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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 6984

AUSTRALIAN RAILWAYS UNION DINNER CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF INDUSTRIAL UNIONISM IN RAILWAYS SYDNEY - 13 AUGUST 1986

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: 13/08/1986

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 6984

PRIME MINISTER
EMBARGOED UNTIL DELIVERY CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
AUSTRALIAN RAILWAYS UNION DINNER CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF
INDUSTRIAL UNIONISM IN RAILWAYS
SYDNEY 13 AUGUST 1986
It is a mtatter of great pride and pleasure that I am able to
join you tonight for this dinner marking the centenary of
the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Railways union.
As a forn~ er ACTU President and as a Labor Prime minister it
is, of course, an occasion of special significance when a
union li: ie yours, which spans the industrial and political
wings of the Labor movement, reaches a milestone like its
100th anniversary.
Tonight is an opportunity to pay tribute to your union's
record of service to both its membership and to the railway
industrcy and, in turn, to acknowledge those men and women
who hctve served the union and the wider Labor movement. The
birth In 1886 of your union's predecessor ( the Amalgamated
Railway and Tramway Service Association) coincided with the
first tc-ntative steps to establish a Parliamentary Labor
movement. Those moves found a strong ally in William Schey,
your foundation State Secretary, who became a Member of
Parliamont before the Labor Party was formally established.
Over tho years that relationship between your union and the
ALP has grown into a strong and productive alliance. it
would be an impossible task to list all of the officials of
the ARU in NSW who have made significanit contributions to
the Auztralian Labor Party. But there is no doubt that the
ALP hao been enriched, made more effective by their
contributions. A selective roll call of ARU leaders who have made their
mark should perhaps begin with the late Jack Ferguson, a
former State Union Secretary, a Federal ALP President and a
confidant of Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley.
I am sure that his peers would regard it as no slight to
describe Dr Lloyd Ross, another former Secretary ( who is
with us tonight) as the most learned ARU stalwart to offer
his talents to the broader movement. His benchmark
biography of John Curtin and service to the nation during
his time with the Department of Post-War Reconstruction are
just two highlights of a brilliant career. More recently,
the im~ mediate past secretary Jack Maddox, and the present
leadership of the union, President Harold Dwyer and
Secretary Jim Walshe, have continued this fine tradition. N

The hundred years which the ARU's history spans encompasses
the progression of the labour movement from its formative,
difficult beginnings to the important role which it plays in
today's industrial society, particularly in influencing the
future direction of our nation.
The Prices and Incomes Accord the basis of the most
successful peace-time incomes policy of any Australian
Government is a monument to the evolution of trade union
thinking. The Accord's underlying philosophy, and the
benefits it has brought to the Australian economy, stand in
stark contrast to the history of conflict and confrontation
which the union movement has at times had to endure.
Three years ago my Government set for our nation a simple
and vital program; national reconciliation, national
recovery an. 1 national reconstruction. National
reconciliation between sectional interests was fundamental
if the goal3 of national recovery and reconstruction were to
be achieved.
The Accord miade an invaluable contribution to achieving
national reconciliation and proved to be central for the
achievement of national economic recovery.
we can all be justly proud of reaching such an unprecedented
level of undorstanding about common goals, priorities and
problems. should also be proud of the way the parties to
the Accord have responded to changing economic circumstances
and have maintained the Accord's primary objective of
promoting economic and employment growth : key determinants
of the welfar: e of all Australians.
The ARU knows~ too well the impact of past confrontationist
policies. ' i3hen former governments decided economic
circumstancoo warranted adjustment within the rail industry,
they did notC always either understand the value of, or the
fundamental importance of, consultation with those most
affected the railway workers.
Inevitably, the result was industrial disruption and lost
productivity in the railway industry. Therein lies the
certain folly of confrontation in industrial-relations it
diminishes rather than improves productivity.'
The contrast, at the national level, between consensus and
confrontation-based approaches is clear when this Labor
Government's economic policies are compared with the
divisive ' light inflation first' approach of the
Fraser/ Howard years.
For two significant reasons this approach was abhorrent.
First, it Ghowed a callous disregard for its social and
personal imnpact especially on the job security of bread
winners and on the prospects of young people seeking their
first jobs.

