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Thursday, 22 August 1985
Page: 167

Senator BROWNHILL —I refer the Minister for Finance to the comment by Mr Simon Crean of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that for the sake of discounting wages by `a miserable 0.5 per cent of 0.8 per cent' the Government risked destroying the prices and incomes accord. Has the Minister also noted the comments of Mr Harry Quinn of the Transport Workers Union and Mr Jack Kidd of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union that neither of their unions would accept less than full indexation at the wage case hearings? Given the apparently unanimous view in this Parliament that discounting is fundamental if Australia is to gain the benefits of the devaluation, will the Government argue for full discounting even if it is unable to get agreement from the ACTU?

Senator WALSH —A fair measure of the desperation of members of the Opposition as they attempt to make some political headway against the best Budget which has been brought down in this country for decades is that they spend half their time saying that this Government is a prisoner of the ACTU and the other half saying that the ACTU does not agree with the Government, or at least one or two people in the ACTU do not agree with the Government. The Government policy and the submission which the Government will put to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has been clearly stated, as I have already said today and as a large number of other people have said at different times and in different places. The ultimate decision on the indexation adjustment or the indexation figure which flows on in the September national wage case will be decided by the Commission.

Senator BROWNHILL —Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. I do not think I got the answer to my question-that is, if he is unable to get the agreement from the ACTU.

The PRESIDENT —What is the supplementary question?

Senator BROWNHILL —My question ended with the words `if the Government is unable to get agreement from the ACTU'. I ask that question again.

The PRESIDENT —If the Minister can answer that supplementary question, he may do so.

Senator WALSH —Mr President, I am not sure that the question asked by the honourable senator was in the form of a sentence. Perhaps I can make an inspired guess as to the meaning. The case which the Government will put to the Commission has been decided and has been stated many times by many people. The ultimate decision will be a decision of the Commission and not of either the Government or the ACTU.