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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1203


Senator BOSWELL(1.14) —Today I want to bring before the Senate an issue which I believe is concerning many Australians at the moment, and that is the undue influence that I believe the Australian Council of Trade Unions is having on the Government of this country.

On 21 and 22 February, three weeks prior to the last election, the Australian Labor Party signed a prices and incomes accord with the ACTU and soon after Mr Hawke's electoral success on 5 March last year he called together a number of people, such as the captains of industry and the unions, at the National Economic Summit Conference, out of which the Economic Planning Advisory Council was born and the prices and incomes accord was born, which further legitimised the ACTU's role in running the affairs of this country. The ACTU now has a major voice in EPAC, which consultative committee has set up its own bureaucracy which is costing the country something like $2m. This places the ACTU in an extremely powerful position in this country.

One of a number of the initiatives that the ACTU has pushed through EPAC and through the prices and income accord-and has won-is the job redundancy claim. The ACTU's own estimate is that it will cost the business of this nation $165.6m . Of course this will add a tremendous amount to the on-costs of our businesses and our rural sector. It will make our businesses even more uncompetitive than they are at the moment, and I know that this Government has put a major emphasis on creating jobs. The point is that continued on-costs to business such as this redundancy claim-the scheme is going to cost $165m-will price businesses and rural industry out of the market. I would have thought, listening to all that talk from the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Button, on containing on-costs, that he would have opposed, or his Government would have opposed, the ACTU's case to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Yet I understand that the Government backed the redundancy case in the Arbitration Commission.

On 26 July this year we saw the ACTU on behalf of metal trades unions and other unions introducing a union controlled superannuation scheme. This scheme calls for a contribution of $11 per week, per worker, per every employer and I believe that this scheme will be one that the ACTU will try to implement right throughout the nation. It will try to have every employer paying $11 per week for every employee in the work force. Again it is another tremendous on-cost that is added to business. Business cannot afford it, and I say to the Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, as a senior Minister in the Government, that every on-cost that goes on to business increases the length of the dole queues. I would like him to keep that in mind.

It is even suggested-I do not know how true it is, but I believe it is true- that the National Capital Development Commission is advising the building industry that unless building companies are in that superannuation scheme they will not be in line to get any work out of the National Capital Development Commission. It is costing $109 per week to employ someone and pay him $300 per week; in other words, to pay a person $300 per week there is $109 on-cost, and that is before the superannuation and the redundancy costs go on. I have not costed it out but I can assure the Senate that they would increase that cost considerably.

The ACTU's latest drive is to force business and executives to reveal their asset earnings and expenses. The ACTU believes this is in line with the prices and incomes accord and Mr Kennan, who is the Attorney-General in the Victorian Government, has said that all businesses should reveal their expenses and incomes because it is in line with the accord. I suggest that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the prices and incomes accord what a director is paid in director's fees or what the other expenses of a business are. That is entirely the prerogative of that business. We even saw the other day a Press release where EPAC has been called upon to investigate the prospect of setting up a capital gains tax to reduce the deficit. A capital gains tax would affect small business and the rural industry much more than it would affect large business, or the unions, although small business and the rural industry have only two voices on EPAC. One could ask what other deals the ACTU is going to bring before EPAC? Can we expect a capital gains tax and can we expect a death duty tax?

There are a number of other issues that I believe the ACTU will be pushing for after the next election, if the Government is returned. Even yesterday we saw the ACTU dictating to the Government what helicopters should be used. I realise, of course, that the Government is interested in saving jobs in the Australian aircraft manufacturing industry, but I again say that the ACTU would have no expertise on which are the best helicopters that should be used for the Australian Navy. Again, yesterday, we saw a Press release from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Willis, saying that through EPAC he would investigate the consulting engineers' fee scales. I do not think it is any business of EPAC who earns what. We have seen Medicare try to control doctors' fees and we are seeing engineers' fees going to be controlled through EPAC. I think what influence the ACTU is having on this Government is of very large concern to the people of Australia and I commend to the Senate a look at where we are going on this matter.

Sitting suspended from 1.21 to 2 p.m.