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Tuesday, 8 May 1973
Page: 1754

Mr LYNCH (Flinders) - It is a matter of national concern that a Party which has had 23 years in opposition to formulate a comprehensive and constructive industrial policy should introduce into this Parliament a program which fails so lamentably to address itself to the inherent problems of industrial relations in Australia. The Bill before the House is the manifestation of a policy based on the shibboleths of the past. It is an inappropriate response to contemporary economic and industrial realities. It is consistent with the development of monopoly union power. It is sectional in its intent and application. It represents a total abdication by the Government of its national responsibilities in favour of the demands of the left wing of the trade union movement. The Bill has been presented to the nation in a manner which is both myopic and biased. There can be no justification for the introduction of industrial legislation so deeply characterised by partisan objectives.

The Australian Labor Party has claimed a monopoly of expertise in industrial relations. Its pre-election propaganda sought to convey the distorted impression that a Labor Government would herald a new era of industrial peace and co-operative endeavour which would provide substantial real benefits to employees while ensuring national productivity gains in the interests of all sections of the community. However, industrial relations under the new Labor Government have been notable for a record increase in the level of industrial unrest, the development of unprecedented inflationary pressures, the blatant abuse of union monopoly powers, Government antagonism towards and confrontation with industry and Government capitulation to every demand placed upon it by the union movement.

It is a matter of considerable irony to recall statements of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that a Labor Government would not be the unthinking mouthpiece for trade union officialdom and that the first great aim of Labor's industrial policy would be to reduce government interference and intervention in industrial matters. Those statements have been totally discredited by the Government's unconditional endorsement of union demands in the national wage case, Government support for compulsory unionism, Government backing for industrial concessions in excess of $6,000m per annum, Government manipulation of a labour code and Commonwealth contracts, Government abuse of the Public Service to achieve political objectives, and tacit approval of political strikes directed towards Australian allies.

The Opposition believes that the conciliation and arbitration system, since its inception in 1904, has been an integral force in the social, humanitarian and economic advancement of this country. It is a system which has evolved , over the years as a result of statutory enactment, reflecting changes in community standards and judicial decisions. It is a dynamic and flexible institution which has been supported by governments of all political persuasions. Australia's statutory process of conciliation and arbitration has established a code of wages and working conditions which has enabled the worker to obtain an equitable share of this country's material advancement. The concept of the basic wage and, more recently, the minimum wage has ensured that he cannot be exploited regardless of the weakness of his union representation or the industry in which he is employed.

The Opposition supports the concept of effective and responsible trade unionism. Employees should be encouraged to join appropriate industrial organisations and those organisations must be encouraged to register under the Act. Organised unionism has played a significant role in the achievement of improved wages and conditions. However, we believe that the trade union movement must accept that its significantly changed status in the community and the substantial improvements which have been attained, call for an acceptance of duties and responsibilities. The union movement is no longer weak or ineffectual; it is one of the most potent vested interests in this country.

The Opposition believes that the Bill contains proposals which are designed to weaken our conciliation and arbitration processes and which will seriously impede the Commission from dealing effectively with problems now experienced in the contemporary industrial environment. Specific provisions of the Bill are designed to destroy the authority of the Commission and to erode the effect of the legislative framework in which our industrial system operates. The acceptance of this Bill would set the stage for the introduction of collective bargaining in this country under which gains in wages and working conditions would be commensurate with a union's industrial strength rather than the merits of the case. Such a system would be anathema to the egalitarian traditions of this country.

Under Labor's industrial policies, those who are suffering most are the pensioners, fixed income earners and those on superannuation benefits, whose assets are constantly eroded by the continuing escalation of prices, and the small unions and the small employers who do not possess monopoly power. The Government, in its manic preoccupation with the operation of industrial power and bargaining by duress, would be well advised to recall the words of the Oxford economist and a former senior economic advisor to the previous United Kingdom Labour Government, Lord Thomas Balogh, who reported the industrial relation experience of the last British Labour Government in these terms: Free bargaining Increased inequality; it resulted in a relative 'worsening of the position of the poorest paid and least aggressively organised classes of society . . . Trade union action was successful in certain instances in increasing the share of certain privileged or closely organised groups such as tally clerks, dock workers and so on. The lower paid, the defenceless and the handicapped, despite the declamation of the unions, have not been protected.

