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Tuesday, 25 May 1993
Page: 1245

Senator CRANE (9.35 p.m.) —I refer the Minister and the officers here to the heading `Non-program specific' and in particular to workplace bargaining. I wish to refer in particular to the matters that were raised by Senator Kemp and I with regard to the enterprise agreement arrangements that were being negotiated between the Government and the ACTU. I particularly want to refer to the Hansard of the estimates committee hearings—and I see that Senator McMullan has now come in to join us—where Mr Mellors said:

The current status of negotiations over that in DAS are that we have held a first formal meeting with the central bargaining unit that has been established to negotiate that agreement for DAS and we are now into substantive negotiations.

Then Senator Kemp asked the questions:

And what is the union request? Can you indicate that? What are they seeking?

Mr Mellors went on to say that there were `from memory about 19 or 22 items', which Senator Kemp asked to be enlarged on and which were not. Further on in the discussion I raised the issue of the five different bands and what existed there. I then asked, in view of these negotiations, whether or not I could have a copy of the log of claims that had been placed before them. I have received an answer to that and I must say to the Minister that it would have to be one of the most outrageous answers ever delivered in this Parliament. The answer as to why that log of claims cannot be delivered to this Parliament—and it should be a public document; I must remind the Minister that we in this Parliament are the custodians of the public purse and must be accountable to the taxpayers for the payment of salaries and wages—is:

The Unions have advised that the matters they have raised for negotiation under workplace bargaining have been provided "in confidence" to the Department pending the outcome of negotiations, and accordingly should not be released.

I have to say here quite clearly and precisely that, if the Government accepts that direction—and I presume it is from the Public Service Union—that the log of claims is not available for public scrutiny and that it is not to be released, the document should be sent straight back to the union involved. It should be made a public document.   As I said, as custodians of the public purse, we in this place are entitled to know what is in that log of claims. We are entitled to know what is being negotiated in terms of workplace agreements. We are entitled to know the propositions and the directions being adopted by the Government.

  It has been publicly stated by a number of members of the Government that these workplace agreements or negotiations will become pacesetters for the private sector. Without wishing to prolong debate at this time, I once again ask the Minister whether he is now prepared to have that log of claims tabled. I will give him the opportunity at this stage to correct the wrong that has been put in this answer because we, as senators in this place, and particularly as members of this committee, have every right to view a log of claims that impacts on this place. It is not acceptable practice for a union to say to the Government, `That log of claims is in confidence' and for the Government to accede mildly and meekly to that proposition.