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Thursday, 25 May 1972
Page: 2136

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) - in reply - I rise for the purpose of concluding this second reading debate on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. We have listened for a period of, I think, some 13 hours to a lot of repetitious dogma which still lives, after several decades, in the type of industrial relations which believes that there is a class warfare which has to be engaged in. I can only regret that the members of the Opposition still look into the industrial relations of this country in terms of the way in which industrial relations were engaged in some 30, 40 or more years ago. There is still the quite unwarranted basis of assumption that in some way the Government wants to get this Bill through quickly, is determined to prevent debate and is not prepared to sustain its case by argument.

We have had, I think, some 13 speakers from the Opposition. There were some 5 speakers from the Government side and 2 speakers from the Australian Democratic Labor Party. It seemed to me that members of the Australian Labor Party sought to outdo each other in determining how long they would speak. I think that there were some 6 speakers who took between 50 minutes to an hour for their speeches. I say that their speeches were replete with repetition. There was little that was new in what they had to say. We know that one of the reasons why this filibusting was engaged in was that there was a concern-

Senator Murphy M r Acting Deputy President, I take a point of order. There is a rule in this place that there should be no reflections upon members. The suggestion that Opposition members have misused the proceedings is, first of all, clearly an error. This morning, before this debate commenced, the Opposition agreed to and invited the incorporation in the record of some 6 or 7 second reading speeches in respect of Bills that were introduced rather than having them read. The statement that there was any filibustering is untrue. I ask, Mr Acting Deputy President, that the Minister be not permitted to make reflections on members of the Opposition.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poke)—A s I see the point of order, no member on either side of the Senate has transgressed the Standing Orders. Every speech that has been made bas been delivered within the time allocated by the Standing Orders. Therefore, Mr Minister, I think that you were out of order in making the accusation that you did make. I would ask you to refrain from any further such accusation.

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) M r Acting Deputy President, I respect your ruling. The effect which has been conveyed to members of the Government is an effect which we have all felt, and that is that there has been a filibustering engagement-

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT— Order! I would ask you, Mr Minister, not to continue along that line. If you continue along that line you are thwarting my decision and my ruling.

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) Well , it is unusual to find that one cannot use, from this side of the chamber, words which equal the types of words which have been used from the other side of the chamber. But all I can say is that we on this side of the chamber have listened with the utmost patience to words which have been repeated time and time again. When words are repeated time and time again one has to speculate as to why this has been done. If one has some knowledge of history, one knows that there is a time honoured practice in the parliaments of the English speaking world by which this tactic is engaged in in order to take up time. In all the parliaments of the world this has been called filibustering. But I accept your ruling that that is not to be said in this chamber, and therefore I shall not say it. But one must be pardoned for noting the fact that it is a pity that Australia is not prepared to accept a simple description of a tactic which has commended itself to parliaments the world over.

I am a little surprised that Senator Murphy should emerge from his room, after having been absent from this chamber for approximately 4 hours or 5 hours in order to take a point of order within 5 minutes of the first Government speaker rising after there has been a succession of some 5 Opposition speakers. It represents an arrogance, with respect, which supposes that the only people in this chamber who have a right to speak, to say what they please and to cast reflections are members of the Opposition but that as soon as a member of the Government gets up to reply to a tirade which has been constantly delivered it is an occasion for a point of order to be taken.

I have no wish to take up the time of this Senate, but I assert what I know members of tbe Opposition assert—tha t is the right to call a spade a spade, even if I cannot call a prolonged delaying tactic a filibuster. What this Bill is concerned with is a number of methods by which to improve and to reform the conciliation and arbitration legislation. I think there are 3 major purposes which can be extracted from the legislation, although, according to one's point of view, one can extract a number of purposes if one wishes to look more minutely into the details of the legislation. In the first place, this is legislation under which it is proposed that the Government, as representing the community interest, shall be able to intervene in the processes of conciliation and arbitration. The purpose of Government intervention is to represent the interest of the community. It is a Government responsibility which cannot be ignored.

Indeed, if one looks into history one finds that it was the great maritime strike in the 1890s— I think this was something that Senator Carrick brought out in his speech—whic h gave rise to the emergence in this country of an arbitration system which has been the envy of other countries throughout the world. The system emerged 'because the maritime strike, which was so long and so costly in the 1890s, was conducted by the parties to the dispute without regard to the community interest. I believe that in this day and age we must recognise that there is a vast mass of people who are affected by industrial disputation and whose interests must be protected; and that is what this Government is concerned with. I know that the members of the Australian Labor Party are less concerned with that community interest than they are with the interest of those industrial unions whose interest they represent in this Parliament and by whose votes and influence they maintain their seats in this Parliament.

