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Thursday, 25 May 1972
Page: 3092

Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) - The Bill before the House at the moment is a minor Bill to extend the life of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act from 30th June 1972 until 30th June 1973. The Opposition supports the legislation because, like the government, we are of the opinion that the time is not yet opportune to introduce permanent legislation affecting the waterfront, which as yet has not settled down following the revolutionary change in stevedoring brought about by the introduction of containers, roll-on roll-off ships, palletising and the other innovations which have been introduced into the stevedoring industry. I know that the trade unions involved also are not anxious at this stage to have permanent legislation introduced. The stevedoring industry also is not yet ready for a permanent Act. Therefore, everyone is completely in agreement with what is taking place, namely the extension of the temporary provisions for another 12 months. Let us hope that in that time the industry will be ready for permanent legislation so that everyone can get on with the job.

One thing which does concern me are the statements that have been made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch). I do not think the Minister has contributed to settling down the various parties in the industry. The Minister has in front of him, as I have, his statement of 18th April. One of the statements which concerns me is contained in the last paragraph where the Minister said:

Several aspects of the Agreement involve Government legislation. The Government will examine the implications of the Agreement but will certainly not be committed to any amendment of the legislation simply because of an agreement which has been negotiated without its endorsement.

Where does the Government stand on this question? Does it favour people in an industry negotiating agreements and so bring about an understanding between employer and employee within the industry or does it favour heavy handed action by the Arbitration Commission or conciliation commissioners in bringing down decisions that are mandatory on both parties, irrespective of whether the decisions are acceptable to both parties?

In recent weeks we have debated a very controversial amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In another place the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is being debated at length and that debate could well result in this House being reconvened to deal with business referred to it by the other place. So it is obvious that the more satisfactory method of settling industrial disputes is by negotiation around the table between employer and employee. Let us look at the decisions which have been reached and examine a piece of legislation that was previously introduced into this House and which lay on the notice paper for some time. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) very strongly criticises the recent agreement made at a round-table conference between waterfront labour and a waterfront employer. He criticises the $8 a week increase in the base rate for the first 12 months followed by an additional $4 increase in 1973. The increases represent in the first case $416 a year and in the second case an additional $208 in 12 months time. There is no guarantee that this $208 per annum increase as from May 1973 will in any way take up the increase in the cost of living to which we have been subjected over recent years.

We should compare those increases with, for example, recommendations made by the Government involving the salaries of certain people such as the chairman of the Australian Commission on Advanced Education. In that case there is a recommendation that the figure $18,973 be omitted and the figure $22,012 inserted in its place. That is not a bad sort of increase. When one looks at the other increases which are contained in this Bill one asks why the Government is complaining about workers in an industry obtaining an increase of $416 a year to be followed by an increase of $208 a year. The Government applies two standards. It applies one standard to certain classes of people and another standard to others on a lower rung. One of the ridiculous aspects of arbitration today is the flow-on. For example, a fitter goes to court and establishes an entitlement to, say, $7 a week increase in his margin or in his wages, but by the time the flow-on finishes the tall poppies get about $4,000 increase out of it. To me this is not fair and reasonable. I do not think we should apply percentage increases granted to people on a low rate of income to people on a higher rate. I understand the problems associated with relativity, but at the same time the problems of the low income groups have to be taken into consideration.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!The detailed comments which the honourable member is making would be better left until the appropriate legislation comes before the House. The honourable member for Newcastle was justified in mentioning certain factors in general terms because they were mentioned in the Minister's second reading speech, but detailed comments in relation to those matters should be left until the appropriate legislation comes before the House. This legislation provides mainly for the extension of something for a very limited period of time.

Mr CHARLES JONES - I accept your advice and appreciate your tolerance, Mr Deputy Speaker. It was for that reason that I referred to one case only and did not quote the whole 4 pages of cases or ask that they be incorporated in Hansard. I realised that I was transgressing. I appreciate your tolerance in allowing me to make the point.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Mr CHARLES JONES - Before the suspension of the sitting . I was talking about the difference in the increases in wages of people in certain brackets of income, involving some $3,000 and $4,000 a year and the amount of increase in the recent negotiated agreement between the Waterside Workers Federation and the employers of waterfront labour, involving, in the first year, an increase of $416 per annum and, in the second year, an increase of $208 per annum. I drew attention to the inequalities that existed and I do not propose to touch on this aspect again. I now draw attention to the movement in cargo and the movement in the labour force on the waterfront throughout Australia and the improvement that has taken place in tonnage rates. I meant to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) whether he would agree to the incorporation in Hansard of a table that I have prepared which sets out the movement in the labour force since 1955, the daily employed average in 1955 as against 1969 to 1971, cargo throughput and other figures. The figures were not taken out by the Parliamentary Library Research Section; I took them out myself. I seek leave to have the table incorporated.

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