PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 7893

SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER FEDERATED IRONWORKERS' ASSOCIAITON NATIONAL COUNCIL MEETING NEWCASTLE - 12 FEBRUARY 1990

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: 12/02/1990

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 7893

( rWi(' 1 AtnATWR' 1 nVT. TUVr-V Wrhmraunnr TIW'TT. flWT. TUV
SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER
FEDERATED IRONWORKERS' ASSOCIATION
NATIONAL COUNCIL MEETING
NEWCASTLE 12 FEBRUARY 1990
Steve Harrison, National Secretary
Members of the National Council
Delegates It gives me great pleasure to be in Newcastle again for a
much happier reason than my recent visits and to see what
great progress you have made in restoring your city to its
. normal life.
We know that it will take time for the physical and
emotional scars to mend. I can assure you that we will not
forget the people of Newcastle and their needs as they face
this very difficult time.
The cost has been heavy, and for some, tragic, and yet it
could so easily have been much greater.
Through luck, and the exemplary efforts of the emergency
service personnel, loss of life was kept lower than may have
been expected. We all owe these men and women a deep debt
of gratitude for their untiring and selfless work in the
days following the earthquake. It was in the best of
Australian tradition that so many responded to others in
hardship and need.
I know, too, that the FIA played its part, with many members
willingly giving of their time and money to help victims of
the disaster, and with the union making a substantial
donation to the Lord Mayor's Earthquake Relief Fund.

When I came to Newcastle six weeks ago, it was immediately
clear that special relief arrangements would be necessary.
Arrangements have been put in place, with the Commonwealth
and State Governments sharing costs equally, to ensure that
what must be done will be done, quickly and efficiently.
All the money in the world is of no use of course, unless
the will to overcome adversity is there. This will is
something that the people of Newcastle have in abundance.
It is amazing to see how well you are coping, as a
community, with this natural disaster.
Despite the loss of life, damage and destruction across the
city, which unfortunately has been exacerbated by the recent
flooding in the Hunter region, there is enormous confidence
in the future and rightly so.
I was heartened to read recent results from a Survey of
Manufacturing Conditions and Future Prospects of NSW. It
shows one of the highest levels of business confidence in
Newcastle in the five year history of the survey.
The major cause of this confidence is the number of
investment projects underway and proposed.
For instance, tourism investment in the Hunter region has
stimulated the region's construction industry.
And the region's coal mining industry is looking to the
future with optimism, founded on the strong likelihood of
firmer coal prices and further productivity improvements.
The Hunter Valley accounts for 30 per cent of our coal
production and provides 25 per cent of our coal exports.
With continued improvements -in areas such as working
arrangements, the Hunter Valley will be well placed to
enhance its position as a competitive world coal supplier.
Hunter Valley wine producers have also been working hard in
export markets. The National Agricultural and Resource
Outlook Conference, recently held in Canberra, suggests that
total wine exports could earn Australia over $ 200 million by
the middle of this decade.
Similarly the fishing industry in the Newcastle area landed
nearly $ 10 million worth of seafood in 1988-89. About $ 1
million of this was destined for our export markets.
All this, and I have not yet touched on the backbone of the
Newcastle economy your resurgent steel industry.
You all recall that in the early 1980s Australia's steel
industry was an endangered species.
Indeed it was nearly extinct.

When we came to office in 1983 we developed the historic
Steel Industry Plan under which Government, industry, and
unions worked as one to ensure first the recovery of the
steel industry and then laid the basis for its re-emergence
as a world class exporter.
Last March I had the opportunity to see first hand evidence
of the renewed investment confidence in the industry most
strikingly, of course, BHP's $ 400 million investment in the
Newcastle Steelworks that upgraded the rod mill and bloom
caster, the world's largest.
At that time I was also aware of the new attitude of
co-operation and consultation that accompanied the new
capital investment.
Since March the Newcastle Steelworks Development Agreement
has come into effect the most extensive program of
workforce consultation ever undertaken in the steel
industry. Through consultation, investment and improved flexibility in
work practices, this agreement will lead to greater
efficiency and productivity co-operation that will
underpin the continued success of Newcastle's steel
industry. Today, as a result of the reinvigoration of the steel
industry to which we have all contributed, the Australian
steel industry is less inclined to view export markets as a
threat than as an opportunity for growth and
diversification. There are too many doom-sayers and knockers who doubt
Australia's capacity to compete on world markets. They
should come to Newcastle and see what you are doing,
together, to compete in the markets of the world and to
win. There is good news too in that the Federal Government, in
consultation with steelmakers, has negotiated a more
favourable outcome under the USA's Voluntary Restraint
Arrangement for steel imports.
The VRA has been an irritant to Australia's steelmakers but
under the new arrangements, which we hope will be signed
soon, Australian steel exports to the US should grow sharply
over the 30 month restraint period to about double those we
had previously. This could translate into additional export
sales in excess of $ 200 million a highly favourable
outcome for our steel producers and Australia.

Delegates, Sometime in the next few months the Government must face an
election to win its fourth term of Office. As we go into
this election, wages policy and industrial relations will
stand at the heart of the differences between ourselves and
the Opposition a point not lost on the trade union
movement and employers alike.
Effective industrial relations requires that all parties
understand that their legitimate aspirations can best be met
when negotiations are conducted in a spirit of constructive
co-operation.
Over the last seven years, under the auspices of the Accord,
the Government and the trade union movement have given life
to this fundamental truth.
The Accord partners can justifiably be proud of the many
lasting benefits that have been delivered for Australia and
Australians. With a level of industrial disputation nearly 60 per cent
lower than under the previous government, the widespread
acceptance of the need for a responsible wages policy has
achieved an environment conducive to a dynamic process of
growth and change.
As a result, the Accord has fostered the creation of over
1.6 million new jobs since 1983 and unemployment has been
slashed from double digit levels that prevailed when we took
office to around 6 per cent today.
The restraint and responsibility demonstrated by Australian
working men and women has been reciprocated by substantial
improvements in the social wage. Through:
the introduction of Medicare, a universal, fair and
secure national system of health cover;
the massive expansion of child care places;
increases in Family Allowances and the inauguration of
the Family Allowance Supplement; and
S significant cuts in personal income tax rates;
we have sought to ensure that the basic living standards of
ordinary Australians have been enhanced.
We have also transformed superannuation from a rare
privilege for the well-off few to a real and effective means
for ordinary workers to augment their retirement income and
thereby improve their future living standards.

