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Wednesday, 23 August 1972
Page: 320

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -

Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that, as a result of collective bargaining procedures recently negotiated between employers of labour and the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia in regard to wages and working conditions on the Australian waterfront, processes were negotiated lawfully and without disorder, which processes resulted in Australian waterside workers being awarded a 35- hour week? Is it a fact that, despite the amicable and peaceful collective bargaining processes engaged in at that time between employer and employee, the Government tried to upset them by unsuccessfully opposing ratification of the agreement in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? Will the Minister agree that this collective bargaining process was done to the satisfaction of employer and employee, despite the hostility of the present Government, and that the arbitration system not only encourages but recognises collective bargaining processes? Do I take it from the Minister's earlier remarks that the Government opposes all collective bargaining arrangements between employers and union officials?

Senator WRIGHT - Not at all. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act recognises that conciliation in industry is a desirable preliminary before arbitration. Of course, if conciliation produces an agreement which is registered under the system that is the most desirable way of settling a dispute. But there are conditions upon the registration of those agreements which, in the case of a publicly financed and publicly protected organism that exists upon the waterfront and which is paid moneys raised by taxation, represent now no less than SI per man-hour of waterside workers' labours in class A ports. That is nearly $8 a man for every working day of 8 hours. It is imperative that the Government accept its responsibility to examine any bargain arrived at in those circumstances to see whether it conflicts with economic policy which has such an impact upon general industrial conditions. The Government did not intervene in the case referred to out of any hostility or out of any innate disapproval of bargaining processes. It intervened to obtain the Court's examination of the proper applicability to that industry of the claim for a 35-hour working week and the wages that were agreed to. The Government submitted to arbitration. It did not assert that the processes of agreement should be opposed because they did not conflict with the principles outlawing violence and making for peace in industry. The intervention was on the basis of a pure economic issue as to whether the particular terms of that agreement were appropriate in the circumstances of the economy.

Senator HANNAN - I claim that I have been misrepresented by Senator Mulvihill in his question.

Senator Mulvihill - 1 rise to order. Mr Acting President, the matter is sub judice. You are handling it and not the honourable senator.

The ACTING PRESIDENT - Order! The honourable senator claims to have been misrepresented and I think that-

Senator Mulvihill - Mr Acting President, you are to arbitrate on this matter tomorrow. I am relying on you, not him.

The ACTING PRESIDENT- J think that the honourable senator who claims to be misrepresented is entitled to be heard.

Senator Georges - I rise to order.

The ACTING PRESIDENT- Order! A point of order has been raised and I am replying to it. 1 think that in view of the fact that the honourable senator has asked me something in relation to Senator Hannan's question, in fairness, if Senator Hannan has something to say in that regard, I should hear it to enable me to make a fair assessment.

Senator HANNAN - Thank you, Mr Acting President. Under the Standing Orders, I have-

Senator Georges - I rise to order.

The ACTING PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Georges has a further point of order.

Senator Georges - My point of order is different from the one that has been raised.

Senator Hannanis claiming misrepresentation. I think that he ought to do that when question time is completed, not during question time.

The ACTING PRESIDENT- All right; Senator Hannan can leave his explanation until after question time.

Senator HANNAN - Very well. I am sorry that honourable senators opposite are so sensitive about it.

The ACTING PRESIDENT - Order! The point of order is upheld and Senator Hannan can make his presentation after question time.

Senator Mulvihill - I have a further point of order which I make for my protection. Even if Senator Hannan makes some golden explanation of what he meant, I will not have the Hansard extract in front of me. That is the reason why I have halted any remarks I was going to make. Like yourself, Mr Acting President, after we have seen it in cold print tomorrow it will be much more effective in regard to how we evaluate what Senator Hannan might say he meant to say. I am not making this plea for myself. I am making it on behalf of Mr Jurjevic, a Melbourne citizen who does not sit in this place and be able to defend himself.

The ACTING PRESIDENT- Order! I think that there is a fair representation contained in the point of order which the honourable senator has taken. But at the same time I think that we should have Senator Hannan's reply later if he wants to make it to enable me to make an assessment pertaining to the honourable senator. I call on Senator Georges to ask his question.

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