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Tuesday, 26 May 1987
Page: 3362

Mr TIM FISCHER(10.16) —Tonight I wish to refer to the Albury mail strike, which has enormous national ramifications. I notified the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy), as a matter of courtesy, that I would raise the subject tonight. The strike, which commenced on 6 and 7 May, involved the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union proceeding with a tactical and political strike which was unwarranted and unjustified and which led to hundreds of individuals and small business operators becoming the innocent victims of this ugly union action. The strike had nothing to do with conditions which Australia Post might have laid down as the employer involved. In many ways Australia Post was the innocent party, as were many postal workers at Albury. The strike had everything to do with a political campaign over the Federal Government's workers compensation legislative intentions. The union decided to impose bans, including a total ban on all mail going to the Albury mail centre, which quickly led to a situation in which there was no mail over much of southern New South Wales, and particularly the city of Albury, from anywhere outside that region. I can give many examples of the consequences of that action. Passports, urgent medical reports and notifications of operations were held up in the mail. People missed out on having those operations as a direct consequence of the mail strike. Also, a large number of small business operators--

Mr Hand —Weren't you on the front bench before? Are you on the back bench now?

Mr TIM FISCHER —Would the honourable member support the strike? The honourable member is interjecting and he is not even in his correct seat in the chamber.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Melbourne is not sitting in his own seat and he is interjecting. I ask him to cease.

Mr TIM FISCHER —We now know that Labor members support the action of the APTU proceeding with a political strike which had nothing to do with Australia Post's conditions. I am pleased that the honourable member for Melbourne has indicated his support of the strike, because I will see that that fact is circulated throughout my electorate where many people are recovering from the fact that 400,000 individual items of mail and over 6,000 bags of mail have been held up for over a fortnight, creating very acute individual hardship as well as wrecking the cash flow of many small and large business operators. That has occurred as a direct consequence of this unjustified and unwarranted APTU strike.

I called a public meeting on this issue to be held in Albury last Friday. A very large cross-section of the community came forward. My door was open to the postal workers involved. Indeed, representatives from all sectors of the community were present. A number of key resolutions were passed to bring pressure to bear on the Government if there was no settlement by today to commence deregistration proceedings, to intervene and to circulate information on the strike throughout the capital cities so people would know that, if they posted mail to Albury, it would be strikebound. The strike has many other implications, not the least of which is credit bureaus and Bankcard operators applying defaults and penalties on innocent people who are not aware of the liabilities involved. Again, that is a direct consequence of this tactical political strike which had nothing to do with the direct conditions of employment of the postal workers involved.

The APTU workers in Albury were the pawns in that the Australian Council of Trade Unions laid down an edict on supporting the workers compensation campaign and sent an APTU union organiser down to cause trouble. People were sent out to other centres also. Of course, they got a raspberry throughout most of country New South Wales and indeed most of Australia. Eventually, this morning, the unions said that it had been dumped by the ACTU and the Government on the matter. It deserves to be dumped. It has certainly been dumped by the people of Albury and the people of the electorate of Farrer, who have suffered greatly because of the strike. I ask the Minister to confirm in the House today or tomorrow that he has circulated notices on the strike.

Mr Hand —Madam Speaker, I raise a point of order. It deals with a remark made by the honourable member about three sentences ago when he said that that union had been dumped by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. That is totally untrue and he knows it to be untrue.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order.

Mr TIM FISCHER —Indeed, I support the claims by the Albury City Council which have been conveyed directly to the Minister's office and invite the Minister formally to advise the House of the circumstances arising from the end of the strike.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.