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Thursday, 30 September 1993
Page: 1516

Senator CRANE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations. I ask this question against the background that Jennie George told the government this week to stop pussyfooting around and to implement the pre-election commitments which were made. What is the status of the heads of agreement document between the Minister for Industrial Relations and the ACTU's negotiating committee dated 1 September 1993? Are the proposals agreed to in the `in-principle' document binding on the government?

Senator McMULLAN —The positive element of the question which Senator Crane raises is that it does focus attention on the very broad area of agreement that exists about what should be done in the reforms which the government is seeking to propose in industrial relations, and puts in context the somewhat more narrow area of disagreement. I welcome the fact that he has recognised that there are more elements in the industrial relations reform equation than merely that which is the flavour of the month and the focus of attention with the recent concentration on the area of disagreement as it relates to enterprise bargaining.

  The government continues to have negotiations with a number of groups, including the ACTU, which is very important in the area of industrial relations, about the nature of the legislative package which will be introduced. Those discussions are continuing and no decision will be made by the government about the final nature of the legislation which will be introduced or the timetable of that introduction until those negotiations are concluded.

Senator CRANE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In view of the fact that the minister has basically avoided the question, could I try another tack.

Senator Faulkner —You cannot try another tack. It is supposed to be a supplementary question!

Senator CRANE —It is a supplementary question, and I will do it. You just be quiet.

Senator Faulkner —No. Sit down.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Faulkner, please cease interjecting.

Senator CRANE —Will the minister explain which proposals in the agreement are not binding, with particular reference to minimum standard provisions? Further, will the minimum standard provisions be existing awards?

Senator McMULLAN —To the extent that I have anything to add to my previous answer, the Minister for Industrial Relations advises me that he has reached agreement on all major issues, except the extension of workplace bargaining into the non-unionised sector—and that is a matter about which discussions are continuing. So whether the document that Senator Crane has is the final version of the document is a matter between the minister and those people with whom he has been in negotiation.

  It is correct that there is a substantial area of agreement about the reform; I welcome the opportunity to emphasise that substantial area of agreement. But discussions will continue about that one area where there is not agreement. The government does not intend to allow the artificial legislative deadlines which people are trying to raise to rush us into interfering with the quality of the package, and the detail of what is in it will be released when we conclude it.