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Wednesday, 2 November 1983
Page: 2254

Mr UREN (Minister for Territories and Local Government)(8.00) —Earlier this evening the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) raised a question which involved me. This is what he said in his opening remarks:

I am compelled tonight to raise in this House an important question concerning the involvement of the Minister for Territories and Local Government in the day to day management of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority . . .

He then talked about the actions of certain workers who had misappropriated certain equipment and carried out certain work in the time of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority. Then the honourable member said:

In September it became apparent that the Minister had become involved. The Chairman of the Authority, Mr Bolton, was called to the Minister's office to meet him and an Electrical Trades Union of Australia organiser.

By that, I am charged with interfering in the internal affairs of the Electricity Authority. The facts are these: I cannot give the exact time, but several months ago a Sydney organiser by the name of Mr Keith Challenger, whom I know well, when in Canberra asked me whether I would see a delegation of workers from the Electrical Trades Union in Canberra. The workers came and saw me and put their point of view. They said that they thought that one of their workers had been dealt with harshly. I listened to their case. It was arranged that at a later date the union members could make an appointment with me. By that stage I would have heard the other side of the story as well.

I made arrangements for Mr Bolton, the Chairman of the Electricity Authority, to put the other side of the story. I can assure the honourable member that when I heard the facts I said clearly that I would not interfere in the internal affairs of the Electricity Authority. It was the Authority's responsibility and it had to deal with the matter in its own way. In no way did I interfere in the internal affairs of the Electricty Authority. I wish that the honourable member for Dundas, although he may have the right to raise this question, had not made accusations and charged that I was involved, or condoned in any way the action of those workers. In fact at that time I spoke quite sternly to the workers on the subject of the misappropriation of certain equipment of the Electricity Authority, which they had used in the time during which they should have been working for the Electricity Authority. I will make my position quite clear: As far as I am concerned, particularly in regard to workers in a public authority, they have a responsibility to make sure that they serve that authority in the interests not only of the authority but also of the people that we represent. That is a very deeply instilled principle which I stand by. I say this to the honourable member: Until he knows more facts and not just half truths, he should not start making charges that I in any way condoned the action of those workers or interfered in the internal affairs of the Electricity Authority. I wanted to hear the two sides of the story.

Mr Ruddock —After the meeting the statutory authority changed its decision.

Mr UREN —Well that is the Authority's business. That involves its relationship with the union. In no way did I influence the Authority. If the honourable member wants to have a personal--

Mr Ruddock —I accept your word.

Mr UREN —If the honourable member wants a personal interview with Mr Bolton he may, or if he wants to put a question on notice I will answer the question in detail in any shape or form. I can assure the House that in no way did I interfere with the working of the Electricity Authority and in no way did I condone any actions of the workers in regard to what they did and were disciplined for.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 8.05 p.m.