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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 3304

Mr RIORDAN (Phillip) - This is truly a remarkable matter of public importance. Even more remarkable have been the 2 speeches made in support of it. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) put 2 errors of fact as the highlight of his speech. Not wishing to fall into the same trap, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) spent his time saying nothing. It is truly remarkable, of course, that this matter should be raised this morning. One would be pardoned for thinking that it is the idea of some agent provocateur designed to inhibit a solution of the present building trades dispute, because the matter is raised in this House not yesterday, not tomorrow, not last week but on the very morning that conferences between the trade unions and the employers in the building industry are reaching their most critical stage. The people who claim to be in favour of industrial peace and want to see a period of industrial tranquillity initiate a debate on a matter of public importance designed to exacerbate the present difficulty, and for that they may claim no credit.

It is interesting that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), who quite rightly is recognised as a great statesman in this place, is not the only one who blames employers for industrial disputes. Another person who makes statements from time to time with great authority about industrial matters said on 7 February this year that many industrial disputes occurred because of management's failure to establish adequate consultation with employees. That gentleman said that an analysis of strikes revealed that about 30 per cent were directly concerned with the managerial policies of employers. He said that this figure was higher than that of comparable countries in the Western world.


Mr RIORDAN - The gentleman who said that was none other than the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch). Apparently this is another area of conflict between him and the honourable member for Wannon. That statement was made at the School of Business Administration in February this year and was reported in the 'Australian' newspaper of 7 February this year. So here again we hear the 2 voices of the Opposition, which are almost as blatant as its double standards and its twofaced attitude.

What the honourable member for Wannon did was make a speech which contained 2 fundamental errors. First of all, he claimed that it was false for the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) to claim that there was a lockout. He rationalised his claim by saying that the Builders Labourers Federation had agreed only to a conditional and partial resumption of work. Nobody is talking about the Builders Labourers Federation. That is only one side of it. Tradesmen, such as members of the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union, the Building Workers Industrial Union and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, have never been on strike, and they have been locked out. Of course, the honourable gentleman politely ignores that because his instructions from his rich and powerful friends are to leave it out. In other words, that is where the real guilt lies. The builders locked out men who had never been on strike and who had never expressed any intention of going on strike. But, in their callous and cynical way and wishing to extend this dispute, the builders locked them out. The honourable member for Wannon excuses all of that or simply overlooks it.

Hisother major error was to criticise the Minister for Housing for not taking some steps, through the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, to have the workers penalised. He should know that the Minister for Housing has no right at all in that field. The industrial relationship exists between the employees and the contractors. The relationship between the Government or the Minister and the contractors is one of common law and not one pursuant to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. If we take out those 2 things, what has the honourable member said?

Mr Fulton - Nothing.

Mr RIORDAN - I am indebted to the honourable member. He is absolutely right. The honourable member for Wannon has said nothing - except for one thing. He referred to the violence which has occurred in the building industry. He said that it had been going on for a long time. I agree with him completely. In fact, there has been a significant and very substantial removal of violence from the building industry this year. It was last year that the violence occurred in the building industry. One could be pardoned for asking what the honourable member did about it. The answer is nothing. What did his friend, Sir Robert Askin, do about it? The answer is nothing. The New South Wales police turned their backs on pleas for protection made by both workers and employers. The honourable member for Wannon has the nerve to come into this House and attack Ministers of this Government. The Opposition's concept, which it wants to foist upon this Government, is that industrial battles should be fought in somebody else's back yard. Members of the Master Builders Association have Government contracts, and the Government is entitled - indeed, obliged - to ensure that those contracts are honoured. It is interesting to note that the principal party to this dispute refused to debate the issue with the Minister for Housing on the Austraiian Broadcasting Commission television program 'This Day Tonight' on 7 November.

The next attack relates to the power dispute. In spite of all the debate which occurred, it is still claimed that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) was in some way responsible for that dispute. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see. Honourable gentlemen opposite are in that position.

Mr Nixon - Put your glasses on, Joe.

Mr RIORDAN - I have my glasses on. The honourable member should get himself a pair that are not so red tinted, so that he can see what the facts are without being blinded by prejudice. He should look at the world in terms of reality and not just the twisted way he wants it to appear. The Minister for Minerals and Energy sought to protect and did protect the Commonwealth from having put at its doorstep a dispute which was manufactured by the New South Wales Government. He refused to be put into the position of having strike breakers in the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority working under the conditions that the strikers were trying to obtain. Those are facts which the honourable gentleman cannot ignore. Let me remind him that the Prime Minister of this country (Mr Whitlam), in a truly statesmanlike way, attempted to offer the facilities of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to facilitate a resumption of work in the power industry. But the Premier of New South Wales threw out the offer. He refused to give it even cursory consideration. He rejected it out of hand because he did not want a settlement.

The duplicity and double standards applied by the Opposition in these cases have to be seen to be believed. Last night the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) said that he would support a strike on safety issues. He suggested that officers who are skilled in the particular industry should be attached to the Commission so that they could go to the place and make an interim determination on safety issues. That is a very sensible suggestion, and I congratulate the honourable member for making it. I just do not understand why he voted against provisions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which would have allowed exactly that to happen. Perhaps he will explain it at some other time. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), the Minister for Housing and the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) have acted with propriety. Nothing has been said in this debate which in any way accurately reflects on that propriety. The Minister for Housing was concerned that buildings worth $24m had been stopped, not because of a strike by employees but because of a lockout by members of the Master Builders Association. He also was confronted with the situation that buildings worth a further $27.5m were to be threatened because of the same situation.

It ought to be realised by honourable members on both sides of this House that in industrial disputes reason is the ingredient of a solution. Ranting and raving by Opposition members seeking to gain cheap political advantage has never solved anything. When the Master Builders Association or any other large employer organisation decides to attack innocent people - people who are not involved in the dispute - and to throw them out of work, one must immediately question its motives. I believe that it is open to serious questioning as to whether this dispute has been provoked because of the shortage of building materials which were insufficient-

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

Motion (by Mr Clyde Cameron) agreed to:

That the business of the day be called on.

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