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Thursday, 30 August 1973
Page: 658

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I remind the honourable member for Mackellar that interjections are out of order and that he is out of his place.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I had stated and explained our policies in my period as shadow Minister for Labour throughout the 3 years preceding the previous elections, so everyone knew what a Labor Government would introduce. The Bill I introduced in April last sought to make a number of major changes in the legislation. Briefly stated, these were: Firstly, improvements in the procedures of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for handling industrial disputes and, in particular, to facilitate the making of industrial agreements; secondly, procedures to ensure that certain types of agreements were acceptable to members of organisations affected by them. In other words, we were not prepared to place the imprimatur of a court or the Commission on what are sometimes called sweetheart agreements, which are never referred to the members of organisations affected by them but are made behind closed doors between certain officials and certain employers. We want the agreements to be understood and to be accepted by the majority of the people affected by them. The third major change was provision for democratic control of unions and the fullest participation by union members in the affairs of their organisation. That is a principle which was clearly stated by the Australian Labor Party before it was elected to govern this country and it is a principle which has the wholehearted endorsement of the trade union movement and, I suggest, of the public at large. The fourth change was provision to overcome some of the problems created by the Moore v. Doyle case, a most complicated case, or a case which produced complicated results, the judgment being delivered in February 1969. In that judgment of 1969 the court drew the attention of the Government to the problems that the judgment created. It called upon the then AttorneyGeneral to take action to amend the law so that the States could pass complementary legislation to overcome those problems. Nothing was done until early this year when I introduced the Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

Mr Street - Many consultations took place.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am obliged to the honourable member for reminding me that there were many consultations. This strengthens my case against his Party, not against him because he was reasonable about the matter. His Party in the Senate was most unreasonable. There were numerous consultations between the parties. The National Labour Advisory Council the unions, employers and the government actually unanimously agreed that urgent alteration of the Act was needed to overcome this problem.

Mr Duthie - And you accepted a lot of amendments.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is the point. I acted upon the decision of the NLAC which was presided over by my predecessor, Mr Lynch. When that Bill went to the Senate containing the very matter which all parties agreed was absolutely crucial, urgent and necessary the Senate took the extraordinary step of rejecting the Bill at the second reading stage and of refusing to give Committee consideration to any one of the 74 clauses.

Mr Cohen - That is hard to believe.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is hard to believe.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is like 'Dad's Army'. I must admit that I put my head into the Senate this afternoon and that is something that one could say about it. I suppose 1 should not reflect on the other chamber so I withdraw that remark. Anyhow, these matters were agreed to but the Senate, in its so called wisdom as a House of review, decided that it would not consider even one clause of the 74, many of which were non-contentious and had the full support of the former Government, employers and employees.

That Bill also contained provision to remove the existing barriers to trade union amalgamation. I have never been able to work out where the Opposition stands on trade union amalgamation. The more erudite members of the Opposition support moves to make it possible to get rid of a lot of the multitude of unions presently in Australia. I think that the Opposition spokesmen who are more responsible than their fellows realise that a proliferation of unions is not good. They realise that we must do something to stop demarcation disputes in which the employer becomes the innocent victim. He is the innocent victim because it has nothing to do with an employer when a strike occurs because 2 unions are at loggerheads over which union members should do which job. I think the more responsible members of the Opposition see this as a real problem. They see no merit in having 305 unions in Australia when in Germany, with 61 million people, they have only 16 unions. I hope that on this occasion the Senate will have the good sense at least to consider what the Government is putting forward. The Bill also contained provision to enable action to be taken for the recovery of wages at law within a period of 6 years instead of within the 12 months limitation at present applying.

Mr James - That is good.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am pleased that I have the support of the honourable member for Newcastle.