This, of course, is consistent with the following observations on direct negotiation by the Committee of Economic Inquiry appointed in Australia during 1963:

The benefit to employees lies in receiving wages out of line with the general pattern of wages, and this is a benefit which obviously cannot be extended widely without losing its significance. Thus, it must not be assumed that a general extension of direct negotiation would reproduce the improvements in industrial relations that existing arrangements have brought. Furthermore, these arrangements accentuate the problem of earnings drift and introduce elements of inequity into the wage structure, by making it more favourable to workers in strong and militant unions and less favourable to those whose weaker bargaining position leaves them more dependent on arbitration. One of the notable gains from arbitration is thereby forfeited.

The inherent deficiencies of collective bargaining were clearly recognised by the Labour Party Secretary of State for Employment in the United Kingdom when she said in 1969:

It perpetuates the existence of groups of employees who, as the result of the weakness of their bargaining position, fall behind in the struggle to obtain their full share of the benefits of an advanced industrial economy.

In the same statement she adverted to the question of public interest and free bargaining in the following terms:

Imperfect competition in many industries may enable unions and employers to combine to exploit their market power at the expense of other members of the community.

The Government's industrial policy, as outlined in this Bill, is paradoxical to the philosophy expressed by the Prime Minister in his policy speech when he said:

The Australian people shall be restored to their rightful place ... as equal sharers in the wealth and opportunities that this nation should offer in abundance to all its people.

The Minister's second reading speech is totally devoid of the philosophical considerations which the Australian people have the right to expect from a Government which lays a major claim to the principles of social justice and equality. He deliberately avoided discussing the integral role of industrial relations in the determination of Australia's national goals. In fact, the thin veneer of his statement is inadequate disguise for the real thrust of the Government's legislation, which he knows to be an unprecedented concession to the union movement and a fundamental abrogation of the Government's national responsibilities.

It is not sufficient for the Minister to assert that the real problems of industrial relations are the subject of consideration by the recently appointed committee of inquiry, the terms of reference of which leave a great deal to be desired. At this stage, even the Australian Council of Trade Unions has shown its dissatisfaction with the nature of the inquiry by its reluctance to participate. It is a matter of very great concern that the Government has moved so precipitously to bring a major industrial Bill before the Parliament when that Committee has not yet commenced its work. By acting in this way the Government has necessarily pre-empted the findings of the Committee and cast grave doubts on its objectivity in setting up the inquiry.

In the same way, the Government has introduced this Bill without any real consultation with the principal parties in the industrial relations community. It is a significant contrast to the manner in which the former Government introduced its last major industrial legislation. The major terms of that legislation were brought before this House on 7th December 1971 following extensive consultation with unions and employers and widespread coverage in the Press, allowing the public to be informed and to make representations to the Government. It was not until 26th April 1972 that the Bill was formally presented to the Parliament after the Government had fully considered the reaction to its initial statement. The present Government's methods are a marked contrast and are consistent with iti aim of forcing an unprecedented number of major legislative measures through this Parliament with a minimum of discussion and scrutiny by the House.

The Opposition believes that a Government must play a vital role in industrial relations. However, it is evident that public policy cannot be exclusively governmental and to be fully effective must carry the commitment of industrial organisations, notably trade unions and employers. The inherent difficulties which are experienced by all governments in liberal democratic societies in regulating the economic behaviour of these private organisations - and particularly the less disciplined elements within them - must command particular attention:

However, the Minister, in introducing this Government's first major industrial legislation, failed to refer to many df these difficulties. In fact, the nature of his statement is best characterised by the vital aspects which it ignores. It ignores the concept of public interest, it ignores the responsibilities of the principal parties in industrial relations, it ignores the disabling and deleterious effect of industrial unrest, it ignores the economic implications of industrial legislation and particularly the inflationary effects of this legislation, it ignores the vital role of the Commonwealth Public Service in relation to movements in wages and salaries in the general community, and it ignores the manner in which the Government has sought to cut across the traditional independence of the Public Service Board.

I turn now, simply because of the pressure of time, to the specific legislative measures before the House. In doing so I record my protest on behalf of the Opposition Parties at the amount of time which the Government has been prepared to allow for debate on this legislation. It is totally inadequate. It is an abuse of the context of the legislation and the matters of substance which the Government alleges are inherent in the legislation. The amount of time to be provided on this occasion is approximately half of that which the former Government allowed the then Opposition to deal with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1972.

