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Wednesday, 27 November 1985
Page: 2359

Senator MESSNER(3.07) —The point at issue today could not have been put before the Senate at a more important time, as it was only today that we saw the Government capitulate in the face of union pressure on the question of the demands of the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia for superannuation benefits on top of superannuation benefits which have already been provided by employers through normal superannuation schemes. This is a clear example of the way in which unions are exercising their power most successfully over the Hawke Labor Government. It is not only that it is occurring in that particular industry, the paint industry, which of course has devastating effects on the car industry. In addition, the way that this will impact upon South Australia is well known to many of us. The point is that as a result of this action we have seen clear evidence of the agreement of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Willis, to an arrangement which in effect agrees to all of the union demands and makes sure that in future there will be a spread of further double superannuation benefits right across the industrial landscape of Australia. We have only to look back about 18 months to find out where the roots of this matter really lie. Mr Willis, in the House of Representatives on 31 May 1984, when talking generally about the way in which superannuation schemes would be extended across the community, said:

One way in which we can do that-

that is increase superannuation-

is by tying up the superannuation scheme, including an industrial relations agreement which is the key basis on which the Government has supported the extension of superannuation in the building industry. It also has to be genuine superannuation and there must be an orderly extension of superannuation schemes after that. The ACTU has given us that assurance.

He then quoted from a telex which he had received from Mr Kelty, the Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which reads as follows:

. . . the ACTU reaffirms its commitment given to you verbally that

1. the proposed building industry superannuation scheme will not form the basis for flow-on of such schemes to other areas, and

2. the further development of occupational superannuation will proceed in a gradual and orderly manner.

That was a firm and solemn commitment given by the ACTU to Mr Willis, the relevant Minister, some 18 months ago. But what has happened since? We have since seen the development of the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia scheme, the development of schemes for the Transport Workers Union of Australia, for the Australian Timber Workers Union and other unions. In no way can they be referred to as being orderly developments; in fact they are the reverse. The classic example of that comes forward as a result of what happened yesterday, when we saw the Government forced on to the defensive, cowering before the demands of the trade unions. There has been a capitulation in the paint industry to the Storemen and Packers Union and a granting of an industry-wide, union based compulsory superannuation over and above the superannuation that is provided by the industry itself. In other words the pressure that is now upon the industry and, in particular, the Government in this regard has proven impossible to stop.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the whole thing is that there is obviously no control over this development, notwithstanding what Mr Kelty said at some earlier stage and notwithstanding what the ACTU has said to the Government as to how this would be controlled. The fact is that the unions are running wild irrespective of their intentions in previous days as to how this development may occur. In fact, we now see a rash of industrial action breaking out all over the country which will obviously impact on places where industries find it very difficult to cope with such things.

The present kinds of superannuation schemes are not about retirement benefits for employees but about naked union power. One does not have to be too clever to work out how it is that this development can lead only to compulsory unionism. We have already seen it in the building industry, where it is impossible to work on sites in Brisbane-Senator Parer will be developing that argument later-and in other places unless one is a member of the building industry superannuation scheme and unless one is by natural extension a member of a trade union. It is therefore through this means that the union movement will be extending coverage to all workers in the community by gradual extension of superannuation, wider and wider across the industrial landscape.

At the centre of all these changes we have seen none other than the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) during his period as President of the ACTU from 1969 to 1980, at a time when he presided over the most disastrous unemployment figures, the most disastrous inflation and the most disastrous wage increases in Australia's history, that created such problems for the Australian economy that we are still learning to live with. We saw him as a business manager fail with ACTU-Solo, fail with the Bourkes stores and indeed create all kinds of other problems for the community. We have now observed this bull in the china shop approach by allowing superannuation increases and developments to go uncontrolled in such a way that there will be no ultimate benefit for the nation and which can certainly be described only as deferred wage increases. There is no attempt by this Government to develop guidelines upon which proper retirement schemes can be developed, in such a way that we can take the load off the Department of Social Security, and in such a way that we can improve the lot of individual Australians. That is where our basic argument on this issue stands, but the Government has merely capitulated in the face of union pressure on this matter. Mr Hawke, the Prime Minister, is not only incompetent and vacillating but also obviously weak. Apart from that, he is also a liar. He lied in South Australia yesterday.

