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Thursday, 20 September 1973
Page: 1370

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - In reply - I must say that the contribution to this debate from the other side has taken on an altogether different spirit or character from that to which I have ever listened before. It is high time that we in this Parliament started to look at industrial relations as a matter that concerns the whole country. It concerns those of us who represent working people, and it is of vital concern to those who feel that they represent employers. It is all very well for us to carry on here a game of political chess on some matters. But it is quite inappropriate for this Parliament or for any member of this Parliament on my side or on the Opposition side to allow industrial relations and labour relations generally to become the subject of a political chess game. The mistakes that can be made in an exercise of that kind, if it is to degenerate into a game, are too dangerous and too costly for the country to have to bear. The country should not be expected to bear the effect of costly mistakes arising from stupid, flippant, party political attitudes towards labour relations when this Parliament is dealing with laws on labour relations.

For my part, I have tried - I think successfully - to set quite a new standard, for myself at any rate - and that is the hardest thing of all to do - in this debate. I have acceded to requests by the spokesman for the Opposition, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), for a longer period than normally is given for consideration of this legislation. He has had 3 weeks to consider it. The request that he made was for 3 weeks, and I gave him 3 weeks. No one knows more than I do - the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner), the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) and the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) also know only too well - how terribly complex and sensitive is the area of industrial relations.

I must say this about the honourable member for Wannon: For a person who handled for the very first time a most complex piece of legislation in an area that I would think is quite strange to him, he did a very good job. There was none of the silly, rabble rousing histrionics in which some of his predecessors used to engage. That may sound good in Parliament and those honourable members may look around and see whether their colleagues are smiling at them when they do it in here; but they do not get any marks for it outside. Such behaviour only exacerbates relationships which are already bad enough. The honourable member for Wannon set a new standard for his side of the House in the way that he approached this most important subject. I have co-operated with him fully as he, I know, will be the first to admit.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - I have acknowledged that.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He has acknowledged that. I have made available to him the officers of my Department. I have told the officers of my Department that requests from him are to be treated as requests from the main spokesman for Her Majesty's Opposition in this field. He is entitled to that consideration; he has received it. I supplied him with copies of my amendments as soon as I got them. He reciprocated by letting me have copies of his amendments.

I wish to put on record my appreciation of the co-operation that I have received from my own colleagues in the Parliament. I mention the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett), the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who have sat through the debate this afternoon not saying anything. They have done so in order that the proper consideration of this legislation when it is iri its Committee stage may be facilitated. All of them are experts in this field. All of them wished to speak in the second reading debate. All of them agreed, in the interests of providing a proper opportunity for study and debate of clauses in Committee, that they would stay out of the debate at the second reading stage. I thank them for that.

I wish to say only a few other things. The proposals that are set out in our Bill relate to, among other things, amalgamations and rank and file approval of industrial agreements. At the moment there is no limitation on an industrial agreement if it is registered; it carries on ad infinitum. This is causing a great deal of trouble. Reference is made in our Bill to the right of entry, to victimisation and to a move by us to obviate the need to have 3 judges sit together to certify an industrial agreement. All those and the various other proposals in our Bill are quite crucial to the successful operation of industrial relations.

On the other hand, in Committee the Opposition will move some amendments which the Government will accept. The industrial relations committee of the Government Party, which consists of the honourable gentlemen I mentioned a moment ago, again showed, as I am showing, a spirit of conciliation. The committee has authorised me to say that certain amendments proposed by the honourable member for Wannon will be acceded to by the Government. When I say that, I am saying something which is quite significant. I have said that for the first time to my knowledge - and I can go back for 24 years in this Parliament - we are to witness the spectacle of a government accepting amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in the Committee stage. Never before has a government done that. Former governments have just set their plough to the furrow end said: 'No matter what you say in Committee, we will not alter what we decided upon some few weeks ago as being the complete answer to the question'. That has not been the attitude that we have adopted.

Mr Kelly - It is a very sensible attitude.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -It is, and I am hoping-

Mr Malcolm Fraser - It will be denied very soon by your colleague who will move a certain motion, I am told. I am sorry about this, but this ecumenical movement is coming to an end.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - By 'your colleague', do you mean the Leader of the House (Mr Daly)?

Mr Malcolm Fraser - Yes.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He has a responsibility. He has to get legislation through. He has scores of Bills to get through. If we adopt a sensible approach in the Committee stage, we will get through all right and the Opposition will be able to put its amendments. I will not waste the time of the Committee. The Opposition will have a proper opportunity to speak to all its amendments. Provided that we do not waste a lot of time calling unnecessary divisions on unimportant amendments, we can get through. I will do my part to get through. I am replying now because I felt that after so many speakers I should-

Mr Malcolm Fraser - The Bill is to be guillotined. The Leader of the House has it all ready.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He has to get the business of the House through and I cannot help that. It is no good blaming me for what the Leader of the House feels his duty calls upon him to do. Finally, the Opposition has to remember that we are the Government and we have been elected to office on a program to bring about better industrial relations. We cannot give effect to that program unless we are able to get certain amendments to the Act. We may be wrong in what we think ought to be done to the Act, but as the newly-elected Government we are entitled to be given the opportunity of trying to see whether what we believe to be right is the answer. If the Government's legislative program for industrial peace is to be denied it, no one can blame the Government if the Government fails to achieve its objective. The only people who will be to blame will be the Opposition for refusing to give the Government the legislation for which it has a clear mandate.

Mr Kelly - Does the Minister have time to reply on the Swedish issue?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I agree with all the honourable member said about Sweden. The Swedish system is a very sensible one, but involved in it is the concept of rank and file consideration of industrial agreements before they are signed. If honourable members like, as we come to them in the Bill I will identify the passages which are taken from the Swedish system. One feature of the Swedish system is that the amalgamation of unions is easy. It is so easy that long since Sweden has got rid of the multitude of unions that we have. We have 303 unions. Sweden has twenty-six. Part of its success is due to the fact that it has few unions, but very efficient unions.

Mr Street - Are they industry unions?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Some are industry unions, but not all of them. I admit that the honourable member has asked a very important question. In our country I do not suppose we will ever get industry unions except in isolated cases, such as the Australian Workers Union in the pastoral industry, although even in that case it is not an industry union because wool classers are covered by another union. But the success of the Swedish system does not rest entirely on the fact that it has industry unions. That is not the reason for its success. Its success rests mainly on the fact that it has fewer unions that are more efficient and the employers do not have the bugbear they have to put up with here of having to become the unfortunate witnesses of industrial disputes over demarcation issues and being absolutely helpless to do anything about it. The employer is made the meat in the sandwich. The unions fight over which union shall cover a particular job, and the poor unfortunate employer has to stand on the sidelines and watch his business go down the drain simply because we have too many unions trying to cover the various industrial areas.

Declaration of Urgency

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