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Tuesday, 8 May 1973
Page: 1820

Mr McMAHON (Lowe) - 1 rise to support the action taken by my colleagues in suggesting to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) that he again give the most careful thought to deleting this clause from the Bill. I do so because I believe that this clause will do great harm. If his Government looks at it in total - not as representing the trade union movement alone - it will come to the conclusion that this clause is contrary to the best interests of the nation and contrary to the system of conciliation and arbitration. It will take us back to where we were before the Hood award, which was one of the actions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which, I believe, had a substantial impact on inflation.

When the previous government was considering the problem that began in 1970 with the national wage case award, we felt that the impact of inflation would become so severe that it would rise to a level that could well be as high as between 9 and 1 3 per cent. That was a very dangerous position for any government to face, whether it happens to be a Liberal or a Labor government. Later, somewhere in the middle of June of 1971, a very cosy agreement was made between trade unions and manufacturers, particularly the manufacturers in the metal trades industry.

The parties made an agreement which resulted in the so called conciliated Hood award. I remember giving instructions that this cosy agreement was to be opposed before the Commission. But when the Government decided to appoint representatives to appear before the Court we found that the agreement had already been completed. We, as a government, then had no power of intervention in this case whatsoever. This is the way in which it was approached. Our attitude as a government, therefore, was a pretty clear one. We did not want consummated and completed a kind of agreement that we would not in future be able to oppose in the national interest and be able to ensure that the national interest was respected.

We say this about this clause, first of all, that we believe that in very important cases there should be a right of recourse to arbitration and, ultimately, to the Full Bench. I do not want to see the Australian Labor Party faced with identical problems - dangerous problems - of a kind which can disturb the national economy and create conditions where there might be subsequent unemployment and where there might be a slowdown of business operations and of orders to the factories. If this occurred, we could have, no matter what the Government might do, stagflation of the type that other countries have had to a severe degree and which we fortunately have escaped to a considerable extent.

I believe this is a bad clause and, for the reasons I have given, I believe it is necessary to separate the 2 functions. I am a little astonished that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) could not give us a single practical example of a failure under the present Act. From all the advice that we have been able to obtain from the employers and other sections involved, we have not been able to find any strenuous objection to the Act as it exists at the moment. Even when the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) came into this chamber - I nearly said Minister because one day, 20 to 30 years hence, he may be a Minister in governments, perhaps, succeeding the Whitlam government

Mr Lynch - He wants to be a Minister now.

Mr McMAHON - I know he does: he is a « cv hungry person. But there is little prospect of him becoming a Minister. I was surprised that he, wilh all his articulation and with his attempted mock seriousness has not been able to give one practical illustration of a case where such a clause would have been desirable in the interest of the nation as a whole. This should not be looked at as a single case but in the widest perspective, taking a national and overall view of the economy and of the industrial arbitration system.

Mr Innes - I gave you an example.

Mr McMAHON - The honourable member for Melbourne was not asked to do so;I asked the honourable member for Phillip. I believe that the honourable member for Melbourne might be able to do a little better than the honourable member for Phillip but I have no reason at all to want to establish a competitive spirit between those honourable members and to have one arguing against the other. I want the question answered. We have not been able to get the answer to that question from the man to whom it was directed.

In our view this clause is not necessary. The Government's case has not been proved. In our view, the proposal will destroy the effect of the measures put to us by the then Department of Labour and National Service as something that was critically important if we wanted to prevent inflationary forces of the kind that I have mentioned being generated in 1973 and 1974 in the same way as happened in 1970 and 1971. I urge the Minister to have another look at this question. I believe it is one clause that could very well be deleted and its deletion would be of benefit to the Labor Party as well as to the country.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 6.


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