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Tuesday, 7 December 1971
Page: 4189


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The speech delivered by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) must be seen as a review of the Government's capacity or otherwise to handle industrial relations. In this sense it must also be seen as an admission of miserable failure to understand and resolve the issues that are at stake. It must also serve as notice of an early election next year, with the Government deliberately creating industrial unrest for political purposes in order to deflect public opinion from the real issues, which are rising prices and massive unemployment. There can be no doubt about who is to blame for the fact that our industrial laws have failed and are out of date. The blame must be placed squarely on the shoulders of those who have held control of the Parliament for the past 22 years - the Liberal and Country Party Government. It is they who have had the power to make workable laws - and it is they who have failed to do so - since 1949.

Just as the Government has failed to understand and solve industrial relations in the past, so it will fail in the future should the people of Australia be foolish enough to re-elect this inept and indecisive Government at next year's election. The Government has always displayed a general disregard for the welfare of the 4i million men and women employees of the nation's workforce. It is this failure to understand the position of the working man that is preventing the Government from distinguishing between cause and effect. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) does not seem to realise that demands for increased wages are really caused by rising prices. The Government does not seem to realise that when sales tax is increased the price of the goods affected is increased not only by the full amount of the sales tax but also by an additional mark up for profit. For 22 years this Government has maintained its stubborn indifference to the inflationary effect of resale price maintenance. It was not until the Australian Council of Trade Unions succeeded in forcing Dunlop Australia Ltd to abolish resale price maintenance against Bourke's store in Melbourne that the Prime Minister was forced, unwillingly, to act against its inflationary effect upon the economy.

For 22 years this Liberal-Country Party Government has watched our conciliation and arbitration machinery slowly grind to a stage of near collapse before bothering to take its first half-hearted step towards ascertaining the causes of that collapse. Even at this late stage we are offered no more than a speech designed to hoodwink the country into believing that the Government, whose policies have caused the current collapse, should be entrusted with reforming the system. Some of the proposals outlined by the Minister are quite laudable, but one would need to see how they will appear in Bill form before one could take the risk of indicating support for them at this stage. Some of these proposals which, at first blush, appear to be reasonable and to be of some advantage include broadening the qualifications of a presidential member so that persons other than lawyers can be appointed as presidential members. I would like to see economists, sociologists or somebody of that nature appointed.

The Government says it will strengthen the law protecting employees and unionists against victimisation. This is a law that has been crying out for attention for years, ever since the 1959 Gietzelt case in which the Miscellaneous Workers Union was involved. The Government says it will alter the law to enable unions to register rules requiring union members to give written notice of resignation. This is another case that has been crying out for correction ever since the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association case was determined by the Commonwealth Industrial Court in 1966. The Government is going to strengthen the inspectorate. I am pleased to hear that but I would like to see what it does with relation to that before I express full agreement for what is proposed. It is going to upgrade the conciliators. I do not know whether this means it is going to upgrade the conciliators or downgrade some of the conciliation commissioners. It will be interesting to see the real nature of this proposal before one commits oneself to support of it. It will expedite the making of orders, which is good if it means what it says. The Government will extend the industrial powers of the Act to cover the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, which is good. The Government will attempt to correct the anomalies caused by Moore and Doyle, but it will not succeed because these anomalies cannot be fully corrected, by the Commonwealth alone, although the Minister, to be fair to him, acknowledged that, until there is complementary legislation from the 4 State parliaments which will have to be involved.

The Government will alter the law regarding the challenge of elections that have been conducted by the Registrar. This is good and long overdue. The Government will stipulate that a challenge to an election conducted under union rules shall be made within a specified time. Depending, of course, upon what the specified time is, that is a good amendment and would have to be supported. The Government intends to wipe out of the Act the limitation now placed upon the accumulation of sick leave. That is an excellent idea and should have been adopted years ago. There is no doubt that the number of man days lost because people are not prepared to see accumulated sick leave go down the drain is now quite astronomical. If people were allowed to accumulate sick leave indefinitely or, after a period, were paid in cash for accumulated leave they are not likely to take, this must have a beneficial effect upon industry generally. The Government proposes to limit the right of lawyers to appear in conciliation proceedings, which again is an excellent idea.

On the other hand, the Government proposes to alter the law to give it the right to intervene in reference and appeal cases so as to keep arbitrators under the thumb of the Government, lt means that any decision given by a conciliation arbitrator that runs contrary to Government policy will be appealed against and the Government, with the full force and majesty of the law, will intervene on behalf of the employer. But worse than that is the innuendo or the suggestion - I hope it is no more than a suggestion - that where parties enter into industrial agreements under the auspices of a conciliation arbitrator, these will also be subject to appeal with the Government intervening before the Commission. Then it proposes also to give protection to ticket dodgers by the deregistration of unions which force those who benefit from union activity to pay their share of the cost and to fine an employer who seeks to prevent or to settle a dispute by dismissing a free rider and to allow non-unionists access to the award making process of the Commission. I cannot understand this. The Government itself says that nobody is entitled to get the benefit of medical benefit funds or health funds unless he joins a medical benefit fund; and yet here it says that a person can get the benefits of trade unionism without paying anything at all.

The Government proposes moreover to allow the dual registration of persons engaged in similar industries. Whatever the word 'similar' eventually will turn out to mean, goodness only knows, because like the words 'public interest' it will be someting that will take a fair bit of defining. I can see that people who work as labourers in a winery will be entitled to join either the Australian Workers Union, the Liquor and Allied Trades Union, the Miscellaneous Workers Union or perhaps even the Builders Labourers Federation. One could go through the whole gamut of the kinds of people who could be covered by that kind of an alteration to the registration procedure. We could have people joining all sorts of unions which they are now not entitled to join. I hope it does not mean what the Minister's speech would entitle one to suspect that it does mean because that will result in utter chaos.

