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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1149

Mr BURR(3.09) —I have great pleasure in seconding this very responsible motion from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr N.A. Brown). The Opposition is forced into this position of bringing forward a private member's Bill to do the responsible thing, to deregister the Plumbers and Gas Fitters Employees Union of Australia, simply because this Government does not have the guts to do it itself. We would prefer that this Government did the responsible thing-to bring forward the action itself-because that is the responsibility of government. We did not want to have to move into the position of suspending Standing Orders so that the Opposition could bring forward this private member's Bill. But the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) has proved without any shadow of doubt that he does not have the guts to bring forward this responsible action because he is a toad of the trade union movement. We are not prepared to see the building industry in this country simply brought to heel by irresponsible trade union action. If this Government will not take the responsible action to protect the building industry in this country we will take on that responsibility from the Opposition benches. We would prefer the Government to govern this country. But if it will not, we will do our best to govern this country responsibly from the Opposition benches.

The Minister acknowledged yesterday that the Plumbers and Gas Fitters Employees Union is acting in a most irresponsible manner. As the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party said, the Minister's response was to stand up high on his haunches and give the Plumbers and Gas Fitters Union a flogging with a feather. That was the best he could do.

Mr Cobb —A white feather at that.

Mr BURR —It probably was a white feather, too; I acknowledge that. But the Minister knows full well that what is happening in the trade union movement is that those rebels, those rogues that the Minister talked about earlier, who once caused chaos and havoc in the building industry from their positions in the Builders Labourers Federation, have now moved into the Plumbers and Gas Fitters Employees Union and have every intention of causing the same disruptive campaign in that union.

In the case of the Builders Labourers Federation, it took this Government a long time to see sense. We all remember how it went to water; how, when it took over government in 1983, it discontinued the action of the Fraser Government to deregister the Builders Labourers Federation. It took it some considerable time before it saw the sense of the Fraser Government's actions. But now what it is doing is allowing that same disruption to take place in another union-the Plumbers and Gas Fitters Union. It knows what the effect will be. It knows how disruptive it will be. Yet the Government wants to sit on its hands and do nothing.

Yesterday the Minister said: `Look, fellers, you are doing the wrong thing, you are being naughty boys'. What is the effect? What is the union doing? I quote some headlines from today's newspapers: `Plumbers union isolated in $92 pay claim'. Ninety-two dollars a week! The Minister says: `Look, fellers, you are not really playing the game'. Here are some more headlines: `Builders sue plumbers for damages over bans'; `Plumbers to face court test this week'; `Plumbers facing contempt threat'; `Employers to fight plumbers in courts'. We could have seen all of those headlines two or three years ago, but instead of referring to the Plumbers Union, they would have referred to the Builders Labourers Federation. We are seeing exactly the same campaign by the same people, using the front of a different union.

There is no doubt, in light of the evidence that I have given and in light of the evidence given by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that Standing Orders must be suspended. Action must be taken. We cannot allow this union to continue with its disruptive campaign. We cannot allow the building industry in Australia to be brought to its knees, because we know the escalating costs, disruption and difficulties that already exist in the building industry. We do not want the position to get worse. The only option that the Opposition has is to try its damnedest to bring forward a private member's Bill to undertake that action that the Government should be undertaking. But if Government members do not have the guts to do it, I assure them that we have the guts. We will take on the union movement. We will do the responsible thing by the building industry and by other industries in Australia. We will deregister this union. We will deregister any union that is not prepared to play the game. We want this country to prosper. We want industries to prosper. If the Government is going to protect its mates in the trade union movement, for no other reason than that they give it money and support, we are not prepared to accept that. We want this union to be deregistered, and if the Government does not have the guts to do it, we will do it ourselves.