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Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Page: 5202

Ms JULIE BISHOP (2:38 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his answer yesterday regarding working days lost through strikes and industrial action in the first three months of this year:

... these things come in seasons and in sequence.

Given that in the first equivalent season of 2007 there were 6,900 days lost yet in the first season of 2008 there were 42,800 days lost, can the Prime Minister explain this sixfold increase in working days lost under his Labor government?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition conveniently ignores is the termination point of collective agreements. They come in groups, often in large concentrations, and as a result you may find industrial activity increases at those times. I also return to the other argument I advanced yesterday in this discussion. It goes back to the overall supply of labour—both skilled labour and unskilled labour. Having received 20 warnings from the Reserve Bank on an inadequate supply of labour, an inadequate skills supply in the economy and a lack of infrastructure, and having had 12 years to act on this, I would have thought that those opposite, when they had the opportunity to in government, would have done something by way of a radical investment in skills strategy and a radical investment in infrastructure; instead, they did not. On the question of skills, this government, quite apart from the other initiatives contained in the budget, has now created Skills Australia and will be advancing through the establishment of an $11 billion education investment fund which in part will deal with the future of the TAFE and training system in the country—

Ms Julie Bishop —What about strikes and industrial action?

Mr RUDD —If you are looking at the question of industrial activity, it goes to the overall supply of labour, the overall supply of skilled labour and the termination point of industrial agreements. When you have a large number of agreements terminating at about the same time, it follows that industrial activity may tip up at that particular time. What I am saying to those opposite is that, if you are looking at the overall industrial relations equation, you should do it with a proper debate about the overall supply and demand for labour and skilled labour, as well as the particular arrival of industrial instruments which come up for renewal and negotiation, which is what is occurring at present.