Secret ballots, the Minister says, will be only marginally affected by the proposed legislation because he admits that there is provision already in the Act which allows for secret ballots to be ordered by the Commission at any time it likes. The Act even provides that there shall be 6 months imprisonment for anybody who attempts to impede the taking of a secret ballot. What more power should be needed than the power already in the Act is beyond my comprehension and 1 will be surprised to see how this works. The Minister's speech skirted around the subject of political strikes. The Government proposes to use another section of the Constitution to deal with this matter and it will be very interesting indeed to see what new fields of Commonwealth power might be opened up in this area. It may be that the Government will find that it has opened a Pandora's box here and that some of the things it seeks to achieve will not be possible and that others that it did not want to achieve will be possible. How on earth it is possible, for example, to use that power to stop workers under a State award from going on strike for more social services? Social services surely cannot be regarded as part of the Commonwealth's trade and commerce powers, and therefore I think the Minister will find that a lot of thinking will need to be done before an amendment of this kind will be made feasible.

It is proposed to retain the abrasive and totally discredited strike penalties of the Act providing for a SI. 000 on an individual or organisation. Section 32a will be amended to make it mandatory for a presidential member of the Commission to issue a prosecution certificate against any union that refuses to call off a strike, no matter how justified the strike may be. Remember that the Act will also be amended to prevent the presidential member from having any right to conciliate. He cannot, when he brings the parties together to hear a section 32a application, attempt to conciliate. He has to arbitrate, and if the union says that it intends to stay on strike, he will be obliged by the mandatory provisions of the Act immediately to issue a prosecution certificate and the matter would then go to the Industrial Court for prosecution . The Minister's intention to collect within 14 days the $4,200 still outstanding must guarantee that there will be a dispute over this. There is an innuendo in the Ministers speech that in future whenever penalties are imposed the unions concerned will be given no more than 14 days in which to pay those penalties. It will be interesting, however, to see just what the Minister intends to do to implement this.

Hie disputes settlement procedures, which the Minister said he felt disappointed about, have been adopted in far more awards and agreements than he appears to be aware of. There are scores of awards, agreements and consent awards in which the settlement procedure clauses have now been introduced. It is doubtful whether some of them are valid - those that have been registered since 24th June last year, when the new legislation came in and which required presidential certification for anything that resembled a bans clause - but the fact still remains that many awards and agreements have incorporated in them today these settlement of disputes procedures. These procedures will not work. I said at the time they were first proposed, that they would not work and the reason they will not work is that there is not proper protection against the victimisation of shop stewards and union delegates on the job. It is too easy nowadays to victimise a shop steward, and unless a shop steward is free to have a face to face confrontation with his employer it is not possible for him to be a representative spokesman for his employees. 1 can see - the Minister virtually suggested it - that it will not be long before the settlement of disputes procedure clauses which now rest upon the mutual acceptance of them by both parties, will be put into the awards and agreements arbitrarily by the Commission, and this is when the trouble will start.

What we want to know is: Where is the legislation to correct the defects of the present law? Why must Parliament be content wilh a mere recital of the all too evident events that so clearly confirm the failure of the present system. When did the Government first discover that the system was not functioning as it should? When did it commence its review of the system'/ These are questions that I have had on the notice paper for months and to which I still have not received answers. But the answers should be easy to give. The Government ought to know when it first discovered that the Act was not functioning and it ought to know when it started to review the present system to see what could be done. Either the Government does not know or it is going to keep it a dark secret for some time yet. If the Government had observed the need for reform at the time when nearly every other section of the community first became aware of its defects, why did it not act at least 10 years ago? Why has it been content merely to play politics with such a complex and sensitive area of government responsibility as industrial relations when the prosperity of the whole nation depends upon sensible solution of the problem?

And why has the Minister ignored, as his predecessor ignored, the warnings of the President of the Arbitration Commission, Sir Richard Kirby? For 2 years in succession now, Sir Richard has offered to confer with the Government on the question of strike penalties and on the operation of the Act generally. The Government has refused even to talk to him. His predecessor dodged the question throughout last year. He ignored 3 questions which I placed on the notice paper, saying firstly that he would not tell me who he talks to and then saying that if he did he would not tell me what they talked about. But according to the President's report the Minister did not talk to him at all. So it was not from answers to questions on notice that I finally got the answer I was seeking. It came from the President himself. I doubt very much that the present Minister has yet spoken to him or if he has he apparently has not taken much notice of the President. The refusal to seek the advice of a man with so much background in this field invites only one conclusion, that is that the Government's only interest in industrial affairs is in finding a way to create an industrial confrontation, to cause a breakdown in industrial relations, in the hope that this will create the right climate for a fictitious political campaign on the issue of industrial law and order.

Even employers are starting to see through this device. Why else would the director of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, Mr Ian Macphee, have felt compelled to issue a warning last month that an election fought on industrial issues would lead to even greater social and industrial disarray? ls this government, which has provided the underlying causes of industrial unrest? Of course it is not. This is not government. This is chaos. The Government has failed to use economic planning to prevent rising prices or to prevent unemployment, which is now expected to reach 120,000 by early next year. Rising prices, are the prime cause of union demands for a wage rate that will enable employees to prevent a catastrophic decline in their living standards. The Government ignores the cause to deal with the effects. Mass unemployment, it seems, is the Government's only solution for dealing with industrial unrest. I say that such a policy is a disgrace to a modern community. A Government that has nothing better to offer than a continuation of industrial strife and which then tries to blame unions for inflation, deserves to be thrown out of office, and that will surely be the fate of this Government no matter when the election is held.

Will anyone deny that the real causes of current industrial unrest are rising prices and the intolerable rate of taxation that falls upon the family man? I challenge the Prime Minister to draw up a household budget showing how he would meet the basic needs of living in today's so-called affluent society or bringing up a family to have decent opportunities in that society, on the present average weekly earnings of $89.70. The last quarter's average weekly wage of $89 would not pay for the last dinner that the Prime Minister had at Chequers', much less pay for the food, clothing, school books, fares, medical expenses, house rent and hire purchase payments that the average family man has to find every day of the week, each week of the year.