As I heard Senator Brown speaking, I could not but think that he is a former president of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party, and that he was put in that position by a Trade Union Defence Committee, which an investigating committee of the Australian Labor Party, of which, it is reported, Senator Murphy was a majority member, said had unduly and improperly influenced the affairs of the Australian Labor Party.

Senator Murphy - I rise to a point of order. Mr Acting Deputy President, surely the debate should be confined to the issue before the chamber and the AttorneyGeneral should not be allowed to state untruths which are also irrelevant.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poke) - I think that the Minister's remarks are becoming a little irrelevant. I suggest that he come back to the Bill.

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) I always respect your ruling, Mr Acting Deputy President. I am seeking to rebut points which were made, and if it is irrelevant to rebut points which were made the points must have been irrelevant in the first place. I can only suppose that if they were allowed in the first place there was believed to be at the time some point to them. All I am saying by way of response is that the attitude of the Opposition to this measure is one which is influenced in a most significant and important respect by the affiliations of the members of the Australian Labor Party who have spoken on this measure. I instance the particular person who, quite contrary to Senator Murphy's assertion that I am speaking an untruth, is verified by the record to have been the president of the Victorian branch of the Labor Party and to have been the person who was in that position during the time that the Trade Union Defence Committee improperly influenced that branch, as a result of which the Victorian Executive was disbanded by the Federal Executive. I appreciate that at its next Federal Conference the Australian Labor Party, without much publicity, said that the decision was wrong. Nevertheless, the decision to which I am referring is the one which received the publicity. I mention this only because it is one illustration of the point which I have made, namely, that the Australian Labor Party, in the views it has put forward, is concerned with the interests of the union movement by which it is influenced and which it represents, because so many of its members depend upon the votes of the trade union movement to hold their places in this Parliament.

I have said by way of contrast that the Government is concerned to assert the community interest, and that means that it ought to have the ability to intervene to a greater degree than it has in the past in hearings before the members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to express a view in arbitration proceedings. All of this is with a view to ensuring that we do not have decisions made which ignore the community interest. That is one of the purposes of this Bill. In the prevention and settlement of disputes and in the determination of wages and conditions, proper account should be taken of the national interest, and that is one of the purposes of this legislation.

A second broad general objective of this legislation is to enact provisions to enable a more effective democratic control of the organisations which are registered under the legislation. That is to be found in the procedural reforms which will enable members of the trade union movement to have greater access to the Industrial Court on a wider range of matters in order to ensure that the rules are being observed and that propriety in the conduct of the organisations is being observed. This objective is to be found in the greater provision of nnancial assistance for members of unions who want to challenge procedures in unions, and it is to be found also in a variety of ways in connection with the provision of secret ballots and the amalgamation of organisations. There is a concern, which of course stems from the original legislation of the Chifley Labor Government in 1949, that the rights of the membership to control the organisation should be enshirined in the legislation. Of course, one can only wonder why it is that the Australian Labor Party is somewhat wary of provisions which will give to the members of unions the opportunity to control union affairs.

A third purpose of the legislation is to revise the provisions relating to the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes and, in particular, to provide for a separation of the functions of conciliation and arbitation so that conciliation can be conducted in an atmosphere which is devoted solely to that purpose and arbitration is resorted to in a separate area but within the same task force concept after the conciliation processes have failed to achieve a desirable result. Additionally, of course, there are other matters with which this legislation is concerned. I do not mention them all, but I mention some of them because they were ignored, generally speaking, by members of the Opposition. They are provisions which clarify and facilitate certain rights which the legislation has bestowed.

Senator Mulvihill - What about the cost of the amalgamation ballot?

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) I am coming to that in due course. That is a provision which is designed to ensure greater membership control of the organisation of which they are members. As I have said, I cannot understand why so many members of the Labor Party are concerned about provisions which have that objective being brought into existence. Among the other matters which these legislative provisions are designed to facilitate are provisions which, for example, will allow sick leave to be accumulated and so remove one of the sores which T think from time to time has affected industrial relations. There is a provision which experience has suggested is necessary, and that is the provision which will strengthen the powers of arbitration inspectors to have access to premises which they wish to inspect and to have access to documents which are necessary to the carrying out of their functions. Of course, we have the strengthening of the sanctions provisions because, if we have a system of law, it is to be expected that we tm:st be able to enforce that law. If we cannot enforce it we run the risk that the law itself might be put in jeopardy. They, generally, are the matters with which the legislation is concerned. I repeat them only because for such a long time wc have heard debate on so many matters except those with which this Bill is concerned.

