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Thursday, 24 August 1972
Page: 652

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) by leave - The usual custom in this Parliament has been for the Government to condemn the Opposition for everything it puts forward and the Opposition to do much the same in relation to anything the Government puts forward. I say at once that I compliment the officers of the Department of Labour and National Service on having written this excellent paper and I also compliment the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch)on having the good sense to accept the recommendations contained in the paper and on having read it so well to the Parliament. He is very good at reading papers. Whatever ability he may lack, he is an excellent reader of documents prepared by his Department.

I congratulate the departmental officers on the paper because it follows very much along the lines of a similar document written by the Australian Labor Party's Federal Conference in Launceston last year and recently elaborated upon by my good self in a paper that I delivered to the Industrial Relations Society of South Australia. I supplied a copy of that paper to the Department of Labour and National Service in the hope - it was a forlorn hope at the time - that it might see fit to follow the excellent propositions that I put forward in that paper. I am more than happy with the response that has come from the Department to the propositions that I put forward.

This paper read by the Minister contains propositions which have gone still further than the propositions which I spelt out in liner detail in my speech to the Industrial Relations Society on the 7th of this month. I must say that, in the main, I agree with what is proposed here. I do not agree with all of it, and 1 shall touch upon some of the points of disagreement, although there are not many. I may not have time to deal with all of them, but really they are minor.

I am glad to notice that the Minister has come to recognise the importance of job satisfaction. It is true, as I said in my paper to the Industrial Relations Society, that job satisfaction today is terribly important. A man's working environment has to be treated as part of his total environment, because a working man spends more than half his waking hours in the workshop. Therefore it is important that those hours are made as congenial as possible, that they are made as interesting as possible and that where tedium and monotony can be eliminated from the work place that is done. The Government, if need be, ought to meet the cost of controlled experimentation at the factory floor level by those firms which are willing to engage in experimentation of this kind.

Apparently the Government has not gone quite as far as I would like it to go in that direction. But it is a very refreshing and healthy change of attitude on the part of this Government. I wish that the Minister had taken up his present portfolio many years earlier, although I would have preferred him to concentrate on this subject rather than some of the other aspects of labour and national service that he has seen fit to poke his nose into over the last few years. On this aspect of labour and national service he is as good as he is bad on all the other aspects of the Department's activities. He is very sensible in recognising the need to gather together a task force of training personnel, lt is no good having students until we have the teachers. The Minister has recognised this fundamental truth. The Government states that it accepts the recommendations of the committee that the rate of training improvement will be strongly influenced by the rate at which additional specialist training officers are appointed to spearhead the development of training over industry and commerce generally.

I make the point that it is remarkable to me that after something like 20 years, during which time all the other more advanced countries had come to recognise the need for retraining and the very urgent need for meeting the skilled labour requirements of modern technology, we in Australia, one or the most advanced countries in the whole world, have only now reached the point where we have come to see the need. Better late than never, I suppose. I would like to use the ordinary cliche 'too little, too late', but that would not be fair. Maybe it is too late, but one cannot say fairly that it is too little because, having regard to the teaching facilities, the amount of money earmarked for the first year of the proposal i« reasonable, and to earmark more than th; amount indicated perhaps - I use the word perhaps' because I do not have access to departmental working papers on it - would be just a waste of public money. I do not condemn the proposal as being too little too late. It is teo late but the Government has made a very worthy though belated effort to meet the very great problem that we have to face. The Government is quite right in saying that it will provide subsidies to employers as an appropriate form of incentive to arrest the relatively slower rate of apprenticeship intake. This is one of the great problems in Australia today. An important and very great gap in our industrial affairs is that employers are unable to see the advantage of training apprentices to become tradesmen for their competitors to take off them the moment the apprentices complete their training.

Mr Kelly - Like shearers.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Like shearers, as the honourable member for Wakefield interjects, except that - I am surprised he does not realise this - a shearer does not work for the same employer all his life. H. works for 3 or 4 weeks with one employer and then moves on to another employer. So the interjection is not as intelligent as the person who made it looks. Nevertheless, this is a subject to which we have to pay proper attention. The Government has been realistic in recognising this fact. It has been realistic enough to appreciate that, ii employers are to be encouraged to put on the number of apprentices that industry will need in the future, somebody has to make a move and it seems to me that the Government is the only one that can make up the loss entailed in employing apprentices over tradesmen who have been trained by somebody else.

