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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 1468

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I would like to say just a few words on this question because it is something which is very important in the context of the whole intention and purpose of the alterations that are being proposed to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Committee will remember the previous occasion on which Senator Greenwood amended the clause which sought to have agreements certified after it had been proved to the Commissioner that the agreement had been discussed with the majority of employees and that the majority of the employees had agreed to the agreement. This is the whole purpose of the legislation which is before honourable senators. We believe that the method of dealing with industrial disputes should not be by the imposition of penalties but should be by making everyone take part in and be responsible for the agreement that they have entered into. If they enter into an agreement they will observe it. If everyone makes a contribution to and is an author of the agreement, the parties to the agreement will not break their word.

But if at the expiration of 3 or 5 years the agreement, which was perhaps serving a purpose up to that point of time, becomes obsolete and the workers suddenly become restless because of their belief that the terms of the agreement are not satisfactory at that point of time, we could have industrial turmoil or industrial disputes during the period in which negotiations are being conducted for a new agreement or an amendment to the old agreement. Of course, there is always scope then for the legal claim that the parties involved are governed by an agreement entered into perhaps 8 years ago. As far as the legal people are concerned, this is the governing factor. But this is not sufficient inducement to men who could see themselves disadvantaged in comparison with their fellow workmen in a similar industry or some other industry. The result could be the creation of industrial disputes.

The purpose of the changes proposed by the Government is to get workers to participate in their industrial affairs. We want them to consider and to vote on the making of agreements. We want to give them the right to make a fresh agreement every 3 years. By keeping workers involved in the position of their industry and their conditions we think that we can get workers to participate and to co-operate. We believe that in this way we will help to stop the continual friction that occurs in industry. It is my claim that there can be no condemnation of this Government for strikes that have occurred or may occur in Australia when the Government is pledged not to impose penal clauses and the Opposition refuses to the Government the machinery which the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) is confident will prevent industrial disputes. The Opposition refuses to sanction or by amendment makes ineffective the very clause that the Minister puts faith in, that is, the provision which will enable worker participation. In effect, the Opposition is denying this Government the right to attempt to stop the industrial turmoil that does occur from time to time. Consequently the Opposition must take the responsibility for what is hapening in industry today.

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