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Thursday, 17 April 1969

Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales) - 1 do not think Senator Greenwood made a very good contribution to the debate

On this Bill. He made a nice speech, but it could well have been left for a time when we had an all-round discussion on arbitration, i believe that we are well and truly due for an all-round parl'iamentary discussion on arbitration. 1 want to talk about the Bill. I will not speak for very long. My conflict with the Bill is that the appointment of extra judges or arbitrators will not effect much change unless the arbitration tribunals of various kinds keep closer to where the action is.

The art of having industrial1 peace is to stop friction and disputes arising. That will not happen if a judge or arbitrator is hundreds of miles away from the scene of the action, if he has no method of knowing what is happening until a strike occurs, or if he cannot see, for instance, that containerisation is and will be the cause of disputes now and in the hear future, irrespective of what some fellow called Lipski has said about the Communist influence in the struggle of the trade unions. Every judge should know the problems that face the unions.

Senator Wright - But the judge in the case to which the honourable senator is referring ruled on the dispute 4 or 5 weeks ago.

Senator ORMONDE - I know that. But we should have a department continually working these things out and keeping itself informed on what is happening. Senator McManus was trying to get to the point but not making it. Too many people run away with the idea that industrial peace is a union responsibility alone and that disputes cannot be nipped in the bud. That is not so. I trust that I will be pardoned for going back to my mining and union experience. I agree that when the industrial crisis occurred Mr Chifley did what Senator Greenwood said he did. But he also did something else. The nation wanted coal. It was agreed between the unions, the government and the employers-

Senator Wright - I thought the honourable senator said that he would talk on the Bill.

Senator ORMONDE - I intend to talk on the Bill, although nobody else has done so.

I am having only 10 minutes, whereas other people have had half an hour.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cormack) - Order! I am allowing the honourable senator proper latitude.

Senator ORMONDE - Let me refer to something which was part of the arbitration system at that time and which probably is still part of it but is never used. When there was a dispute in a mine the workers could not go out on strike until they brought the matter in dispute before the miners' lodge as a body. Then, if a settlement could not be arrived at with the government's approval, the matter in dispute was left in abeyance, the men went to work, a conciliation committee was called into being and the men involved were kept on the payroll. If the Committee thought that there was an argument worth discussing or that the men had a genuine reason for being in dispute, it did not call in the federal arbitration tribunal; the matter was discussed at the conciliation committee level and the men were kept on the payroll.

Senator Wright - And they kept working.

Senator ORMONDE - Yes, of course. The coal kept coming out. That was the attitude right through the industry. The difference between then and now is that then the nation wanted coal and the employers and the government wanted it. So they provided the machinery to get it. In those days there was never a big strike because, with 40 or 50 mines spread all over Australia, the disputes were settled at the minehead. Senator Lacey will remember these things happening in the industry. It was impossible for men to strike. Men do not really want to have general strikes. Senator Greenwood probably thinks they do, but they do not. They want to avoid these issues. I would like the Senate to take note of what happened then. It is not so very long ago that it happened. I believe that the same thing should happen today. I cannot see why it cannot happen today.

To an extent, the Government has done this sort of thing in the stevedoring industry. I am not saying that the Government has not done good things in relation to these matters.

Senator Dittmer - It has wrecked tha waterfront industry.

Senator ORMONDE - I am not prepared to say that. I am only speaking of my experience with the Miners Federation and the colliery proprietors organisation. They were equally involved in these things. For instance, mine workers always went home and had 2 days off when somebody was killed in a mine. That was a regular occurrence. Plenty of people were killed in mines. Every time somebody was killed the mine workers had a day off for the accident and a day off for the funeral. So the colliery proprietors, the Federation and the government subsidised those men to stay at work. The mine workers were told: 'You stay at work and we will meet the cost of the burial of the person who has been killed'. That was the atmosphere in the industry then. Conciliation worked. One of the reasons for the success of that scheme was that the settlement took place where the action was or where most troubles occur, namely, on the job. The result was that we got the coal production that we wanted. If we can forget for the moment the 1949 dispute about which Senator Greenwood spoke and on which we could have another discussion-

Senator Little - lt was not a dispute at all, it was a political plot.