The country apprenticeship scheme which already operates has. I am pleased to say, been incorporated within the new scheme. It is only proper that this should be done because if we are to do what we should be doing in our country we must face the fact that the country areas need a lot more attention than hitherto governments of any political party have seen fit to give them. The Swedish Government pays a tremendous amount of attention to preventing people in the sparsely populated north of Sweden from drifting into the south. It goes to no end of trouble :o encourage industries to remain in the north because it realises that not only is it important from a decentralisation point of view as such but it is also important from the defence point of view for a country that has an extremity which is vulnerable to attack from the most likely enemy of that country. It realises that it would be mad if it did not ensure that that part of the country was occupied so that it could be defended.

Just as the Swedes recognise that the northern part of their country is the part most vulnerable to attack from the enemy most likely to attack it. the Soviet Union, we in Australia should be thinking not only of the need to look after country areas everywhere but in particular of the need to look after the country areas in the north - that is, in Queensland and if need be in the Northern Territory and the northern parts of Western Australia. I do not think that the cost of this effort should matter to a government that has its eye on the possible defence needs of the future. It could very well treat the cost of training and the cost of assisting those industries situated in the north as part of its defence budget. I see every justification for what is being done. When the Labor Party is in government it will set up at Townsville a pilot programme which will make the best use of the facilities that Townsville offers in the form of harbours, the natural advantages it would provide for industries in that area, its connection by rail and road systems to other parts of Australia and its connection by sea with all other parts of the world. Townsville could very easily become our most important northern port for the export of goods to the now most suitably situated markets in Asia. A Labor Government will, therefore, give attention to setting up a retraining programme of this kind in the Townsville area. At the same time it will give the necessary subsidy to industries that are prepared to go into that area and work with a Labor government's defence and industrial strategy.

A Labor government will continue the scheme that is now indicated by the Minister but with some variations. This scheme is a first start which a Labor government would have had to make in any retraining scheme which it introduced. It has some slight disadvantages which I dare say represent the Minister's way of exercising his authority over the Department of Labour and National Service and letting its officers know that they cannot make all the policies. So he ruined the scheme here and there by insisting on the normal McMahon approach to industrial matters. But that is a small price for the departmental officers to pay in order to get balance in the general kernel of the scheme adopted by the Government which has taken 23 years to move as far as it has. I do not, for instance, agree with the proposal that $50.90, tax free, should be the amount paid to those undergoing training. What is the position of a working man and his family? How can he afford to enter a scheme if he has to live on $50.90, tax free, a week? The tax free part does not mean anything to him because he would not pay tax on that amount anyway. He should be paid a higher rate than is here proposed.

The scheme should not be limited to a subsidy for 12 months only The subsidy should be extended over a longer period because in my view it is quite possible that we will not get the number of apprentices necessary to meet the whole of our needs for tradesmen and it will become increasingly necessary to retrain tradesmen in other areas of tradesmen's activities. The Americans estimate now that a tradesman will need to be retrained 4 times during his lifetime. The Swedes, French. Italian and British have adopted the modular system of training where instead of training a man to become a tradesman capable of doing any one of 200 or 300 complicated operations, of which number he may have to do only 3 or 4, they train him to be very proficient and efficient in perhaps one or two of those operations, adding another module in each year or period when modern technology calls for the additional module of specialised training. I am pleased to note that the Minister has seen the need to give special attention to married women wishing to re-enter the work force after having passed their most fertile child bearing period so that they can come back into a work force which has changed very much from what it was 10 years earlier when they left to commence their child bearing activities. This is an important recognition on the part of the Minister. The Minister has always been noted for his interest in the ladies, and I am pleased to know that his interest goes beyond flirtation and whatever other little oddities he displays towards the fairer sex. He has now demonstrated that he is a man who is really prepared to go right to the depths of the problem.

Mr Lynch - Mr Speaker, I think the honourable gentleman is being most offensive.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am not being most offensive. The Minister looked very pleased about it and he has every reason to look pleased because he knows perfectly well that what I say is true. I am glad to notice that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has relaxed its attitude towards adult training and adult apprenticeships. I suppose the word 'apprenticeship' is offensive and almost a swear word. The ACTU has reined its altitude towards the retraining of tradesmen. This is important. A too'.maker can be retrained to become a technician, a pattern maker or some other highly skilled tradesman. Once a tool maker, who is one of the highest skilled tradesmen in the metal industry, has completed his apprenticeship training he has qualities and learnings - he may not be aware of them - which he carries with him. They make it much easier for him to adapt to the retraining needed to become a tradesman in some other area of activity.

