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Wednesday, 15 September 1971
Page: 1383

Mr LYNCH (Flinders) (Minister for Labour and National Service) - I thank the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) for the courtesy he extended to me by indicating that this matter would be raised by him tonight, lt is not my intention to cover at length the points he has raised because I know other honourable members wish to speak but, as a courtesy to him, I shall reply to one or two of the issues he brought forward. It is certainly my understanding that the facts concerning the retrenchments at General Motors-Holden Pty Ltd and Chrysler (Australia) Ltd at their South Australian plants have been accurately stated by the honourable gentleman, but I say to him in quite clear terms that it is not correct at all to say that the Government has been inactive in seeking to provide solutions to the problems that have occurred in those 2 industrial establishments. Immediately the news was made public, officers of my Department were in contact with the plants concerned. The men were interviewed and every effort has been made by the Commonwealth Employment Service in Adelaide to effectively place the men who have lost their jobs because of the retrenchment programme. 1 understand that at present a number of the men concerned - 1 cannot quote the figures at this stage - have accepted offers from both companies of production line work; that a number of them have been referred to other employers and have been placed by the Commonwealth Employment Service; and that a number of others have moved from their previous places of residence. This does in fact give the lie completely to the honourable gentleman's assertion that no action has been taken.

The honourable gentleman referred to the question of the Government's employment training scheme for workers displaced by technological change. The details of that scheme have been made clear to the House. They have been the subject of a ministerial statement. I do not intend to repeat them at this stage, except to remind the honourable gentleman that the programme is geared specifically to the problems of technological change. In that sense, the training scheme would not be applicable to the recent retrenchments in South Australia because in fact they did not result from any problem of technological change. What in fact happened in South Australia, as the honourable gentleman is well aware, is that the companies concerned took management decisions which were well within their prerogative to take. These decisions related to forward development programmes, not to current production schedules. In no way did the retrenchments concerned reflected the companies' thinking on the present economic position.

Finally, I refer briefly to the honourable gentleman's comments concerning the question of a 35-hour week. The Government's position in relation to this matter has been made very clear in the House. We are totally opposed to the introduction throughout Australia of a 35-hour week because of the severe economic implications which that would cause. I have mentioned the figures before but I will repeat them for the information of honourable members opposite. The cost to the community of introducing a 35-hour week would be between $1, 600m and $2,305m per annum on the basis of requiring additional staff, and between $2,400m and $3,450m per annum on the basis of additional hours overtime worked. It will be clear to honourable gentlemen on either side of the House that this is not a programme which this country can afford at this stage, and it would be irresponsible to suggest that it should. Neither is the introduction of a 35-hour week any answer to a particular problem in an industrial establishment such as has been the case in those 2 plants in South Australia.

Guidelines of redundancy have been established through the National Labour Advisory Council in relation to workers made redundant because of technological change, but guidelines have not been established to cover the particular situation to which the honourable gentleman has referred. I believe that this would be a very useful area of examination for my department. I thank the honourable member for the suggestion that he has made. It does not come to me as a new suggestion. Nevertheless, since he has brought it to my attention I can assure him that the matter will be studied and I will advise him of any action that is taken.

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