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"New horizons in industrial relations"



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"NEW HORIZONS IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS"

PETER SHACK .

SHADOW M I N I S T E R FOR EMPLOYMENT AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

AT THE W. D, SCOTT MANAGEMENT ROUND TABLE,

13TH MARCH 1 9 8 5

I WELCOME THE OPPORTUNITY TO TALK WITH YOU ABOUT WHERE WE

ARE, AND WHERE WE ARE HEADING, ON THE INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

f ro nt i n Au s t r a l i a ,

I SPEAK FOR A PARTY WHICH HAS A D IS T IN C T IV E VIEW OF HOW

THAT SYSTEM COULD BE TRANSFORMED FOR THE BENEFIT OF

Au s t r a l i a and Au s t r a l i a n s . I h av e a strong p e r s o n a l as

well as Pa r t y c o m m it m e n t to such r e f o r m , and I am

INTERESTED IN YOUR VIEWS, AS INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

PROFESSIONALS, OF THE DEFICIENCIES OF THE SYSTEM AND '

THE APPROPRIATENESS OF OUR PRESCRIPTION. I AM QUIETLY

CONFIDENT THAT YOU WILL CONFIRM THE FEEDBACK I HAVE

HAD ALREADY, BOTH FROM WITHIN AND WITHOUT THE INDUSTRIAL

RELATIONS COMMUNITY, THAT LEADS ME TO BELIEVE THAT .

SUPPORT FOR OUR PLANNED REFORM OF THE SYSTEM IS WIDESPREAD.

Where a r e we now and how have we come to a r r i v e At t h i s

POINT? -

- 2-

A s a F e d e r a l s p o k e s m a n , I w i l l b e b r i n g i n g a C o m m o n w e a l t h

P E R S P E C T I V E T O B E A R ON T H E D I S C U S S I O N , B U T T H E A C T U A L

R E F O R MS T H E C O A L I T I O N P R O P O S E S A R E A S R E L E V A N T T O T H E

I N D U S T R I A L R E L A T I O N S S Y S T E M S OF T H E S T A T E S A S T H E Y A R E T O

T H A T OF T H E C O M M O N WE A L T H . I T I S A C A S E OF C OMMON WE A L T H

L E A D E R S H I P BY E X A M P L E , R A T H E R T H A N BY D E C R E E . "

F i r s t o f a l l , I h o p e y o u w i l l f o r g i v e m e t h e s h o r t

H I S T O R I C A L D I V E R S I O N N E C E S S A R Y T O E X P L A I N OUR P R E S E N T

P R E D I C A M E N T . ,

T h e C o m m o n w e a l t h C o n c i l i a t i o n a n d A r b i t r a t i o n C o m m i s s i o n

I S T H E P R O D U C T OF T H E D E P R E S S I O N OF T H E 1 8 9 0 S , A N D E A R L Y

p r e s s u r e s f o r p r o t e c t i o n i s m i n A u s t r a l i a .

T h e d e p r e s s i o n w h i c h t o o k h o l d d u r i n g t h e 1 8 9 0 s w a s s a v a g e . ·

E m p l o y m e n t i n t h e A u s t r a l i a n c o l o n i e s d e c l i n e d d r a m a t i c a l l y ,

A S D I D D O M E S T I C P R O D U C T I O N , A G A I N S T T H I S B A C K D R O P - I N D E E D ,

F L O W I N G FROM I T - AN I N D U S T R I A L DR A MA OF H O R R E N D O U S

P R O P O R T I O N S WAS P L A Y E D O U T . T H E C O U N T R Y WAS S T R I F E - R I D D E N .

M a j o r s t r i k e s , p a r t i c u l a r l y i n t h e p a s t o r a l a n d m a r i t i m e

I N D U S T R I E S , WERE L E G I O N .

T h e u n i o n s f o u n d t h a t t h e i r b a r g a i n i n g p o w e r w a s e x t r e m e l y

w e a k . E m p l o y e r s g e n e r a l l y w e r e i n t o o d e s p e r a t e a - p o s i t i o n .

