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Thursday, 11 November 1976
Page: 2591

Mr JARMAN (DEAKIN, VICTORIA) -I ask the Prime Minister What is the position relating to industrial disputes concerning John Fairfax and Sons Ltd in Sydney? Can the Government take any action in this matter?

Mr MALCOLM FRASER -The disputes in Sydney involving John Fairfax and Sons Ltd are of very great importance and the Government, at this point, has shown a very real measure of patience in regard to any actions which it might have taken, especially in relation to its own employees. The position began with a strike by the Printing and Kindred Industries Union about 3 weeks ago. The Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union became involved in the issue about 2 weeks ago in support of the PKIU. Since the APTU has been involved no mail has been delivered to John Fairfax and Sons. At the same time, I am advised that if telephones or telex machines went out of operation they would not be repaired. In relation to the PKIU, the matter has gone to the New South Wales Industrial Commission on more than one occasion, I think, and the Industrial Commission, an instrument under law of the New South Wales Government, has said that the bans ought to be lifted and that the members of the union ought to return to work. That direction has been ignored. As I indicated, the APTU also joined in this matter about 2 weeks ago. As a result of that, John Fairfax and Sons approached the New South Wales Supreme Court to get the Court to lift the bans, if in the Court's judgment that were the proper course. I am advised that the Court made such a judgment but the bans remain.

We have a situation in which one union is defying the New South Wales Industrial Commission, that is in the New South Wales industrial jurisdiction; and another union is in defiance of the Supreme Court. This is a serious situation, and I believe that to an extent the seriousness is compounded by the fact that this kind of action, selectively directed against the media, can impose a kind of censorship in Australia which is utterly alien to our democratic system of government and it ought not to be tolerated.

There is another matter involved. Members of the APTU who are employees of the Postal

Commission are clearly employees of the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth will not abide a situation in which employees of the Commonwealth gain full pay for doing part of their job. That is the situation which has developed. Members of the union are indicating selectively that' they are not going to do all their work, that they will do only that part of it which pleases them, but they seek to gain full pay in that situation. Obviously that makes it possible for members of the union to direct industrial action selectively against a company or against an industry at no penalty and at no cost whatsoever to members of the union concerned. In those circumstances, and with the patience the Commonwealth has shown to this point in relation to the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Industrial Commission being defied, the Commonwealth is not prepared to stand by with the powers available to it and not use those powers.

Mr Innes - Tell us what you are going to do.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - Honourable gentlemen opposite are now starting to listen to this answer. If they will wait a moment they will hear exactly what the Government has determined to do over this matter. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications will be calling the Postal Commission into formal conference this afternoon and, if it is necessary, the Minister will be prepared to direct the Postal Commission to seek the insertion of a bans clause in the award. That bans clause will be applied if the situation continues.

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