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Tuesday, 6 November 1973

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I understand that Standing Orders were not suspended for the purpose of allowing this Bill to pass through all us remaining stages without delay. Therefore, we have the right to proceed to the third reading only with the leave of the Senate or on a subsequent day. I understand that Senator Greenwood now has no intention of agreeing to the granting leave for the purpose of getting rid of the third reading of the Bill today and tidying up the position. I cannot see the purpose in this. I hope that if I can satisfy him that there is an answer to this query he will reconsider this question and after he has had his say- his grizzle, I think, for political reasons- and achieved his purpose he will let us get this Bill off the notice paper.

Senator Webster - It might depend on the Minister's answer.

Senator CAVANAGH -The answer will be convincing, I think, even to Senator Webster. What we have said at all times is that you cannot compel a man to sell his labour power. It is his right as a free citizen to give or withhold his labour in accordance with his wishes. The main cause of the dislocation of industry and the withholding of labour is a belief that there is not comparable wage justice. Everything in our arbitration system has been based on comparable wage justice. Men will leave their employment more quickly because they believe that they are underpaid compared with someone else than for any other reason that comes up in industrial undertakings. A man judges whether he is well done by or ill done by in comparison with someone doing something of a like nature or with what operated before. Apparently Senator Greenwood is complaining about a dispute involving some special electricians who had been receiving $4 more than ordinary electricians for some considerable time. The ordinary electricians always have been below the special electricians, but they now have received a $4 increase. That increase represents a reduction of $4 in the relative wage of the men who were receiving the extra amount. This is the very sort of question which creates industrial disputes.

The penal provisions are still in our industrial legislation. Senator Greenwood would like to be the Attorney-General today and to say to these men: 'Go back to work or be prosecuted. Go back to work or we will apply the law of tort whereby you will be made to pay compensation for any losses caused by your action'. This sort of action never achieves industrial peace. The Opposition Parties tried this sort of thing for years. It has never succeeded; it has caused industrial unrest. We seek to adopt another plan which will not involve the imposition of penalties. The cause of this dispute must be overcome. I do not know whether Senator Greenwood was present for the entire debate, but I heard the reply given today by the Attorney-General, Senator Murphy. Obviously Senator Greenwood did not listen to my contribution during the debate on this Bill. The whole purpose of this Bill is to get workers participating in the fixation of wages and to enable them to be parties to agreements.

Members of the Opposition want to apply all power to stop disputes after they have occurred, but we are trying to provide an Act which will prevent disputes. The Opposition Parties tried penal clauses and they failed. A dispute ceases when one side gives in after fighting the matter to exhaustion. All the Opposition's arbitration commissions, conciliation and everything else have not solved the problem in all Australia 's history. We want to have a situation in which workers become part of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in order to be party to fixing their wages and entering into agreements. We know that the majority of workers would agree with this course and that the workers have never been known to repudiate an undertaking given in relation to an arbitration matter. When an undertaking has been given by a majority of workers they have never repudiated it. That is the new approach that we are adopting in order to solve industrial trouble. We are not trying to get people back to work; we are trying to stop people from coming out of work.

The Liberal Party and the Country Party- as well as the Democratic Labor Party- have a vested interest in creating and maintaining industrial turmoil in Australia for the very reason that their re-election as a government could depend greatly upon there being chaos in industrial affairs. We see this happening in New South Wales today because a State election is to be held. Let us be honest about this matter. We want greater worker participation in wage fixing. When workers have been parties to voluntary agreements for a set term, how many times have those agreements been broken? That is the whole question. We have a plan to prevent disputes, but we cannot bring it into operation. The electricity strike in Victoria and the continual stoppages throughout Australia are the responsibility of the Opposition, which will not let us bring a workable industrial legislation into operation in Australia.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Suspension of Standing Orders

Motion (by Senator Cavanagh) proposed:

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its remaining stages without delay.

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