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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3104

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - 'by leave - This statement by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) comes at a most extraordinary time. The statement, dealing with a major issue of industrial relations, is made without notice to us under the pretext of providing additional information to an answer to a question in the House. Quite clearly it was a question which was, in our terms, a Dorothy Dixer.

Mr Hunt - Made on the eve of an election in New South Wales, too.

Mr SNEDDEN - It was made on the eve of the elections in New South Wales, true.

Mr Hurford - We are not impressed.

Mr SNEDDEN - Do be quiet, you silly 'boy. More significantly, the statement has been made on the first sitting day after the departure from Australia of the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Mr Hawke is not only the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions but also the President of the Australian Labor Party. This is an extraordinary time for the Minister to introduce a statement of this kind. To produce it in the way in which it has been produced flies in the face of all the traditions of this Parliament. One would think that the Minister was engaged in some clandestine operation, because he was so reluctant to allow the statement to be seen before he could stand up, in his own inimitable way, and tell us What was contained in it - suitably interlaced with comment.

I think it is worth setting a background to this matter before I deal with the statement. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when he was Leader of the Opposition, said: There will be less industrial disputes under us.' That statement was made on a program called 'A Current Affair'. If there were to be 'A Current Affair' today, certainly those words would not be used. What the Prime Minister would say today is: 'What I hoped for and what I said is a lot of nonsense.' Last year he said that there would he less industrial disturbance. This year the truth is that the Australian Labor Party, which claimed there would be less industrial disturbance when it was in government because it had a special arrangement with the trade unions, has been completely incapable of delivering that promise to the Australian people. It is the same with so many of its promises. The Australian Labor Party is incapable of delivering the promises. The Prime Minister's statement was supported by the Minister for Labour.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Minister for Labour was heard in complete silence. I ask honourable members to pay the same courtesy to the 'Leader of the Opposition.

Mr SNEDDEN - The Minister for Labour supported the statement of the Prime Minister - who was then the Leader of the Opposition - that there would be more industrial peace in Australia under a Labor Government. We have the Commonwealth Statistician's figures for the first 6 months of this year only. In the first 6 months of the year the time lost by strikes was 1.4 million man-days. The amount of wages lost by workers on strike increased from $l'3m to $23m. That was only until the end of June. We all know that since the end of June- for July, August, September, October and this month - the number of strikes has been quite remarkable. Australia today is facing chaotic industrial relations. If it goes on as it is, it will make the present inflationary situation so much worse that the whole future of this country will be put in jeopardy.

The Minister for Labour spoke not in terms of meeting today's problems but in terms of calling a conference in the future to consider the Canadian legislation. I will come shortly to the particular principles that he set out. I do not want to discourage him from examining the matter by calling the parties together. What I want to do is nail the nonsense put forward by the Minister, that in some way this step will do something about the present industrial turmoil in Australia. It will do nothing of the kind. We have been warned that from midnight tomorrow there will be a national building strike. We do not know how long that will last. We hope that it will not eventuate, but all the signs are there that it will spread throughout Australia. Millions of dollars in buildings will lie idle while people are paying interest rates of 10 per cent or 12 per cent. It was this Government that lifted interest rates.

Mr Mcleay - 'This is the low interest party.

Mr SNEDDEN - This is the low interest party. Honourable members opposite are a mob of heretics who spent their lives talking about low interest rates and now, within 10 months of coming into office, they have increased the long term bond rate by 2£ per cent. The Government promised the Public Service unions that it would extend long service leave to public servants in April. The Minister for Labor has repudiated that statement. Whether he is right or wrong, the fact is that he made the original promise. This action is about to bring on industrial disputation and strikes. The Minister promised a 35-hour week. He retreated from that and left his Prime Minister floundering. Everybody knows that it is not appropriate now to have a 35-hour week. Honourable members opposite keep quiet about it because they know that the people of Australia agree with us on this side of the House that it is not appropriate to introduce a 35-hour week now.

In Victoria there is a strike of power workers, with 150 men on strike. The net result is that thousands of people have been stood down. There is hardly a plant in Victoria today that is not working on alternate days simply because of the power strike. Recently there was the national rail strike. There was a recent strike in New South Wales over the 35-hour week, in which the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) played such a discreditable part for himself and for this Government. In New South Wales green bans have been imposed by the Builders Labourers Federation, and 10,000 people have been stood down as a result of the bans. There are bodies whose responsibility is to decide whether permits for buildings will be issued, it is not a job for any individual union to do that.

The Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) made a magnificent comment. I do not know for whom he was speaking but presumably it was for the Minister for Labour and the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is responsible for electoral affairs. The Minister for the Environ ment and Conservation is reported as saying: We middle class trendy intellectual environmentalists ', Just have a look at the trendy middle class intellectuals. How trendy they are! They are middle class, yes, with all the limitations of thought processes they would attribute to the middle class.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - You are always attacking the middle class.

Mr SNEDDEN - I thought the Minister wanted to belong to it. He has been trying to dodge being called a socialist, yet his Party's policy stands for socialism. What is happening in Australia today is that these trendies like the Minister for the Environment and Conservation and the 2 Ministers at the table - the Minister for Labour and the Minister for Services and Property - have turned Australia into a place governed by white collar socialists. Give me a blue collar socialist any day. These white collar socialists no longer represent the class they came here to represent. They have drifted away. There is not a union meeting which the Minister for Labour could address which would welcome him, because everything he says is totally contradictory to what they stand for. Now he has to find 'trendy middle class intellectuals' in order to obtain some support for his proposals. I think it is a disgraceful thing for the Minister for the Environment and Conservation to allege that anybody who supports conservation is a middle class trendy intellectual. Such supporters are nothing of the kind.

The green ban strikes have been welcomed by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. The Minister for Labour has not said a word about them. They are his responsibility, but the Minister for the Environment and Conservation speaks about them. On every other political issue that arises it is not the Minister for Labour who speaks but one of his colleagues. It is obvious from the whole range of strikes that are in existence today that the Labor Government knew that it could not deliver the goods it offered last year when in Opposition. The Government has failed. Why is the Labor Government's standing at such low ebb? Because all of its promises have failed.

A question was asked of the Minister for Labour today about the call by Mr Hamer, the Premier of Victoria, for- a national con.ference. The Minister for Labour said that he would deal with the matter by way of a statement after question time. Iri fact, his statement bears very little relation to the question but it does have a very real relation to what Mr Hamer called for. Mr Hamer sent a telegram to the Prime Minister in which he said:

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