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Transcript of joint news conference

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P R I M E M I N I S T E R /



PM: I want to speak briefly on this document. I've been engaged with my two colleagues today in discussions with the ACTU and the WWF and union officials, on the one hand, and with representatives of the AEWL and Conaust, on the other hand. And as a result of those discussions I then, in consultation with my colleagues, put to the unions on the one hand and the employers on the other the document which

is in front of you which I am putting forward as the basis for a resolution of this matter of reform on the waterfront. I've made it clear to both parties that as far as the Government is concerned we are a party to a tripartite

agreement which we entered into in good faith which is directed towards achieving significant reform on the Australian waterfront, and that I was not going to allow that process to come to a halt. The commitment of the

Government was understood and accepted by both sides and I have a situation now where the representatives of the unions have indicated that what I've put forward, while of course not representing everything that they would want to have

seen, is acceptable to them. And the employers have adopted, I must say, a constructive approach in the discussions I've had with them today, have gone off and will submit this to their respective bodies on Monday. And I trust as a result therefore of the hard work that we've put

in today that we will see now, at long last, a final basis for the achievement of what we've been about in this area of waterfront reform. May I just add one factor that's not contained in the document which I've released to you, which the document of course deals basically with the question of the restructuring of the award and the attendant wage changes that will be associated with that. The employers raised the fact that there were certain other matters that still were unresolved - to be specific there were five, what they regarded as relatively major matters. That's day work practices, part-time employment, overtime arrangements and the question of separate awards for security officers and depot officers and I've secured agreement in regard to that with the unions that they will agree to continue negotiations on those points. And if agreement has not been

reached on those matters by the first of July, which is the relevant date in regard to the 4 per cent increase, then

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they will agree to the process of independent decisions on those matters, which is contained in the document in regard to the decision of the post 4 per cent wage increases. In addition to those five matters of major importance, there are I believe also some relatively minor matters which still are not resolved and in regard to those the trade unions have accepted the same concept - that they will continue to negotiate on those and if agreement is not reached on those

issues, then the same process of independent determination will apply as is to apply to the post 4 per cent wage increases. So, I am optimistic as a result of the work that we've been able to do today with the unions and the employers, that we will be able to achieve a positive outcome in this matter which will be obviously of benefit to

those who are involved directly. But most importantly from the point of view of the Government it will mean that the Australian community as a whole will get the benefit of very substantial reform on the Australian waterfront. I'd like

to finally pay tribute to the co-operation I've received from my two colleagues Senator Cook and Senator Collins in this matter.

JOURNALIST: Are you disappointed you haven't been able to stitch up a deal today?

PM: There was never any suggestion that you were going to be able to stitch up a deal today. I have gone as far as is possible today, that is I've got the agreement of the ACTU and the unions who were in a position to give their

agreement. As far as the employers are concerned it was always understood that they would have to talk to their constituency. That's what they are going to do.

JOURNALIST: And what if they come back and say no?

PM: What if they come back and say no - well, I would have to deal with that if it arose. I'm hopeful that there will be a more positive response than that. Though I must say that the employers that I've spoken to, they have been very positive and constructive in their approach.

JOURNALIST: You said that this was not want the unions wanted - in what way ...?

PM: Well there is, as you will see, a conditionality about the initial twelve dollars - the twelve dollars will be paid only after agreement on the classification structure which has got to be finalised prior to the 16th of May in regard

to the 4 per cent. There is conditionality about that. You will see that that will only become available on an enterprise by enterprise basis when an enterprise agreement

has been finalised and approved by WIRA, and employees have been reclassified under the new structure. That conditionality is important as far as I'm concerned, and the trade unions have accepted it.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, you seem to have entrenched enterprise bargaining ...?

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PM: I seem to have?

JOURNALIST: Entrenched enterprise bargaining ...