One of the matters which was raised by a number of honourable senators was the fact the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) had made a statement in December of last year and that this Bill in so many respects does not coincide with the statement which was made. Anyone who compares the Minister's statement of December last year with this Bill will see that substantially the Bill carries out the proposals contained in that statement. In other respects it does not. But one should remember that the purpose of the statement was to inform the public of what the Government had in mind, to encourage the presentation of views and the submission of representations so that Government could get an appreciation of how its initial proposals were received. As a result of the various submissions which were put to Government and as a result of the reflections which consideration produced, changes were made. The Government has not sought to hide that fact or to obscure in any way that changes were made as a result of the considerations of the representations which it received.

1 think it would be unfortunate if a system were to develop whereby any departure which was made by a government in the Bill which was presented, from the statement which had been made 2 months beforehand, were to be regarded as a sign of weakness. The purpose of these statements is to give an indication of intention, to allow democratic popular pressures to operate, for people to react and to express their reactions to government, and to expect that Government will give weight to what they have said. Yet I have heard it said so many times when Government differs in its legislation from what was said in the proposal statement it made several months before, that it is in some way climbing down. I do not regard that as climbing down. I regard it as better legislation than it would have been if there had not been that intervening period in which there was opportunity for discussion to take place. I think that members of the Opposition who have criticised the Government on the basis that it did not adhere to what it said originally in December, represent a fairly cast iron type of mind which feels that once one makes a decision one should not budge from it. Of course, we all know that that is the genera] Labor Party approach.

A second factor which was raised—i t was a curious statement—wa s that wages are always chasing prices and that the reason this Bill is in some way inadequate and the whole approach of the Government is inadequate is because that proposition is not accepted. I think that it was Senator James McClelland who expressed it in the way that struck my attention at the time. He said:

We on this side dispute the continued claim we hear from the other side of the chamber that wages are the real cause of price increases. We believe, on the other hand, that wages are continually chasing prices.

I do not think that it has ever been said by Government spokesmen that wages are the real cause of price increases. What we have said and what is indisputable is that wage increases are a major factor in price increases, but they are not the only factor in price increases. There are many factors. I heard extracts read from the bulletins of the Institute of Public Affairs which indicated that a number of factors are responsible for price increases. One of them is the cost of imports. Another, of course, is the reduction in exports. Another factor is the lack of competition in the community. But the major factor is the wage element in the cost structure which can be met only where people have services or commodities to pass on to the community at increased prices. That is absolutely indisputable. For members of the Opposition to deny that fact is, to me, to ignore one of the realities which must be accepted.

Senator Bishop - Why do you not employ the same machinery?

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) I suggest to the honourable senator that he look at the figures and have regard to common sense. Senator Webster, in the course of his address cited and had incorporated in Hansard figures of the movements in prices and the movements in wages over recent years. If there was not a great deal of disparity in the movement, it might be argued that it is a matter of some doubt. I ask honourable senators to look at what the figures reveal. I have found tbem in other places and I take these figures from those presented by Senator Webster if any honourable senator wants to check them. In the year ended December 1971 there had been a 7 per cent increase in the consumer price index, but during the course of that same year there had been a 13.1 per cent increase in average weekly earnings. If we were to take the 4-year period

from the end of 1967, we would find that during that period there had been a 40 per cent increase in average weekly earnings and the consumer price index had risen by 17 per cent. I think Senator James McClelland defies his intellect when he says that wages are continually chasing prices.

In circumstances in which we have large wage increases, we have in so many significant areas an increase in the cost structure which the entrepeneur has to meet in some way. He meets it in one of 2 ways. To put it broadly, he either cuts down on his profit or other expenses, or he raises his prices. That is the way it is. No honourable senator from the Opposition, on what i have heard in this debate is prepared to concede that that is even a possibility in the course of the affairs of business. While the attitude is adopted that people who claim wage increases are entitled lo every penny they ask for and that, in some way which does not have to be explained, the man who pays the wages has to bear it, members of the Opposition will always be unfitted to govern this country. I hate to think what would happen to the country if that general approach were adopted.

