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Wednesday, 8 April 1998
Page: 2793

Mr HARDGRAVE —My question is addressed to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business. We do not believe in the nick on this side of the House. Minister, would you please advise the House whether any taxpayers' funds will be used in reforming the waterfront?

Mr REITH (Workplace Relations and Small Business) —I thank the member for Moreton for his question. The government will be putting in place a scheme where the cost will be borne by industry. This is an interesting contrast to the program introduced by the Labor Party in 1989-92, where a big slice of the funds last time were shelled out by the Labor Party shelling out taxpayers' funds. To add insult to injury, they never got the change in performance, the improved productivity, which was the whole purpose of the exercise in the first place. This scheme being put in place by the government will be at no cost to the taxpayer. Furthermore, the cost of this exercise will be absorbed by the stevedoring companies themselves.

Dr Theophanous —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The same minister introduced legislation—

Mr SPEAKER —The member will raise his point of order.

Dr Theophanous —Yes, I am raising my point of order. He raised the question of the legislation today. He is now dealing with the issues under that legislation.

Mr SPEAKER —As the honourable member for Calwell knows, technically the legislation is not yet on the Notice Paper . But you are right; it has been moved through its first reading to the second reading, and debate has commenced. Provided the minister does not refer specifically to the details within the bill, this sort of answer has traditionally been allowed within our standing orders.

Mr REITH —I am happy to conclude my answer, because I wanted to make this final point: today has been very revealing. During question time, have there been nine or 10 questions from the opposition on this issue? No, there has not. Why hasn't there? Because they do not have the guts to stand up for the national interest. These people have never had a policy on this issue other than to do what they have been told by the MUA leadership and the ACTU.