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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 2086

Mr SHACK(2.57) —Over many weeks now the coalition has raised the illegal campaign which is being waged by the Australian Council of Trade Unions against Queensland and, with today's news, being stepped up. We have continually pressed the Government to fulfil its duty to ensure that essential services-transport and mail services-are delivered to the people of Queensland. We have on many occasions explained to the Government the legislative avenues open to it to bring to an end the unions' guerrilla campaign. We have tried unceasingly to get the Government to live up to its responsibility to the two and a half million Australians who live in Queensland. As we have raised this issue, at one embarrassed moment the Government, recognising its inaction and ineptitude compared to our concern and positive proposals, suggested that we should assume the responsibilities of ensuring good industrial relations in Queensland. I said to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) then and I say to him again now: We are ready at any time to assume the Government's responsibilities. We raise this issue again today because, given that the Government is still the Government-at least in name, despite the ACTU's upper hand and dominance over it-we feel that there is some information we should pass on.

The Minister's sole response throughout our exchanges in this House has been to tell us that we know nothing about industrial relations. He professes to be the expert. He claims that the Government knows what it is doing and it knows how to handle this matter. Given the Minister's 12 years at the ACTU, one might have expected that he would have learnt something. But if this Minister is the expert in industrial relations, if he is so hot as a practitioner of industrial relations, how come Queenslanders have been cut adrift from their fellow Australians by the trade union movement's oppressive and vindictive blockage? If this Minister is so knowledgeable and so talented, why are Queenslanders continuing to suffer this outrageous blockade? Let me tell the Minister something about industrial relations, and he had better listen: The rules have changed. The rules have changed, but he has not caught up with the news. He is out of touch. The rules have changed, and it is about time, for the country's sake, that he brought himself up to date with the changed scene.

Do honourable members want to know how industrial relations is played out in Australia? Do they want to know how the Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) played it out when they were at the ACTU and how, in league with their ACTU mates, they hope to continue to play it out in future? I will tell honourable members how it is played out in Australia. It is called 'upping the ante'. If one is a trade union, one picks a target, and then one hits it; and one hits it harder, and hits it harder again, until one achieves one's target. One does not stop. One does not have any regard for the public interest. One pursues one's target relentlessly, ignoring law and ignoring the public. One ups the ante. It is the bully-boy tactic that the Minister learnt assiduously during his apprenticeship at the ACTU and which he practiced professionally in his time, with great success.

But guess what? It simply does not work any more. The Minister, the ACTU, and Transport Workers Union and Simon Crean's Federated Storemen and Packers Union just have not caught up. The changed rules have not sunk in. The Queensland Government is standing firm on behalf of its constituency-the people of Queensland. The Queensland Government has called their bluff, and upping the ante is just not working. Industrial relations will never be the same again in Australia. One man has called their bluff, and their threats and actions are not working-and they are shell-shocked. Their big complaint is: 'He will not talk to us'. How does it feel for the boot to be on the other foot? It is the Minister and his mates who have now been sent to Coventry-something that they have done to the Australian people for years and years and years; and now it is their turn, because upping the ante does not work; abusing the public will no longer work, because governments are resolved to stand up to this sort of technique.

Let us not forget whose blockade this is. Let us not forget who is behind this guerrilla campaign perpetuated against the people of Queensland. Is this outrageous industrial action the result of a mass uprising of Queenslanders? Of course it is not. There is no mass uprising of workers in Queensland. There is no outrage. There is simply, in that State, no mass support for this ACTU campaign. Why? It is because the people support the Government. And why? That is because the Government supports the people. This entire campaign is the product of just four groups-the ACTU, the Storemen and Packers Union, the Transport Workers Union and the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union. The ACTU and three unions are behind this blockade. They do not know anything about Queensland and they do not give one damn for Queenslanders. They are sticking the boot in. They are seeking to rely on the old tactic of upping the ante; and it is not working. Their bully-boy tactics will not work.

At lunchtime today, as we know, the ACTU co-ordinator of this blockade, Ian Court, held a Press conference in Melbourne, announcing yet more bans against Queensland-a full land, sea and air blockade of Queensland for the duration of next week. A whole week! What is this Minister doing to protect Queenslanders? Absolutely nothing. He has been sitting on his hands for the duration of this blockade campaign. It is absolutely pathetic. At least Australia Post is getting ready to apply stand-down provisions. But do honourable members know the full measure of the Hawke Government's response to this blockade? The full measure, despite all of the legislative action that it could have taken, is to provide two VIP planes today to take members of Parliament home to Queensland.

