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Statement by Bill Hayden

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Leader of the Opposition

Statement by B ill Hayden, MP -

Ihe FPLP Executive — the Shadow Cabinet — today considered the Fraser Government's attempts to provoke a major in d u strial dispute within the o il industry.

The Executive agreed unanimously th a t the Government was seeking to exploit a negotiated wage agreement within the industry fo r no other reason than p o litic a l advantage.

The facts of the issue are clear.

The agreement, negotiated la s t year between the o il companies and i t s workers, endorsed an 8% wage increase effective from January 1 th is year.

The negotiations were concluded before the Government1 s manipulations of a wage freeze were given le g isla tiv e force by the Parliament.

The M inister for Employment and In d ustrial Relations, Mr Macphee, clearly exempted such an agreement from the freeze in undertakings he gave the Parliament during debate on the freeze leg islatio n .

The M inister w ell understands th a t i t s own le g isla tio n provides ' for the ra tific a tio n of wage, agreements concluded before the wage freeze was imposed. Yet the Government now seeks to repudiate th is agreement in the hope of provoking major in d u stria l co n flict which i t believes w ill.b e st serve the Prime M inister's election ambitions.

This stand has been taken despite the fact th a t Mr Macphee la s t year congratulated the ACTU and the o il industry on the manner in which they had negotiated the agreement now in dispute.

At our meeting today, the Executive deplored the Government's cynicism in th is m atter, and agreed to c a ll on the Prime M inister to reverse his Government' s destructive opposition to the o il industry agreement being honored.

Such a decision would be in f u ll accord with long established and· proper in d u stria l principles to honor agreements mutually concluded through proper in d u stria l negotiations.

Mr Fraser also knows th a t the ACTU gave an undertaking before the A rbitration Cannission th at th is agreement, once ra tif ie d , would not be used by the trade union movement as the basis for extending wage claims in other industries. He cannot therefore credibly argue th a t

the agreement in any way breaches his Government's wage freeze.

Ihe Prime M inister's refusal to a c t in support o f the o il industry agreement can only further em bitter the trade unions about the unfairness of the wage freeze. I t would also demonstrate, once and for a l l , that the freeze is unworkable in the wholly u n fair way in which i t imposes the fu ll penalty of r e s tra in t and sa c rific e only on those fam ilies

dependent on wage and salary income.

In th is context, the Executive today reaffirm ed i t s view th a t the only means by which wage moderation can be effectiv e in assistin g A ustralia's economic recovery is through a f a i r and ju s t prices and incomes policy.

As 1 have repeated many times in recent months, such a policy must take f u ll account of prices and non-wage incomes, as w ell as wages and sa laries, i f the objective of re s tra in t is to be endorsed by the whole community. Yet th is is a view to which Mr Fraser remains stubbornly Parliament H ouse, Canberra, ACT. 2600 blind as he pursues h is calculated policy

o f confrontation in an election year.

CANBERRA, January 19, 1981. '