The Bill now before the House seeks to remove from the Act all the provisions under which a penalty can be imposed upon a trade union or member of a trade union because the union is involved in or threatens a strike, baa or limitation on work. In simple terms, the Government is now proposing that the observance of awards on the part of unions and members of unions will rest solely on the good faith of unions and officials who cannot be called to account if they breach agreements into which they have freely entered. The facts belie the assumption that the good faith of union officialdom should be the basis of our industrial system. Awards are now seen as minimum standards which are to be capitalised on in a cynical way by striking against employers as a form of pressure on them to grant over-award benefits. Moreover, it is pertinent that a substantial degree of current strike activity occurs in respect of matters which have no relation whatever to industrial issues. This Bill seeks to provide unions with a carte blanche to engage in political strikes with no prospect of redress for those directly affected. Every industrialised country in the world has a method of restraining or penalising strike activity in certain circumstances.

The Opposition can see no valid reason for the removal of these provisions. Unions want sanctions against employers who do not observe awards but are not prepared to accept penalties for their own breach of awards. We believe that any system of industrial relations which provides for industrial awards to regulate with the force of law the relations between employers and employees must also provide for these awards to have the legal force which they purport to have. Australia's system of industrial relations is based on the principle that industrial disputes should be settled by impartial tribunals and that the decisions of those tribunals must have the force of law. No decision can be effective unless it is enforceable and, of course, it cannot be enforceable unless there be a proper and adequate sanction for its breach.

The Government has contrived to imply that Australia is unique by virtue of its industrial sanctions. This of course is fundamentally untrue. There are clear penalties in countries such as Canada, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway and Israel for the contravention of collective agreements. In New Zealand, penalties are recognised by industrial legislation and remain in use. The mechanics of sanctions may differ between countries but their existence remains fundamental to any society which values and relies upon the rule of law.

The conciliation and arbitration system is designed to provide employees with the maximum benefits which are consistent with an industry's capacity to pay and the economy's capacity to sustain without harmful consequences. Awards of the Commission grant substantial benefits but in so doing they place obligations upon both parties. Employers are bound to apply the provisions of awards to their employees and employees are bound to accept these provisions. This is neither an unfair nor an inequitable proposition. But those who would have sanctions abolished are also those who cannot accept the obligations which are basic to this system. They seek to bring about a situation in which they can apply economic coercion, with impunity, in support of their vested interests to the detriment of their fellow workers and the community at large. The sanctions provisions of the

Act have been described as vicious and discriminatory. But it is a matter of record that both the Prime Minister and -the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) have indicated that they support the principle of industrial sanctions.

The present Minister, in talking about the removal of restraints, stated in October 1971:

No one with authority to speak for the Australian Labor Party has ever committed the Party to such a course.

That, of course, was true at that time. But this Bill represents, for the first time, a proposal to commit, not simply the ALP, but the whole industrial relations community in Australia to such a course; and the man who fought so hard against such a course of action is now charged with the responsibility of its direct implementation. The Minister's personal view is well known and, as he correctly said when this issue was widely discussed in 1971: lt cannot be denied that hundreds of thousands of unionists hold the view that some form of enforcement is necessary in industrial relations.

The Opposition and indeed, I believe, the general community, share the Minister's view. There are advantages in enforceable agreements for employers and unions. This view is also shared by the Minister. I quote what he said on that question in 1971:

The main advantage of having an enforceable freely negotiated agreement is that it gives more bargaining power to the unions. Employers will almost always give higher wage and conditions increases if they have some guarantee of industrial rest.

The inconceivable aspect of this is that the Minister is now introducing a Bill which forbids this very thing taking effect. This Bill prevents employers and unions from registering an enforceable agreement with the Commission even though both parties are in full accord with the terms of the agreement and the manner in which any breaches of the agreement are to be enforced.

It is a matter of record that both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour were completely repudiated by the Labor Party Caucus on the question of sanctions. The Bill before the House is a testament of that repudiation and a reflection of the Government's complete and hapless inability to withstand the pressure of the more militant sections of the trade union movement. The present Minister knows full well that the removal of all restraints on strikes, both political and industrial, is a proposition that no Govern ment and no community can responsibly support. The former leader of the Australian Labor Party, Dr Evatt, said, in introducing the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill of 1947:

The maintenance of industrial peace and the adjustment of terms and conditions of employment, are matters not merely of local and private concern but also of vital importance to the community as a whole.

