PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 6691


Photo of Hawke, Robert

Hawke, Robert

Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991

More information about Hawke, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 13/08/1985

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 6691

I am very pleased to have been able to Join you here today
for the opening of the Federated Iron Workers new
This new headquarters is a great achievement on the part of
both the FIA leadership and its members. Coming at the
same time as the historic campaign for the amalgamation of
the FIA and the Australasian Society of Engineers nears its
climax gives added point to the occasion.
We have here today a very clear reflection of your
achievements in the past and your confidence in the future.
It is precisely in the same sense that I take pride as
Prime Minister of the Labor Government in being with you
today. It is particularly appropriate that I share that pride in
our achievements and our confidence in the future with you
because you are such an important part of the great
Australian trade union movement which has been so centrally
involved in posting those achievements.
It is about time that some of the nonsense being talked
lately in some quarters about the relationship between the
Federal Government and the trade union movement be
addressed directly, and be demolished.
All Australian Governments of whatever political persuasion
necessarily have a relationship with the trade union
movement. Few will have forgotten the relationship of the
previous Government.
it helped to create the worst economic recession in
Australia for 50 years. It saw Australians worse off in
fundamental economic terms in terms of employment
opportunities foregone, high levels of inflation and a
decline in real living standards. None of this was

it was a relationship promoted by a Government which had no
semblance of a wages policy. When their hectoring of the
unions and their lecturing of the Arbitration Commission
did not produce the results they wanted, they moved to
create the environment for, and readily acquiesced in, the
abandonment of any form of centralised wage fixation from
31 July 1981. We have been living with the disastrous
economic and social consequences ever since.
The ensuing wages explosion and associated economic
ineptitude of that Government produced for the first time
in this country's history, simultaneous double-digit
inflation and traumatically high levels of unemployment.
in the 12 months before the change of Government 160,000
jobs disappeared and unemployment increased by over a
quarter of a million. Inflation reached more than twice
the OECD average in the same period.
The Labor Government was elected in March 1983 to turn the
situation around. Australia was then in deep crisis as I
say, the worst economic crisis for more than 50 years; a
searing crisis of the national spirit after seven years of
confrontation and division.
We sought to bring Australians together again, to work
together. Our aim was, together, to beat back the crisis,
to restore hope, to restore growth, confidence and a sense
of United purpose to this nation.
Together we have done it.
We have made the turning around of the economy and the
ending of the confrontationist approaches of our
predecessors the central piece of the Government's
strategy. The Accord with the trade unions has been critical to the
success of this strategy.
From the beginning we were convinced that the continued
success of the Accord was the absolute condition for
achieving a sustained recovery without inflation.
Let no one belittle the achievements that have been won
through the Accord, for Australia's economic recovery in
the last two years has been impressive by any standards.
The latest OECD Economic Survey of Australia clearly and
authoritatively documents the extent of that achievement.
The OECD has registered how the recovery of activity in
Australia has been more rapid than the OECD average, how
unemployment has fallen, and how inflation has been reduced
significantly. The OECD sees the Australian economy " well
placed to enter the third year of recovery with demand
growing strongly and unemployment falling further"

The OECD attributes this achievement at least in part, to
our pursuit of sound Government policies. It recognises
that the Accord with the trade union movement has been
central to the Government's prices and incomes policy,
noting that it has played an important role in the fight
against inflation since its introduction in 1983.
The most dramatic and important measure of the Government's
economic success has been in the creation of new jobs. I'm
proud to proclaim to you as workers that the growth in
employment of around 410,000 since April, 1983 is greater
than has ever been achieved in a comparable period in
Australia. I do not believe that there has been a
comparably important economic achievement for over three
decades. It is unfortunate in the rough and tumble of politics that
the scale of this achievement can be lost sight of by some.
I am not surprised that our political opponents, who
destroyed jobs, should now seek to denigrate the
Government's achievement. But the trade unions and the
Australian community generally can and should take pride in
the achievement. For the growth in employment and the
reduction in unemployment to the lowest level for almost
three years has taken place in the context of a new
spirit of industrial peace and harmony; cb-operation
between government, business and trade unions; and renewed
national confidence and self-esteem.
And we can take pride as a nation in this achievement,
secure in the knowledge that it will continue as we move
confidently towards our goal of creating 500,000 jobs
during our first three years in office.
In the next few months we must address the challenge of the
depreciation that has occurred since the end of 1984. As a
Government we urge all sections of the Australian
community, including the trade union movement, to exercise
restraint until we have absorbed the inflationary impact of
on wages, it is now clear that real growth must be somewhat
lower than would otherwise have occurred. Deferral of the
foreshadowed productivity wage round, discounting and the
timing of future wage adjustments are all relevant in
determining the position the Government will take before
the Arbitration Commission. In this we will be concerned
with creating more jobs and making existing jobs more
secure. I know your members will identify with this
commitment. I have every confidence that the Accord is sufficiently
flexible to again deliver for Australia the kind of wages
growth and industrial environment necessary to create jobs,
just as it has done since early 1983.
The recent economic achievements of our nation which I have
outlined today have depended critically on the co-operation
of the trade union movement. But neither the trade union
movement nor individual unions can ultimately determine the
Government's approach to any issue.

