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Thursday, 20 October 1983
Page: 1987


Mr CARLTON(10.17) —The Opposition is perfectly happy to accept blame , if blame there be, for taking the action in the Senate which led to the passage of this amendment. I am certainly pleased that the Government has, even with reluctance, accepted this amendment. Let us make quite clear what the amendment is all about. It is designed to ensure that the unemployment benefits will not be available to people who are thrown out of work because of strikes. While one has very great sympathy indeed for those who are thrown out of work because of a strike if they were not directly involved in the causes of the strike, it will nonetheless be in the minds of any people organising strikes that the taxpayers will not be available to provide, in effect, strike pay for those thrown out of work as a result. People will be more cautious about organising strikes and will think hard about how long and how extensive strikes may be. That is the importance of the amendment.

I do not know what sort of world the Government lives in. We are in a very difficult world where we have to compete with trading partners who do not have the incidence of strikes that we have in Australia, who do not have an unduly powerful trade union movement. There are enormous cost problems in industry and enormous problems through disruption of exports because of strikes. The Opposition judged that the general balance of this case was in favour of denying the unemployment benefit to people who were on strike. If the unemployment benefit were to be provided, taxpayers' money would be available essentially as strike pay to unions which were organising strikes. We are certainly very firm in our view that the action by the Fraser Government in 1979 of removing the unemployment benefit under these conditions was correct. We have pursued the same arguments in this chamber and in the Senate.

On behalf of the Opposition, certainly in this chamber, I thank those honourable senators, including the Australian Democrats, who supported us in the amendment. We believe that on balance, despite the difficulties that families who are in trouble as a result of the actions of trade union leaders in other places will certainly have under this legislation, this measure will result in fewer instances of people being thrown out of work because of extended strikes. It will act as a deterrent to extended strikes which throw people out of work in industries or in places other than the original place where the strike is called . From the remarks of the Minister for Health (Dr Blewett), it is quite clear that this Government continues to act in an anti-economic fashion. This Government clearly believes that it is possible to extend the privileges available to the trade union movement under the law in an economic climate where it is quite clear that strike action has had a crippling effect on the overall economy of this country. We believe that the balance of power in this area has moved unduly in the direction of the trade union movement and it has been exploited by certain people in that trade union movement. There is no doubt in my mind that the existence of a benefit such as this, by which it would be possible to provide taxpayer funds to support people who are thrown out of work as a result of strike action, would be used as one of the weapons by those extremists in certain unions, and certainly not in all unions. We welcome the reluctant acceptance of this amendment by the Government. We believe that the original Fraser proposal of 1979 was wise. We are pleased that that will remain on the statute books.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Resolution reported; report adopted.