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Thursday, 25 May 1972
Page: 2107

Senator GEORGES (Queensland) - My colleagues have capably outlined their opposition to the Bill in a general way at this second reading stage. They have indicated that in the Committee stage the Opposition will analyse the Bill step by step and will oppose its most objectionable clauses; and there are many of them. I invite the attention of the Senate to the position in which the Government has placed us. Not only is the Government unwilling to supply speakers or to arrange for speakers to enter this debate; it is not even willing to maintain the necessary numbers in the Senate. If the Government wants to facilitate the debate by encouraging its supporters not to enter into it, surely in deference to its own legislation the Government should at least insist that they be present in the chamber.

Senator Webster - Could you try to liven your speech up a bit?

Senator GEORGES - If you tempt me, I will direct the attention of the chair to the state of the Chamber.

Senator Webster - Not on yourself, surely.

Senator GEORGES - I could call a quorum on myself at this stage because that is what Government supporters deserve.

Senator McManus - Call it. Why should they be outside?

Senator GEORGES - They deserve-

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT Order! This Bill relates to conciliation and arbitration. Will you please, Senator Georges, deal with it?

Senator GEORGES - Yes. I am prepared to do as Government speakers, including the Attorney-General, do from time to time. He wanders completely from the subject matter and he is guilty of Complete irrelevancy on many occasions, but he is not disciplined. I believe that I should be allowed the same degree of latitude. The apathy of Government senators is perhaps not theft- own fault. I think a direction has come forward from another place that this Bill must be proceeded with, voted on and decided before the House of Representatives rises or before members of the other place depart to discharge their various responsibilities throughout the Commonwealth.

I make the point here and now that, as we are forced to continue debating measures after the House of Representatives rises, the sooner we amend some Bill and force the House of Representatives to return the better it will be. This practice of holding up legislation for weeks and weeks and then unloading it on us in the last 2 days of a session must stop. It will stop only when the House of Representatives appreciates that it is possible for us to amend legislation which would require the recall of that House or at least put it in a position where it cannot treat the Senate with disdain.

For week after week we have listened to members of the House of Representatives warning, arguing, backbiting and acting in a manner that is not constructive. We have seen the Government withhold legislation until now, this very day, we find ourselves with a Notice Paper containing 27 Bills. We are forced to consider this important legislation in a hurried way. We are forced into a one-sided debate, with the Opposition contributing speakers and the Government not contributing speakers.

Senator Young - You could have worked on a few Bills last week and you refused. You were given the chance to work longer hours last week and you declined. So, do not give us that kind of talk.

Senator GEORGES - Senator Youngwill recall that, in the early days of this session, we had no legislation before us. The position was such that for one week the Senate did not sit. We now find ourselves at the end of the session with a Notice Paper that is highly congested. It was useless to agree to sit extra hours last week because no legislation was before us.

Senator McAuliffe - Do you think that it is bad arrangement?

Senator GEORGES - Not Only is the arrangement bad; it can be described only as disgraceful. What the Government deserves is for us to talk at great length on this Bil) and to talk as long as possible on the issues-

Senator McManus - That is what you are doing.

Senator GEORGES - No, we are not. The list of speakers that the honourable senator has indicated shows those who yesterday wished to contribute to this debate. It may even have been compiled the day before. That list of speakers is the same list that appeared on our Whip's notice board the day before yesterday. As a matter of fact, a couple of speakers have withdrawn and a couple of other speakers who indicated that they wished to speak are not going to do so.

Senator McManus - Well, when do we get to the Committee stage?

Senator GEORGES - We will get to the Committee stage when we finish speaking on the second reading-

Senator McManus - The Committee stage is the meat of the Bill. Why not got to the meat of the Bill?

Senator Webster - The left wingers of your Party are the only ones left to speak.

Senator McManus - No. Senator Georges is not a left winger.

The PRESIDENT - Order! There is no value if the honourable senator who is speaking is compelled to reply to adventitious observations made by other honourable senators. Now. Senator Georges, 1 am listening to you with great interest and intent. You must disregard interjections.

