Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 1 November 1983
Page: 2139

Mr BURR(9.14) —I have listened with some interest to the points made in speeches by Government members in this debate. One of the things Government members have either forgotten or ignored in the course of this debate, when claiming that the provisions of industrial relations legislation should apply equally to government and private employees, is that that could be done only if conditions of employment were the same for government and private employees. Conditions of employment are clearly not the same. Different conditions of employment apply for government employees, conditions which do not apply for people who work in private enterprise. In the course of this debate and other considerations of the conditions of employment for government workers, that should never be forgotten.

I must remind the House that one of the main conditions of employment within the Public Service is that of permanency. In other words, it is almost impossible to sack or dismiss a government employee. Added to that, the conditions, the facilities and, in particular, the superannuation of government employees are vastly superior to those of private employees. It is all very well to say that we shall give the workers for the Government, the public servants, better conditions, better pay, better superannuation, better retirement benefits and so on, but if those conditions apply to their employment they must also have responsibilities, and the responsibilities of government employees are to provide services to the public.

In America and in some other countries it is a condition of employment within government service that workers must sign a contract that they cannot go on strike, they cannot engage in industrial disputation; and, in return for that, they are provided with the conditions and facilities that we have here in Australia. But in Australia it seems that what the Public Service and the unions representing public servants want is permanency of employment and better wages and conditions and, at the same time, to have the rights of industrial disputation possessed by workers in private enterprise who do not enjoy those conditions and facilities.

The time has come for the public servants and their unions to decide whether they want industrial relations rights or permanency and other improved wages and conditions, because in my opinion common sense dictates that they cannot have both. I should be quite happy to see public servants have the same industrial relations conditions as workers in private enterprise if they were prepared to forgo their right to permanency of employment and to forgo their vastly superior superannuation and their vastly superior wages and conditions. But I have heard no such offer coming from the public servants or from their unions.

The original legislation was introduced by the government of the time for very specific reasons and because it was urgently needed. We well recall before 1977 some of the disruption that had been caused to the public by industrial disputation by air traffic controllers, by workers in the Australian Postal Commission and so on, where those workers were quite prepared to hold the public to ransom, the public who were paying their wages, in order to blackmail for better wages and conditions. At no time did those workers give consideration to the responsibilities that they had to provide services to the public. That was not a factor that was even considered at any stage by the unions or by the workers themselves. It was because of that that the government of the day was forced, in order to protect the public, to bring in these particular provisions.

It is noticeable that since this legislation was introduced in 1977 and again in 1980, there has been very little industrial disputation in major areas of communication. I refer to Telecom Australia, the Postal Commission, the air traffic controllers and others who are involved in those vital industries. Perhaps it will be said that the economic conditions of the time have not allowed for such heavy industrial disputation. We might take the view that it is because this legislation exists-because those workers can be stood down and because they can be denied their pay if they refuse to carry out their lawful instructions-that the unions and the workers within the Public Service have had cause to rethink the repercussions that might fall on them if they try to hold the public to ransom. It worries me greatly that the Government, in repealing this legislation, appears to be using the Public Service as a springboard for what might be much heavier, stronger and more persistent industrial disputation within the Public Service.

I do not know whether that is what the Government has in mind. I do not know what consideration the Government has given to the likelihood of more persistent industrial disputation within the Public Service, but it is certain that if the Government takes away one of the available weapons in order to maintain services to the public, there will be a greater level of industrial disputation. I cannot understand how the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) can argue that by taking away some of the weaponry available to him he will avoid industrial disputation. I will be interested to hear the comments that he might give to let the House know how he intends to help industrial peace within the Public Service.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I have to oppose these Bills. I thought they were introduced by the Government at the time for very good, valid and sensible reasons to try to protect the public, who contribute money to pay for the service and conditions of public servants. I thought public servants had an obligation to provide the service for which they were employed. In view of their failure to provide the service for which they were employed the Government at the time had no option but to introduce these provisions. I must oppose the repeal of this legislation. I hope that under a future Liberal-National Party Government, should the circumstances warrant it, we will again have no compunction whatever in introducing this or similar types of legislation that would give adequate protection to the public to provide the services for which the public has no option but to provide money.

Mr Ruddock —It might be rejected in the Senate.

Mr BURR —Yes, indeed. I agree with my colleague. If the Australian Democrats support us, this legislation will be rejected in the Senate. Without this legislation and without the determination of government to use the legislation the public will be exposed to industrial disputation by the growing militancy of unions within the Public Service. This is the only legislation provided to protect the public against the growing militancy of public servants. The Government is stripping itself of the only provisions designed to give any form of discipline to the Public Service unions. I oppose these Bills to repeal this legislation. I know I have the support of the Liberal and National parties in this chamber. I hope that when the legislation arrives in the Senate the Democrats will support the Opposition parties and that we will keep these provisions on the statute books. Without these provisions the Government will simply expose the public to unrestrained militancy by public servants.