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Industrial relations - government intiatives - speech to Liberal Party Federal Council



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NEWS RELEASE

Jav A U S T R A L IA r - v i n l -v i iir -u - i u _ i _ n i i v M v j

THE HON. TONY STREET, M.P

" I n d u s t r ia l Re l a t io n s - Go v e r n m e n t I n i t i a t i v e s " - Sp e e c h to L i b e r a l

Pa r t y Fe d e r a l Co u n c i l . I .

FROM THE MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

In our modern s o c i e t y 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 p l a c e d .

UNDER GREAT STRESS FROM. A NUMBER OF SOURCES, MOST IMPORTANTLY,

THE TRADE UNIONS. It IS THE GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSIBILITY TO

RESPOND POSITIVELY TO THOSE CHALLENGES,. AND TO ACT UPON ITS . ­

ASSESSMENT OF THE SITUATION IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC

INTEREST,

Th i s t r a d i t i o n of Go v e r n m e n t in t e r v e n t i o n i n i n d u s t r i a l

RELATIONS, FIRSTLY BY ESTABLISHING INDEPENDENT INDUSTRIAL

TRIBUNALS, SECONDLY THROUGH THE PROVISION OF INDUSTRIAL LAW,

AND THIRDLY BY'ACTIVE INTERVENTION BEFORE TRIBUNALS, HAS BEEN

ONE OF THE MOST DURABLE AND CERTAINLY ONE OF THE MOST .

SIG NIFICANT THEMES IN AUSTRALIAN HISTORY. I t IS A THEME

WHICH STANDS IN MARKED CONTRAST TO THE TRADITION OF EUROPEAN

and North Am e r ic a n c o u n t r i e s . Mo r e o v e r , i t i s a t h e m e ab ou t

WHICH THERE IS A WIDESPREAD, IF NOT TOTAL, CONSENSUS AS TO ITS

INDUSTRIAL SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC VALUE.

T h i s c o n sen sus flows f r o m "t h e c a p a c it y of t h e i n d u s t r i a l

RELATIONS SYSTEM TO CHANGE, DESPITE ITS BASE IN LAW, TO MEET

ALTERED SITUATIONS. BY AND LARGE OUR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

SYSTEMS HAVE RESOLVED INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES, RESPONDED "

PRAGMATICALLY TO ISSUES CONCERNING WAGES AND CONDITIONS OF

EMPLOYMENT AND PROTECTED THE RIGHTS OF INDIVIDUALS AND

ORGANISATIONS, ALTHOUGH NOT AS COMPLETELY OR AS UNIVERSALLY AS

I WOULD LIKE TO SEE. ’

2 .

Wh i l e t h e p a r t i e s d i r e c t l y in v o l v e d i n t h e s y s t e m h a ve

THEMSELVES BOTH BROUGHT ABOUT AND ASSISTED CHANGE, THE

Go v e r n m e n t ca n n o t s i t i d l y by and w a t c h . Th i s i s p a r t i c u l a r l y

TRUE WHEN EVENTS IN THE INDUSTRIAL ARENA HAVE VITA L IMPLICATIONS

FOR THE COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC POLICY GENERALLY.

The Go v e r n m e n t ' s i n d u s t r i a l r e l a t i o n s p o l i c y i s , a c o m b in a t io n

OF RESPONSIBLE IN IT IA T IV E S AND POSITIVE RESPONSE TO THE CHANGES

t h a t Au s t r a l i a has e x p e r ie n c e d i n r e c e n t y e a r s . '

In g e n e r a l t e r m s , our s t r a t e g y i s d i r e c t e d t o w a r d s :

( a ) m a i n t a i n i n g an i n s t i t u t i o n a l a r r a n g e m e n t w h ic h i n

ENCOURAGING AND FACILITATING THE SETTLEMENT OF .

INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES, PAYS DUE REGARD TO SOCIAL "

AND ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS TO ENSURE THE PROTECTION .

OF THE PUBLIC INTEREST.

( b ) ENCOURAGING THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE INDUSTRIAL

RELATIONS SYSTEM TO RECOGNISE THE WIDER SOCIAL

IMPLICATIONS OF THEIR ACTIONS AND DEMANDS. .

In t h e Go v e r n m e n t ' s a s s e s s m e n t , r e c e n t d e v e l o p m e n t s have

POINTED TO THE NEED FOR EACH OF THE PRINCIPAL PARTIES IN

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS TO SHOW A GREATER SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY

By THAT I MEAN THEY SHOULD CAREFULLY CONSIDER THE ECONOMIC,

INDUSTRIAL AND SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS. OF WAGE SETTLEMENTS AND

3.

