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Tuesday, 26 May 1987
Page: 3293


Mr HOWARD —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the fact that the Government has now postponed debate on the Industrial Relations Bill. In the face of united opposition to and condemnation of that Bill by the Liberal Party, the National Party of Australia, the Business Council of Australia, the Confederation of Australian Industry, the National Farmers Federation and small business associations, will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that the Bill will be withdrawn and clauses which place unions above the ordinary courts of Australia totally deleted?


Mr HAWKE —The Government's legislation had its origins in the Hancock Committee of Review into Australian Industrial Relations Law and Systems. Following the release of the Hancock report, very considerable consultation took place. The final form of the Government's legislation had features including significant increases in the penal provisions which went beyond what had been discussed earlier. There was a very considerable degree of approval among employer organisations.

Opposition members-Ha, ha!


Mr HAWKE —As always, the Opposition laughs at facts. It will not be laughing for very much longer--


Mr Hodgman —Have a go.


Mr HAWKE —Let me finish-on this issue. The only intellectual exercise honourable members opposite get is in jumping to conclusions. Seeing that there has been such a wide degree of support for very much of what is contained in the Bill, and observing that on the side of both the trade unions and the employers there was concern about a number of provisions, in the continuing tradition of this Government, which has been a government of consultation rather than confrontation, we decided that it would be an appropriate course to allow this legislation to remain on the table so that there would be an opportunity for full and frank consultation with employers, trade unions and State governments. I am very pleased to say that, in the conversation I have had with the Business Council of Australia, the Council has welcomed the Government's move to follow this course. I understand that my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has had discussions with the CAI. The CAI welcomes the course of action that has been taken by the Government. So while I know that the spiritual home of those opposite is with those elements of the extreme right amongst the employer organisations-may I say that they are welcome to one another; they deserve one another-the two major employer organisations welcome this responsible course of action by the Government.