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Friday, 19 April 1985
Page: 1257

Senator JONES —My question, which I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, refers to the telex sent by the Prime Minister to Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen seeking a meeting with the Queensland Government, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Federal Government, with a view to seeking a resolution of the continuing electricity dispute in Queensland which is having adverse effects on the Queensland and Australian economies. Does the Minister believe that any such meeting or discussion may help resolve the dispute in the interests of consumers, trade unionists and the State Government? Is the Minister also aware that there is a growing, deep concern in Queensland that the Premier's refusal to hold discussion with any of the parties will only worsen the position in that State?

Senator BUTTON —I am sure that there is growing concern in Queensland, as there is everywhere else, about the intractable attitude of the Premier of Queensland towards this dispute. As I have said on previous occasions, the Commonwealth Government has taken the view right from the beginning that the matter can be settled only by sensible discussion, that there will be no resolution of the dispute if it is allowed to go on in the way it has in the past few weeks.

To that extent the Prime Minister sent a telex to Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen seeking a meeting with the Queensland Government and, if necessary, with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Of course, the other way in which the issue might profitably be addressed is by invoking the jurisdiction of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

Any of those routes would lead, I think, to a sensible rapprochement on the issue. But, of course, at the present time the Queensland Premier has resisted any of those overtures. The Commonwealth Government will, of course, keep trying. Sir Joh will have the opportunity in the next few days to consider the refusal which was given last week.