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Wednesday, 12 April 1972
Page: 1490

Mr ERWIN (BALLAARAT, VICTORIA) - I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he has seen a recent statement by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that the number of man-days lost as a result of industrial disputes did not bear getting too excited about. What is the present position in relation to industrial disputes? Have they not been the subject of major increases in recent years, and is this not a question of very great national significance?

Mr LYNCH (FLINDERS, VICTORIA) (Minister for Labour and National Service) - If the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions was correctly reported as saying that the loss in man-days consequential upon industrial disputes was not a subject to become excited about, then this Government would find it very difficult to comprehend the substance of that statement. In the first place, the question of man-days lost in the Australian community because of industrial disputes is one of continuing and very great concern. During the course of the past calendar year the increase in man-days lost was, as I recall it, 28 per cent on the previous year in which there was an increase of 22 per cent on the year before that. During the past 5 years there has been an increase of 300 per cent in the number of man-days lost as a result of industrial disputes. But this is not just a question of statistics because in fact this greatly understates the number of man-days lost. I am sure the House will recall the recent dispute in the Victorian State Electricity Commission. The number of mandays lost in that dispute would have been recorded by the Commonwealth Statistician only, in terms of those establishments in which there were direct strikes, and certainly would not have included the number of man-days lost by workers stood down in other establishments because of the strike. I would assess the number of workers stood down as a result of that strike to be in excess of 200,000 whereas I would imagine that the recording by the Commonwealth Statistician would show those on strike as being close to 11,000. Clearly there is a very great under-statement.

The House should also note that in terms of industrial unrest it is not just a matter of statistics because this is an issue which affects very significantly the level of the employment market and is one of the major factors which has been responsible for wage Induced inflation in this country, which is our biggest economic problem at the present time. Finally, if it is said that this is not a matter to be excited about, the House should well recall that the loss to the Australian wage earner last calendar year was $45m, an increase of 46 per cent on the previous year. I would have thought that this was a question to be very concerned about because of its national significance, its significance to the persons concerned, the effect upon business and the general impact upon the inflationary spiral.

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