TO MA K E C O N C E S S I O N S I N A N Y C A S E , T H O U G H T H I S C A R R I E D L I T T L E '

W E I G H T W I T H T H E U N I O N S WHO D E C I D E D T O S E E K NEW A V E N U E S TO

E X E R C I S E I N F L U E N C E A N D F U R T H E R T H E I R I N T E R E S T S . ONE ME T H OD

■ . . . / WAS THROUGH

- 3-

WAS T H R O U G H P A R L I A M E N T A R Y ME A N S - H E N C E T H E B I R T H OF

t h e L a b o r P a r t y - a n d t h e o t h e r w a s t h r o u g h t h e c r e a t i o n

o f g o v e r n m e n t - s p o n s o r e d i n d u s t r i a l t r i b u n a l s . A f t e r t h e

U N I O N S ' F A I L U R E T O A C H I E V E T H E I R E N D S D U R I N G T H E 1 8 9 0 S ,

T H E Y F E L T T H A T T H E Y C O U L D A C H I E V E G R E A T E R G A I N S T H R O U G H

I N D U S T R I A L T R I B U N A L R U L I N G S T H A N T H E Y C O U L D T H R O U G H D I R E C T

N E G O T I A T I O N . .

P a r t i e s t o t h e C o n s t i t u t i o n a l C o n v e n t i o n s o f t h e 1 8 9 0 s

G E N E R A L L Y O P P O S E D T H E C O M M O N W E A L T H ' S I N V O L V E M E N T I N T H E

i n d u s t r i a l a r e n a . I t w a s o n l y a f t e r t h r e e a t t e m p t s t h a t

S E C T I O N 5 1 ( X X X V ) OF T H E C O N S T I T U T I O N WAS A G R E E D T O .

T h e C o m m o n w e a l t h a c t e d o n t h a t p a r t o f t h e C o n s t i t u t i o n

i n 1 9 0 4 a f t e r a d e a l w a s s t r u c k b e t w e e n t h e L a b o r P a r t y *

A N D P R O T E C T I O N I S T S W I T H I N T H E P A R L I A M E N T . T H E L A B O R P A R T Y

A G R E E D T O T A R I F F P R O T E C T I O N FOR E X I S T I N G D O M E S T I C

I N D U S T R I E S I N E X C H A N G E FOR A S Y S T E M OF C O N C I L I A T I O N A ND

A R B I T R A T I O N .

T h i s p o t t e d h i s t o r y o f t h e b i r t h o f t h e C o m m o n w e a l t h

C o n c i l i a t i o n a n d A r b i t r a t i o n C o m m i s s i o n h e l p s i l l u m i n a t e

WHE RE WE A R E NOW, A N D WH Y . O R G A N I S E D L A B O U R ' S M O T I V E

F OR B A C K I N G T H E S Y S T E M WAS TO E N S U R E T H E P R O P P I N G UP OF

U N I O N B A R G A I N I N G POWER I N B A D T I M E S . T T H E P R O T E C T I O N I S T S

WERE W I L L I N G T O P A Y T H A T P R I C E F OR T H E E R E C T I O N OF B A R R I E R S

R E D U C I N G T H E T H R E A T T H E Y F E L T F ROM E F F I C I E N T I N T E R N A T I O N A L

B U S I N E S S C O M P E T I T O R S . -

- 4-

T h e r e i n l i e t h e s e e d s o f o u r c u r r e n t e c o n o m i c m a l a i s e -

S T A G N A T I N G I N D U S T R Y W I T H POOR I N T E R N A T I O N A L C O M P E T I T I V E N E S S ,

H I G H U N E M P L O Y M E N T , A N D AN I N D U S T R I A L R E L A T I O N S S Y S T E M W I T H

A N I N - B U I L T B I A S F A V O U R I N G O R G A N I S E D L A B O U R , T H E T H R E E A RE

I N T I M A T E L Y I N T E R C O N N E C T E D A N D , A L O N G W I T H MA N Y O T H E R S , I

B E L I E V E T H A T T H E F OR ME R TWO P R O B L E M S C A N N O T BE S O L V E D

W I T H O U T C H A L L E N G I N G T H E L A T T E R . OUR E C ON OMY H A S P E R F O R M E D

WE L L D E S P I T E T H E S E D E A D W E I G H T S F OR M O S T OF T H E C E N T U R Y

B E C A U S E OF MA N Y P O WE R F U L S T I M U L I F OR G R O WT H , P A R T I C U L A R L Y

i n t h e p o s t W o r l d W a r I I p e r i o d . T h e c a r e f r e e e c o n o m i c

B U O Y A N C Y WE E N J O Y E D P R E V I O U S L Y H A S A B A T E D . WE A L L N E E D

T O WORK T OWA RD B R E A K I N G T H E S O C I A L A N D E C O N O M I C I M P A S S E

WE A R E E X P E R I E N C I N G NOW.

