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Transcript of press conference: 70 Phillip Street, Sydney: 13 May 1992: Immigration; Liberal leadership; ICAC inquiry; polls; APPM; industrial relations; WA Inc/Senator Richardson



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Leader of the Opposition

13 May 1992 REF: TRANSCR\NM\S0091

TRANSCRIPT OF DR JOHN HEWSON HP PRESS CONFERENCE 70 PHILLIP STREET, SYDNEY

E & Ο E - PROOF COPY ONLY

SUBJECTS: Immigration, Liberal Leadership, ICAC Inquiry, Polls, APPM, Industrial Relations, WA Inc/Senator Richardson - . . · . S

Hewson: ,

The first subject I wanted to raise is this statement by Gerry Hand last night about the fact that the 20,000 · Chinese

students that were given special status might grow to 300,000 by the Year 2000. What that tells you is that this is a

national disgrace. It's incredible that the decision was taken in the first place, and I have consistently criticised Hawke's emotionalism which was the basis of that decision.

20,000 students that arrived here before June 1989 have been allowed to stay as long as they like, and that breaks down the basic integrity of the immigration system, and it brings about a whole lot of discrimination within the immigration program. For example, there are another 15-18,000 Chinese students who arrived after June 1989 who don't have that right, and who can only seek to stay here either by applying to be considered a refugee, or by trying to qualify under the normal immigration rules. And it's absolutely ludicrous to have a situation where you give a blanket admission to a special group of

people and recognise that that number can grow to 300,000 in the next 7 or 8 years and not do anything about it.

Now, I think Gerry Hand is really having a go at Paul Keating here. I don't think Gerry Hand's ever supported the decision that Bob Hawke took, and Paul Keating recently re-affirmed that decision for a position of political expedience. And we have a situation now where Gerry Hand is calling on Paul

Keating to fix it. As far as I can see, Hand's taking the

view he's leaving Parliament anyway. He doesn't want to go out with a record as the worst Immigration Minister we've ever had, and so he's put Keating into hot water on that issue,

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 774022

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And it is ludicrous. To be clear, it's not related to the

fact that they're Chinese. The same point would be made in relation to any other nationality. They could be French or German or Indonesian or whatever. The fact is that the

integrity of the immigration program has been dramatically undermined in those circumstances.

The second issue that I've had questions about today relates to the failure of the current Prime Minister, when Treasurer, to give permission for the Western Australian Corruption Inquiry to have access to relevant tax records. This shows you a classic double standard. I mean, this is vintage

Keating - one law for. his Labor mates and one law for the rest of us. .

He was quite happy to release tax information in relation to the Fitzgerald Inquiry in Queensland because that had ' to do with the activities of the Queensland National Party, and yet how when it's WA Inc, and it's, the activities of the Labor

Party in Western Australia and links elsewhere in Australia, he wants to separate that group out and treat them

differently. To my mind it is a ludicrous double standard that is indefensible.

Jrnlst:

So Dr Hewson, are you saying that they were deliberately withholding that information?

Hewson:

Well, they're obviously going to any length they can to make sure that the Western Australian Corruption Inquiry cannot have access to that information. Now, as far as I can see, he's more than happy to turn the bucket on everybody else, but when it might link into his Labor mates or indeed, perhaps

even to some in his Government, he withholds the information. Now, he's got a lot of explaining to do.

And the third point I wanted to make is, quite frankly, where is Paul Keating? These are leadership issues for Keating - the deficit has blown out and he's not around for comment. He's got problems with Richo and his stand in defence of

Richo. He's got problems in the immigration area with the announcements yesterday by Gerry Hand, and he's now got this inconsistency that's been thrown up in relation to access to tax files for WA Inc.

Where is Paul Keating? These are crucial tests of his

leadership and he's gone into the bunker and he's not prepared to come out and answer these questions.

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Jrnlst:

Are you concerned about unity in the Liberal Party...

Hewson:

No.

Jrnlst:

...with two State leaders being replaced - and with what's happening at the ICAC inquiry in New South Wales?

Hewson:

No. Look, this is a figment of Geoff Kitney's imagination, that story today, quite frankly, in the Financial Review. I honestly tire of reading stories written by Kitney that could only have come from the Labor Party. They certainly didn't come from the Liberal ..Party. The factors that led to a

change of leadership in Western Australia are completely unrelated to the factors that led to the leadership situation in South Australia, Both of those in turn are completely unrelated to what's happened in New South Wales.