3
Second, the approach failed even by its own narrow
standards; the inflation rate remained high and employment
rose. it was little wonder that in 1983 Australians
completely rejected both the method and result of these
policies. The contrast of the Accord with this approach could not be
sharper. it has had as a basic aim the protection of
employment and the promotion of job opportunities. It is an
infinitely fairer approach because it is designed to ensure
that income claims are arbitrated justly. Because it pays
attention to the value of Government spending on the social
wage in supporting and, when appropriate, improving the
living standards of ordinary Australians it also stands as a
fairer approach. o
I don't ncecd, in this forum, to detail the proof of the
success of our policies over the past three and a half
years. But in an area of obvious relevance tonight, the
latest industrial disputes figures show the lowest annual
level of days lost since 1969. Our predecessor's sorry
achievement was an average level of industrial disputation
more than double these figures. The Accord has on this
evidence delivered industrial harmony replacing the conflict
and disputation which had previously worked to the detriment
of the Australian community.
We have alzo achieved high rates of economic growth without
the wage excplosions which cut short previous periods of
economic expansion.
The general compliance of the union movement with wage
fixing pL-: Thciples consistent with the aims of the Accord
allowed the acceleration in economic growth to be translated
into more jobs, rather than into a debilitating wage/ price
spiral. Before an audience like this the most graphic and relevant
statistic I can cite to demonstrate the success of the
Accord is the creation of more than 600,000 new jobs in our
first throe years in office.
That is an achievement of which this Government is immensely
proud. It is an achievement of which the Trade Union can also be
immensely proud.
It has been your commitment to the Accord processes which
has played such an important role in getting that employment
result.
Under the Accord the living standards of wage earners have
been protected by a combination of wage indexation, tax cuts
and improved social benefits.

The commitments the ARU and most other unions have given
to the basic tenets of the Accord co-operation,
consultation and consensus are proving stronger and longer
lasting than our opponents would have liked them to be. The
opposition never tires of forecasting the-demise of the
Accord. My Government recognises the contribution that rail unions
and employees can make to the development and improvement of
the railways. my colleague, the Minister for Transport,
Peter Morris, consults with the rail unions frequently to
improve understanding and co-operation within the industry.
There have been over twenty such meetings to date.
We have also worked closely with the ACTU and the rail
unions to establish a Railway Industry Council. This
Council will bring together government, management and
unions to develop strategies for revitalising the rail
industry. Peter Morris expects the Council to be
established formally at the next bi-annual meeting of
Australian Transport Advisory Council.
The recent appointment of former ACTU President, Cliff
Dolan, to the Commission of the Commonwealth's own railway
system, Australian National, brings to that body a greater
depth of understanding of industrial relations issues.
Our Government, like the ARU, recognises that an efficient
land transport system is vital to the economy and our
exports. Initiatives to revitalise manufacturing depend on
an effective transport industry. we have revitalised our
public t,. ansport authorities, taken major steps to upgrade
our roadG2, and improved the shipping and road transport
industries.
This Federal Government is the first to pass legislation
enabling interstate road transport operators to be charged
for the cost of road damage. As a result the road and rail
transport systems will be forced to compete on a more equal
footing.
While recognising the continuing importance of rail in our
transport system, it must be recognised that there remain
serious problems. Commonwealth and State Governments fund a
rail deficit of over $ 1.4 billion each year. In the end
there is a limit on the level of support taxpayers can give
industry, particularly in today's tight budgetary climate.
Clearly major changes will be required. Our Government will
ensure that the ARLI is fully informed about, and
participates in the debate about, these changes.
Having said that, you should be in no doubt that this
Federal Government is committed to improving the railways.
We recognise the economic potential for rail authorities to
gain a larger share of interstate traffic. Under the
Australian Bicentennial Road Development Program $ 30 million
has been allocated to urban rail projects. The Australian
Land Transport Program includes an option of some limited
funding for projects to improve the mainline rail network
tied to improvements in commercial and operational
practices.