P r o f e s s i o n a l s w i t h i n t h e s y s t e m , s u c h a s y o u r s e l v e s , m a y

O N L Y R A R E L Y OR N E V E R H A V E T I M E T O R A I S E T H E I R H E A D S A ND

P O N D E R S UCH L O N G E R T E R M V I E W S OF I T . Y OU A R E A L L NO

D O U B T F L A T OUT C O P I N G W I T H I M M E D I A T E C R I S E S - D E M A R C A T I O N

D I S P U T E S , WAGE D E M A N D S , R E T R E N C H M E N T S , A N D SO O N .

I f I C O U L D URGE A L L P A R T I C I P A N T S W I T H I N T H E S Y S T E M , H O WE V E R ,

T O DO J U S T ONE T H I N G , I T WOUL D BE T O S P E N D A L I T T L E T I M E

C O N T E M P L A T I N G T H E E N D P O I N T OF T H E T R E N D S NOW S T R I K I N G L Y

E V I D E N T W I T H I N T H E A U S T R A L I A N E CONOMY - E C O N O M I C S T A G N A T I O N ,

H I G H A N D E N T R E N C H E D U N E M P L O Y M E N T , A N D D E C L I N I N G S T A N D A R D S

OF L I V I N G . I T I S P A R T I C U L A R L Y U R G E N T T H A T O R G A N I S E D L A B O U R

B E G I N S T O C O N T E M P L A T E T H E S E M A T T E R S , B U T OF C O U R S E Ί Τ I S A

/ L I T T L E

- 5-

L I T T L E D I F F I C U L T T O D I S S U A D E U N I O N S F ROM S U P P O R T I N G A

S T A T U S QUO W H I C H H A S S E R V E D T H E M SO W E L L , A L B E I T A T T H E

E X P E N S E OF O T H E R S S U CH A S T H E U N E M P L O Y E D . .

E v e n a m o n g s t t h e r a n k s o f t h e e m p l o y e d , h o w e v e r , t h e r e a r e

T H O S E Q U E S T I O N I N G T H E P R E S E N T I N D U S T R I A L R E L A T I O N S S Y S T E M .

A f t e r a l l , u n e m p l o y m e n t h i t s t h e c h i l d r e n o f t h e e m p l o y e d

a s w e l l . E m p l o y e e s w h o t h o u g h t t h e m s e l v e s s e c u r e f o r l i f e

s u d d e n l y a r e f a c i n g t h e p r o s p e c t t h a t t h e y , t o o , c o u l d

F A C E R E T R E N C H M E N T . .

I t I S P A R T L Y T H E C A S E T H A T U N I O N E X E C U T I V E S A R E NOT G E A R E D

T O L I S T E N T O T H E W I D E R C O N C E R N S A N D C H A N G I N G V I E W S OF T H E I R

M E M B E R S H I P , I N T H E : P A S T G O V E R N M E N T S H A V E N O T , P E R H A P S ,

DONE A L L T H A T T H E Y M I G H T TO E N S U R E T H A T T H E A G G R E G A T E

V I E W S OF A U N I O N ' S ME MB E R S P R E V A I L S O V E R T H A T OF A U N I O N ' S

L E A D E R S H I P , OR T H A T U N I O N ME MB E R S U N D E R S T A N D T H E B R O A D E R .

C O N S E Q U E N C E S OF T H E I R A C T I O N S . .

T h e e c o n o m i c a n d s o c i a l g o a l s we s h o u l d p u r s u e a r e s h a r e d

b y a l l b u t a f e w A u s t r a l i a n s . S o m e , a s i s c l e a r f r o m t h e

A C T I O N OF C E R T A I N U N I O N S , ARE W O R K I N G T O A G E N D A S NOT I N .

T H E B E S T L O N G - T E R M I N T E R E S T S OF T H E C O U N T R Y OR I T S

c i t i z e n s . M o s t A u s t r a l i a n s , h o w e v e r , s h a r e s o u n d s o c i a l

A N D E C O N O M I C G O A L S - P E A C E , P L E N T Y A N D P R O S P E R I T Y FOR

A L L , F L O W I N G F ROM A D Y N A M I C , G R O W I N G , I N T E R N A T I O N A L L Y -

C O M P E T I T I V E E C O N O M Y , A s I A R G U E D E A R L I E R , A R E V A M P I N G

OF T H E I N D U S T R I A L R E L A T I O N S S Y S T E M I S AN I N T E G R A L P A R T

OF T H I S P R O C E S S .