The recent economic achievements of our nation which I have
outlined today have depended critically on the co-operation
of the trade union movement. But neither the trade union
movement nor individual unions can ultimately determine the
Government's approach to any issue.
In this context I should make it clear that no Government
can tolerate, or in any way acquiesce, in the forms of
unionism perpetrated by groups such as the BLF. Their
complete disdain for the law, their frequent resort to
practices of thuggery and physical coercion, have no place
in our society.
My Government will move, on the first day Parliament
resumes, to legislate for the deregistration of the BLF.
our complete refusal to abide the violent extremism of the
BLF in no way diminishes the Australian Government's
commitment to working constructively and deliberately with
the main-stream Australian union movement.
on the other hand, our political opponents are committed to
the destruction of the Accord.. They would propose ending
central wage fixing based on wage indexation, and would
close down the institutions which give form and substance
to the Accord the Economic Planning Advisory Council,
the Advisory Committee on Prices and Incomes and the Prices
Surveillance Authority.
Indeed, they would take the wage fixation process out of
the Arbitration system, leaving it to a process of direct
negotiation between employer and employee, to a process of
trial by strength, to a process that would rapidly
degenerate into a situation of complete anarchy. They
would sabotage the Accord and its achievements and unleash
on this country another debilitating round of inflation and
a new wages explosion of the kind which emerged in 1981
from exactly the same policy as they now espouse again.
Their approach is a recipe for economic disaster.
As I said in my policy speech last year
" The central achievement of the past 20 months
restored growth with reduced inflation, would be
wrecked, with all that would mean for employment, for
interest rates, and for the standard of living of the
weaker sections of the community, especially our young
and our pensioners, for everything that millions of
ordinary Australians can now hope for themselves and
their families."
As members of the FIA you would all be particularly aware
how the processes of the Accord have restored conditions
for a prosperous Australian manufacturing sector.
The Australian manufacturing industry is now better
positioned than it has been for many years.

The Labor Government has given unprecedented attention to
the development of outward-looking, internationally
competitive Australian industries.
in part this has been achieved by an economic policy
approach which has produced an economy more resilientt more
open to change, and more able to respond to changing
economic conditions. In that regard the floating of the
Australian dollar, the admission of foreign banks and our
moves to eliminate unnecessary regulatory controls, have
been important.
It has also been necessary to move deliberately to ensure
that Australian industry structures are made more
responsive to changes in both domestic and international
demand. The turn around in the steel industry bears eloquent
testimony to the success of the approach we have adopted.
As with the economy at large, the situation in this
industry has improved dramatically. Raw steel production
by BHP over the first 12 months of the steel plan was 11
per cent higher than the corresponding figure for the
previous year, with production close to the company's
operating capacity. Authorised capital expenditure by BHP
in the Steel Division topped $ 850 million in July, already
in excess of the figure agreed to in the plan.
Productivity per employee has averaged 256 tonnes in 1984,
well above the 1983 level and above the level of 250 tonnes
of raw steel per employee as aimed for in the plan.
An indication of the commitment of the unions to the plan
is that the number of stoppages in the BHIP Steel Division,
on an average monthly basis, is well below that of the
figures recorded in 1981 and 1982 and similar to that of
the low levels of 1983.
The Steel Division of BHP is now profitable, creating both
the capacity to undertake continued investment and the
incentive to maintain a viable industry with secure
employment. Senior BHiP executives say that the
improvements in competitiveness are paving the way for
expanded steel production for export.
Only to the extent that Australian industry is competitive
can we be confident of making further inroads into the
intolerably high levels of unemployment that still remain,
and being sure that those now in jobs will be able to enjoy
job security into the future. This is fundamental to the
Labor Government's approach to economic management.
It is in the interests of all Australians that the task so
successfully begun in creating many more jobs, be carried
forward. We will only be able to do this in an environment
of co-operation, in an environment where the Government,
the business community and the union movement remain
committed to the task of national reconciliation and
national recovery.

Strong foundations have been established; we must now build
on them, build on them in ways that will guarantee future
prosperity for all Australians.
It is in this spirit and because I know the commitment of
this great union to these fundamental principles that I
am pleased to formally open your Conference today and to
proceed to the official opening of this great new building.

Transcript 6691