It was for this reason that the previous Labor Government retained the principle that there should be sanctions for the enforcement of awards. But this Government is now prepared to divest itself of that type of industrial responsibility which characterised the Chifleys, the Evatts and the Cahills Federal and State Labor leaders who were not prepared to subordinate the national interest to the demands of the union movement.

The Opposition vehemently rejects the provisions of this Bill which confer civil immunity on trade unions members and their officials. The Minister has unconscionably described this proposal as a protective measure for union members. In doing so he gave this House a facile history of how an immunity for trade union members from actions for tort was obtained in England. In his statement the Minister ignored completely the development and effect of the compulsory conciliation and arbitration legislation in Australia. He ignored the absence, and the reasons for that absence, of this immunity in Australian industrial legislation. He ignored any logical or practical justification for granting to union members an immunity from the consequences of wrongdoing causing loss to others; and he ignored the fundamental fact that members of other great corporations and associations do not enjoy any such immunity.

Significantly, the full scope of the immunity was not adverted to by the Minister. He based his alleged justification on what he called the 'strike'; but it is clear that other actions by unions and their members which do not amount to strikes will be protected so that the persons harmed will be denied civil remedies.

It is important that members of this House and the general public should be aware of what the Government's proposals entail. Civil immunity would apply to every union and to every official and member of a union. It would place them in a privileged position which other citizens and sections of the community do not enjoy. It removes from persons injured by union action a right of redress which they currently have and which they will continue to possess against all other persons who act unlawfully. When placed in the Australian context, the proposal amounts to giving to unions and to their members an almost completely open go in the actions which they can take to achieve industrial objectives. It amounts to conferring upon unions and union members the ability to break contracts or agreements; to picket premises; to boycott employers and anyone engaged in business; to engage in conspiracies to prevent contracts being performed; to generally harm or interfere in a manner that is intended to injure another person's trade, business or employment; and at the same time to suffer none of the ordinary civil consequences for such actions.

When examined in the light of the proposal to remove penalties for strikes, bans or limitations on work, it will mean that there will be no hindrance to a union taking whatever action will cause loss to an employer in its pursuit of industrial objectives. The immense power of the union movement - backed by the concept of the solidarity of all unions which the ACTU can promote - will ensure that in the so-called direct negotiations for agreements the union movement will be allpowerful and subject to no restraint.

The Bill contains several provisions to facilitate the amalgamation of trade unions. The amalgamation of unions and of employer organisations is a characteristic of industrialised society in the western world. The Opposition recognises that there can be substantial benefits for members of organisations in combining their resources to undertake more effectively their responsibilities with respect to industrial relations. Furthermore, it can be argued that further amalgamation within the trade union movement may assist in a reduction in the incidence of industrial disputes which arise as a result of demarcation issues. But we believe that the general community has reasons for considerable concern about the amalgamation of trade unions. Amalgamation concentrates major power in the hands of a few officials and there are a number of officials in Australia today who are clearly using their office for political objectives, as is the case with the major left wing trade unions. The concentration of power and additional resources in the hands of fewer officials will be an inducement to those officials to engage in political and industrial activities not consistent with the public interest of the nation. The concentration of power must be examined in the context of this Bill, which seeks to confer civil immunity to those officials and to remove the liability for actions contrary to the terms of agreements by removing the threat of sanctions. The Government's clear intention to cause the rapid concentration of union power we believe to be misconceived. The resultant numerical and financial power of giant unions may become too great for employer organisations, the ACTU or even the Government to deal with effectively. The effects could be of vital national importance where the unions concerned have members in critical sectors of the economy.

Other industrial countries are now finding that the restraint of union power is a most intractable problem and one which has not been satisfactorily resolved. Yet this Bill clearly foreshadows a considerable increase in the monopoly and coercive power of the labour unions. The Minister adverted to the fact that, at the end of December 1970, there were 305 separate trade unions in Australia. He then developed an argument that amalgamation will reduce demarcation disputes and the inefficiencies and handicaps caused by the present situation. However, his figures ignore the fact that approximately 65 per cent of unionists are members of 21 trade unions. In addition, it is demonstrable that the current drive towards amalgamation is not directed at absorbing the small and inefficient unions but rather towards the bringing together of large and medium sized unions to a more concentrated body. The present moves for amalgamation are taking place at the apex of the pyramid of unionism and not in fact at its base. Amalgamation in this sense is to the detriment of rank and file control and membership participation. The assertion, loosely made, that amalgamation necessarily produces economies of scale and provides better services for members at less cost is weakened by the experience of the most recent major amalgamation which resulted in the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. The secretary of that body forecast, at its recent Queensland State Conference, that union dues would have to be almost doubled to provide service in the amalgamated trade union.

