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Thursday, 1 March 1973
Page: 175

Mr LYNCH (Flinders) - At the outset I join with other honourable members in this Parliament and extend the Opposition's congratulations to you, Mr Speaker, on achieving the position of Speaker of this House. I have no doubt that you will discharge the responsibilities of your office with the inimitable distinction which has characterised your predecessors. I also congratulate those members who have made maiden speeches during the evening's proceedings, particularly my colleague, the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier), who made an outstanding contribution to the future of the Liberal Party by his election to the seat of Bendigo. It was a hard fought election and he is a member who I am certain will make a very great contribution to the deliberations of this Parliament.

I also extend my congratulations to the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) on his maiden speech. He is a man who has had a very long experience in the industrial jurisdiction and who I have no doubt will seek to utilise the expertise and experience he has in working for the development of a bigger and better Australia during the course of his period in this Parliament. He drew particular attention to the most important problem facing the Australian industrial community and 'the principal parties which are operating within it - the employees and the trade unions. That problem is the development of what I would call in terms of the theme which the honourable gentleman put before us 'a community of interest in the Austraiian work place'. This is a community of interest in which all employees will experience a sense of job satisfaction which goes far beyond the receipt of a pay packet and the undertaking of a routine task.

I have no doubt that all honourable gentlemen in this House would join with the honourable member for Phillip in saying that if the purpose of work means anything in a modern industrial community it certainly must mean far more than the receipt of a pay packet at the end of a given period. In terms of the fundamental philosophy which I would hope we would pursue on both sides of the House, we accept the broad proposition that work is designed to dignify and not to demean. It is designed to challenge and not to stultify. It is a process whereby every individual ought to be ennobled and hot ignobled at the end of his work period whether it be a day, a week, a month or a year.

This is a problem which is far easier to define than to solve. Yet it will become increasingly more important with developing specialisation and technological change and both employers and employees must recognise the need to establish consultative processes to enable a dialogue between parties on matters of common interest. I hope that the new Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde. Cameron) will highlight this pressing need iri his approach to Australia's industrial relations because until such time as a community of interest can be established in the Australian work place, no attempt by him or other members of his Government will be successful in seeking solutions to those problems which have bedevilled Australia's industrial relations in recent years.

Having said 'that by way of marginal response to the fundamental .' proposition which the honourable gentleman placed before this House, I would say to him on behalf of the Opposition parties: Never assume that the honourable members on this side of the House are anti-trade union or proemployer. I repeat what other of my colleagues have said in recent years and that is that we are prepared to call the shots in the industrial jurisdiction as we see them. Of course, we have been critical of trade unions and I will be critical of them in. this address. If we believe such criticism to be justified we should at all 'times seek to put' it before the Australian people. Equally, if we believe that the employers as a group can rightly be the subject of criticism then that criticism ought to be properly applied to them. If one looks back over the course of recent years to the pronouncements of Ministers in' the former administration who have been responsible for industrial relations, it cannot be said as fact that we are anti-union and pro-employer. Honourable members opposite may say that we on this side have taken a wrong judgment but they should never accuse us of seeking a sectional advantage which ' transcends the national interest. They may say that we are wrong, and that, of course, is their entitlement in this Parliament.

I believe that this 28th Parliament will be one of the most critical in the history of Australia because we have a government which has not experienced office for some 23 years and which proposes many sweeping changes in the Australian community, some of which would seek to alter the very fundamental basis of our society. We on our side of the chamber, accept that the people of this country voted for change. We may argue with their judgment but we recognise the fact. The people who voted in the recent election believe that the charter of their new Government will create new opportunities and a better life for all Australians. During the course of this Parliament the Opposition does not intend to oppose the Government at all times while proposing nothing new. We are mindful that we are the alternative government and as such our policies must be constructive, positive and purposefully designed. We recognise above all things that just as our basic task in this Parliament is to oppose, to criticise and to scrutinise, equally our task is to initiate, to formulate and to develop new policies upon which the people of this country can make their judgment when the next election takes place. We will strongly oppose when it is clear to us that the Government's actions are not in the national interest, and when we are agreed with the Government's objective but against the means set by that Government for its attainment

There are fundamental differences between government and opposition. I believe that those differences, whatever they might be in terms of policies and programmes, in terms of philosophy remain so divergent today as to create a gulf. I do not see the task of this Opposition as looking inwards in terms of philosophy because I stand here tonight, as I have before and as other colleagues have before, saying that here is a government accepting the tenets of socialism which it will be seeking to embody into legislative form during the lifetime of this Parliament. But we on our side do not believe in any concept which seeks to strangle the efforts and the individuality of people in this country. We believe that individual rights and freedoms are basic to our society. We believe that individuals must be able to plan their own destinies free from the interfering solicitude of governments. Of course, this is a philosophy seen in contemporary terms and not something which is a plea for laissez faire in the old sense such that governments may become disinterested in their concern for persons who are disadvantaged in the Australian community. We recognise that governments per se must become more involved in social responsibility and in their sensitivity to human needs. It is the function of government to provide opportunities for disadvantaged groups in the Australian community, but we reject that which is the Government's underlying | philosophy. The trend of undue dependency on ' governments today is becoming, I believe, a social malaise throughout the Western world. We believe that social objectives can be achieved without the abdication of the basic dignity and self respect of the individual.

