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Blatant discrimination by government

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IRET 1/93


There can be no justification for the agreement between the

Keating government and public sector unions regarding pay increases and improvements in benefits for the staff of members of parliament and which limit those changes to such of those staffers as are union members.

To start with, the government has advanced no justification for the increases and improvements. This makes the changes debatable and in current circumstances of high unemployment difficult to justify.

However, the limiting of the. increases and improvements to union members only is profoundly disturbing and should attract the strongest possible censure.

It is blatant, unacceptable discrimination, deliberately and knowingly engaged in by Ministers of the Keating government.

It is just as objectionable and repugnant as discrimination

based on race, gender or religious belief.

Imagine the outcry if the increases had discriminated in some

way between men and women?

Whether, or not, a person belongs to a union should be a matter of free choice exercised without any duress or any form of victimisation.

This action flies in the face of the high-minded pious outpourings to which we are all regularly subjected from this government about issues of discrimination.

This extraordinary agreement for which the government must accept total responsibility is also, of course, a serious breach of the merit principle.

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It demonstrates that when the crunch comes union power still carries the day in the face of issues of fundamental principle.

It makes a complete mockery of the rather pathetic claims of the government that it does not practice any kind of de facto compulsory unionism or preference arrangements for union members.

The deal was personally negotiated by Senator Bolkus, the Minister for Administrative Services. Utterances from government sources expressing surprise at the implications of the decision are sheer humbug.

The government cannot hide behind the Industrial Relations Commission. Not only did a government minister personally negotiate the arrangements, but moreover under recent changes made by the government to the Industrial Relations Act the Commission had no power to veto the agreement on public

interest grounds.

On every score, the Keating government stands indicted of open and naked discrimination.

I give notice that immediate action will be taken by an incoming Coalition government to strike down these discriminatory arrangements.

SYDNEY• 14 January 1993