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Thursday, 13 April 1972
Page: 1124


Senator BISHOP - Maybe he has, senator, but you had long enough experience in the industrial movement to know that what 1 am saying is correct. That was the policy adopted by this Government when it was not so unstable. Clearly it is unstable today. Nobody would suggest that this Government is a permanent government. There is every indication that it will not survive until election time this year. There was concentrated action by the Government to attack, on every occasion possible the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the national voice of the labour movement. Over the years the ACTU has been a highly responsible body, an organisation with which this Government should have been proud to do business. On many occasions the Government failed to consider the propositions of the ACTU and the unions. The Government said that it would take every action possible in the courts to restrain wage increases. It was this sort of policy which, as we know, even during the period when Mr Gorton was Prime Minister, caused some of the disputes within the Commonwealth Public Service which have been referred to by the Minister.

For example, he referred to the dispute by the transport members of the Amalgamated Postal Workers 'Union of Australia. This was an outstanding case where the union's claim was justified. Because the Government declared that it would resist wage increases the Commonwealth Public Service Board would not grant to mail drivers in the Post Office the increases which had been approved in outside industry. It would not grant the appropriate margin which should have flowed to them because of their special duties. It took the union 5 months to put the case before the Commonwealth Public Service Board and it was rejected. It took a further 4 or 5 months to put the case before the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator and to get the proper increases. The increase of $104 a year which was awarded gave them a relationship with outside industry as well as some consideration for their special duties.

There was a great flare-up in the Government during this dispute when the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) decided to employ scab drivers. This intensified the discontent in the Public Service. In these situations what else do you think the unions would do but engage more actively in campaigns to secure wage justice? If one reads the reports of the Public Service Board and looks at the frustrations of industrial dealings in the Commonwealth Public Service one finds that the record shows that the Public Service Board has been obstinate. It has been obstinate not only because of the special responsibilities it has, as declared by the Government, but also because of Government policies which too closely restrict what it might do. There is a need for reform, not further restrictions. The reports of the Public Service Board show each year that many cases have not been dealt with. There also have been numerous delays which have cost union members many thousands of dollars, particularly the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union which apparently has been singled out. I referred earlier to the strike by transport workers which occasioned delays and pay losses over a period of 10 months.

The second great problem that the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union got into was over its claim for an industry allowance. It established a very clear case for the award of this allowance, particularly when one considers the trends in private industry and the payments awarded to State public servants. I have referred mainly to my own State of South Australia because I know the conditions there better. On taking office the Labor Government in that State caught up with some of the other States in awarding industry allowances to all workers and officers in the

State Public Service. The industry allowance did not apply to Commonwealth public servants until the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union negotiated and obtained the $4.50. Commonwealth employees gained some relativity with outside grades. 1 remind the Senate that when we are talking about the Commonwealth Public Service and the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union we are talking about what the Government called, during the negotiations, the physical grades. These grades are very closely allied to classifications in outside industry. There are no distinctions to make when talking about fitters, linesmen, truck drivers or concrete hands, lt is easy to align the grades. There should be no question of disparity and there should be no great delay.

That claim for the industry allowance took 2 years for the unions to process and it took a long time for the Public Service Board and the Public Service Arbitrator to deal with it. The same thing applied to the flow on from the metal trades case. It had been the custom to recognise that there was a nexus between outside industry and the Commonwealth Public Service Board. The frustrations occasioned loss of the increase to members of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union for some 18 weeks. Finally the Deputy Public Service Arbitrator, Mr Wilson, granted a $6 increase.

To support what I have said I want to read from the annual report of the Commonwealth Public Service Board for 1971. I refer particularly to negotiations in respect to the physical grades and associated staff. At page 40 of its report the Board states:

The Board expressed to the ACTU its concern at the circumstances which led the ACTU to make representations so soon after the December 1969 increases for trades and associated staff. However, the Board noted that the ACTU was correct in claiming that the Commonwealth Service rates had again fallen behind the market because of the significant increases in going rates in the private sector and important sections of the public sector since 1st January 1970.