Mr James - The honourable member for Hunter.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honourable member for Hunter and the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) both take a keen interest in conciliation and arbitration and I am pleased that the honourable member for Hunter endorses this provision. Why on earth there should be a different period for claiming wages than for claiming other moneys due under the Statute of Limitations I have never been able to understand. But mere it is, and it should be rectified. Our Bill seeks to do that. The Bill proposes the elimination of power to award costs in proceedings before the courts, the Registrar or the Commission. In all of the more successful industrial tribunals in Australia there is no such thing as having power to award costs against the parties who appear before them. In the South Australian Industrial Court the parties would literally collapse if the judge said that he was going to order costs against the unsuccessful party. It is bad enough to lose without having to pay your own costs and somebody else's costs as well. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) is smiling. In his life he has been on the receiving end of plenty of costs decisions and even he will admit that it is outrageous that when parties appear in industrial proceedings the losing side should pay the costs of the other side. That is a ridiculous situation. The Bill proposed to remove various defects which were shown to exist in the 1972 conciliation and arbitration legislation. I have already talked about them in great detail so will not recite them now.

I am pleased to note that the Opposition has appointed a new official spokesman on industrial relations. I congratulate him on his first statement that I have so far noticed. He may have made other statements but I did not see them. In the statement I saw he had the good sense to see some merit in giving responsible trade union officials a seat on government-created boards. I think he even went so far as to say that the same could well apply to private industry. Of course there is merit in such a proposition and it is good to know that the Opposition at last has a man who is able to make sensible propositions without being accused by his fellows of suffering from a poor upbringing, because nobody could ever accuse the honourable member from Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of having any traces of working-class precedents. He is a man who went to Melbourne Grammar School, was educated at Oxford and comes from the blue ribbon part of the Western District of Victoria. No one could ever say that when he says something in favour of working-class participation in management he has a hangover from his grandfather, great-grandfather or some convict way back in the dim distant past. Therefore he is in a better position, I suggest, to adopt a realistic view on these things than perhaps was his immediate predecessor.

The Bill also provided for protection of organisations and members from civil action for tort in connection with industrial disputes. I suggest that those honourable members who do not understand the law of torts obtain from my office a copy of that excellent address I gave yesterday to the Queensland Chamber of Manufactures, amid continued howls of applause. In that speech I explained in full detail what the law of torts is all about and how stupid it is for employers to want to apply civil actions to settle industrial disputes. The Bill also sought to remove the Commission's authority to ban strikes and the removal of all penal sanctions on strikers. This is what the Bill provided and the Senate decided not even to debate it in Committee. I remind honourable members that after very full second reading and Committee debates the Bill was passed without amendment by this House which, because of its recent election, so clearly represented the will of the people.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - It was not a full Committee debate.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -It was as full a Committee debate as was necessary to accommodate the worthwhile speeches from the Opposition. However, notwithstanding the mandate which the Government had for this legislation, the Bill was rejected by the Opposition parties and their allies in the Senate at the second reading stage.

Mr James - What a shame.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -It was a shame because the Bill had too much good in it to be thrown out neck and crop without being considered in the Committee stage. This rejection occurred without any opportunity being given to members of the Senate to debate the many important clauses of the Bill, some of which, incidentally, were clauses designed to remedy defects which the Opposition itself, when in government, had undertaken to rectify or which it supported when in government. The failure to pass the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill has had serious effects on the operations of the Commission. The complete separation of the conciliation process from the arbitral process introduced by the 1972 legislation has proved unworkable and the Commission has been forced to operate in a matter not sanctioned by the law in order to bring serious disputes to an end. The Ford company dispute and the recent maritime engineers dispute would never have been settled if the provisions of the Lynch law had been observed to the letter by the judges. This is because the most experienced members of the Commission - the presidential members - are not permitted to conciliate. I know of one instance in which a judge announced to the President that a certain dispute had been settled. The President said: How did you do it?' The judge replied: 'By calling a conference.' The President said: You have no power under the law to call a conference.' That was true; the President was stating the law correctly. How ridiculous it is to suggest that we should have presidential members of the Commission and yet not one of them is empowered to call a conference for the purposes of trying to conciliate a dispute.

