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Wednesday, 10 October 1984
Page: 1548

Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE — I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. In one sense, it follows the question that was recently answered by Senator Walsh with regard to the prices and incomes accord, but my question takes the accord into the future and not into its past. Does the Government have any advice on the effect that the prices and incomes accord would have on employment next year if it remained in its present form? As the effect of the Medicare adjustment will be excised from the calculations of the consumer price index, is it acknowledged that full CPI adjustment together with any productivity gains decisions and non- wage bargaining such as superannuation payments would institutionalise unacceptably high levels of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment? Has the Government given any serious consideration to these matters and has the Government any advice on its views with regard to the future of the accord and its structure?

Senator BUTTON —I think that it would be well known that the future of the prices and incomes accord will be negotiated-I am not quite sure when, but I think that it will be next year-and in that process of negotiation many of the issues which have been raised by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle will have to be discussed. But I should have thought that it was also known by most people that neither the Government nor the unions have yet determined an attitude to the question of a productivity case next year, which is one of the factors that Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle asked me to take into account in answering this question.

Looking into the medium and longer term future, the most essential point is to attain a system in this country under which we are able to agree on prices and incomes matters. If we are not able to maintain an agreement on those issues, there is very dire peril for the economy as a whole. Concerning the ingredients and constituents of that agreement, I concede that many of the issues to which Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle referred in her question are matters which have to be taken properly into account, but it is not possible at this stage to say, as I have indicated in relation to the productivity case and in relation to other matters, what weight can be given to each of those particular matters that Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle has mentioned.