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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4826

Senator ALSTON (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (12:08 PM) —I want to indicate that the government certainly regards Senator Murray's position as an improvement on the Labor Party's position, but I also want to indicate why we still have ultimate concerns sufficient to oppose this amendment. The whole purpose of the exercise really should be to ascertain whether bargaining in good faith is occurring in order to make a judgment about whether or not to suspend or terminate a bargaining period. Our particular concern is that, if you require the commission to consider a fairly long list of matters which you say must be taken into account, you essentially create an expectation that, however unrealistic a bargaining position might be, all those matters have to be addressed in detail.

As we know and as Mr Justice Munro identified, a large part of the problem is unions pursuing pattern bargaining or industry-wide agreements. To the extent that that is not an acceptable practice, you would be requiring the commission to not only take that into account but also create an expectation that all those matters would have to be addressed and responded to in detail by the negotiating parties, yet in most instances the unions would have quite a separate agenda from what was on the table. So we do not think that that is a desirable approach. We much prefer what we have done, which is draw on the decision and identify a number of those matters which we say are clearly evidence of bad faith and are the ones that should be ruled out.

Question agreed to.