The Opposition is not opposed to the principle of amalgamation as such. However, we believe it is imperative that there be democratic participation in the amalgamation process. History clearly demonstrates the need to have measures in the legislation to protect the democratic rights of union members. In spite of this, the major effect of the Bill in respect of amalgamation is to remove the provision which requires that for an amalgamation proposal to be approved 50 per cent of those eligible must vote and, of those voting formally, more than half must approve the proposal. The Government proposes, as distinct from what is in the existing Act, that an amalgamation is approved if a majority of those voting approve. Theoretically, this provision would allow 2 members of an organisation of 1.000 members to approve an amalgamation. We believe that this is entirely contrary to the Minister's public posture that unions should be democratically controlled and that rank and file members should be provided with the maximum opportunity to express their views. The new voting proposal must be examined in the context of the other provisions of this Bill relating to amalgamation, which call for the repeal of the requirements to gazette the commencing and closing dates for the ballot and which provide facilities for members opposed to the amalgamation to forward a case against the amalgamation with each ballot paper. The Minister is very well aware from his personal experience that this Bill provides substantial opportunities for amalgamations to take place against the wishes of the majority of members.

The Opposition is particularly concerned by that part of the Bill which now allows the Industrial Registrar to fix a date for an amalgamation to take effect while there are proceedings pending against the de-registering organisation under this Act or under any law of the Commonwealth and in circumstances where the organisation has not paid outstanding fines. This proposal is consistent with the Government's jaundiced approach in respect of law enforcement where unions are involved - but not, of course, in relation to employers. The proposal means that any union will be able to absolve itself from its obligations under the law merely by deregistering to amalgamate with another trade union. A comparison with the provisions of the Companies Act and the procedures now enforceable with respect to companies shows the demonstrable inequity of this basic proposal.

The Bill proposes that there will be no longer any separation of the functions of arbitration and conciliation commissioners and that a commissioner will be able to arbitrate on a matter where he has exercised conciliation, provided that there is no objection from the parties involved. This proposal must be examined with the Bill's intention to require that a commissioner, before certifying an agreement, must have produced to him a statutory declaration by an officer of each union affected declaring that the committee of management has approved of its terms and is of the opinion, after consulting with the members of the unions, that the terms are acceptable to a majority of the members. The Minister justified this proposal in terms of the preservation of democratic participation in the affairs of unions. It is, however, completely impractical and denies the right of properly elected union officials to negotiate responsibly on behalf of union members who have entrusted them with that authority and responsibility. The inevitable result of this proposal will be a tendency for matters to be resolved by agreed arbitrations. This in no way facilitates the Minister's stated objective to put conciliation back into arbitration and denies the basis of the Act which states that employers and employees should come together to make agreements.

The former Government expressly separated the functions of conciliation and arbitration to strengthen the process of conciliation and to endeavour to stem the trend towards parties reaching agreement outside the provisions of the Act through private agreements which they then sought to have legitimised by the Commission. This, we believe, is clearly contrary to the public interest. The Bill provides that in respect of certified agreements relating to standard hours of work, national wage cases, minimum wage applications and annual leave cases, a decision with major flow-on ramifications could be made by the Commission without being considered by a Full Bench. Because the discretion of the Commission to refuse to certify a memorandum is now more limited, a major concession in, for example, the metal trades award, could flow generally without adequate consideration and, since the matter would not come before a Full Bench, the Commonwealth would have no right to intervene in the national interest. The Opposition believes that these matters are of such national importance that they must, as a matter of course, be subjected to the consideration of a Full Bench. Furthermore, we believe that this is a device to facilitate the achievement of some of the Government's major industrial concessions without having regard to the national interest. In the same area the Bill proposes to prevent the Full Bench from confining a minimum wage decision to adult males. This is a blatant attempt to circumvent by means of legislation the current decision of the equal pay case and to remove a further area of discretion from the Commission.

Mr Killen - He should be ashamed of himself.

Mr LYNCH - Of course he should be ashamed of himself. It is a matter of great national interest, if I may use this interjection for the purpose of comment, to observe that the decision which has been brought down today by the Commission in terms of the minimum wage and the total wage question is in itself a total rebuff to the present Government. What the Commission has brought down is, I believe, a responsible decision which seeks to put responsibility back into the economy contrary to the Government's approach. Of course a major area of concern to the Government at the present time is to seek to narrow even further the discretion of the Commission because it knows full well that the Commission will be responsible in matters of major judgment, contrary to the narrow manner in which this Government is seeking to implement its industrial concessions, which this year will cost Australia in excess of some $6,000m.

