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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1384

Senator McKIERNAN —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to an article in yesterday's West Australian newspaper headed `Stone in new job'? The article reports on the appointment of former Treasury Secretary, John Stone, to the position of spokesman on industrial relations for the H. R. Nicholls Society. The appointment is reported to be an attempt by the society to overcome concern `about growing public acceptance that it is an extremist right wing organisation aimed at abolishing the rights of workers'. Has the Government ever received submissions or other evidence that would encourage it to accept the description of the H. R. Nicholls Society set out in the article? Have the Government, any of its Ministers or their representatives ever been asked to participate in any of the Society's public forums on the subject of industrial relations or economic matters?

Senator WALSH —Senator Button has just supplied me with a bit of information in an aside which may be useful in answering this question. That information is that Senator Button has been asked to address the H.R. Nicholls Society, but has refused.

Senator Button —No-participate.

Senator WALSH —Perhaps you should make a personal explanation. To my knowledge no member of the Government has received an invitation to address the H.R. Nicholls Society, although I once received-I think from an official of the Society-an H.R. Nicholls tie with an accompanying note saying that David Clark had suggested that it should be sent to me. David Clark is a financial journalist who is noted for having a perverse sense of humour. As to the description which Senator McKiernan quoted about the organisation-that is, the ever-growing public acceptance that it is an extremist right wing organisation aimed at abolishing the rights of workers-I think that that is probably a fair description of the organisation as a whole, although, in my view, it is not a fair description of every member.

I am not aware of any official submissions from the Society on industrial relations or on general economic matters, although there may have been some. Therefore, I am not able to comment on whether there would have been anything of that nature which would have encouraged the Government to accept the view set out in the article about the H.R. Nicholls Society and Mr Stone's appointment as mouthpiece on industrial relations. However, I think that the appointment could reasonably be taken as evidence of how detached that organisation is from industrial relations reality that it would appoint a person such as Mr Stone, who not only has no experience in the area, or indeed, in recent times, any intellectual consistency, but also has plenty of dogmatic views. I assume that the H. R. Nicholls Society is more interested in having Mr Stone's dogmatic views stated on behalf of the Society in the forlorn hope that his one time reputation as a competent Treasury Secretary or Treasury official still lingers in the community. I do not think it does linger very much in the community and if anyone wonders why, I suggest he or she should have a look at the intellectual honesty and quality of many of the things Mr Stone has been writing since he retired as Treasury Secretary.