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Tuesday, 12 September 1972
Page: 1157

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) I would like to have more than 15 minutes in which to reply to the speech just made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). I hope that when the time comes the Prime Minister will honour his statement that he wants a full and free debate on this matter by not having me gagged when I am just about in full flight. That is what he usually does. I want to begin by reminding the Prime Minister that there was so little interest in this subject when he rose to commence his speech that there were only 12 members of the Liberal Party present in the chamber. Then the Whip got to work and brought in the balance of the number we now see, but until a few minutes ago 4 were asleep and woke up only when I rose to my feet. So much for the interest shown in the 35- hour week on the Government side. The Prime Minister has put on quite a remarkable performance, if one can use the word remarkable' to describe his speech.

Sir Winton Turnbull - I rise to order. I have been in the House watching what has been happening. What the honourable member for Hindmarsh is saying about the numbers of the Liberal Party present is completely incorrect.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - This is the most pathetic performance of any Prime Minister in this Parliament. I would almost think that the Prime Minister wrote the speech himself, it is so poor. It is like a first grade primer, and I am sure that there is nobody who would qualify as a speech writer who would be able to perform so poorly, unless he is on this side of the House and wants to goad the Prime Minister into making the kind of speech he knows everybody will ridicule; and I will ridicule the speech that has just been made, for the good and sufficient reasons that I will show as time goes along. The Prime Minister said that the Government's programme is to secure full employment. It has had this programme presumably for 23 years.

Mr McMahon - You must be-

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Prime Minister should not interrupt me; he knows that is rude. The result is that every month for the past 2 years almost, with the exception of 2 months, the number of unemployed has been steadily rising. It has already reached the figure of 112,000 and my information, right from inside the Department of Labour and National Service itself, is that on Monday we will be told that there are at least an additional 10,000 unemployed. The figure is more than 10,000, but I will leave it at that so that it will not be possible to trace the source of my information. This situation is serious. The Prime Minister talks about industrial instability. What a wonderful record of industrial stability this Government has! Last year the Prime Minister and his Ministers announced that we had our worst year of industrial instability for 25 years with 3 million man days lost. So much for industrial stability and so much for full employment under this Government's regime.

The Prime Minister said that this Government is opposed to any extension of the 35-hour week at this stage of Australia's development either on an industry by industry basis or as a maximum working week to replace the standard 40-hour week of the past 2 decades for the whole of the work force. Nobody has ever proposed that there should be an across the board 35-hour week introduced in this country. The Labor Party has never said it; the Australian Council of Trade Unions has never said it. The ACTU has said that this year it proposes to try to secure a 35- hour week for the oil industry and also for the power industry and then later announced that it would -postpone for another 9 months its application for the 35-hour week in the oil industry. So there is only one industry out of all those which no doubt can afford it that has been chosen so far this year for the introduction of a 35-hour week. The Prime Minister is too cunning and crafty to say that he is opposed to the introduction of a 35-hour week ever. He keeps saying that we are not ready at this stage for it. Of course, people like those in the Government said that when the 48-hour week came in. 'We do not mind the 48-hour week', said the political grandfather of the Prime Minister, but not at this time'. Then his father said: *We do not mind the 44-hour week but not now'. Then the Prime Minister as a young fledgling coming up through the university was making speeches against the 40-hour week. 'Not now', he said. He is shaking his head now, but of course, his son will shake his head when somebody reminds him in 20 years time that his father, away back in 1972, said that we were not ready for the 35-hour week then. It is never the time, according to people on the other side of the House who represent big business.

The Prime Minister said that this Government has always demonstrated its opposition by its intervention in wage cases. Yes; it has demonstrated its opposition but it has demonstrated also how out of date it is, because each of the two times it intervened in a court case to oppose the 35- hour week the Arbitration Commission has said that the Government was bonkers and that the 35-hour week was something that should apply in the mining industry, the stevedoring industry and the containerisation industry. But in spite of the fact that stevedoring output had more than doubled in 10 years this Prime Minister had the cheek to send somebody into the Arbitration Commission to say: 'We do not care, whether the output per man-hour has gone up 100 per cent in 10 years, we are still opposed to the 35-hour week'. The Government said the same thing to the coal miners, who increased their output by more than 100 per cent in 20 years, when they applied for the 35-hour week. It seems to be a logical conclusion that more productivity demands greater leisure, but this Prime Minister applauded the previous Prime Minister for sending the most expensive counsel that money could buy to oppose their application in the Arbitration Commission.

