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Monday, 23 March 1987
Page: 1278

Mr O'KEEFE —My question is to the Prime Minister and it concerns the issue of industrial disputation. I ask: Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the Government's record on industrial disputation?

Mr HAWKE —There are many things of which this Government is entitled to be proud in its four years of office, but I guess there are probably very few of which we are more entitled to be proud than the way in which, under the policies followed by this Government, we have more than halved the level of industrial disputation in this country. While that is important and is recognised by people in this country and overseas, there are other measures of the performance of this Government in the area of industrial relations which, in some sense, are even more important, but before I go to those, let me make the point that it has been a matter of very considerable pride to me in representing this country overseas, particularly, may I say, in Japan-both there and when I have been talking to Japanese leaders here, as I was when the Japanese investment mission was recently here- to be told by the Japanese in unqualified terms that they recognise the very significant improvement in the industrial relationship in this country. In fact in the decisions which the Japanese are in the process of taking about lifting their level of investment in this country, one significant factor that they have taken into account is the very large improvement which has taken place.

I was saying that the question of industrial disputation is just one measure. If we look at the contributions that have been made by Australian working men and women and their representatives, we have to take into account the historically unprecedented situation that where there has been very significant economic growth, the working men and women of this country have allowed themselves to endure a significant reduction in real wages. That is the first time that that has happened in the history of this country. We have had significant real economic growth. Working men and women through their representatives in the trade union movement and their negotiations with government said: `It is appropriate at this time to have a real reduction in wages'.

Let us see what they have contributed to the rest of their fellow Australians. The basic thing they have contributed by accepting the reduction in real wages is an increase in the number of jobs, to the tune of three quarters of a million. There are three quarters of a million more Australian men and women, and young men and women, in jobs-nearly 80 per cent of those in the private sector-because the trade union movement and working men and women in this country have co-operated by accepting a reduction in the level of real wages. They are to be congratulated for the fact that they can see ahead. They can see their children in accepting at this time a reduction in the level of real wages. Of course, a corresponding economic fact has been that as they have accepted a reduction in the level of real wages so has there been a lift in the profit component of the national accounts and we have had our international competitiveness restored to the best position it has been in for two decades.

I say to the honourable member for Burke that that is the record of this country, not something that has been achieved just by sensible policies; it has been achieved with the co-operation of Australian working men and women. It is in that context that I am sure the honourable member for Burke and the people of Australia will be aghast when they have revealed the duplicity of the Liberal Party in this area. Not only is it the President of the Liberal Party who preaches deceit and deception-`Let us say one thing publicly but believe in another thing privately'-but as my friend the Treasurer said in answer to the previous question, we have had revealed to us today the secret agenda. The front page of the Australian Financial Review reads: `Liberal Party's secret agenda'. What does the Australian newspaper say in this area of industrial relations about the implications of the Liberals' secret agenda? Just let me read the first two paragraphs of the article:

The Federal Liberal Party has been warned by its secretariat that a Howard government might face a general strike early in its first term and could be forced to a double dissolution by a hostile Senate within six months.

The scenarios are contained in a damaging draft document prepared by the Liberal Party's federal secretariat late last year and leaked last night.

So here we have it again. These people never learn. What did they do by their policies of industrial confrontation in the period 1975 to 1983? They brought this country to its knees. They forced a wages explosion. They forced a situation of high levels of industrial dispute by industrial divisiveness, industrial confrontation, setting Australian against Australian. And now at the very heart of their secret agenda is the deliberate creation of another situation of industrial chaos in this country. We know what that would do. In one fell stroke it would destroy the renewed reputation that this country has created in the minds of overseas investors that now we do have a situation of co-operation in which trade unions and employers work together and co-operate. But they would destroy that in one fell swoop.

I say to the Leader of the Opposition and those behind him who have been responsible for drawing up this secret agenda: Keep your hatred, keep your bitterness, keep your confrontation for the Liberal Party and between the Liberal Party and the National Party. It you hate one another, that is your business. But do not seek to perpetuate divisiveness and confrontation in the industrial relations of this country. Now that your secret agenda is out the people will make their judgment. They had enough of you in the seven years 1975 to 1983. They threw you out because you set Australian against Australian and you are about the same sort of business again. I can tell you what the results will be when the Australian people are called upon to make judgment about you, whether it be in 1987 or 1988: They will reject you again.