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Tuesday, 8 May 1973
Page: 1794

Mr DOYLE (Lilley) - I support the Bill and in doing so I pay a tribute to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) for the effort he is making to bring peace to Australian industry. When he was shadow Minister for Labour the present Minister freely expressed his views of opposition to unreal conciliation and arbitration laws and the unrest which these laws brought to industry in Australia. It is apparent that as Minister for Labour he has applied his knowledge of industrial affairs and he has worked tirelessly to improve the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. He has done a good job for Australia and the Australian people despite the bleating of members of the Opposition in this Parliament.

The approach of the Labor Government to industrial matters and its sincere endeavours to bring about industrial peace are welcome changes in government attitude. It is clearly the sort of attitude Australian people respect and, I believe, accept. It is in direct contrast with the dictatorial and muddling policies of the previous Government, The great difference in this Government's administration is that the Ministers and the members of the Labor Government possess a wealth of knowledge of the trade union movement. They know that industrial relations can and should be improved. The previous Government had no practical knowledge in this field. As a result the previous Government was responsible for fostering bad industrial relations. This proved to be to the detriment of the nation.

I do not speak in this debate as a theorist but as a person who was a trade union official for 14 years. I have knowledge of how industrial law operates and of how it has operated to the detriment of the work force and trade unionists in Australia and of how it has been responsible for a lot of industrial unrest in Australia. Over a period of years the Liberal Party-Country Party Governments relied on industrial laws which were directed against workers and industry to deprive workers of justice in the areas of wages and conditions. Ministers of those Governments exhibited little or no understanding of the work force. When disputes arose they mistakenly believed that Australian men and women in industry could be stood over through the agency of savage penal provisions. How bad was their judgment of the average Australian worker. The Government did nothing to prevent disputes. Therefore they did nothing to tackle the problems which caused industrial unrest.

Their policy was to rely on the big stick and to wield it against members of the trade union movement in an attempt to bludgeon them into submission.

Any Government with such an approach shows its lack of understanding of the Australian people. Liberal Party-Country Party Governments mistakenly believed that at all times they were assisting employers in their endeavours. However, history has shown that all employers were not appreciative of those Government's actions. The great body of Australian employers found themselves embarrassed, I would suggest, by the previous Government's policies and its interference in industrial affairs. I was rather interested to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) just a little while ago making reference to the public interest. An article appeared in the 'Australian' of 2nd August 1972 in which it was stated that major oil refineries had finally decided that the cost to the industry of going along with the McMahon Goverment's election strategy of industrial confrontation was far too high a price for the companies to pay. The article stated:

Despite pressure applied to the industry by Mr McMahon not to enter meaningful negotiations with the unions over the Federal oil industry agreement, the companies had capitulated.

The wonder is that they did not see where their long term interests lay much earlier in the dispute.

It would have been rather amusing if it were not so serious to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition talk about public interest. In fact, whilst in government the Opposition, merely as a means of endeavouring to bring about some confrontation with the trade unions and hoping to gain electoral support, apparently was prepared to bring about a situation in which industrial unrest was encouraged.

Mr Lynch - That story is absolutely incorrect.

Mr DOYLE - I know that the truth sometimes is a little difficult to accept. Many employer organisations prefer to negotiate with trade union representatives. They prefer a system that permits agreements to be reached between the parties associated with the industry. Members of the Opposition spoke about getting advice from people in industry. Somebody in the Opposition mentioned this morning that this Government had not consulted all people in the industry. I am personally aware of one employer group in Bris bane whose spokesman claimed that, over the years, the previous Government had no lines of communication with its members or its association. As a matter of fact, during discussions with representatives of this employer group, one of my parliamentary colleagues and I were told that they welcomed the attitude of the Labor Government because we were prepared to listen to suggestions and have discussions with them.

Many suggestions have been made during the debate on this Bill. It has been suggested that people on award wages will be at a distinct disadvantage when compared to workers whose unions are able to negotiate with employers for over-award payments. This was one of the arguments that was put forward in opposition to the Bill which is currently before this House. This may be true to a point However, I think it must be understood that tribunals assessing wage entitlements of the former group of employees take into consideration the wages paid in other sections of industries where over-award payments certainly are agreed to and recognised.

I have listened to honourable members opposite speaking on this Bill and have heard them say mat they are concerned at the power to be given to trade unions, that the Government Bill ignores the effects of industrial unrest and seeks to give unions carte blanche to become involved in industrial disputes and that no decision could be effective unless it is enforceable. Of course, to enforce a decision it is claimed that provision must be made for penalties in the Act. I believe that, if the Opposition or any group of its supporters claims that in order to bring about a situation where we have peace in industry we must have penal clauses in the respective industrial Acts, we should have a look at their record when they were in government. I have consulted the Year Book' and extracted information which is provided and which relates to the past 3 years. I examined the record of the previous Government in the field of industrial affairs. After all, if honourable members opposite tell the Labor Government that this progressive < move being made by the Government is not good for the nation, we should judge them on their efforts and see what sort of industrial peace they were able to bring to this country. , I found that in 1969 there were 1,957,957 working days - just under 2 million working days - lost because of industrial disputes. That is a pretty high figure. In 1970, a year later, under a Liberal-Country Party government, the figure had risen to 2,393,700. In 1971 I found that the working days lost because of industrial disputes rose to 3,068,600. So, there was an increase in the loss of working days due to industrial unrest in Australia in 2 years of almost 40 per cent.

