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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 668

Mr KEOGH —Can the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations inform the House of the Government's attitude towards the actions of the Bjelke-Petersen Government which are clearly directed at destroying the industrial relations system in Queensland?

Mr WILLIS —I am aware of the actions of the Queensland Government in recent times in relation to industrial relations.

Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. As I understood the question, it had something to do with attitude and was about a State government. Does either of these matters come within the responsibility of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations?

Mr SPEAKER —The final part of the question was completely pertinent to the Minister's portfolio.

Mr WILLIS —Mr Speaker, as I was saying, I am aware of the actions of the Queensland Government and of the situation in Queensland today in relation to industrial relations which is, to say the least, precarious. In fact, an extremely serious situation now exists in Queensland. It is a situation of which honourable members opposite might do well to take notice.

I have seen reports within the last day of the intention of unions to conduct an industrial campaign to force the Queensland Government to repeal recent industrial legislation, to withdraw various legal actions and to reinstate various Electrical Trades Union members who have been dismissed. The Government cannot condone any industrial action of that kind. At the same time, it has to be said that the Bjelke-Petersen Government must take a large part of the blame for any industrial disputation which results from the actions which it has taken in the last few weeks. There is no doubt that the Queensland Government has embarked on a course of total confrontation with the trade union movement in Queensland and that it is prepared to take extraordinary action to achieve its objective of crippling, if not totally destroying, the trade unions in that State.

In the course of the last few weeks we have seen the introduction of savage industrial legislation which is without precedent in this country, we have seen that legislation forced through the Queensland Parliament with little time for debate, and we have seen absolute contempt for the State Industrial Commission being shown by the Queensland Government. That legislation is so bad that some of it is clearly in breach of International Labour Organisation conventions and also appears to be in breach-

Opposition members interjecting-

Mr WILLIS —I am pleased to hear how contemptuous honourable members opposite are of ILO conventions. I thought that the Opposition stood for the ILO and supported the ILO in the United Nations. Apparently it does not. It is also likely to be the case that that legislation is in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We are advised that the widespread powers given to the Electricity Commissioner under the Queensland Electricity (Continuity of Supply) Act are in breach of ILO Convention 98, which is concerned with the right to organise, ILO Convention 29, which is to do with forced labour, and ILO Convention 105, which is also to do with forced labour. The rest of that legislation involves such things as totally eroding existing conditions under awards of the Queensland State Industrial Commission; providing summary dismissal and fines for not obeying an order of the Electricity Commissioner; greatly broadening the definition of 'strike' to include any ban or limitation upon the work; extending liability for offences in regard to strikes, as more broadly defined, to individuals as well as unions; and greatly increasing the level of penalties.

The behaviour of the Queensland Government and the Premier towards the State Industrial Commission has been extraordinary and contemptuous in the extreme. In the last month or so the Queensland Government has twice totally ignored the State Industrial Commission's recommendations in relation to the power dispute. Those recommendations were that everyone should go back to square one, the unions should withdraw all bans, the employees should be reinstated and the basic issue in relation to contractors which created the dispute should be discussed. The Queensland Government twice rejected those recommendations of its own State Industrial Commission. The Queensland Premier then went on to denigrate publicly his own Commission, saying that it only gave the unions exactly what they wanted, and thereby earned a public rebuke from the President of the Queensland Industrial Commission. Not satisfied with that, the Queensland Government then moved to remove the powers of the Queensland Industrial Commission to deal with the electricity industry and established a new tribunal, which has been brought in today--

Mr Peacock —Come off it! How many more pages?

Mr WILLIS —I know you do not like this, Andrew. Presumably the Queensland Government hopes the tribunal, which will operate from today, will be much more compliant.

In conclusion, I say that this Government totally abhors the confrontationist and contemptuous actions of the Queensland Government. We will take up with the Queensland Government the breach of ILO conventions, which is a disgrace to this nation. We will support the application by some Queensland trade unions to come under Federal awards, where civilised industrial relations procedures can be obtained. In our period of office we have pursued industrial relations policies which have been extremely successful. Those policies have led to the lowest level of industrial disputation in 16 years. Those policies have been the exact opposite of the Queensland Government's policies. The Queensland Government's industrial actions are not based on industrial relations procedures at all. They are based on objectives to distract the attention of the Queensland people from the fact that Queensland is the worst managed State in the nation with the highest level of unemployment of any State.