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Thursday, 5 May 1994
Page: 329

Senator CRANE —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer him to the section in the Working Nation document which states that an in-principle agreement on the training wage has been reached with the ACTU negotiating committee but not yet approved by the ACTU executive. Why, after extensive and lengthy negotiations with the ACTU, does the government not have approval from the ACTU executive? Does this mean that the training wage could still be vetoed by the ACTU? Is this the reason why the government has not released the details of the scheme? Precisely what are the issues in dispute with the ACTU executive?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I do not know the issues that remain to be finally nailed down as between the government and the ACTU executive, but I am assured by those who are closely involved in those negotiations that every one of them is readily and quickly soluble and that it is only a matter of a very short time before an announcement will be able to be made about the way in which the whole package comes together. Again I make the point that it really is pretty cheeky for the other side of politics in this country to be making any noise at all on the subject of a training wage after its particular contribution to the debate on that subject.

  It will be remembered only too well that last year during the election campaign the opposition proposed a $3 an hour wage for young Australians—a so-called training wage, but in reality a slave wage—which had no training attached to it at all. Unlike Mr Howard's particular proposal, our training wage does and will involve structured training and will certainly involve more than $3 an hour. Moreover, Mr Howard's proposal would have allowed employers to take on young Australians under this sham proposal, pay them $3 an hour, then drop them off at aged 18 and replace them with another $3 an hour wage slave.

  That is the environment in which those opposite come in here and purport to pour scorn or point fingers or in some other way demonstrate their unhappiness with our proposals. Those opposite ought to be ashamed of themselves for their contribution to the policy debate in this country. We have nothing but pride for the contribution that we have made in this particular white paper.

Senator CRANE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In the process of asking it, I ask the minister whether he would like me to buy some shaving cream so that he can get into a proper lather. The minister says that he does not know the reasons why the government has not reached a conclusion with the ACTU executive. Will the minister also tell us whether or not the government will be having discussions with employer groups, as outlined in the Working Nation program, because it states quite clearly it has not done so? Secondly, will the government be amending the IR act to introduce a training wage?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am not directly involved in the process of those particular discussions and negotiations. I will refer that proposition for such answer as my colleagues may, in their generosity of spirit, be prepared to give Senator Crane, whether he deserves it or not.