Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 23 May 1972
Page: 1926


Senator LILLICO (Tasmania) - 1 listened with a lot of interest to what was said by Senator Bishop, having in mind his long trade union experience. I am sure all honourable senators were interested in what he had to say about this Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Much of his speech was devoted to wage increases. He set out to show, at least to his own satisfaction, that wage increases were not the cause of inflation, lt may well be that they are noi the only cause of inflation but this Bill is nor directed at wage increases as such. Even if we had the necessary consitutional power we in Australia have not attempted to bring in legislation such as that introduced in New Zealand under which wages must not increase by more than 7 per cent in any one year. Similar legislation was brought in in the United Kingdom. It set a line beyond which wage increases must not pass. Those 2 countries must have accepted the thesis that wage increases out of hand must have a very definite and distinct bearing on inflation.

For many years now we have had the situation of wages chasing prices. Which stops first? How do we stop one or the other? The Australian Labor Party says that price control is the answer. 1 have heard it maintained, with a lot of justification, that price control is ineffective unless control is maintained over all the ingredients that go into producing a given article; that if you control prices only then you merely bring about a means of indexing price increases. However that may be, Mr President, it is good to look at the reasons which prompted the Government to bring this legislation forward and to consider the background against which it was devised. I am one of those people who say that wage increases are not the whole problem. I go along with an article that appeared in the 'IPA Review'. I believe that honourable senators on the Opposition side do not at all approve of this publication. This article stated:

.   . it should be said that wage and salary increases are not the only immediate cause of higher prices.

I repeat: 'Not the only immediate cause*. The article continues:

Higher costs for imports are clearly another. Lower export returns for primary products associated with home price support schemes may result in higher domestic prices. Higher prices for other exports, for example beef and zinc, mean higher prices on the domestic market for these commodities. Increases in sales tax and excise duties on such things as cars, beer and cigarettes, result immediately in higher prices to the consumer. Increases in company tax and payroll tax are reflected in higher prices. Increases in charges by governments and their business undertakings for TV and radio licences, postal and telephone services, water, fares and many other things have directly increased the cost of living. They also add to business costs . . .

This article then went on to say:

Prolonged strikes in key industries and the under-utilisation of plant capacity mean that overheads have to be spread over a smaller volume of output, thus increasing unit costs and selling prices. Wage and salary increases are thus not the only immediate cause of rising prices, though they constitute the main element.

I was interested to hear Senator Bishop speak of excessive tariff control. One of the statements he read was made by the Chairman of the Tariff Board, and it seems strange to me that that gentleman, who probably adjudicated on the assessment of these same tariff duties should have made the admission that tariff protection was excessive in some cases. He did so, however. Others too have said this. I believe even Mr Whitlam has said that there is excessive tariff protection for some goods at least. This may well be a factor prompting some employers not to resist excessive wage demands. Very great difficulty has been experienced in the United Kingdom, which has gone through a period of industrial unrest and wage inflation. During that time, I read on one occasion, wages went up by 14 per cent while production rose only by 3 per cent. The United Kingdom went through such a long period of industrial unrest that at long last that country had to take drastic action about it. One of the problems in that country was to induce employers to stand up to these excessive wage demands.

This is one of the problems facing Australia. It may well be that although tariff protection is excessive in some cases, employers know that they can pass on these increases without very much trouble. In fact I believe that on one occasion an employer said to a farmer's representative: Well, after all, why should we resist this sort of thing? These people are our customers and we merely pass it on." Of course, that is all right, but what happens when we need to export goods and our production costs keep on rising? Surely this may play a part in effecting the ability of this country to compete on export markets.

I call to my mind that after the wage increase of 6 per cent, I think it was, in September and December 18 months ago, I asked a question in this Senate about the number of applications to the Tariff Board - this was some months afterwards - and to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) for increased tariff protection. The answer was that no applications had been received - yet costs had gone up excessively. It seemed to me that there must have been some leeway in regard to the tariff protection then operating. However, Mr President, I want to cite another quotation. Senator Bishop quoted the remarks of Mr Hawke. I quote from the 'IPA Review' which attributes the following remarks to Mr Hawke:

Rising prices didn't matter; all that was required was for the authorities to protect those who were powerless to protect themselves against the consequences of rising prices. The main thing was to ensure that pensions and other social service benefits kept pace with the increases taking place in average community earnings. Then, presumably, nobody would suffer and inflation wouldn't matter. 'What you've got to concentrate on', said Mr Hawke, 'is growth . . . you've got to have growth to increase real rewards . . . Inflation doesn't matter so long as you have growth'.

