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Wednesday, 18 September 1996
Page: 4558


Mr GARETH EVANS —My question is addressed to the Acting Prime Minister and follows his response earlier to the member for Canberra. Does he still claim, as he said on television last weekend, that passage of the government's industrial relations legislation is `by far the best way to create jobs'? If he does still claim that, can he tell us how that is going to be achieved except by driving down wages to American style poverty levels? If that is his position, how does he reconcile it with what is in the budget papers, what Treasury officials have said in estimates hearings this week, what the Treasurer himself said on 7 September, and the government's commitment that under the IR legislation no worker will be worse off?


Mr TIM FISCHER —Yes, I stand exactly by my comments on the weekend. The industrial relations legislation, the quite modest in one sense IR bill, is absolutely the right step for Australia to be taking in the 1990s to become truly internationally competitive. It will deliver for some of the reasons the Minister for Industrial Relations has put forward, including the greater flexibility. For example, a parent may reach an agreement by negotiation with a small business operator for a particular set of hours of employment which would allow them to drop their children at school, to then work from 10 a.m. until 2.30 p.m. and then to go back and collect those kids from school.

That cannot be done now because of the inherent inflexibility of the industrial relations system. We will deliver that sort of sensible flexibility which recognises the modern family—that is, parents going about the business of looking after children while seeking employment, particularly in the lucky circumstances where it is male/female parents and it is not a dysfunctional family. I would add that the IR bill is long overdue for this country and the sooner you facilitate its passage through the Senate the sooner there will more jobs and more exports and the sooner the economy will be back on the rails.


Mr GARETH EVANS —Mr Acting Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. If, as the Acting Prime Minister says, competitiveness or productivity gains are the answer, why is it that New Zealand's productivity gains have been less than Australia's since their Employment Contracts Act was passed?


Dr Wooldridge —Mr Acting Speaker—


Mr ACTING SPEAKER —I don't think there is any—I will take your point of order.


Dr Wooldridge —You said quite clearly last week that supplementary questions should be an irregular occurrence. We have had three supplementary questions out of five questions asked by the opposition today. They are clearly flouting your direction on supplementary questions.


Mr ACTING SPEAKER —I thank the minister for his point of order. I do remind everybody that supplementary questions according to the ruling of Speaker Halverson, which I have endorsed and carried out, are irregular and I am not prepared to allow this one at the present time.