Senator GEORGES - 1 am honoured that you should return to the chamber to listen to me. I have the feeling that you agree with me when 1 say that the Senate is being misused by the other place and that you agree with my comment that I made earlier that the sooner we take some disciplinary action by amending some Bill, thus forcing the House of Representatives to return next week to consider it, the better it will be. If we do, we will not be faced with this situation time and time again.

I cannot for the life of me understand why the Government should bring forward such repressive legislation directed against the trade union movement. The government has stated clearly - Senator Carrick indicated this yesterday - that its purpose is to improve conciliation and to improve industrial relations. If any one action could worsen the industrial situation, we have it here in this Bill. Surely any reasonable person who keeps up with modern trends in commerce and in industry will appreciate that amalgamation, the coining together of a variety of concerns with a common interest, is the custom. The need for small groups to come together to form a larger group is forced upon them by the need to use modern methods.

I want the Senate to appreciate the position in which small unions find themselves, have found themselves and will continue to find themselves. They suffer an inability to carry out their functions efficiently in the interests of their members. The small union is unable to do so because it cannot provide those modern facilities which are required for it to represent properly its members and their cause, in any dispute, which may arise, in any difficulties which may arise or even in any demarcation dispute which may eventuate. It is impossible for a small union to provide the necessary skills and even the personnel to carry out its functions effectively. It is necessary for small unions to seek the assistance of major unions. They have from time to time sought that assistance in an unofficial way. This has been by means of co-operation. But it has been necessary in the past few yean for smaller unions to join with greater unions by way of amalgamation or affiliation for many of the reasons that Senator McAuliffe brought out, including the need to improve their methods and efficiency and the need to use sophisticated machinery and proper and modern accounting procedures including computer systems. This has been forced upon the unions. It has been most necessary for them to amalgamate and, rather than being hindered, such amalgamations ought to be supported.

Unions which are small and fragmented are not in a position to pay the salaries necessary to attract skilled people and men with initiative to take up the union work and to give the leadership that unions require. Many smaller unions find themselves in the position where their organisers and officials are being paid for their work less than the men on the job whom they represent. This is the case even with the larger unions. I take Gladstone as an example of a place where a pretty efficient group of unions operate. They have come together. They have a shop committee. By necessity they have been forced to cooperate to make a contribution. They have arranged to supply themselves with a paid official. He would receive half as much again if he were working at his trade than he receives as a union official. It is impossible for the smaller unions to provide the salaries or to employ people, such as accountants or experts in specific fields, including lawyers to present their cases, with the skills needed. A great need exists for them to amalgamate for continued efficiency in the trade union movement. If the Government wishes to see inefficiency in the trade union movement, by all means fragment the unions, keep them small and keep them poor.

Senator Wilkinson - Divide and rule.

Senator GEORGES - It is not so much a matter of divide and rule because the employer knows that it is far better for him on the job, no matter how small or how big the job may be, to deal with one union only. Let us forget about distinctions between big and small employers. It is in the interests even of the small employer who has two or three occupations or trades on his job to negotiate with the one delegte and to be able to reach a single decision quickly and effectively. He does not wish to be arguing with half a dozen union representatives. Nor do half a dozen union representatives wish to be arguing among themselves as to the right way to approach a matter. Unions on a job do not wish to be at the mercy of the smallest union on that job; that union may be under the influence of an erratic shop committee. It is in the interests of the employer, industry, trade unions and their members that these amalgamations should take place so that the unions become larger, more efficient, more capable, more skilled and more effective.

Senator McAuliffe - It is not just for the sake of bigness; it is for the sake of other things that flow from it.

Senator GEORGES - It is for the sake of efficiency and for the sake of proper methods of co-operation, conciliation, and even arbitration.

Senator McManus - Make them all like the Australian Workers Union. That is a good union.

Senator GEORGES - The Australian Workers Union is one of the largest unions in the country. In the past it has contributed to the welfare of the workers in this country. It has been a big union and it has been effective. I am using the past tense. I do not know whether I intend that or whether I just use it instinctively.

The PRESIDENT - Order! There are too many interjections. I have never known Senator Georges to require any prompting.

Senator Little - But he is always better when he gets some.

