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Thursday, 17 November 1983
Page: 2871


Mr GRIFFITHS —I refer the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations to recent Press reports of comments made by the Director of the Victorian Employers Federation throwing doubt on the future of the prices and incomes accord. How does the Minister view these comments?


Mr WILLIS —Yes, I have seen reports regarding statements made by Mr Spicer. I think in his case, as of course is the case with the Opposition, the wish is father to the thought. There is little likelihood of the prices and incomes accord breaking down. Its introduction has been a magnificent success in this country. We are totally committed to the prices and incomes accord. The wages policy is a central part of the accord. The Government put to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission a few months ago in the national wage case that it should adopt the wages policy of the prices and incomes accord. That was done by the Commission. In that case we said to the Commission that it should, when making its decision, give effect to the wages policy of the prices and incomes accord and also apply a no-extra-claims provision, and that is that there should be a commitment by unions seeking the national wage increase under the centralised system not to make additional claims otherwise a centralised system could not be a success. That system, which was adopted by the Commission, was also adopted with minor variations by every State industrial authority. Essentially the States adopted the system brought down by the Commonwealth. So we have the Commonwealth's advocated system, the system of the accord, applying in the Federal jurisdiction and in all States.

Almost all unions have made or will make a commitment in line with the commitment required under the policy. Only two unions have not made that commitment. They are the Food Preservers Union of Australia and the Confectionery and Mixed Business Association. Their combined membership is something of the order of 9,000 or about 0.15 per cent of the total wage and salary earners in this country. So we are talking about an extremely small section of wage and salary earners involved in that area of non-commitment to the policy.

I believe that the situation of the confectioners should be understood. They have said that they are willing to make a commitment in many cases but not in respect of the companies which have not yet introduced the 36-hour week. An agreement was reached last year, not under this Government but under the previous Government, with many companies in that industry. They have since introduced the 36-hour week, in line with the agreement reached under the previous Government.

There are also other transitional problems. I am aware of only two which are important. One relates to members of the Electrical Trades Union of Australia in Western Australia. There was a transitional problem in the sense that when the previous Government was in office an agreement was reached prior to the wages pause which gave effect to increases to electricians in Western Australia. There was a registered agreement in the Western Australian Industrial Commission under which wage increases were prevented by the wages pause. With the wages pause in Western Australia now over, there is an expectation on the part of the workers in Western Australia that they will get that increase. That is becoming an important problem in Western Australia. It is one which is before the Western Australian Industrial Commission and one which I hope can be solved within the guidelines of the new system as soon as possible because it is providing difficulty in the Western Australian building industry.

The other area of difficulty is the building industry, which has been discussed recently in this House. I am not going to go into detail at this stage. I remain confident that it can be satisfactorily resolved within the guidelines of the system.

Finally, the Government remains completely and totally committed to the prices and incomes accord and will do everything within its power to make sure that that accord remains in place and remains effective. We will certainly give contemplation to further policies which may be needed to ensure that it continues and survives, if that becomes necessary.