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Wednesday, 2 November 1983
Page: 2196

Mr ROCHER —My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, is about a package of award increases for certain building trades workers which has been refered back to a Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Is the Government aware that this package, if awarded, will almost certainly commence a new wage round with immediate flow-on to other unions which have already put employers on notice that they intend to claim building increases, if granted? In light of the Minister's statement of 6 October that 'the Government would give conditional support to the package', will the Minister advise what conditions must exist for the Government to be satisfied and therefore to give its support? Finally, if the Government is to support any of the momentary parts of the package as against the supposed peace objectives, how does it reconcile that with its position stated during an earlier hearing, that it would oppose disguised and/or sectional wage increases?

Mr WILLIS —I realise that the honourable member has a close personal interest in this matter. The matter which he has raised is important. It is before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission today. As he would be aware, the building agreement came before a Full Bench of the Commission today in an anomalies hearing. I am not aware whether that matter has yet concluded but it is expected to conclude today. The Commonwealth is represented at that hearing and will be making submissions there along with the employers and the unions. As I have indicated previously, the Commonwealth supports the building industry agreement, with various conditions. The honourable member asked what those conditions are. I do not have a complete list in front of me, but an important condition is that there be no flow-on outside the building and construction industry. Certainly a key factor in the anomalies principle which the Commission laid down as part of its national wage decision on 23 September is that an anomaly cannot be found if it is likely that granting an increase would create a general wage increase. So there is no way in which the Commission could find that an anomaly applied in this case if it believed that the matter would flow on all over the place. We certainly will be saying to the Commission that there is no way in which the Commission should do anything to destroy the principles it laid down on 23 September. So, we would be saying quite clearly that there would be no flow-on outside the building and construction industry.

There would also have to be on the part of the unions involved a commitment to the principle that, where there was a flow-on outside the particular award within the building and construction industry now before the Commission, the conditions in the package, apart from the money amounts, would also have to flow on. Industrial relations procedures are extremely important in our view in trying to bring about some sanity in what has been a highly volatile and disrupted industry in the past. It is a matter not just of there being increases in allowances within other elements of the building and construction industry but also of the whole industrial relations package going on. Those are the main conditions, but there are one or two others which I cannot directly bring to mind.

The honourable member asked how we could support the matter now when we did not support it in the previous hearing. The fact is that when the matter came before the Commission previously it was not an anomalies procedure. It was brought to the Commission as an application to vary the award. We said then that it had to be looked at under principle 9 of the Commission's principles, which relates to allowances. It is quite clear that under principle 9 there can be only a very limited implementation of the agreement. We also said then that it was open to the parties to take the matter to the Commission through the anomalies procedures. The parties have subsequently done that. They have been to an anomalies conference in front of Mr Deputy President Williams, who was Acting President of the Commission. He found that there was an arguable case. It has gone from there to the Full Bench and the matter is before the Commission today. It is a different procedure. The anomalies procedure is quite different from what was before the Commission previously and it is thoroughly in line with our previous submission for us to be supporting the agreement before the Commission today.