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Tuesday, 12 June 1984
Page: 2802

Senator ROBERT RAY —I ask the Minister for Veterans' Affairs: What measures have been taken in his Department for the implementation of the Government's policies of industrial democracy and fast consultation. Is the Minister satisfied with progress in this matter and have all the relevant unions been adequately consulted on this subject?

Senator GIETZELT —I consider the implementation of policies relating to industrial democracy and joint consultation between management and labour to be one of the highest priorities in my Department. This is particularly so because in terms of staff it is the fourth largest department. It employs 12,000 persons in various institutions and administrative offices throughout Australia. When I was appointed Minister one of my first duties was to set in train a whole range of consultative mechanisms within the Department. Previously, the Department had some forms of consultation but they dealt largely with areas of safety. However, we have moved considerably towards establishing sufficient confidence on the part of the staff by establishing such consultative committees, which have proved to be very satisfactory.

Already, the first national level consultation with a major organisation-the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association-has taken place, involving union delegates from all around Australia. From all accounts, both management and labour have expressed satisfaction with that exercise. It is hoped that that experience will be transferred to other relevant unions in the very near future. I might add that the Public Service Board has expressed the view that departments should begin the process of industrial democracy with some vigour, and other departments are already moving in that direction. Regarding the process of consultation, I can say that the Secretary to my Department has made arrangements to give union delegates adequate access to departmental facilities, including the provision and use of rooms for the conduct of union business. This might seem a small step, but it is an important step which, in my view, is long overdue. I believe the Government and also the public at large, whom we serve, will benefit in both the short and the long term if sufficient confidence is established between labour and management.