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Thursday, 29 March 1973
Page: 889

Mr RIORDAN (Phillip) - Whilst the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) is in such a benevolent mood perhaps he would give consideration to a request I wish to make of him. He is on record as saying that it was desirable in the public interest that trade union officials and those who aspire to trade union office should be able to attend schools and courses of training in order to fit them for their task in industrial relations. The request 1 put to him and which I urge him to consider seriously is to extend the opportunity to attend such training to members of the Opposition who express an interest in industrial relations matters and particularly those who previously have held the office of Minister for Labour and who perhaps remotely and forlornly aspire to such office again in the future. After listening to the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) for 30 minutes espousing what he believes to be objections based on principle, I am amazed to find in this part of the twentieth century, from one who alleges to be expert in industrial relations, such ignorance and such prejudice as was expressed here today. The type of language used was staggering. One would not find it in the most reactionary halls of the most radical anti-union employer. He talked about industrial blackmail. Because the Government wants to give a benefit to union members the honourable member thinks this is blackmail. What a peculiar attitude.

The honourable member commenced his speech with a classical contradiction. We have become used to hearing such things from right honourable and honourable gentlemen opposite. He said that this Government sought to dishonour an election promise. That is false. Nevertheless, he went on to say that the Government's method of dishonouring that promise was to interfere with the independence and integrity of the Public Service Board. He criticised the Government for advising the Public Service Board of Government policy.

He has a very short memory. He thinks that we are all as ignorant of what has occurred in the past as he would like us to be. I well recall the days when there was a dispute in the Post Office. I recall very well indeed that there was open confrontation - Indeed those present who saw what transpired described it as a humiliating experience - when a former Prime Minister deliberately insulted the Chairman and members of the Public Service Board and directed them as though they were office boys on how they were to carry out their policy. This former Prime Minister certainly had no association with this Government or this Party. Not content with putting forward that ludicrous proposition the Deputy Leader of the Opposition then compounded his inaccuracy with an absolute and complete contradiction. He said that the previous Government always ensured that all employees, members of unions or not, received all the benefits of the Public Service Arbitrators' determinations. That must mean that he and his Government were directing the Public Service Board, because the Government has no power to ensure that determinations and their benefits apply to everybody.

In fact the Public Service Arbitration Act - I will come to this shortly in a little more detail - specifically precludes benefits flowing from an application by a union from applying to any but the members of that union unless by special act the Public Service Arbitrator provides for this by making a common rule, in which case certain steps must be followed, or alternatively the Public Service Board uses its powers under Regulation 74 (b) to extend the provision of those benefits to non-unionists. So the honourable member and his Government obviously were directing the Public Service Board in the same manner as they allege - and only allege - that this Government has been doing. His contribution to this debate commenced with complete inaccuracy and was compounded by absolute and complete contradiction.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Now he has left the Chamber.

Mr RIORDAN - Yes, now he has gone. I do not blame him for going. I am sorry he has gone because I have some other things to say about his speech.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He is too embarrassed.

Mr RIORDAN - I am sorry that he is embarrassed. I was hoping that he might stay and pick up a point or two. He also misquoted - again, I assume through ignorance because I knew the honourable gentleman for some time in his former capacity and I have not known him deliberately to misquote things before - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - You do not know him as we do.

Mr RIORDAN - That is quite possible. But I am getting to know him in that way. Article 20 paragraph (2) of that document provides:

No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

That is one distinct paragraph. But article 23, paragraph 4 provides:

Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Association' and 'trade unions' are used in completely different senses which anybody who understands how words are used in the international sphere would readily appreciate.

Mr Staley - It does not say 'compelled to join'.

Mr RIORDAN - Of course it does not say compelled to join'. I am not suggesting that it does. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Declaration provides that people may not be compelled to join a trade union. The Declaration states no such thing, as even a cursory examination of the document will disclose. In fact this proposition has been argued before such bodies as the High Court of Australia.

It would be possible to show a number of complete inconsistencies and to show the depth and degree of prejudice of the honourable gentleman's speech. But I address myself to what this Government has done and to what occurred in the past. The Liberal PartyCountry Party coalition Government had a very sad and unfortunate record in respect of its attitudes in relation to annual leave as a matter of industrial reform. Throughout recent history it continuously argued that the time was not ripe for a reduction in working time or for the provision of additional paid leisure time. It failed to understand that men work in order to live; that they do not live in order to work.

As most members of this Parliament are aware, there has been an enormous increase in the use of technology in Australia since Federation. Indeed, it is hard to imagine any productive or administrative process which has not been affected, altered or improved since that time. In almost every case or example imaginable the function or process has been mechanised in some way. Equally, in almost every case the function has been speeded up and more can be achieved in less time. There has been a mammoth increase in productivity in the Commonwealth Public Service during the period since Federation. This proposition is completely undeniable.

The increased use of technology has been massive, particularly in the last 15 years. Increased national productivity has been achieved in many ways. Improvements in communications, better facilities for transport, the use of more advanced mechanical and electronic equipment and particularly the introduction of large scale computer installations have all had some effect. All of these factors have been important in achieving the objective of greater productivity.

A further most important consideration is frequently overlooked. There has also been a massive increase in the skills of the employees of the Commonwealth. These men and women are much more highly trained than were their predecessors, those who were employed at the time of Federation. The current employees have had the benefit of a substantially higher basic school education. Those who have undertaken technical training have had to achieve a significantly higher standard in order to be equipped to operate and to manage the very sophisticated and expensive machinery and equipment now being used. Many more new processes require the possession of professional qualifications and higher skills. In most cases there is now a greater pressure on employees as they keep pace with the machinery they are supposed to operate. Some processes are being so arranged that one might wonder whether men are controlling the machines or whether the operators are really trying to keep up with the pace of the machines that they operate.

