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Tuesday, 23 May 1972
Page: 1931

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - One must rise and enter this debate with a great deal of sympathy for Senator Lillico who has just resumed his seat.

Senator Lillico - I am not going to blather at you all the time as you did at me. You can speak without interruption as far as I am concerned.

Senator CAVANAGH - I thought I started by being very kind to the honourable senator. I could have said a lot of cruel things about his contribution to the debate tonight. But it is with deep sympathy that I follow the honourable senator. I accept that he is honest in his advocacy for the primary producers, in his desire to improve their lot and in his concern because of the decline in income since 1964. I think that possibly he has some vested interest in that section of the community. But he has a real and sincere grievance in relation to the position which the primary producer is in. Whether or not that is contributed to by the trade unions, the honourable senator must know that incomes have been reduced since 1964 as a result of policies of the Government which he supports. He must know if he has looked into the matter that the time of prosperity in primary industry was the time of prosperity in the industrial movement which had been brought about by the agitation of the trade union movement. At no time was there greater prosperity than the periods following the 2 world wars when wages and primary industries boomed. I can understand the mistaken belief, caused by a lack of knowledge of the economy, that the primary producers' inability to compete in overseas trade and the high cost of production is all due to the workers. But any study of the situation will show that this is not correct. Therefore my sympathy goes out because of the honourable senator's lack of knowledge of how to assist the very section of the community which I think he is earnestly trying to assist.

By his very action in supporting the Government, which has reduced the primary producing sector to its present state of pauperism, Senator Lillico is acting to the detriment of the very section of the community for which he is responsible and which he should desire to assist. He does not prevent an examination of his own conscience at some time or other when the facts are brought before him by making wild accusations because he was told something by some German - I think it was at an airport. He cannot supply the name of the individual or say even where the conversation took place so that we may check on it. On the other question, he was told by some fellow in some town that someone had contraband or illegal goods in his possession. No one believes the statement of a politician, and he cannot claim support for it unless it is backed up by facts. Let the honourable senator give us the facts, and we will find whether there is any basis for a strike in Tasmania in some industry because a man in some town told him that the boss had illegal goods in his possession in his room. Let us see what confidence wc can put in the honourable senator. Give us the facts for examination.

Now I shall return to the Bill. I give all my sympathy to the previous speaker. I hope that in the future we can get him to take an active interest in real methods that will support the primary industries, rather than his present procedure which condemns them to future poverty and misery, to which the policy of this Government can only condemn them. Speaking on the Public Service Arbitration Bill which was recently before the Senate, I went into some detail on the origin of conflict in Australia between the trade union movement and employers. I came up with the conclusion that at the present stage of industrial activities in Australia it is undesirable for the employers, the employees and the community generally to have strikes in industry and that we should do everything possible to prevent them. We should forget for a while the question of punitive action and ask what we can do to prevent strikes. I think there may have been a real desire in previous governments, and especially the government which in 1904 introduced legislation designed to prevent head-on collisions between employers and employees, to have some method of sitting around the table in conciliation and arbitration to ensure that disputes be settled before they reach the extent of stoppage of work.

It has been stated in the other House that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act of the Commonwealth has been the most amended Act of all the legislation of the Commonwealth Parliament. It has been stated that since 1904 there have been more than 50 amendments to the Act. Possibly a greater number of amendments have been made to it than to any other Act except those dealing with social services and repatriation, to which amendments are made from time to time for the purpose of increasing benefits. As to the fundamental basis of the legislation, no other Act has been amended more than the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. As soon as a Bill amending the Act is put into effect, we see that it does not achieve the improvement that we had hoped for, and therefore another amending Act is needed. In 1956 the Government decided that there was no alternative but to introduce penalties into the Act. Senator Lillico tonight advocated drastic penalties. The penalties in the Act have not achieved anything. There have been more strikes than ever since the penalties were introduced. Last year a record number of days were lost through strikes. Before that, the record numbers of days lost were in 19.17, 1919 and 1920. Therefore, the penalties inserted in the Act were useless. Indeed, all the amendments to the Act that have been brought forward year after year have achieved no purpose.

Senator Poke - Plus the operation of the Crimes Act.