I do not criticise that. It is right and proper that the members representing Queensland should be allowed to go home to their constituency. But that is the full response of this Government to the blockade. What about the two and a half million other people who happen to live in Queensland? What has the government been doing about them? What about the food, the fruit and the vegetables that are rotting in the ports and in the store-rooms? What has it been doing about the produce that has been held up in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria? What about the innocent travellers who will be turned away from airports next week and told to go home because the Transport Workers Union will not service flights to Queensland? Queensland and Queenslanders have been dumped by this Government, and they know it.

The Minister's Department sends out propaganda material in envelopes which bear the logo 'The Accord-Building a Better Australia'. I say one thing to the Minister: If he wants to post something to Queensland, forget it, because it will not get through. What an absolute joke.

The Minister says that this dispute will be resolved in Queensland and through negotiation. We heard him again today at Question Time. If the Minister thinks that the blockade can be resolved in that way, if he is so hot at industrial relations, he should get on the telephone and ring up Bill and Simon to call it off. That is what he needs to do-call the bans off. Simple; end of story. That would be a basic act of goodwill towards Queensland and Queenslanders that would achieve a lot more than the bans, blockades and guerrilla action that are being put in place. But does the Minister know why he cannot do that? It is because he cannot deliver. The special relationship that this Government has with the ACTU works in one way only: From the ACTU down to the Government. We can see that on almost every policy issue, including taxation.

Unless this Government takes the initiative and acts to defend Queensland and Queenslanders, the ACTU connection will sink it. It will sink the Minister and his Government, because the Australian people want a government for all the people, not a government for one isolated sectional interest-to wit, the ACTU executive. There is a home truth for the Minister, and he should not let it stick in his craw. He should do something constructive about it. He should stop sitting on his hands and do something. When will he realise that the facade of warm but independent relations with the ACTU does not fool anybody? Everybody knows that they are as thick as thieves, and they are coming to understand the true nature of this Government, run by the ACTU.

What about that quotation from Bill Kelty that I saw in the Sydney Morning Herald supplement the other week? It reads:

Bill Kelty telephones Bob Hawke three or four times in an average week. 'I have a fair amount of contact with Hawke', conceded Kelty, who is a tousled, soup-stained image of the old ACTU-days Bob Hawke. 'We're personal friends. I don't inundate him, because he has a lot on his plate'.

I'll say he has a lot on his plate. The quotation continued:

It's very helpful to have someone who understands unions as well as Hawke does.

Next time he rings up the Minister, why does the Minister not say, 'Things are getting a little difficult for us, Bill. Do you think you could please call off the blockade?' After that, the Minister can ask him: 'Do you think we could please have some tax reform? Do you think that we could please do this or that?'

Does the Minister expect us to believe that he is not intimately involved with what is going on? The double standard by which he is operating is too obvious for words. He will condemn a blockade of Nicaragua, a Marxist state, but he will not even come out in favour of an Australian State. If ever we needed proof as to the close relationship between the Government and the ACTU, we saw it today at Question Time. In answering a question about the blockade, the Prime Minister said:

The position of the Government is clear. We stand ready to negotiate.

There we have it. 'We stand ready to negotiate'. A frank admission-

Mr Ian Cameron —Who is 'We'?

Mr SHACK —Who is 'We'? It is a frank admission that the ACTU and the Government are one. This Government has refused to condemn the ACTU blockade. It says: 'We do not condone it', but it has refused to condemn it, and now we understand why. There was a frank admission by the Prime Minister today that 'we' stand ready to negotiate. 'We' stand ready to negotiate, because the Government and the ACTU are behind this blockade. If the Prime Minister has this special relationship and really cares about a wider constituency, he should use his connections; get on the telephone and give the unions the drum. He should tell them what he has learned today-that upping the ante does not work any more and will not work in industrial relations in the future. If he is serious about consensus and really believes that negotiation can end this blockade, he should get his mates to call it off. It needs a single act of goodwill for a potentially dramatic result. But can he do it?

During the week I have heard him talk optimistically about things in train that will hopefully bring a settlement next week. Meanwhile, Queenslanders suffer and people wanting to trade with Queenslanders suffer. Can he do it? He cannot do it because his relationship is one of subservience. This a Government of the ACTU, by the ACTU, for the ACTU. The Australian people understand the true nature of this Government; it is a product of the ACTU. The Prime Minister is a product of the ACTU. He has long heralded the accord as the foundationstone of his relationship with the ACTU, saying that it will bring special benefits to the Australian community. But the Australian community is realising his subservient relationship with the ACTU is a relationship which brings with it great and severe costs. Far from being his foundationstone, the accord will turn out to be his tombstone. This Government's demise will be cheered around the nation by the millions of Australians who simply want the freedom and the legislative protection to get on with their business, protected from union thuggery. If the Prime Minister has a relationship with the ACTU, he has one last chance to get on the phone and tell it to call off this absurd week-long blockade.