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Tuesday, 7 May 1985
Page: 1750

Mr PUNCH(4.21) —To get back to the point of the debate, unlike the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton), this Government stands accused by the Opposition, in this matter of public importance, of being dominated by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, that domination supposedly having 'adverse implications' for the economy. Today, the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack) and the honourable member for Mackellar had the opportunity to put up or shut up. What has been the total foundation for the charge in the MPI? The only foundation that the honourable member for Tangney could cite to support this very weak MPI is two nebulous headlines from a newspaper some months ago, one right wing newsletter, and his own unqualified economic doomsaying.

Let us just look at the wording of the MPI. The word used is 'adverse', not the word 'serious'. We note that 'consequences' is not the word used, just 'implications'. In other words, the Opposition does not even have the faith in its own predictions to use language stronger than that which one might hear in a kindergarten yard. What has been the whole basis of the Opposition's critique today? At the bottom line, its analysis of what this Government has done wrong is that we have been guilty of talking to the ACTU. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis), the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and the Treasurer (Mr Keating) are guilty of holding consultations with ACTU officials. What a heinous crime that is. In Queensland, where industrial relations policies are similar to those of Opposition members, there is a new crime. If a person has more than three kids, it is a crime to walk down the street together; or, if one is a journalist who wants to take a photograph of a picket line, one will go to gaol for that. But the Federal Opposition has invented a new crime. That is the crime of talking to trade union officials-punishable by death, no doubt, the Opposition will add soon.

Where is the concern which is supposedly in the Australian community about this issue? Where does it manifest itself? Is it in the Press? I cannot see anything in today's Press. Are the offices of members of parliament being deluged by people complaining about trade union dominated government? No. Has the Government handed over anything to trade unions? No.

What about the economy? The Opposition talks about it in this MPI. Are the supposedly 'adverse implications' to be found in the economy? Let us look at economic growth. Non-farm gross domestic product in 1984 grew at 5.1 per cent. The 1985 target, which is completely on line at the moment and will remain so, is for a further non-farm GDP growth of 5 per cent. So the Opposition could not possibly mean that these 'adverse implications' are in the area of economic growth. Surely not-because in 1982, under the honourable member for Tangney's Government, non-farm GDP rose only 0.9 per cent. He would not be so hypocritical, so pompous or so afflicted by amnesia to have the bald-faced hide to say that.

Perhaps the honourable member for Tangney is talking about unemployment. That has fallen from 10.4 per cent under his Government to 8.8 per cent under ours. Perhaps he is talking of inflation, which fell from 11.5 per cent, under Opposition members, to 5.3 per cent under us. Where are these 'adverse implications' of our industrial relations policy? Where is the domination by the unions? Perhaps the honourable member wants to talk about real private business fixed investment. We now have the situation that the private sector is growing faster than the public sector. That is big news on the opposite side of the fence. It is a pity that those opposite could not do it.

Perhaps the honourable member is talking about the survey of expectations which now shows a projected 24 per cent increase in real private business fixed investment for the ensuing year. Perhaps, at the bottom line, the real crunch of the issue, he might want to talk about real labour unit costs. It might be interesting for those listening to these proceedings to know that real unit labour costs have, under this Government, returned to levels commensurate with those in the late 1960s and early 1970s, from an index position of 108.4 under the previous Liberal Government to 101.6 in the December quarter 1984. Real labour unit costs have fallen and fallen dramatically while standards of living have begun to rise again, because of the policies of this Government. Those opposite have yet to match that.

It might also be of interest to those opposite to know that industrial disputation is at its lowest ebb for 17 years. They do not mention that. They do not want to mention that. The reality is that consultation with the ACTU and the unions-as with business-and not confrontation as we saw under their Government, has produced these economic results. Our record, using consultation, is success. Their record, using confrontation, is abject failure. The policies that the honourable member for Tangney now advocates are failed policies of the past. They are failed, used policies. He has gone from selling used cars in Perth to selling used policies. The problem is that his used policies do not even carry a warranty. So where are the 'adverse implications' in what the honourable member said? Perhaps he is guilty of simple empty rhetoric. Perhaps he is guilty of not being able to substantiate his position. It might just be the case that he has failed miserably today.

The honourable member talked of wages policy. To this date those opposite still do not have a coherent wages policy. All they can do is to prophesy and hope to smash the accord by undermining it. But let us be charitable. When the honourable member talks of adverse economic implications, perhaps he is talking about Queensland, which practises what he preaches, which has confrontation and which gaols unionists and gaols members of the clergy for supporting workers on strike, and where this week it will destroy the tourist industry. Queensland has the highest rate of unemployment in Australia, and the highest ratio of unemployed to job vacancies. It has an industrial situation completely out of step with the rest of Australia. Industrial disputes last year fell by 15.6 per cent nationally, but in Queensland they rose by a massive 83.9 per cent. Queensland practices what Opposition members preach and look at the result. Bankruptcies on a national level have fallen by 8.2 per cent. In Queensland, they have risen 26.4 per cent. While fixed capital expenditure nationally has risen by 2.3 per cent, in Queensland it has fallen by 20.6 per cent. One thing is for sure: Those policies of confrontation advocated by Opposition members are failed policies of the past. They have failed time and time again in this nation's history and they will continue to fail in the future whenever they are advocated.

I could go on and on with figures that show how out of step Queensland is with the rest of this country, how out of step are those policies, and how badly Queensland is doing in its economic performance. To be charitable, however, I conclude by saying that Queensland still has the best government that money can buy; one can bet on that-provided that one does not do it at the local TAB, because one would lose one's money for sure.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mountford) —Order! The discussion is concluded.