Senator CAVANAGH - Yes. It may be that if we are keenly desirous of preventing industrial disputes we should consider whether the system of conciliation and arbitration operating in Australia is the solution to the problem. Should we look at some alternative as a preventative of industrial disputes? Surely the persons from whom advice should be sought are those who are actively engaged in industrial relationships, representing both the employers and the employees. At this Parliament House last week, Bob Hawke and Harold Souler representing the ACTU, attended a meeting of the industrial relations committee of the Labor Party of which I am the president. They told the committee that this very thing happened in 1970 when the employers and the employees met in a series of conferences for the purpose of considering whether the Act should be amended and, if so, how it should be amended to achieve more amicable industrial relationships. Mr Souter reported that, surprisingly to the ACTU, there was a great measure of agreement by both parties at that conference on how the Act should be amended to improve relations between employers and employees. In, 1 think, February 1971 they reported to the Minister, who would not permit the parties to agree to amendments to the Act without Government consultation. There was to be none of this consultation between employers and employees; the Government had to have a hand in the question.

That conference was adjourned as the Government had to be invited into consultation. In the meantime, many of the delegates went to the International Labour Organisation conference. On their return, there was a change in attitude on the part of the employers. The Federal Government had put pressure on them, saying that they had to change their attitude to one of agreement with the employees. A conference was then called between employers and employees and Government representatives. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) who attended the conference, said he would sit there and listen. As he listened in November last year, while negotiations were proceeding at that conference, he brought down his statement of intent on this Bill. The statement of intent was possibly more drastic than the present legislation. It indicated that everything agreed upon between the parties would not be a basis for alteration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and that more severe penalties would be put into the Act than there were agreed upon between the parties. In fairness to the Minister for Labour and National Service, I must say that we cannot accept that he deliberately set out to wreck that conference of employers and employees. I think we must accept that the Minister was the member of a political party which, popular opinion polls showed, was out of favour with the people and would never see the light of day in a subsequent election. As a servant of the Party, the Minister had a responsibility to rescue the Party if possible. His Party intended to fight the forthcoming election on lawlessness in industry. He put the issue involving his Party before the question of agreements between employers and employees. In fact, he put the needs of his Party before the objective of peace in industry. To save the skin of an unpopular government he wanted to see an increase of lawlessness in industry. From that situation arose the legislation now before the Senate.

I will admit that the Minister possibly would claim that he was under pressure to save the Government from the attack of the Australian Democratic Labor Party which threatened to direct its preferences away from the Government unless some firm action was taken against the trade union movement. We have heard in this place that 3 large and important metal trades organisations were considering amalgamation under communist control and that this would result in a communist bloc which could stand up industry at any time.

Senator Little - You do not think that that has happened in trade unionism in this country?

Senator CAVANAGH - The DLP was so convinced that it would happen in Australia that it made the Government ensure that it would take remedial action to see that it did not happen. Until tonight the Democratic Labor Party has been satisfied that the purpose of the proposed amendments to the Act is to prevent the calamity which it thought would occur in Australia.

Senator Little - I will refresh your mind. I will tell you when it has happened.

Senator CAVANAGH - This has not been the belief of all members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. As Senator Bishop has pointed out, at a meeting of the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations a long resolution was carried in respect of the Bill now before the Senate. That resolution concluded:

The intention of the Government to further impose on the Arbitration Commission, in major cases, the responsibility to take into account tha likely national economic consequences in any of its decisions over and above its present consideration of the public interest - the Arbitration Commission exists first and foremost to settle industrial disputes. It has no power over the process and the Government is and should be responsible for the proper workings of the economy.

After setting out the details - that was one part of the resolution that I read - it was decided by the ACSPA:

To conduct a widespread publicity campaign against the Lynch proposals and to seek support of affiliates in this; and to request the ALP Federal Parliamentary Party and the Democratic Labor Party to reject any Bill based upon the Lynch proposals.

Senator Kane - Read it all, senator, not just part.

Senator CAVANAGH - If the honourable senator desires, I am prepared to table the document.

Senator Kane - Read it.

Senator CAVANAGH - If the honourable senator so wishes, I am prepared to seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.

