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Tuesday, 20 October 1964


Senator MURPHY (Victoria) .- My remarks are directed to Division No. 330 - Administrative, sub-division 4, item 01, Apprenticeship training - Financial assistance. While listening to Senator Morris, the distinguished senator from Queensland, I was reminded . of a work which would be familiar to Senator Ormonde. I refer to a fairly recent publication on the Press in Australia. The author said that his vision of a private hell, was one in which a person was forced to read the editorials of the Australian Press from 1900 to the present day dealing with industrial disputes in Australia. He suggested that nothing could be more monotonous and soul destroying than to read this series of statements, all of which condemned the trade unions and their members for engaging in so called irresponsible and unjustified strikes. These asserted that everything the trade unionists asked for either was wrong or should not be granted just yet. Never, over the whole series of events, were the trade unions or their members ever in the right or ever justified. This kind of thing goes on, of course, today.

In the quiet hours of this evening, some commonsense has been talked on the matter of apprenticeships and industrial training in Australia and these matters are very important. I suppose that, as usual, they will fall on deaf ears so far as' this Govern1ment is concerned until the situation becomes so drastic that action must bc taken. Senator Benn has given some very good advice. He also informed the Government that some years ago, the Australian Labour Party drew the attention of the Government to the serious state of affairs that was developing in this community as a result of a number of factors born of the contract system which was breaking down ordinary employment and the apprenticeships which were incidental to it.

The fact is that many large employers, including some of the largest organisations in the community, one of which was mentioned by Senator Ormonde, have set their faces against the apprenticeship system. Far from being in favour of it and encouraging it, they do not believe in it and are against it. We have developing in this community a tendency which goes beyond apprentices and the trades and extends into other spheres of the community. This represents a new philosophy and it is this: Where some part of a profession or trade can be done by unskilled or unprofessional persons, it is said: " Why not let it be done? If unskilled persons can take over some portion of a trade, it will be cheaper and better. We can train these persons in a few months to do this work. Let them dc it. If unskilled persons can do this portion of the trade, let it be done that way."

This is an offence against a number of tenets of this community. The wise judges who sat in the arbitration courts some years ago realised the weakness in this approach. They realised that if you are going to take away from a tradesman the relatively unskilled portion of his work, you will destroy the trade. A trade consists not only of extremely highly skilled work but also of relatively skilled and sometimes quite unskilled work. Ali this makes up a trade. You cannot have a man working only on the extremely skilled operations of his trade for the whole of his time, ft cannot be done. This applies not only in the trades but alr in the professions. We find many instances of this far removed from the cases mentioned in the debate tonight.

What has been done by many large em-, ployers is to attempt to break down not only the apprenticeship system, but really, the system of tradesmen. This has an effectnot only on industry but also on the tradesmen themselves. In an enlightened and happy community, people want to have some profession, career or trade. They want to bc well rounded out. They want to feel that: they can move from one aspect of a trade to another. They do not want to feel they can only operate one machine or do some small section of work. This is' of importance, not only to the individual, but also to the community when we -are facing a period in which we will have more mechanisation, more automation, rapid changes in the types of machines which will be used and in the types of sub-skills which will be required. We will need more and more thoroughly rounded tradesmen and we are not getting them. The opposition which the trade union movement has to the present proposals is based on the fear that there is an attempt to break down the system of trades.


Senator O'Byrne - By adult training.


Senator MURPHY - Yes. They see the same employers who have . resolutely set their faces against the apprenticeship system now advocating a system which the trade unions fear is directed to breaking down the trades. They see half trained tradesmen and workers stuck to the one machine or one little section of a trade. This means that they are like the serfs of old - stuck in an industry and bound to it or a particular machine or employer so that they cannot move about and use their skills as they would want to use them. If something were done to ensure that this was not going to happen to the persons and the trades, some of the opposition to the training of adult persons would probably disappear. I should like to know from the Minister what is being done by the Department of Labour and National Service about scholarships for apprentices. Bearing in mind especially the matters that Senator Benn raised, I should like to know whether the Commonwealth has contemplated using its powers to provide benefits for students and in particular using the incidental power in relation to conciliation and arbitration to provide proper incentives for the training of apprentices and tradesmen.

It has been suggested by Senator Morris, and a number of persons in the House of Representatives that the arbitration system is more or less a voluntary system and that the trade unions are at fault in not availing themselves of it. That is a misconception. The arbitration system is applied compulsorily; it is invoked willy nilly. It is not a question of the trade unions desiring to invoke the arbitration system. It can be invoked against them whether they wish to avail themselves of it or not.

Iask the Minister whether the Government has seriously considered the effect on the Commonwealth Industrial Court of the constant invocation of the contempt power. That power exists to protect the Court from being brought into contempt. If the injunction powers and the fining powers are to be used to the degree that they have been used in recent times, inevitably the Court will be brought into contempt in the community. The contempt power has always been regarded as being one which should be used sparingly. The existence of a set of. legislative provisions which so operate, that constantly unions are fined not merely for. breaching some award but for bringing the Court into contempt is very serious. The constant use of this power is bringing the judicial organs into contempt. That being so, one must conclude that this method of dealing with unions is extremely undesirable. Surely some means can be found to resolve industrial disputes other than one which inevitably leads to a union being fined not merely for what it has done in the course of its negotiations or struggles with an employer but for having come into collision with the judicial apparatus itself.

Whatever thoughts may have prompted the adoption of the system originally and whatever prestige may have attached to the Court as an instrument for bringing peace into the industrial sphere, it is apparent that we have reached the stage where the system is no longer effective. Instead, the whole of our judicial system, and certainly this section of it, is suffering as a result of the hearing of contempt proceedings almost daily. It is difficult to see how anybody could regard this as being a desirable state of affairs. I should be obliged if the

Minister would indicate whether consideration has been given to finding a more rational way of solving industrial disputes without making this procedure almost inevitable. What steps have been taken to discourage what are generally described as almost frivolous applications by employers for injunctions and the invoking of the contempt power?







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