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Wednesday, 25 March 1998
Page: 1542


Mr BEAZLEY —We solemnly promise not to run around saying what the Treasurer has been running around saying in the Melbourne business community lately.


Mr SPEAKER —Does the Leader of the Opposition have a question, or are you going to resume your seat?


Mr BEAZLEY —I am going to ask a question, Mr Speaker. You allow plenty of abuse on that side of the House. My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, are you aware of the recent decision in the case of Murton and Lemmon Investments in which the employment of an employee of a small business was terminated for taking sick leave to which he was entitled? Do you realise that in this case the IRC found the dismissal to have been `harsh, unjust and unreasonable' and that the employee has not received the fair go all-round which you promised? How can you justify stripping future employees of their right to protection against dismissal which independent tribunals find harsh and unfair while you continue to protect Senator Parer's job when every independent analyst has concluded he should be sacked?


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I am not aware of that particular decision, but I will have a read of that decision, and if there is anything useful that I can add to the answer I will. I take this opportunity—across the confected and phoney outrage of the Leader of the Opposition, the man who now pretends that he is interested in the welfare of the less fortunate in the community but who drove unemployment to 11.2 per cent when he was in charge in employment in Australia—


Mr Beazley —Can you take this ranting opportunity without being completely irrelevant?


Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will raise a point of order and not engage in dialogue across the chamber.


Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, my point of order goes to relevance. This is completely irrelevant to the question he was asked. They get enough of a rage; they ought to be held up at least on our specifics.


Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.


Mr HOWARD —The Leader of the Opposition asked me whether I had read a particular case. I went immediately to that point and I choose to add something else to the answer, and if you do not like it that is your bad luck. You do not like being reminded of your lousy record for the downtrodden and the battlers when you were part of the government. That is your problem. The problem with you lot in the Labor Party is that when you had a chance to help the battler you ignored it. You discovered the battlers in opposition.

Opposition members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —Members of the House will remain silent before I call the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr Beazley —I know that he is more than usually hysterical today.


Mr SPEAKER —Do you have a point of order?


Mr Beazley —He is on auto-jibber. I raise the question of relevance.


Mr SPEAKER —Raise the point of order; do not engage in debate.


Mr Beazley —The point of order is this: his answer to the question is completely irrelevant to the question that was asked. He might have had his first sentence in order, but the rest of it is not. He had a specific question directed to him and he is way off the mark.


Mr SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will take note of the concerns of the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr HOWARD —I wonder which political leader in Australia used an autocue at his national conference. It was not the leader of my party. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the law that we have passed in relation to unfair dismissal in no way affects the right of people who are the victims of discriminatory conduct. That discriminatory conduct is well defined under the legislation.

I say again to the Leader of the Opposition: what you have done in another place today is to destroy the job prospects of 50,000 Australians. What you have done in another place today is to strike another blow against the interests of small business in Australia. What you have done in another place today is to remind the Australian people that when the ACTU snaps its fingers Kim Beazley comes running. What you have done in another place today is to remind us that your defence of the Maritime Union of Australia is no one-off aberration; it is part of a long pattern of conduct. You in government ignored the battlers, in opposition you try to rediscover them, and you demonstrate all the time that when push comes to shove you are the handmaidens and the lackeys of the trade union movement of Australia.