Senator Kane - Read it all.

Senator CAVANAGH - No. Too much of my time would be taken up. What follows, for the information of the honourable senator, are the details of the composition of the Federal Council of the ACSPA beginning with the Federal President. The surprising thing about this resolution is that it was moved by Mr John Maynes, the Federal President of the Federated Clerks Union who is recognised as one of the leading members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.

Senator Little - A leading member of the trade union movement.

Senator CAVANAGH - A leading member of the trade union movement. While the purpose of this legislation was the appeasement of the Australian Democratic Labor Party - I think I can show that the right wing trade unions are attacked more than the left wing trade unions - and while the political Democratic Labor Party was satisfied with its achievements, those with a bond or connection with the trade union movement could see the dangers of this action. The conflict between the political DLP and its trade union representative in Mr Maynes is demonstrated by the fact that he moved this resolution-

Senator Kane - Be honest; read to us all of the document.

Senator CAVANAGH - All right. I will read a bit more. In moving this resolution:

The Federal President of the Federated Clerks Union, said that the intentions of the Government constituted a serious attack upon trade unionism.

That is not a statement by Car michael or, for Senator Lilli co's benefit, a statement by Laurie Aarons. This document continues:

He said the proposals were designed at this time when white collar unionism was developing in Australia to interfere with the right of trade unionists to organise effectively. It was reminiscent of attempts to prevent the growth of trade unions which was unsuccessfully made in the last century.

All of the provisions to which the Federal President of the Federated Clerks Union objected still remain in the Bill in its present form. The main concern of the Democratic Labor Party was to stop the metal trades amalgamation. But the Bill provides that its amendments to the Act do not apply to applications for amalgamation before the coming into operation of the legislation. The amalgamation of the metal trades unions cannot be prevented at this stage by the Bill. Other requests were made for certain assistance which had to be given for the purpose of delaying the amalgamation of the unions by the Government to help what I take the liberty of saying were 2 stooges so that they might make application under section 141 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act on complaint that the rules of the organisations were not complied with. This move before the Industrial Court was a delaying tactic. Application was made for the Commonwealth to pay the costs of this action before the Court. The Industrial Registrar decided under regulation 138 that he had no power, as he interpreted that regulation, to pay for the cost of this challenge which alleged that the rules of the unions had not been carried out.

The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), to ensure that the support of the DLP could be retained, issued another regulation taking the matter out of the hands of the Industrial Registrar. The provisions of that regulation were to be retrospective to cover any action before the coming into operation of the regulation. It covered those who had failed in an application before the Registrar. Regulation 138 gives the Registrar power to pay for the services of one lawyer only before the court. The DLP stooges desired 2 lawyers, probably because their argument would be so poor that more than one lawyer would be needed. A new regulation was introduced to provide that, if the other side to such an application had 2 lawyers, the Commonwealth would pay for 2 lawyers for those making an application. I believe - 1 am trying to find this out from a question 1 have asked the Minister - that the Commonwealth paid a lawyer, Mr Gaynor, who I believe is practising law in Victoria.

Senator Little - He is not a member of Parliament, too, is he?

Senator CAVANAGH - No, but I do believe that he is a member of the DLP.

Senator Little - That is right.

Senator CAVANAGH - Senator Little says that that is right, so it is confirmed. He has an assistant who likewise is a member of the DLP. So as an appeasement of 2 stooges in order to hold up the regulations, the Government has paid 2 DLP solicitors for the purpose of getting the Democratic Labor Party support of this amendment to the legislation. In relation to the amalgamation which certain people attempted to prevent but which they failed to prevent, our faith was upheld in the judiciary more than in political Attorneys-General because the court was honest and said that there was no basis for the challenge, and disallowed the challenge. The amalgamation of those unions now must flow through unless those people can think up some other legislation which can be made retrospective to the extent necessary.

The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) in the other place published a list of ballots which were court controlled and the percentage returns in those ballots. Under the new legislation it is essential that there be a 50 per cent return of the ballot papers issued. Having achieved a 50 per cent return, a simple majority of those papers returned in favour of the amalgamation is sufficient to permit the amalgamation. It works in this way: If an organisation achieves a 49 per cent return of ballot papers and those 49 per cent support amalgamation, amalgamation cannot take place even though 49 per cent of the members of the organisation desire amalgamation because there was not a 50 per cent return of ballot papers.