Senator GEORGES - On the contrary, I need no assistance from the Democratic Labor Party on this occasion. 1 do not receive it on other occasions and I do not want it now. The DLP is responsible for the legislation now before the chamber. It is the Party that wants consideration of the legislation completed within the next 2 days. It does not want it properly deliberated on. Incidentally, the DLP at the present time is in trouble with some of the unions which support it because some of those unions are in favour of amalgamation. The DLP has been caught in its own trap because if this legislation goes through one or two unions which are seeking-

Senator McManus - Which are the ones?

Senator GEORGES - The honourable senator knows the ones without my telling him. Two or three small unions are seeking the assistance of the major unions. They are seeking amalgamation. If this legislation goes through tomorrow, their initiatives will be destroyed and all their procedures over the past months will be negated. The major unions have been described in this chamber as monsters trying to absorb the smaller unions. The situation is the reverse: The smaller unions are seeking the assistance, the skills, the abilities and the expertise of the larger unions. Industry has been forced to merge. If industry is to be permitted to merge in the name of efficiency, surely the trade union movement should be permitted to do so. But Government senators have come up with all sorts of excuses as to why it should not. I heard Senator Webster talk about wage-induced inflation.

Senator Little - But you urged that Thomas Nationwide Transport and Ansett Transport Industries should not merge.

Senator GEORGES - There was an entirely different principle involved there, and Senator Little knows it. That case involved overseas control and we were interested in the amount of overseas control. I have been sidetracked somewhat. I was referring to Senator Webster talking about wage-induced inflation. As a member of the Australian Country Party, he constantly uses this cry, this ploy, to gain support in country areas. In country areas the proposition constantly pushed is that the worker is responsible for the increased costs imposed on the man on the land; that the worker is getting good working conditions and wage increases and these things do not flow on to the man on the land; that wages are pushing up prices; that if wages go up prices will go up. But that is not true, and Senator Webster knows it. It is only one fraction of the truth. The costs that are the cause of union members seeking economic justice are pushed up by other means. The escalation within the price structure is, as I have pointed out before, one of the great causes of this cost-push inflation. The cost of the increase in a worker's wage in the production of an article - say, a loaf of bread - may be lc, but by the time the article goes through the various stages of distribution, the imposition of sales tax and the rest of it that lc-

Senator Little - But shopkeepers are workers too. You have been a shopkeeper in your day. Do not tell me that you were not a worker when you were a shopkeeper.

Senator GEORGES - I am not arguing that point. I am arguing that the fraction of cost imposed on production by a wage increase escalates through the price structure and if the initial increase is lc the ultimate increase can be as much as 5c, 6c or even 7c. Until that situation is corrected, this escalation of costs and prices will continue and will lead to further just demands by workers, whether they be farmers, shopkeepers or anything else, for economic justice. The Government has done nothing whatever to correct the situation. Instead of endeavouring to correct the situation, it imposes added burdens on this cost inflation structure. For example, by increasing sales tax it imposes an added factor to this escalation of prices.

However, there is another reason for increased costs and increased prices which has nothing whatever to do with the workers. I refer to the speculative type of investment which takes place in the community, particularly in the commercial area. At the present time no matter where one goes, whether it happens to be Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, or anywhere else, one finds high rise, buildings being erected. Even when there is a glut of high rise buildings one finds more going up.

Senator Little - Would you expect the high rise buildings to be going down? They have to go up.

Senator GEORGES - I have a smart person on my left.

Senator Little - I am helping you.

Senator GEORGES - I know that, but I can do without the honourable senator's help at the present time because the situation is serious. The concern of the DLP, and particularly of Senator Little, is to place impositions on the worker and to complain continually about his demands for wage justice. Then, immediately someone endeavours to point out some other reason why costs go up and why they are uncontrolled, we get snide remarks and snide comments. Senator Little can continue with his snide remarks and snide comments.

