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Tuesday, 18 April 1972
Page: 1170

Senator LILLICO (Tasmania) - 1 do not know why some honourable senators should be so certain that I was acting under the auspices of someone else when I asked that the document quoted from by Senator Brown be incorporated. But be that as it may, I propose to say a few words about the Public Service Arbitration Bill which is presently before us. 1 was interested in the introductory remarks of the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) when he said:

The processes of the Act have remained virtually unchanged since the first Public Service Arbitration Act was enacted in 1920.

I think that somewhere else he went on to say that this Bill merely brings the public service into line with the rest of the workers who are not engaged in the Public Service.

Senator Cavanagh - Of course that is not true.

Senator LILLICO - I know that the Australian Clerical Officers Association say that it is not true. But that is a matter of opinion. The year 1920 was only 20 years after Federation and more than 50 years ago. In his speech the Minister said that since then the Public Service has enlarged until a quarter of a million people are employed and that it has extended into fresh avenues and ambits of activity. Of course after that long period it has been decided that some amendments to the Act are necessary. I think it was Senator Little who pointed to the fact that these amendments have been triggered off because of the postal disputes which have so inconvenienced and penalised the general public over a fairly long period. I listened to Senator Bishop and Senator Brown. They spoke with a lot of authority about the trade union movement, arbitration and the upsets and frustrations which beset trade unions in their struggle to obtain better terms and conditions for employees.

As I listened, I wondered whether any organisations on earth tread the primrose path without anything to disturb the even tenor of their ways. I thought of the poor old primary producers. If ever there was in this country a body of men who have reason to cry aloud about their grievances, it is the primary producers. If honourable senators are to except one body of men, it could be the Qantas airline pilots. I am inclined to go along with Senator Little, who said that if strikes are accepted as a legitimate industrial weapon he could not understand Senator Murphy condemning, as he did, the very high salaries that are paid to the Qantas airline pilots. If strikes are a legitimate industrial weapon, the only basis on which one can criticise them, I would say, is that they have been too successful.

When because of inequalities, which there always will be, frustrations and things that they are induced to believe are not conducive to their advancement or betterment, people are impatient with industrial actions, or the actions of persons whose role is to act as umpire in regard to these matters, and when as a result they propose to sabotage an essential service in this country - the mail service - by proposing to cut one of the economic arteries of the country because they are not satisfied with the conditions imposed by the persons whose function is to arbitrate in these matters, is it not reasonable to expect that the powers that be at long last must be forced to take some concrete action? I ask honourable senators to listen to this report:

The general secretary of the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists, Mr J. S. Baker, said last night bis union's work-to-regulation campaign would continue until its claim for a 9 per cent salary increase was granted.

I believe Mr Slater said that his organisation would take action that would shake Australia. The report continues:

Mr Bakersaid the campaign would affect telegraph and telephone services, the money order system, internal PMG finances, and coin . collections.

It would be directly linked to that of about 20,000 PMG linesmen, members of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, who were claiming a flow-on from the metal trades award.

A national ban by the APWU on the installa tion and repair of business telephones has been in force for 6 weeks in support of the flow-on.

In addition, the APWU has placed a ban on the handling of all telephone accounts, which bring a daily revenue of $1.25ra to the department.

There is the situation in which these men are refusing to collect the very wherewithal that is used to pay their wages. Could honourable senators contemplate anything more asinine or destructive, or anything more calculated to compel a government which accepts its responsibilities as it should to do something? Surely as reasonable human beings we must expect that. So it is that the Government has brought down this legislation which contains penal clauses. I know that many people, especially members of the Opposition, do not like penal clauses. It is only about 3 years ago that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was amended by the present Government, in my opinion weakly and supinely. In my view the Government showed deplorable weakness in making that amendment. No sooner were these socalled objectionable penal clauses withdrawn than the secretary of the Builders Labourers Union, Mr Mundey, said:

The general idea among officials was to try to win, strikes quickly and, failing that, to beat a retreat and make the best of it.

With the removal of some of the teeth from the penal powers in May, 1969, longer strikes including general strikes are likely to become the order of the day.

In my view that statement of his showed up the weakness of the Government in contemplating the withdrawal of these penal clauses. The Public Service union publication, receipt of which I think most honourable senators appreciate, has this to say about this amendment:

The scope of the Bill is such that innocent victims of industrial action generated from within or outside of Commonwealth employment may bc penalised.