Senator Little - That is right. The majority has not voted in favour of it.

Senator CAVANAGH - As Senator Little has said, the majority has not voted in favour of it. If just over 50 per cent of the ballot papers are returned and 26 per cent - approximately one half - vote in favour of amalgamation, amalgamation can take place. To Senator Little's mind it is justifiable that amalgamation cannot take place when 49 per cent of the union membership vote for it because a minority vote does not count, yet 26 per cent of the members of an organisation can make an amalgamation legal under the proposed amendment to the Act.

Senator Little - To have 49 per cent of the membership voting unanimously sounds like a crook ballot to me.

Senator CAVANAGH - Senator Littlenow claims that because 49 per cent of the membership of the union vote the same way it is not a dinkum ballot. I think there is some validity in that claim. I raised this as an illustration of the 2 extremes. But this legislation does not permit a majority decision at any time. An amalgamation can be legal with a smaller number but not with a larger number. The honourable member for Hindmarsh in the other place produced the figures which were given in answer to a question on the percentage of returns of ballot papers since there have been court controlled ballots under the arbitration system. Those figures are incorporated in the House of Representatives Hansard of 10th May. It is surprising - this has been argued - that court controlled ballots achieve returns in excess of 50 per cent of the membership of the organisation concerned. One ballot achieved a 92 per cent return. However, there are notable exceptions to this. The first notable exception is the Amalgamated Engineering Union which had less than a 50 per cent return on a number of ballots, but that aspect is no longer in dispute because it has achieved its amalgamation. The other notable exceptions are the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia, the Australian Workers Union, the Federated Clerks Union and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners of Australia.

Here we come to the point which can be seen by looking at the results of other ballots. With the change of operations in industry a lot of unions must become very small. I cite as an illustration the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society of Australia. Its only hope of some union protection is to amalgamate with another body. The smaller unions eventually must be swallowed up by the bigger unions if the members of the smaller unions are to be protected. Under this proposed new Act, the militant unions - we have heard them referred to as the communist dominated unions - can achieve amalgamation, according to the figures that are published in Hansard. The AWU, the Federated Ironworkers Association and the Clerks Union can never amalgamate with another organisation if this legislation is passed by this chamber. I think this is the concern of Mr Maynes.

Senator MCAULIFFE (QUEENSLAND) - It is a fact too.

Senator CAVANAGH - It is a factual situation. I think this is the concern of Mr Maynes. He has seen the danger and is opposed to this legislation. If this legislation is to serve as political propaganda for the DLP, if the Government thinks that it has assisted or appeased the DLP by introducing this legislation, let it go ahead with its proposals. While the clerks and ironworkers unions may be right wing and some of the other unions may be left wing, I think all unions are concerned with the benefit of their members. If an amalgamation is beneficial to their members and those who actively participate in the affairs of the organisation, whether it be right wing or left wing, and who know the problems of the industry and the problem it would be wrong, to my mind, to place an impediment in their way.

When I was talking on the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitration Bill I stated - I repeat it now - that there always will be strikes of some type. Workers in industry have a great many grievances in relation to which they feel they are justified in taking action. I mentioned at the time that one of their greatest grievances was in relation to the principle of comparative wage justice. If men are of the belief that someone is doing comparable work or less arduous or less skilled work but receiving a higher salary, it could well be justification for their taking industrial action if they have no other method of approaching the question. One must remember that a trade union movement has the right to exist on only one principle, namely, to maintain and improve the conditions of its members. That is the basis of the movement's existence. If that principle is not carried out there is no justification for men paying into a trade union.

Immediate past history has demonstrated that by some form of duress, some form of industrial activity, workers are able to obtain from industry today a greater return of the wealth produced than the arbitration system has been prepared to give in the past. If, in the public interest, we want to prevent strikes, we must see what is wrong with the arbitration system that it will not give to employees in industry what industry itself is prepared to give. Although Public Service clerks in Victoria have been awarded a 9 per cent increase an industrial tribunal under some influence of a government may listen to that government's representations and refuse the increase to Public Service clerks in the Commonwealth. But there will be no industrial peace and the question lo be asked is whether it is in the public interest that Commonwealth employees should not receive a 9 per cent increase which Victorian Public Service employees receive, or whether it is in the public interest to see that there is no industrial unrest among Commonwealth employees.