There has been, without check, a great development in the commercial building field that has not been taken into consideration in regard to costs which lead to increased prices, which in turn lead to wage claims. Overseas investment in Australia is at an unhealthy level. Many millions of dollars have flowed into this country from overseas investors. This money has flowed into the speculative field of commercial building, whether it be drive-ins or office buildings. These buildings are erected, and it is well known that the rentals charged per square foot are pitched at a level designed to recover the complete cost of the buildings in 8 years. In other words, the gross return expected from that investment is 15 per cent, the net return is 12i per cent, and the cost of the building is completely recovered in 8 years, even though the building may have been erected to last for 50 years. The rentals charged for those premises are exorbitant. The rentals charged, whether they be for office space or ground floor shops, ave a charge against prices, and prices have gone up considerably under this pressure. The pressure is not caused by wage costs. The cost of renting a small grocery store or a small food store in some of these modern complexes is exorbitant and is charged against the price of the goods. The prices of the goods increase. There is no wage push here. Yet no-one considers that these costs ought to be looked at.

I refer also to the over-distribution of goods. By this, I mean that too many people are distributing the same type of goods and trying to make a margin of profit out of distribution and not enough out of production. This means that someone must pay. It lis the person who purchases the goods who pays the price. The person who pays that price is more than likely to be a worker. The worker's take home pay is not SUFFICIENT to meet that price, so the pressure is on. His needs are greater. His needs on the job are for increased returns in his pay envelope. The pressure on the union is for a higher return. Are the unions expected to take unilateral action and say that they will not seek extra wages because the extra wages are not of very much use? They cannot be expected to do this; yet the Government does expect it. The whole pressure of stabilising the economy is not placed on the distribution area; it is placed upon the producer, the worker, whether he be a rural worker or an industrial worker. Insufficient care has been given to this problem of increased costs of distribution and faulty distribution. The sooner the Government looks to this area in order to reduce these pressures within the Community, the better. The charge of wage-induced inflation is an over exaggeration. It just is not there.

Senator Carrickhad a deal to say concerning the conciliation an artibration system. He told us what a wonderful system it is, and in theory it is or was a wonderful system. But for some time, at least, it has not worked to the benefit of the ordinary worker. It has worked to his detriment because - I make this comment - the judges of the courts and the conciliators have been politically appointed. I am not prepared to say whether there have been direct political appointments, but one of the things which has flowed from this Government's being in power for about the last 22 years is that the appointment of people to important positions in the community is influenced in some way by the political philosophy of the Party which has been in power too long. To my mind, many of the appointments to this area of conciliation and arbitration have been politically influenced. This is borne out by some of the decisions that have been made. What has been said is so beautiful in theory but it is not so good in practice.

Senator Carrick (NEW SOUTH WALES) - How would you appoint them?

Senator GEORGES - I would make certain that the Government was changed a little more regularly and that more of the appointments were made from other areas as well as those areas from which appointments are made at the present time. Some of the decisions that are made are politically influenced, and some of the considerations which are taken into account are not straight industrial considerations. Other considerations which ought not to be brought into the matter are brought into it by pressures applied by this Government. There is evidence that the workers and the unions resent some of the decisions, attitudes and comments of the judges of the arbitration court. J will not go into that aspect on this occasion, but I have with me a brief I will take up at some future time which indicates that certain judges of the arbitration court apply themselves to their duties in a politically biased way. Any trade union official, any trade union advocate, any trade union delegate who took part in the recent case involving the Federated Storemen and Packers Union will tell you exactly this. It is an affront for a case not to be considered properly. It is an affront to know that the decision that will be made is not based upon the evidence but upon a particular political attitude.

I would have expected the Government to have given considerable thought to the consequences before implementing this Bill. I would have thought that the Government would have allowed sufficient time for the Bill to have been considered in depth and the implications of the various clauses properly considered. Senator Murphy indicated that there were other ramifications and other consequences which could flow which had not been properly considered by the Government. Perhaps one can take some comfort from the fact that if these impositions are to be placed on trade unions and trade union corporations, similar restrictions and disciplines will be placed upon many of the other corporations in this country. Those are corporations which are closely associated with the stock exchanges. Let us assume that disciplines were required. I am hoping that some of the disciplines that are being imposed on the trade union movement - I think that some of them are imposed wrongly at the present time - will be enacted to control the various companies and the directors who control those companies. I am hoping too that legislation will be enacted to protect the rights of shareholders and give them some feeling, some element of democracy.