Take the recent case of the maritime engineers' dispute which was settled quite skilfully by Mr Deputy President Sweeney. In an extraordinary display of patience and of great experience and skill, Mr Deputy President Sweeney was able to settle that dispute when I venture to say that nobody else in the world could have settled it.

Mr Wentworth - You are too modest.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Well, I thank the honourable member for Mackellar for the qualification. The Deputy President should have written a letter and sent the dispute to the Conciliation Commissioner. The Conciliation Commissioner, according to the law, then should have sat down around a table and had a talk with the parties involved and if he could not settle the dispute - and it was not settled by conciliation; ultimately, it was settled by arbitration - he would then have written another letter back to the Deputy President and said: 'I have conciliated and I cannot settle it'. The Deputy President then would have had to write a letter to the Arbitration Commissioner saying: This matter has been before Conciliation Commissioner Wentworth and he has failed dismally to settle the dispute. Would you try to arbitrate?' Then, the arbitrator would have had a look at the case and would have said: 'Do you know how far they have gone?' He would have been told: 'Oh, I cannot tell you that. That is a secret.' The law states that the Commissioner shall not tell the arbitrator what happened during the proceedings in conference. The arbitrator would have replied: 'Well, how on earth am I going to settle it if I do not know what has already happened?' He would have been told: 'That is bad luck; that is the Lynch law. You are not allowed to know what happened in the conference. You have to try to guess what happened and try to work out a decision.' So he fails dismally for the simple reason, usually, that he does not know what went on before.

In this case, the matter was settled because Mr Deputy President Sweeney had the good commonsense to follow the example of his fellow judges. He cut through the red tape and broke the law of the land, as they all have been forced to do. He took the parties into conference and tried to conciliate and when he could not, he quick and lively decided to arbitrate although he had no authority under the law to da so. However, if he had followed the law we still would have all the ships tied up around Australia because the maritime engineers would have still been on strike.

Mr James - What a stupid law.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -It is a stupid law and that is why we want the law corrected. Similarly, because the clause in the Bill dealing with the Moore v. Doyle situation did not become law, the problem of solving the demarcation dispute between the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation which disrupted the Sydney waterfront for weeks became almost insoluble.

What about the disputes between the New South Wales Transport Workers Union and the Federal Transport Workers Union, which disrupted the oil industry? This dispute arose because the Senate refused even to consider the steps which were recommended to it by this House to rectify the anomalies in the law caused by the Moore v. Doyle situation. The Minister for Labour and Industry in the New

South Wales Parliament, Mr Hewitt, has promised me that he would be prepared immediately this Parliament passed the necessary alteration to the law to accommodate the Moore v. Doyle dispute situation to introduce complementary legislation in the New South Wales Parliament. The other States are prepared to play their part, but they cannot act until we take the initial step. Immediately we do, the New South Wales Government will take the complementary action needed to put this matter in order.

The Government was therefore faced with the question of whether it should re-introduce its original Bill intact and thus face the possibility of a further lengthy delay or even the complete rejection of the Bill by the Senate. This would prevent the implementation of measures which are necessary to ensure that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission operates effectively; that agreements made do in fact represent the wishes of the members of the organisations; and that organisations themselves are democratically controlled by their members.

The alternative procedure, which the Government has decided to adopt, is to remove from the Bill it presents on this occasion those sections which the Opposition regards as controversial, namely, the provisions eliminating sanctions against unions and their members who go on strike and the provisions to give protection to organisations and their members from civil actions in tort in connection with industrial disputes. We will then present these provisions in a separate Bill which will be introduced as soon as the legislative program permits. There should be, therefore, now, no reason why the Opposition should not readily agree to the reforms which are now contained in this Bill - reforms which are urgently required and which undoubtedly have the support of most organisations, employer and trade union alike, which have the major interest in the effective operation of the conciliation and arbitration machinery.

