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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1150


Mr YOUNG (Leader of the House)(3.15) —Obviously, the Government rejects this token gesture by the Opposition. One must say that members of the Opposition are tigers in opposition, but pussycats in government. When they were in government absolutely nothing was done in terms of dealing with the problems of industrial relations in this country. Since they have been in opposition they have been an absolute joke with regard to almost any comment that they make in the industrial relations field. The honourable member for Lyons (Mr Burr) keeps telling us how much guts he has. He might add that it would help to have some brains to solve some of the problems he is concerned about. We do not have industrial relations in pigeonholes for different groups of people. We are applying a system of industrial relations to deal with the millions of people who work in this country, in order to see that they have a decent set of rules under which they can work and abide by.

Everybody in Australia knows the Government's attitude to the recent campaign by the Plumbers and Gas Fitters Employees Union. One of the reasons that it has not been successful is the stand of this Government. The employers know that if they get into bed with the plumbers on their claims, they will not get government contracts. One of the reasons why the plumbers will not be successful is that they have been completely isolated, not only by this Government but by State governments and by their colleagues in the trade union movement. We do not need the advice of this patched-up Opposition about industrial relations. Honourable members opposite have not put forward in four years one decent idea on the industrial relations front. In 1983 we had to extract the work force out of a wages freeze. We had to build into the industrial relations system an acceptable wages system that would avoid all the industrial turmoil and disputation that could be brought on our heads if we made the wrong decisions. What did we do? We gave the working people of Australia a combined wages-tax system that has minimised industrial disputation to a third of what it was under the Fraser-Howard Government. If honourable members opposite want to know why people were not on strike in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 and now 1987 in the way in which they were between 1975 and 1983 it is because of the sensible attitudes that have been adopted by this Government.

This proposition is a joke, coming from a bunch of juveniles. They cannot even sort out their own problems in their party room. They have four factions which all fight every day. It is no wonder that they want to talk about the plumbers; their party rooms are leaking every day. They cannot solve their own problems, but they want to tell the rest of Australia how to live.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Menzies (Mr N. A. Brown), said that the plumbers are in exactly the same position as the builders labourers. He does not know anything about what is happening outside this chamber. He does not have a clue as to the interrelationships between people on jobs and how they have to make their living-whether they are craft, semi-skilled or completely unskilled workers. He might have to tell his party room, now that he has come up with this bright idea about private members' Bills-he has sucked in the poor old former chairman of the industrial relations committee, the honourable member for Lyons, to support this mad idea-which union will sign up the plumbers when the Opposition deregisters them. Which union has come forward and said that it will take the members of the Plumbers Union? The Building Workers Industrial Union, the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen's Association and the Australian Workers Union said that they would take the members of the BLF because the BLF had reached the end of the line. Did honourable members opposite see that on the hill, in every job in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria, when the BLF was deregistered by this Government-not only by the former conservative Government, but by this Government-members of those other unions signed them up for their respective unions, so that there was no break in their union membership. Yet the Opposition wants to tell us what will happen on the grass, in the field of industrial relations.

The other bright idea of members of the Opposition, apart from attacking the plumbers, is that for 18 of the last 20 national wage cases, this group opposite, their predecessors or an amalgam of both, have told us that there ought to be a wages freeze. That is still their policy-a complete wages freeze. Those opposite want to put an 8 per cent new tax, as we are reminded every day by the demon from Queensland, on everything we buy in Australia but they want to freeze wages. Is that not a great policy? Is that not a terrific way to approach industrial relations? There would be a wages breakout and a succession of strikes throughout this country never seen previously, with the mixture of economic and industrial relations policies that those opposite want to put forward. They are so lacking in ideas; they are so split and in such turmoil. They sit there as one group while two say that they are leaving and another 10 say that they will leave next week. Flo is in and out like a fiddler's elbow-we do not know whether she is in or out. We have members of the Liberal Party sitting opposite, and the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) is waiting only until next week and then he will leave. We see Andrew over there looking nice, having come out from under the hair-dryer. He is just waiting to pick up another nine votes before he becomes the Leader. They sit there seriously and talk to us about what we should be doing about industrial relations.

There has never been such a miserable group of incompetents on the Opposition benches. They do not have one idea in any major field to put forward that this Government can take seriously. In industrial relations this Government has been the most successful government since World War II. Not only have we got the wages policy correct and acceptable to the vast majority of working people, but we got it at a time when we minimised strikes and increased the number of people who were able to go to work. These things were only talked about under the Fraser Government. This Government will get inflation down and will provide a lot more work for the people of Australia. Those opposite pushed up inflation to 12 per cent and in their last year of office put another 250,000 people out of work, and they had a record number of strikes. Who out there in the community will be silly enough to buy that recipe again? Who will buy that from the Liberals and the conservatives? Have we ever seen such a bunch trying to put up ideas?

I suggest that honourable members opposite go back to their party rooms and have a serious think about their policy. We are very interested to see where their guts are. Those opposite say that they have the guts to take the tough decisions. We want to know about a few of their decisions. We want to know about their taxation policy. Apparently, those opposite have plenty of guts to attack the Plumbers Union, but not enough guts to tell the Australian community what they will do about taxation. We want to know about the 8 per cent value added tax. The shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton), and the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), tell us that we are to have a consumption tax. If those opposite have a bit of guts, if they are standing around in their party rooms unbuttoning shirts and showing hair on their chests, let them tell us about their taxation policy, because in the field of industrial relations they cannot tell us anything.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition tries to tell us how he will sort out all the problems on the building sites. Can one imagine sending the Deputy Leader of the Opposition around a building site and saying, `Listen, fellows, here he is; here's the shop steward from the national Parliament. He'll tell you how to sort out your problems'. Imagine plumbers to the left, building workers to the right and the FEDFA in the middle. He has no idea what is happening out there. He needs to stop reading books, put on a pair of dungarees and go out to meet a few of the workers. They will tell him what happens. In the meantime, while he is out there, will he have a yarn to a few people to see who will sign up the plumbers, find out which union constitutionally will sign them up? The plumbers will not be successful, because of the stand of this Government. I conclude by saying that in industrial relations this Government, particularly the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis), has been an outstanding success. In the field of industrial relations no one in this country will vote for the policies the Opposition is putting forward.

Question put:

That the motion (Mr N.A. Brown's) be agreed to.