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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2768

Senator CHANEY —I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in that capacity and as Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce. I refer the Minister to his previously expressed acknowledgment of the desirability of achieving greater flexibility in wages determination. I ask: Does the Minister believe that this week's decision by the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission granting an across the board 2.3 per cent flow on to workers covered by the Pastoral Industry Award is the very antithesis of a flexible system? In other words, does he support a decision which allows for identical across the board percentage wage increases to be paid by industries and enterprises making profits as well as by farmers with net incomes of about $3,500 a year who are subject to subsidised competition and falling world prices, about 12,000 of whom are facing imminent bankruptcy? Does the Minister agree that the decision shows a lamentable lack of flexibility and will be damaging to the economic recovery of this country?

Senator BUTTON —This question is asking me to substitute my judgment, on the basis of no particular knowledge of the facts, for the judgment which has been made by the Arbitration Commission. Let me say that in general circumstances one regrets additional cost burdens being imposed on any sector of industry, but the fact of the matter is that the procedures which were adopted by the Arbitration Commission were procedures which gave a forum for the issue of the capacity of that sector of industry to pay, and the procedures were really directed to whether a national wage case decision should flow on to a particular sector in the light of particular circumstances applying in that sector. The Arbitration Commission made a judgment about that. I am not familiar with all the facts which the Arbitration Commission took into account and, therefore, I am not able to make any different judgment from that which was made.