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Tuesday, 3 April 1973
Page: 1031

Mr Lynch asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:

(1)   Has the Government received any reports from the National Radiation Advisory Council relating to the French nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean during 1972.

(2)   If so, what are the main findings.

(3)   What action has been taken as a result of the reports.

Mr Morrison - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The Government has not received the final report from the National Radiation Advisory Committee relating to the French nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean during 1972.

(2)   and (3) Not applicable. 35Hour Week: New South Wales Electricity Commission Employees (Question No. 124)

Mr Lynch asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:

(1)   Can he say what were the main findings of the inquiry held by the New South Wales State Industrial Commission into the introduction of a 35hour week for employees of the New South Wales Electricity Commission.

(2)   Can he also say (a) what were the terms of reference of the inquiry, (b) how many persons gave evidence at the inquiry, and (c) what was the date of (i) commencement, and (ii) closure of the inquiry.

(3)   Has he studied the findings of the inquiry.

(4)   Does the Government agree with the findings of the inquiry.

(5)   If not, with which of the findings does it disagree and what are its grounds for disagreement in each case.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The New South Wales State Industrial Commission's main findings were that:

(a)   it rejected the employers' submission that there could be no ground for a reduction in working hours unless it was common throughout the electricity supply industry;

(b)   it would be proper to support a shorter working week if special circumstances applied to a particular industry;

(c)   there have been enormous changes In the electricity supply industry, resulting in increased efficiency, since 19S2.

(d)   almost half of all employees in the industry belong to the Salaried Division;

(f)   during the year 1971 alone the Electricity Commission extracted from charges no less than $48m towards capital expenditure;

(g)   8,354 persons employed in the electricity supply industry already work less than 40 hours a week, and that 5,971 of these work a 35-hour week and 2,296 work a 36i-hour week.

(h)   there are 2 subsidy schemes in operation which are designed to assist country Electricity Councils to pursue a policy of rural dec.trification which are financed from charges made to city consumers;

(i)   most of the Electricity Commission's employees work only a small amount of overtime and the average weekly overtime paid to employees of Electricity Councils is substantially lower than the average overtime paid in all other industries in Australia;

(j)   the 35-hours a week employees of the Electricity Commission work a nett 35 hours;

(k)   the effective daily working hours of field crews are as low as 5 or 6;

(1)   the differentiation between the ordinary hours of 40 hours per week for the predominantly manual workers and the ordinary hours of 35 hours a week for the predominantly professional administrative and clerical group is paralleled in the United Kingdom where the National Board for Prices and Incomes described it as 'the result of an historical accident';

(m)   the awards covering employees in the industry provide the same hours as the awards covering employees in more labour intensive industries;

(n)   'It is an indubitable and uncontested fact' that the industry has demonstrated a capacity to improve its productivity and efficiency in terms of the number of units produced and distributed compared with the number of persons employed;

(o)   advances in and the utilisation of the latest technology are the most important contributing factors to the increased productivity and efficiency in the industry and that the growth of the economy and the consequential increase in sales of electricity are yet another factor in increased productivity;

(p)   employees' willingness to transfer from the older power stations to other establishments does not assist their case for a shorter working week;

(q)   the fact that a particular industry has a special economic capacity is an irrelevant factor in according its employees a shorter working week;

(r)   the benefits of increased productivity itself from utilisation of advanced technology belong to the community to be shared by all for the general good;

(s)   productivity gains belong to the community as a whole and not to a particular group of employees (or, presumably, employers);

(t)   it could not assert any sound logical justification for the widespread differentiation which exists between the hours of manual and nonmanual workers;

(u)   the shorter week should apply to all employees in all industries or not at all;

(v)   no firm conclusion was reached on the costs and prices of a shorter working week;

(w)   outer employers would lose tradesmen to the electricity industry if a 35-hour week were introduced into that industry;

(x)   a 35-hour week would provide work for additional employees in the electricity industry in New South Wales, and that it is unlikely that the number would be obtained;

(y)   there would be a loss of productivity by other industries which lost the benefits of the work done by those transferred to the electricity industry;

(z)   increased prices for electricity could cause the present consumers to change to diesel fuel, fuel oil, liquified gas, etc. and it could also adversely affect the subsidy scheme for country areas; (aa) because of the foregoing conclusions there were no grounds for a shorter working week in the electricity supply industry but that if there were any prospect of redundancy in the industry, it would have paid serious attention to it.

The Commission made its report on the basis of whether special circumstances distinguished the work performed by the Wages Division rather than on the special circumstances of the industry itself.

The Commission's findings appear to merely reflect the status quo rather than provide a design fur progress. The findings were partly influenced by tho working hours operating in foreign countries and by the standards set by the International Labour Organisation which are designed to uplift working conditions for the emerging countries of Africa, Asia and South America and for territories like Papua and New Guinea and the colonial possessions of Portugal.

(2)   (a) Pursuant to the provision of section 35 (1) (o) of the New South Wales Industrial Arbitration Act, the Commission was asked to consider and report upon the following matters:

The terms and conditions of employment of persons employed in the electricity supply industry, that is, the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in New South Wales; and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, whether there are any grounds for a reduction in the ordinary working hours or ordinary working days of persons now working a 40-hour week in the said industry; and, if there were a reduction in such working hours or working days, on the economic effects which would result from such reduction'.

(b)   Over 100.

(c)   (i) 3rd August 1971. (ii) 25th September 1972.

(3)   Yes.

(4)   and (5) It would not be proper for me to comment on the findings of a State industrial tribunal.

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