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Tuesday, 16 May 1972
Page: 2575

Mr JESS (La Trobe) - I am sure that the electorate of Burke is impassioned by the speech which has just been delivered, but I think that the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) underestimates the intelligence of the members of his electorate. If he believes what he has just said, when he talked about the 9 million people and about the 4.5 million people he would realise that they are the public interest about which we are talking. The honourable members remarks sounded incredible to me. The honourable member made a lot of verbiage flow. He talked about Sir Frank Packer, the capitalists and everything else, but what else is the Government trying to protect except the 4.5 million workers, of whatever class they may be, and the 9 million people, of whatever class they may be. This debate has become a complete farce to listen to, because one hears a parrot cry from honourable members on the other side of the House, as if they had been wound up.

Honourable members opposite are not talking to the Parliament; they are talking to Joe and Bob at the Australian Council of Trade Unions. They are saying, in effect: 'I am here Bob. I am putting it out. Look, the verbiage is flowing'.

However, let us refer back to the dispute which occurred recently in the Victorian State Electricity Commission. This has been referred to already. Was it regarded by the honourable member's supporters in Burke as being in the public interest that, by the stupidity of one section of industry, they were put out of business and out of employment, and that they had their industries closed down because they could not operate. Was that considered to be in the public interest? I must admit that the honourable member's voice was strangely silent at that time.

Is it considered to be in the public interest if some stupid arrangement is manipulated for the advantage of only one section of the community, with perhaps a selfish employer who is prepared to take advantage of the situation for his own good but to the detriment of the country and of other people in other industries? Is that in the public interest? Is that not what we are discussing now? Anyone who listened last night to what the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) said the Labor Party, if it ever gets into power, will do in the public interest, and considers that in association with what the Labor Party regards as being in the public interest, would say that it gives the public and the workers of this country room for a great deal of thought. It is fine for honourable members opposite to stand up in this chamber and whip off the verbiage. The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) talked about price freezing. We heard that lugubrious voice going forth to the workers who are throbbing in their homes listening to the great Labor leaders who have led them so gloriously over the last 20 years. Frankly, if the Labor Party does not know what is in the public interest it ought to sort itself out with those whom it claims to represent.

In conclusion, I agree with the point that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has just made. But before dealing with that point, let me say one other thing about the speech made by the honourable member for Burke. Nowhere is it provided in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that the Government can walk into a court and demand or insist that a decision be made in the public interest. The court has to decide that. What the Opposition is saying is that the Government just tells the court that something is in the public interest or the Government decides that it shall be so. That is absolute rubbish. Recently we saw the Government make an appeal to the court which was rejected. If the court feels that a matter does not involve the public interest, it has a perfect right to say so.

The honourable member for Moreton said that a conciliation commissioner could decide, on what he is told by the 2 parties - the union and the employer - that a matter is not of any interest to the public, and other factors may not be considered. I agree with the honourable member that this matter should be examined. I will wait for the Minister to give an explanation concerning it. The matter may well have been covered; there may well be a point that we have not taken into account. But I trust that the Minister has an explanation which will be satisfactory to the honourable member for Moreton, because it appears to me that there is little occasion to waste an explanation on the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) and the honourable member for Burke because so far they have not understood what one clause of the Bill means.

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