INDUSTRIAL ACTIONS BEFORE ADOPTING COURSES OF ACTION BASED

PRIMARILY ON INDIVIDUAL' SELF-INTEREST, BUT WHICH IN THE LONGER

RUN ARE SO DETRIMENTAL TO THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY THAT

EVENTUALLY ALL AUSTRALIANS SUFFER, .

T he r e c e n t d i s p u t e s i n t h e a i r , p u b l i c t r a n s p o r t and power

INDUSTRIES, ARE ILLUSTRATIONS OF TH IS ,A S THE RESULTING

DISLOCATION AFFECTED MOST CITIZENS THROUGHOUT AUSTRALIA AND IN

V i c t o r i a r e s p e c t i v e l y , D is p u t e s i n t h e m i n i n g , m eat p r o c e s s in g

AND STEVEDORING INDUSTRIES AFFECT AUSTRALIA'S TRADE WITH

OBVIOUS IMPLICATIONS,

The Go v e r n m e n t ' s i n d u s t r i a l r e l a t io n s p o l i c y i s b a sed on

CERTAIN FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES. THOSE PRINCIPLES ARE:

. F i r s t l y , each member of our c o m m u n it y has bo th

RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS;

, AND SECOND, THAT INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS MUST BE PROTECTED;

EQUALLY, OBLIGATIONS MUST BE MET.

La s t y ea r t h e Go v e r n m e n t l e g i s l a t e d to s t r e n g t h e n t h e d e m o c r a t ic

CONTROL OF INDUSTRIAL ORGANISATIONS BY PROVIDING THAT

ELECTIONS FOR OFFICE BEARERS WITH MANAGEMENT FUNCTIONS MUST BE

BY SECRET POSTAL BALLOTS, MORE RECENTLY, FURTHER LEGISLATION

HAS SET UP THE NATIONAL LABOUR CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL, TO PROVIDE

A TOP LEVEL NATIONAL FORUM FOR GOVERNMENT, EMPLOYERS AND THE

UNION MOVEMENT TO DISCUSS MANPOWER P O L IC IE S , INDUSTRIAL

RELATIONS MATTERS AND ASSOCIATED ISSUES. I n A D D ITIO N , THE

I n d u s t r i a l Re l a t i o n s Bu r e a u , an in d e p e n d e n t s t a t u t o r y b o d y , has

4.

BEEN ESTABLISHED AS THE THIRD ARM OF THE INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

MACHINERY TO ENSURE THAT THE PROVISIONS OF THE CONCILIATION AND

Ar b i t r a t i o n Ac t and Fe d e r a l Awards are o b s e r v e d ,

On We d n e s d a y - of l a s t w eek I c h a ir e d t h e l a t e s t m e e t in g of t h e

NLCC AT WHICH I PRESENTED FURTHER GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS FOR

AMENDMENTS TO THE C & A ACT TO STRENGTHEN THE IRB AND TO PROVIDE

PROVISION FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF INDIVIDUALS IN

THE AREA OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS,

Ha v in g had t h o s e d i s c u s s io n s w it h t h e p e a k u n io n c o u n c il s and

EMPLOYER REPRESENTATIVES AND CONSIDERED THE VIEWS THEY PUT TO

ME, I WOULD EXPECT THE GOVERNMENT TO INTRODUCE LEGISLATION INTO

t h e Pa r l ia m e n t s h o r t l y to g i v e e f f e c t to t h e s e im p r o v e m e n t s in

I n d u s t r i a l Re l a t io n s p r a c t i c e s .

I n t u r n in g now t o a n o th er c r i t i c a l a r ea of p o l i c y , wages

POLICY, I SHOULD LIKE TO REVIEW BRIEFLY THE GENERAL THRUST

OF WHAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN PUTTING AT THE NATIONAL

Wage Ca s e He a r i n g s . .

We h a v e c o n s t a n t l y e m p h a s is e d t h e o v e r - r i d i n g im p o r t a n c e of .

THE ECONOMIC SITUATION AND THE VITAL ROLE OF WAGE RESTRAINT IN

ECONOMIC RECOVERY AND PROVIDING JOBS.

The d e c i s i o n s of t h e Co m m is s io n h a v e , to some e x t e n t ,, h in d e r e d

t h e Go v e r n m e n t ' s e c o n o m ic s t r a t e g y . To t h e e x t e n t t h a t th e

Co m m is s io n c o n t in u e s to p l a c e . i n s u f f i c i e n t w e ig h t on t h e n e e d

5.