Senator ORMONDE - That is how it turned out, but it started off as a dispute. The honourable senator sees it only as a Communist issue, but at first it was not a Communist issue. It started off as a dispute. Had the dispute been settled there would have been no 1949 strike. But nobody was able to deal with the dispute at the base. That is the basis of my disagreement with the present arbitration system. It does not get to the heart of things quickly enough. lt ought to know about the causes of strikes. After all, a committee considered the subject of containerisation for 6 months, examining the issue and what was involved in it. I do not know how much time it gave to the industrial side, but this should have been discussed. This court ought to know all about it and it ought to know where every demarcation dispute could take place. I referred to the financing of settlements of disputes in the mining industry so that they would not develop into big disputes. The same sort of thing could be applied on the waterfront and to transport workers and to any other people involved in demarcation disputes over containerisation.

If these new developments such as mechanisation are to take place quickly and if new methods of industrial production are to continue, the Government ought to be really up with them. I have seen officers belonging to the Department of Labour and National Service running around trying to settle strikes after they occur. They could have equally well run round before the strikes started, but they never do. We could well do with a Judge Foster on the court today. He was a man who really understood what made the workers tick and what made trade unions tick. We have such a man, in a sense, in Judge Gallagher. He does that sort of thing. He is trying to stop a dispute at the moment. He is out on a boat on the high seas, examining the conditions under which men are working because he knows that there is a dispute pending. Whether or not he settles it on the ship, he will be correctly informed so that he will be able to do the job.

Senator Greenwood - With all of the publicity attending his visit to the ship, do you think that he gets the true picture in those circumstances?

Senator ORMONDE - -If he had been brought up on straight anti-Communism, attributing to the Communists every little reform that is fought for in the trade union movement - which is a habit of honourable senators opposite - he would not do any good. If he knows that the men are all sensible people who want to work and do not want trouble, he will get a following and the men wilt know that they will get a sympathetic hearing when the matter comes before the court. That is what he is striving to do. I think he could do with a bit of assistance from a man like Judge Foster. I remember him well. He did understand and he had a great record in the court. I can see no reason why the courts and the judges could not be completely informed of any dispute that is to occur, why it is to occur and what they can do about it. They should have all of this knowledge at their fingertips before a dispute starts instead of afterwards. The courts are too far away from where the action is. The courts should start to get where the action is - not on the employers' side, because surely to goodness the employers ought to be well-informed. They know all about it. They have been preparing for containerisation for years and know exactly what will happen. They know how many men they will have on the wharves and how many transport workers. Why do they not tell the men and give them advanced knowledge?

Senator Greenwood - Why do not the union secretaries do some homework themselves?

Senator ORMONDE - They do plenty. Their homework is principally trying to correct mistakes made by the employers. Reference has been made to briefed lawyers today. I agree with Senator McManus that there are many union secretaries who are equally as capable. He was talking about penalties and the salaries of judges and legal men who attend as attorneys. Generally speaking, union secretaries arc wellinformed, but if they could say to their members: 'We are guaranteed a sympathetic hearing in this court' there would be much more chance of having success than if they had to start all1 over again, restamping the papers and rereading the briefs. The containerisation argument at the moment is that containerisation is lowering the cost of production for one section and making it impossible for another section to get work. These two issues should be brought into harmony if one can harmonise two opposites. Something should be done. We on this side want containerisation just as do honourable senators opposite and the employers and most unions, but the unions want it brought about in an orderly way. They do not want their members to be thrown into the melting pot without, notice, and that has happened largely. All of the knowledge that they had that something was to happen in their industry was from reports about the committee inquiring into containerisation and new ships that were being built. The subject of human relations has not been touched at all and that is where great mistakes are being made. Arbitration courts, as well as being custodians of the laws regarding industrial conditions, ought to be human relations courts.

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