I notice that the Minister has asked about company mergers and reorganisation. He used the text, almost verbatim, of the Australian Labor Party's federal platform. 1 compliment him on doing so. I did not know that he had been reading it with such avidity. It is certainly to his credit that he has begun reading the platform and that the Government is slowly adopting the propositions contained therein. I believe that another fault in the scheme - not a basic fault because the scheme generally is a good one - lies in the fact that it will cover persons who have been registered for employment at any time within the preceding 12 months and who have remained unemployed for a total of at least 16 weeks. The people who are most likely to benefit from this scheme, in the sense that employers are more likely to get the best type of trained people, are those who are already working in industry but who have a desire to improve their status. I refer to the bright young men who missed the opportunity of becoming apprentices at the time when that decision had to be taken and who decided that they would like to avail themselves of the opportunity for moving further up the scale.

I think that the Minister would have been wise to have allowed people already in employment to change employment if they wanted to or to accept the possibilities which this training scheme might give them. A lot of the people who are unemployed for the periods that the Minister speaks about have not the same adaptability for retraining which those who are still employed have. It might be that, with an expensive retraining scheme like this, better results would be gained for industry if anybody was allowed to participate in the scheme irrespective of whether he was unemployed. To the extent that those who are now employed participate and make a success of the retraining, the vacancies created in the more menial tasks they are now doing could perhaps be much more easily filled by those who are registered as unemployed than by taking those people into the training centres instead of moving them into the gaps caused by the retraining of bright, ambitious and intelligent young men who want to avail themselves of an offer which, 6 or 7 years earlier in their lives, they did not have the wisdom to accept.

I must compliment the Government on the decision to give special assistance to Aborigines. This is a good decision which must be applauded by all people who have some interest in the Aborigines of our country* I think that more could have been done, but this is a lot more than has ever been done before. That is the important thing and we have to be fair enough to acknowledge it. A Labor Government would continue this scheme and would improve upon it. The Minister said: 1 can appreciate also that there are people with little or no experience in the field of manpower planning or manpower development who make general observations about the direction training should take.

That was a fair enough retaliation, I suppose, for my paper which said that we had not had a Minister for Labor and National Service for more than 20 years who had a grass roots knowledge of the trade union movement. I suppose it is his way of saying: Also, we have not had a Minister for Labour like myself who has the specialised knowledge that I have of running employment services. I congratulate the Minister on his knowledge of it and on the way in which he is able to acquire that knowledge. I would like to see him apply it to the whole of the Commonwealth Employment Service, because if he could tell the Commonwealth Employment Service all that he knows about employment agencies we would have the best Commonwealth employment agency in the world. This is one thing in which he is really expert. It is not good enough to say that training and retraining are the sole responsible of industry and are not the concern of government.

Mr Lynch - We have not said that.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No, I know that. But I say it is not good enough to say that. The Minister is agreeing with me that it is unreal - and I agree with him - to expect one employer to meet the cost of training labour for his competitor's workshop. Yet is this not the very thing that is happening all over Australia at this moment? This is one of the happening all over Australia at this moment? This is one of the reasons we are in our present predicament. I believe that the cost of training and of relocating labour will need to be looked at. This is something which the Minister seemed not to deal with. 1 do not condemn him for that; he cannot do everything at once. But the responsibility of doing those 2 things so obviously rests on the Government that I think it is almost an absurdity that I have to even mention the fact here today.

In Sweden the Government trains, or has the facilities for training, 100,000 employees every year. It is a country with only 8 million people, a much smaller country than ours. When the plight of an industry in any one region of that country necessitates it, the Labour Market Board, as it is called there, sends a task force of experts into the area to ascertain the special needs of the area concerned. Sometimes the need might demand government assistance for the purchase of new plant or for the retraining of the labour force to operate the plant in that region. Another situation might call for taxation concessions or for better and cheaper transport. This is an important thing in countries like Australia and Sweden where people have long distances to travel. In odd cases in Sweden the situation might call for the relocation of the industry, shifting it not from the region altogether but from one part of the region to another part of the region - to a better fiord if you like or some better place for people to live in. But whatever the need, the national Labour Market Board in Sweden is deemed to have the prime responsibility for its resolution. Enormous sums of money are devoted to the national Labour Market Board in Sweden to enable it to carry out its real task. A lot more money has to be allocated to the Department of Labour and National Service in this country if we are to do our job as we ought to do it, acting in the public interest and in the best interests of our people.

