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Wednesday, 16 November 1983
Page: 2792


Mr CADMAN(3.38) —If I have ever seen anybody trailing his coat, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) has trailed his today. He has offered every opportunity for the whole union movement to take up the opportunities he has offered. By working hard enough, long enough and offering enough problems the union movement can get what it wants. The Minister is like a bookmaker. He is standing on a street corner offering $19.80 to nothing for anybody who wants to pick it up provided that person is inventive enough and works at it hard enough. He is really wagering away Australia's future and the prospect of economic recovery. The superannuation alternative that the Minister is supporting offers opportunities to the union movement. He has encouraged the building unions and others will follow suit. The claims that we are dealing with today, the claims that started this process, were first noted by the Government on 28 September when at a Cabinet meeting in Perth it was agreed that the Government would go forward to the anomalies conference in support of the union movement. The Minister supported that position before the Government went to the anomalies conference and he is supporting it now. Mr Dolan said at the National Economic Summit Conference:

We recognise, in advocating a centralised system that if the essential conditions of such a system are met in practice, then there should be no extra claims unless special and extraordinary circumstances exist.

That is the basis of the prices and incomes accord. That is the basis of the Government's policy. It has been shot down in flames over the last 24 hours.

The Government has agreed by this decision that there are special and extraordinary circumstances. What are those circumstances? The Minister said that one of those special circumstances was that: 'the agreement, brought about through the efforts of the parties over such a long period in trying to put together a package which would provide the prospect of industrial peace, should not be allowed to dissipate'. That is another special and extraordinary condition that the Government will now agree to. If a party tries hard enough and long enough it should not be disappointed. That is one of the new conditions applying to the prices and incomes accord. Another special and extraordinary condition, I believe, is the fact that the Builders Labourers Federation is at the heart of this process. The Government has already said that in exchange for industrial peace it will set aside deregistration processes. It has offered one carrot to the Builders Labourers Federation and it will back it up with a further offer of $19.80-the money and the box. The report of the Winneke Royal Commission into the activities of the Australian Building Construction Employees and Builders Labourers Federation stated:

It is difficult to resist the conclusion that, so far as the B.L.F. is concerned, a blatant denial of the existence in other persons and organizations of a right to enlist the due processes of the law does pay, and pay very handsomely indeed.

It has paid off with the current Federal Government and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The Minister has trailed his coat through this chamber and said: 'We will encourage the BLF and the building unions to make any settlement as long as they get their $19.80 increase'. The Minister, of course, is aware of the allowance under the building industry recovery procedures-the BIRP agreement. There seems to be a lot of flatulence about and there are some nasty smells connected with the agreement which the Minister is endorsing. The Minister said that there will not be flow-ons. That is another extraordinary condition which he has set. In the House yesterday the Minister said:

Our support for the agreement was specifically on the basis that it would not flow on to other industries. I said after the Commission made its decision that we would ask the parties to reconsider ways in which they might still hold this package together.

That is another condition that has been applied. Provided the decision will not flow on the Government will say that the circumstances, in the words of Mr Dolan , are special and extraordinary. The Government has agreed to three special and extraordinary circumstances. The first is that the parties must have tried hard and long; the second is the fact that the Government cannot cope with the problems of the building industry; and the third is that the increase must not and will not flow on.

The Minister knows that already in the metal industries there are claims for a flow-on. He knows that a claim has already been lodged by the electrical trade unions to take up the advantage that the building industries will gain. He knows that the iron workers cannot accept the Builders Labourers Federation having some advantage over them and so they must immediately challenge their conditions . The Minister also knows that the National Labour Consultative Council has agreed that there must be a flow-on to workers in the air-conditioning industry, lift workers and sprinkler fitters. For goodness sake, how many people must the increase flow on to before the Minister accepts that it will flow on?

The Minister has set new criteria for the whole of the wage claim area. He has set the three criteria I have enunciated-trying hard and long, the speciality of a particular union and the demonstration that flow-on procedures will not occur. The prices and incomes accord has been changed dramatically over the last few weeks, starting six weeks ago with the decision in Perth by the Cabinet that the Government would support the Minister before the anomalies conference. Employers , the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and employees have accepted the accord. They have agreed to it and have acted as if the accord is a real document, a real basis which the Government honestly and sincerely supports. It is the very key to the Government's policy in labour relations and the wages area. It comprises a centralised wage fixation process together with full indexation of wages. It cannot be supported in the terms of its original establishment if there are any movements outside, unless they are made in special and extraordinary circumstances. The Minister has changed that process. He is still taking all the side bets he can get by paying $10,000 to the Transport Workers Union and giving a special deal to the builders labourers and building unions and, coming along behind them, the metal trades industry, the electrical trades, the iron workers and other building related industries.

Let us follow the process that the Government has gone through. Firstly, it could not support any change to the prices and incomes accord. Originally it said: 'We will not be party to the change of process proposed by the NLCC and the building unions'. That was the Government's original position. When the heat came on up went the Cabinet submission in Perth. The Government said: 'We will have a change in our attitude and we will go to the anomalies conference in support of the claim of the building unions'. The Minister was supported by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and his Government in varying the prices and incomes accord in Perth. The Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission quite properly said: 'We will endorse the Government's policy. There will be no variation in this case. We will not take up the proposal of the building industry unions. We will not allow any movement outside the prices and incomes policy. We will maintain completely the Government's central policy'. The Minister said: 'We must find a way around it. The Commission is agreeing with our policy, and we cannot agree with it'.

This situation is extreme and incredible. The Government has started to wink, wink, nod, nod, and nudge, nudge to the unions on ways in which they can avoid its policy, which policy has properly been upheld by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In the words of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard), the Government has started a brand new industry-the arbitration avoidance industry. It has given the nod, the wink and the nudge to hundreds of union officials to commence the process of avoidance of conciliation and arbitration. The Government has denied and destroyed its own policy. The effect will flow through the Australian economy. The Minister is so sensitive today because he knows the ramifications of the deals he has done, the side bets he has taken and the accommodating attitude he has towards the unions. If they make the bid, he will take the offer.