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Transcript of AM ABC Radio John Howard subjects: AAPM industrial relations dispute, Ray Groom

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2 June 1992 REF: TRANSCR\sr\2692



SUBJECTS: APPM Industrial Relations dispute, _____________ Ray Groom______■ _____________________


Ray Groom, Tasmania's Premier has seen the future and he doesn't like the look of it. As the APPM dispute drags on after the break down of talks between the company the unions and the Federal and State Governments, Mr Groom is taking

issue with his Federal colleague John Howard over the handling of industrial relations. Mr Groom says that he must "remind Mr Howard that the success of the Liberal Party in Tasmania has been built on the excellent relationship with the working people of the State. It has not been built on a policy of

siding at every opportunity with the employer." Mr Groom goes on "backing the employer regardless of the rights and wrongs of the situation has been the downfall of the Liberal Party here and elsewhere in Australia over the decades."

Well, to respond, Mr Howard joins us this morning in our Canberra studio.

Mr Howard, Mr Groom is a proven winner in capturing the votes of working people, you might say traditional Labor voters in North West Tasmania, how do you respond to this criticism?


Well Ray, a good friend of mine and I mean that genuinely and not sarcastically? Ray is really just dead wrong on this issue. I have not sided with the company. I challenge him, I challenge you, I challenge anybody to point to any statement I have made during the APPM dispute indicating that I am siding with the company. My criticism of the Federal Government, I

regret to say the Tasmanian government and also Martin Ferguson, is that their high profile intervention has in fact



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prolonged and worsened this dispute. It has not solved it. This dispute has got worse the more governments have intervened. And so far from this dispute being a litmus test of the Federal Coalition's industrial relations policy, this dispute is a prime case study of the inadequacies and the

failure of the present industrial relations system. We saw it all on Sunday night. You had the whole, you had all the players in the Gilbertian scene that is so redolent in industrial relations in Australia. You had the Federal Minister, the State Minister, the President of the ACTU, a whole

lot of reporters,the glare of television lights-they negotiated for six hours and because they all had different agendas they failed to resolve the dispute.

Now my argument is that government should get the hell out of this dispute, get right away from it, and allow the parties to deal with the matter. If that were to happen then I believe the dispute would be resolved.


Now, you say you haven't sided with the company, but what is your position on the company? What is your reaction to the way APPM is handling this dispute?


Well my reaction is that the person who is making the dispute worse is Peter Cook. His references last night to bloodshed, to an industrial gulag, to a Soviet style situation style in Burnie were provocative and irresponsible. They were not

designed to settle the dispute. They were designed to aggravate the dispute.


Now that may be but I can't draw you it seems on your view

about the company itself.


You know you can't you see. And I know that may be

frustrating to you and it may be frustrating to others but the fact is I believe that we will have better industrial relations in Australia if on occasions when industrial disputes arise Parliamentarians on both sides, State and Federal, stay out of those disputes. Because whenever there is a political intervention there are new pressures, there are new agendas, injected into the dispute. People don't always behave with an eye to settling the dispute, they behave with an eye to how history will remember them. Not so far as their role

in that dispute is concerned and that is the problem that Senator Cook had on Sunday night. He wanted to go down there like some poor man's Bob Hawke at the last minute and settle


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that dispute and because that didn't happen he has now spat the dummy.


Can I bring you back to the Liberal Party's own divisions on this. Because I think John Hewson when, as I remember he was speaking to the Housing Industry Association, he made quite

clear that he supports the company in the dispute.


No, John Hewson was reacting to some comments that Ray Groom had made at that particular time. Now look, we have been criticised by some industrial relations writers who are used to the old ways for maintaining a silence on this dispute. The reason that I have not taken sides and I totally reject Ray Groom's comment that I have taken the side of the company.

I mean, of course, the Liberal Party needs and will get and is getting, according to the opinion Polls, the votes of hundreds of thousands of working men and women throughout Australia. Of course we have that as a goal but the reason that I am

remaining silent on this and why I know you are frustrated you can't draw me, is that I do not believe this is the sort of dispute whose resolution will be speeded by high profile

grandstanding political interventions.

And it certainly will not be resolved, its resolution will not be speeded by the provocative and irresponsible references to bloodshed and industrial gulag. Senator Cook ought to be ashamed of himself for raising the spectre of bloodshed at

Burnie. He ought to be totally ashamed of himself. That is a divisive, provocative thing for him to say and the Prime Minister ought to discipline him and silence him. He just ought to get right away from this dispute. He has got no

contribution to make to it. He has got no capacity to bring good will. I mean how can he bring balming good will to a



Can I bring you back to Mr Groom for a minute. He's close to

the people of Burnie and he was the Federal member for that area for a long time. Why wouldn't he be gauging this dispute better than you are?


Well, I can tell you that the current Federal Member, Chris Miles?who is also close to the people of Burnie holds identical views to me on this issue. In fact, I discussed with him the dispute yesterday after I had briefed the Shadow

Cabinet and before I issued my statement calling on all Governments to adopt a lower profile and calling on Martin


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Ferguson to pull out of it. Chris made the point to me and

I totally agree with him that there are hundreds of workers at the Burnie mill who would go back to work the next instant if only they were allowed to go back. And it is the existence of that picket line that is stopping them.

Do you hear Peter Cook asking if that picket line can be removed? Do you hear Martin Ferguson saying it? Of course you don't. All you get from Peter Cook is inflammatory language designed to worsen the dispute. I don't say that

under parliamentary privilege, I say it on your program. Peter Cook's language in the last 24 hours has worsened this dispute and so far from him being a balming, soothing Federal Industrial Relations Minister he's become a damn menace to the

resolution of this dispute.


Thanks very much for joining us, John Howard.