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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1137


Mr BURR —My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. In light of the outrageous behaviour of members of the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union, will the Government move to deregister the union?


Mr WILLIS —The answer to that question is no. Nor should it be the case that the Government would take that step. Let us be quite clear about this matter. I understand that some stunt in relation to this is proposed by the Opposition for after Question Time. The circumstances under which the Government took action in relation to the deregistration of the Builders Labourers Federation were highly exceptional and this is not intended to be a normal part of industrial relations behaviour by governments. That was a situation where a union over a long period had broken commitments to all sorts of bodies, courts, commissions and others. Over several years it had alienated itself totally from the trade union movement, from all other building industry unions, from the Australian Council of Trade Unions and all others involved in the industrial relations environment.

Those circumstances do not apply to the situation of the plumbers. As much as we deplore the action taken by the plumbers in this dispute it is nowhere near the same situation as applied with the Builders Labourers Federation and which was the basis upon which a very exceptional action by the Federal Government was called for. In my view it would be an absurd over-reaction for the Government to take that action against the Plumbers Union in the present circumstances. I believe that the processes which are in place at the present time are likely to lead to a resolution of that matter in the not too distant future. The action by the Opposition in trying to say that it would now seek to deregister the plumbers indicates what a cretin it is in the area of industrial relations. The whole behaviour of those opposite in the Fraser Government, under which the level of industrial disputation was more than double the level which has prevailed under the present Government, had demonstrated their total incapacity in that area. The policy that they have developed in Opposition, to be implemented by some future Liberal government should they ever be so fortunate as to get into government, demonstrates also their total incapacity to think properly in the area of industrial relations. It is a highly impractical policy which would be a disaster if implemented. The proposal about deregistering the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union demonstrates again their gross ignorance in this area.