Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1508


Mr CAMPBELL(9.53) —Tonight I would like to grieve about industrial relations. When I was campaigning to win the seat of Kalgoorlie in 1980 I met with senior management of the Pilbara mining companies. I well remember a very frank discussion with one executive who said to me:

We are frightened of Sir Charles Court. We see him as an agent of Japan. We would prefer Paul Keating as Minister because we think he would stand up to Sir Charles and we know that Doug Anthony will not.

He added:

The Labor Party will not win the election-but good luck.

He was right. The Australian Labor Party did not win until three years later. In the mindlessness of union bashing which has been the hallmark of the Liberal- National Country parties over many years Sir Charles Court has indeed been an agent of Japan. The facts are that the Pilbara has been a very reliable supplier of high quality iron ore to the Japanese. On no occasion have Japanese blast furnaces been threatened by lack of Pilbara iron ore. What has happened is that the Japanese have been able to take up this myth of Pilbara unreliability and develop it into a powerful negotiating weapon. It has been used as an excuse to divert purchases to Brazil and to beat down prices. The Leader of the National Party (Mr Anthony), when he was Minister for Trade, was aware of the situation. Despite the fact that he is not averse to mindless union bashing he was forced to make the same points in the House that I have just made.

The reality is that America has made substantial loans to Brazil. It knows that the only hope it has of preventing complete default by Brazil is to sell Brazilian products. America will exert its considerable leverage on Japan to transfer volume from Australian mines to Brazil. The Japanese are themselves in the same position. They need little encouragement to transfer the tonnage. Such actions they know severely prejudice our efficient mines which rely very much on economies of scale for their efficiency. Japan however has to have assured supplies. For this reason it needs to make sure that our mines do not close completely. It knows that South America can be plunged into turmoil at any time. Industrial trouble in Brazil means guns. The country is also prone to natural disasters having a very extended rail service.

Our mines need to protect themselves by widening their markets. I am pleased to see that all companies are now looking at deeper ports to accommodate larger ships. In 1980 when I was advocating this so that they could get into the European trade I was derided by many of these same people. While industrial trouble has never directly threatened the supply of iron ore an impression has been created and is now a self-fulfilling prophecy. For the sake of the welfare of the people of the Pilbara, and indeed for the sake of the whole economy, a strategy must be worked out to increase the level of consultation between unions and management. I am aware of the negotiations pertaining to the Hamersley iron dispute that took place between the unions and Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd. I went to some trouble to determine just what the position was of both parties. With the help of Senator Peter Cook I put forward a six step procedure that was subsequently modified by the unions. We were assured it was acceptable to both parties. The acceptance of this procedure by Ian Burston, Manager of Hamersley Iron, was indicated to Peter Cook and me and two delegates to the combined union council at Mount Tom Price.

The next day Senator Cook received a telex from the company signed by Ian Burston which appeared to pour cold water on the six points. Being both alarmed and annoyed I contacted the company and was told that everything was all right. History has shown that it was not. The company simply went into the negotiation and reverted to its original stance. This perfidy on the part of the company of course guaranteed that negotiations broke down. The company's actions were dishonest and unless the company had some grand machiavellian design it was also stupid. I do not know what moved Mr Lynch, the company's industrial relations officer or rather the human resources manager. Maybe he loyally and mistakenly put the company's position. In that case, he virtually destroyed the credibility of both himself and the company. I am forcibly reminded of the words of Sir Roderick Carnegie, who said that in the event of a protracted industrial dispute he would always look to management for responsibility. I am aware that CRA Ltd is currently looking at a new American style management system. If this system is based on breaking union power then it is a very worrying development. My belief is that it can succeed only at such cost as to make any victory a very Pyrrhic affair. I suggest to Sir Roderick that he quickly take a long, hard look at his management and consider just where his empire is going.

I have said that better industrial relations for the Pilbara are vital. I would like to list some of the reforms that I think are vital. Firstly, the State Government should give a great deal of thought to the commissioners it appoints. This is a subject I want to deal with at some greater length at another time. Secondly, I believe that a tripartite commission should be set up composed of a well respected chairman and a nominee from the unions and from management, and that at least the chairman should be a resident of the Pilbara. This commission should be responsible for all disputes. I have stressed that it is important that a component of that commission live in the Pilbara because conditions are different. The climate is trying. It has to be understood in the context of the whole industrial relations area. Thirdly, and I think very importantly, the formation of a Pilbara trades and labour council should be speeded up. Such an entity should be funded adequately to ensure that the necessary research is at least comparable with the facilities available to the company. I believe that with the formation of a Pilbara TLC we will see developing in the Pilbara the leadership that is necessary if we are to have an improvement in industrial relations. These provisions are not exhaustive or even obligatory. But I believe that there is a desire to improve the situation; there is certainly a need to improve it.

This long running dispute was settled this morning when the workers of Hamersley agreed to terms. They agreed to terms which they would have agreed to six weeks ago. They agreed to terms which the company agreed to three weeks ago. It is absolutely outrageous that the resolution of this dispute has taken so long. I know it can be said that there were some areas of misunderstanding between officials in Perth. But the company was aware of the situation in the Pilbara. The company had stated that it was prepared to settle on those terms. The company must be held to blame that the strike went on for so long.

Having said that, I would just like to mention an affair that took place in this House tonight. I refer of course to the performance of the honourable member for O'Connor (Mr Tuckey). I do not grieve for John Dawkins. John Dawkins is well known to me; he is a very good friend of mine. John Dawkins is very tough and very honest. If Mr Dawkins has any faults in my mind it is that probably he has made a fettish of integrity. What we were presented tonight was a tirade from the honourable member for O'Connor that dealt not in facts. It dealt with sundry propositions which came entirely from his own convoluted and corrugated mind and had no basis in fact whatsoever. It was a masterly effort, an effort worthy of a man who was a debating champion in the Army, a very sophist and theatrical effort. I hope that members of the Press Gallery who were in attendance had the wit to determine the substance from the reality.

Question resolved in the affirmative.