The Bill proposes to give a trade union official the right to enter premises where work is being undertaken under an award binding the organisation at any time during working hours for the purpose of ensuring the observance of the award and to inspect any work, books or documents and to interview any employee. This provision is a fundamental interference with private property. There is no reason why union officials should be permitted to enter any place of work purely on their volition and for motives which may not be legitimate. Any matter of concern can be properly handled by the arbitration inspectorate. This provision is clearly open to unlimited forms of abuse. It provides that union officials may interview on the premises persons who are not members of their organisation or, indeed, of any organisation at all. Officials would be able to harass non-unionists at will, to enter premises for the purpose of inciting employees to strike, to procure the names of persons who were working when the union had attempted to call a strike and to cause disruption by interviewing employees who might be strategically involved on a production line which would be required to cease operations while the interview took place. The Opposition rejects this provision as unwarranted, irresponsible, conducive to the fomenting of industrial unrest and open to widespread and absolute abuse.

The Bill proposes to allow employee organisations to include in their membership persons who follow an occupation in or in connection with an industry and persons engaged in an industrial pursuit otherwise than as an employee. This is the proposition which the Government has advanced as a partial solution to the very vexed problems of the case of Moore v. Doyle. It is a stopgap arrangement more pertinent to the problems created by the power struggles within the Transport Workers Union than to the central difficulties created by the judgment in Moore v Doyle. It is, in fact, a legislative measure which the Minister has borrowed from the working papers of the National Labour Advisory Council and, as such, presents no real indication of the Government's proposed solution to the problem.

The Opposition believes that there are 4 possible solutions: The enlargement of Commonwealth power to legislate for terms and conditions of employment in industry and for trade unions; the transfer of certain powers to the Commonwealth by the States without referendum; complementary State and Federal legislation; or the encouragement of unions to go through the procedures required by law for the dissolution of State unions and the formation of State branches of federal unions. However, the Government has made no real progress in seeking to overcome the difficulties created by the Moore v. Doyle judgment. What has been brought down as a partial exercise in the seeking of some form of early relief in fact provides for no solution of the inherent problems of that major legal case.

The Government proposes to permit union officials, including shop stewards, to undertake any function in a place of work providing it can be related to union interests and is not an offence in criminal or civil law, other than a breach in their contracts of employment. The effect of this would be to place shop stewards in permanent employment no matter how detrimental their actions may be to their employers. This proposal can only be a further incentive for irresponsible officials to undertake direct industrial action at the plant level without restraint. The Bill also seeks to repeal Part X of the Act, which makes provision for industrial agreements for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration. Although this Part has not been used extensively, it provides for parties to make agreements to be followed in the event of a dispute. There can be no real justification for the repeal of this provision. In fact, the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in his 8th, 9th and 10th annual reports, emphasised the value of Part X and urged employers and unions to make wider use of it for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes - especially in respect of over award payments.

The Opposition believes that the terms of this Bill represent a major threat to the future conduct of industrial relations in Australia. The concept of public interest, which should be a prime consideration of any government charged on behalf of its people with a sense of national responsibility, has been completely abandoned. Our clear duty in our constitutional role as the Opposition and as the legitimate alternative government of this country is to safeguard that public interest. We will do so by rejecting the major provisions of this Bill.

There is a final point which I wish to make and which no doubt other speakers will take up in this debate. I regret very much indeed, on behalf of the people of this country, that the Government is using its numbers in this House to force a debate which will be so truncated as not to allow the major proposals contained in this legislation to receive the full scrutiny of the House, whether in the second reading or Committee stages of the debate. The Government is making a farce of our democratic procedure. The Opposition rejects the reasons put forward as to why the Government is seeking to force this Bill through the House.

Mr Killen - It is an absolute disgrace.

Mr LYNCH - It is an absolute disgrace, as my colleague has pointed out. No doubt that is a matter which will be adverted to as the debate on this Bill goes on. My comments on this Bill have been very greatly condensed simply because of the pressure of time and in order to allow other speakers to make their contributions to the second reading and Committee stages of the debate on this Bill. The Opposition completely rejects the BUI.

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