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Thursday, 19 September 2002
Page: 6735

Mr CAMERON THOMPSON (2:57 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. What is the government's record in reducing the incidence of strikes? Has there been any upsurge of industrial militancy in my home state of Queensland? What proposals have there been for dealing with this? What has been the result of these proposals?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Blair for his question. I certainly can assure the member for Blair that this government does not like strikes. Strikes cost jobs, strikes damage industries and strikes jeopardise Australia's international reputation. Worst of all, the real victims of strikes are normally the ordinary workers of Australia who stand to lose hundreds of dollars from their pay packets to promote the political agendas of union bosses whose pay is not at risk. I am able to say that there is more good news from the Howard government. The latest statistics show that, in the year ending June, days lost through strikes have fallen to the lowest level since the ABS first started keeping these statistics. They are less than half the rate they were in 1996, and they are less than one-seventh the rate they were in the late 1980s, when members opposite were running their so-called accord.

I do have to say that, notwithstanding all this good news, one state has bucked the trend. In June, Queensland accounted for nearly 50 per cent of all days lost through strikes, mostly because of a campaign of industrial militancy waged by the public sector unions against the Beattie government. Unions control the Labor Party, but that does not mean that they take any notice of Labor governments. In fact, they think Labor governments are a soft touch. We even had big Bill Ludwig, that great political sire, describing the Beattie government as a bunch of sooks. What do Labor governments do when they are in trouble? They send for Bob Hawke. `Bring back Bob' is what they say. When watching Bob Hawke on TV last night, it was impossible not to feel a sense of profound nostalgia for the days when Labor had a `real' leader. What did Bob recommend? He recommended that there should be new limits placed on the right to strike. That is precisely what the government is trying to do with the cooling off provisions of the genuine bargaining bill currently before the Senate. We all know that the Leader of the Opposition is going to take Bob Hawke's advice when it comes to increasing the union bloc vote at Labor national conferences from zero to 50 per cent. I strongly urge the Leader of the Opposition to also take Bob Hawke's advice and pass the government's genuine bargaining bill.