And as far as I'm concerned, as Federal Leader of the Federal Party, looking at Federal issues, they are State Divisional matters in each case, or State Parliamentary matters. And although they may reflect, to some extent, in the minds of

people when they're asked how they would vote in a poll,

they've got nothing to do with the way we're performing, and nothing to do with the opportunities that we are offering this country by way of a policy alternative. They've got nothing to do with how we will perform at the next Federal election.

There isn't a groundswell of opinion that's flooding around from one bushfire to the next, as I read in today's paper. These are three quite isolated and different issues that have been motivated by quite different factors.

Jrnlst: ’

Is there pressure on Nick Greiner in New South Wales over the ICAC Inquiry from within the Liberal Party?

Hewson:

Well, not from us. I mean, I've had a very firm view all

along that Nick Greiner handles matter at the State level in New South Wales, and I handle things at the Federal level. I don't tell him what to do, and he doesn't tell me what to do, and it's the only way you can operate. It is a State issue. Sure, it's certainly affected the perceptions of Liberals, if you like, in New South Wales, and as I've said many times,

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that's reflected in our poll standing in New South Wales. But that's something that will go when the problem is solved. When the focus comes back on us, Federal issue, Federal level, Federal campaign - as we saw when Fightback! was released, of course people's attitudes shift back to the Federal level, and

the polls will reflect that.

So we live with the short-term fluctuations in polls, as I've said consistently since I've been Leader. They come and go for a whole host of reasons. We're staying on our Federal agenda and arguing our Federal issues and our Federal case.

Jrnlst:

What do you feel about being mentioned in Terry Metherall's diary?

Hewson:

Well, I don't know whether one should be flattered or not, quite frankly. I forget the context in which I was mentioned. I think it may have something to do with Ted Pickering not running.

Jrnlst:

He said he didn't think you could win federally.

Hewson:

Yes, well, that confirms, to my mind, that we probably will.

Jrnlst:

Dr Hewson, on the APPM dispute, how important do you think it is for that strike to be broken?

Hewson:

Well, it' e very difficult for us to comment on the detail of the strike, although I must say I have some sympathy for the company's position. Surely the company has a right to

negotiate with their workers about some of these over-award terms and conditions, which is a quite separate issue as to whether it continues to deal with a union on a continuing basis, if you like. But you'vi got to have some sympathy for

their position in this dispute at this time.

Jrnlst: ·

Dr Hewson, that's not a view shared by Ray Groom, your Liberal colleague in Tasmania, is it?

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Hewson:

Apparently it's not, no. ,

Jrnlst:

Well, he says he's lost patience with the company and that they've handled it the wrong way. Is there a contradiction there in the way you would approach industrial relations and they way he's approaching it? . . .

Hewson:

You can't put me into that dispute. I'm not involved in that dispute, and I don't have Ray Groom's platform in that

dispute. But I must say that from the way I see that dispute, I'm surprised. I'm surprised, quite frankly," that he hasn't given the company more support in its right to deal with its workers on over-award terms and conditions.

Jrnlst: ' . ,·

So you're saying the company is going about Its industrial relations the right way and the way that you would like to see , other companies...

Hewson:

No. You can't generalise like that. I know it's tempting for you to generalise like that, but you can't...

Jrnlst: '

Well, where do you stand on industrial relations in this country7

Hewson:

Our view is that we should have the circumstance where

employers, and their employees can sit down, with or without a union, and negotiate most terms and conditions of employment. We've set out a very detailed industrial relations policy in the past which we're currently in the process of extending.

But in the context of certain minimum wages and other

conditions, they should be free to negotiate a whole range of terms and conditions.

If there are certain over-award payments that are unjustified in the circumstances of the industry or the circumstances of the market in which they operate at a particular time, they ought to be able to sit down and negotiate those terms and . conditions. Now that is our approach. Don't generalise from

one particular dispute in one particular part of the country, which has arisen for a host of reasons, apart from. . . some we

I

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know of, some we don't I imagine, But I would like to see an industrial relations system where they can sit down and negotiate in relation to all, those terms and conditions, and there's to be an orderly process about that - a series of

employment agreements, if you like, which is the essence of our policy, which will summarise the terms and conditions on which they agree.