Senator Tate —Madam Acting Deputy President, I take a point of order. I believe the honourable senator has been guilty of the most gross abuse of decorum of this place in using very unparliamentary language concerning the Prime Minister. I ask that it be withdrawn.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bjelke-Petersen) —Senator Messner, you cannot refer to a member of the other House in that way. Will you please withdraw?

Senator MESSNER —I withdraw, but I say that the Prime Minister is guilty of untruths. For instance, yesterday in South Australia he said that the policies of the Leader of the Opposition in that State, John Olsen, to reduce the size of government were illegal. He referred to the fact that the proposed Liberal government in South Australia would seek to sell off South Australian Housing Trust homes to those who need them. Olsen said no such thing. In fact the sale of homes under the Liberal Party's housing policy in South Australia will be done by renegotiation of the Commonwealth-State housing agreement. In no way can that be called an illegal act under that agreement. As the Prime Minister continues to reassert that untruth, I can refer to it only in the way that I did earlier. Obviously, that renegotiation of the housing agreement with the Commonwealth will be very important for South Australians. It will give South Australians an opportunity to own their own homes rather than to pay rent forever. Certainly the intention of the Liberal Party in South Australia is to ensure that that opportunity is extended.

It will also produce the benefit of funds received from those people who finance their homes in that way being put into building more rental housing. It is only under the present Labor Government in South Australia that we have seen an abnormal rate of growth, a record rate of growth, in the rental housing list. We are finding that more and more people in South Australia cannot get rental homes through the South Australian Housing Trust. Mr Olsen has a worthwhile solution to that problem, but all the Prime Minister can say in a desperate attempt to defend his position is that the solution is in some way illegal. That is untrue. The Minister for Finance, Senator Walsh, knows that it is untrue. The Prime Minister knows that it is untrue. Fortunately, the people of South Australia know that this is a worthwhile benefit. They will certainly explain that to the Hawke Labor Government when they vote on 7 December.

We have heard much razzamatazz from the Bannon Labor Government in South Australia about things such as the Grand Prix and how the State is up and running. Yet the very project he is looking at--

Senator Tate —Madam Acting Deputy President, I take a point of order. The Senate has before it a matter of public importance in terms which were submitted to the Deputy President this morning. I believe that the honourable senator is digressing, in total irrelevancy to the topic of superannuation and the alleged trade union domination of the Government.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Messner, you were rather getting away from the terms of the matter of public importance. Will you return to it, please?

Senator MESSNER —I will certainly obey your wishes, Madam Acting Deputy President. With the union domination that exists in South Australia, how is it that the Premier, Mr Bannon, can claim that he can deliver the goods. Let us consider the submarine contract, for instance. He has claimed that he is the only person who can deliver the submarine contract to South Australia, yet the other day the Minister for Defence, Mr Beazley, in the House of Representatives, acting under the union pressure, said that it has to be spread all over Australia. The Premier of South Australia claims that he is the only person who can deliver it. Of course that is not true.

Most of all, Mr Bannon, under pressure from the trade union movement, is claiming full support for the economic and tax policies of the Treasurer, Mr Keating. We know that Mr Keating's words drip from his mouth and that they are nothing more than really crude vulgarities, but the point is that Keating is the man whom Bannon supports. Keating is the man who goes overseas to save the Australian dollar and costs us all another $4 billion as the dollar falls through the floor. While it is true that Premier Bannon would not speak in the way that Keating does, the point has to be made that he supports Keating's policies. Keating supports high interest rates; so does Bannon. Keating wants a capital gains tax; so does Bannon. Who wants a fringe benefits tax? Keating does and, of course, that has to be supported by Bannon. Keating wants to destroy the hospitality industry in South Australia, so does Senator Walsh, and so does Mr Bannon.

Fairness and incentive in the way in which the tax system has operated will be destroyed by the Hawke Labor Government, and that has the full support of the Bannon Labor Government in South Australia, under union pressure emanating from Trades Hall. We know that all honourable senators on the Government side are subject to Trades Hall for their preselection. We know that they all have to give commitments to the unions in order to keep their places in the Senate. We ought to have a declaration of public interest to ensure that those guys tell us the truth about the commitments they give to people. That sort of thing applies not only at the Federal level but of course also at the State level.