PM: I don't know whether I've entrenched enterprise bargaining today. What I have done is, if I can put it this way, to put back on the rails, existing rails I may say, a

process of negotiation that had been going on, on the waterfront. It had been seriously threatened, was being derailed by the attitudes that had been expressed. We've

put that process back on the rails. But more than putting it back on the rails, we've accelerated the process, the problem was, that there was no finalisation of this matter which looked to be in sight. The parties had been taking a very long time to finalise these matters. I've now laid down a timetable which I hope will, and expect will be

adhered to.

JOURNALIST: The Industrial Relations Commission has been dealt out of this too.

PM: Well, no. If you look at the document that I've released, and we have said in paragraph eight of the document that if the IRC is not available to make those

assessments relating to the post 4 per cent increases, which are related to the improvements which will come from reclassifications, then we would have to look at some other way. But let me make this quite clear. I think I can say that as far as both the unions are concerned, the employers are concerned and certainly as far as the Government is concerned, that we hope the IRC will be available.

JOURNALIST: Is there any definition built into this as to what is a substantial increase in productivity ...?

PM: Those sorts of figures have already been talked about as to the sorts of increases in productivity that can flow from the changes that have talked about there have been increases of the order of 50 per cent have been talked about. But that's not what we're talking about in terms of

wage increases.

JOURNALIST: In paragraph six here you're talking about a further adjustment ... of 4 per cent in two stages from early next year. Do you have any ... of the amount available ... second part of the evaluation?

PM: No, but in the discussions which had occurred before, in which Minister Collins was involved, there were figures in total out of this process that have been talked about. The outer limit’s about 11 per cent I think.

COLLINS: That's correct and can I just say the Government rejected any proposition that there was going to be a quantum applied to that adjustment.

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PM: It's got to be a matter which is reached by agreement if possible, but putting it from the employers' point of view, they're not going to be faced with a situation where if they can't reach agreement by negotiation then there is

some open slather involved in terms of the capacity of the unions just to press for some unreasonable amount. I mean, if they can't agree as to what is an appropriate reward for the very significant improvements that will come in efficiency from these decisions, then the matter will be decided and the parties in advance commit themselves to

that. It will be decided independently.

JOURNALIST: Leaving aside superannuation, this does represent the implementation of Accord Mark VI on the waterfront doesn't it? And secondly, did the unions want a further amount for the quantum or was there agreement on


PM: No, the - taking, Michelle, your question in its two parts. What it does represent is, in one sense, the processes and concepts that were involved in Accord Mark VI.

But importantly what it does, as I said in answer to an earlier question, was that it puts back on the rails that were already there a process which had operated during the life of Accord Mark VI in this industry. I mean we had a

tripartite agreement which was concurrent, if you like, with Accord Mark VI. That was an agreement which we had reached some time ago, a tripartite agreement. The problem is that that was derailed, or was threatened to be derailed, and as

I say, I've put it back on the rails and I hope accelerated the rate at which we're going to reach the station.

JOURNALIST: What are the implications of this -PM: I'm sorry Michelle, the second part of your question was the unions seeking more. In the discussions that had taken place before there'd been some figures and ballparks

talked about by the unions. The important thing as a result of what I've done today is that the employers now don't have hanging over their heads some process whereby there 'll be a

capacity for the unions through campaign or anything else to impose some figure of their choice upon the employers. There'll be an attempt to get a negotiated agreement. If they can't reach that then in advance both the unions and

the employers would accept the independent assessment of what that figure should be.

JOURNALIST: What are the implications of this deal for wage fixing for the rest of the economy?