- 6-

T h e c o n t r a c t u a l l y - b a s e d s y s t e m o f c o l l e c t i v e b a r g a i n i n g t h e

C o a l i t i o n p l a n s t o i m p l e m e n t p r e s e n t s a c l e a r a l t e r n a t i v e t o

T H E I N D U S T R I A L R E L A T I O N S P O L I C I E S OF T H E G O V E R N M E N T , T H E

B E N E F I T S W H I C H CAN BE D E R I V E D F ROM I T - FROM MORE F L E X I B L E

A N D S E N S I T I V E W A G E - F I X I N G , T O G R E A T L Y E N H A N C E D A C C O U N T A B I L I T Y

B E T WE E N E M P L O Y E R S A N D E M P L O Y E E S - A R E O B V I O U S .

T h e H a w k e G o v e r n m e n t , d e s p i t e t h o s e w i t h i n i t s u c h a s

M r K e a t i n g w h o s h a r e s o m e t h i n g o f t h e C o a l i t i o n ' s c o m m i t m e n t -

TO D E R E G U L A T I O N , I S U N L I K E L Y T O C O N S I D E R T H E C O N T R A C T U A L L Y -

B A S E D C O L L E C T I V E . B A R G A I N I N G O P T I O N . T H I S I S P A R T I C U L A R L Y SO

U N D E R T H E P R E S E N T M I N I S T E R , R A L P H W I L L I S , WHO I S A F T E R A L L A

P R O D U C T OF T H E A C T U B U R E A U C R A C Y . T H E G O V E R N M E N T W O N ' T C O N S I D E R

I T B E C A U S E OF I T S E S S E N T I A L P O L I T I C A L B A S E ' - T H E U N I O N S .

T h e C o a l i t i o n i s n o t b e h o l d e n t o t h e u n i o n m o v e m e n t , W h e n -

WE A C H I E V E G O V E R N M E N T N E X T T I M E R O U N D , I AM C O N F I D E N T T H A T

WE CA N A N D W I L L E S T A B L I S H A S Y S T E M OF C O N T R A C T U A L L Y - B A S E D

C O L L E C T I V E B A R G A I N I N G . T H E C O MMO N WE A L T H C O N C I L I A T I O N A N D

A r b i t r a t i o n C o m m i s s i o n i s n o t a s a c r e d a n d u n t o u c h a b l e

I N D U S T R I A L I N S T I T U T I O N . I T I S T H E P R O D U C T OF A B I T OF O L D

F A S H I O N E D T U R N - O F - T H E - C E N T U R Y H O R S E T R A D I N G B E T WE E N U N I O N S

A N D P R O T E C T I O N I S T S . T H E S K Y I S N ' T G O I N G T O F A L L I N I F T H E

S Y S T E M I S R E F O R M E D . B U T T H E E C ON OMY M I G H T I F WE D O N ' T OP E N

OUR M I N D S TO C H A N G E , A N D P U R S U E T H E . R E F O R M S N E C E S S A R Y TO

E N S U R E E C O N O M I C R E V I T A L I S A T I O N A N D T H E S O C I A L A N D M A T E R I A L

P R O G R E S S T H A T CAN F L O W . F R O M I T .

- 7-

W h a t m a k e s m e m o s t o p t i m i s t i c a b o u t a r e n e w e d c a p a c i t y f o r

C H A N G E I S T H E P U B L I C ' S R E A D Y A C C E P T A N C E OF D E R E G U L A T I O N I N

T H E F I N A N C I A L S Y S T E M T H A T I S NOW T A K I N G P L A C E . T H E L O N G E V I T Y

OF AN A R R A N G E M E N T I S NOW NO L O N G E R S U F F I C I E N T T O E N S U R E I T S

C O N T I N U A N C E .

P u b l i c p o l i c y i n t h e 1 9 8 0 s a n d b e y o n d m u s t b e t e s t e d f o r

I T S U T I L I T Y , I T S S O C I A L A N D E C O N O M I C O U T C O M E S . I N T H I S

S P I R I T WE M U S T E X A M I N E OUR I N D U S T R I A L R E L A T I O N S S Y S T E M ,

H O N E S T L Y A S S E S S I T S S O C I A L A N D E C O N O M I C O U T C O M E S , A N D

E N E R G E T I C A L L Y P U R S U E P O S I T I V E R E F ORM OF I T . I T . I S ONLY

THROUGH SUCH EFFORTS THAT A U ST R AL IA 'S ECONOMIC V I T A L I T Y

AND HIGH STANDARD OF L I V I N G CAN BE RESTORED. '