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Tuesday, 15 May 1973
Page: 2103

Mr SPEAKER - Orderl I ask the honourable member not to be diverted by interjections. The Minister for Transport will remain silent.

Mr LYNCH - I appreciate your support and your protection, Mr Speaker, against hostile interjections from the Government benches. In spite of subsequent events which demonstrated that his predictions had been so absurd as to be plainly irresponsible, he introduced early this year a new delusion that the reason why unemployment had not risen to 200,000 was die growing business confidence in the new Government and the adoption of new eco nomic initiatives. This, of course, represents a complete failure to understand the time lag in the direct impact which government economic initiatives have on the labour market and an exceedingly poor judgment of the views of the business community which have recently been more accurately reflected in depressed stock markets throughout Australia.

The International Labour Organisation also merits support for its technical assistance. The list of activities which come under the heading of technical assistance is voluminous and diversified. It includes research, training, and management education and extends of course into many related fields. However, the Opposition believes it is important that this assistance be designed to improve the level of production in developing countries in order to raise their direct living standards. As I have mentioned previously, technocratic approaches to programs of this type ought not to be directed to the maximisation of profits but rather to overall national economic objectives with particular emphasis on the utilisation of labour in the achievement of those objectives.

The Opposition recognises that in contemporary Western societies workers are concerned about employment, but the maintenance of full employment is a matter of general economic policy rather than a labour policy per se. It is achieved by the regulation of public expenditure, by fiscal measures, by investment policies and so on. However, such measures are not directly within the scope of labour departments. A labour policy as such must be concerned with effective forms of training and retraining and the relocation of workers through active manpower planning policies while an employment policy remains the central function of government which requires the co-ordination of many policy areas, only some of which are within the jurisdiction of labour departments. However, the Opposition believes that the fact that many of the central economic functions of government do not have their basis in labour matters ought not to preclude them from discussion at the ILO.

One of the most salient advantages that the ILO possesses, and possesses exclusively, is its tripartite nature. This is pertinent as governments in many countries do not have all the facilities necessary to control matters of vital economic significance. In free societies, public policy cannot be exclusively governmental. To be properly effective it must have the commitment of both the employer and employee organisations. Therefore, discussions at the ILO on matters of fundamental economic concern, such as inflation, are not simply highly desirable - they are essential. Insofar as Australia is concerned, the problem of inflation is particularly relevant at this time when our rate of inflation is the subject of deep concern throughout the Australian community. The unsatisfactory results of price control mechanisms which have been experienced in many countries throughout the world could well be articulated and discussed by member nations of the ILO. In this way the International Labour Organisation could make a greater and more significant contribution to the developed countries of the world.

I want to point out to the Minister for Labour, who is about to undertake his first visit to the ILO as the leader of the Australian delegation to that important forum, that I believe he could well be disappointed with the nature of the discussions that take place there. A group with the significance which must be attached to tripartite discussions between governments, employers and members of trade, unions must of necessity, I believe, be concerned with the very real practical questions facing all countries throughout the world. I think of inflation, of the many systems of industrial relations, of the concept of collective bargaining, of a form of conciliation and arbitration that is applied in so many countries, and of the causes of industrial unrest - those matters which can lead to strike action on behalf of and by trade unions. I think also of a fundamental question deserving of more public discussion than it is receiving today, that is, the alienation of workers from the work processes in which they are involved.

I know the Minister would be one of the first to applaud the concept that there ought to be, at a forum such as the ILO, far more effective discussion on those principal questions. At present, the discussions being held on them are taking place outside, of the ILO and that body is yet to provide the type of expert documents which are brought down by, for instance, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The Minister will find that some of the civil servants, both international civil servants and those representing member countries at the

ILO, believe the Minister is there to grace the proceedings and to dignify the scene but not to play any effective part except to make a short speech at the plenary session. I believe it is of utmost importance that Ministers who do attend ILO discussions ought to have separate ministerial sessions at which they can exchange their views on matters of fundamental concern to them as Ministers and to the countries they represent.

In debating the Bill before the House it must be made clear that the Government has powers to ratify amendments, to the ILO constitution without having to seek formal parliamentary approval. While the Opposition supports the principle that it is desirable to have parliamentary approval for these matters it cannot accept that this Bill should have been introduced in this session. During the current session the Government is seeking to introduce an unprecedented level of legislation and in so doing it has attempted to deny to the Opposition Parties an adequate and proper opportunity to examine the essential terms of its legislation.

Sir, youwould be very aware that the major political Bills to be brought down by the Government are now being introduced in the final 2- weeks of the session. They are being forced through this House without the Opposition Parties having a reasonable opportunity to examine their nature or to bring their alternative policies to the attention of the national Parliament. It is in this context that the Opposition believes it to be quite unwarranted to introduce a Bill of this nature which does not require legislative action by this Parliament. In saying that, I accept that what is in the Bill is something along the lines that the Opposition certainly would support. Therefore, whilst the opposition supports the terms of the Bill, it believes the Government has raised substantial doubts about its intentions with respect to ILO conventions. The Opposition calls, on the Minister to make it perfectly clear to the House that any convention which is ratified by him is a convention about which he can say with total confidence that it will not be. observed simply in accordance with the spirit of the law but will be observed rigorously in Australia both at a Commonwealth and State level. We on this side, of the House will be paying close attention to the Government's future actions in this regard. The Opposition parties support the Bill.

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