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Tuesday, 2 October 1984
Page: 1017

Senator FOREMAN —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. It relates to the Government's policy of encouraging employee participation and industrial democracy. Can the Minister give some details of how this policy is to be implemented during 1985?

Senator BUTTON —The Government is committed to encouraging industrial democracy in Australian industry and employee participation in decision-making. I should preface anything I say on this issue by making the point that one does not change attitudes in relation to these matters overnight. Any changes that might come about can be expected to be slow.

Senator Martin —You did on education. You changed your mind overnight.

Senator BUTTON —I was not talking about the Government; I was talking about attitudes. Insofar as education is concerned, the Government announced its policy and that is it.

Senator Walters —I wish it were.

Senator Martin —Did you say that at the conference?

Senator Walters —You are chopping and changing.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There are too many interjections from Opposition benches. I call the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Cook —Stop harassing him.

Senator BUTTON —I do not know whether Senator Cook is alleging some form of sexual harassment by Senator Martin and Senator Walters, but if that is the allegation, I quit. I was seeking to make the point that any action in relation to the implementation of industrial democracy programs cannot be expected to bring about results overnight. The Government's intentions about this matter are quite clear. They were illustrated by the Budget decisions in relation to several initiatives which were contained in that Budget. First, an industrial democracy cost subsidisation program to provide direct financial assistance to selected organisations was funded on the basis of an allocation of $750,000. Secondly, a resource persons development program to create practical, accessible educational opportunities for those involved in developing industrial democracy programs was allocated $125,000. An allocation of $120,000 was made available to a considerably expanded industrial democracy research grants scheme to sponsor research which contributes to the solution of practical problems experienced in implementing some of these programs. Totalling over $1m, these initiatives complement the existing training, research and information carried out by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations.

I reiterate that the Government is committed to a course of action in relation to this matter because it happens to believe in it. It believes in it because it is of the view that, looking ahead at the enormous changes which are likely to take place in the structure of Australian industry, it is desirable that consultative and participatory mechanisms be available to facilitate an understanding of those changes. The money which has been appropriated for this purpose this year signals a first step in proceeding to introduce those programs and to try to encourage the necessary attitudinal changes so that these programs can be effective.