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Tuesday, 6 September 1983
Page: 371

Mr MACPHEE —I ask the Prime Minister a question about the terms of the answer he has just given. I refer to an interview reported in this week's Business Review Weekly in which he indicated that the Government would support the ratification of a $20 pay rise in the building industry. Is it the intention of the Government to see moneys expended by Federal and State governments on employment creation in fact go on increased wages in the building industry? Is it the intention of the Government to see that begin a new community wage round flowing on to metal, electrical and other workers as the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has indicated? Does the Prime Minister really believe that a $20 wage increase for 130,000 workers in the building industry is justified in terms of the National Economic Summit Conference communique as special or extraordinary circumstances? What are the principal special features that he refers to? Surely they are that there is a recovery led by the money invested by governments and the turbulent, destructive nature of industrial relations led by the Builders Labourers Federation.

Mr HAWKE —I am indebted to the shadow Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations for his question. The position of the Government in regard to the proposed building industry agreement is quite clear. As I indicated earlier, it is that sectional claims are not to be allowed other than in special or extraordinary circumstances.

Opposition members-Ha, ha!

Mr HAWKE —Laughter has never been any substitute for rational and intelligent thought.

Mr Tuckey —Well, you had better start laughing.

Mr HAWKE —I can assure the honourable member that I am laughing now and I will be laughing for many years. Over a very long period in Australian industrial relations the building industry has been regarded as a sector of the Australian economy in which it is appropriate for special allowances to operate because of the circumstances of that industry. The circumstances, of course, are varied, but one obvious feature of them is the transient nature of the work force, the fact that employees go from job to job. In the history of Australian industrial relations that fact has been recognised as giving rise to particular allowances. It is the case that the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will need to be satisfied with the various allowances agreed to between the parties- that is, the employers and the trade unions. In these inane interjections we hear about the unions but we hear nothing about the fact that it takes two to tango. The agreement will be between the trade unions and the employers. The Commission will need to be satisfied that the terms and conditions negotiated between the employers and the trade unions meet the requirements of the accord that have been referred to.

I make this final point: The Australian economy over recent years has suffered from the fact that industrial relations in the building industry have been disastrous. They have been a disgrace to many of the trade unions involved and to many of the employers involved. This agreement is not simply to be a one- sided arrangement by which there will be some increases in allowances for special circumstances. On the other side of that agreement will be the very real prospect of two years of industrial peace. If as a result of the negotiation of that agreement we can have two years of industrial peace in this hitherto turbulent industry the building and construction industry will prosper; it will also be of great significance to the overall welfare and development of and increased activity in the Australian economy in general.