The Government has taken the opportunity afforded by the need to bring the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill before the Parliament again to include in it a few more desirable reforms which were adopted by the Australian Labor Party at its Federal Conference in Surfers Paradise last month. New matters which have been included in this Bill are: Provision will be made for an organisation to have an absolute right to be represented in proceedings before the Industrial Court by an officer, member or employee. At present in most circumstances, an organisation has to seek the leave of the Court to be so represented. This could toe disadvantageous to unions because of the cost of legal representation if leave were to be refused; where an employer contends in arbitration proceedings that a claim for improved terms and conditions of employment should not be granted because his firm has not the capacity to meet the cost of those claims, provision is to be made that the Commission shall disregard the contention unless the employer produces evidence to support it. I would anticipate that the Commission would adopt the practice followed by the New South Wales Industrial Commission in such cases of appointing an accountant to examine an employer's financial records so that it would not be necessary in all circumstances to have the records made available to the public at large but so that we could follow the procedures already adopted in New South Wales which work exceptionally well. I see no reason why our Commission should not follow very much the same proceedings.

Provision will be made for the Minister for Labour to be able to appoint arbitration inspectors. Incidentally, the Minister can do it now. In 1934, the Bruce Government introduced an amendment to provide that the Minister could not appoint an arbitration inspector from within the Public Service. He had to be somebody from outside the Service. I do not accept that. I believe that there should be a marriage of the 2 kinds of talent that are available today from within the Public Service, sure, and also from without. I believe that the 1934 amendment was too restrictive and that the present situation should be made clearer than it is. It is not necessary to alter the law to enable us to appoint people from outside the Public Service now. In fact, at present I am appointing mme arbitration inspectors who do not belong to the Public Service. It should be possible to draw on the Third Division of the Public Service as well as on men of extraordinarily good talent and experience outside the Service. Provision will be made that where the Australian Government intends to intervene in any matter before the Commission or Court, the Minister for Labour shall be responsible for the intervention, rather than the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) as at present.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - Did Lionel like that?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He did. He thinks it is a good idea. It is Labor policy and he sticks to and supports the policy of the Party. He realises that it is a bit silly that the Attorney-General is the one who must go through the motions of making the intervention but it is the Minister for Labour who must prepare the case. It is quite ridiculous. This is the first step in transferring complete responsibility for the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to the Minister for Labour. It is quite absurd that an Act like this should be administered by 2 separate Ministers.

Provision for stricter control over officially conducted ballots will be made. Provision will be made to strengthen further the democratic processes in relation to union elections by providing that all full time federal officers in an organisation must be elected by direct vote of the members of the organisation and that the only federal officers who can be elected by the collegiate system shall be part time officers of an organisation's federal management committee, provided that the officers of the management committee itself are elected by direct vote of the rank and file.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - How does that differ from your earlier Bill?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -It differs in this way: The earlier Bill provided that the full time officers would not be subjected to a direct vote of the rank and file but that the honorary officers would. It has been pointed out, and the Labor Party Conference took this view, that that was putting the thing the wrong way around. The full time officers, who are the ones who really have the administration of the unions in their hands, are the ones who ought to be under the direct vote of the rank and file, and the honorary ones, who meet sometimes only twice a year, are the ones, if it will make it more convenient or less costly to elect them that way, who might be permitted to be elected by the collegiate system.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - Is this the change the unions were asking for themselves?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No. The unions support what is now proposed, although it is true that at one stage 'the unions were asking for almost the very reverse. But we looked at the matter from all angles, and we know that we cannot please all the unions. We never set out to be yes men to the trade union move ment. There will be sections of the trade union movement which will not like this. But we are a strong government. We do not worry about pressure groups. We do what we think is 'best for the country and, in this case, what we think is best for the trade union movement, and I have no doubt that the majority of those in the trade union movement are democratic enough to support us wholeheartedly. I would be very surprised if any full time union official wanted to avoid a direct vote of his rank and file. I know of nobody who wants to be in that kind of special position.

Provision will also be made for requests for financial assistance by members of organisations in respect of actions under sections 140 and 141 of the Act to be determined by the Industrial Registrar rather than by the AttorneyGeneral or, if I followed the new policy of the Labor Party, by the Minister for Labour. I personally believe that this kind of assistance ought to be taken right outside the realm of political patronage, lt ought to be in the hands, as it always was until last year, of the Industrial Registrar. It should not be in the hands of politicians.

