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Wednesday, 16 November 1983
Page: 2794


Mr ROBERT BROWN(3.49) —I think it is amazing that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard), who was the architect, the designer, the implementer and the overseer of the disastrous economic policies of the previous Government, should take this opportunity to attempt to misrepresent, malign, criticise and condemn probably the most informed, responsible, competent and enlightened Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations that Australia has ever had. ( Quorum formed) The attitude of the miserable grubs who sit on the Opposition side is very well reflected by the approach they adopted towards this debate. They arranged for the discussion of a matter of public importance so that they could launch an attack on the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations ( Mr Willis). The man of funeral director fame, the Deputy Leader of the National Party, the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), then called a quorum to make it impossible for the Minister to defend himself. Then the person of colour television fame called quorums on two occasions, first to make it impossible for the Minister to defend himself and, secondly, to make it impossible for me to respond in the debate.

The extent to which Opposition members are satisfied with the basis upon which they launched this matter of public importance today is very clearly indicated by the miserable tactics they adopted. I am surprised that the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) should have gone to the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) for support. It is obvious that he hawked this matter around members of the Opposition. The only person he could get to support him was the renowned, pre-eminent union basher from Mitchell. The only trade unions that that fellow supports or endorses are the trade unions in Poland. Of course, his record as far as the trade union movement is concerned is well known. Let me assure the honourable member that his record is well known by those trade unionists in his own electorate; that is, the people who organise themselves into trade unions in order to protect themselves against the sort of people that he and his Deputy Leader represent in this House.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the former Treasurer, said that he gave no personal support to the prices and incomes accord. That means, of course, that if he were still the architect of the economic policies being adopted by this Government he would adopt precisely those economic measures for which he was responsible, often against the advice of his own Treasury advisers, and which, economically, brought this nation to its knees. Of course, if he feels that the decision of the Australian people on 5 March was an aberration, he should wait until he feels their venom at the next election. Opposition members sitting on those decimated benches on the other side will have to use binoculars to see whether there are any other Opposition members left.

I have already referred to the fact that the present Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations not only has a wealth of background and experience in this area but also was very largely responsible-almost individually responsible- for negotiating the prices and incomes accord with the trade union movement. That prices and incomes accord not only was negotiated by the present Minister, who now has the opportunity to implement it, but also was quite obviously endorsed as a suitable, appropriate and better alternative to those economic policies of seven disastrous years of Fraser Government. Not only does the Opposition's matter of public importance have insufficient substance; it also has been very free with its misrepresentations in relation to the Minister's position regarding this question and some of its implications.

I refer particularly to the claim that the Minister had completely rejected the position of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I do not know whether the two Opposition spokesmen have taken the opportunity to examine all the documentation associated with the matter. I know one thing; the honourable member for Mitchell does not understand the prices and incomes accord and has probably never read it. I do not know who is responsible for feeding him the sort of nonsense he spouted in this House. It may well have been some adviser to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. His contribution was little better than the contribution made by the honourable member for Mitchell. The deliberate misrepresentation was made that the--


Mr Howard —Hey, what about the subject matter of the debate, Bob?


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —Order! The honourable member for Mitchell was heard in silence. I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to extend the same courtesy to the honourable member for Hunter.


Mr ROBERT BROWN —It was claimed by two Opposition spokesmen that the Minister had completely rejected the Commission's position. I shall quote from a news release issued by the Minister on 14 November. The second paragraph of that news release states:

. . . the Government endorses the Commission's concern to maintain the viability of the new national wage fixing principles and notes in particular their concern--

that is, the Commission's concern-

that allowance increases contained in this agreement would be likely to flow beyond the building and construction industry.

If members of the Opposition had been aware of the terms of the prices and incomes accord they would have realised that included in the wages and working conditions agreement is the provision that both parties recognise that if the essential conditions of the centralised system are met-they have been met-there shall be no extra claims except when special and extraordinary circumstances exist. If it is the belief of people in the Opposition that special and extraordinary circumstances do not exist within the building industry, it is obvious that they simply have no comprehension not only of the mechanics of industrial relations in Australia at present but also the present reality of them. Their claims were baseless. I refer their attention to a statement put out in September 1983 called 'Prices and Incomes Policy, a Progress Report on Government Initiatives'. I congratulate the Minister at the table and all the other Ministers for achieving the implementation of that policy.


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired. The discussion is concluded.