FOR RESTRAINT OVER WAGES, THE PROCESS OF INFLATION CONTROL AND

ECONOMIC RECOVERY WILL BE MORE DRAWN OUT THAN NECESSARY,

AS THE CONTINUING HIGH LEVEL OF LABOUR COSTS HAS NOT BEEN MET

BY HIGHER UNIT PRODUCTIVITY, PRODUCERS HAVE BEEN FACED WITH A

NUMBER OF ALTERNATIVES WHICH DEPEND ON THE STATE OF THE PRODUCT

AND/OR LABOUR MARKETS, '

, RAISING PRICES;

. REDUCING PROFITS AND SQUEEZING INVESTMENT FUNDS; OR

. REDUCING THE TOTAL WAGES B IL L BY SHEDDING LABOUR. .

I BELIEVE THAT THE AUSTRALIAN COMMUNITY IS CONVINCED OF THE

ECONOMIC REALITIES OF THE GOVERNMENT'S POLICY AND THE NEED FOR

WAGE RESTRAINT. _. . . :

AS YOU ARE WELL AWARE THE AUSTRALIAN CONCILIATION AND

Ar b i t r a t i o n Co m m is s i o n i s c u r r e n t l y engaged i n an I n q u ir y in t o

t h e Pr i n c i p l e s of Wage F i x a t i o n , The Go v e r n m e n t b e l i e v e s t h e

RESULTS OF THAT INQUIRY WILL HAVE A MARKED EFFECT ON THE

Au s t r a l i a n economy g e n e r a l l y and on wage f i x a t i o n , i n :

PARTICULAR, FOR YEARS TO COME, GlVEN THE DELICATE STATE OF THE

ECONOMY, IT IS MY HOPE THAT THE COMMISSION IN ITS WISDOM WILL

DEVISE A SYSTEM WHICH WILL ENABLE WORKERS TO BE ADEQUATELY

REWARDED WITHOUT INCURRING HARMFUL EFFECTS ON THE RATES OF

INFLATION AND UNEMPLOYMENT, As TO THE FORM OF THAT SYSTEM I

CAN SAY NO MORE THAN THE GOVERNMENT SUBMISSION REFLECTS THE

VIEWS IT HAS PUT CONSISTENTLY IN PREVIOUS NWC SUBMISSIONS, WITH

6.

PARTICULAR EMPHASIS BEING PLACED ON THE NEED FOR PRIME. .

CONSIDERATION TO BE GIVEN TO ECONOMIC CAPACITY TO PAY.

Re g r e t t a b l y an i n c r e a s i n g number of i n d u s t r i a l d i s p u t e s .

HAVE BEEN CHARACTERISED BY A TOTAL.DISREGARD FOR THE WAGE

-INDEXATION. GUIDELINES/.FO R THEIR IMPACT ON. THE. LEVEL OF ...

PRODUCTION, T H E IR . IMPLICATIONS FOR BUSINESS CONFIDENCE .

AND OVERSEAS TRADE AND THEIR ADVERSE EFFECT ON THE

ECONOMY AS A WHOLE. THESE DISPUTES INCLUDE·: . .

. . THE CAMPAIGN IN THE BUILDING INDUSTRY ARISING FROM LOGS

OF CLAIMS; .

-. THE ACT I ON: IN THE PILBARA D IS T R IC T 'O F WESTERN AUSTRALIA

WHICH HAS AFFECTED IRON ORE PRODUCTION: AND DELAYED

SHIPPING; -

. THE, BANS INPOSED ON VESSELS BY AUSTRALIAN MARITIME UNIONS

: WHICH RESULTED IN SUSPENSION OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE

No r w ic h Park c o a l f i e l d i n Qu e e n s l a n d ; - .

·.' - INDUSTRIAL ACTION IN QUEENSLAND ABATTOIRS WHICH RESULTED

. IN CLOSING DOWN OPERATIONS AND THREATENED BEEF CONTRACTS

to t h e USA and J a p a n ; .

. t h e SECV d i s p u t e ;

. t h e Ba ss St r a i t d i s p u t e .

De s p i t e t h e above e x a m p l e s , o f f i c i a l s t a t i s t i c s show t h a t

DURING THE FIRST S IX MONTHS OF 1977 AUSTRALIA HAD THE LOWEST

LEVEL OF I N D U S T R I A L DISPU TES AND THE LOWEST TOTAL WORKING DAYS

LOST T H I S DECADE. .

7.

Wh i l e t h e Go v e r n m e n t can c l a i m some c r e d i t for the r e d u c t io n

IN THE LEVEL OF DISPUTATION, BECAUSE OF THE MORE RESPONSIBLE

POLICIES IT HAS PURSUED, IT NEVERTHELESS VIEWS THE PRESENT

INDUSTRIAL SCENE. WITH GREAT CONCERN, .