Jrnlst: *

Under your policy Dr Hewson, this sort of thing would be

happening a lot more though, wouldn't it? .

Hewson: *

No. Not at all. :

Jrnlst:

Negotiating with your workers outside the existing structure?

Hewson:

But because they both would think it's mutually beneficial td do that. And that's the essence of our approach to industrial relations. You shouldn't baulk at this. It happens already in Australia to a widespread extent in a lot of other

industries that haven't been traditionally unionised, or that haven't been part of the centralised system - haven't opted to be part of the centralised system. And I think over time most employers and employees would opt out of the centralised

system. And in other countries of course, it happens all the time. It's the only way it happens, and they don't jump up in the air and say "Gosh, look this is doom and disaster",

because it isn't.

You're looking at a set of circumstances that is mutually beneficial to both the company and the employee. You saw it, as a good example, in the SPC case, where the workers said straight out ’ "We are happy to forego certain terms and conditions - leave loading, Saturdays, rostered days off, whatever it was, in order to keep our job" . They negotiated

an alternative package which has been beneficial to them. They're better off. Not only do they have their job, but

they're now getting profitshares. . The company has turned around. The company's performance has improved. We're still exporting, so the nation's better off. The company's better off. The employees are better off.

Now that's the basic thrust of our industrial relations policy. But it's hard to play the hypothetical game and say "Well let's drop Hewson into the APPM dispute and see whether we can crucify him on some element of that", because it's not

appropriate. But I must say, you ask me for a reaction. My

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reaction is I'm surprised the company hasn't had more support in terms of its right to negotiate with its workers on some of these terms and conditions^. Look, I think the union seems to be standing a hard-line ground, defending its position at all costs as the only way in which negotiations can take place. I mean, the workers may not want that.

Jrnlst;

If then, you get the chance to implement your industrial relations policy, how are you going to get around this

stringent unionism as opposed to enterprise bargaining?

Hewson:

Well, we're going to break down compulsory unionism. We're going to outlaw it. And we're going to give people the right to choose who does the negotiation for them - whether they negotiate themselves, or whether they have a union negotiate on their behalf. We're going to institutionalise that

structure and we're going to put it under common law so that the employer and the employee have equal common law rights, if you like, so that if there's wrongful action by an employer, an employee can take them to court, or vice versa.

That establishes a common base. It establishes a fair base on which those negotiations can take place, But there'll be no compulsory unionism. There'll be formal structures whereby they can form an enterprise union if they want, rather than

one of the existing unions, but they can form an enterprise union or a plant union specifically for the purposes of those negotiations. They are significant institutional changes. It's not an anti-union policy but it is designed to ensure

that a union does what it ought to do if it's involved in that process, and that's represent the interests of workers at the workplace, leaving the workers the right themselves to represent their own interests if they choose.

Jrnlst:

Doesn't this show though, that enterprise bargaining can break down? Here's a classic example of a group of workers who want to negotiate with their union and a company who doesn't want to negotiate with their union, and they're at a stalemate. What's the solution there?

Hewson:

Well again, you're trying to drag our policy into a specific situation. No, it is wrong to drag our policy into that

situation. I'm not in Government.

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Jrnlst:

...inaudible...

Hewson:

No I'm not. I mean, this dispute will be solved long before we get into Government - at least I certainly hope so.

Jrnlst:

But this situation will arise again when you're in Government, won't they?

Hewson:

Yes, but the rules will be different. You'll have a different institutional structure. They'll be operating under common law. They'll be operating... if they've opted out of the

system, they'll be operating on a common law basis, which is a completely different approach. They'll be on an equal

footing. They'll have rights. They'll have capacity to negotiate directly or indirectly. I mean, that will all change. So as I say, you just can't say...force me into this centralised system and say, you know, "make me make my system work in there", because that's not fair.

But you allow me to build the institutional structure and the legal structure that I need to do it, and I'm happy to say

that these disputes probably won't occur, because they will be negotiating at the workplace level. They'll be differences of opinion, but they work them out to their mutual advantage.

