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Monday, 13 September 1971
Page: 1158

Mr WHITTORN (BALACLAVA, VICTORIA) - I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: When a senior member of this Parliament tells employers not to confront employees and unions, does it signify that employers should be ready to meet excessive wage demands, which has been the pattern in recent years? Are some employers too ready to accede to union demands without recourse to the arbitration system and do they then approach the Tariff Board for additional protection against imports?

Mr LYNCH (FLINDERS, VICTORIA) (Minister for Labour and National Service) - The excessive increase in wage demands during recent years has undoubtedly been a primary cause of the cost inflation which Australia is facing at present. There is no doubt, as the honourable gentleman suggested, that employers, who are one of the principal parties to wage negotiations, have a heavy responsibility in this field particularly having regard to the increasing trend towards wage fixation outside the pure ambit of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

That wages do have a pivotal responsibility for cost inflation at this time can be clearly seen by assessing the trend in labour costs and private profits per unit of output. During 1968-69 the increases were approximately the same, being 4.6 per cent for labour and 4.8 per cent for private profits. However, these figures contrast markedly with those for 1970-71 when labour costs increased by 10 per cent per unit of output and private profits slumped, by 3.3 per cent. I believe these figures show full well the error of the Leader of the Opposition in painting the picture that he does and in seeking to apportion the cause of cost-push inflation to any area except that to which it legitimately belongs, that is, the primary area of excessive wage inflation.

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