The United Kingdom spends something $800m a year on retraining, $300m of which is obtained by a levy on all employers towards the cost of giving those employers willing to undertake retraining schemes the financial assistance that is needed. I am not recommending a levy on employers here. I dp not know what the figures would reveal if one had access to Treasury papers and to the working papers of the Department of Labour and National Service. I wish I could see all of those working papers that are pushed onto the Minister's desk from time to time and which he usually rejects as being inappropriate. I would like to see them. They ought to be indexed so that the public can have a look at them and see whether the trouble in the country is due to a Minister refusing to act upon good advice or due to a Minister taking a decision on bad advise. We ought to know more about it.

Mr Lynch - You would be confused with facts.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Minister says that I would be confused with facts. I do not know about that. Up to date the Minister cannot give any instance in which he has ever confused me with facts, because he is singularly notorious for being very shy of facts and does not like using them if he can avoid it.

The community is investing very heavily in educating the young and in expanding elementary education, vocational schools, training colleges and secondary education. This, along with the gearing up of the whole of higher education, will give rise each year to changes in the supply of labour. The big increase in labour resources occurs in the age group from 20 to 35 years. The people in this age group have a much higher average education level than those belonging to the generation before them. There is now a generation gap in the labour market, with better education giving to those of the younger generation a decided advantage over their elders. Unemployment figures show also that the majority of long term unemployed people are older men. This is a trend which is rising each year. It is very difficult for a person in middle age, such as myself, to get a job in industry, unless an employer knows the special intellectual qualities I, for instance, possess.

Others who are very hard hit are the handicapped people and married women, who the Minister recognises have a special problem when they want to re-enter the work force. It may be thought that a woman who was employed as a typist for 10 years and who wants to go back into industry as a stenographer ought to be able to do so quite easily and without very much re-adjustment, but even in clerical work the systems have changed and the machines have changed. Ten years ago there were not very many electric typewriters. Computers were pretty primitive 10 years ago. The layout of a letter 10 years ago was different from the layout that employers insist upon in letters today. There is now no indentation of the first word of a paragraph as there was in those days. These little things, if a woman is not aware of them and has not been trained to meet them, will make her appear to be incompetent and unsuitable for employment.

The proportion of married women in the work force is lowest in the lowest age group for the simple reason that when married women are young they are having their children and they have to look after their babies. The greatest number of married women in the work force are between 35 and 44 years of age. Having reared their children to the point where they can be cared for by friends, neighbours or in-laws after they finish school and until the mother returns home, these women are in a position to go back into the work force. Another point that nobody seems to worry about is what has been the impact upon the children whose father and mother are both working in industry. Do we really understand the psychological impact upon children who have never known what it is to walk into the kitchen when they come home from school and say: 'Hello, mum. I am hungry. 1 want some bread and jam. Give me a biscuit. Can I have something else?' These are experiences we have all had. I often wonder whether my attitude to life would have been different from what it is if I had not had this deep affection that I could always get. I was not really conscious of the fact that I was getting something special when I walked in from school, threw my school bag on the floor and asked for a biscuit or something which only a mother can give.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - You would have had golden syrup.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honourable member say that we had golden syrup. We could not afford even golden syrup. If honourable members want to know, all we could afford were tins of honey, at 7s a tin. which the tobacco curers would not take because the honey was too black and too tainted with things like yakka gum. That is what we had. But it was my mother - not somebody else's - who was giving it to me. I would rather have my mother give me treacle, syrup or black honey when I came home from school than go to somebody else's home and be given a feed of roast turkey, because a mother can never be replaced. We have to understand these problems and do more than we have done to understand them. I believe that we ought to provide industrial psychology services to employers and trade unions who are concerned with production practices. Factory environment, as I said earlier, must be treated as part of a person's total environment. A good environment at work is just as important to a good workman as a good environment in the home is to a good husband or a good wife. 1 am sorry that I have to cut my speech short. I see that the Leader of the House (Mr Chipp) has come into the House to remind me that I promised to keep this speech down to 30 minutes. Therefore I will need to leave the rest of what 1 was to say for another time.