Although the Government's first 100 days honeymoon has not yet concluded, it is a matter of record that already that experience is beginning to sour in the Australian community because the Government, by its many actions in so many critical areas in the Australian community, has indicated that it is prepared to subordinate the national interest to the dictates of Party policy. It has adopted - apparently it is prepared to continue to adopt - a policy of sectional application. Whereas the honourable member for Phillip brought before this House a plea not to be anti-trade union, let me say this to the Government members opposite in the interests of the people of this country: 'Do not seek a short term political advantage in terms of satisfying the pressures to which you are subject if, in that process, the national- interest itself goes by default'.

I think closely of some of the matters which I canvass, only in passing comment and for which I have responsibility. In the context of that comment does anyone here seriously doubt that, in the industrial relations area at the present time, the proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act will not jeopardise the authority of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and seriously weaken its efficacy? This together with the Government's attitude to negotiated agreements must lead, I believe, to the inescapable conclusion that it will destroy the concept and application of a rational and equitable system of wage and salary determination in this country. We on this side of the chamber are not persons who are opposed to preference to trade unionists, as has been mentioned tonight, but we stand here totally opposed to any concept that any member of the Australian work force - male or female, skilled, unskilled or semi-skilled - ought on any basis to be forced to join a trade union against his will.

We are concerned and alarmed at the backdoor methods whereby the present Government has sought to introduce compulsory unionism in the Commonwealth Public Service contrary to the explicit mandate of the newly formed Government. Government supporters themselves might well recall the policy speech delivered by the now Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in which he said that all Commonwealth public servants would receive 4 weeks annual leave. Can he rationalise that with the stealth with which the Minister for Labor has sought to condition that particular policy to the extent to which the Government seeks at the present time to deny it to all Commonwealth public servants contrary to the concept of an open and humane society so eloquently proposed in the GovernorGeneral's Speech. This Government says one thing and claims to stand for one set of principles, but in practice it is seen to be a government prepared to adopt a double standard, a policy of discrimination, a policy which in the industrial area would seek to confer on some major industrial benefits but which it would seek simultaneously not to confer on others.

Where is the sense of equity in the industrial area? Do we in this country believe in terms of basic conditions in seeking tlo apply to one small group a 35-hour working week, 4 weeks annual leave and maternity leave, or do we rather believe in the long established industrial principle that major conditions of service - hours of work and wages - on the basis of the normal Australian principle of egalitarianism ought to apply, not to the chosen few but, in fact, to wage earners at large. I want the Government to know that the Opposition parties in pursuing their policies will fight to the last ditch in the Parliament in opposing the Government's desire to seek by compulsory unionism to provide some in the Commonwealth Public Service a benefit which it believes might well advantage those concerned but which, of course, completely cuts across the concept of individual freedom and individual liberty. This is a Government claiming one thing and doing another. I usually adhere to normal parliamentary terms and I dislike to use the Australianism 'guts', but perhaps in this context it becomes an appropriate term. I want to tell the Government that there are many Australians in the trade union movement who are asking when their Prime Minister will be prepared to stand, up and be counted. The. Prime Minister has had, as honourable, members know, a period of almost 3 months in government, a period during which there has been a major increase in industrial unrest, including a virtual strike in the sense that certain exports to the United States of America were banned. During this period his left wing Ministers took the lead and he remained silent.

We on our side would like to see in this country a Prime Minister who is prepared to stand up and be counted, even though he may be a Labor Prime Minister. I remember, as I am certain, do many honourable gentlemen in this House, the comment made by the now Prime Minister in Sydney some 12 or 15 months ago when he used these specific words:

A Labor Government would not be the unthinking mouthpiece of trade union officialdom.

Now where is the evidence that can justify that statement after 3 months? If an answer cannot be given are we and the Australian people entitled to believe that this is not the man of the new age but the man for the double standard - the man who preaches open government and yet denies to colleagues close to himself the opportunity for consultation? Can anyone in this Parliament think of a more fundamental economic decision than the one which concerned the recent ' currency crisis around the world, a decision taken by Mr Whitlam acting with some marginal concept of an economic czar.

Mr Snedden - It was a non-decision.

Mr LYNCH - I appreciate very much the comment by my leader that it was a nondecision. The Prime Minister's actions portrayed vacillation and indecision. But is this the process of open government or is it a process whereby the Government preaches one doctrine and seeks to apply another? In the area of trade unions and the business community, as I said in the terms of my opening theme in response to the honourable member for Phillip, we join with the Government in seeking in the industrial area a community of interest in which no-one can say there are not faults on one side or on the other side. But are we in this Parliament to be confronted day after day with all of the things which the Government is seeking to do in the interests of one group in the Australian community and in which area we have many supporters. I tell the Government that I have received many representations from trade union members who have asked of me the question which they might well ask of honourable members opposite: 'When is the Prime Minister of this country prepared to stand up and be counted?' Whether in the area of the economy, the area of industrial relations or, in terms of the censure motion which was moved today, the international area, this is a government led by a man who is prepared to sacrifice national interests to the dictates of party policy, a man who cannot give an effective lead and a man who cannot lead this country into the mid 1970s and beyond simply because he is not captive to the Parliament or subject to the Parliament as he ought to be, but rather is subject to many people outside of it upon whom he depends. His is a very shoddy performance and a disgrace to this country.

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