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Thursday, 3 February 1994
Page: 335


Mr FITZGIBBON —Can the Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations advise the House about progress with agency level workplace bargaining in the Australian Public Service?


Mr JOHNS —This has been a very good week for workplace bargaining in the Australian Public Service because on Monday we had the first certified agreement—the Defence restructuring agreement—which indicates that now we have a system of industrial relations in this country whereby, by and large, workers wages will be earned in a sense by developing productive enterprises and through efficiency trade-offs.

  What has occurred is that, in the Defence Force, civilian employees—18,500 of them—represented by 18 different trade unions, sat down and completed an agreement with the Defence Force. The agreement states that over the next two years there will be two wage increases: two per cent immediately and two per cent in December this year. The beauty is that those wage increases impose no further imposts on the Australian taxpayer. They are paid for by the efficiencies delivered in negotiations over the agreement between the 18,500 workers and the Department of Defence.

  So the essence of this is that during the next two years there can be no further call on the Department of Defence or on the government for further wage rises through this system. All of the money is already paid for. In fact, we have a harvesting of the efficiencies that will be gained through the enterprise agreement by the workers, by the Department of Defence, by the government and, by implication, the taxpayer.

  I want to congratulate the Department of Defence and those 18 trade unions which were involved in this agreement. It is a significant agreement because it is the first in the Australian Public Service. The key unions are the Public Sector Union, the Transport Workers Union and the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union.

  Honourable members must recall that we now have a system where, by and large, wage increases will be driven by productivity bargaining. I can remember a time in this country when there were instruments available to the opposition, when it was in government, by means of running a national productivity case before the Arbitration Commission. During the years 1975 to 1983, not once did members of the coalition, when in government, run a national productivity case; not once did they develop a mechanism whereby workers, rather than just chase inflation in order to raise their wages, could seek a means of developing production and developing wealth out of which they could be paid. Not once did they use that instrument available to them.

  The beauty now is that we have developed instruments of negotiation and agreement whereby thousands of negotiations can take place daily and yearly inside and outside the Australian public sector so that we can harvest the benefits of efficiency and increased production and so that the Australian work force—particularly, in this case, Australian public servants—can increase their wages and conditions and create a rebate, in effect, for the Australian taxpayer.