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Wednesday, 24 May 1972
Page: 1998

Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) - Senator Mulvihill left us with some very good thoughts on this Bill. I was quite surprised that he, as a member of the Opposition with great experience in the trade union movement, should have posed the argument which was apparently applauded by most members of the Opposition - at least they interrupted his speech to the extent that no-one could hear what he was saying - that where there was a small trade union and a large trade union and it appeared obvious at some stage that the larger one would take over the smaller, it was ridiculous to suggest there should be a ballot of both of those unions to decide whether the members wished amalgamation. I think that this thinking, if it is the proposition put forward by the honourable senator, needs contemplation because this certainly does not appear to me to be the proper democratic thinking of a properly oriented Labor Party.

I believe there is wide scope for debate on many items of public interest in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1972. The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) suggested in his second reading speech that this Bill is probably the most significant legislation since 1947 in relation to employee-employer relations. On a number of occasions the Attorney-General in his second reading speech referred to serious wage induced inflation. It is interesting to note that members of the Opposition have not thought fit to mention that aspect. However, the whole aim behind this piece of legislation we have before us is to reduce this inflation. I believe wage induced inflation to be a fact. It appears to me that there are few people in the community who fully appreciate the cetain future impact of inflation which will be eventually hardest felt by those in the community who can least afford to stand that hardship.

I have believed all of my life that it is very necessary that this community pay to employees the maximum return possible for their labour. Increased wage returns must surely be the base from which to judge an increase in the standard of living of the majority of people in the community. We would be very wise to see from every angle, whether it be from the business or employer angle and no matter to which community interest one may look that the highest wage that can be paid to employees in this community should be paid.

Senator Georges - - Provided it has value.

Senator WEBSTER - 1 take the honourable senator's point on board that such a wage must have value. I think the honourable senator touched on a very important matter when he said that.

Senator Georges - And provided the value is not destroyed.

Senator WEBSTER - The honourable senator followed up his first suggestion with another most important comment which, of course, is involved in the AttorneyGeneral's responsible statement on wage induced inflation. I believe that in these times it is still the hope of reward that sweetens labour and this community should seek to make that reward the very maximum. With the encouragement of many areas of interest in the community many benefits have been attracted to the employee in this community over the past years. At present employees have reasonably short working hours, although I realise they are not short enough for most of my Opposition colleagues. There are restricted days of work during the week as well as compensation for absence in case of sickness. Numerous public holidays are taken on full pay and annual leave, long service leave and compensation insurance are given by employers. There are many satisfactory areas of compensation for employees in the community today. These are benefits which employing bodies have been able to provide over a period of years. These benefits have been fought for by unions. They have been fought for by employees and have been agreed to willingly by governments of all complexions. One of the greatest leaders in giving compensation to employees, at least in the State of Victoria, has been the present complex of Liberal government and Senator Poyser well knows that to be the case. He knows that benefits have been given to employees, not necessarily on the demand of trade unions.

Senator Poyser - Years behind every other State on all occasions.

Senator WEBSTER - Senator Poyser thinks the Victorian Government is years behind but I do not believe he is right. The granting of all of these achievements - and I pose this to honourable senators as something which employees should consider - has gradually created a situation in which it is not a simple matter to employ a person and pay him a wage that will ensure the employer a return on his labour. Such demands are one of the contributing factors of unemployment in the community today. Not one employee is employed today without the employer having to bear in mind the fact that it will be necessary to allow at least $100 a week for a salary together with ancillary benefits.

Senator Bishop - Who are you kidding? What about the Public Service?

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