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Thursday, 6 March 1980
Page: 610

Senator THOMAS (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -Has the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations seen an article in yesterday's West Australian which reports that industrial disputes are costing the Australian wheat industry an extra $50m a year in freight charges? Because this amount of $50m has been lost to the Australian wheat grower and, ultimately, to the Australian community, will the Minister endeavour, firstly, to examine ways to make the public aware of such losses and, secondly, to find better ways to solve this type of industrial dispute, which directly affects a section of the community which has no responsibility for causing or solving the dispute?

Senator DURACK (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Attorney-General) - I am aware of the article referred to by Senator Thomas in which the view is expressed by a meeting of the Farmers Union of Western Australia concerning the losses that the wheat industry has suffered from industrial disputes. I am not in a position to make any estimate of such costs. I will draw the question to the attention of the Minister for Industrial Relations to ascertain whether any costing is possible in the light of the complaints made by the Western Australian Farmers Union. However I think it is perfectly clear that industrial disputes are, in some cases, very costly indeed. The long demarcation dispute last year in Western Australia at the co-operative bulk handling terminal was an example of that type of cost. I think that the public as well as the Government are well aware of the high costs that are involved in industrial disputes. The major element as far as the Government is concerned is the availability of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That is the proper forum where industrial disputes are resolved. We have one of the most notable tools for the settlement of industrial disputes in our arbitration system and it, in the Government's view, is the proper medium to be used in these matters. In the case of the complaints by the Farmers Union, one does not know whether they are matters within Federal or State jurisdiction. We know that there are problems and they are the subject of continual discussion at the present time between the State and Federal Labour Ministers. The Federal and State governments are endeavouring, by very extensive consultations in this area, to see where they can iron out the jurisdictional problems insofar as they contribute to this problem.

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