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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2628

Senator JESSOP - My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour. I refer to the S-week-old strike initiated by the Ship Painters and Dockers Union at the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd shipyard in Whyalla. Is the Minister aware that this dispute arose as a result of the sacking of a painter working in the shipyard? Is he also aware that BHP offered to re-employ the worker very early in the dispute in order that the issue be settled by arbitration? Can the Minister tell me whether the Government intervened at that stage to urge the union to discuss this matter at arbitration? If not, can the Minister say why the Government did not take such action? Is the Minister aware that the delay in settling this argument has cost Whyalla workers more than $300,000 and that the wives of many of these unionists recently demonstrated their feelings in opposition to the dispute in an attempt to get the workers to return to work? Can the Minister say when the Government expects that this dispute will be settled?

Senator BISHOP (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) - As the honourable senator knows, the dispute originated, of course, in a demarcation issue. I take the opportunity of reminding the honourable senator that one of the objectives of the Government in its proposals to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was to make it easier for the amalgamation of unions to take place. If our attitude had been accepted, there would be more chance of avoiding problems which arise from demarcation issues than is the case at the present time, because it is harder to settle a demarcation issue when separate unions are operating in a certain field than would be the case if those unions were joined together. These are very difficult disputes. All I can say -

Senator Jessop -But it cost $300,000.

Senator BISHOP -That is one of the difficulties. If the Ship Painters and Dockers Union were merged with a wider group of workers in the industry there would be more chance of avoiding demarcation disputes. We are finding that this position applies in industry generally. All I can tell the honourable senator at this stage is that both the State Department and Mr Clyde Cameron's Department of Labour have offered to assist the parties in this dispute. I understand that there was some hope of some proposals which might settle the dispute being forthcoming yesterday in discussions of the Trades and Labour Council in Whyalla. I can only offer to get the latest information for the honourable senator, and when I get it I will give it to him.

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