Possibly the trade union movement highlights the inequalities within society. As Senator Bishop stated earlier, the Bill provides for an increase of about $4,500 a year for conciliation commissioners to be paid retrospectively until December of last year. At present the senior commissioner receives $12,850 a year and the other commissioners receive $11,850 a year. The proposed new section 16 (I.) provides:

A Commissioner shall be paid salary at the rate of sixteen thousand two hundred and fifty dollars a year, and the Consolidated Revenue Fund is appropriated accordingly.

The commissioners are members of the same body that decided on a $2 a week increase for workers covered by awards of the Arbitration Commission. I do not think any of my colleagues would object to raising the salaries of commissioners by $2 a week, the increase granted to employees in industry, but an increase of $80 a week seems to be out of proportion. I turn now to the taxation statistics presented by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) with the Budget for 1971-72. These are the most up to date statistics that have been published. On pages 6 and 7 of the statistics are tables which set out the income of taxpayers in groups and the proportion of each group to the total number of taxpayers, the tax they pay and the proportion of that tax to the total taxation, and the income they earn and the proportion of that income to the total income earned.

This cannot be a completely accurate guide because the table commences with people with a taxable income of $417. People with an income of less than $417 a year are not included in the table. The group with an annual income of between $4,000 and $4,999 a year is comprised mainly of tradesmen and other workers generally in industry. The total numbers receiving income within that range or below it represent 87.34 per cent of the total number of taxpayers. They earned 69.84 per cent of the total income. The people in the group with an income of between $3,000 and $5,000 represent three-quarters of the total number of taxpayers and they earned 53 per cent of the total income. The remaining 25 per cent of people received the balance of 50 per cent of income. To summarise, three-quarters of the income earners received about half of the total income and the remaining 25 per cent received the other half of the total income.

Surely this is an unequal distribution of wealth. The tables show that 3,601 people receive an annual income in excess of $30,000. That must lend support to the claim that there is not a just distribution of wealth. I turn now to study the contribution made by manual workers to the creation of our national wealth as compared with the contribution of those people with an annual income in excess of $30,000. The justification for the agitation of manual workers for increased wages becomes apparent.

Senator Webster - But does that not equally apply to the $10,000 a year that you get as compared with your fellow worker's $5,000 or even less?

Senator CAVANAGH - Of course it does.

Senator Webster - Do you think that you ought to be getting $5,000 a year?

Senator CAVANAGH - 1 say that the disparity is too great and a redistribution is required. The system justifies the agitation of the under privileged worker who has just as many commitments as others have. Senator Webster would rather compare him with me than with a man who receives $30,000 a year. A man receiving $40 a week has just as many commitments in home life and possible expenditure as I have and he is receiving a lot less. Until we can justify the disparity we will not get peace in industry. Strikes have been recurring because trade union organisations exist only to provide benefits for their members. Recent events have shown that duress - strike action to stop the profits of employers - is the only action that the employer seems to understand when workers are under government domination. Therefore strikes do take place and .ve provide legislation for the purpose of preventing them. Sometimes the position is exaggerated, as it was by Senator Lillico tonight. About 44 million workers constitute our employment force. The loss through strike action last year was half a day per person. Through sick leave it was 2 days per employee. Industrial accidents caused a loss of about 3 million man hours.

Prior to the introduction of the last Budget, 60,000 persons were unemployed in Australia. The Budget deliberately created an unemployment pool which increased the number of unemployed to 120,000. The unemployment caused by the Budget dwarfs into insignificance the loss of time through strikes by the trade union movement. If non-employment is dangerous to our economy, there are more enemies in Australia's economy sitting in this Parliament than are sitting in the Melbourne offices of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I want to refer to the strikes that have occurred. The State Electricity Commission dispute in Victoria was prolonged and caused disruption to the whole of the State.

Debate interrupted.

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