Indeed, the Government's first initiative of award based
superannuation has witnessed a dramatic increase in
coverage. Now nearly three-quarters of all workers have
access to secure, portable and substantial superannuation.
Ultimately all employees covered by awards will have such
success. Delegates, The history of the Accord has demonstrated conclusively the
advantage of achieving change through co-operation and
consensus rather than confrontation.
For this reason, the Government will continue to use the
Accord as the foundation for structural adjustment and
labour market reform.
If we are to make Australian industry more productive,
competitive and capable of generating sustained economic
growth, while at the same time expanding opportunities for
individuals and improving the quality of their work life,
the success of the Government's labour market reform program
is crucial.
The process is well advanced and much has already been
achieved. Successive National Wage Case decisions have given impetus
to a fundamental overhaul of outdated award structures.
Award re-structuring has presented us with a challenge to
achieve better paid jobs and jobs with a better future,
through the development of career paths with an increased
emphasis on training and skills acquisition and development.
A major investment of time and effort has been undertaken in
the planning and development phases alone. Now we face the
even more daunting challenge of instituting practical
changes at the workplace level.
Our collective commitment to this process will be essential
if we are to realise the potential benefits to the fullest.
For that reason and before this audience I want to
acknowledge the progress that has been forthcoming from
workplaces all over the country. I can assure you that the
benefits that will accrue as a result of these historic
changes will make the process of adjustment more than
worthwhile. Integral to the success of labour market reform is the
process of remoulding union structures at the enterprise
level.

The Government is doing its part through the Workplace
Reform Program. I am pleased to see that Newcastle is
leading the way; later this week my colleague and local
Federal member, Alan Morris, will be opening the Hunter
Workplace Resources Centre, to assist individual enterprises
establish effective work practices.
For too long, Australian industry has been hampered by the
fragmentation of craft based unions. Inflexible working
practices and frequent disputes over demarcation have too
often been the result.
So I want to see open lines of communication maintained
between unions, particularly where there is common coverage
of skills. Wherever a ' community of interest' can be
established at the industry level, union amalgamations
should be feasible. This process can be reinforced at
enterprise level by unions establishing a single bargaining
unit such as a joint committee for negotiations with
their employer.
In this respect I commend the FIA's own Council for its firm
stand in support of the proposal to amalgamate the FIA with
the Australian Workers' Union. On that score, I wish
National Secretary, Steve Harrison and his fellow Council
members all the best in their campaign.
As Steve has correctly pointed out in a recent edition of
' Labor News', " the days when rigid barriers controlled the
workplace, based on traditional precepts of what work can be
done by particular classes of employees, have vanished".
The bottom line is this by unifying coverage within the
workplace we are able to circumvent the wasteful and time
consuming occurrence of demarcation disputes, and we can
open up new opportunities for employees to pursue a more
flexible and fulfilling career structure.
Gone are the days when an Ironworker may have started out in
the industry as a sweeper or tradesmen's assistant and then
be forced to remain in that one position for much of his
working life.
My friends, I would finish by simply saying this we are
now entering a critical phase in our labour market reform
program and indeed in the life of the Accord.
The Opposition has attempted to throw down the gauntlet.
While the mind of the public has no doubt been confused by
the Opposition's various altered positions on industrial
relations, the fundamental thrust remains the same.

Their original policies called for an end to centralised
wage fixation. But that was seen by everyone, especially
employers, as a straightforward desire to return to the
1981-82 turmoil of confrontation.
To placate the employers, Senator Chaney last Friday sought
to reverse the thrust of Opposition policy by claiming that
industrial tribunals will remain a major force in
regulating wages for the foreseeable future."
Senator Chaney essentially stated that workers whose wages
are set by the Commission would suffer large cuts in real
wages. But, in an attempt to keep some link with their earlier
policies, the Liberals have kept a role for opting out
through so-called voluntary agreements.
So while trying to convince employers that real wages will
fall, they still have this profound uncertainty in relation
to the nationwide wage outcome. With opting out, as Andrew
Peacock has said, " who's to know" how overall wages will be
determined. In fact, the combination of the prospect of large wage cuts
in the centralised system plus the promise of opting out for
the industrially strong will see a return to the
irresponsible, adversarial and confrontationist attitudes so
prevalent under the Fraser Government.
The malaise of industrial disputation and the disease of
mass unemployment would strike down the Australian economy
once more.
Coalition policies will see the abandonment of the consensus
based approach to industrial relations. Their undisguised
aim is a progressive dismembering of the strength of the'
union movement.
This is the road that Andrew Peacock would, admittedly in
his case unwittingly, lead Australia down.
Collectively, we in the labour movement have the
responsibility to ensure that this challenge is resisted.
In the same way that Newcastle has united as a community, to
overcome the adversity of nature's wrath, so must we rally
nationally, to guard against the man-made catastrophe that
would ensue from the pursuit of the Opposition's illcons
idered policies.
May I wish you all the very best in your deliberations at
this conference.

Transcript 7893