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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3107


Mr SNEDDEN - I am asking for the debate to be resumed on the 11 principles at a later stage, Mr Deputy Speaker. If the honourable gentleman is unwilling to permit a debate on the 11 principles it is hardly a very strong basis for him to go into the conference saying he would not let the Parliament debate them. But if that is the sort of attitude he adopts, what else can we do?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Minister for Services and Property is in charge of things like this.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The Minister will not discuss matters over the table.

Mr SNEDDEN - It is quite clear that a close examination will have to be made of each of the 11 principles. The reason for the need for such an examination is this: If there is to be a conference that is designed to achieve an order of affairs in industrial relations which will bring about greater peace, proposals must have a hope of being accepted by the parties to that conference. Included in the principles is principle 7, which reads:

That for the purpose of removing the poisoned atmosphere that is now plaguing labour relations, the Government will ask Parliament -

This Parliament - to grant unions immunity from actions for torts -

That matter already has been before the House - and at the same time, repeal all penalties for strikes and lockouts against arbitral decisions of the Commission for a trial period of 1 year and renewed from year to year so that Parliament could examine its operations.

In the debate in this House on the removal of the penal clauses and immunity from tort for union officers it was made quite clear by members on this side of the House that if there is to be an arbitration system, which we strongly believe in and support, it necessarily follows that some sanction should apply to the awards of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That is what we stated quite clearly. The honourable gentleman then, knowing that that was rejected in the Senate, introduced a Bill in this House which did not include that matter. He is now to go to a tripartite conference refusing to allow this Parliament to debate the matter again. What is he going to say at that tripartite conference? He cannot say that the Parliament will do that which he is proposing. It is quite clear that principle 7 cannot survive.

In principle 8 he speaks of the parties asking the Commission to reintroduce a system of wage indexation similar to the previous automatic adjustment of the basic wage. Is that what is promised as a result of the referenda that are to be held? Does that mean that we are to return to automatic cost of living adjustments? The Treasurer (Mr Crean), in introducing the Budget, said that he expected average weekly earnings to increase by 13 per cent this financial year. The way wage rates have been increasing since the Budget indicates that average weekly earnings are likely to increase by a figure exceeding 13 per cent - perhaps by 15 per cent or 16 per cent. If there are automatic quarterly cost of living adjustments, the prices go up and wages go up which force the prices up. A policy of automatic quarterly adjustments is not an attack on inflation but force-feeds inflation, as everybody knows. Yet the honourable gentleman presumably is forecasting what will be done by the Government if it wins the referendum.

Mr Edwards - And the Prime Minister did so.

Mr SNEDDEN - And the Prime Minister did so, as I am reminded by the honourable member for Berowra. Principle 9 talks about facilitating union amalgamation, to introduce preference to unionists. There is already provision in the Act for union amalgamation. The legislation has just been through this House and the Minister for Labour himself accepted the amendments. They must be taken to be what he wants. Why is a tripartite conference going to discuss it? The Minister for Labour accepted it.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Under protest.

Mr SNEDDEN - I hope the Minister registered that protest with the cabinet.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Of course. I also registered it in the Parliament.

Mr SNEDDEN - Yes, as you were being rolled out the door, you protested. The honourable gentleman then says, of course, that the High Court of Australia will be very suitably impressed by what is being done. The High Court is not a policy making body. Unlike the trade practices legislation that was in this House a little while ago, trying to make a judicial body the policy deciding body, the High Court will never be that. The High Court will interpret the Constitution as it is written, as a legal document, the framework of the way in which our democracy operates. So there is no reason to believe that the High Court will take a different view.

We would welcome .the opportunity to examine these principles in detail and to debate them so that when the tripartite conference is called together it will have the advantage of considering a debate of this House and not merely the ex-cathedra statements of the Minister, unlikely though the ex-cathedra statements from the honourable gentleman are, of what he believes is right or what the tripartite body might consider the Cabinet would do after it disagreed with the Minister. What this tripartite body needs to have is the views of the whole of the Parliament so that the Parliament can assist the tripartite body in finding the way of industrial peace. We will participate in that to the fullest extent. We give that undertaking. But of course it would be wrong for anybody to assume that we will not be critical where criticism is required, because only by speaking frankly can the parties know the opinions of all sides. In the meantime, the Government should not attempt to draw a smokescreen over its appalling performance in industrial relations with the prospect of a long term future conferene by the 3 parties - the Government, employers and unions. If the Government will do responsibly what is was elected to do, it will get support from the Opposition parties.

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