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
Wednesday, 26 September 1973
Page: 1531

Mr RIORDAN (Phillip) - The speech to which we have just listened from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) must surely be one of the most remarkable speeches ever given in this Parliament. He said nothing, and needed w extension to time to say K. It was a speech which was abusive, illogical and irrelevant. Obviously one of two reasons prompted that speech. Either he could not think of anything to say against the proposition or. alternatively, he has not yet received his instructions from the outside forces which run the Liberal Party on what attitude he is to adopt. When he stands in this Parliament and says to this Government that it is a mangy deal because the senators who represent the Democratic Labor Party have agreed to support this proposition, one can only gather that he is speaking from past experience. His is the attitude of the jealous lover who has been rejected or rebuked. To attack a man like the Treasurer (Mr Crean) as an economic illiterate shows the depth of the ignorance of the Leader of the Opposition. The Treasurer is the most highly qualified and best experienced man on economics on either side of this Parliament.

It ill behoves the man who is now the Leader of the Opposition, who spent a time as Treasurer of this country, to criticise one who has achieved as much as has the present Treasurer.

The difference between the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and that made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is truly remarkable. It is unfortunate that these proceedings were not broadcast this afternoon so that those who would have listened would have been able to make a comparison for themselves. The Prime Minister has shown in this whole area statesmanship and leadership in his anxiety to fight inflation. He has not been the one who has tramped around the country complaining that the Government would not bring in a prices-incomes policy, whatever is intended by that phrase. He is not the one who has been complaining about the price of meat pies. As soon as the by-election was over the Leader of the Opposition came before this Parliament and said: 'It is only a temporary problem. What is all the fuss about?' For sheer humbug and hypocritical argument that must take the prize. The Prime Minister's method has been to attack the causes with measures which are fair and equitable to all sections of the community.

Mr Lynch - That statement is a joke.

Mr RIORDAN - I remind the honourable gentleman who just interjected that this is not the time for slogan chanting. The Opposition is attempting to go on an economic excursion and to put the load onto the backs of the wage and salary earners. That is what a prices-wages freeze means. There is an atmosphere of economic hallucination in the Opposition's attitude toward? inflation in this country. The Opposition's attitude is deceptive and spurious. This oratorical shenanigan will not befool the Australian people. The Opposition has been advocating a price and wage freeze for at least the past several months. It has ignored the fact that similar policies have failed elsewhere in the world. It has also ignored the fact that there is no power to implement such a policy. As soon as the Opposition's bluff is called, as soon as we say to the people of Australia 'Give this Parliament the power to act', the Opposition wants to bow out and wants to go the opposite way. This surely must be the philosophy of humbug.

The majority of workers in this country, as I said last week, have their wages regulated by a tribunal. If their wages are not regulated by independent tribunals they are regulated by their employer individually, but in 99 per cent of cases they are determined by the dictates of an employer organisation which issues a direction to the individual company. Now what is this nonsense about there being no control over wages at the present time? Some wages and some salaries are not controlled, but they are those which are received by the tall poppies in our community. The wages of all government employees, whether they be federal, State or municipal, are fixed by arbitral tribunals and the award rate is the actual wage rate. All those people who work for statutory bodies, State and federal corporations, are in the same position. All employees who are employed outside the metropolitan area are to be found close to award wages. Who says that the wages of such people are not fixed, controlled or regulated now? There are also those thousands and thousands of unorganised workers - almost 50 per cent - who are not members of unions or industrial organisations although covered by awards.

The trade union movement, the employees of Australia and the wage and salary earners have nothing to fear from any action that this Government will take. They will embrace this proposal. They will vote for it because they realise that the incomes which are not subject to regulation today are the non-wage and non-salary incomes. The wage and salary incomes are already controlled. It will be of no use the Opposition trying to scare and hoodwink the wage and salary earners in Australia. In the 1959 report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, paragraph 765 quotes a statement by Sir John Latham, a former Chief Justice of the High Court. It states:

There is reluctance in many quarters to approve any increase of federal power over industrial matters. Many are afraid of a parliament where a political party could in effect buy votes by raising wages. But there are many parliaments which have this power. There is the risk that a popularity-hunting parliament might do great damage in the industrial sphere - but any parliament may do great damage in many spheres by actions which it would be possible for it to take. If the Parliament went too far in raising wages - or in reducing wages - it could subsequently correct what it thought was an error, and in any event it would have full responsibility to the people for what it did or failed to do. The prospect of an election is a great steadying influence. Parliament would soon learn that it could not itself possibly deal with all aspects of employment, and it would establish authorities which would be given such independence in tenure as Parliament thought proper.

