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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 1983

Senator REID —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware of comments made by Mr Willis at a Press conference in Perth recently, reported in one newspaper under the heading `Government Supports Employers in Building Row'? Is he further aware that the Cain Government's Minister for Industrial Affairs not only agrees with the claim for the $52 a week pay increase by the building unions, but also condones pressure being placed on subcontractors? Is Mr Crabb doing so with the concurrence of the Federal Minister? If the Government seriously intends to support the building and construction industry, when will it take action against union tactics such as the stop work action which took place in Canberra yesterday involving 5,000 members of the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia and the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen's Association of Australasia? When can employers expect some genuine action by the Government to ensure that the Australian building and construction industry will continue to be viable and able to offer employment?

Senator WALSH —The Government is concerned about this report, and the Treasurer in a speech delivered last Sunday evening made a reference to it. I am not purporting to quote from the speech as I do not have a copy of it, but in the second or third last paragraph of it he said that the Government would be opposing that alleged collaboration on the presumption, of course, that the alleged collaboration was in fact taking place. To the best of my knowledge, Mr Willis still has not been able to clarify the facts. If he has anything to add to it I will pass that on. Of course it is well known, and I have stated this on many occasions in the Senate, that the Government is opposed to wage increases of that magnitude. It believes first that the economy cannot afford them, particularly if there were any flow-on and, second, that there is no justification for wage increases of that size going to particular groups when there is a general acceptance of wage restraint. That has been made clear by a number of Ministers on a number of occasions.

The Government is even more opposed to attempts by the greedy, militant doctors union of the Australian Capital Territory to get its reduced claim of a $350 a week pay increase for a part time job. The Government is strongly opposed to the claims by the BWIU and the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union of Australia, and perhaps one or two others. It is much more strongly opposed to the attempt by the militant, greedy doctors union-because of the magnitude of the claim-to get a $350 a week pay increase for a part time job, an increase which they are trying to extort from the Australian Capital Territory health system by the imposition of work bans, by industrial action. I just wish that the same evenhandedness were displayed by the Opposition and that the Opposition were as free in criticising the much more outrageous claims of the greedy, militant Australian Capital Territory doctors union and much more forthcoming in opposing that militant union's claims than it is in opposing the claims of other unions.