To better understand the needs of job motivation and to match the experimentations that are taking place in other parts of the world, a Labor government will subsidise the cost of capital expenditure on controlled experiments designed to test production practices and new methods of producing job satisfaction. Naturally enough, employers are unwilling to embark upon experimentation of this kind because failure can be too expensive to justify the risk. The kind of experimentation I am talking about relates to the switch from assembly line production to group production methods of running a factory. The cost of the experiment, if it failed, would be astronomical. The employer or firm willing to engage in this kind of controlled experimentation should be assisted. When I say 'controlled experimentation' I mean experimentation under the control of the Department of Labour, whose officers will have the right to inspect and make suggestions as to modifications of the .scheme. Provided that were done, a Commonwealth Labor government would meet the cost of it.

To anyone who may criticise the Minister, on the ground of cost, for bringing forward this training scheme let me say that the cost of training is only a very small fraction of the contribution it will make towards the growth of productivity. To work harder and work longer is not the best way to increase productivity; the best way to increase productivity is to make the best use of modern technology. That means finding some way of providing the skills which modern technology demands. We will concern ourselves about the increasing number of people who are unable to obtain work. As I said earlier, a large number of middle aged and older workers who still have many years of working life ahead of them are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the younger workers if they have not received training. Many of them, particularly the older workers, have a poorer education. Some of the women are not terribly well educated. The migrants have not the education they need to compete in the mad rat race which modern technology represents. These, and especially handicapped people, are the ones who have to be given a better opportunity to have the same opportunity of choice of a job as other people are able to have.

I believe that the community must aim to offset these developments by investing in a major expansion of adult training designed to reduce and bridge the educational gap between groups and between the various generations. Quite apart from the humanitarian requirement that unemployed human beings should be restored to productive activity, unemployment is very expensive both directly and in the form of the social expenditure. Reckoned as a capital investment to achieve a higher growth rate, the government expenditure which I propose for training will give a satisfactory yield and amortisation of capital if it only augments the rate of growth by a fifth of 1 per cent per annum. Some countries say one can justify it if one can show an increased growth rate of one-tenth of 1 per cent a year.

I wish that I had some time to deal with the question of absenteeism, the question of excessive turnover of labour in industry, the way of reducing the incidence of absenteeism and labour turnover, because both of these factors are costing Australian industry very dearly. One should always remember, 1 think, that productivity of a modern economy rests upon something more than available raw materials, levels of technology and physical capital resources. The efficiency of output in an economy is always affected by the intelligence and willingness of its labour work force. While better industrial relations are crucial to increased productivity, the elimination of labour wastage caused by forced unemployment and by avoidable industrial accidents and disease is even more important. Last year the amount of production lost through strike action was higher than normal. It was 3 million man days for the whole year. This was nowhere near as much as it was during the same period last year, but it is still higher than it ought to be. However, rauch higher still than the amount of production lost through strikes has been the amount of production lost through avoidable industrial accidents and disease. This amounted to something like 4 million man days a year. But greater still has been the amount of production lost through unemployment. Unemployment accounts for something like 20 million man days a year. If we add absenteeism to that as well, then we realise the number of man days lost is even greater.

I wish that I had time to deal with the Government's failure to establish a positive and progressive labour market policy with an efficient employment service geared to implement that policy. But time does not permit me to deal with that fascinating subject. However, I believe - I can say this much - that the objective must be to make the Commonwealth Employment Service the central agency for information about the whole labour market. I think it is a scandal that so many employment agencies are able to exist by charging employers and employees for services which could and should be made available without charge by the Commonwealth Employment Service.

I shall have to skip the next 4 pages of what I wanted to say and make the following point: The mere size of a nation's work force is not significant in itself. What is important is the extent of labour force participation in relation to the population as a whole. Given ad:quale labour statistics, the labour force participation rates can be calculated to determine the proportion of the population working in different geographic areas. When labour force participation rates are available over a period of time they can provide valuable indicators for informed policy making. They can, for example, be used to locate untapped sources of labour supply.

Mr Kelly - What are you quoting from?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am quoting from a gentleman called Clyde R. Cameron, Labor's shadow Minister for industrial relations.

Mr Giles - Who wrote it?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Clyde R. Cameron wrote the paper himself. As yet I do not have speech writers. I hope to have them at the beginning of the year. When I do my speeches will not improve but 1 will be able to make more of them. The prime object must be to give every person in the community the right to work. It is vital, too, that each individual should have a free choice of employment according to his interests and inclinations and to make that choice in the open market. Why not? What can be more important than making the lives of human beings - all human beings - more satisfying and therefore more enjoyable? That seems to be a good note on which to end this speech.

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