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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2237


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(3.38) —I rise along with Senator Cook to pay tribute to a man who is a very distinguished Australian, Sir John Moore. It has been my privilege to know him and his family for 30 years or more and to observe his work. I want to pay tribute to him not only for his work in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission but well before that in the Department of Foreign Affairs, where he and his then future wife were on the staff of Dr Evatt in the United Nations in New York. Wherever Sir John has found himself he has applied himself with great dedication, and in recent years he has been under great stress as his health has not been the best. I pay that tribute and wish him and his wife a full and happy retirement and good health.

In so doing I wish to say that we tend to make criticisms of the Commission as though it were some body divorced from Parliament. Over the years the Arbitration Commission has been the creature of this Parliament. It was made by the legislation of this Parliament. The jobs the judges and the conciliation commissioners do in the arbitration system are in response to the legislation we give them to carry out. When things go wrong we blame them instead of blaming the system we have set up.

Fundamentally I rose to say that government after government has sought through mechanisms to make a resolution of industrial affairs which cannot be achieved by mechanisms. In fact the mechanism itself tends to polarise. It tends to build a body of great rigidity which polarises the employer bodies on the one hand and the trade union bodies on the other. On both sides of the Parliament we have got into a very bad habit in that we criticise both bodies for what they are doing as though there were an eternal need for confrontation and fight; as though the interests of boss and worker must be different and always antagonistic. The simple fact is that both sides of this Parliament have connived, however unwittingly, in a complete misrepresentation. The truth is that the interests of boss and worker are identical and when confrontation exists it hurts both parties, the community and the families outside. We must understand that it was never intended that this system, which arose out of legislation created by governments of Liberal faith decades ago, out of the Harvester case, out of all the great decisions for living wages and margins for skill, should be all prevailing. It was intended that it should lay down certain basic factors and that within those factors and within that framework boss and worker would reach consensus. Above everything else, margins for skill would be basically paid, which would reward initiative and productivity. If ever there is a goal to be sought today-not to be sought through commissions or anywhere else but to be sought in the hearts and minds of people-it is for Australians to understand that for Australia to survive and for real wages to be preserved the workers must get the message that they can keep those real wages if they apply themselves with team work and diligence to higher productivity so that costs are down and we can become cost competitive. It is a message not of mechanisms but of understanding human beings, their dignity and personality. We have tended to create a war where war should never be. In this place the mechanism is ours. If the mechanism is too rigid, we should look at it but, above everything else, we should get out and tell the people of Australia the true message.

This country's living standards are threatened unless we apply ourselves as a team. If we apply ourselves as a team, it will not mean a loss of wages or a loss of penalty rates; it will mean that creation of more jobs because as we become cost competitive we can get back to higher employment. That is the imperative message with which we must move into the year 1986. If we fail to do so, we fail to lead the people of Australia.