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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 1863

Senator BOLKUS —I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations to an article on the front page of this morning's Canberra Times headlined `Scholes rejects AMA compromise offer'. I ask: What is the basis of the Australian Medical Association's compromise offer? Can the Minister provide a costing of it? Why is the offer unacceptable to the Government?

Senator WALSH —The Government had offered Australian Capital Territory doctors who treat Medicare patients in public hospitals a pay increase equal to 21 per cent of what they were previously getting. The doctors union in the Australian Capital Territory demanded a set of conditions that would have equalled a pay increase of more than 85 per cent. To translate that into dollars per week, the doctors union in the Australian Capital Territory demanded a pay increase of $430 a week for a part time job and sought to pursue that outrageous pay grab by imposing work bans; that is, by refusing to treat Medicare patients in Australian Capital Territory public hospitals. The militant doctors union in the Australian Capital Territory is making an outrageous pay claim-a $430 a week increase for a part time job-and is seeking to pursue that by the imposition of work bans. At the same time, it is making it perfectly clear that it intends that outrageous pay grab to spread throughout Australia if it is allowed to get away with it in the Australian Capital Territory.

The doctors union in the Australian Capital Territory has now put up another proposition which works out, in round figures, at a bid for a pay increase for a part time job of $350 a week-scarcely a modest claim-tied, moreover, to the AMA fee schedule, which the doctors themselves could change at will; in other words, an interim pay increase for a part time job of $350 a week which at any time in the future the doctors union could change by changing the AMA schedule-an invitation to the Commonwealth Government to sign a blank cheque. This is the set of arrangements which Senator Lewis described as quite reasonable and he criticised the Government. I eagerly anticipate the new spokesman on employment and industrial relations in the Opposition coming out and denouncing the doctors union in the Australian Capital Territory.

Senator Button —`Tough but fair', the Financial Review said.

Senator WALSH —Tough but fair; that is right. I do not think there would be one person in Australia-even Senator Lewis, if he understood the proposition properly-outside the militant, irresponsible, greedy doctors union of the Australian Capital Territory who would regard a pay claim for an interim increase of $350 a week for a part time job as responsible and fair. I look forward to Senator Chaney denouncing the Australian Capital Territory branch of the doctors union for pursuing that claim in the way that it is. In closing, may I just say that for wage demands made by other unions such as the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union of Australia and the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia--

Senator Parer —They go on strike all the time.

Senator WALSH —Are work bans better, Senator Parer? Senator Parer does not believe in unions affiliated with the Australian Council of Trade Unions going on strike, but apparently it is all right for the doctors union in the Australian Capital Territory to impose work bans while doctors pursue their greedy claims for a $350 a week pay increase for a part time job. This Government has denounced and opposed the attempts by blue collar unions to achieve, through industrial action, wage increases which the Government believes are excessive and contrary to the national interest. We have also opposed and denounced the much more outrageous claims of a white collar union-the doctors union in the Australian Capital Territory-to get pay increases for a part time job of four times the magnitude of those sought by some blue collar unions for full time jobs. I think it is about time that the Opposition adopted an equally even-handed approach and condemned the doctors union more vehemently than it has condemned the blue collar unions which have sought excessive wage increases through industrial action.