There's this simplistic notion around these days that

employers want to exploit workers and workers have got to be protected and only unions can protect them. I mean, they are 19th century Victorian values. They don't apply any more. Genuine companies are very interested in their workforce. They put a lot of time into person management. They put a lot of time ipto training. When they've got good staff they want

to keep their staff. They don't want to exploit their staff. They want to have a fair go. They want to have a fair sharing of the output, if you like, the' benefits of the output.

Equally, workers are keen to be part of it. They like the

idea of having a profitshare. They like the idea of having equity in the company. They like the idea of being rewarded for performance.

These things naturally come together. It's not them and us anymore. It is possible, if you change the institutional structure, that they will actually sit down and negotiate to their mutual advantage, and these stand-off situations which emerge under the centralised system - don't forget this is the centralised system that's breaking down. This is not Hewson's

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system. It's not in place. This is the centralised system that's breaking down. It's breaking down under that system. The Government claims to be going to enterprise bargaining. It's not working. You should be attacking the Government on what's happening today, an actual situation, not attacking me

on what you think might happen under us in what is only a

hypothetical situation today.

Our situation...we'11 create the rules and circumstances in which those negotiations can take place, and I have every confidence, on the basis of evidence I've seen in Australia where it's happened, or in other countries around the world,

that it can happen to the best interests of both the employer and the employee.

Jrnlst:

Surely it's going to be a difficult task to convince workers that it should come out of the centralised wages system?

Hewson:

No. You should have gone down to SPC with me. I mean, there was one woman stood up there with...

Jrnlst:

That's an isolated case...

Hewson:

Hang on, it's not an isolated case. I think it's indicative of a worker attitude that's happened all over the place. When the deregulated the financial system, that was a unionised system and people said "well look, we can go ahead and

negotiate with these new banks and these new institutions. We don't need the union." The workers made their own choices themselves, and I didn't hear anyone complaining. When the unions actually tried to sign people up, they didn't1

particularly want to be members of the union. in fact, I” 1 think the membership of the ABEU, as a union, fell

dramatically in the last half of the 1980s because they were seen not to be representing the best interests of their

workers. .

And I'll tell you what - there are a lot of rank and file

unionists today, union members today, who are teed off with the fact that the union leadership hasn't looked after their interests. I haven't seen too many union leaders lose their jobs, for example, but a hell of a lot of the rank and file

have lost their jobs. There's a growing feeling at the

workplace level that union leaders have not acted in their best interests.

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Right now you have a debate about the Superannuation Guarantee Levy - a deal done between Bill Kelty on the one hand and Paul Keating on the other that's going to cost up to 100,000 rank and file members their jobs. That's hardly in their best

interests. It's undeliverable in those terms. If it doesn't cost them their job*, as the Treasury's admitted, they'll have to take a cut in wages. They won't get another real wage

increase this decade. None of that's in their interests either, and that's what people are feeling at the workplace level.

And as I say, time is right for a fundamental change in our industrial relations system. It's never been a better time, i think, to achieve fundamental change than we have right now.

Jrnlst: .

Dr Hewson, just on the WA Inc situation and the Graham

Richardson affair - what's your major concern with the

Government's handling of these two issues?

Hewson:

Well, it's the "two nation" strategy. I mean, Paul Keating in relation to Richardson - he has his own rules for Richardson, and he has his own rules for everybody else. He looks after a mate. He puts mateship ahead of leadership. In WA Inc he's

looking after other mates and he's distinguishing between those mates and the rest of us. It's the "two nation"

strategy - consciously protecting mates and putting mateship above leadership at a time where, as I say, he's got several leadership tests on the drawing board today. He's got Richo. He's got WA Inc. He's got the immigration situation. He's got the deficit blowout which blows his One Nation package right out the door, and where's Paul Keating?

Jrnlst:

Dr Hewson, what do you think about Kerry Packer organising an exclusive golf game for Senator Richardson while negotiating with him bn Pay TV?

Hewson:

Well, I don't know for a fact that that's happened. There's been a bit of newspaper speculation about that.

Jrnlst:

It has happened. What would you say about that?

Hewson:

It's just a question to ask Senator Richardson.

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Jrnlst:

Will you be asking that question?

Hewson:

We could well ask Senator Richardson a lot more questions, I can assure you. In fact, every time Senator Richardson opens his mouth, you get more questions, you don't get more answers.

Ends.