PM: Well, let me make these points about that, and it may well be that Peter would like to add to it because he has the ministerial responsibility for that area now. Firstly,

as I've said in answer to some other questions, the waterfront industry had a process, specific to it which had been underway for some time. I mean, in other words it was accepted that while the normal Accord Mark VI processes were

going ahead concurrently there was a negotiation going on

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with the involvement of the Government. So I repeat again, what I've done today is to get that process back on the track that it was on before and trying to accelerate it. I think we'll be able to. That's the first point I would make. The second and more general point I would make is

that I think we are showing that there is a capacity to have negotiations between employers, unions and in this case with direct Government involvement to get agreed outcomes and outcomes which are relevant to what can be achieved within a particular sector of the economy. I think that that's

important to understand that that can be done. But Peter, you might like to add to that.

COOK: I don't have much more to add other than to say I think it does establish, importantly, these partners in this process are mature and that the significance of reaching an agreement in demonstrating maturity shouldn't be lost on


JOURNALIST: Do you think it was very mature of Mr Kelty, the other day, to have come out and talked about a moratorium on waterfront reform in the way that he did?

PM: Could I just answer that and then Peter might like to say something. As I've said in the discussions today with the unions and the employers, we're at this point now, with my involvement and that of my colleagues, in the context of the national wage case decision it was out of that and the reaction to it that there was the suggestions that we mightn't have reform going ahead in this important area. Now, what we have made clear is that whatever disappointment or reaction there may be to the National Wage Case decision, this process has to go ahead. I am appreciative of the way

in which the unions for their part have responded to my initiative and may I say I am also appreciative of the way in which the employers have been prepared to sit down and have a constructive discussion as well. So the realities are yes we are here because of a reaction to the National Wage Case decision and a very real concern that I had that

the process of reform was going to be derailed. But I hope and believe that we've overcome that.

JOURNALIST: Now that this one seems to have been cleared away or may well be cleared away, how soon do you see the rest of the industries getting their act together and paying up the $12 and getting their enterprise deals? Bill Kelty

said he expected ... in the next few weeks. Do you think that ... too optimistic?

PM: Well again that's a question I'd rather refer over to Peter. I'll just make one general observation - Peter has got responsibility in the general area. But as I understand it, Amanda, there will be those sort of discussions and

agreements being negotiated in a fairly wide range of areas. Peter, you may know more about the extent of that.

COOK: I can't comment on the extent of it, Amanda, because the last discussion I had on this subject with Bill Kelty

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was on Wednesday and nothing happened, I think, yesterday that would cause it to have been progressed particularly since then. But I think there is a great capacity for the

matter to be resolved by agreement. I'm encouraged by the commitment that the ACTU showed on Wednesday and their ongoing commitment to support the Accord Mark VI proposal and I think that the whole matter is manageable. As I said on Wednesday, that we are looking now directly at a proposal

for Australian Government business enterprises to be transfigured to the enterprise model. That is a quite exciting concept for Government employment and one that doesn't set up the Government as a pace-setter, in the way

in which that word is normally used, but rather as a model that we hoped might be emulated more widely in the private sector.

PM: Could I just make a specific point in regard to what's happening in this industry. It relates to some of the questions that have been asked when you've put, well what

about the attitude of the unions and claims for wage increases in this industry. What's got to be understood, and the employers do understand it, is that the unions in finalising this matter are going to have agreed to very substantial changes in this industry, very substantial changes, both in terms of numbers of people employed, actual employment arrangements, changing from the pool system to

specific enterprise employment. They are agreeing to very, very significant changes in waterfront practices. The fact that wage increases are going to be coming out of this as a result of now, what I hope we've finalising, should not be portrayed as the ACTU or the unions pushing for something

that's unreasonable, the concept of wage increases for changes that they are agreeing to is very important. I mean it’s because they will be agreeing to changes which affect their members very, very significantly, which changes are going to produce quite massive changes in productivity.

That's absolutely appropriate that we should be negotiating wage increases.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke should you have personally got involved in intervening in the waterfront reform process earlier, much earlier than you have?