Mr Daly - Or a new dress.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Or a new dress, as my friend the honourable member for Grayndler says. The condition of the 2 million-odd employees whose income is less than the average weekly wage is now quite intolerable. I am permitted to make only a passing reference to the one million pensioners and others on fixed incomes who receive less than one quarter of the average weekly wage. However, I want the Parliament to understand quite clearly that well over 60 per cent of all employees in Australia are receiving much less than the Statistician's average weekly wage which, for the year 1970-71 - that is for the whole 12-month period - was only $84.70. But always remember that this figure that the Statistician uses includes all overtime and supplements and is arrived at after lumping all of the under $50-a-week bracket of employees in with company managers, cabinet ministers, judges, top public servants, business executives and even the Prime Minister on his 'paltry' $800 a week salary. It is all thrown into the pool to help arrive, at what is the average weekly wage. The Statistician's average weekly ( earnings figure grossly distorts the true picture as it actually relates to nearly 3 million employees. How, indeed, do these employees, who receive only $50, $60 or $70 a week, cope with rising prices? They can get no wage adjustment until their unions are able to prove to the Arbitration Commission that prices have already risen. Until they can do that they can get no further rises in wages. They never receive wage increases in anticipation of rising prices. Clearly, therefore, increased wages are not the cause of inflation; they merely reflect it. To refer to the economic danger of wage induced inflation associated with industrial unrest, which according to the Minister is the real cause of inflation, is sheer nonsense. He says nothing about inflation associated with restrictive trade practices, excessive profits, crippling taxation and exorbitant interest charged and the many other things for which the working man is not responsible. He says nothing about that at all. He blames the whole of inflation on rising wages.

To accuse the Arbitration Commission of granting excessive wage increases is to ignore the facts. What are the facts? Has the Government not observed the steady increase in over-award wages? Of course it has. It has observed it and complained about it. But doss not this clearly indicate that the awards of the Commission are below the market or going rates of wages? How else docs one explain the fact that employers are willing to grant higher wages than the minima fixed by the Commission? Union pressure, says the Minister. Well, yes, of course, union pressure, otherwise they would get nothing. But what motivates union pressure? The motivation almost invariably comes from the factory floor rather than from the union office; and it springs from the outcome of the hopeless task of the ordinary worker trying to live decently on a fixed wage, while prices and taxation are constantly rising. Every time there is an increase in wages there is an increase in taxation. So the worker is competing with rising prices as well as with rising taxation. To put it in another way, while wages go up the staircase prices always go up the elevator. Strikes - and I use the term the Minister talked about, 'the tip of the iceberg' - are but the lip of the industrial relations iceberg that shows above the surface. They are symptons of injustice and when they occur the cause must be examined and eradicated.

Dr IanSharp, the Industrial Registrar, and perhaps the most knowledgeable man this country has produced in the field of industrial relations, recently told an industrial seminar at Armidale that he was convinced that strikes are rarely inspired by union secretaries, but are nearly always the result of pressures from the mcn at the work site. 1 was secretary of the biggest union in South Australia and I can speak from personal experience when 1 say that I agree entirely wilh what Dr Sharp says. It is simply not true to say that union secretaries can force unionists to take on a fight-to-the-finish strike unless there is first of all a deep feeling of grievance at the floor level. Strikes mean sacrifice. They can lead to financial ruin and even starvation. Talk about strike penalties! The strike is the heaviest penalty a worker can inflict upon himself. lt carries crippling financial and social penalties.

The Prime Minister may succeed in fooling himself into believing that strike ballots are all that are needed to stop or settle disputes, but non-one wilh a knowledge of the facts will gainsay that a compulsory strike ballot would almost invariably produce an affirmative vote for strike action-


Mr Reynolds - Endorsement of it.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Endorsement of it, exactly, as my friend says, and thus have the effect of hampering rather than helping in settlement. With all the strikes that have occurred since the Liberals last came to power in Canberra in 1949, the Government has not once seen any merit in putting to use the provisions contained in section 45 of the existing Act. These allow for the Commission to order a strike ballot at any time it deems fit to do so.


Mr Hurford - The Minister knows it.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Of course the Ministers knows it, but he is not being honest when he says that this new amendment will produce the panacea for all our trouble.


Mr Hurford - He thinks the strike will become legal.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is a good interjection. Perhaps he thinks a strike will become legal. Of course that must be the outcome if a strike ballot conducted under the auspices of the court produces a result in favour of a strike.


Mr Reynolds - No wonder they call it lynch law.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is another good interjection. In fact the only occasion on which the court has used this section to conduct a secret ballot was in 1929 in the timber workers strike when, in answer to the question 'Are you prepared to work under the existing award of the court dated 23rd January 1929?' the strikers voted: Yes, 732; no, 5,318 and informal, 43. No wonder the Minister looks surprised. No wonder his surprise has now turned to an expression of disappointment when he realises that this is not the answer. But what happens when employees vote for strike action? Will the Government accept that decision? Will it allow that decision to be over-ruled without holding another ballot? If it will, what is the point of the Government's case? What is the whole point of the exercise? Does the Government believe that a strike ballot will end the Atlantean bus dispute? Does it not realise that the existing rules of the Bus Employees Union allow members to demand a vote of all members whenever it is asked for? Does it not realise that, in fact, this is exactly what happened on 29th November when, in response to a petition of only a handful of members for a vote in order to test the wishes of the rest of the union, the unions members voted 3,440 to 12 in, favour of refusing to operate one-man buses.


Mr Robinson - A secret ballot?


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Of course it was by show of hands and, of course, if a secret ballot were conducted by the court there would have been some variation in those figures but it would not really have altered the result. Plenty of unions have conducted secret ballots to decide whether their members are in favour of strikes. The Vehicle Builders Union recently had a secret ballot and the union members overwhelmingly supported a strike. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Birrell), a former secretary of the Vehicle Builders Union, can verify what I say as being correct. I know of some shop stewards who will welcome strike ballots because their complaint at the moment is that paid officials are sabotaging their desire to strike. They want to strike and they say it is the union officials who are stopping them. Will they not welcome the idea of secret ballots so that they can force their officials to support them whenever they secure a majority of votes in a ballot? If the decision to strike or not to strike is to be decided by ballot of the rank and file members of unions there will be more strikes, not fewer.