In relation to the negotiations to which I have referred it was fortunate that, in some of the circumstances, the Australian Council of Trade Unions was able to come along and assist the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union settle the negotiations. As I have pointed out, there are growing industrial disputes in some years which are occasioned by these matters which can be corrected. They can be corrected by a more active work on behalf of the Public Service Board. It can accept very clear pro formas which are well known to industrial relations people, unions and management. There should not be the delays which have occurred. They should be corrected. There is no need for restrictions which are now imposed by the Bill.

I suggest that what is now before us is legislation which is imposed for the 2 reasons which I have mentioned. The first is to try to build up within the Australian community a notion that the only cause of rising costs is the militant unions - the over-active unions - and not Government policy. I say in relation to this piece of legislation that I support what has been said on behalf of the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations that negotiations should have been obtained and surrounding the Public Service Act. Management and unions should have been allowed to decide in what respect it might be modified. If negotiations had been carried out properly, today in this Parliament probably we would be considering a mutually acceptable Bill.

But the legislation casts a very wide net. Not only does it catch the. Public Service unions but it catches all the other people in the Public Service who, in many circumstances, are able to negotiate very quickly. Such people are the professional and specialised officers who have no trouble in settling their wage claims. The net which is cast by this new procedure is a wide one. It means that employees can be stood down. They can be stood down not only because of a dispute which involves workers in the Commonwealth Public Service or the instrumentalities but also because of a dispute which obtains in the private sector of industry. Such action has never been taken before, lt is going to be taken now. Looking at the sorts of unions involved, how does the Government expect to encourage the settlement of disputes? How can we expect these people to be satisfied with a situation when the Government is going to ensure that its ministers by their action can force, the arbitrator - because of an industrial situation - to act as he thinks fit? The net result of what the Government now intends will be to bring into industrial disputation more and more Commonwealth public servants, people who, hitherto, were not affected by disputes. They have not been involved in disputes. They have been able to settle their wage claims in a way which represents a conciliation. The number of unions involved in the Public Service are set out in the Public Service Board annual report for 1971. It states:

Unions and staff associations with membership confined to the Commonwealth Service . . .

There are 21. I am not going to read the names. The report continues:

Unions and staff associations with membership confined to the Commonwealth Service and to Commonwealth authorities- -

There are 6 -

Unions and staff associations with membership in the Commonwealth Service and in private employment, etc and, in some cases, in Commonwealth authorities -

There are 8. The list goes on with large groups of unions. The report further states:

Unions and staff associations with membership confined to Commonwealth authorities with which the Board is in statutory relationship -

There are 5. The Government is having difficulty in the Post Office. It now proposes to establish a wide industrial prescription which brings all employees into a net under which they can be stood down. Not only can they be stood down under proper arbitration procedures but also I suggest the procedures which are outlined in this Bill are far too wide and the Minister can, if he so desires, on his own motion advise the arbitrator. The arbitrator has power under clause 12d which deals with orders in relation to industrial situations. It states: (1.) Where the Arbitrator has been informed under the last preceding section of the existence or likely occurrence of an industrial situation, the Arbitrator or a Deputy Arbitrator-

(a)   shall forthwith call a conference . . .

I do not intend to read the clause because it is a machinery formula. But clause 12d (1.) (b) states: may, subject to the next succeeding subsection, after hearing such evidence (if any) as he thinks fit, make such orders as he thinks necessary or desirable for putting an end to, or preventing the occurrence of, the situation or preventing the occurrence of further industrial situations or such other orders as he thinks necessary or desirable by reason of the existence or likely occurrence of the situation.

