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International labour conference in Australia

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For Release: 6 p.m. on Wednesday,?th November, 1962. .

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The fifth Asian Regional Conference of the International Labour Organisation will be held in Melbourne over the period 26th November to 8th December.

The Minister for Labour and National Service,. Mr.McMahon, said tonight that the Australian Government took the initiative in encouraging the, I.L. 0. to hold its first major conference in Australia.

He said a warm welcome would be extended to those attend­ ing the Conference and that he had high hopes that the discussions of the Conference will help to bring a better and growing under­ standing of industrial problems and be a contribution to helping

those people in South East Asian countries most in need.

The I.L. 0. is a Specialised Agency within the United Nations family. It had its origin in the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and is especially noteworthy as the only international Agency in which governments, employers and workers alike parti­

cipate fully in the work of the organisation. In the labour and social fields the I. L.0. has made a notable contribution through the adoption of international instruments laying down minimum standards, in providing technical assistance to Member Nations and

generally in making a contribution to international goodwill and . understanding. Australia is a foundation member of the Organisa­ tion and over the years, the Australian Government and national

employers* organisations and the trade union movement have strongly supported the I.L.0. As a highly developed country seen to be advanced in the field of social and labour law and practice, Australia has often been looked to to provide leadership and

important guidance to the work of the I. L. 0.

Asian Regional Conferences are now usually held by the Q I.L. 0. every five years. Earlier Conferences were held in India in 19U7# and again in 1957, Ceylon in 1950, and Japan in 1953·

Twenty-five countries have been invited by the I.L. 0. to be represented at the Melbourne Conference. It is expected that countries represented will include, as well as Asian coun­ tries, United Kingdom, the United States, U.S.S.R. , France, Netherlands and Portugal. In all, about 300 representatives are

expected from overseas. Among them will be distinguished repre­ sentatives of governments, and employer and trade union organisa­ tions, senior members of the I.L.0. from Geneva and representa­

tives of various international bodies. The Governing Body of the I.L. 0. will be represented by the Chairman and six members, two from each of the Government, employers and workers sides.

It is expected that Mr. Jef Rens, Deputy Director-General of the I. L. 0., will be Secretary-General of the Conference and that he will be accompanied by four Assistant Directors-General and about seventy of the I. L. 0. * s staff from Geneva and Asian offices.

The Governor-General, the Rt. Hon. Viscount De L'Isle, will address the Conference at its opening session on Monday, 26th November.

The agenda for the Conference is of a technical charac­ ter and includes employment promotion with special reference to ■ rural areas; vocational training and management development; and government services for the improvement of labour-management relations and settlement of disputes. These are critical issues for many Asian countries. .

Mr. McMahon said that the Australian delegation to the Conference will be led by Mr. H. A, Bland, Secretary to the De­ partment of Labour and National Service. The other delegates will be Mr. A. E. Monk, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. H. W. Robinson, President of the Australian ' Council of Employers Federations, and Dr. P. H. Cook, First Assistant Secretary in the Department of Labour and National Ser­

vice. These delegates will be accompanied by a number of ad­ visers from the Departments of Labour and National Service and External Affairs and all the State Departments of Labour and from employers’ organisations and trade unions. .

ir The Minister said he was grateful for the assistance ..·

given his Department in preparing for the Conference by a orommit- tee comprising national· leaders of Australian employers’ organis­ ations and of trade unions. With the assistance of this committee, "λ programme had been mapped out which would give overseas visitors i^he opportunity to visit some major industries and national develop­

ment projects and the National Capital and to become acquainted with labour administration in Australia.



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A list of the countries invited to the Melbourne Con­ ference and a brief background note about the International . Labour Organisation are appended. . ■ 1 '


Countries Invited to I.L.O. Fifth Asian Regional Conference

Afghanistan Indonesia Philippines

Australia J apan Portugal

Burma . Laos Singapore

Cambodia Malaya Thailand

Ceylon Nepal · ■ ' U.K.

China (Formosa) Netherlands U.S.A.

France New Zealand ( U.S.S.R.

Hong Kong


Pakistan Vietnam

Background Note on the International Labour Organisation

It may "be said that the establishment of the I.L.O. was the § culmination of a trend.towards social reform which began early in the 19th Century. Throughout that Century, outstanding people - social reformers and economists, statesmen and businessmen - had sought,

for example, to reduce the long working hours of factory operatives, to protect women workers, to stop the exploitation of children. p M a n y believed that reforms of this kind could only be carried out by international collaboration and agreed international standards.