If it is claimed by Government supporters - I deny this - that no democracy exists within the trade union movement, and if it is claimed that the ordinary . democratic rights of trade unionists have to be protected, surely the same remarks ought to apply to the shareholders, to the systems that are operated by the various companies and to mergers, takeovers and other forms of affiliation or amalgamation - call them what you will - within the commercial world. For instance, I feel that in this area there exists no democracy because the small shareholder in a company in this country has very few rights, nor does he have what we consider to be a democratic right. He is overwhelmed by the money power of his associates and fellow shareholders in that company. He is often ignored and decisions are taken without any consideration of his rights.

Senator Carrick - Did not you say that you believed in the freedom of mergers and the economy of size?

Senator GEORGES - Yes, but I believe that when that is being done it ought to be done in a way in which each person is considered without compulsion. I am saying that provided every shareholder has the right to decide-

Senator Little - And that he gets his ballot paper.

Senator GEORGES - He ought to receive his ballot paper and all the information to which he is entitled so that he can make a decision. He ought to have some control over the destiny of the company of which he is a shareholder. He ought to be taken out of the area of indifference, not by compulsion but by information and perhaps by education. In the same way, I say that a trade unionist ought to receive his ballot paper - I say that he does receive his ballot paper - but he ought not to have his ballot paper if he ls not financial. He ought to accept the responsibility of notifying his home address. He ought not to be indifferent. He ought to be aware of the issues, and they should be placed before him. Then it is up to him to decide whether he votes. At the present time we are endeavouring to apply a compulsion upon these people to vote. We are doing even more than that; we are requiring that a result ought to be over a certain percentage.

Senator Little - Perhaps we should abandon compulsory Federal elections.

Senator GEORGES - We might go along with that also but we are not debating that at the present time. In effect, compulsion places an organisation or a trade union into the hands of the indifferent - those who really do not care and are not interested. There are many of them in all organisations, whether they be shareholders, members of trade unions or others. A responsible organisation is being placed at the mercy of the indifferent. The Government is lengthening procedures which will enable them to carry out certain operations in the interests of the union as a whole. This is what the Government is doing with this legislation.

I had hoped that we would be able to consider this Bill at great length, that we would be able to investigate each clause, that we would be able to see what consequences will flow in other areas of legislation. We should have been able to suggest amendments at will, but that is not the situation now. We will try to amend it tomorrow but we will not have sufficient time to consider it in depth. We will not be able to debate it next Tuesday and next Wednesday. Honourable senators on the Government side may look at me and ask: Why is that?' It is obvious now that the Government wants this Bill passed tomorrow. The Government wants to make certain that if it is amended in this place the amendment can be considered by the other place and sent back to us. Members of the other place are ready to go home. The Government wants this Bill passed and to hell with the rest of the legislation. As far as it is concerned we can sit here for the next 6 months. However it wants this Bill passed and believes that we might amend it. We are not likely to amend the others. We are at the mercy of the intentions of the other place. I think I may be getting on to delicate ground, judging by the look I am getting. It might be thought that I am speaking derogatorily of the other place.

Senator Little - Whom do you see looking?

Senator GEORGES - I am sensitive to looks from certain directions, particularly when the person concerned is impartial at all times and always acts intelligently. I am susceptible to that sort of look. From those remarks it is obvious that the look is not coming from any honourable senator on the Government side of the chamber. I will not delay the Senate any longer. I would like to hear some sort of contribution from Government supporters. I do not think their comments, criticisms or contributions have dried up completely but they are under instruction from their Whip not to take part in the debate. As for members of the DLP, they could not care less because they already have control of the situation. We would like to hear tonight from Government supporters. We would like to hear from them during the Committee stage of the debate but 1 doubt that we will. I think the Whip is too well organised and that Government supporters sitting opposite are too subservient to him. I think they ought to object to this attitude. What I say is true. They ought to enter into the debate. The Opposition intends to fight out the Committee stage and to indicate clearly its opposition step by step. The Committee stage is not too far distant. I yield now to the following speaker.

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