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Thursday, 8 September 1983
Page: 604

Mr DAWKINS (Minister for Finance and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Matters)(5.40) —in reply-I thank the honourable members who have contributed to the debate on the Public Service Amendment Bill. As you, Mr Deputy Speaker, were required to point out on a number of occasions the debate ranged fairly far and wide. I certainly would not want to respond to many of the points which were made in the course of the debate. There were, however, a couple of matters which I specifically would like to address.

The honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) raised the question of funding under the wage pause program and rather misconstrued what the Government has been doing in that area. What was happening until a couple of months ago was that a substantial amount of funds had been advanced to the States under the wage pause program, yet it had come to our notice that very little of those funds had actually been spent by the States on the purposes for which they were provided, that is on job creation schemes-in short, the provision of jobs. Therefore the Commonwealth took the view that it was not appropriate to continue to advance funds to the States at a rate which far exceeded that at which the States were able to use the funds.

We were also concerned that the States ought to accelerate their activities in this area. Therefore we suspended payment of funds until such time as the States had used up a larger amount of funds that had already been advanced to them. As a consequence of that action a number of States have accelerated their activities. As soon as the States have spent a fair proportion of what has already been advanced to them the funds will begin to flow again. The Government had absolutely no intention to slow down that program, in fact the contrary is true; it is trying to encourage the acceleration of that program.

Mr Ruddock —All the moneys committed will be spent, will they-the $200m?

Mr DAWKINS —Yes. The arrangements, which were entered into by the previous Government just before the election, required regular monthly payments to be made under that program. Those regular monthly payments proceeded until such time as the Government discovered that they were being advanced vastly in excess of what the States were using. Therefore, the monthly payments have been suspended, but they will commence again as soon as the Government is satisfied with the performance of the States. The moneys, as indicated initially under the program-

Mr Connolly —What control mechanisms have you?

Mr DAWKINS —The States are required to report to the Government on their progress. Indeed, they are required to comply with the guidelines which were set down by the previous Government and agreed to by the States. At the moment I am waiting for the States to advise me of the latest position in terms of their expenditure under that program. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) is required to ensure compliance with the guidelines. My task is merely to ensure that the right amount of money is provided in accordance with the needs of the States. I simply indicate that the fears which the honourable member for Dundas has in relation to that area are unfounded.

I refer briefly to a point made by the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) concerning the operation of some of the job creation schemes in South Australia. In the first instance I wish to make the point that it is simply not good enough for members to come into this House and make wild allegations on the basis of apparently scanty and probably vastly inaccurate information about the operation of these schemes in particular States. If honourable members wish to make allegations like that and if they are going to accuse governments of non- compliance with basic human rights or with the abrogation of international conventions, I think that the Government concerned is at least entitled to know the basis of the charges which are being make.

The honourable member was asserting that it would be a requirement in South Australia that union membership be compulsory before unemployed people could participate in job creation schemes. That is certainly not a requirement of the Commonwealth sponsored programs. What the honourable member is getting confused about is that in some cases, in some areas of work, it is an award condition that preference be given to union members. In that circumstance this Government is certainly trying to negotiate, with the co-operation of the trade union movement, that where membership may be a requirement the question of membership fees be waived. In relation to these job creation schemes it is important that we have the co-operation of the trade union movement, because legal requirements are provided in awards which control the wages and conditions in particular areas of employment and a flexible approach needs to be taken when trying to get job-creation schemes under way.

The trade union movement has welcomed the Government's unitiative in this area and is being co-operative in relation to the implementation of these job creation schemes. I think therefore that the honourable member for Barker has entirely misconstrued and misrepresented what is in fact happening on the ground . I repeat: When an award requires that a worker be a member of a union or that preference be provided for a member of a union, the Government is currently having discussions with unions about waiving or reducing membership fees to allow those conditions to be met but without inflicting a penalty on the unemployed.

Mr Porter —You will apologise when you find out I am right, will you?

Mr DAWKINS —The honourable member for Barker continues to make these assertions.

Mr Porter —The assertion was made three months ago in South Australia and not denied by Premier Bannon.

Mr DAWKINS —The honourable member has been invited by me during this debate and I invite him again to bring forward the evidence on which he makes those charges .

Mr Porter —It was made in the State Parliament House, and he has not denied it.

Mr DAWKINS —It is simply not good enough for the honourable member for Barker or anyone else to make these wild allegations.

Mr Porter —That's the condition set down by the South Australian Government. You just ring him up.

Mr DAWKINS —I am not making the allegation; the honourable member is making the allegation. If he is going to make those allegations and probably mislead this House, I think he needs to have regard to the severity of that. If he is going to make those charges he should at least provide the evidence on which the charges are made. I thank the House for the debate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.