That is regrettable; but it is also regrettable that in all strikes throughout the Commonwealth it is the innocent people, those who have nothing whatever to do with the dispute, who very often are penalised. We read not long ago about the power strike in Victoria. I think I am correct in saying that thousands of people were thrown out of work in New South Wales. 1 believe that in the motor industry, in particular, people who were not even remotely connected with the dispute were thrown out of work. I say that, except in very exceptional circumstances, a strike merely to better terms and conditions of employment is morally unjustifiable in any way, shape or form, if for no other reason than it inflicts hardship and penalties not upon the powers that be but, in the main, upon people who have nothing at all to do with the dispute. I cannot help thinking of the change that has come over the Federal representatives of the Australian Labor Party. I found an article among some old papers only a few days ago. lt was so good that I cut it out.

Senator Cavanagh - Could you read something up to date?

Senator LILLICO - I am going back just a few years to indicate the terrific change that has taken place in the attitude of the ALP. The article reads:

When last I talked with you about the dispute in the coal industry I said that the strike by members of the Miners Federation was completely unjustifiable.

I told rank and file miners that both the NSW

Premier (Mr McGirr) and I-

This was Mr Chifley speaking - would be unmoved by threats and that the only way to settle the matter was to return to the proper arbitral tribunal.

That cannot be laughed off by honourable senators opposite. The article continues:

I also said that it was hard to believe that a section of men would be so callous as to inflict on their fellow citizens the hardships caused.

The strike leaders have been committed to prison . . .

That was during the Chifley regime. Surely that was a pretty drastic penal provision. The article continues:

The strike leaders have been committed to prison because they are flagrantly and systematically disobeying the Arbitration Court's order to pay money into the Court.

I suppose that means that they failed to pay their fines. The Government would do well to take a leaf out of Mr Chifley's book in that regard. The article continues:

I now say to the rank and file of miners: The policy of the Commonwealth and NSW governments is known to you.

Either you can forsake the law of the jungle which is the communist creed . . .

Senator Little - He was right.

Senator LILLICO - 1 know that opposition senators do not like this kind of stuff. The article continues: . . which is the communist creed and return to proper and lawful arbitration authority or you ally yourselves with the world wide movement that seeks to wreck the democratic way of life.'

That was what Mr Chifley said in 1949.

The article continues:

The system of determination of industrial diputes by aurbitration has the support of the very great majority of the Australian public, the support of the Commonwealth Parliament, and certainly the complete support of the Labor governments which have made settlement of disputes in this manner a fundamental principle of their platform.'

He went on to indicate how the Labor Party had fallen and how the Corns had got hold of it and how its members followed that Com line. The present leaders have gone back on the attitude and policies of all their great leaders.

Senator Little - Not all of them; we are still here.

Senator LILLICO - That is right. I agree with that. We have had debates on this subject previously. Speaking from memory, if Mr Chifley did not insert the penal clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act he certainly increased the penalties until they were very severe. The paragraph in the article, dealing with Mr Chifley, which interested me was this:

How docs his courage to sneak and act regardless of threats compare wilh the fear and inaction of the leaders of both sides in our Parliament today?

The article, speaking about employers, continues: . . who will give way to every extremist demand to save their own pockets while they further increase costs to the public.

If a Labor man today were to speak out as Mr Chifley spoke out in 1949 he would be relegated to the limbo of forgotten men. He would be consigned to the nether regions from which there would be no resurrection. While the majority of Labor men opposite do not believe in industrial chaos, strikes and all the rest of it, not one will speak out in condemnation of those things. 1 believe that the present Government would ensure its position on the Treasury benches if it were to take up the cudgels on behalf of the ordinary rank and file trade unionists. I meet many of them. So docs every senator on this side of the chamber. They want none of this industrial chaos and they repeatedly ask:

When does the Government intend to do. something about this industrial chaos that besets us?' But honourable senators opposite are prone to follow, in all their actions, the extreme courses advocated and set by the leaders of the militant trade unions.

I support the Bill. I can understand fully" the reason for its introduction. I do not think the Commonwealth Government had any other course. Like most things that come from the human mind, I suppose it has imperfections. I think we would have to wait a long time before we got something that was completely and absolutely fair in its application. I appreciate full well the entire necessity for introducing something which, while it may not succeed, is an attempt to end theintolerable situation that arises when a body of men can tie up or attempt to tieup one of the Commonwealth's essential services and so penalise the whole of the Australian economic system because they are not satisfied with the conditions that are meted out to them.