That is the history of the Liberal-Country Party Government at a time when the Act contained penal clauses by which they are telling the people of Australia and this Government that they could bring about industrial peace. Why did the previous Government not do something about it? I submit that penal clauses within any industrial Act do nothing to bring about industrial peace. On the contrary, they do nothing but bring about industrial unrest because I repeat that the workers of this country will not be bludgeoned into submission through the agency of penal clauses in an Act. One would think, listening to some honourable members opposite who have spoken here today, that they have an inveterate hatred of the Australian worker. Of course, Government supporters understand and realise the wonderful job that the Australian worker does in the progress and prosperity of this country and I for one as a Government supporter throw back the words of honourable members opposite who seek to degrade the Australian worker- the trade unionist. I have the greatest admiration for these people because it is the work force of this country - the trade unionists - which is responsible for the progress of our country. It is responsible for a better Australia and I for one will not accept some of the comments which have been made here today. (Quorum formed.)

It is very evident that some members of the Opposition do not like the. truth being told about their record in government in regard to maintaining industrial peace; they do not want to hear the truth. It is rather strange, considering the importance of the Bill which is before the House, to find that most members of the Opposition have been out of the chamber during the debate. As a matter of fact, there are not too many members of the Liberal Party in the chamber at present; there are only four or five of them. They talk about wasting time and try to tell the Australian people that the Government is not giving the Opposition a fair deal in respect of debating time. Honourable members opposite waste time that could be taken up by genuine debate and on 2 occasions when a division has been called we have found that one-third of the members of the Opposition Parties did not come into the chamber. So, their sincerity in respect of some of the claims they have made must be questioned. 1 refer now to the amalgamation of unions. An honourable member opposite - I think it was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) - mentioned earlier that two out of 1,000 members of a union could bring about a situation where amalgamation of unions could result. Of course, that was taking the question a little too far. One could apply the same, sort of theory, I suppose, to the election of trade union officials; two out of 1,000 members could also elect a general secretary or any other officer. However, this does not occur. I was mentioning before the recent interruption the record of the previous government in industrial matters. I can recall no occasion during my lifetime when a member of a government has asked a foreign firm to fight workers of this country in an endeavour to deprive them of industrial justice in respect of conditions of employment. As all Australians know, this occurred about June last year when the Acting Prime Minister, now the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony), called on the assistance of several international firms to oppose union demands for a 35 hour working week. The Opposition talks about trying to develop good industrial relations but when it was in government a Minister, whom we believe should have been a responsible Minister, was calling on foreign firms to fight Australian workers in an endeavour to deprive the workers of improved conditions of employment. The Opposition should hang its head in shame.

By its actions the previous Government during its term of office was developing opposition to the arbitration system which it claims now it wants upheld. It was developing a lack of respect for the system among those who were involved with it on both the employer and employee side. Judging from the opinions so far expressed in this debate by Opposition speakers, there is a hatred of trade unions. This is very much apparent. While that sort of attitude is in the minds of people who should adopt a responsible role we cannot expect to have peace in industry. The Opposition appears to believe that Australian men and women who are trade unionists and workers in industry have only one role on this planet and that is to do as they are bid by certain people, with no say in the industry in which they are employed and apparently with no right to seek improvements in wages and conditions. Under the stewardship of the previous Government we witnessed opposition by that Government to applications to the national wage case hearings. The interference of that government in those proceedings showed its contempt for the Australian workers. We saw attempts being made to influence the thinking of this Commonwealth wage fixing tribunal against workers claims. In 1972 we had, on the one hand, the previous Government having an official submission made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the national wage case and, on the other hand, the then Prime Minister making a statement that the Government wanted the minimum wage to be increased significantly by the Commission. This statement fooled no one.

On the question of amalgamation, contrary to the claims by Opposition speakers, fewer unions will mean fewer disputes, better understanding and a higher standard of union management. Anybody who thinks about that proposition must agree with it. Surely a better system will develop with fewer unions being responsible for award matters. The present Deputy Leader of the Opposition on 2nd March 1972 agreed that there are many advantages which could accrue from amalgamation but apparently he has changed his mind in the interim. At that time he said one thing but, apparently meant another because legislation introduced following that statement did nothing to assist amalgamation. The present Government's intention to facilitate union amalgamations shows a desire to permit unions whose members seek amalgamation to make a decision and thereby to run their own affairs. I repeat that fewer unions and a higher standard of representation of unionists will result in better industrial relations in this country. Much emphasis has been placed on the removal of penalties. As a former trade union official, I know that penalties imposed on unions do nothing to prevent disputes. After ali, the fine generally is paid after the dispute is won. It is rather significant that the Opposition is so intent now on having penalties remain in the Act but while it was in government it did nothing to collect the fines that were imposed.

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

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