PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 6692


Photo of Hawke, Robert

Hawke, Robert

Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991

More information about Hawke, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 13/08/1985

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 6692

It is my pleasure today to launch Fred Hilmer's book
" When the Luck Runs Out The Future for Australians at
Work. It enables me not only to congratulate Fred on a
stimulating book, but also to make some relevant points
about the task of management in this country.
The crucial role in the industrial, economic and social
affairs of our nation played by labor relations is
widely recognised and since March 1983 it has been a
generally positive one. In the words of the recent OECD
Report, the Government's Accord with the trade union
movement in this country has been " remarkably
successful", and " a major source of stability in
industrial relations".
You will be well aware that the Government has had
considerable success in achieving strong growth with a
third year of 5 per cent growth in prospect and creating
more than 400,000 new jobs since it assumed office. Our
continuing commitment to these objectives will be
paramount in the approach that we as a Government take
towards wages policy in the coming months. This is the
very least that we owe to those currently or
prospectively unemployed which includes many of our
young people.
At the same time the Government is very much aware, as I
am sure are the business community and the general
public, of the substantial contribution made by the
Accord to improved industrial relations in this country.
Fred Hilmer's book gives me an opportunity to make this
point succinctly.
It is quite correct, as he states, that the Pilbara
region was for a long time a source of discontent and of
problems for both State and Federal Governments, and
adversely affected our standing as a minerals exporter.
Fred's book says and I quote from it that:

" The Pilbara has a bad record of strikes and
stoppages even by the worst standard of Australian
industrial relations, and the effect of this record
is disastrous."
While that was undoubtedly true of the past, the book
stops short of the Pilbara's recent experience which
is quite different from the history recited in " When the
Luck Runs Out".
The Government responded to the Pilbara's problems with
the establishment a year ago of the Western Australian
Iron Ore Industry Consultative Council, which includes
the Western Australian Government, the unions in the
Pilbara, the companies, and the Federal Government. The
Council has provided a forum for all sides to talk over
their problems.
There have been two significant results working days
lost through industrial disputes have dropped and
production has risen, both dramatically.
The Pilbara's improved performance demonstrates that
with co-operative rather than confrontational industrial
relations, Australia can be a reliable supplier to the
world, and that we can capitalise on our tremendous
What it further demonstrates is that the Government's
policy of working co-operatively with the trade union
movement an approach for which we are sometimes
irrationally criticised can have benefits for all
sections of our community and I have noted and applaud
the recent observation by one of our political opponents
that " union-bashing is no substitute for policy".
Indeed, I would contend that the Government's good
working relations with the trade union movement through
the Accord are a major reason behind Australia's
impressive list of economic achievements since March,
1983. And I note in this regard Fred Hilmer's
observation that unionism is no barrier to growth, as
demonstrated by the fact that a number of small European
countries with strong unions have consistently
outperformed the Australian economy in recent years.
There is no point, however, in denying that " When the
Luck Runs Out" poses some tough challenges for us all
governments, unions, business, and the Australian
public. The book for example, suggests that:
" Australians appear to be caught in a downward
spiral. Individuals don't add the value they could
at work. Their organisations in turn don't create
wealth for the community, and the economy declines
slowly and steadily relative to other economies

I would argue that this process is now being gradually
reversed, but as a judgment on attitudes towards work in
this country it is far from flattering.
In his book Fred Hilmer identifies the contrasting
factors in determining the industrial environments in
Australia as " conscript mindset", and " volunteer
mindset". The first he sees as a hangover from the days of penal
settlements, of forced labor. The work attitude was
negative. Workers and employers viewed each other as
The latter describes an opposite attitude, when
individual's approaches to their work, as influenced by
conditions, employee involvement and managerial
attitudes, combine to stimulate an innovative, creative
and more satisfied workforce.
" When the Luck Runs Out" argues, not surprisingly, that
the latter approach is the more productive and that it
is not only in the best interests of individual
companies, but more generally of our nation, through
increased national wealth and job creation.
So how can this result best be achieved? Fred Hilmer
suggests that the key lies in management. It is up to
management in his view to encourage these positive
attitudes the " volunteer mindset" that makes the
workplace more satisfying and productive for all
employees. Six conditions necessary in the work environment to
nurture a " volunteer mindset" are put forward:
A trusting environment.
Widespread experimenting in work, rather than
being stifled by rules.
A driving purpose with goals to which
people can relate.
A positive approach focussing on achievement
rather than penalties.
Real jobs where individuals have the
opportunity to add value; and
A network of teams rather than a rigid
hierarchy or a loose collection of people.
Many of the themes running through this book parallel
those that the Federal Government has been mindful

of in its approach to reform of the Commonwealth Public
Service. Management reforms, including opening up the
executive ranks of the public service to candidates from
the private sector, and focussing on results rather than
simply processes, are aimed very much at this goal.
As a Government we are concerned to achieve the greatest
efficiency for the resources which we believe must be
applied to particular public sector activities. We
recognise legitimate community concerns about the size
and cost of Government.
But we also accept that as a Government we are not only
obligated to provide a range of services to the
community, but indeed that they are essential to
achieving the equity objectives to which we attach such
importance. And on this point we part company from our
political opponents, who approach this issue with
ideological fervour with their unequivocal commitment to
privatisation. " When the Luck Runs Out" is a valuable contribution to
knowledge about sensible management in our country. I
commend Fred Hilmer for his work. I wish it well. I

Transcript 6692