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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1119

Senator BOSWELL(11.08) —In this Address-in-Reply debate I want to address a serious problem that is affecting my State of Queensland in relation to the blockade that is about to take place. I call on the Government to invoke section 45D of the Commonwealth Government's Trade Practices Act, which provides that a person shall not, in concert with another, engage in conduct which hinders a third person from engaging in trade and commerce between the States. Section 80 of that Act empowers the Commonwealth Minister for Industry to obtain an injunction restraining such conduct. Other provisions of that Act entitle the Minister to recover against the parties involved substantial pecuniary penalties. It cannot be seriously disputed that the proposed blockade will be in contravention of the Trade Practices Act. I call on the Government to stop acting like spineless jellyfish and invoke those laws, which are the laws of this nation. Those laws have been enacted by the Parliament of this nation. But what did the Senate hear from the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button) yesterday? We had a complete backdown because he knows that his union bosses would not cop it and would disown him. Then the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) did exactly the same thing. He backed down and ripped up the nation's Constitution. The Government does not have the power or the will power to stand up and defend the laws of this nation.

Senator Lewis —They have not got the guts.

Senator BOSWELL —Yes, they have not got the guts. What we are discussing today is the future of Australia. The unions have no chance of winning this argument in Queensland where they are certainly flogging a dead horse because the whole weight of public opinion is swinging behind the Premier. If the Government follows that path it will follow it to oblivion in two years time. The Government is in coalition with the unions. Actually, coalition is the wrong term because it implies a partnership; the Government is subservient to the unions. It will not uphold the laws of this nation. The Government completely backed down yesterday at Question Time when Senator Button and Senator Gareth Evans did a Pontius Pilate on the laws of this nation. In the meantime, people in Queensland are hurting. People in Queensland do not know whether to send their meat over the border. They do not know what to do. The Government of this nation has a responsibility to give the people some sort of democratic government. Democratic government of this nation implies the application of the laws of the parliaments of this country.

Senator Walsh —It would be nice to have democratic government in Queensland.

Senator BOSWELL —We have democratic government in Queensland. Every three years the Queensland Government goes to the polls and wins again. Let us look at a poll--

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop) —Order! Senator Boswell, I would appreciate it if you would address your remarks through the Chair. I would appreciate it if Senator Walsh would listen to the honourable senator's speech in silence.

Senator BOSWELL —Mr Acting Deputy President, please accept my apology. I will cite a poll published in today's Courier-Mail. It is a poll similar to the one that prophesied the demise of the Australian Labor Party controlled Brisbane City Council. One question was whether workers have the right to strike, whatever the industry. Some 55 per cent of those people polled said yes and 37 per cent said no. The next question asked whether the right to strike or the right to a power supply was more important. Some 18.8 per cent of people said that the right to strike was more important and 58.3 per cent said the right to a power supply was more important. Thirdly, it was asked whether workers have the right to cut the power supply as part of a strike. Some 23 per cent said yes and 73.5 per cent said no. When asked whether the Government has the right to demand a no strike job clause, 51.1 per cent said yes and 45.l per cent said no. Some 52 per cent of people gave overall support to the Queensland Government and 38 per cent opposed it. If the Government wants to go down the track right out of government it should start interfering in Queensland. That is exactly where the Government will go.

Today I want to put in chronological order exactly what has happened in Queensland because probably people are getting confused as time goes on. When faced with power workers going out on strike the Queensland Government called members of the Industrial Commission together. The Commission brought down three orders and six recommendations for the Electrical Trades Union members to go back to work. The ETU defied the Industrial Commission of Queensland nine times. Even then, in a compromise attitude, the Queensland Government said: 'We will call the Full Bench of the Industrial Commission together and have all the matters in the dispute determined by arbitration at a full sitting of the State Industrial Commission'. The only condition was that both parties agree in advance to accept the decision of the Full Bench regardless of the outcome. The State Government agreed to accept the condition; but again the unions refused. What option did the State Government have? The only option was complete surrender. The Premier of Queensland will not accept that option. Of course, other legislation had to be brought forward. What are we seeing now? We are seeing the blockade of a State. We are seeing guerrilla tactics. I quote from the Australian Financial Review of Wednesday, 17 April, which stated:

The 'hit' list move seems to be an attempt to emulate classic guerrilla warfare methods: indiscriminate pressure on third parties aimed at shifting the focus of discontent back on the offending party-in this case the Government of Queensland and Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

It is also an indication that the ACTU has decided the only way to fight in Queensland is to fight dirty.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is fighting dirty. It is blackmailing. There is no other word but blackmail for it. The ACTU and the Transport Workers Union of Australia are targeting supporters of the Queensland Government, supporters of the National Party of Australia and supporters of the Premier. That is nothing more than political blackmail. It has come to a fine state of affairs when a person cannot support a party and cannot support a Premier or a government because the unions will target that person and try to bankrupt him! If that is what this Government supports let honourable senators opposite stand up and say so. If they do not support that let them invoke section 45D of the Act. Let them show a bit of guts and stand up to defend the people of Queensland. At the last election some of the people of Queensland voted for this Government. There will not be many such people left now.

