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Wednesday, 24 August 1983
Page: 160

Mr REEVES —Is the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism aware of an article which appeared in the Melbourne Age newspaper on Monday of this week regarding a committee investigating penalty rates in the tourist industry? Has the Minister set up such a committee? Is it true, as the article alleges, that there is no trade union representation on that committee?

Mr JOHN BROWN —I thank the honourable member for his question. I did not give it to him; I did not need to. I did notice the article and I was offended by it. I was surprised that a journalist of the pre-eminence and reputation of Russell Barton would, without reference to me, write such an article based purely on information supplied by the honourable member for Higgins, who would not in any circumstance be regarded as an intellectual giant or a model of rectitude.

Mr Shipton —Have you been telling the travel industry that you set up the committee?

Mr JOHN BROWN —I did not set up that committee. That committee was set up by the Australian Tourist Commission on 23 March without reference to me. It does not include any union representation, but despite that weakness it is probably capable of doing some good work. There is a large lack of data regarding the effect that penalty rates have on the tourist industry. There is a popular misconception that the tourist industy is being held back to some huge degree by penalty rates. That is not the case. It is not the opinion that I have proffered . Despite the statements in the article, the comments I have made about penalty rates have not been made in secret. They have always been made in the public forum, including in this chamber at the National Economic Summit Conference in the company of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which, I might say, endorsed the remarks I made about the low level of base rates in the tourist industry and the very high level of penalty rates in some areas. Let me set that to rest.

I have not set up an inquiry. The inquiry that is being conducted is being conducted by the Australian Tourist Commission without union representation. I hope that when that report comes to light-and it will-it will be referred to the Tourist Ministers Council, which represents all the departments responsible for tourism around Australia, in the Liberal States as well as the Labor States. When we get that report we will act--

Mrs Child —There is only one Liberal State.

Mr JOHN BROWN —There are not many Liberal States left; the honourable member is right. When that report comes to light we will be in a better position to comment on the effect of penalty rates on the tourist industry. I am sure they will not be, as they are popularly misconceived to be, horrendous in every area. Certainly, in some areas they are. Because it is an industry that operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day, it has particular qualities that will necessitate a particular contribution by the trade union movement-and that will happen. I must say in defence of the Age that, as befits a newspaper of such stature and credibility, yesterday it withdrew with an article entitled 'We were wrong'. I think the best lesson has been learnt by Russell Barton, that lesson being that one learns nothing from fools.