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Tuesday, 26 February 1985
Page: 181

Senator CHANEY —My question is addressed to the Minister for Resources and Energy and follows the question he has just answered, or purported to answer. I ask: Is it a fact that the Utah miners were on strike for a week before the power strike in Queensland? Is it a fact that during the earlier part of this year the railway unions in New South Wales also severely restricted coal exports from the State of New South Wales? Is it also a fact that, despite the return to work by other unions in Queensland, some unions associated with the coal industry have remained on strike notwithstanding the return to work of those other unions? Does the Minister condemn this obstruction of the resource industries of Australia and the great damage which is being done to Australia by these reckless unions and their non-public-spirited actions?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Industrial disputation occurs from time to time in any industry about matters great and small. I make the point in the context of the Utah industrial disputation that, by contrast with the depredations imposed upon the Australian economy and our export reputation by the Queensland Premier in his behaviour over the Queensland power dispute, any contribution that may have been made by the Utah miners to that dispute becomes quite trivial by comparison.

Senator CHANEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the Minister not game even to join the Premier of New South Wales in his condemnation of the railway unions and what they did to coal exports from that State?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Common- wealth Government's attitude to the people responsible for the New South Wales rail strike in the Hunter Valley was made perfectly clear at the time, and I repeat it now: The strike was profoundly unhelpful in terms of Australia's export reputation and it was a situation which one hopes will never recur. I am glad to be able to remind the honourable senator of the steps that have been taken in the last few days to ensure that it will not recur. In particular, I refer to the meeting convened by the Joint Coal Board personnel and attended by over 30 unions in the Hunter Valley coal chain to establish formally a consultative council to ensure that pressures will be brought to bear, and in particular dispute mechanisms will be set in place, to ensure that in future there is no repetition of a dispute which undoubtedly was extremely costly, both directly to the economy and in terms of Australia's reputation.