Senator Mulvihill - What happened in the national wage case? Price increases followed immediately.

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) I t is obvious that if there is an increase in costs and that the only way in which the increase in costs can be borne is by increasing charges and prices, then there will be an increase in prices. We have had that experience annually over the past 3 years in the affairs of the Post Office which has a labour content of, I think, 75 per cent to 80 per cent in its cost structure. Inevitably, there has to be an increase in the cost of the services which the Post Office provides. How otherwise can it run the Post Office as a business? Another point which was raised in the course of the debate came from Senator Murphy. I cannot understand the point which Senator Murphy was striving to make. It seemed to me that he was arguing 2 propositions. The first was that the provisions of the Bill would produce an interference in the internal affairs of registered organisations that is unprecedented. That was a theme which was taken up by a number of other speakers. The other point he made was that the provisions of the Bill would provide a blueprint for dealing with corporations generally. In fact, in the course of the speech he invited an interjection from me which he received. I said that organisations were not. corporate bodies in the sense of other corporate entities. I readily concede that that was a remark which was not as accurately expressed as, on reflection, I would have liked to express it. The point is that they are corporate entities for the purposes of the Conciliation and Artibration Act and not for any other purposes. They are not corporate entities in the same way as companies and corporations which are established under the Companies Act. The corporations constituted by organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act cannot-

Senator Murphy - When you are wrong why do you not admit it and not go on?

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) I am endeavouring, having been told so early in my speech that I must not transgress Standing Orders, to stride manfully against the battle. I thank you, Mr President, for the fact that, in addressing you, I have acquired a degree of silence. The corporations constituted by organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act cannot be regarded as analogous to other classes of corporations, lt is fair to say only this: Unions are voluntary organisations which have a corporate shell in which they are clothed. One has only to look at the provisions of the legislation to acknowledge that lhat is the fact.

Senator Murphy yesterday read out section 136 of the Act which stated that for the purposes of: the Act these bodies shall have a corporate existence. But he has to look also at the regulations which indicate that these bodies are to be bona fide voluntary organisations. That is nol the language which one uses to describe companies. I do not know the purpose of this argument. A corporate status is conferred on these organisations to facilitate registered organisations, acting on behalf of their members under the Act, in advancing the industrial interests of their members. The circumstances of membership, the relations between the members themselves, and the members and the registered organisation, are all radically different from the circumstances in most other corporations, and they are certainly totally different from the relationships which shareholders bear to each other and to the company in respect of companies registered under the Companies Act.

What the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the present Bill do is to create a code of control of registered organisations that is tailored to meet the particular characteristics of those organisations. In no sense can this code be regarded as a blue print either directly or indirectly applicable to other kinds of corporations. These organisations are as distinct from companies which are registered under the Companies Act as, for example, the Victorian Railway Commissioners or the New South Wales Railway Commissioners are distinct from companies registered under the Companies Act, and are distinct from organisations under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. No amount of semantics can change that fact because it is a matter of common knowledge that we recognise that there are distinctions.

As I. said, I am not sure of the reason or the purpose of Senator Murphy in raising this comparison between organisations under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and other corporations, or why he equated them. It may be that what he was seeking to establish was that an interference, as he called it, with the affairs of registered organisations would create a precedent for interference with the affairs of corporations under the Companies Act. If he was doing that, what he was endeavouring to do was to create a fear amongst persons who would be apprehensive of any interference in the affairs of corporations. If he could create that apprehension he could create doubt about the bona fides of tbis measure. He could sow the seeds of suspicion, and it did not matter to him whether the argument he was raising was fairly or adequately based on a legal or factual basis.

I say that because one has only to look at the requirements which at present can be imposed upon organisations under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, even without this Bill, and then to look at the limitations and restrictions to which companies are subject under the Companies Act. One will see that in each respect there are a number of areas of interference, if that be the exact word to describe what is done in both these areas. Companies are not free to act as they wish to act; organisations are not free to act as they wish to act. The reason is that all of them are creatures of the statutes which established them. Organisations are established under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, originally justified under the 1908 Jumbunna Act, for the purposes of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Corporations which are companies have been established ever since the 1862 joint stock legislation for the purpose of creating a new legal personality for all purposes. The legal personality which is created by the organisations under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is not a legal personality for all purposes.

The PRESIDENT—Order ! The honourable senator's time has expired.

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