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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1958

Mr KEOGH —Can the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations inform the House what are the prospects for resolution of the current electricity dispute in Queensland?

Mr WILLIS —The industrial situation in Queensland that has led to widespread industrial action is a matter of great concern to this Government and we certainly want to do everything we can to bring that industrial action to an end and to bring a resolution to the basic issue in this dispute. In that regard it is recognised by everyone that one of the great achievements of this Government in its period of office has been that we have been unable to reduce the level of industrial disputation in this country to the lowest level in 17 years. That record is being somewhat upset at the moment by this action in Queensland which is substantially outside our control.

The developments in Queensland are of concern to us not only because of the industrial disputation which is now occurring as a result of it, but also because of the prime nature of that dispute involving a great infringement on the democratic rights of the people of Queensland. We are concerned to bring this matter to a resolution and are working assiduously to bring that about. I must say that it appears that there is no desire on the part of the Queensland Government to bring this dispute to an end and to bring an end to the industrial situation which is now occurring. I think there would be no real concern by the Opposition in this House either; it supports unqualifiedly the position of the Queensland Government.

The position of the Queensland Government was revealed to everyone this morning on the AM program when the Premier of Queensland was interviewed about this dispute. He was asked: 'Will the Government negotiate at any time on this issue?' He said: 'No, we won't negotiate on it'. Then the questioner said: 'I suppose there is some feeling that perhaps your interest in bringing the Hawke Government down might be above your interest in resolving this dispute'. The Premier replied: 'Well, my main objective is to get rid of the Hawke Government. That is the main, prime objective'.

Opposition members-Hear, hear!

Mr WILLIS —Opposition members are all saying: 'Hear, hear!' It is very interesting that they are all saying that. The Premier of Queensland was saying that he was not prepared to resolve this dispute. That was not his main concern; his main concern was to bring this Government down. In other words, this whole business is being played for political mileage and not to resolve an industrial situation which is inconveniencing not only the people of Queensland but having an impact on the whole of the country. Members of the Opposition say, 'hear, hear'. They say that the Premier should be out there playing politics, that he should be out there trying to exacerbate industrial action and industrial disputation. When honourable members say, 'hear, hear' they support that. We are very interested to note their reaction. They are not really concerned about resolving this industrial dispute, they are concerned- like the Premier of Queensland to whom they give unqualified support-to make political mileage out of what is going on. They support entirely his refusal to negotiate despite the fact that leaders of business, such as Mr Williams, who is the head of the Confederation of Australian Industry, say that negotiation is the only way to settle this dispute. The Premier of Queensland says no to that for political reasons and members of the Opposition say, 'hear, hear'. They are revealed for what they are on this matter absolute charlatans with no real concern about resolving this industrial matter, but rather seeking to make political mileage out of it. On the other hand, at least this Government is working assiduously to try to resolve this industrial situation and to resolve the underlying dispute.

I am not at liberty at present to reveal exactly what we are doing. The course of action that we have embarked on will, I believe, provide very good prospects of a resolution of the industrial action and a resolution of the underlying dispute within the next few days. I cannot be absolutely certain that that will be the case, but I have good reason to think that we will be able to bring that situation about. It is nonsense to argue, as the Leader of the Opposition and others have argued, that this Government is not undertaking any action at present. We are doing everything in our power to try to bring the underlying dispute to a point of resolution and to stop the industrial action that is going on; unlike members of the Opposition, who are not concerned about the situation at all but concerned about only the political mileage they can get out of it.