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Wednesday, 16 November 1983
Page: 2814

Mr RUDDOCK(5.55) —I wish to speak in support of these amendments. The Bill is part of a total package of proposals that the Government introduced in relation to the Public Service generally when it amended the Public Service Act through the Public Service and Statutory Authorities Amendment Bill, the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Repeal Bill and the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill. When I spoke on those Bills I outlined the Opposition's reasons for objecting to them. In doing so, I mentioned a significant number of matters that related generally to the operation of the Public Service and why we believed that it was important that the Government have in its own hands the capacity to deal with the substantial matters relating to the employment of its staff.

The purpose of the amendments in this case is to maintain in the Government's hands questions relating to the employment of its staff, and it is to ensure consistency in relation to the approach that we took in the previous legislation that these amendments are being proposed to the legislation before us today. As to the attitude and industrial relations policy of the Government in relation to the Public Service, I simply draw attention to an editorial in the Canberra Times which related to the broad discussion of principles involved in the Act that we are amending and in relation to the three other Acts that we discussed previously. The editorial was headed: 'Anything for a quiet life'. I simply note that the editorial writer, in commenting on the discussion that took place on the three Bills that I previously mentioned, said:

In this newspaper's opinion, the arguments for rejecting the Bills, put by the Opposition spokesman for the ACT, Mr Ruddock, in the House on November 1, were more practical and principled, and preferable, to Mr Willis's arguments for adopting them.

The editorial writer was alluding to the way in which the Government, particularly in the Australian Capital Territory where its own employees are concerned, was bringing in amendments designed to appease its own employees in the hope of a quieter life on the industrial relations front. I can only say that if I thought that there were a real prospect of such arrangements working and assisting the Government in maintaining a reasonable economic policy under which wages did not grow excessively and our economy was likely to be significantly aided those proposals would have my support as well.

Honourable members who spoke in the second reading debate endeavoured to create the impression that the Opposition was desirous of conflict, of promoting disputes. Nothing could be further from the truth, but we beleive that the Government in its armoury needs to have available to it a capacity to deal, very often only in the last resort, with difficulties that arise in the Public Service area. It is important in the areas that are involved in this legislation and for the employment conditions of public servants generally that rather than abdicate responsibility the Government have the capacity to make decisions as to the basis on which its employees will be employed and to put those arrangements properly in place.