Yet Australia's growth rate is at an appalling 1.4 per cent. The Minister for Labour and National Service has said this:

The official figures show that working days lost in 1971 increased by 28 per cent over the loss foi 1970 and wages lost increased by 46.5 per cent. Already, this year has seen several serious disputes such as that inflicted on the Stale Electricity Commission of Victoria. That dispute undoubtedly contributed heavily to a very substantial loss in man-days for the month of February.

The effects of industrial disputes on the community are not simply measurable by the loss of man days. This only represents the tip of the iceberg. Strikes and other forms of industrial action cause hardships to workers . . .

The Minister went on to point to the fact that while only 11,000 SEC workers in Victoria went on strike, 200,000 other workers in Victoria and some thousands in other States were stood down as a result of that strike. If that is conducive to increased productivity-


Senator Georges - What was the cause of the strike?


Senator LILLICO - .Some honourable senators make speeches and are heard in comparative silence. When they sit down and someone else makes a speech they babble from the beginning to end of it. They are the ones who rise in this place so often and express the greatest tenderness about the rights and privileges of others.


Senator Gair - They do that in regard to strikes because a football team comes here.


Senator LILLICO - Yes, that is what they do. These things are not conducive to increasing the 1.4 per cent growth in national productivity. Yet Mr Hawke would be the last person to deprive unionists of the right to create that kind of retardation in the growth in productivity. We cannot have it both ways. I am one of those people who believe - I think rightly - that that same productivity and the ability to market the results of it are the very important bases of this country's standard of living. They are the very bases of the ability of this country to pay for increased social services and to function in all those things which are desirable, such as expenditure on education and other matters. Unless we obtain that increase in productivity our standard of living will go down and down. Not long ago in Hobart someone who was attending a productivity council said that Australia's growth rate of productivity was more than half that of all other countries. 1 believe that is right. We must do something to increase and improve productivity. We must get away from this idea that if anything is done to improve it all that is being done is helping the boss and fattening him. In improving productivity we are improving the whole of the standard of living in this country.

The socialist countries - it does not matter what 'ism' is attached - have come up against the same problem. They have found that they have to produce-


Senator Gair - Sweden determines its wages on productivity figures.


Senator LILLICO - Yes. They have found that they have to make their living and pay their way in the world. Whether it be a free enterprise system, a socialist system, a capitalistic system or whatever system it may be, it is up against the same economic causes in regard to the need to increase productivity at a rate which will enable it to compete on the markets of the world. There is no getting away from that.


Senator Gair - lt is a basic requirement.


Senator LILLICO - Of course it is. lt was the same Mr Hawke who, some months ago - 1 am speaking in the general context in which this Bill was introduced - said that the cry of the primary producers about rising prices and costs affecting their productivity was only a whinge from a pampered section of the community.


Senator Georges - Why do you not quote him exactly and then we will be certain of what he said.


Senator LILLICO - The remarks were so offensive to the honourable senator's shadow Minister for Primary Industry that he publicly replied to them. Since 1964 primary producers have suffered a drop of 33 per cent in farm incomes. The honourable senators who are now trying to interject can view things only on a unionemployer basis. The trouble with a lot of honourable senators opposite is that they cannot see past that. They are like men who are looking down a barrel. They cannot see outside the barrel; they must focus on the object at the end of it. During the same period to which I have referred wages and salaries increased by 86 per cent. Over a period of a few years farmers indebtedness increased more than ten-fold. They are the conditions that are bringing about the present state of affairs. I read from a leading article published in a Sydney newspaper some time ago. lt states:

Sydney and its mushrooming suburbs added 11.03 per cent in 5 years, reaching a population of 2,717.069. Melbourne, devouring its hinterland even faster, grew by 13.3. per cent to 2.388,941.

That is the position at which Australia is arriving because of continually increasing costs and because of the importation of primary products at a time when most primary producing markets are glutted. Sooner or later, if we are to preserve the rural communities in Australia and if this tendency is to be halted, a plan has to be devised by which the rural communities in Australia will be compensated for the gross imbalance under which they have laboured for many years. I believe that the Bill contains some good provisions. The terms of clause 8 have been advocated many times in this chamber by Senator Wright and by others. Under that clause a person shall not be appointed as a Deputy President unless he is a person who 'has had experience at a high level in industry, commerce, industrial relations or the service of a government or an authority of a government'. That provision seems to me to be at least a step in the taking of arbitration and conciliation from the legal preserve under which it has operated since its inception. I think there is great justification for the placing in such positions men who have had industrial and commercial experience. Despite what Senator Bishop has said, it may well be that the separation of arbitration from conciliation is a move in the right direction.

