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Friday, 19 April 1985
Page: 1511

Mr HODGES —My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer him to his Press release of 16 April and his answer in this House yesterday to the Leader of the Opposition that talks he is proposing with this Government, the Queensland Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions would address the central issue of the re-employment of 900 linesmen of the Electrical Trades Union of Australia in the Queensland power dispute. Is the Minister aware that all positions have been filled and therefore no vacancies exist with the employing authority, the South East Queensland Electricity Board? Does the Minister propose that the men now employed-including 600 continuing SEQEB employees, more than 200 who were previously employed by the authority and 100 new employees who were previously unemployed-be sacked? If not, how and where does he propose that the former employees be employed?

Mr WILLIS —It is the case that the reinstatement of the employees is the most important issue in the settlement of this dispute and the prevention of further industrial action. That is a very important matter and one which I believe the Queensland Government should be addressing now. I do not accept the honourable member's basic premise that those jobs have all been filled. I understand it is the case that there is reliance on private contractors to a substantial degree. Those people are not full employees, they are private contractors working on a contractual basis. Of the original 1500, I understand that several hundred were never out of work in the first place, either because they did not go off the job, they were away on leave, or whatever. Of those who did go off, over 100 or so have come back-I think that was the figure used by the honourable member. The rest have not come back. Others have been employed who were not previously employed in the area, but as I understand it the number is relatively small.

In the reinstatement of the dismissed employees the position of those currently employed would obviously be important in ensuring that there was employment for them, either in the electricity bodies or elsewhere, and that there were no recriminations against employees who had remained on the job or who had gone back to work. I believe those would be quite important factors in developing a reinstatement package, but it does not invalidate the process of saying that reinstatement is the basic issue. It is possible. If the Queensland Government really wants to settle the dispute it can, and its refusal to do so means that we are suffering an unnecessary confrontation which is going to become worse unless the Queensland Government faces reality.