St a t i s t i c s o f t e n - ha ve s o m e t h in g of a s t e r i l e q u a l i t y ab o u t

t h e m . T he f a c t t h a t a c e r t a in number of man- da ys were l o s t i n a

PARTICULAR DISPUTE TELLS US NOTHING OF THE RELATIVE COST TO THE

COMMUNITY.IN TERMS OF LOST PRODUCTION, LOST OR DELAYED

EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES, OVERSEAS CONTRACTS LOST OR THREATENED,.

THE EFFECTS ON FIRMS AND INDUSTRIES STRUGGLING TO INPROVE THEIR

PERFORMANCE AND AUSTRALIA'S INTERNATIONAL IMAGE. . .

I n d u s t r y is c o n c e r n e d ,w it h t h e p r o d u c t io n of goods and s e r v i c e s ;

STRIKES INTERRUPT THIS WITH VARYING, BUT ALWAYS SOME, EFFECT ON

THE PUBLIC.

It i s q u i t e f a l s e and m i s l e a d i n g to look a t s t r i k e s t a t i s t i c s

AND ASSUME THAT BECAUSE FIGURES ARE BELOW THE DISASTROUSLY

HIGH LEVELS OF THE LABOR GOVERNMENT'S YEARS THAT THERE HAS BEEN SOME

DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENT IN THE SITUATION. WHILE THE RECENT .

MODERATION IN AGGREGATE FIGURES IS ENCOURAGING ONE MUST GO BEHIND

THE FIGURES AND LOOK AT THE FACTS.

And t h e f a c t s are t h a t t h e t e c h n iq u e s of i n d u s t r i a l d i s r u p t i o n .

HAVE CHANGED. NOW THE OBJECTIVE. IS TO CAUSE MAXIMUM DISRUPTION

THROUGH THE INVOLVEMENT OF A MINIMUM NUMBER OF KEY PEOPLE.

8.

AS I MENTIONED A MOMENT AGO, MANY DISPUTES HAVE LITTLE EFFECT

ON STA TISTIC S ALTHOUGH THEY CAUSE VERY SERIOUS DISLOCATION TO

BUSINESS. AND THE CO.MMUN.ITY, FOR EXAMPLE, NEITHER THE AIR

TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS' NOR THE FUEL TANKER DRIVERS' DISPUTES

WOULD HAVE HAD MUCH INFLUENCE ON THE STRIKE FIGURES, BUT THEY

CAUSED ENORMOUS DISRUPTION. , . .

I n THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, THE GOVERNMENT WILL ACT TO PROTECT THE

COMMUNITY FROM UNION REACTION TO THE REFUSAL OF EMPLOYERS,

WHETHER IN THE PUBLIC OR PRIVATE SECTORS, TO CONCEDE SELFISH AND

UNREALISTIC CLAIMS. I t HAS ALREADY ACTED IN RELATION TO ITS / V

OWN EMPLOYEES. . ' :

S O FAR AS PRIVATE ENTERPRISE IS CONCERNED, WE EXPECT ’ .

EMPLOYERS TO BE BOTH FAIR AND ‘FIRM. -

F i r m n e s s is an e s s e n t i a l p r e- r e q u i s i t e for e c o n o m ic r e c o v e r y , -

BECAUSE ANOTHER WAGE EXPLOSION SUCH AS WE SUFFERED UNDER THE . .

Lab o r Go v e r n m e n t would s e t Au s t r a l i a b a c k b y y e a r s .

I f e m p l o y e r s a r e to be f i r m t h e y h a v e a r i g h t t o e x p e c t t h a t

t h e Go v e r n m e n t w i l l p r o v i d e t h e m w i t h an a p p r o p r i a t e i n d u s t r i a l

AND STATUTORY FRAMEWORK. We HAVE BEEN CAREFULLY AND PROGRESSIVELY

BUILDING UP SUCH A FRAMEWORK. HAVING PROVIDED I T , GOVERNMENTS

HAVE A RIGHT TO EXPECT THAT I T WILL BE USED, RESPONSIBLY AND

FAIRLY.

Q V I

F I N A L L Y / WHEN I T I S SO USED/ THE GOVERNMENT MUST I N D I C A T E

THAT I T I S RESOLVED TO BACK D E C I S IO N S RESULTING FROM THE

PROPER PROCEDURE BEING FOLLOWED.

We w i l l g i v e our c o m p l e t e s u p p o r t to t h o s e who use our s y s t e m

WITH FAIRNESS AND FIRMNESS, IN THE WAY IT IS DESIGNED TO

OPERATE.

Th a t i s how dem o cracy w o r k s . Th a t i s how t h e L ib e r a l Pa r t y

w o r k s . .

Ca n b e r r a · ,

Monday 17 Oc t o b e r, 1977 .