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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1276

Senator MAUNSELL (QUEENSLAND) - My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to a statement in today's Press attributed to Mr George Meaney, who is the President of the American Federation of Labour and

Congress of Industrial Organisations, that he bad become disenchanted with strikes and believed that arbitration should be used to avoid all strikes? As Mr Meaney is president of America's major union organisation, will the Minister invite him to Australia to educate the Australian trade union movement?

Senator WRIGHT - I have seen a reference to that statement by Mr Meaney. His experience and prestige in the American trade union world entitles his statement to be considered with some real attention. Having regard to the devastating strikes that big industry in America has undergone in recent days and to the terrific damage caused to American workmen - more particularly to the 30 per cent who comprise the lower paid group - it is not surprising to find that his union has constituted a committee in search of an alternative to the deplorable practice of adopting strike action. I think it would be quite appropriate for a person like Mr Meaney to receive an invitation to come to this country. As an illustration of the importance of this matter to Australia I point out that it has been estimated that last year the Australian wage earner lost $46m in strikes. To show that the point of view referred to in Mr Meaney's statement is in line with intelligent labour thinking overseas, 1 shall quote from a pamphlet that was put out by the Wilson Government only 2 years ago after it had struggled in vain to get an alternative to strikes and had to abandon its efforts. Of course, it was rejected by the electorate in consequence. That Government said:

Again the growing interdependence of modern industry means that the use of the strike weapon in certain circumstances can inflict disproportionate harm on the rest of society.

It went on to say: lt is also true that in certain situations today strikes by groups in key positions can damage the interests of other people so seriously, including the interests of other trade unionists, that they should only be resorted to when all other alternatives have failed.

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