This Government, the Prime Minister has said, has already demonstrated its opposition by its intervention in wage cases. Of course it has. It always opposes increases in wages but never does anything to oppose increases in profits. Oh no, increases in wages are opposed, as is any reduction in the standard hours, but never does the Government do anything for the great bulk of the 4.5 million wage and salary earners who are relying on their labour for their bread and butter. This Government cannot guarantee that there will not be a 35-hour week, any more than a Labor government could guarantee that there will be a 35-hour week, because it is beyond the power of government by statute to fix the standard hours of industry through the Commonwealth Parliament, and the Prime Minister knows that perfectly well. The final decision will rest always with the Arbitration Commission and not with the government of the day. All the government of the day can do is either reveal the facts, as a Labor government would do, or conceal the facts, as this Government has done for the last 23 years.

The Prime Minister said that he had decided to bring this matter forward so that the people of Australia will be alert to what is happening. They are alert to what is happening, my dear Prime Minister, without you raising this matter in the Parliament this afternoon. There are 113,000 of them out of work and another 10,000 have joined their ranks. By February next year there will be more than 200,000 out of work. Nearly one million people are trying to eke out a living on $51.10 a week, which is the national minimum wage this Government told the Arbitration Commission it had no right to award. It does not need this pathetic attempt, through this miserable little speech in large typing that the Prime Minister has read out, to alert the people of Australia to what is wrong and what Ls happening. They know all too well what is happening, and while the Prime Minister is on his knees praying to win the next election the people of Australia are praying that the Arbitration Commission will wake up to the fact that they cannot live on $51.10 a week.

The Prime Minister in his speech went on to say:

At the outset J want to state that the Government is not opposed to the concept of more real leisure for the Australian working man.

Let me put this proposition to him: A 35- hour week worked over 48 weeks represents a total of 1,680 working hours a year. This could be worked at either 35 hours a week for 48 weeks or 40 hours a week for 42 weeks at ordinary rates with 6 weeks additional leave at the end of the year making a total of 10 weeks leave. There would be no difference at all in the costs of these 2 proposals but the latter would certainly give more leisure. Now let me tell the Prime Minister something about people who work overtime. The only reason people work overtime or take a second job is that they cannot afford to live on one job. While we have a government like this in office, which tells the Arbitration Commission that it should not award even $51.10 a week for a man, wife and children to live on, these people will always need a second job to get sufficient money to live on. Then the Prime Minister said that he applauded the concepts both of increased real wages and decreased standard hours. But what has be done? If he applauds them he has not given any indication of it in this Parliament He has never uttered one word of protest against the very low level of national wages that we have at the present time. He has closed his eyes to the fact that during the 23 years that this Government has been in office the share of the gross national product which goes to wages has fallen since 1948-49 rather than increased in spite of the fact that the size of the workforce has increased by nearly 2 per cent.

The Prime Minister talked about crippling costs, runaway inflation and instability. These are 3 things for which this Government is solely responsible, it being the Government in power for the last 23 years with control of both Houses. The Government is responsible for these 3 things and it cannot even blame the 35-hour week for them because we do not have it yet. We have something which is infinitely worse - a Prime Minister who does not even understand what it is all about The Prime Minister said that this is not the time for the 35-hour week, the inference being that he is not against it but that Australia is not quite ready yet. That is what the Government said, I repeat, when the 48-hour week, the 44-hour week and the 40-hour week were introduced. Now, members of the Government parties again say: 'Not at this stage'. Of course, nobody is proposing that there should be a 35-hour week for all industry at this stage. I now read from the official platform of the Labor Party's policy. From 1965 until 1971 the Labor Party's platform said:

A working week to consist of not more than 5 consecutive days, with a maximum of 35 hours and with a progressive reduction to 30 hours.

At the Launceston Conference the Labor Party deliberately struck that plank of the platform out of the rule book and incorporated the present plank, part of which I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard because of the shortage of time.

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