Within this prescription there are no proper rules or provisions which entitle the parties to a full and complete hearing. In particular it does not refer to those affected. There can be a wide ranging obligation upon anybody to be involved. The parties to the dispute may never attend this conference but the arbitrator can forthwith decide to do as he thinks fit. Looking at the industrial matters prescription, clause 3 sets out the industrial situation. It states:

(a)   the refusal or failure to perform work, including (without limiting the generality of the preceding words of this paragraph) the refusal or failure to perform work in a particular manner, at a particular place or at a particular time or while particular circumstances exist;

(b)   the unauthorised interruption, delaying or obstruction of, or any unauthorised limitation on, the performance of work;

(c)   the performance of work in an unauthorised manner or at an unauthorised time, being a manner or time so different from the usual manner or time of the performance of that work that there would be a limitation or restriction on, or a tendency to limit or restrict, the amount or volume of work performed or the output or production of work; or

(d)   the unauthorised adoption of such a practice in relation to work that there would be a limitation or restriction on, or a tendency to limit or restrict, the amount or volume of work performed or the output or production of work;

As I say this sort of provision is wide because it can involve more matters of disputation than those which relate directly to wages and salaries. In every enterprise there are disputes between workers and management and between union delegates and secretaries and management. For example, such disputes could relate to safety at work, air pollution, unsatisfactory and unhygienic working conditions, the effect of redundancy from automatic devices and things which are negotiated every day in factories. All these things can be declared to be industrial matters. As a result, what could happen is that the Minister could decide the matter. It is no good saying that a minister's action is similar to administrative action which a minister might take in relation to a dispute in his own department. We have a law which refers to the Minister. It could be the Minister for Labour and National Service or it might be the Minister for Works.

I say to honourable senators that we can bet our bottom dollar that when the Minister takes action under the provisions of this new law it will be in accordance with the policy of the Government. Not only does that mean government policy in relation to a particular dispute or department; it also me.ans that the minister will carry out the aims of the Government, translated from its economic policies. So we have a most unsatisfactory, unfair and repressive piece of legislation because, in effect, the minister becomes the Government He thinks as the Government. He does not think as the manager of an enterprise or as the person who runs the Post Office. He thinks in terms of Government philosophy. He initiates action and honourable senators have heard me refer to clause 12D. Under that clause the arbitrator forthwith occasions a conference and then he takes such arbitrary powers and such a close action in relation to whatever he wants to do. In this world today how can there be such arbitrary powers and such a close connection between the Minister and Government policy.

A perusal of the history of the threats by the Government and the reports made to the unions shows that the legislation was drafted at a time when the Government intended to carry out a large electoral campaign against Labor. The Government intended to introduce first what it called this small piece of legislation as a dummy run for the larger piece of legislation and then to introduce the major piece of repressive legislation next week or shortly afterwards. 1 suggest that the 2 points that I have made are enough to make anybody concerned about the new power. The Minister is not just the administrative head of the department; he becomes the voice of the Government. It is a great new power. It should be resisted. We should vote against it. The Labor Party is strongly opposed to it. We will oppose, not only in the Parliament but wherever possible, the unfair and summary powers which are granted under the Bill. If the Government says that it is not intended to do the things which I have suggested will be done, it should ensure that amendments to the Bill are introduced immediately. The Minister has said that the provisions of section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are similar to the provisions in the Public Service Arbitration Bill. Section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act reads: (1.) Subject to this Act, if it appears to a Commissioner that an industrial dispute has occurred or is likely to occur, he shall, whether he has been notified under this section or not, immediately ascertain the parties to the industrial dispute and the matters which form the subject of that dispute and shall take such steps as he thinks fit for the prompt prevention or settlement of that dispute by conciliation or, if in his opinion conciliation is unlikely to succeed or has failed, by arbitration. (2.) As' soon as an organisation or employer becomes aware of the existence of an industrial dispute or of an industrial situation which is likely to give rise to an industrial dispute the organisation or employer shall forthwith notify a Commissioner or the Registrar accordingly. (3.) A Minister who is aware of the existence, of an industrial dispute or of an industrial situation which is likely to give rise to an industrial dispute may notify a Commissioner or the Registrar accordingly.

That prescription is quite different from the one contained in the Bill. The procedures are set out quite clearly. The parties to the dispute are the people who are called. As everybody knows, section 28 is used frequently today. Informative discussions are held. They might provide an avenue by which a return to work or settlement of the matters in dispute is secured. Section 28 often does that. If the issue is a difficult one the individual union almost' always engages the assistance of the Trades and Labour Council, which is the State branch of the ACTU. By consultation the dispute is settled.