When an arbitration system fails to dispense wage justice, employees have but one solution, and that is to strike, lt remains the only weapon that is left to the 4.5 million Australians who have nothing but their labour to sell. If the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) really wants to know the cause of industrial tensions, let him consider what Mr Justice Powers said when delivering judgment in the basic wage case in 1921. That was 50 years ago, but the position has not changed one iota. The learned judge said:

One of the Court's functions is to prevent industrial disputes. To prevent industrial unrest the cause must be removed. One of the chief causes of discontent is the misery suffered by those I refer to--

He was referring to men on the low wage level - and unemployment, which is more difficult to meet. Another cause of widespread discontent is that this Court-

I ask honourable members to note these words - can only make the workers share the losses in times of depression, and it has no power to increase wages in times of prosperity when enormous profits are made in some industries. Industrial peace can only be secured if the causes of the discontent and unrest are removed.

The Minister referred to the gaining of the 40-hour week, paid annual leave and sick leave. I remind him that the 40-hour week, paid annual leave, paid sick leave, payment of full wage compensation during incapacity, paid public holidays and long service leave were secured originally because of strike action. The Arbitration Court acted only after the men were able to prove that they were strong enough to secure these benefits without arbitration. It is a truism that the working man will get from arbitration only what he is strong enough to take anyway. There have not always been strike sanctions, as the Minister tried to suggest. It is simply not true to say that there have always been strike sanctions in the Act. For more than 20 years the Act operated exceedingly well without strike sanctions.

I have referred to the occasion when a judge said that the court can only make workers share in the evil effects of depression and cannot give to them the benefits of great prosperity. Is this not the very thing that happened in the great depression of the 1930s when Chief Justice Dethridge ordered a 20 per cent reduction in shearers' rates when the then current award had another year or more to run? Is it not also true that the system is now being used to prevent employees from getting the maximum that the present market will yield? The Minister spoke of the economic consequences of court decisions. 1 remind him that there was a time when, under the Arbitration Act, a judge was required to look at the economic conditions of a particular industry when awarding increases or decreases in wages. When in 1930 the Scullin Government sought to remove that provision from the Act in order to prevent Chief Justice Dethridge from reducing the shearers' rates on the grounds that the pastoral industry could not afford it and it was announced that the matter had been raised in and presented to the Parliament by means of a Bill, Chief Justice Dethridge said, in effect: T do not care what the Parliament does. It can remove this provision if it wants to do so but I will still have regard to the economic condition of the pastoral industry'.

How can the Government seek to impose upon the court the proposition about which it is now talking? Of course the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will have regard to the economic consequences but how is anyone to prove whether it has done so or not because a statement by the Commission to the effect that it has done so becomes conclusive evidence of the fact and there is no way by which the Government can countermand it. The Government cannot go to the High Court to get an order for mandamus because the High Court would have to be exercising arbitral powers in the definition of economic matters before it could grant the order. Since the High Court judges do not know very much about the law in some respects, because they will turn the law upside down every now and again, how on earth can the Government expect them, even if they did have arbitral powers, to decide what the economic consequences of a decision of the Commission might be? It is only window dressing. It is an attempt to try to bluff the Commission into refusing wage claims. Or does the Government intend that the Commission shall take as conclusive evidence of truth everything that the Government says about the economic consequence of a decision. Is the Government saying: 'If you do not agree with what our counsel submits is the economic position your action will be ultra vires the Act and therefore will have to be set aside'? Just how does the Government intend to use this strange power it is now talking about? 1 inform the Minister that nobody loves' a strike for strike's sake. The very need to strike is deplored most of all by union officials and by rank and file trade unionists. Some judges, some politicians and some newspaper editors behave as though workers indulge in strikes for the pure love of a row. They forget that when men cease work their wages also cease. There is a need for wages whether a man is working or not. They forget that the landlord still holds out his hand for the rent. The hire purchase companies still demand their weekly instalments. The grocer, the baker, the butcher and the milkman must be paid; and, unless payment is forthcoming, there will be no food for the employee's family."The family's needs do not diminish just because the breadwinner is on strike.

Strikers cannot possibly be put in the position of ordinary violators of the law. Even when it is true that they are breaking a statute, the psychology of criminality is entirely absent from their action. Yet in Australia, the striker is automatically a criminal. Australia holds the disgraceful distinction of being the only English speaking country in the whole world where the right to strike can become an offence punishable by heavy fines and imprisonment. It is the only country in the socalled democratic world which permits a judge to fine an ordinary worker $1,000 or $500 a day for each day he is on strike. There is certainly no other country in the whole world, thank goodness, which has a statute such as in Australia which permits a judge to impose an aggregate penally of $2 12m on the 28,000 employees of General Motors-Holden's Pty Ltd should they ever repeat their 15 day strike of 1964 while at the same time limiting the penalty far a 15 day lockout of 28,000 workers to a maximum of $7,500. So, the penalty on the 28,000 workers would be $212m and the penalty on General Motors-Holden's pty Ltd for the same offence in reverse would be 87,500. Is this justice? It is outrageous that such a thing as this is allowed to continue in a country that claims to be a democracy.

How can the rights of man be properly respected in a society which tolerates this kind of attitude to labour? There has always been a deep seated conviction in communities which call themselves civilised that in the last resort men should be free to refuse to work under conditions that are repugnant to them. I repeat that the right to strike is the first right of a free man. All over the world, where any love of liberty survives the despotic tendencies of feudalism or monopoly capitalism, men cherish the right to throw down their tools in protest against some grievance too great to be borne by free men. The Minister's own father engaged in strikes time after time because he believed that when a man had imposed upon him conditions that were insufferable he should have the right to strike. I wonder what he thinks of the law that is now proposed by this Government. So intense is this sentiment in the United Kingdom and in the United States that organised labour there will have no part in the system of compulsory arbitration which has become so remarkable a feature of the Australian way of life. British and American trade unions will abate no fraction of their right to strike. They refuse to entrust their freedom to a legal apparatus.

