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Thursday, 19 September 1974
Page: 1232

Senator GREENWOOD (VICTORIA) -My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I ask: Is the Minister for Labor and Immigration committed to a policy of endeavouring to alleviate unemployment, to restrain inflation and to restrain wage increases which would lead to higher costs? Is it a fact that currently before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission there is a union claim for the institution of a 35-hour week in the power industry? Is it a fact that the Minister for Labor and Immigration has intervened in support of that claim before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? If the answer to all those questions is yes, why is the Minister intervening?

Senator BISHOP (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) - I will not answer yes or no, as Senator Greenwood wants me to do. I will give some information that I have. The position, as the honourable senator knows because it has been stated previously in this chamber and in the other place by the Minister for Labor and Immigration, is that the Government and the Minister are committed to a policy of wage indexation. That proposal is presently before a study group which was set up as a result of the conference held by Mr Justice Moore. The Government hopes that there will be some progressive improvement and that the proposal will be adopted in order to avoid further inflation.

Turning to that part of the question which referred to the 35-hour week, it is a studied program of the Australian Labor Party that in respect of the power industry a proposal to introduce a 35-hour week would be supported where it can be demonstrated by the unions that no excessive overtime would arise from the adoption of such a reduction in working hours. Basically, that summarises the support of the Labor Party for that claim which has been presented to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It would seem to me that arising from that pro forma it is a matter for the Commission and the parties to argue whether in substance the claim by the unions that a shorter working week might be adopted should be tested. Basically, that is the test to be applied.

I might say that in relation to my own administration of the Post Office, there is currently a claim to extend to other employees the 363/4-hour working week which was granted to postmen. Again the claim will be tested to ascertain whether the shorter working week which has been applied to one class of employees might be extended to other classes of employees on the basis that no loss of productivity will arise and that no excessive overtime claims will be made. So that is the test. It is a matter for the tribunals concerned to assess whether the claim can be substantiated.

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