The provision in the Bill gives a summary power to. take instant action. The provision will affect not only those involved in the dispute but also those only partly involved in it - employees of instrumentalities and people who have never! been previously involved in industrial, disputes. Whatever the Government's intentions in introducing the Bill, all it is doing is widening the area of industrial, disputes. It would include any strike, ban. or embargo outside the province of Com-' monwealth employment. For example, recently the Building Workers Industrial Union in New South Wales imposed a ban and carried out activities to secure new standards of workers' compensation - full pay for those on workers' compensation - and it finally succeeded. In those circumstances, if the Commonwealth considered that an instrumentality such as the Commonwealth Employment Service might be affected, it could almost summarily take action and refer the matter to the Public Service Arbitrator to stand down workers in industries which are not involved.

It has been argued by the Minister that in the Arbitration Act there is an almost similar provision in relation to bans and limitations. In respect of the bans and limitations clauses let me point out that there are proceedings which are properly tested before the courts. The procedures are set down. The case is tested. The application is brought on for hearing. The arbitration authority decides whether a ban or limitation will be imposed. The ban or limitation can be revoked at any time. Under this Bill the bans and limitations last for all time. As long as that provision is in the legislation summary action can be taken against the union. The provision is too strong. It should not be part of the legislation. The Government should take the first opportunity to do what the Public Service unions ask, that is, to consult them as to whether modifications in respect of both sides of the employment scale might be considered. If the Bill is passed actions could be brought under the legislation. There is no doubt in my mind that prior to the election the Minister will initiate actions against unions by standing down their members. Often those actions will not be related to disputes within the particular section of Commonwealth employment. The actions will be prompted partly by political reasons. This is one of the steps that the Government has taken to bring before the public, in its own particular haphazard way, its attempt to pass all responsibility onto the union movement.

I refer to matters which are easily solved in outside industry. I have had a long experience of some of these matters, as many of my colleagues have had. There are safety campaigns in the workshops, campaigns against redundancy and campaigns to safeguard the workers against poor conditions or bad lighting. At present in the Commonwealth Public Service there are campaigns by some unions in respect of these matters. Sometimes the campaigns involve short stoppages of work. No restriction should be placed on the workers because of activities in that regard. Everybody should know that sometime or other the problems have to be solved. If the Government wants to solve them, the sensible way is across the table. It would be well for the Government to look at the standards of industrial laws operating overseas, in West Germany in particular or in Europe generally - my colleague Mr Clyde Cameron and I recently visited Sweden - to see the extent to which it is possible to settle differences across the table. Where there are differences in administration there could be used what is now being used in some of these countries - works councils where people can talk across the table about the problems in the industry or shop. We support the opposition of the CCPSO, of the unions generally and certainly of the ACTU. I conclude by reading a resolution carried by the Joint Councils on 30th March 1972. They issued this statement after the meeting:

Meeting of the Joint Councils comprising of representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations meeting in Melbourne today expressed strong opposition to and decided to seek the defeat of amendments to the Public Service Arbitration Bill due to come before the Senate when it resumes on 11th April.

The Bill seeks to give the Public Service Arbitrator power to stand down without pay Commonwealth public servants in relation to disputes inside or outside the Public Service.

The meeting was attended by Mr R. J. Hawke, Mr H. J. Souter of the ACTU, Messrs P. Riley and R. D. Williams of ACSPA, and Messrs D. Linehan and K. Turbet and P. Munro of CCPSO.

After the meeting the Presidents of the 3 Councils, Mr Hawke, Mr Riley and Mr Linehan issued the following statement:

Representations will be made to the Opposition parties in the Senate and to Independent senators asking them to defeat the passage of the Bill through the Senate.

There has been indecent haste in the introduction of this legislation.

The Bill is not in a form which lends itself to amendment.

The whole matter should be reconsidered and new legislation introduced after proper consultation with the unions and organisations affected.'

Debate interrupted.







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