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Tuesday, 12 October 1971
Page: 2147

Mr BUCHANAN (MCMILLAN, VICTORIA) - Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement issued by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday declaring the industrial policy of his Party? Is it a fact that his policy does not offer any alternative to the conciliation and arbitration system and in fact would effectively destroy the functioning of that system? Does the policy announced by the Leader of the Opposition represent a confused picture of industrial relations in this country?

Mr McMAHON (LOWE, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Prime Minister) - I did read some newspaper articles relating to an alleged meeting between the Press and the honourable member for Hindmarsh and the Leader of the Opposition. I must confess immediately, as one who has had several years of experience in industrial relations, probably longer than any other person in this House, that the ideas were badly conceived and I believe are completely unworkable. Worse, I believe they will play into the hands of the left wing of the trade union movement and will effectively destroy the system of industrial arbitration in this country, I might be asked why I come to this conclusion. I do so far various reasons. The first one, of course, it that it is alleged that the agreements will come into force only if they are approved by the union executive and by the trade union itself.. If they do not, then we have no agreement whatsoever and no basis on which action could be taken. There is an enormous gap-

Mr Whitlam- I rise on a point of order. (Honourable members interjecting) -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The House will come to order. The Leader of the Opposition is endeavouring to establish a point of order- I believe he has every right to do so.

Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker, might I suggest that you follow your recent practice and ask the Prime Minister to make a statement after question time to cover the remaining points which his sign writer has prepared for him.

Mr SPEAKER - I am not in a position to see from here what notes or any other information the Prime Minister may have. So far the Prime Minister has not been overlong in answering the involved question.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Come on, skinhead.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Hughes will withdraw that remark.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Sir, you know I was not referring to you.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Hughes will withdraw the remark.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If it gives offence to any member I will withdraw it.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Hughes will withdraw the remark unreservedly.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I withdraw the remark.

Mr McMAHON - Mr Speaker,I can understand their sensitivity because this does indicate another area of difference on policy which I believe is of critical importance to the Australian people and shows the vast difference there is between the Labor or Socialist Party and ourselves. I had got to the second point of why I had made the statements I have made. The third point is that according to the honourable member for Hindmarsh there is nothing whatsoever wrong with penalties in industrial law. It is only whether the penalty is imposed on the union or against the individual members of the trade union movement. We believe it should be on the union and we intend to keep fines within the industrial law of this country. But according to the members of the Opposition there can be a $20 fine per day on individual trade unionists. Can anyone tell me that that would be practicible in the case of, say, the Amalgamated Engineering Union with 86,000 workers who could be punished? A fine of $20 a day would probably mean that a total fine of the order of $1,750,000 a day would be imposed upon the members of that union.

The next point is that in most of these cases - particularly in the case of the left wing unions - there is no doubt whatsoever that it is the union leaders who are responsible for the strikes, not the rank and file. If we like to think of the justice of this case, those who are not responsible - the trade union members themselves - will pay the penalty, not the powerful associates of the members of the Labor Party. Gross injustice would be involved here.

Finally, what is obviously intended is that in the case of arbitration they would want all the benefits of the organisation but have none of the responsibilities or obligations that are associated with organisation itself. I emphasise now, Sir, that we intend to strengthen the arbitration system. We will, amongst other things, retain fines as an essential feature of that system. I repeat that this is a critically important policy distinction between ourselves and members of the Labor Party.

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