I agree with the provisions in the Bill which relate to the amalgamation of unions. When I say that 1 call to mind a statement made by the Minister for Labour and National Service who introduced the Bill in another place. He said that West Germany had I think, only 16 trade unions whereas Australia had 300, and that there was no need for us to have so many trade unions. When I heard him say that I recalled a conversation I had with a fairly high ranking German industrialist who was in Australia at the time. He had come to this country to do a job for the Tasmanian Hydro- Electric Commission.


Senator Cavanagh - What was his name? We can check on it then.


Senator LILLICO - I know his name, but it has slipped my memory for the moment. That is immaterial. I was talking to him at the time in Sydney, I think it was at the airport, and he told me that he knew of a worker who was clocking off for two or three others.


Senator Cavanagh - The honourable senator does not know where he met the man. He thinks it was at the aerodrome.


Senator LILLICO - Senator Cavanagh is another blatherer who speaks here so often and is heard in comparative silence, but let anyone else try to make a speech and the honourable senator and his ilk blather from beginning to end, yet they profess to be so sensitive about the rights of others in other spheres. This German industrialist - it does not matter to the honourable senator who he was - said: 'I cannot understand you people in this country'. I said: 'Why is that?' He said: 'You have a strike among your transport workers at the Sydney aerodrome. If that happened in West Germany the union would discipline the unionist responsible for it. He would probably be expelled from the union. The management would not have anything to do with it. But here, when your management attempts to interfere in a dispute, there is a strike by all the unionists concerned'. That is so. When honourable senators opposite talk about the amalgamation of Australian unions they justify their statements by saying that West Germany has only 16 or 18 unions. But they should take into consideration the apparent difference in outlook of those unions which operate in West Germany. There are provisions in the Bill which regulate proposed amalgamations, and there are people in this country who look upon these amalgamations with a lot of disquiet.


Senator Georges - That would be the DLP.


Senator LILLICO - I do, too, as do others on this side. They look upon it with disquiet because most of the unions which want to amalgamate are under communist control. In short, they want to create a small community empire. The Minister has sai'd that the success or otherwise of the operation of this Bill when it becomes an Act depends upon the co-operation that is forthcoming from all parties - the unionists, the employers and the Government. But how can one expect co-operation when the top Australian communist has said that the prime objective of the Communist Party is to maintain confrontation between unionists, employers and the state?


Senator Georges - Give us his name. The honourable senator must know his name.


Senator LILLICO - His name is Aarons. Carmichael said that the metal trades amalgamation would provide the party with thousands of activists. That does not bode well for any co-operation when this measure becomes an Act. Honourable senators know perfectly well that the parties to the amalgamation are men who have a vested interest in the breaking down of the economy of this country and that the reason they want to amalgamate is to create a bigger, stronger, more amenable organisation to put their aims into practice. They have stated openly that that is their objective and that that is the reason why they want to amalgamate. I am convinced that the ordinary rank and file trade uni'onist - I meet them every day, as does every other honourable senator - does not want this sort of thing. Surely it is reasonable for there to be a provision in this measure for adequate safeguards to be taken to ensure that any amalgamation is done by and with the consent of the ordinary, decent trade unionist.

If the outlook of all trade unions in this country was the same as the apparent outlook of trade unions in Western Germany and if the trade unions in this country were not controlled by men with a vested interest in a breakdown of the Australian economy no-one would have any worries about amalgamations or the number of trade unions we had. But the experience in this country of Red dominated unions has been bitter. This will be confirmed by anybody in Tasmania who had to put up with unnecessary isolation of his State because Bull, or whatever his name is, the Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation in Melbourne, did not like the Springboks rugby tour of Victoria. Anyone who has had to go through that sort of thing must Jook askance at any proposals to make these sorts of unions bigger, easier to manipulate and therefore more threatening. If they acted with reason it would be all well and good. But I come from a State which was nearly brought to a standstill because of the actions of some men who influenced certain trade unions on matters which had nothing whatever to do with terms and conditions of employment Action was taken because, through some mental quirk or other, these men did not like something that was going on in their own State. God help us. Do honourable senators not think that penalties should be enforced upon such men?


Senator Cavanagh - I think you should hang them; don't you?


Senator LILLICO - That is just futile, stupid, senseless talk.


Senator Georges - How about imposing penalties on the shipowners who increase the freight rates to the disadvantage of Tasmania?


