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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1094

Senator COOK —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer him to comments made by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr John Howard, on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's AM program this morning to the effect that the public wants a government that is prepared to barrack for `family values and one that is prepared to control militant unionism'. What is the Government doing to stand up to those militant unions whose activities put the security of families at risk?

Senator WALSH —I think it should be said at the outset that the vast majority of unions in Australia over the last four years have behaved in a very responsible manner in co-operation with the Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions in adhering to the accord. That accord has achieved what was essential to achieve at the time we came into government, and that is to correct the effects of the wages explosion engineered by John Howard in 1981 and 1982. Regretfully, not all unions have behaved with the degree of responsibility that the great majority have. Indeed this Government, in association with the governments of New South Wales and Victoria, has deregistered the Builders Labourers Federation, which was regarded by the Government, by the community generally and by other unions as an outlaw union. We are resisting and denouncing the current drive by the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union of Australia-denounced most recently by Mr Willis, I think only two days ago-to break out of the agreement on wages contained in the accord. And-most recently-the Government is taking on the doctors union, the most rapacious union of the lot.

The Australian Capital Territory branch of the doctors union is trying to extort from the taxpayers a $425 a week pay increase for a part time job, for a job that occupies about one-quarter of their working time. It is a union supported by the same people-the same individuals in many instances, and the same sort of people-who say: `Shock, horror; $10 a week is far too big an increase to give to people who are on $250 a week. $10 a week is far too much and cannot be afforded. There has to be a wages freeze'. Those same people are totally mute about the doctors union's attempt to extort $425 a week extra for a part time job that occupies about one-quarter of their working time. The Government has offered the doctors union an increase of 21 per cent-from a figure which, admittedly, had been fixed for two years. Who, other than executives in the private sector, has obtained a 21 per cent pay increase in the last two years? Indeed, the Government could be criticised for having made an offer to the doctors union which is too generous. But the 21 per cent, which is vastly in excess of the pay increases that anybody in the mainstream of the trade union movement has secured over the last two years, is not nearly enough for that most rapacious of all unions, the Australian Capital Territory branch of the doctors union, which says: `We demand an 85 per cent pay increase'. If this Government were to cave in to that rapacious demand by the doctors union and give the doctors an 85 per cent pay increase, what moral authority would it have left to deal with any other rapacious union or group of people that attempted to--

Senator Puplick —What moral authority does it have now?

Senator WALSH —I am glad Senator Puplick asks about moral authority, because I would like to know something about the moral authority of the Opposition, and in particular, of its leader. When it comes to the question of really dealing with militant and greedy unions-in denouncing them, even, let alone disciplining them-the real John Howard is a cream puff. There is not a word from him about the doctors union's outrageous demand for an 85 per cent pay increase.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I raise a point of order. I do not know whether the Minister is being unparliamentary or just rude, but he is also certainly debating the question and I suggest that you bring him to order.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Walsh, I would ask you to withdraw the reference which you made to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives.

Senator WALSH —He is not a cream puff. I withdraw, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT —I would ask you to withdraw, Senator Walsh.

Senator WALSH —I withdraw. There is not a word from Mr Howard about the outrageous extortionate demands of the doctors union. I will give a bit of advice to the media which it should have had sufficient initiative not to need: Instead of recycling the rumours which the Press Gallery itself has generated, or every morning giving us the latest instalment on the civil war that is raging within the Liberal Party-it is fair enough to report the latter-it should go and ask Mr Howard how he thinks he would deal with that particular militant and greedy union which is threatening families throughout the country, threatening the wages policy and threatening the economic future of this country.