It is not often that I am able to use a quotation from a Republican President of the United States to support my own views but General Eisenhower is also on record as a defender of the right to strike. In an address to the American Federation of Labour Convention in September 1952. Eisenhower declared that he favoured the right to strike, declaring quite properly that the abolition of such a right would be the loss of freedom that was absolutely basic to democracy. He said that the contest between labour and industry cannot be abolished without abolishing economic freedom itself. President Eisenhower said:

The right of men to leave their jobs is a test of freedom. Hitler suppressed strikes. Stalin suppressed strikes. But each also suppressed freedom. There are some things worse than strikes, much worse than strikes - one of them is the loss of freedom.

Eisenhower was, of course, correct in pointing out that the hallmark of the police state is the loss of the right to strike. A man's right over his own body is surely a basic human right. The right to withdraw his labour is the one thing that distinguishes the free man from the slave. This is a fundamental freedom. But had President Eisenhower been alive to witness the present rising level of unemployment in Australia, I am sure he would have said that unemployment is also a worse evil than strikes. He could have pointed to the aimless economic policies of the McMahon Government as causing an infinitely greater loss of production through unemployment than all the strikes put together for the last 10 years. The prospect of 120,000 unemployed by the beginning of next year will represent a 60,000 increase compared with last year. In terms of production, the increase alone represents a loss of 15 million man days compared with an estimated 3 million man days that will be lost through strike action this year. It is not the trade unions that are causing the greatest loss in productivity. The real culprits are the McMahon Government.

In terms of lost production, this country loses much more from industrial accidents and disease than from strikes. Last year 4 million man days were lost on this account. Two-thirds of this loss could have been avoided if only the Government would follow the American example of cooperating with the States in establishing a uniform method of recording the incidence and cause of industrial accidents and disease. And, having identified the cause, the Government should then seek to use the power of State and Commonwealth authorities to codify and to enforce safety requirements. Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and several other leading employers have already effected some quite extraordinary reductions in the incidence of industrial accident. From 1950 to 1967 BHP's accident frequency rate reduced from 50.2 per one million man hours worked to a mere 3.4, a total reduction of 93 per cent. What BHP has been able to do, every other industry could do because BHP is an industry where the element of risk to life and limb and to health is very great.

The toll of personal injury is one of (he disastrous incidents of social progress and calls for a co-ordinated response from the nation as a whole. Towards this end a Federal Labor government will act to establish mandatory occupational safety and health provisions applicable (o all employees who constitutionally can be brought within Commonwealth jurisdiction, and will assist the States to do the same in areas of State jurisdiction. A Labor Government will bring in for Commonwealth employees, and for employees in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, a Compensation Act that will guarantee to people during incapacitation the full value of their normal weekly wages. We will establish a bureau of industrial statistics to compile and record uniform statistics concerning industrial safety and the cause and incidence of industrial accident and disease in various industries in each State and Territory. With this information to guide it, a Labor government would provide research relating to occupational safety and the provision of training programmes to increase and improve personnel engaged in the field of occupational safety and health. 1 would like to see a uniform code for industrial safety equal to the best provisions to be found in the various Slate Acts. If the Arbitration Commission could be prevailed upon to include these requirements in Federal awards, and given an efficient inspectorate acting in co-operation with trade union officials to police and enforce such awards, the safety standards of many States would be upgraded so as to drastically reduce the present high accident rate in Australian industry. We will have to wait for perhaps generations before we get the Tory-crusted old gentlemen of the Upper House of South Australia to agree to any worthwhile change in the industrial safety regulations of that State. But if it could be done through the Commonwealth Commission, then at least those workers in South Australia covered by Federal awards would be guaranteed some measure of industrial protection. 1 have already said that it is estimated that nearly 4 million man-days of production is now lost through accidents and disease. It is estimated that nearly 75 per cent of this could be eliminated by government action. It is a disgraceful state of affairs that in 22 years of continuous Liberal Government in Canberra, we have not yet got uniform accident statistics. These statistics are vital in any move to cut down on the present accident rate which, in money terms alone, is now costing our country $ 1,000m in productivity each year. The Minister's speech completely ignores the industrial safety of employees, as though the loss of 400 lives and 4 million man-days every year has nothing whatever to do with industrial relations.

Unemployment and industrial accidents are having a far greater effect on productivity than are strikes. The forgotten man of industrial relations, Sir Richard Kirby, the President of the Arbitration Commission, said in his annual report, tabled in this House only last week:

I am well aware that most Australians accept as a fact that strikes and threats of strikes havebeen increasing over recent years but I doubt if this acceptance is well based if increased population and work forces are taken into account Nevertheless although there is cause for some concern in this regard it should be remembered that the important thing for Australia as a ti adina nation is how the rest of the world with which she is competing is behaving in similar fields.

I need only quote from the 1970 figures compiled by the International Labour Organisation, to which the Minister himself alluded, to answer Sir Richard's question as to what is happening in other parts of the world. It is said that because of industrial action Australian lost 810 man-hours for every 1,000 workers over a full 12-month period. The United States lost 1,390 manhours for every 1,000 workers, Canada lost 2,550 man-hours for every 1,000 workers and Italy, which the Minister forgot to mention altogether, lost 4,400 man-hours for every 1,000 workers. The Minister admits that there has been a worse record in other parts of the world in order to make a case for retaining the existing strike penalties, but conveniently forgets, when he puts the next record on the gramophone to tell the people listening how badly the workers of Australia are behaving and that they are losing too much time, that the total number of man-hours lost in Australia last year averaged only four-fifths of one day per person. To listen to the Minister one would think that everybody in Australia was on strike every second day.


Mr Foster - They are calamity howlers.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - As the honourable member for Sturt says, Government supporters are nothing but calamity howlers. The Government's obsession with strike sanctions has caused it to ignore these things and to treat penalties as the only end that the Government ought to consider.


