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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 754

Mrs DARLING —I ask the Prime Minister: Has the Federal Government made sufficient progress in implementing the prices and incomes accord to reasonably expect all trade unions party to the accord to confine their wage claims to national wage case rises, as required under the accord?

Mr HAWKE —I am indebted to the honourable member for her question because it is perhaps the most important question that can be asked at this time. The prices and incomes accord, as I have had reason to explain to the House on a number of occasions, provides the Government with an instrument in addition to those blunt and indiscretionary economic instruments of fiscal and monetary policy. Indeed, its existence enables the Government to undertake with a greater degree of confidence a stimulatory economic program to try to get this economy going again . It is for that reason that we on this side of the House-and I hope very many on the other side of the House-welcome the fact that yesterday the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress, the supreme parliament of the trade union movement, unanimously supported that prices and incomes accord.

An accord by definition means that there are obligations on the two sides to the accord. Let me very briefly explain that we on this side, as the Government, while making it clear that we could not expect to deliver every element of the accord in a very short time, nevertheless in six months have done a great deal to deliver our side of the accord. We have helped to move back to a centralised system of wage fixation. We have made submissions to the national wage case in respect of a system of wage indexation. We have taken very important action in the sphere of non-wage income. I have personally written to a very large number of major companies in this country and asked that in respect of dividends, directors' fees and other emoluments they exercise restraint in accordance with the principles of the accord. I pay tribute to those companies. Overwhelmingly they have responded positively to that approach from the Government. My colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has approached professional associations. Where they are under no formalised fee fixing mechanism, he has suggested that they avail themselves of the services of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission so that those fees can also be fixed in accordance with the principles of the accord.

In addition to that, we have established the Economic Planning Advisory Council . Again, let me pay tribute not merely to the trade unions but also to the business community of Australia, large and small, the State governments, local government and other organisations which have joined with the Government in establishing that central part of the accord. We have also moved-and the legislation will be introduced shortly-to establish the Prices Surveillance Authority. My colleague the Minister for Health has, of course, done a marvellous job in getting Medicare ready. That will be operative early next year . We have introduced the community employment program.

I make the point therefore that on the Government's side of the accord the Government has delivered the goods. It follows from that that it is now up to the ACTU to play its part. We have delivered our side. As I said to the ACTU Congress directly on Monday this week, there cannot now be any sectional wage claims under the accord. Unions have to abide by the decision in the national wage case. Only in the most special and extraordinary circumstances ratified by the Commission itself could there be any sectional claims outside the decision in the national wage case. It is the firm view of this Government that any union which is not prepared to sign on the line and say 'We accept this decision and we will not be making sectional claims' is not entitled to any increase under the national wage case. We on this side of the House believe that the trade union movement shares with us a real commitment to the prices and incomes accord . We expect the ACTU and the unions to deliver and we believe that they will.

Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. Under standing order 321 I again ask that the Prime Minister table the notes from which he was reading.

Mr SPEAKER —The request for tabling can only be for a document on public affairs . The Standing Orders do not refer to notes. Was the Prime Minister quoting from a document on public affairs?

Mr Hawke —No, I had notes.

Mr SPEAKER —There is no point of order.