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Wednesday, 5 September 1984
Page: 477

Senator ROBERT RAY —I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. If it is possible to calculate the losses caused by the New South Wales rail strike, as has been suggested by Senator Lajovic, could the Minister indicate the benefits the community has received owing to the lowest level of industrial disputation since 1969?

Senator BUTTON —As I said in my answer to Senator Lajovic, these things are not easily quantifiable or calculable. But the benefits which this country has received from the best industrial relations environment since 1969 in terms of industrial stoppages are widely recognised in the business community and in industry generally. If I might make a point, Senator Lajovic's question, which would normally in the period of the Fraser Government have been a very dull question-nobody would have been particularly interested in it-attained a certain poignancy and interest today because it is the first time that a question like that has been asked in this place in the last 12 months or so. The reason is that it is a most unusual experience for a strike of that duration and that impact to have occurred in this country since this Government came to power.

Senator Chaney —Tell the miners in Tasmania about that.

Senator BUTTON —All sorts of excited interjections are coming from people who are seeking to find industrial unrest in the community. That could go on like the pea and thimble trick ad infinitum. But in that process what are being ignored are the statistics and the realities of the situation which lend point to Senator Lajovic's question. This Government is concerned to redress many of the factors which rendered this country's industries uncompetitive in both international markets and Australian markets over a number of years. Of course the level of industrial disruption which existed in this country was one of those factors. We will persist in our task of trying to see that in this country we never regress to the level of industrial disruption that we endured in 1981 and 1982 under the Fraser Government.