Mr Birrell - The Government creates strikes.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -It creates strikes. I have already said that there is not one reason why the workers want to strike just for striking's sake. Strikes cause too much suffering to the strikers and their families. To suppress strikes is impossible in a free society. To want to do so is unforgivable. To attempt to do so has the effect of pouring petrol on a fire. Men strike because tyranny and injustice have not yet disappeared from human affairs - they have merely shifted the venue - and because the spirit of freedom still lives and will not yield even to the law when the law becomes an instrument of class oppression.

As a general rule the economic position of the individual worker is too weak for him to hold his own in the unequal contest for a fair share of what he produces. As Mr Justice Higgins said in 191 1 :

The power of the employer to withhold bread is a much more effective weapon than the power of the employee to refuse to labour.

The right to hire and lire gives to the employer an inbuilt power of discipline over every person he employs. Mr Justice Higgins once remarked on the fact that although in theory the Court had power to decrease wages as well as to increase them, every case he had ever handled had been to interfere by way of increase. Then he stated:

The reason seems to be that the employer usually needs no Court to enable him lo reduce wages - he has simply to refuse to give employment at wages which he thinks to be too high. 1 wonder what would happen if a union sought an order under section 33a in order to include in an award a clause banning or prohibiting an employer from dismissing surplus staff; I wonder whether it could get a certificate under section 32a in order to have the employer prosecuted before the Commonwealth Industrial Court if he attempted to dismiss surplus staff. During the hearing of the waterside workers case on 9th September 1919, Judge Higgins said that he adhered to the view he had expressed in the 1917 waterside workers case when he said that it was not a breach of the award for an employee to refuse to accept work if he did not like the conditions. He said that the minimum rate was the lowest rate at which an employer could employ men, but the whole areas beyond the minimum wage was open to bargaining between employers and men.

This is no longer the position in Australia. This Government treats the minimum wage as the maximum. Any attempt to bargain for something higher than the arbitrary minimum can bring a fine of $1,000 or $500 a day or even imprisonment. Although it is a long-established tenet of the common law that an agreement made under duress is unenforceable, the Prime Minister apparently sees absolutely nothing wrong with using duress to enforce the minimum wage rates arbitrarily imposed upon trade unionists. It is little use talking about the rule of law, as the Minister did when he made his speech, when the law applies repressive rules against those with only their labour to sell while the sellers of petrol, steel, tobacco, liquor, soap, frozen foods and scores of other items are free to make their own rules.

The right to strike is not merely a favour or a privilege but should be a legal right based upon natural justice. The BHP has the right to fix the price of steel and to withhold supplies if the price is not met. The medical profession fixes its own fees and has the legal right to sue those who refuse to pay. Dentists, opticians, architects and persons in like professions do the same. I have even heard of members of the legal profession fixing their own fees. I understand that only 2 or 3 weeks ago in New South Wales they increased their fees by a mere 50 per cent. Retail emporiums have the right to sell their goods at a certain price or refuse to sell them at all. Shipping companies, banks and hire purchase companies all fix their own charges for the services they provide. But no-one accuses BHP or the oil companies or the shipping cartel or the insurance companies or the doctors of violating the law when they do these things.

The right to bargain is absolutely meaningless without the right to strike. Even with this right preserved, the worker is at a decided disadvantage. I repeat what Mr Justice Higgins said:

The power of the employer to withhold bread is a much more effective weapon than the power of the employee to refuse to labour.

In the great maritime strike of 1890 it was starvation, not strike penalties, that drove the workers back to work. Starvation, and now hire purchase as well, still stands on the side of the employer.

Having defended the right to strike, let me now distinguish between striking against arbitrary awards and striking against freely negotiated voluntary agreements. But, before doing so, I want to say that the main thing in an industrial dispute is to get the parties talking to each other and to see that the talking takes place before each side takes up a fixed, unalterable position. The strike weapon should always remain the last resort, to be used only when negotiations, mediation or conciliation have broken down.

We will always need some system of compulsory conciliation and arbitration for fixing enforceable minima in wages and conditions. We need it because hundreds of thousands of employees belong to unions which, without the Commission, lack the industrial power to demand even minimum wage rates. To abolish the Arbitration Commission altogether would be to abandon more than one-half of a!l employees in Australia to the tender mercies of their employers. A Labor government will not do that. I see this country irreversibly committed to a movement towards collective bargaining under which the strong unions will negotiate industrial agreements based on specified rates above the awarded minima. A government that does not accept the inevitability of this phenomenon is just refusing to read the signs-


Mr Birrell - It is an ostrich.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -It is an ostrich and is unfitted to steer the ship of state through the stormy seas of the 1970s. Collective bargaining cannot be stopped. It can, and must, be accommodated. lt is fundamental to a successful system of collective bargaining that voluntary agreements, freely negotiated, be honoured by the parties thereto. No agreement can be said to have been freely negotiated when the law stands firmly on the side of the employer in readiness to impose savage penalties against the representatives of employees whenever they refuse to accept unacceptable terms. In order that voluntary agreements may be freely negotiated, a Labor Government will repeal all penalties for strikes and lockouts against arbitral decisions of the Commission. No award could then lawfully include a clause designed to restrict the right to strike, but all other clauses of an award would remain enforceable by appropriate penalties. I repeat that all clauses of the award would be enforceable but it would be unlawful to put a clause into the award prohibiting the right to strike. There have to be sanctions on employers and employees who commit a breach of a lawful provision of an award or agreement. For example, an employer who pays less than the awarded or agreed rates, should be penalised. An employee who works for less than the awarded or agreed rate, or who breaches safety provisions of an award, ought to be penalised. Many other examples could be given to justify penalties for breach of award or agreement. But in no circumstances - no circumstances at all - should an employee be fined for striking against an arbitral decision imposed upon him against his will.

For the 10 years ending in 1969 employers in Australia committed no less than 72,084 breaches of award. Yet, legal proceedings were instituted in only 210 cases. In 1970, the Government prosecuted 8 only of the 5,957 employers who were found to be in breach of awards. In the previous year the position was even worse, when only 2 prosecutions were launched against the 5,577 employers who committed breaches of awards. This is the action of a Government, mark you, that talks so much about industrial law and order. A Labour Government will see that an efficient inspectorate is established so that all who violate a lawful provision of an award are prosecuted without fear or favour. It should not be left to the unions themselves to have to meet the cost of prosecuting employers who are in breach of their industrial obligations. This is the function of government.

