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Thursday, 30 September 1993
Page: 1531

Senator SHERRY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy) (3.37 p.m.) —I rise in this debate to comment on the fairly predictable contributions which have been made, particularly those of Senator Crane. I want to deal with a couple of themes that were developed. I do not want to deal so much with the contents of the document that Senator Crane tabled, which is apparently dated 1 September—and I have seen the document. But I want to deal with the allegations of lack of consultation and concoctions in secret.

  I find it a bit galling that Senator Crane alleges that there was little or no consultation with employers. Firstly, I make the point that there has been ongoing consultation with employers by the current minister and the previous minister, Senator Cook, who was a very good minister, although I know Senator Crane will contest that. They had a well developed, personal and ongoing combative relationship.

  It is a bit rich when the opposition comes in here claiming that we lack consultation. When did the opposition consult with the trade union movement about the contents of Fightback? I remind the Senate and the people of Australia that the opposition has not withdrawn its industrial relations policy in Fightback. It has withdrawn the GST because it believes that that was critical in its defeat. The opposition should also have a look at its industrial relations policy, because that was pretty critical in its defeat as well. It is a bit rich for opposition members to be saying that we do not consult—we do—when they do not consult themselves. If members of the opposition want to push that principle, it should apply just as much to them as it does to us.

  Senator Crane—this brought a wry smile to my lips—accused the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Brereton), of calling his masters in the ACTU. I have had a number of conversations and meetings with the minister on a range of matters over the last six months. Every time I pick up a newspaper there is generally criticism of him from a full range of the industrial movement. He has been criticised on a number of occasions by a number of unions. How can Senator Crane possibly claim that the unions are his master when they are criticising him for his alleged lack of action in a number of areas? Again, it is a total inconsistency in Senator Crane's assertion.

  I noted the other day that one of the employer organisations—I think it was the Chamber of Manufactures; I could be wrong—praised Minister Brereton for standing up to the ACTU. Whether that praise was justified or not, an employer organisation praised the minister. In fact, it requested the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) to continue to support Minister Brereton in his approach in resisting some of the claims of the trade unions, which Senator Crane alleges are his masters.

  The truth of the matter is this: Minister Brereton is in a very difficult position. He is undertaking a very difficult set of negotiations with both employers and trade unions. Minister Brereton should be praised by the Senate—he is certainly going to be praised by me—for the unstinting efforts he has made over the last six months to engage in the maximum consultation.

  He has been to Tasmania a couple of times. Quite often, the industrial movement in Tasmania is not given due consideration in these matters. He has been all over the country consulting with people. I do not believe that the criticisms that Senator Crane levelled can be justified in any way.

  The only other point that I will comment on very briefly is Senator Kemp's point about the minimum size of unions and adopting ILO conventions. We are consistent. There is a ruling through the ILO that our current legislation and policy is not consistent with ILO conventions. We will be respecting that, just as we will be introducing, I hope, legislation to respect ILO conventions in a number of other areas which establish very important minimum sets of wages and conditions. So we are consistent.

  We are a nationalist party. But we are also internationalist in our outlook. We believe that there is an important place for UN treaties in the world. (Time expired)