Our own railway system, Australian National, has seen real
progress under this Government. We enacted legislation in
1983 to allow AN to operate more commercially and revenue
assistance to AN from the Budget has been reduced by 42 per
cent in real. terms since 1982. This is an achievement of
which all involved in AN can rightly be proud.
we have also been prepared to provide AN with up-front money
to implement programs to improve its financial viability.
These include $ 16 million in 1985 to fund an early
retirement scheme and funds to rehabilitate the Tasmanian
railway system.
eEraar lioefr , e coIn oimnidci camtaenda getmheant t thien AAcucsotrrad licao. i nciTdheids wGiotvhe rnam ennetw
seeks to achieve its major economic objectives in a spirit
of consensus and co-operation.
Past Governments' objectives were all too often frustrated
because of-confrontation and division.
The importance of the Accord lies in its provision of a
framework C-or consultation and discussion between the
GovernmenZ and the trade union movement about a wide range
of policies. The real strength of this framework is that it
has proved edaptable to changing economic circumstances.
This adaptability and responsibility is being tested again.
As I expla. ned in my recent address to the nation, the
Australian economy now faces a difficult period of
adjustment to the recent-severe decline in our terms of
trade. Auztralia also faces the inter-related problems of
an unsustainably high current account deficit and the
dramatic depreciation of the Australian Dollar.
The decline in our terms of. trade means that the prices of
many of our staple exports have declined in international
markets. The effect of this is that our overall " national
cake" is smaller than it would otherwise have been. In cold
money termsz that is a $ 6500 million loss in national income.
We have n3 alternative but to accept, for a time, reduced
standards of living.
we cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend nothing has
changed. Let me, at this point, make it quite clear that this
Government does not seek to attribute any blame for these
changed and difficult circumstances to the trade union
movement. On the contrary: the contribution of the unions, through
the Accord, to improving the competitiveness of the
Australian economy has been significant. However, this is
not to dim~ nish the nature and extent of the crisis we, as a
nation, are facing.

6
In simple terms, we have been dealt a dud hand by the
agricultural trading practices of the EEC and the United
States and the collapse in world commodity markets.
A major task of policy in the period immediately ahead is to
spread the burden of adjustment to this reduced standard as
fairly as possible. A fair distribution of this burden will
mean restraint front everyone, governments, businesses and
unions alike.
in my addz-ess to the nation, I indicated some ways in which
the busin. ass, community should co-operate in these difficult
times. I later wrote to major businesses and business
associations requesting restraint both in non-wage
remunerat-cn, such as executive salaries, and in the setting
of prices. Most responses received to date have supported
this request. I am confident that business will play its
part in the overall restraint required.
The restraint required from governments was reflected in the
cuts in State borrowing programs announced after the
Premiers Con~ ference in June. It will also be reflected in
the Budget being brought down by Paul Keating next Tuesday
night. Budgetary restraint means many new policies will be placed
on the sholf for a time, and many existing programs will be
trimmed te the bone. The extent of the restraint required
may not be wall received by many people. However
unpalatable, we must adjust our expectations of the services
governmento can provide in present economic circumstances.
This Governnent has always faced up to the hard task of
fiscal restraint. The Trilogy of Budgetary restraint
commitments announced nearly two years ago represented the
most disciplined framework of restraint adopted by a
post-War Government.
By contrast, our opponents only speak bravely of the n eed
for restraint when in Opposition. When in Government, they
lack the courage to face up to the hard decisions.
Further restraint from the trade union movement is also
necessary. Xn my address to the nation, I made it clear it
will be necessary to argue for a further discount in the
next National Wage Case.
It is a real tribute to the responsible attitude of
Australian workers and their trade union leadership that
there has been considerable wage restraint over the last
three years.
Further restraint is now needed.
I am confident that the union movement will again play its
part in the process of adjustment confronting us all. It
will do this for the sake of protecting employment and the
welfare of all Australians now and into the future.

7
The only alternative to everyone accepting the need for
restraint is the classical medicine of monetary and fiscal
contraction of the economy. We suffered that approach
during the Fraser/ Howard years.
We all remember itt costs in human terms.
In particular, we in the Labor movement remember the
hundreds of thousands of Australians who paid the cost of
those policies by losing their jobs in the ensuing
recession.
A return to such policies would again push the burden of
adjustment onto that section of the Australian community who
would lose their jobs or fail to obtain employment upon
entering the labour force.
This would hardly be consistent with this Government's
commitment to " restraint with equity" which simply means
sharing th3 burden of sacrifice fairly.
Adjustment to our current economic difficulties demands
restraint by the entire community, not a forced and
calamitous drop in the living standards of an unfortunate
few. The trpzde union movement has a vital role to play in
this restraint.
It is vital for Australia's future that this be accepted.
In March 1963, shortly after the Government was elected, I
had the honour of attending a Labor Day Dinner in Melbourne.
on that occa~ 3ion, facing the challenge of reviving the
national economy f rom recession I made a special appeal to
the Labor movement. As I put it then:
" There can be no underestimating the difficulties of the
task entrusted to us by the Australian people. And by
' us' I rean not only those of us in Government, I mean
all of. us the whole Labor Party, the whole Labor
movement."
Again, in circumstances not of our making the Labor movement
has been entrusted with a great and difficult task.
I am confident that together we will meet and overcome this
new challenge..

Transcript 6984