Senator LILLICO - I would. I have in front of me a sheaf of demands from the Waterside Workers Federation to the effect: 'Pay up or we will go out". The shipowners have agreed to some, if not most, of the Federation's demands without reference to any arbitration process whatsoever. They have agreed outside of the arbitration process altogether and outside of any jurisdiction that was competent to make a proper assessment of the claims. The shipowners have simply put up the freights to the State of Tasmania to meet the increased costs. Surely it is reasonable to assume that this sort of thing should be decided by a proper tribunal, especially when it concerns an industry that has been continually raising its freights to make both ends meet. Chifley imposed heavy penalties under the conciliation and arbitration legislation. He did so when he was in office and had certain responsibilities. It was also Chifley who put men in gaol. An honourable senator spoke earlier of hanging them. Chifley put them in gaol. The present Government would never do that.


Senator Cavanagh - lt would not?


Senator LILLICO - I do not think so.


Senator Cavanagh - What about O'Shea?


Senator LILLICO - I shall go on in spite of the clatter. The successful operation nt this measure depends upon the willingness and co-operation of all parties to it. But when men make statements such as those made by Aarons and Carmichael, I cannot conceive of that co-operation being forthcoming. I cannot imagine such a thing. But I do say that it behoves the Government, on behalf of the people of Australia, to see that this legislation is enforced. I notice that the Heath Government in the United Kingdom - Wilson threatened to do it but did not do it - has imposed a penalty of $170,850 on a trade union under threat of taking over its assets if it did not pay. The trade union paid. I was in New Zealand about 12 months ago. At that time the Secretary of the Seamens Union came on television and, as one man put it, preached bloody revolution. He said it had to come and that ships had to be tied up to break the New Zealand economy. I heard him say that. This situation went on until the people and the Government of New Zealand were fed right up to the teeth with it. Marshall, who is now Prime Minister, stepped in. He de-registered the union. He froze its funds. He broke it altogether with the co-operation of the Secretary of the Federation of Labour, Mr Skinner, whose attitude is so different from that of some leading men in the trade union movement in this country. The Prime Minister with the co-operation of Mr Skinner worked out rules for the formation of another union, free altogether from communist control. This actually happened. It can be traced through the New Zealand newspapers. Since that time there has been no trouble whatever with the New Zealand seamen as far as my information is concerned.

If we do not accept this Bill what are we going to do? Are we to have a law with no penalties whatsoever? Is it to be that people can come out and subject the whole community to sabotage? That is what it amounts to. Can the Government reasonably be expected to stand by? It is supposed to defend the rights of people. Is it to stand by and say: 'We are not going to do anything about this'? I have heard very caustic criticism of the present Government because it has not met this position long ago. I hope that when this measure becomes operative the Government will see that the law is carried out in its entirety. I am one of those people who do not believe in strikes except under extraordinary circumstances.


Senator Georges - What circumstances?


Senator LILLICO - I thought I would get a comment on that one. 1 am not going to be caught in that way. I say that if it is fair for one section of the community by means of strikes to blackmail and hold the rest of the public to ransom to better its own conditions then surely it is just as reasonable for professional men, people in every other walk of life and for primary producers if they could be so organised to come out on strike and say: No, you are not going to get any more food to eat until you give us this, that and the other'. What is the difference? Yet we have people so often saying in this country: 'We will not take any notice of the legally constituted court unless its decisions favour us. If its decisions do not favour us we will pull our labour out and go on strike'. I was talking to a man in the town near where I live not long ago. 1 said to him: 'You are not at work today?'


Senator Cavanagh - Why was he not at work?


Senator LILLICO - I will tell the honourable senator why he was not at work. He said: 'We are on strike.' 1 said: 'What for?' He said: 'The CIB investigated one of the unionist's premises.' Because it investigated his premises looking for something which had been stolen the rest of them had an 8 hour protest strike. That is a beautiful situation, is it not?


Senator Cavanagh - The honourable senator does not believe that?


Senator LILLICO - I do. I saw it happen. There was another occasion when one of the men went into a certain place too often. He stayed there a long time. He was warned 2 or 3 times and then he was sacked. The rest of the men went on strike. Not only that but they demanded the dismissal of the foreman who had sacked the man. Surely there must be some law and some penalty for that kind of irresponsibility. That is not all about which I could tell honourable senators. I believe that the ordinary rank and file trade unionist does not want this sort of thing. I believe that the great majority of them do not want this. But as so often happens the leadership has fallen into the hands of people who are absolutely irresponsible and who have a vested interest in the destruction of the Australian economy. Because of these facts I say that it behoves this Government to enforce the penalties provided in this Bill. If it does not enforce the penalties and do something about this position then it is going to lose a lot of standing with the people of Australia.







Suggest corrections