Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 18 May 1965

Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales) . - I would like the Minister to consider this clause of the Bill to see whether he could broaden his views on it. My whole experience regarding arbitration is that speed of hearing is the essence of the contract in an attempt to prevent a dispute from arising. I think that most people have waterside workers in mind when they think about this matter. But industrial troubles are not as general as the Minister sometimes says they are. In his second reading speech he said that two and a half hours per man per year were lost. My wife wastes more time than that. If that is the extent of the industrial lawlessness in Australia, I think that the figure is fantastically low. I do not know who has been pulling someone's leg in relation to this matter.

If one singles out the unions that are affected one finds that about -nine-tenths of the unions never strike at all. A new type of people are striking today. Doctors strike and airline pilots strike. Striking is not the prerogative of the people who have hooks in their belts. I think that the Minister should be endeavouring to pinpoint where these strikes occur, instead of talking about average figures because they lie in relation to this matter. What we want on the waterfront is the same type of legislation as we have in the coal mining industry. I am glad that Mr. Bland, Secretary to the Department of Labour and National Service, is present in the Senate. He was interested in this matter. The Gallagher Tribunal was introduced to solve the problems of the coal industry. The Government may think the wharf labourers are revolutionary, but the Government has to be a little revolutionary too.

In the coal industry a tribunal was established to look after the complaints of the industry. Mr. Justice Gallagher was appointed to heal the ills of the industry. Probably that move did more to bring about industrial peace in the coal industry than any other move. This might shock honorable senators opposite, but Mr. Justice Gallagher introduced the proposition of 11 days pay for 10 days work. Somebody might say that is soft pedalling. But the Government was after coal, and that is how it got the coal. Every honorable senator sitting here knows that the miners have not stopped working since 1949.

Senator O'Byrne - They received a 10 per cent, bonus.

Senator ORMONDE - That is how Mr. Justice Gallagher set out to solve the situation. When there was a strike or an argument at the pit head - the wharf labourers are in much the same position - somebody did not come up and say: " Listen, we want to have a 14 days cooling off period." That is the very negation of the word " strike " which means quick action. Strikes are not considered over a long period. A strike that is considered over a long period is not really a strike at all. People are amused when there is a transport strike and everybody has to walk to work. But that is counted as an effective strike. The only effective type of strike is the one that hurts the employer.

This Bill seems to be going right outside that experience. In the coal industry we had the machinery of arbitration operating almost at the coal face. When men went to work in the morning and there was a dispute, they did not say " We have to wait 14 days to see whether it is worthwhile fighting for ". What used to happen was this: There would be an immediate meeting of the mine conciliation committee on the job with a view to stopping the strike before it started. That is the sort of line this Government ought to take in the matter. I do not think that the idea of a cooling off period is really acceptable to workers generally. They are never anything else but cool. What they intend to do is generally calmly thought out. It is usually a local issue which only they understand and which only they can solve. They want action immediately. Actually, the men want to prevent the dispute occurring. If you say: " No, nothing happens for 14 days ", by the time the 14 days are up there may be strikes everywhere because you are only perpetuating the situation which most workers are trying to end. If they have a dispute they want it settled right on the job.

I am not the greatest admirer of the arbitration system. I think that it is good in parts. I have a feeling that the Conciliation Commissioners of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission consult one another. They never do anything that is heroic and they never blaze new trails. They stick to the general pattern and never step outside it. When you accept arbitration totally you are accepting a situation which means almost the status quo for men and women who work for a living. It is all too slow. Speed is what is wanted in arbitration. Disputes which should have been settled on the job site are shifted to Canberra or elsewhere for hearing. I think that is all wrong. I agree completely with Senator Murphy that these provisions will not have the effect that the Government possibly thinks that they will have.

The Government speaks about the avalanche of strikes that has occurred. The Government is merely talking in cliches when it speaks in that way. There has never been such a degree of industrial peace as there is in this country now. There could not be this great prosperity about which the Government is always speaking - great prosperity and the new age - unless workers worked regularly. I am afraid that too much politics is made out of strikes that do occur. I would like to leave honorable senators with this thought in their minds: From a practical point of view, a trade union wins strikes only when it can localise a strike or dispute. For example, the greatest strike of which I knew was the miners' strike for the abolition of what they called the afternoon shift work. It lasted for 10 months. I am quoting this example to show honorable senators what happens and to try to educate Government supporters as to how men and women who work for a living think. A certain section of the industry went on strike. For 10 months the men did not fill a skip of coal. They were not fighting the community. Ninety per cent, of the rest of the coal miners were working and paying the other men to be on strike. Eventually, the other coal owners who were being hurt by this strike decided to make a common cause of this application for abolition of afternoon shift work. The strike was settled and the men went back to work. Of course, that section of the work force was much the poorer. The new technique of ending a strike which has developed is to spread it over Australia. That is the new technique of bringing a strike to an end. If every worker in Australia lays his tools down, he will lay them down for only 24 hours and goes back to work the next day. That is not the kind of industrial fight that is won.

I am covering these viewpoints on this matter and quoting these examples to give to the Minister an idea of what is wanted. This applies particularly to the waterfront where most of the men work for probably 20 lo 25 employers in one week. They have all sorts of disagreements. Each individual has about 24 points of contact where he can be in industrial trouble. My idea is that the Government could end this situation on the waterfront if it were prepared to make the port authorities, be they in Sydney, Melbourne or anywhere else, the employers so that the men would know for whom they were working.

Let us have a look at the facts in relation to these waterside workers. What happens to the waterside worker? He is up early in the morning. He has to listen to the radio and, if he hears his number called, he goes to work. He is not certain he is going to work that day. He has a number. If his number is 224, and he hears that number called on the radio he goes to work. If it is not called, he goes back to bed. That is a lovely way to run an industry. But this is the system. As 1 say, the men are working for 20 different companies in a week. That is a bad system. How can industrial peace be obtained if the waterside workers do not know for whom they are working half the time. A real revolution is needed in our industrial methods on the waterfront. I think it was the Minister who talked about Harry Bridges and what has happened in America. The sort of thing I am talking about now is what has happened in America. Revolutionary changes have been brought into the waterfront operations in America. Some of the old ideas have been given away. 1 express this view to the Government: I believe that the Government has tried in some ways to feel out the situation and do something to improve it. But the Government will not give up its prerogative about penalties. Penalties are absolutely useless because they do not hurt the men concerned with the cause of the strike because the men concerned do not pay the penalties. The union pays the penalty for them. This provision is ineffective because it does not affect the men concerned personally. The Government knows that this is the situation on the waterfront. The penalties are of no use whatsoever. They cannot achieve industrial peace. They are of no use to employers. Most employers are opposed to them. The seeking of these penalties is only a bad habit that has developed. It costs unions a lot of money. Embittered men who could have been won over are lost through these penalties. I. am talking particularly now about workers on the waterfront and the waterfront generally. The Government and employers must realise the difficulties and the attitudes connected with the waterfront just as they realise the attitudes of men working in the days when the mining industry was a 6-day a fortnight industry. Now, the mining industry is a 10-day a fortnight industry with 11 days pay for 10 days work. And the men work. Some people said it was a gimmick. It was not a gimmick. It was an attempt to do something revolutionary and constructive. I think the same sort of approach should be made to the position of waterside workers. The record of time lost - 2} hours per man per year - which the Minister quoted and which honorable senators opposite say is a terrible indictment of the industrial situation, should be seen in its proper perspective. This average time lost through industrial disputes is occurring in the greatest period of affluence that Australia has ever known.

Suggest corrections