During this same period the workers also exerted pressure, which became stronger with the growth of the trade union movement.

When, in 1919, the Paris Peace Conference set up a Committee on International Labour Legislation, not only were trade union repre­ sentatives invited to take part in its work, one of them was elected chairman of it. The Committee recommended that an international organisation should be formed - alongside the League of Nations - to deal with all matters regarding labour, and that representatives of employers and workers as well as of governments should conduct its work.

These proposals were,accepted and the International Labour Organisation was set up. The Second World War saw the end of the League of Nations but the I.L.O. survived and afterwards became the first specialised agency associated with the United Nations.

} The I.L.O. celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1959 and is one

of the oldest of all the bodies established to work for peace. The preamble to its Constitution - originally part of the Treaty of Versailles - sets out the Organisation's main ideology in the following terms:-

"Whereas universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice;

"And whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as 'to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled.... .

"Whereas also the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries.... "


Thus, from the very beginning, the I.L.O. was faced with this task: to promote social justice by improving conditions of work and life in all parts of the world. To point the way towards its accomplishment, the Constitution had established certain targets - regulation of hours of work and the labour supply, prevention of ' unemployment, an adequate living wage, protection against employment injury and disease, protection of children, young persons and women, provision for old age and invalidity, protection of workers employed in countries other than their own, freedom of association, equal pay for vork of equal value, organisation of vocational and technical education,: and other measures.

For the first few years of its existence, the I.L.O1s. major activity lay in promoting the establishment of more humane social Legislation by a system of international agreements. Between 1919 and 1962 the International Labour Conference adopted 118 Conventions, and the nations which ratified these instruments thereby agreed to put them Into effect by national legislative action. The Conference also adopted L17 Recommendations, which serve to guide governments in labour and related fields. ·

To be valid, a Convention or Recommendation must have been Adopted by a two-thirds majority of worker, employer and government lelegates at the Conference. Any agreements of these three groups lave concerned very practical issues and the realism brought to bear m labour matters has contributed largely to I.L.O1s. success over the /•ear.

In more recent years the I.L.O. has steadily developed in three nain directions - geographical expansion, variety of its activities, and their gradual integration j.nto one comprehensive programme.

Whereas in 1945 there were only 51 member countries, the number las now risen to 104.

In the post-war period the I.L.O. has paid increasing attention ;o the problems of development. It has helped, by technical assistance, ;o establish machinery for social policy and progress in the developing countries - or to strengthen such machinery where it" already existed, technical assistance is not a give-away programme; it is a concerted iction which,, to be successful, requires close .and continued co-operation Lmong all concerned. A part of the cost of each technical co-operation project has to be borne by the beneficiary government and assistance is )nly given at the request of governments. Governments are in the jest position to know what aid they require, and the I.L.O. helps them Letermine whether the assistance requested can be usefully given in )erms of other needs. The. success of I.L.O. practical activities Lepends ultimately on the efforts of governments, employers and workers ;o help themselves.

In every region of the world, no less in the industrialised sountries than where new societies are evolving, the tool of progress .s human skill. The human hand and the human mind, properly trained uid efficiently used, are the means to a richer life for the individual, 'he aim of technical co-operation is to make the experience and technical :nowledge acquired by the more advanced nations available to the less leveloped countries. One of the main objects of I.L.O. technical ! 0-operation is to help the less developed countries use to the best lossible advantage their own most important asset - manpower - so as to ■aise standards of living and to enable their people to enjoy a better .ife. '

The need for I.L.O. action is particularly acute in regions such .s Asia where economic development must be speeded up because of an nprecedented increase in population. The I.L.O. must strive at the ame time to maintain a balance between economic and social progress in

he less developed countries.

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Between 1950 and 1961 no less than 1,068 experts were recruited under I.L.O. auspices to advise the developing nations on a variety of matters in the labour field. During the same period nearly 5»300 I.L.O. fellowships were made available to enable those concerned to

study abroad. Australia has participated actively in this programme by malting available highly qualified and experienced people to serve abroad on short term assignments, A steady flow of people from Asian and African countries in particular has come to Australia under

I.L.O. auspices to study our labour laws and practices.


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