PM: I have not been uninvolved before both in discussions with the Ministers, in discussions in ALAC and other forums, the Ministers kept me informed. I have been involved very

much earlier in the processes in February-March. But what has happened in the most recent period in the context of the National Wage Case decision, I believed required my very direct involvement, because as you know, I have been leading

the thrust of the Government for microeconomic reform. It was the initiative I announced in the first place going back to '87 and I've been very much there. Again on the 12th of March and when, in this critically important area, a

possible threat to progress in this important area of micro reform emerged I immediately believed it was my responsibility to try and grab hold of it.

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JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, is it fair enough to say that the ACTU and Bill Kelty in particular today have got virtually all they were seeking?

PM: No, I think you would - you'd only need to talk I think to Mr Kelty. ... to know that that's not the case. I

haven't approached this and I wouldn't have been able to get the positive discussions I have with the employers if they'd believed that we were merely acting as a conduit for the ACTU. I haven't approached it in that way.

JOURNALIST: But you mentioned some conditions and so on as an area of difference.

PM: Well those conditionalities are not unimportant, Michelle.

JOURNALIST: No but surely Mr Kelty has got the thrust of what he was seeking.

PM: It's not a question of what Mr Kelty is getting in the thrust of what he's seeking. I mean you do seem to insist in not understanding the history of this. The history of this is that the ACTU, the WWF and their associated unions on the waterfront and the Government, and the employers, committed themselves to an agreement, and that agreement was

for significant reform on the waterfront. The ACTU and Mr Kelty were part of that. Now the elements of that, without going into all the details are basically very simple. The elements of that reform were massive changes in existing practices; changes from a situation where you had pool employment to enterprise-based employment, changes in numbers employed, massive changes in classification

structures involving changes in training. All of these things directed to the outcome of very, very significant efficiency and productivity improvements in the waterfront. The next point to understand, accepted and understood by everyone, including Mr Kelty, the union and the employers,

that in that process there would be wage changes involved. It's not a very complex concept to understand that if workers and their unions in an industry are going to participate in massive changes in work practices, employment

levels, training and so on which are going to lead to very significant improvements in productivity and efficiency then they are to get a reward for that. Now Mr Kelty, in his capacity as Secretary to the ACTU, has been concerned to see that in those processes of massive change the element of proper reward for employees in this industry should be protected. Now that's his concern and proper concern and may I say that the position of the Government has always been quite clear and to be fair to the employers they have understood and accepted, they have understood and accepted

that if they are going to be the beneficiaries of very, very significance in improvements in productivity and efficiency then the employees that remain in the industry are entitled to reward. I mean, Mr Kelty hasn't been Robinson Crusoe in

his concern and understanding of that fact.

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JOURNALIST: But the employees did get done today, didn't they, compared with what they ... $12.40 ...

PM: Look, why is it, why is it, why is it that you people must always, always view an issue of quite profound ramifications and significance in terms of winners and losers. I mean, it is a cheap, easy, superficial and may I

say unprofessional method of approaching a very complicated subject. It may produce the easy line; Hawke wins, Kelty loses, employers win, someone wins, someone loses. It gives you the line. Now I can't, obviously, tell you how you're going to write it, whether it's someone won, someone lost. The fact is, and I say this with very strong feeling, that I as Prime Minister was confronted with a situation where it looked as though a fundamentally important reform process may be derailed. I made it clear that I was not going to allow that to happen. I therefore said I want my Minister, in the first place, with me coming back from Darwin and coming into it, I want the parties involved to meet with me and work our way through it. And to do that in a way which would mean on the part of both sides, employers and unions, that they were not necessarily going to get out of my intervention precisely what either side would want. Now why don't you do credit to both the employers and the unions that they had a sufficient sense of responsibility to respond constructively to that intervention. They did, the unions and the ACTU responded constructively to my

intervention. They haven't got precisely what they want. The employers haven't given their final reaction but they sat down with me. They put to me their concerns. I've tried to take account of them. The document that I put forward certainly wouldn't - I mean if the employers were sitting down writing exactly what they wanted it wouldn't be this document. If the ACTU and the wharfies were sitting down and writing the document, precise document they wanted it wouldn't be this document. .

