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Previous Fragment    
Tuesday, 1 May 1973
Page: 1548

Mr Lynch asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:

(1)   Is the absence of effective systems for consultation between employees and management the cause of many industrial disputes.

(2)   How many Australian companies have consultative systems.

(3)   What is the basis of these systems.

(4)   What information does his Department have concerning the development and operation of consultative procedures in (a) Australia and (b) other countries.

(5)   Will he authorise an inquiry to examine procedures for consultation between employees and management.

(6)   Will he authorise the expenditure of funds to inform employers and employees of the value of effective consultative systems in industry.

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

(1)   The absence of effective systems of consultation between employees and management certainly constitutes one of the possible causes of industrial disputes.

(2)   Statistics are not available on the number of companies in Australia which have consultative systems.

(3)   There are a variety of consultative systems concerning such matters as grievance procedures, safety, employee welfare and the introduction of technological and other types Of change. My Department has from time to time conducted studies on consultative procedures and made the results available to interested persons.

(4)   My Department also endeavours to keep itself informed on consultative procedures in overseas countries.

(5)   The Government is proposing to set up an inquiry into industrial relations in Australia. This will of necessity involve an examination of procedures for consultation between employers and management on such matters as wages and working conditions.

(6)   Officers of my Department are always available to advise employers and employee representatives on the value of effective consultation. The Government would be prepared to authorise the expenditure of further funds for this purpose if it considered that this was warranted.

Medical Benefit Funds in Victoria: Contributions (Question No. 400)

Dr Forbes (BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:

(1)   Did he announce on Monday, 5th March 1973, that there would be increases of up to 40 per cent in the cost of contributions to several medical benefit funds in Victoria.

(2)   Did he also say that this was necessary because the previous Government had instructed the funds to absorb cost increases by running down reserves.

(3)   If so, was this process of running down reserves to avoid extra cost to contributors going on at the time that he was being extremely critical of the previous Government for maintaining the reserves of the funds at too high a level.

(4)   In view of the apparent contradiction in his attitude before and after taking office, what is the attitude of the Government in relation to the reserves of these funds.

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

(1)   Yes.

(2)   I said that the increases were unavoidable if the funds were to continue to operate for the benefit of the public. The point I made was that the previous Government had concealed the excessive costs of the present unsatisfactory system of health insurance, by making the funds absorb the increases from reserves to the degree that reserves held by medical funds in Victoria were practically depleted and funds had been placed in a critical financial position.

(3)   My comments on 5th March 1973 were directed to the situation of medical funds in Victoria and as such were validly based on the facts. Although medical funds in Victoria were run down to where their reserve levels were critical, by contrast hospital funds in Victoria in the aggregate hold excessive reserves and a similar situation exists in other States. I have always been critical of the fact that the previous Government permitted some funds to accumulate excessive reserves.

(4)   My attitude before and after taking office has been consistent in that reserves held by funds should not be excessive. The attitude of the Government is that excessive reserves should be utilised for the benefit of the contributors.

Pre-school Centres for Sub-normal Children (Question No. 404)

Mr Cooke (PETRIE, QUEENSLAND) asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:

(1)   Can he say whether there is an urgent need in Brisbane for pre-school centres catering for subnormal children.

(2)   If so, what action is proposed by the Government to meet this need.

(3)   Will the recently appointed Pre-Schools Committee consider the special problems of the subnormal child in making its report.

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

(1)   1 cannot say exactly what the needs of Brisbane are for pre-school education. The Government has established the Australian Pre-Schools Committee for the purpose of examining needs and making recommendations to the Government on pre-school education. When the Committee reports, I will be in a better position to answer the honourable member's question.

(2)   See (1). The Committee will make recommendations for financial measures to be taken by the Government towards the establishment and operation of approved pre-school centres and child care centres.

(3)   Yes.

Questions on Notice (Question No. 446)

Mr Garland asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

(1)   Does he acknowledge the value to members of the parliamentary practice of obtaining information by placing questions on notice.

(2)   If so, will he ensure that he and the Ministers of his Government make every effort to answer questions as fully and responsively as possible.

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

(1)   Yes.

(2)   The responsibility for a reply to a question upon notice rests with the individual Minister to whom it is addressed. For my part, every effort is made to answer questions fully and responsively, and within reason.

Invalid Pensions and Sickness Benefits Paid to Women (Question No. 454) Mr Lloyd asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:

How many women aged between IS and 45 received (a) an invalid pension and (b) sickness benefit in the latest month for which figures are available.

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

Invalid pensions and sickness benefits are payable to people 16 years of age and over who are otherwise eligible.

Regular statistics of invalid pensioners and sickness beneficiaries by age group are not maintained. However, the following estimates are provided from information obtained from a survey of invalid pensioners in New South Wales and Victoria at December 1972 and a survey of sickness beneficiaries carried out in October 1972.

(a)   The estimated number of female invalid pensioners aged 16 to 45 at the end of February 1973 was 22,400.

(b)   The estimated number of female sickness beneficiaries aged 16 to 45 at the end of March 1973 was 2,500.

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