With the repeal of penalties against strikes and lockouts against arbitral decisions of the Commission, both parties would then face each other across the negotiating table on equal terms. Their final decision, once approved by the union members affected should, when registered, be honoured by both sides and should carry the force of an award so that the wages and conditions of the agreement could be recoverable at law. This would provide the climate in which the ALP system of industrial relations will work. It is the Labor Party alone which can handle this situation.

We in the Labor Party have just finished a long process of devising a programme for industrial relations. Some of us have encountered obvious difficulties - myself included - on at least one occasion. But the end result of this has been the creation of a programme which will work. With any difficulties we might have encountered behind us, we are ready now to give this country an industrial system suited to the times, instead of the patchwork of proposals which the Government has now improvised. Our system will emphasise voluntary agreements. The ACTU has already declared that it will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the observance of all agreements made under its auspices. It will use the moral sanctions of the whole trade union movement against a union that tries to repudiate a freely-negotiated industrial agreement. In this way it will be able to guarantee the kind of industrial stability that unions and employers alike have been looking for.

The ACTU has declared that it will refuse to incorporate strike penalties in any agreements made under its auspices. But it acknowledges that members of a particular union have the right to make their own agreements and these may include penalties. This will leave unions free to accept - with the agreement of their members - penalty clauses in voluntary agreements if they believe this will win them better wages and conditions. Many unions have already done this. It would be left however to the parties themselves to decide whether or not, and if so, what kind of enforcement provisions should be incorporated in agreements and to decide whether such agreements should be registered or not. There would be no statutory compulsion to force a union to make an agreement and no compulsion to force a union to register one.

To assist parties to reach agreement, there should be a panel of mediators and arbitrators of whom one can be chosen by unions and employers concerned to assist them to reach agreement in settling or preventing disputes within them independently of the Arbitration Commission. The system has worked extremely well in Canada and other countries and it ought to be tried in this country. These mediators and arbitrators are paid generous fees when chosen to act in a dispute, but are not otherwise paid at all. This means that only those who build reputations for absolute fairness are chosen to mediate or arbitrate because their engagement always depends upon their nomination by all parties to a dispute.

The general principle of honouring a voluntary agreement is one that cannot be repudiated. It is fundamental to better industrial relations that agreements should be honoured. Unions and employers have a moral obligation to abide by their agreements and I can see no reason why parties acting in good faith will object to agreements being legally enforceable. I can truthfully say that I know of no union official in the Commonwealth who will attempt to justify the repudiation of an agreement. On the contrary, of the 14 union officials attending the Launceston Conference, each and every one of them authorised me to make the public declaration on their behalf that they would honour any agreement they made under Labor's proposal. The ACTU has never repudiated an agreement, and has always ensured the observance of agreements made under its patronage. It is a national tragedy that our industrial system has been allowed to reach a state of near collapse before anything is done to grapple with the problem.

Now let us turn lo the specific proposals foreshadowed by the Minister tonight. First of all, they will simply perpetuate the basic weaknesses of the present system. At this fundamental level, where is the originality of outlook that is needed? Where is the recognition that industrial conditions and relation have changed drastically since the last major review of the arbitration system which the Minister concedes was made more than 15 years ago? Neither is there. Worse than that, the Minister's proposals will achieve 2 other main effects. They will create the type of industrial confrontation which the Government so clearly wants for cheap electoral purposes. They will discourage obstinate employers from negotiation. They will be instruments of repression rather than reason. Take the proposal to strengthen the provisions for the issuing of certificates under section 32a of the Act. I have already dealt with that and will say no more about it. The issuing of a certificate, by a presidential member of the Arbitration Commission is the first step towards penal action being taken by the Commonwealth Industrial Court. At present, presidential members of the Commission often refuse to issue a certificate or adjourns an application for the issuing of a certificate. The reason for this is that it clearly recognises that some strikes are based on just causes and have been brought about by the refusal of an employer to accede to just demands. To issue a certificate automatically in these circumstances could only be unjust. By adopting this flexible approach, the Commission tries to ensure that a harsh and obstinate employer cannot come running to it to protect him from the logical consequences of his own actions.

Now the Government has decided to compel the Commission to abandon its flexibility. A presidential member will only be allowed to delay the issuing of a certificate; he will not be allowed to refuse it altogether or to delay it indefinitely because of special circumstances. Knowing this, many employees will refuse to negotiate reasonably, as they will know that as long as they can hold off a settlement the Commission will have to start the processing leading to penal action against unions involved in any dispute. Thus a union may have a complaint against an obstinate employer - a complaint which the Commission would consider just. Why should that employer listen to reason when he knows that this new provision will give him automatic protection even if he treats his employees with such contempt that they are driven to strike? And, in this context, we must note that the Minister has announced that there will be no changes in the level of penalties provided by section 119 of the Act. I suppose we should at least be thankful that he has not proposed increased fines. But remember that the fine which can be imposed under this section is 31,000 per person or organisation.

Combine this with the other change, and it means that a union which is forced into industrial action by an unjust employer will be liable to the type of penalty that is envisaged by section 119 of the Act. Penal sanctions are not the answer to industrial problems. When they are applied in this way, they can only mean industrial chaos. Against this background of Government thinking, it is not surprising that the Minister has announced his intention of collecting the outstanding $4,200 in fines. He knows that this will cause further industrial chaos. He obviously wants a confrontation with the unions and is dragging out this relic of the past for that end and that end only. This is not being done to maintain law and order; it is being done to perpetuate injustice and create disorder.