Senator CAVANAGH(South Australia)' (8.49) - I oppose the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I have listened to most of the speeches on the Bill. The previous, speaker, Senator Lillico, quoted the second reading speech of the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), which told us that the purpose of the Bill was to take section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and apply it to public servants, and that this had become necessary as the wave of industrial unrest has spread throughout the Public Service in recent years. There would seem to be some justification for the legislation if one were to confine oneself to condemning strike, action. Those who support the measure have been content to condemn strikes about which they knew nothing but which in their minds should never have happened. They see the Bill as justification for the attitude that they are taking today.

If we study the Bill - I think that even some of those honourable senators who have spoken will realise this if they are honest - we find that what the Minister is attempting to do is apply special treatment to a special section of workers and to subject them to the most tyrannical, oppressive and unjust legislation to which any section of workers in the world has ever been subjected. This reeks of facism. lt is something that could never be accepted in what we term as the free world. No legislation is being introduced in what we term the free world that is as vicious as this legislation. To try to understand what this legislation means we must look at industrial legislation generally in Australia. What everyone seems to forget today is that the essentia! legislation - the law dealing with employment - is the law of contract. An employee - one person - contracts to do a quantum of work or number of hours of work in return for the other party to the contract, paying so much a week or an hour for the number of hours worked. That is still the law in relation to employment. If there is a breach of contract the other contracting party has the right to sue for breach of contract. If someone suffers an injury as the result of the wrong doing of the other party to the contract, the law of tort applies whereby he can go to a court of competent jurisdiction and seek compensation for the injury he has suffered.

To operate a law of contract properly the parties to the contract must be equally free to enter into or refrain from entering into the contract. In the early days of Australia's development the law of contract failed inasmuch as the parties were not equal. The employer could stipulate the hours of employment or the quantum of work. The wages were paid and the other party to the contract - the employee - never had the right to accept or reject the contract by virtue of the fact that it meant starvation if he rejected it. lt was in order to give some equality to the parties to the contract that the big shearers strike occurred in the 1890s. It went on for several months. There was also the maritime workers strike which again continued for several months, lt involved the right to form trade unions to put the trade unionists in the stevedoring industry or maritime industry in a better position to contract their labour with the other contracting parties.

As a result of the shearers strike, in which force was used - men were shot and the military was used to break it up - the New South Wales Government established an inquiry into the strikes that were hap pening to see that there would be no recurrence of what happened throughout northern New South Wales and Queensland in that strike. History tells us that in the inquiry a South Australian Cabinet Minister at that time, Charles Cameron Kingston, who played his part during the early stages of federation, put up a proposal to the inquiry that there should be an authority to try to bring the employees and employers in disputation together in conciliation to see whether their differences could be settled. He put forward the view that if conciliation did not succeed, and only if it did not succeed, there should be a third party to decide the issue and his decision should be binding. That was the beginning of arbitration in Australia.

Following upon that, in 1896 the Victorian Wages Board was established. An Act of the Commonwealth Parliament was passed in 1 904. Queensland and South Australia introduced Acts in 1912. I have not the dales on which legislation was introduced in other States. But of all the States only New South Wales and South Australia introduced penal provisions in their arbitration laws. All the other States and the Commonwealth operated without penal provisions in their Acts. In 1956 the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act was amended te include penal provisions. With the introduction of penal provisions, the strikes started thick and strong. I think that there was some respite for the period that they were not enforced, but during the 1960s when they were enforced the more they were enforced the more strikes have occurred in the Australian work force.

A mistaken belief is that arbitration supersedes the law of contract or the law of tort, lt does nothing of a sort. All it does is modify the common law of contract or the law of tort. I would still say that the law of contract applies in arbitration in every State but Queensland. That State has made provision under which arbitration is supreme and under which there is no other redress. To show that other actions apply, recently an action was heard in the South Australian Supreme Court against the secretary of the South Australian Branch of the Transport Workers Union for compensation for loss incurred by omnibus proprietors because of a strike by the Transport Workers Union in South Australia. The action was withdrawn after settlement was reached. At the present time in Adelaide action is pending against Mr Domford, the secretary of the Australian Workers Union in South Australia and the Trades and Labour Council Disputes Committee which placed a ban upon sheep skins being shipped from Kangaroo Island. The ban was placed because the farmer used non-union labour. He is making a claim for compensation in the South Australian Supreme Court. T do not want to take the matter any further because it is now under judicial scrutiny. 1 want only to state that the action is pending, showing that the law of tort still applies and is still a weapon that can be used.

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