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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2596

Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE — I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It also concerns the remarks of the Prime Minister to the Confederation of Australian Industry last night and his reference to industrial action being inconsistent with the spirit of the prices and incomes accord. Does the Minister concede that if the only restraint on industrial action over superannuation is the nebulous spirit of the accord, unions have almost unlimited licence to hold employers to ransom with little fear of the consequences as far as the Government is concerned? In view of this, will the Government, as a matter of urgency, renegotiate the accord to ensure that any such action is specifically prohibited in the agreement?

Senator BUTTON —That is an interesting question because it reminds me of the age of Louis XIV in the implications which underlie it.

Senator Chaney —It would be a golden age if we could stop unions striking; you are quite right.

Senator BUTTON —It would be a golden age, Senator. We are much closer to a golden age than honourable senators opposite ever were.

Senator Chaney —Tell that to the Victorians.

Senator BUTTON —I will tell it to the Victorians. I will tell it to anybody. We are much closer to a golden age than honourable senators opposite ever were. Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle referred to the constraints which are available to the Government. I suppose she means that the Government might erect an armoury of legislation again, which proved totally useless in the period of government of honourable senators opposite in terms of achieving industrial peace in this community. We are not about that; we have explained that on a number of occasions. There is, of course, one constraint that the Government does have about superannuation, and that is that the Government provides the taxation regime under which superannuation schemes operate. There will be guidelines for the superannuation schemes which will involve the tax treatment of those schemes.

I do not think it would be sensible for us to seek to renegotiate the accord, as Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle puts it, to insert a provision which seeks self-restraint by the unions. That is the only thing that such negotiation could lead to, and I do not believe that there would be very much point in that exercise. Leave it with us for a little while, and see how we go. I think it will be all right.