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Wednesday, 27 February 1985
Page: 345


Mr BURR(7.52) —I wish to comment on what I consider to be a most appalling dispute which is occurring at the moment throughout the Public Service. This is not a dispute which should be seen in the light of wages and conditions. There are very few matters on which I would agree with the present Hawke Labor Government, but the irrefutable fact is that on 1 December last year it was elected as the democratically elected government of this country. As such, it has a right to expect loyalty and dedication from the Public Service, and it has a right to expect that its program will be put into place by loyal, dedicated public servants. But that is not happening. This is, in my opinion, not a dispute about wages and conditions, as we are led to believe by the media; this is a dispute which brings into question the very functioning of democracy.


Mr Hand —Come off it.


Mr BURR —I appeal to the honourable member for Melbourne: Do not just think from your socialist left point of view about whether unions have a right to demand wages and conditions. What is happening in this dispute is that the honourable member's Government is being prevented from putting into operation its program. I disagree with that program, and I am sure that there are many public servants who also disagree with it; but the fact remains that the Government was elected and it has a right to expect that dedicated public servants will put its program into effect, so that it can then be judged by the people of Australia.

I believe that no longer can this country live with permanency for public servants, as they have had for many years, and with militant unions within the Public Service. What has come about is a situation in which public servants are protected by permanency so that they cannot be dismissed for not performing their duties and, at the same time, they now have some of the most militant unions in the country, which will continue to cause disruption and disrupt democratically elected governments. The time has come-I am quite certain that some of my friends on the opposite side of the chamber, in more sober times, would agree-to bring into question the basis on which public servants are employed. I appeal to my friend the honourable member for Dunkley (Mr Chynoweth) to think carefully about the future administration of this country. One day he, too-God forbid-may be Prime Minister. If that were to occur, I am sure that he would like to think that his program of administration would be put into effect.

During the last Parliament the Hawke Labor Government made the unfortunate mistake of repealing the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act. I am quite certain that now the Government is feeling the effect of its folly in that action. While the CE(EP) Act may not have represented the full measure of discipline over public servants at least it did offer some measure of discipline. By repealing that Act all avenues of discipline have now been removed. Couple this with permanency of employment for public servants and militant unionism within the Public Service.

Honourable members on the other side of the House are now seeing the effect of that combination of events because it is the Government's program that is being disrupted and the Australian people are paying the cost. In January it cost the Australian people an additional $18m by way of interest charges. That figure can be expected to escalate in the coming months while this dispute continues. I appeal to my friends on the other side of the House and to my colleagues on this side to think very carefully about the future basis of employment for public servants. I suggest it is high time that permanency was scrapped for ever.