With the retirement of the last surviving member of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, Sir Richard Kirby, there is now no longer any reason to retain this body in existence. We had to keep it in existence so long as he lived and wanted to remain a member of the Court because his appointment was a life appointment and therefore, while he wanted to retain the appointment, there was no way we could dispense with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Now that he has resigned we will get rid of it altogether. It no longer exists in fact and reference to it only clutters up a Bill that is already too unwieldly - in my opinion. The Court does not exercise any function whatever. The Bill will therefore repeal Part IV of the Principal Act, which provides for this body, and as a consequence we will also have to make a number of other changes.

Apart from these matters I have just mentioned and the deletion of those sections of the previous Bill which related to protection against the law of tort and to strike sanctions, the remainder of this Bill is similar to the Bill adopted by the House without amendment in May last year. Most of the clauses are identical. They have simply been lifted out of the first Bill and are now part of the second Bill. I believe that the new amendments which I have outlined are necessary measures. I believe that they are not controversial. In particular, I believe that honourable members will approve of the power to determine financial assistance to union members being taken out of the political arena and being given back to an independent statutory authority in the person of the Indus trial Registrar. This will ensure that irrespective of the political complexion of the Australian Government the determination whether financial assistance shall be made available to a person who wishes to test the validity of a union rule or to obtain an order for the observance of the rules shall be made without any consideration of the particular political philosophy of that person.

Because of the unprecedented amount of important legislation which the Government has to introduce in this session, I do not wish to delay the business of the House by a detailed recital of all the provisions of this Bill which were contained in the Bill previously introduced. In the course of my second reading speech on that occasion I not only explained in detail the provisions of the Bill but I also outlined the philosophy which prompted those reforms. Those honourable members who wish to refresh their memory on these matters may do so, I suggest, by perusing my speech in Hansard of 12 April last. Members of the House were wise enough on that occasion to accept what was proposed without amendment, and I am sure they will do so again. I have already told the honourable member for Wannon, who is now the official Liberal Party spokesman on labour relations that I am very happy that my officers in Melbourne should be made available to him for consultation. I have asked the head of my Department, Dr Sharpe, to make available to the honourable member for Wannon the services of - (Extension of time granted). We are ready to help the honourable gentleman as much as possible. There is nothing gimmicky about this Bill. It is a straightforward, honest attempt to rectify some of the glaring anomalies in the Act and to make the Act work better than it has been working in the past. We have taken out the strike penalties. We have taken out the law of torts provision. These were the two most misunderstood sections of the previous Bill. Now we hope that there will be a sensible and rational approach, a national approach to this matter. I feel more confident that this will come about now that the Opposition has chosen the honourable member for Wannon as its present spokesman on labour matter than I might have felt had his predecessor remained. But time will tell. It may prove that the Opposition made a very bad choice. Only time will tell.

Members of the House will see this Bill as something that is essential. Many of the amendments relating to the procedures of the Commission are required urgently. Many of the judges have told me personally that the Act just cannot function in its present form, that the procedures are being gummed up with technicalities and a quite silly provision for the separation of arbitral and conciliation proceedings. They are asking and hoping that this alteration will be made. Because of the defects the present procedures are causing and the difficulties and delays that are being caused by the irregular procedures that have to be adopted I believe that the Opposition will come to see the need to allow this Bill to go through. It will be in the interests of an improved system of conciliation and arbitration for this Bill to receive a speedy approval by the Parliament. I hope that the Opposition will debate the Bill in the spirit in which it is presented. I commend the Bill.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - I ask the Minister whether he and Leader of the House will extend the ecumenical nature in which the Minister introduced this Bill by guaranteeing the Opposition adequate time to debate the clauses of the Bill in Committee. We want not only an adequate second reading but an adequate debate clause by clause so that the points of view we want to put on a highly important matter can be fully exposed.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I think the Leader of the House should deal with that request.

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