COLLINS: Certainly wouldn't.

PM: But why don't you out of that understand because it's the right understanding, it's a decent understanding that here are two groups of people who do have a preparedness to look at this issue beyond just their own self-interest, or

just through the prism of their own self-interest, they've been prepared to look at this on a wider basis. Now that's the right way of looking at it. Why must you say winners and losers?

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, how did it feel for you personally to get involved at this level in this sort of negotiation again?

PM: It brought back feelings of the old times. I must say I enjoyed it.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if this deal does get up is it the sort of deal you'd like to see in other industries?

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PM: Well that question is partly answered by what I've said before. And that is that as a matter of record we had this tripartite agreement reached - we started it in 89, the talking about it and moving on it - so that concurrently with the general processes of wage determination under the Accord and within the Commission this had been, you know,

had a life of its own. Now my concern was that it looked like having its life throttled and I didn't want to see its life throttled, I wanted to see that it continued to exist and came to a fruitful outcome. I hope that that's what we are going to be able to do. But I add to that what both Peter and I have said before, I mean, it is an indication of the capacity and important in the case of capacity of unions and employers to negotiate relevant outcomes for their enterprises and their industry.

JOURNALIST: If it does get up will it be a rebuff to the Commission?

PM: Well it's not intended as a rebuff to the Commission and may I say it's not intended by us as a rebuff to the Commission anymore, may I say, then the fact that before the National Wage Case decision came down the fact that these negotiations were going on were a rebuff to the Commission. These negotiations were going on before the National Wage

Case came down - they were going on. The fact they were going on was not a rebuff to the Commission.

JOURNALIST: Will the Commission play a role in granting the payrises to the public servants on ...

COOK: Well the payrise to the public service is still a matter that is under negotiation and I'm hopeful that we'll complete those negotiations by the 15th of May. The

question then of how they're churched is a matter that will obviously take into consideration, during the course of the negotiations, but at this stage I don't really know the answer to that. I mean, it's a matter that could be open to

a solution that is supplied here. It may be that the avenues through the Commission are there as we get closer to the time I'm sure there will be an answer and there'll be no problem about us delivering on what is the outcome of those negotiations at all.

JOURNALIST: Senator Collins could you give an assessment of the Prime Minister's role in this?

COLLINS: It's been crucial. I'll just make a couple of quick points in respect of earlier questions that have been raised. First of all, this is not the first time that the Prime Minister has been directly involved in this process,

as he has already said. I can recall at the end of last year two direct meetings with the parties - in which the Prime Minister was involved - this is the third occasion of which I'm aware that he's been directly involved. Secondly,

there was an earlier question about, does this agreement entrench enterprise bargaining. It certainly does but I want to make the point that the entire waterfront reform


program was based on enterprise bargaining between employers and the unions. It was the National Wage Case decision that seriously affected that. So it's always been and remains an essential element of the program. Lastly, on the earlier point made about, is this a great victory for the unions because there's an element of wage increases, wage increases

in exchange for award restructuring were also an essential element of the waterfront reform program and are specifically provided for in the in-principle agreement.

PM: And accepted by the employers.

COLLINS: And accepted. I think it's clause 13 to be precise.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke what's your response to Peter Duncan's comment that the whole of Caucus is discussing the leadership issue?

COLLINS: Bullshit.

COOK: You asked us to be ...

PM: Ok. There you are. You know I would never use language as inelegant as that just employed by my Minister.

COLLINS: That's right.

PM: But he's not entirely inaccurate.

JOURNALIST: Can you just confirm that superannuation will be legislated?

PM: No. I can't confirm that. I'm simply saying that the question of superannuation has obviously been a matter that the Government has had to direct its mind to following the decision. We are thinking about it. We've had discussions with the ACTU. We haven't reached any final position on it.