Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 3301

Mr NIXON (Gippsland) - The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) can buffoon all he likes in this House. The fact is that the matter of public importance now being debated points out the double standards of the Labor Government and its Ministers. The Minister for Labour, when he was the shadow Minister for Labour and National Service, always argued against sanctions or fines. But he has introduced legislation -into this House to abolish sanctions and fines. Yet his colleague, the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson), in a typical double standard fashion has requested that sanctions or penalties be imposed against the Master Builders Association of New South Wales. The Minister for Housing has a reputation for seeking headlines only surpassed by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). I do not know where the Minister for Housing is today but for some reason - although he is at the crucial point in this debate - he is not to speak on the matter. Why does not the Government ask the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) to stand down and let the Minister for Housing defend his indefensible position? That is what he ought to be doing because it was he who made the intemperate and quite stupid statement on 7 November which can be clearly seen, despite what the Minister for Labour sees, to be partisan in its efforts to discredit the Master Builders Association.

The Minister for Labour totally ignores the fact that Mr Justice Aird's recommendation, that the men return to work applied to all jobs under dispute. Yet the Builders Labourers Federation Executive kept workers off 22 building sites, after the men voted to return to work. In other words, the Builders Labourers Federation Executive wanted the best of both worlds. It knew the men were sick of striking and holding the country to ransom, so it accepted the instruction that the men resume work whilst at the same time hiving off 22 jobs that were to be kept in a strike position for their own greedy, selfish, political motives. The fact that some of these strikes were not part of the green bans emphasises how political was the motive of the Builders Labourers Federation 'Executive. What it wanted to do was to pick off the members of the Master Builders Association, one by one, and force its greedy demands to be met. This tactic of divide and conquer is the same tactic as unionists have berated employers for using in days gone past.

It is no wonder that Mr Justice Aird said, as reported in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' on 2 November and quoted by the Minister for Labour and the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser): . . . the offer was refused by the Master Builders Association of New South Wales, and in my view quite properly.

That puts in proper context the buffoonery with which the Minister has carried on this afternoon when replying to the honourable member for Wannon. On 7 November the Minister for Housing sought to impose penalties on and viciously attacked the Master Builders Association with attempts to blackmail it. This must rate as one of the basest and most despicable acts brought before this Parliament. Certainly the Minister has a responsibility to see that major Commonwealth works are proceeded with as quickly as possible. But he has an even greater responsibility to see that justice is done to all sections of the building industry, both employer and employee. His blatant support of the militant communist Mundey, in the face of the words of Mr Justice Aird, only discredits him and his Government.

What about the Minister for Labour, who only yesterday was describing himself as a statesman in industrial affairs? Modesty, of course, has never been one of the Minister's attributes. The House recognises that, even if the House does not agree on his statesmanlike qualities. What he and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) - the Prime Minister who described himself as the greatest, with feet of clay, I might say - forget is the old axiom that self-praise is no recommendation. The people of Australia are making the judgment, and they say, as reflected in gallup poll results, that the Australian Labor Party has 42 per cent of the support of the electorate and that it is sinking fast. If the Minister for Labour is a statesman - I do not believe it, and I do not think that history will show it when it has the value of hindsight, and I do not think it will ever record or remember his name - what is he going to do about the blatant political and biased intrusion into industrial matters by his colleague, the Minister for Housing? Did he carpet his colleague? Did he report him to the Prime Minister? What has he done? He has assisted him. A supposedly unbiased Minister responsible for industrial affairs has assisted a blatant attack on employers. The sheer hypocrisy of the Minister ought to call for his resignation.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I rise on a point of order. Mr Speaker, I have a fairly thick skin, but one thing I cannot stand is a person saying that I am hypocritical. I ask the honourable member for Gippsland to withdraw the remark that I am guilty of hypocrisy.

