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Tuesday, 6 June 1989
Page: 3395


Senator ALSTON(10.54) —I take it from the Minister's remarks that he does not understand what is involved in the reserve power that might exist in the Constitution and in other situations where, as a last resort, a board is able to take decisions which needed to be taken in a period of crisis. Putting that to one side, I ask the Minister what response he expects Australia Post to take to its own union members when the Chairman of the Prices Surveillance Authority has disclosed that Australia Post's own statistics have shown that one in four letters arrive late in Victoria and that performance results are so poor that industrial relations have caused Australia's recent poor showing in Victoria, and has recommended improved internal consultation and greater use of the Industrial Relations Commission to head off damaging disputes.

Is is not the fact that these sorts of placebo conciliation and consensus approaches have abjectly failed and that what is needed by any party to negotiations is a good hand? It is no use not even having a pair of twos and the other side knowing it because one will get taken to the cleaners every time. If one has the ultimate essential services power, one does not have to use it but it becomes a fairly useful tactical negotiating weapon. Why should a government not have that power as a last resort? It may never intend that it be used. But at the end of the day, unless the Government has some ability to impose its will, unless it has some cards to play that will bring recalcitrant unions to heel, it will have to give in to the demands of those unionists-as the Minister is really conceding-no matter how unreasonable those demands might be. The Minister is an experienced industrial relations negotiator. Why does he not want to strengthen his own hand?