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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3132

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Housing) - I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee because I am well past the stage of taking the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) seriously. He does not trouble me. He overstates his arguments. He is quite reckless in what he says. He has defamed so many people in this Parliament that if his attitudes were to be used as a yardstick there would be nobody in the Parliament with any credit. Words reel out of him and afterwards he qualifies them and compromises and apologises. One just cannot be disturbed when the currency of reliability becomes so debased.

It is a fact that I have expressed by way of an answer to a question in this chamber and by way of radio and television interviews my concern with the fact that an area for which I have responsibility has become affected by an extension of the industrial trouble in New South Wales which arose out of the green ban problems. I am not the Minister with responsibility for labour questions. I decline to move into that area. I have no prerogative in regard to green ban matters at all.

Mr Nixon - Why did you make that statement supporting them?

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have just approved a request by the honourable member for Mackellar to incorporate the statement in Hansard.

Mr Nixon - What have you to hide?

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nothing has been hidden. The honourable member has some sense of guilt. We have nothing to hide about this matter. Let me put it in my own quiet and responsible way. I am simply saying to the Committee that there is a green ban dispute in New South Wales. It concerns the Builder's Labourers Federation and the Residents' Action Committee on the one hand and, on the other, substantially the State Government of New South Wales. In other words, those people are saying that irresponsible decisions are being handed down about developmental projects - that is what they are saying - and that no attention is being given to their contentions. That is the situation on one side.

On the other side, there are Australian Government public works of $24m in value, none of which is the subject of the green ban disputation. The employees have no desire to impost and, to my knowledge, no record of importing the green ban problem into the public construction area. I have said in my interviews that that is the case as I understand it. But the Master Builders' Association has decided to lock out employees from our Commonwealth works projects for some unaccountable reason and has extended the dispute into the area for which I am responsible. I have taken pains to let the Association know my feelings on the question. I feel that it is an unfortunate disruptive tactic for either side to take when, by expanding this green ban problem unnecessarily into the area of public works, it affects so many important proects.

The other day I made mention here of some of the projects on which work is being disrupted or which have been threatened with disruption. These projects include the Killara Telephone Exchange; the. Gore Hill studio extensions; the Bradfield Park National Standards laboratory; the Mascot Telephone Exchange; Commonwealth State Law Courts, Sydney; North Ryde Animal Genetics Laboratory; Quaker's Hill, 'Nerimba' ship's living quarters; City South Telephone Exchange; Lakemba telephone exchange; Homebush telephone exchange; and the Parramatta telephone exchange. Some other projects are involved. I am told that already works valued at $24m have been affected and that works worth another $27m are under threat. So, works valued at $50m are involved. It seems to me that I should be taking the responsible attitude of discouraging the Master Builder's Association from extending this lockout technique into my area of responsibility. I have told the Association that I have under consideration a proposal which will take into account the lockout record of tenders. If their record is bad, which demonstrates their incapacity to complete public construction programs according to schedule, I cannot for the life of me see why, as a Minister, I should accept their tenders if it will result in these important projects being delayed and the cost of the projects being increased. Who is expected to bear the increased cost which arises because of the fact that some builders and some employers apparently are bristlingwith belligerence and want to lock out people? Is it to be the Australian taxpayer? If some builders or employers want to lock out people who are working on jobs where there is disputation about green bans, that is another matter. That is the concern of the Minister for Labour, but these matters are my concern.

I unequivocally state that I do not want carrying out the programs for which I have responsibility the kind of builder who will lock out people at the drop of a hat. I do not know whether the honourable member for Mackellar regards that attitude as unreasonable, I do not think it is. In other respects I have been minding my own business, and I intend to go on in connection with these matters will be grateful getting the Australian Government's construction projects completed on schedule and at a minimum cost. I believe that while I maintain that attitude I will be upholding public interest. I think that the Australian public who already have been subjected to too much inconvenience in connection with these matters will be grateful for the responsibility which I am demonstrating.

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