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Wednesday, 17 October 1973
Page: 2299

Mr TURNER (Bradfield) - At a time when it is government policy to expend enormous sums of money in the development of its instrumentalities and at a time also when we are being told about the decline in the proportion of gross domestic product going to wage earners, I thought I would like to bring before the House some data which came to my hand a few days ago regarding the claims of the unions which will be involved in the construction of the pipeline from Moomba to Sydney. This information came to my notice through a metal trades source which I have every reason to believe is reliable. So I give the facts, that is, the claim of the relevant unions, namely, the Australian Workers Union and the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. They claim that the rate for welders on this project should be $4 an hour and that the rate for labourers should be S2.94 an hour, and that all other classifications should be paid a rate somewhere between those 2 extremes of S4 and $2.94. This means that welders would receive S81.50 over the award per week and labourers would receive S60.30 over the award per week. The claim is that 9 months after the job starts they will call it midway and this will mean that they will receive another 13c an hour over the foregoing rates. The national wage case variation will apply and it is likely that this will be by April 1974.

It is also claimed that if between August 1973 and January 1974, which is when the job should start, the consumer price index increase exceeds 8i per cent the rate already quoted will be increased by 3c per 1 per cent increase in the consumer price index. This is a normal claim. They claim air fares from the point of engagement to the site and back again. They claim that they should be entitled to 64 hours annual sick leave to be paid at the ordinary rate. They claim further that the 64 hours must be available from the first day of employment, and that medical certificates should not be required. All accommodation and messing is to be free of charge and all to be first class - one man per room, hot midday meals and first class recreation facilities. This indeed is normal in such cases. Because the pipeline will pass through isolated areas, they claim that a location allowance which ranges between $10 and $30 a week, depending on the location should be paid. Apparently Young is a much more pleasant place to be near than, for example, Mingary. They claim also that the unions will allow the contractor to use automatic welding machines for welding instead of insisting on hand welding, but this will be done only if first class welder classifications are used. This means a claim for first class welders to receive an additional $6.25 per day quality allowance, as it is called.

Mr Street - Have they enough first class welders?

Mr TURNER - There are not enough first class welders and this will mean that these will have to be trained. They will not permit expatriates to come in from elsewhere. They claim that they will not be working overtime but will allow overtime up to 52 hours a week should a so-called home leave not be allowed for. This means that they are claiming 3 weeks work in a month, 10 hours per day, 6 days per week. They claim that if they are working such overtime they should get a home leave after 3 weeks, which will consist of free fares to the point of engagement plus normal wages for 40 hours per week and return air fares to the job again after 6 or 7 days home leave. If home leave is not allowed for, they will place a ban on overtime. Therefore that every fourth week they will get as a holiday 6 days fully paid.

They will not allow contractors to employ expatriates - this is the point that the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) raised earlier - and all people employed on the pipeline should be Australian citizens or people who have resided in Australia for the past 2 years. Therefore if there is a shortage of welders - there is a general shortage of welders in Australia - it will not be possible to employ anyone from overseas so that older people will have to be trained to cope with the duties of a welder. I understand that training can be done very quickly. Expatriates will probably be allowed to act as instructors to train local people. There is a battle going on between the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union and the Australian Workers Union about demarcation. The yearly income of the lowest classification on the job will be between $15,000 and $16,000 a year and the welders will be earning between $22,000 and $24,000 a year, plus free messing, accommodation and so forth. They do not wish this to be paid immediately but to have it paid in a lump sum, with leave, to avoid taxation. This would be what is called in taxation terms, I think, a retirement allowance or a lump sum payment on termination of employment on which they would pay 5 per cent income tax. 1 will admit that constructing this pipeline is very hard and very tedious work in very harsh conditions, and that it requires, as does all work, a degree of skill, although those who will receive, as I mentioned a moment ago, between $15,000 and 516,000 a year are what are called unskilled workers, labourers. This is a tremendously important matter because the Government is proposing massive investment through its instrumentalities in development projects. We have a Government in office whose political foundation is the trade union movement. It says to the unions: All right, go ahead, demand what you like. So far as we, a Labor Government are concerned, it is all right with us.' If rates of this kind are paid I say that this means nothing less than a raid on the public purse. More than that, it means that the cost of the product to the general public - what we are talking about here happens to be gas - will be enormously increased by reason of this lax control of the public purse.

This is part of the cost that we have to pay for a Labor Government, and I think the people should know this. This is a cost to the taxpayer whose money is to be raided. This is a cost to the consumer upon whom the additional price of the product must be loaded; this at a time when we have heard a lot of talk and have been given a lot of figures to obfuscate the real facts. Here we have an example of the real facts which suggest that the proportion of the gross domestic product going to wage and salary earners has been reducing over recent years. No amount of bluff and persiflage and talk and nonsense of the kind we have been accustomed to in recent times can obliterate these facts. I ask the Government to tell me whether these are the demands and, when these contracts are concluded, the extent to which those demands have been admitted and these rates paid by the contractors concerned. People are entitled to know these facts and a government under a parliamentary system, if that is what we have here, is answerable to the people and to the Parliament. When plain facts of this kind are sought we are entitled to have them. When the time comes and when the Government is in the position to give them, I suggest that the Parliament will insist that we have them. How far have these demands been met by the contractors? These are simply factual matters. A government is answerable to the people and answerable to this Parliament, and the Parliament has means of ensuring that a government answerable to it does in fact answer. For far too long in this place we have been asking questions and have received no answers. Parliament as an institution has been flouted. What does the word 'parliament' mean? The word means parley - to talk - to speak - to discuss. We have had a Minister in this place - a Leader of the House - telling us all that matters is the vote, not the reasons or what the issue it. It does not matter whether the people know what it is all about or not. We are told that all that matters is the vote. Of course it will matter enormously when we get to the next election and when the explanations go out. I have stated what I believe to be the facts and we will insist that on this matter we have the facts from the Government which is answerable to this Parliament.

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