Mr NIXON - Recognising the personal sensitivity of the Minister for Labour, so newly found, I withdraw the word 'hypocrisy', but all the cant and humbug in the world of which the Minister is so capable will not rescue the Minister for Housing in the charge that he made. The fact is that on the one hand the Minister for Labour has introduced a Bill into this House seeking the removal of sanctions against unionists, and on the other hand the Minister for Housing is seeking to impose sanctions on employers in the housing industry. No matter what the Minister says, all the cant and humbug of which he is capable cannot hide that fact.

The Minister for Labour has called for an industrial peace conference. I was staggered to hear the Minister say a moment ago that not one word spoken at that conference will be recorded. He will encourage everybody to be peaceful and quiet. I am told on the best of authority by my friend, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), that that honourable member has received a letter from the Minister.

Mr Killen - It was a paper delivered to a learned society.

Mr NIXON - It was a paper that the Minister had delivered to a learned society. The letter was addressed to 'My dear friend Jim' and signed 'Yours ever, Clyde'. In it the Minister said that he would be proud to encourage public discussion and debate on industrial matters. Now we find the Minister, who stands for open government, will go into closed session with his tripartite conference. I can tell the House why. I am sorry to have to say it. Having re-read the 11 points which he presented to the House, which he had hastily written on the aircraft on his way to Canberra yesterday, the Minister has found that there are some points with which Bob Hawke will not agree. So he will try now to get Bob Hawke and his offsiders to say nothing about the matter. He will say: T will be quiet as Minister, so you be quiet as Bob Hawke, President of the ACTU'. Bob Hawke is President of the Australian Labor Party, too. The Minister is now to put a cloud of secrecy, a dark cloak of closed government, over the tripartite conference.

I have written a note to say how pleased I am that the Minister has gone to the trouble of calling a tripartite conference. He has been a failure in every other area of industry, so he might as well try this. Some hope might come out of this conference if he can get people sitting together around a table and discussing matters reasonably and logically. I think the fact that he will be the only politician present, as distinct from statesman, will not add lustre to the tripartite conference. Nevertheless, as an Opposition spokesman, I wish him the best with his conference, because I can tell the Minister that the people of Australia are fed to death with strikes. I say this to the Minister: It is time you got off your fat cat bottom and did something about it. To August this year 1.8 million working days have been lost and the wage earners have lost $3 1.4m, and you are the responsible Minister - nobody else in this place. You are the responsible Minister, and you have failed miserably. What about your political promise that there would be less industrial trouble? What about the political promise of the Prime Minister who, when Leader of the Opposition, said that there would be less industrial trouble when Labor came to power?

Mr Bonnett - That is a laugh.

Mr NIXON - That is a promise. I do not know what the position will be by the end of the year, but already this year we have had almost double the normal number of strikes and almost double the normal amount of wages lost. That is the proud record of the Minister for Labour. So I for one hope that the tripartite conference does work. The Minister cannot blame the Senate's rejection of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill for the present industrial trouble. It will not wash. The fact is that every employer organisation in Australia has said that the amendments the Senate made to the Bill tried to bring a balanced view to a totally biased trade union organisational style piece of legislation. There is no point in the Minister blaming the Senate, as he did when he was in' Copenhagen, where he was studying the world of culture, saying that there would be a double dissolution if the Senate did not pass the Bill.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Mr CLYDECAMERON (HindmarshMinister for Labour) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) made the statement, as though it were based on fact, that while I was on an aircraft yesterday I scribbled out the 11 points I put to the House. That was a patently absurd statement and a demonstrably untrue statement, because I was in the House all day yesterday,- 1 was in the House the day before and I have not in fact left .Canberra since Saturday. So how I could be scribbling out my 11 points on an aircraft yesterday is beyond my understanding. The honourable member then went on to say that because Bob Hawke did not like the 11 points I was now meeting under a cloud of secrecy, the word 'cloud' being emphasised with the proper expressions and tone of voice. This seems to cut right across what the Opposition has been saying. The Opposition says that the Government is biased in favour of the unions, and now the Opposition is complaining because the Government is doing the things that the unions do not like. .

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Minister is now out of order. In making a personal explanation the Minister can state only where the he has been misrepresented and cannot debate what the Opposition has done or said.

Suggest corrections