moved from State jurisdiction into Federal jurisdiction. A seven weeks strike occurred at the Abattoir. It is also interesting to note that although the works were under Federal jurisdiction, one section remained under State jurisdiction. The part of the works which was covered by Federal jurisdiction was the meat hall. The rest of the works were not under Federal jurisdiction. During this period in 1964 when there was a seven weeks strike at these meat works, the only section of the works covered by the Federal Meat Industry Award, the meat hall, did not go on strike. Every other section of this abattoir did. It is perfectly clear that the reason why one section went on strike and the other section did not was that in one case sanctions could be applied and in the other case sanctions could not be applied. This could be arguable, I suppose, but that fact, to my mind, is perfectly well demonstrated. However, this is leading up to the further illustrations that I want to give.

In 1963, there were some discussions between sections of the industry as to whether an application could be made to the Court to remove sanctions or to remove the bans clause from the award itself. I repeat that these were just some general discussions, not a decision. The Meat and Allied Trades Federation, anticipating the possibility of this case, prepared a background brief to present to the Court should the case come before the court. One thousand pages of this brief - that is a lot in anybody's book - were devoted to industrial stoppages which had occurred under State jurisdiction, but not under Federal jurisdiction. There were 1,000 pages devoted to industrial disruption within the meat industry itself. I think this is a shocking situation. Whilst it continues, I do not see how we can ever hope to really get efficiency into the industry. Because of these problems, most meatworks moved over to Federal jurisdiction. There has been infinitely less trouble since that changeover.

I must illustrate my next point very thoroughly because 1 want to leave no doubt in the mind of any honorable senator that whilst the meat industry in Queensland was operating without sanctions - it was operating under a State award where there were no sanctions - an application was made to the Industrial Court in this regard. I am going to quote from the " Queensland Government Gazette " of Wednesday, 21st January 1959. The issue I have is No. 35. This was a case which had been taken to the Industrial Court in Queensland. This is quite a lengthy document. I do not propose to quote all of it because 1 do not think it is justifiable that I should. Within this document certain extracts from evidence appear. I might add that the Industrial Court Member who was adjudicating on this case was Mr. J. P. Bennett, who had been appointed to the Queensland Industrial Court by a Labour government. He had a very good record of service prior to his appointment to the Court, and I would add that he has had a very good record since his appointment. Mr. Bennett heard this case. The extracts of evidence which are published in this official document show that union representatives openly admitted that they practised political blackmail to get conditions beyond award conditions that had been decided upon. This is a very serious situation when one realises the full aspect of it. So, I wish to quote a section of the interrogation and cross-examination of Mr. Fay, who was an official of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union in Cairns. The passage reads -

Question: In other words, you agree that you set out purposefully to deny the employer the right he has under the Award, if it is not satisfactory to you?

Answer: If it is nui satisfactory to the members.

Question: If it is not satisfactory to the members?

Answer: Yes.

Question: You set out to deny him that right?

Answer: That is correct.

Question: You see nothing wrong with that approach?

Answer: Nothing at all.

This passage formed a part of the judgment which was given by Mr. Bennett. He traversed the history of the meat industry over the years. What I have quoted is a section of some of the extracts that he read. He then gave his own conclusions. As to the evidence, he said -

In the review of the evidence, I have not referred to evidence for the applicant which relates to a comparison of the rates of pay and conditions of employment as contained in the Notice of Motion with other awards and Industrial Agreements. 1 am skipping a lot of Mr. Bennett's remarks, but this document is available for anybody to see. Mr. Bennett went on to quote what happened as far back as 1919. He referred to a judgment given in that year by the then President of the Queensland Industrial Court who said -

My conclusion from the evidence given in these proceedings and from the statements made in my presence at compulsory conferences is that the operations of the largest works of the North, Ross River and Alligator Creek are carried on, retarded or stopped at the whim of a mob led or followed as it suits their purpose by officials whose avowed policy in the words of the Northern District Secretary is not to suppress but to excite discontent. This policy is dictated by a spirit of revenge against the employers, who impelled by the disregard paid to agreements by this very same section of employees had invoked the jurisdiction of the Court of Industrial Arbitration. Adopting sabotage and choosing occasions when owing to the perishable nature of the products handled their demands could not be resisted without great loss to the employers their attacks have until recently been crowned with immediate success.

Those remarks, which came from the " Queensland Government Gazette " of 12th February 1919 were quoted by Mr. Bennett in 1958 when handling this matter.

Mr. Bennettwent on to say ;

I have quoted at length from this judgment as it is obvious to anyone hearing or reading the evidence in this case that history has repeated itself and (he tactics used in 1919 have been successfully used at Queerah almost 40 years later.

I do not propose to reiterate other statements made by the Court in regard to this Union's activities but I refer to one of many incidents related in evidence in this case.

In October, 1956. as the result of an industrial dispute a number of calves were killed by members of the staff solely to avoid cruelty to the animals as they were too young to fend for themselves.

I remind honorable senators that the men were on strike; so the staff killed these calves to avoid cruelty. My quotation continues -

As a prerequisite to a resumption of work, a demand was made on the Company for a sura equal in value to the wages which would have been paid to members of the A.M.I.E.U. had they performed the work. The amount of ?49 6s. was paid.

That is an example of the political blackmail - there is no other way to describe it, and it was so described by Mr. Bennett, a member of the court - which went on in this industry. It was beyond all reason. Because of this political blackmail, one after the other the meatworks left the State jurisdiction and went over to the Federal jurisdiction. They did so because sanctions can be imposed under the Federal law but not under the State law. Because they did this, and because sanctions have been used when employees have resorted to blackmail tactics - I use the word again - strife within this industry has been cut to an almost unbelievable degree. On practically every page of the document before me there is an illustration of what I am telling the Senate today.

Senator O'Byrne - Does the honorable senator want the document incorporated in " Hansard "?

Senator MORRIS - It is somewhat lengthy. 1 think I would be overstepping the bounds of courtesy by asking for it to be incorporated in " Hansard ". However, anybody who so wishes can see it. I make the point that if it had not been possible for the meat industry in Queensland to operate under Federal jurisdiction, which provides for sanctions, that industry would be virtually dead today.

Let me repeat what I said quite early in my speech. I do not like to see penalties imposed on anybody and I wish it were possible to avoid the imposition of penalties, but, Mr. Deputy President, I could not, in all honesty, support any proposal to remove the sanctions provision from the legislation when it can be proved conclusively that the existence of the sanctions provision has saved an industry which is of great value not only to Queensland but also to the whole of Australia. Queensland exports more than 50 per cent of the Australian beef that goes overseas, and the Queensland meat industry would have been killed if it were not for the existence of the sanctions power. Al- though I hate to see penalties imposed, while there is industrial blackmail and a threat of the death of a great industry I could never in conscience support the removal of the sanctions power from this legislation. Therefore, I cannot support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna.)

I think there is a slight danger that the Bill we are considering could, because of the rest period, incite within this industry, to a degree, action of the kind I have described, but, because of its overall application and because it will give greater opportunity for conciliation than previously existed, I support it. I hope it will bring all good and no evil. I would have liked very much to give certain illustrations of the recent Mount Isa problem, but I refrained from doing so because the dispute there did not affect the Federal jurisdiction and I assumed that if I referred to it, Mr. Deputy President, you would rule me out of order. I reserve what I have to say on that matter for another time. I am very much opposed to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition and I strongly support the amending Bill which is before us.

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