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Thursday, 2 April 1998
Page: 2395


Mr MUTCH —My question is addressed to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business. Minister, members of the Maritime Union of Australia have lifted their industrial action in Sydney. Could you advise the House of the nature of that dispute and how the Workplace Relations Act operated during the course of the industrial action?


Mr REITH (Workplace Relations and Small Business) —I thank the member for Cook for his question. What has happened is that the wharfies union have taken their campaign from Sydney and now they are going to Brisbane to wreak as much havoc as they possibly can against the Patricks company which gives them the jobs which they enjoy. So in Brisbane we are already starting to see the damage being done by the MUA, by the wharfies union—450 tonnes of export steel are being held up, 26 containers of cotton going to north Asia are held up by this vandal action of the MUA, and all along the Labor Party are basically publicly supporting them.

It is interesting that when you look at the key elements of this dispute the fact of the matter is that you can see the beneficial effects of the government's Workplace Relations Act in operation. For example, we are told now that as they have decided to wreak havoc in Brisbane the wharfies have decided go back to work in Sydney. Part of their complaint about Sydney was that they were not going to be paid whilst they were taking industrial action; namely, whilst they were running an overtime ban. It is very interesting. This is a reflection on section 187AA of the Workplace Relations Act.

The Labor Party complained about that when it was revealed about 10 days ago, but they suddenly went quiet when they realised the New South Wales Labor Party had the same law in state industrial relations law. But further what is particularly interesting is that as the wharfies are going back to work in Sydney they have decided to lift the overtime ban. I tell you why they have lifted the overtime ban. That is because of the operation of our Workplace Relations Act.

Last week or the week before the latest industrial disputes figures came out. Remember that before the last election the Labor Party said there would be mayhem and there would be economic chaos if we were elected and basically it would be World War III. But when the official dispute figures came out, did we have industrial mayhem? No, we had the lowest level of industrial disputes since before World War I and the actual number of disputes was the lowest since 1940 at the start of World War II. What this shows is that we have implemented policies which really work and which really are, in the area of workplace relations, getting down the level of disputes.

What is Labor's policy? Labor's policy is basically dictated to them by the ACTU, part of which is to repeal the Trade Practices Act, which is the one law which keeps a leash on the industrial thuggery in the trade union movement, supported by the Labor Party. On the balance of their policies, what are their policies? Actually, they do not have any policies other than that which is directed to them by the ACTU.

So, as you watch the doorstops in the morning, as the questions go the Labor Party, `What are your policies?', what do we get? All we get is the muckraking that we have had from the Labor Party, which reached an all-time low with the sleazy, slimy, racist slur from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. This just shows the low depths to which you people will go, and the Leader of the Opposition, on the industrial dispute on the Australian waterfront—


Mr Beazley —I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker.


Mr SPEAKER —The minister will return to the answer to the question.


Mr REITH —This is a demonstration—when you look at the waterfront dispute—that when there is a national interest to condemn the industrial action of these industrial thugs, the Leader of the Opposition fails to publicly condemn their actions and cannot even bring his own frontbencher to meet reasonable standards of reasonable behaviour.