There can be no doubt at all that there is far greater mental and physical and psychological strain on the modem employee as compared to those strains and pressures which existed for earlier generations performing the same or similar types of work. For many the introduction of modern technology has meant a very dramatic change in work styles and in the methods used in the performance of work. In other cases there has been a drastic alteration in the hours of work for no other purpose than to achieve a greater utilisation of the equipment concerned. Clerical staff in the Public Service who had been used to working only during daylight hours on ordinary week days suddenly found themselves being compelled to work shift work spread throughout almost the whole day - that is, 22 hours of a day, with the other 2 hours being used for maintenance purposes to keep the equipment in good order. The staff were further compelled to work on rosters which involved work on each of the 7 days of the week. They had to work on 5 days, but the 5 days included Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. This was the price paid by employees for the introduction of the most radical and revolutionary method of performing work, the electronic computer.

The introduction of modern technology is said to be for the advantage and benefit of the whole of the community, including the employees in the industry where the technology is introduced. In spite of all these changes which have occurred since Federation successive Liberal Party-Country Party governments have refused to increase the period of annual leave for public servants. But the Opposition now very feebly and hesitatingly claims in a backhanded sort of way to support the granting of extra leave to government employees. Honourable members opposite claim not to oppose this review of leave for public servants. They do not oppose it now because the present Government has a clear mandate to grant the extra leave. Members of the Opposition here and in the Senate have adopted niggling tactics in an attempt to frustrate this measure. They have tried, by rejecting the Public Service Arbitrator's determination, to prevent this reform. Without acknowledging in any way that the decision to grant extra leave to unionists was not justified, the Government is not prepared to deny the extra leave to its employees in spite of the attempts by the Opposition to prevent it from carrying out its promise made before the election. But the Opposition, being confronted with the inevitability of increased annual leave, now submerges its former opposition in a quite deceitful way.

I want to refer to the record which my colleague the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) explained in some depth. An approach was made to former Prime Minister Menzies in October 1965, which was subsequent to an approach to the Public Service Board in March of 1964. Submissions were made to later Prime Ministers - to Mr Holt and so on. All of these approaches were rejected on the same basis that we could not afford to grant the extra annual leave and that it would cost too much. What is not recognised is that government employees in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland were entitled to 3 weeks annual leave in the early 1860s - over 100 years ago.

The previous Government believed that Commonwealth employees should continue on 3 weeks annual leave in spite of the massive increase in technology, the massive increase in pressures and strains imposed upon those employees. Of course, honourable members opposite have always opposed an increase in paid leisure time. They adhere to the worn out, nonsensical and illogical theory that if you increase paid leisure time or decrease working hours you get an automatic increase in costs in direct ratio to the reduction in working hours. In other words, if you decrease working time by 10 per cent it automatically follows that there will be a 10 per cent increase in labour costs. The mathematical theory may be sound; it will commend itself to the simpletons who look after industrial relations for the Opposition in this Parliament. But it is not true. It is not true, because experience has shown clearly - and there is no substitute for actual experience in spite of the theories and the message in the textbook - that this does not follow at all. Indeed, neither in those industries which last year agreed to introduce the 35-hour week by way of agreement between employers and the trade unions nor in those establishments where the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission awarded it, has there been such an increase. What has been illustrated is that with the reduced hours the total production, the total productivity has at least been the same. There has at least been no decrease and in one or two instances there has been a minor increase.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition had a lot of say about the Government's policy on preference to unionists. I addressed the House last night on this matter during the debate on the motion that the House adjourn. The policy that union membership was to be encouraged has been set out in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act since 1904. Last night I referred to the decisions of industrial tribunals since 1904 in New South Wales and to decisions in the Commonwealth sphere. Decisions also have been made in respect to Queensland. On 9th March last a full bench of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission consisting of 2 Presidential Members and a Commissioner made a decision on this very point. Of course, one could not expect the spokesmen on industrial relations in the Opposition to be so up to date as to know what has occurred in the last 3 weeks, because they exhibit from time to time that they have not caught up with what has been happening in the last 10 years. Perhaps I should read a passage from that decision so that it may be incorporated in the record and so that, with some good fortune, honourable gentlemen opposite may refer to it subsequently. The Commission said:

We cannot as a matter of law introduce compulsory unionism, but we think that the Act, which is our charter, contemplates that we should encourage unionism. If the implementation by us of a statutory intention reduces the absolute freedom of management then we think even so we must apply that intention in such a way as we think proper.

These gentlemen went on to prescribe that in cases in which unionists and non-unionists seek employment the unionists must get preference. This is contrary, of course, to the wishes of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who showed in his speech that he thought such a proposition was bordering almost on immorality. He condemned the Government for it. But it was the Commission which less than 3 weeks ago said that that was a proper proposition. The Commission said that as between employees seeking promotion from one level or grade to a higher level or grade the unionist must get preference over the non-unionist. Also the Commission said that in the case of retrenchment of employees preference would be given to unionists over non-unionists to remain in employment. Again, this proposition is quite contrary to the views and the wishes expressed by the. Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Further, the Commission said that in cases where two or more employees wished to take annual leave at the same time and where they all could not take their leave at once, the unionist is to receive preference. They are not the words of the. Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron); that is the decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

The Opposition preaches to the unions to abide by the decisions made by conciliation and arbitration. Followers of the Opposition will abide by those decisions when it suits them. I invite them to abide by this most recent decision. Members of the Opposition, with their anti-union prejudice, are not fooling anybody. The only people they might fool are themselves. They are commencing to appear to be acting as foolishly as they sound.

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