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The Minister for Transport and Communications condemns the Opposition for their stance over the airline pilots' dispute

BRUCE WEBSTER: A continuing topic of debate has been the airline pilots' strike. Interestingly, both Government and Opposition sought to make capital of it, and the debate focused on each side's industrial relations policy. It was the subject of all but one question on Tuesday and seven of the 12 questions asked in the House on Wednesday. A third of the questions in the Senate on Tuesday also related to the pilots' strike.

And then there were the hours devoted to discussion of matters of public importance. On Tuesday the same topic was debated in each House: the failure of the Hawke Government's industrial relations policy which has led to the massive disruption caused by the airline pilots' dispute. On the Wednesday the House debated: the havoc wreaked upon the Australian economy by the Prime Minister's confrontationist mismanagement of the Australian transport system.

Well, most speeches were predictable, a reiteration of the major parties' records on managing industrial relations. But there was one striking speech on the airline pilots' strike, a vigorous contribution from Transport and Communications Minister, Ralph Willis, on Wednesday.

RALPH WILLIS: What, in fact, this MPI is about Mr Deputy Speaker, is a further demonstration of a fact that this Opposition has no political principles whatever. They will simply seize every opportunity to try to maximise political advantage, even if it means diminishing, or trying to diminish the attempts of the Government to resolve the dispute. And they have no compunction at all, no qualms at all about jumping into bed with the pilots. They are shameless, political harlots in bed with the pilots, that's what they are. And they know it.

They have no principles whatever. They are quite prepared to say: just resolve this ... go off and get discussions going as though that's some sort of industrial relations policy. What are in the industrial policy, no wages policy to apply, no framework to apply, and that's still your policy. You still haven't learned anything. You're still sitting there advocating a policy which says: just go off and negotiation - and everyone should do this, not just the pilots, everyone should do it. Opt out of the system, go off and get a voluntary agreement, go off and decide what your wages and conditions should be. Let all those with strong bargaining strength get out there and screw the economy for all they're worth for their own personal aggrandisement at the expense of everybody else. That's what your policy is; that's what your policy is, it's right here, all about the voluntary agreements and the opting out. There's no suggestion that there would be a wages policy framework, no suggestion that you'd have to get the approval of the Commission. You simply go out and do what the pilots are doing. And you're still saying it right now.

Well, the pilots are saying not just we want to negotiate; they are saying that, but they're also saying - and you totally forget that they are saying - we want to negotiate outside the wage-fixing principles. There's a big gun at the head of the airlines, outside the wage-fixing principles. That's the basis upon which they want to negotiate. That's the only basis upon which they will negotiation. And you're saying that that's okay. You are absolute wreckers. You are people who are quite prepared to destroy the Australian economy in the hope that you might then get back on the Government benches. You are an absolute disgrace. You have no political principles whatever, a shameless lot of political harlots who have no right to be in government in this country. And I would have thought surely, surely after all this time in the Opposition ....

DEPUTY SPEAKER: Point of order. The Honourable Member for O'Connor.

WILSON TUCKEY: The Minister has twice referred to the Opposition as harlots, and I ask that he withdraw on this occasion and that he cut it out - he can sit down while I'm talking, too - because I think it is totally unnecessary; it is untrue, about as untrue as the rest of the things he's saying. And I ask him to withdraw.

DEPUTY SPEAKER: It's no point of order. The Honourable Minister.

WILSON TUCKEY: Are you ruling that harlot is a parliamentary word?

DEPUTY SPEAKER: I said there's no point of order. I'm calling the Minister.

WILSON TUCKEY: Well, I'm asking you to ... I have taken exception to the word ....

DEPUTY SPEAKER: There is no point of order. I've called the Minister.

WILSON TUCKEY: Well, I ask the Minister to withdraw the word harlot. It is an outrageous word to use in here. He's learnt it from the Treasurer. But if he's going to start and think he replaces him, this place goes further down. I ask the Minister to withdraw that word.

DEPUTY SPEAKER: No point of order. I call the Minister.

WILSON TUCKEY: Well, we've got a new standard in this place.

BRUCE WEBSTER: Well, firmly rejecting that point of order was the newly-elected Deputy Speaker, Ron Edwards. And that's it from Ring the Bells.