What has the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) requested? He has sent a letter to the Premier wanting to talk. This nation is sick of talk; it wants some action. We have found the Government has talked itself out. Business people are tired of negotiating their way around unions' unreasonable demands and wildcat strikes. Housewives want a reliable supply of electricity. Farmers want to know that their products can be transported regularly and reliably and that excessive wage demands will not ruin them and force them off their land. Miners want a guarantee that they can get their product on a vessel, that that vessel will sail and that they will earn the reputation of being reliable suppliers. This is what this nation is crying out for.

We have had talk. We have had two years of talk. The Government got away with it at the National Economic Summit Conference but the patience of Australians is stretched. The Government has flogged that one to death. It will not get away with it any more. People are demanding that this Government take some action. When the Government first got into government it talked its way through an economic summit. We have had a drug summit. We have had a farm costs summit, a fishing summit and we are going to have a tax summit. What the government has to do is face its responsibilities. The Government talked its way through the 1984 election with no policy except for the promise of more summits. These summits were supposed to solve everything. Of course, this nation cannot live on talk. Whilst this nation has been talking for the last two years our standard of living has slipped from third in the world to around twentieth. The dollar has collapsed and national borrowing has escalated to $50 billion, imposing an annual debt of $455 on every Australian. No matter what criterion is used, Australia is falling down a path of action which is slowly destroying this country.

Senator Cook —Rubbish!

Senator BOSWELL —It is not rubbish. If Senator Cook listened to Senator Hill's very good speech he would have heard him enunciate what this Government is doing and the path it is going down. I have lived in Australia all my life and now have two children entering the job market and I am concerned that one out of every four young people in Australia does not have a job. It looks as though these young people will never get a job. We can no longer tolerate these excessive and absolutely ridiculous union claims. In a previous speech I heard that the unions want to work 20 hours a week. How the devil are we going to be competitive!

Senator Cook —Which specific claim are you referring to?

Senator BOSWELL —I am referring to the speech of an honourable senator who made his maiden speech. He said that business and governments would have to accept a 20-hour working week. I should not criticise that honourable senator's maiden speech.

Senator Cook —But what claim was it?

Senator BOSWELL —The honourable senator is very welcome to speak in this debate but I ask him not to divert me from my subject. The majority of Australians, as indicated by the results of the polls published today, support the Premier of Queensland. He has had the courage to stand up to the unions and say no to their unreasonable demands. He knows that the only way that Australians can once again enjoy conditions that applied in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s is for us to be more competitive. We must be able to produce our primary industry products and export them. We must be able to produce our mining products, load them on ships and get foreign exchange for them. The only way that we will ever be able to do this is to stand up and put Australia in a competitive position.

This nation owes the Premier of Queensland a debt of gratitude. When most people at his age want to retire to the farm and enjoy the comforts of their farm and grandchildren, the Premier is prepared to spend time in the hurly-burly of politics and stand up for the nation as a whole and say: 'I am prepared to give a lead to this nation'. That is what the Queensland Government is doing at the moment. That Government is showing this nation that there is a way out of our troubles, but it is going to require the taking of tough options. It is going to require putting government back where it belongs-into the assemblies of this nation, into the hands of the elected representatives of the people-and taking it away from the unions. It is a hard stand. It has never been easy, but at the age of 73 the Premier is prepared to stand up and give this nation a lead.

This nation is crying out for someone who can show the way out of our malaise and our unemployment. This Government can no longer go down the track of putting 120,000 people on the Government payroll. This Government has nearly reached the end of that. The only way that this Government can get out of that situation is by increasing taxes. It is now looking at additional taxes to pay for the unemployed it has put on the Government payroll. That is a very short term solution to this malaise. The options are hard. Nothing is easy in this world. For the sake of Australia I implore this Government to take the hard options and, as the people of Australia asked members of the Government to do when they put them back into government, to invoke section 45D and uphold the laws of this nation.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be added (Senator Chaney's amendment) be added.