He went on to advocate why the parliaments in the several States of Australia should have this power. The parliaments in the several States of Australia have this power now.

Mr Daly - And you cannot trust some of them.

Mr RIORDAN - I agree that you cannot trust some of them. I would not want to trust some of them either, but the question is, how do they use it? Have they been prepared or courageous enough to abuse that power? The answer is no, they have not - at least not for more than 40 years when the lesson was learnt the last time an attempt was made. I ask this House to look at what has been done by way of legislation in terms of wages and salaries in the State parliaments. I select New South Wales as a case in point. The New South Wales Parliament has legislated to maintain the basic wage and the margins concept in lieu of the total wage concept adopted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission. Following the 1950 basic wage decision there was an anomaly in New South Wales whereby female employees missed out on receiving a £1 addition because of the increase from 54 per cent to 75 per cent in the female basic wage. The New South Wales Parliament passed legislation eventually to give that £1 back to the thousands of female wage and salary earners in that State. In 1953, and subsequently, cost of living adjustments to the basic wage were maintained in New South Wales by legislative action. Five years later we saw the introduction by legislation of equal pay provisions.

Such things as the minimum wage represent a social and political decision which the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission is required to make each year. But, of course, the other incomes area is what concerns members of the Opposition. They are concerned about their wealthy friends who for years have been milking the economy dry. I refer to the people who have been getting a bonanza out of inflation, the people who have been taking all the cream off the top of the milk and leaving the skim milk for the wage and salary earner to drink and digest as best he can. The Opposition wants to protect the investor, the man who is not subject to control or regulation in terms of the rent he charges for ramshackle old places at Bondi for which he is getting $40 to $50 a week or, in the case of 2 old age pensioners on $40 a week, $26 for a couple of rooms. I refer also to dividends being completely uncontrolled and unregulated. The investor does not have to justify what dividend he receives. He is able to get whatever he can get from the Board of directors of a company. Another field is professional charges. The Opposition would leave free the doctors, lawyers, dentists and service charges. What members of the Opposition have put to this Parliament is their desire to keep the control of wages that they now have and to let the tall poppies help themselves to the cream and take advantage of the bonanza. I recall the wages freeze in the early 1950s which was introduced in this country with the encouragement of the then Liberal-Country Party coalition. I also recall at that time the philosophy of Chief Judge Kelly who believed that wages should be kept down and that any increase in wages was inflationary.

I recall decisions by the late Commissioner Findlay of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission who was an outstanding Commissioner but a man who was accused by learned judges of practising and preaching arbitral heresy because he dared to say that when prices went up the workers were entitled to get an increase in their wages. Those were the days when there was a wages freeze by the back door. We saw it happen and we know it can happen and we want to see that if there is going to be any regulation of incomes it should be the responsibility of Parliament to make that decision and that those who make it should be subject to public control and should have to account for their actions in the political polling place in due course.

What is this nonsense we hear about a wages freeze and a prices freeze? One would think that the Leader of the Opposition was a salesman for Westinghouse. In fact, in certain places of employment he has the nickname of Freezer Bill and I think that is a fair tag to put on him because all he can say is: Freeze it'. All that means is that the inequity and the injustice between the current level of wages and the present level of prices exploitation would be maintained. The wage and salary earner would have no chance to catch up. I will not use all the time that is available to me because I know that other honourable members wish to speak in this debate. However, I ask honourable members to vote for this Bill. I believe that the workers of Australia will vote overwhelmingly for this proposition. I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for his statesmanship and leadership on this total issue and in bringing this proposition before the Parliament. He will have the overwhelming support of the Australian people for both of these proposals.

Suggest corrections