If the Government thinks that industrial peace can only come about through antiunion action it is wrong. And yet we have only to turn to another section of the proposals to see that this is its stance. The Minister has announced in vague terms that the 'voluntary nature' of unions will be emphasised in the Arbitration Act. What he clearly has in mind is preventing unions and employers reaching voluntary agreements to ensure that all employees in business belong to a union. For the unions, this type of agreement has its undeniable validity in the fact that it wins benefits in wages and conditions for all employees and that it is reasonable that anyone who receives these benefits should be a member, unless he has compelling conscientious reasons for not doing so.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I seek leave for an extension of time of 5 minutes.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - What will be the position of the shop assistants' union which has recently entered into an agreement with Myers Emporium Ltd and the other emporiums? Such an agreement will be illegal because it is a straight-out form of compelling people who commence work with Myers to become members of the shop assistants' union, otherwise they will not be employed. Both Myers and the union will be liable for prosecution under such legislation. This threatens the very system of arbitration. It is not the unions which will be destroyed by this repressive measure that the Government proposes; it is the arbitration system which will be destroyed because it cannot work unless it has within its framework registered trade unions.

The Minister's proposal supports the right of employees to take all the benefits of union action involving financial and personal sacrifice to its members without having to contribute to that cost. We do not allow pacifists to opt out of paying any taxation that goes towards defence; or allow single people and childless couples to opt out of paying taxation used to finance child endowment and education; or permit a man who is healthy to opt out of paying taxation to meet the cost of the health scheme. But this is a proposal that is equivalent to allowing all who benefit from defence, child endowment, education and health to opt out of meeting their share of the cost of these benefits simply by expressing their disapproval of paying compulsory taxation. This also threatens the arbitration system itself. No union could exist if all employees could gain its benefits without paying union dues. The dedicated members would remain within their unions, but if deregistration is to be applied lo all unions that will refuse to carry free riders, no union of any substance will remain within the arbitration system longer than the end of next year. The arbitration system would collapse if the major unions were forced to deregister. These seem at first sight to be the most objectionable features of the Minister's proposals. It is hard to comment on the proposal to separate the conciliation and arbitration powers of the Commission, as the Minister's statement on this point is too vague.

It is also hard to know what to make of his plan to require the Commission to have regard to the likely national economic consequence of its awards. 1 suggest that the Minister docs not know himself, because he is vague and terribly uncertain about the whole proposal. The Constitution essentially confines it to conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes and incidental matters. But the High Court has already ruled that it would be absurd for the Commission to ignore the industrial, social and economic consequences of its decisions. So it is hard to set: what more the Minister is trying to achieve. Perhaps he is trying to persuade i to accept the Commonwealth Government's statements of what the consequences of any decisions would be. If so, he would be trying to usurp the power of the Commission and replace it with award making by Government decree. I can only hope that he has nothing like this in mind.

I must mention that there is at least one favourable feature in the proposals. The Government has at last acceded to part of the ALP's federal platform and has decided to allow persons other than lawyers to be appointed as presidential members of the Commission. Only in February of this year the then Minister for Labour and National Service said in answer to a question from me that the Government had considered the appointment of an economist to the Commission on several occasions but had not seen fit to adopt the idea. I have to congratulate the present incumbent for being able to succeed where the present Treasurer (Mr Snedden) failed when he presented the proposal to Cabinet. It is good to see that sometimes reason prevails with the Government, however slowly.

It has been said that the Australian arbitration system was born of expediency and that its many amendments have never represented anything more than expedient answers to meet ad hoc situations. The system is now nothing more than a patchwork of inconsistencies, contradictions and obsolete clauses. The whole system is crying out for attention. It has been crying out for review for years. But the Parliament will once again get up and everyone will go on Christmas holidays with still nothing done.

My question asking the Government to consider a proposal by the Industrial Registrar for the establishment of a commission of inquiry into all aspects of industrial relations has remained on the notice paper unanswered since 17th August this year. Why has the Parliament had to wait more than 3 months without being supplied with an answer to that question? ls it any wonder that we ascribe sinister motives to the Government's inactivity? Given the kind of reform that I am advocating, Australia will have the best of both worlds. We will have the benefit of the experimentation of other countries in the system of collective bargaining, but we will retain the basic advantages that come from our system of compulsory arbitration. A weak union will always have the guarantee of the national minima fixed by arbitration, while stronger unions will be able to bargain for standards above those minima. Employers will also benefit from a system that will put an end to the industrial unrest that now exists. lt is idle to suggest that all employers are unreasonable or that the unions are never al fault. Most employers realise that great new changes are taking place in the world. They know that the old 'master and servant' mentality of the 19th century is giving away to an acceptance of the fact that capital cannot live without labour. They know that it is better to settle for reasonable profits than to end up with none at all. It is the responsibility of the State to insist upon a fair division of the profits of an economic enterprise between employer and employees. A fair division demands that labour receive something more than a living wage that is merely enough to enable a man to maintain a wife and family. Justice requires that the increase in wealth that results from the application of labour to raw materials be shared between labour and capital in fair proportions. While we have an economic system under which private profits are constantly competing with living standards for a bigger share of the national cake, everlasting peace can never be more than a dream. But, this is not to say that a sensible and well informed review of existing laws cannot produce reforms which, generally speaking, will make for peaceful co-existence in place of the current strife.

No one can deny that during the past decade or so, we have dismally failed to meet the industrial needs of our country. We see Liberal politicians rubbing their hands with glee in anticipation of making political gain from industry's distress.


Mr Giles - Hear, hear!


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am pleased that the honourable member agrees with me. Australia deserves something better than this. It is a very serious matter indeed when the ruling party of a nation believes its political future lies in an increase in industrial unrest and distress with all the loss - material losses, loss in the national and social unity and goodfellowship, mateship if you like - that must follow. Another thing is also certain - this country just cannot afford another decade like the one we have just experienced. Let us have less confrontation and more genuine conciliation.

The real result of the government's approach to industrial affairs will be to create even further inflation, by deliberately but needlessly reducing production through industrial unrest. The Treasurer said two weeks ago that Australia's productivity record was abysmal. Behind that record is the failure of the government to achieve cooperation and conciliation in industry. Yet its present course is deliberately designed to undermine and destroy any basis of cooperation in future. This is why some of the Liberal Party's most fervent supporters are turning away in droves; they are sick of going along with the Liberals in their course of division and disruption.

Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.







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