Senator Tate —I take a point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President. I find it highly offensive that the honourable senator has made an imputation against members on this side of the chamber, in particular in implying that I am beholden to any outside body in regard to my obtaining a position in this chamber. I ask that that be withdrawn.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Messner, insofar as there was any imputation against Senator Tate, I suggest that you withdraw it.

Senator MESSNER —I am only too pleased to withdraw it. Senator Walsh apparently will not take part in this debate. I suppose that is reasonable because he gets his stories wrong all the time, and he has particularly done so with regard to the state of play with Mr Olsen in South Australia, which he repeated here today. Of course, one of the points about Senator Walsh is that he is a great non-succeeder as a Finance Minister, as we have seen. He cannot even get his expenditure cuts through the Cabinet, as was reported recently. The cuts to veterans' entitlements that he announced last May have not occurred. He cannot get any child care cuts through the Cabinet, and he has now faced an ignominious defeat on the issue of public authorities and trying to introduce rules and guidelines for them. I support that and so does my Party-that we ought to be able to control statutory authorities in a proper way. What is the argument put in the other direction? Apparently the Cabinet has knocked over Senator Walsh on that issue because it says that it does not want the Opposition to make any capital out of privatisation on the ground that statutory authorities are inefficient. If that is the case, Senator Walsh should talk to Mick Young a little more deeply about that matter.

To return to the issue of the union domination of the Government in South Australia, I refer to Mr Bannon's support of Mr Keating's interest rate policy. We know what that means. We know that in South Australia interest rates are causing enormous problems with mortgages for people in the north-eastern and the south-western suburbs. People are struggling to meet their repayments under the Keating interest rate policy. But not only those people are affected. Obviously, Government senators in this place support that high interest rate policy. Mr Bannon certainly supports it. In fact on the National the other night, in response to a question from an interviewer about the interest rate policy, he said that he accepted that the pressure on interest rates will continue and that many more people will be in trouble. Apparently, his advice at that time was that interest rates will go down. Of course, we know where his advice came from. It was from Mr Keating, who has been promising that all through 1985. Mr Bannon continues to support Mr Keating's economic policies, which are proving so disastrous, in particular for South Australians.

His policy of high interest rates is deliberate; it is important in supporting the price of the dollar before it collapses through the floor. We know that the cause of the falling dollar is the lack of competitiveness in this country, brought about by trade union pressures, which have not been assisted by today's announcement of the Government's cave-in to the paint industry. That is just part and parcel of the very real difficulties that Australians will face in the year ahead through these continuing high interest rate policies which are supported by the State Government of South Australia.

I conclude by saying that, central to the whole economic policy of the Keating plan, the maintenance of a high interest rate structure in this country is merely as a result of the pressure from the trade union movement. The unions, through their domination of the Government, control its every word and deed, and that lies at the very core of our economic policies and difficulties. It is the Government's desertion of its responsibilities and its obligations to the Australian people in its failure to assert its political authority over the growing power and pressure of the trade union movement that brings in its wake enormous problems, anguish and despair to so many Australians. We have only to consider the benefits of such policies as lead to the operation of such firms as the Mudginberri abattoir to observe what can happen when there is a better approach to industrial relations, and how benefits can flow to workers more freely as a result of those kinds of policies. But no, this Government is pushed and absolutely cowed by the trade unions, which are going in exactly the opposite direction.

However, the people of Australia can fight back. Next Saturday week, in South Australia, people can vote out the Bannon Labor Government and show Australians the lead. The opportunity lies not only in the streets of Adelaide but in the suburbs of the north-eastern and south-western parts of Adelaide, in Modbury, in Tea Tree Gully, in Warradale, in Brighton, in Whyalla, and in the timber towns of the south-east, and particularly Mount Gambier, which has been so ill-treated by this Government's policy in regard to road transport-something we have campaigned against strongly in this Senate. That will mean that Mount Gambier stays a strong Liberal seat in the future. That is the message from all Australians which, on 7 December, we can get through to the Hawke Labor Government, so that it understands that its policies are hurting Australians and are damaging the long term propsects of our economy-and that results directly from its domination by the trade union movement.