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Monday, 29 May 2000
Page: 16410

Mr SOMLYAY (2:52 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business. Would the minister advise the House of the recent industrial disputes figures for February 2000 and inform members how these figures compare with the level of disputation in the 1999 calendar year? Is the minister aware of policies which are affecting the level of industrial disputation?

Mr REITH (Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business) —I thank the member for Fairfax for his question. We did have some numbers out in the last couple of weeks on industrial disputes. I would have to say that the February figures are not good numbers compared with 1999 or earlier, so we have been having a look at why the February figures are up.

Mr McMullan —You.

Mr SPEAKER —The Manager of Opposition Business, the minister has the call.

Mr REITH —Ninety-two per cent of the total number of days lost in February can be attributed to three states—Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, all of which are Labor states.

Opposition members—Oh!

Mr REITH —Well, wait till you hear. The facts tell a pretty stark story. Where were the trouble spots? In Victoria it was the green light the construction industry got and the electricity dispute was part of the problem. That was a failure by the state Labor government. Then in New South Wales there were problems. Where do we find a lot of those working days lost? With the teachers—Shazza's lot. In Queensland, where were a lot of those disputes? They had a transport dispute with Queensland Rail—again, mismanagement by a Labor government. When you pull out the year figures through to February of this year, again you will see that it is exactly the same problem. There is clearly a pattern emerging. If those increases had not occurred, particularly in New South Wales, 1999 would have actually been better than 1998. Therefore, what we are seeing is a lift in those figures in 1999 and it is all directly attributable to mismanagement by state Labor governments.

I can at least say that in the time that this government has been in office compared with when Labor was in office we still have a lot fewer disputes. It is much better under this government. Under this government the average number of working days lost per 1,000 employees is 78; when Labor was in it was 190 days. Under us it is 78; Labor averaged 190. So it is much better. It is better because we are prepared to stand up and require people to observe the law. Labor's policy is to do a Queensland, according to the shadow minister. In Queensland you are getting a rise in disputes because you have a Labor government. It just proves, starkly and clearly for all to see, that Labor parties cannot manage these issues and that if you vote Labor you get a higher number of industrial disputes. It demonstrates that if you have weak leadership, which is what we have today—

Mr Beazley —Put your heart into it.

Mr REITH —Well, you can't even stand up to Craig Johnston. Let's face it. He pushes you around. They buy you off with $1 million and the consequences are more disputes which wreck Australia's international reputation.