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Transcript 9791

SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P J KEATING, MP ADDRESS TO THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN NURSES FEDERATION PERTH, 10 OCTOBER 1995

Photo of Keating, Paul

Keating, Paul

Period of Service: 20/12/1991 to 11/03/1996

More information about Keating, Paul on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 10/10/1995

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 9791

PRIME MINISTER
SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P J KEATING, MP
ADDRESS TO THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN NURSES FEDERATION
PERTH, 10 OCTOBER 1995
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It is a great pleasure to be here today: it is one of the privileges of this job of
mine to meet people who do the essential things in our society. In your case,
people who help to make this a compassionate society, and therefore a good
society. If societies are truly compassionate they are also more efficient the goals are
not opposed.
0
It is important to make care more efficient it is a poor kind of care which is not
efficient. But the fundamentals of care are not negotiable in the market place the core of
education and health and human services resides in the public sphere. They
are the responsibility of communities and governments.
And it follows that governments have a responsibility to look after those who
provide the care.
I said it is a privilege to speak to people like yourselves on whom we all depend.
It is also one of my privileges as the leader of a Labor government to be in a
position to support you.
That is what I want to assure you of today. I want to assure you that the Federal
Government supports your claims for wage justice and will provide you with
whatever protection we can.

Some people are saying that we are engaged in a scare campaign about what
Federal Coalition government would do with Australians' wages and conditions
of employment.
But we are not talking about phantoms. We are not talking about maybes. We
are talking about an approach to industrial relations, an approach to lower paid
workers, which you are actually experiencing.
In fact, in Western Australia we are seeing the prototype of what would be a
national regime if the Coalition were elected. You don't have to take my word for
it read the transcript of Mr Howard's remarks last night. No one could mistake
the meaning of them he cannot conceive of capitalism without low wages and
less security at the bottom end.
He remains what he has always been a believer in primitive capitalism,
capitalism moderated not by consensus about common social goals, not by an
Accord between workers and governments, not by a social safety net to protect
the weak and a social wage to support the families of the lower paid, but by what
he calls an " ethic", by a sense of responsibility to the business community.
Well I'm all in favour of a sense of responsibility: but I do not believe the welfare
of Australian wage earners should depend on it. I think we are a bit more
sophisticated than that.
Now, the nurses and teachers of Western Australia are in centre of this d
debate. What has happened to you, under the direction of Mr Keirath, is being
watched by Australian workers and their families everywhere:
I can tell you today that what they will see is Federal government support for
you. While WA nurses are on a Federal award their access to the safety net is
at the discretion of the WA government.
But the WA government has resisted the two $ 8 a week safety net
adjustments This has meant that the real purchasing power of the wages of WA nurses
is falling.
The case is now going to the Industrial Relations Commission. We have
supported it going to the Commission and we will support you in the
Commission. We supported it going there through the Accord.

I might say this about the Accord.
The Accord has delivered to Australia low inflation, high economic growth, high
employment growth, a record low in industrial disputes, an industrial
environment of consensus and cooperation, vastly increased flexibility in
workplace arrangements and a broad sophisticated social safety net for the low
paid and disadvantaged
There is a lie being put around about the Accord just now.
The lie is that the Accord has not helped Australian workers and Australian
families, Part of the lie is the claim that Australian workers have suffered real wage cuts in
the past decade. This is an attempt to give birth to a myth.
The fact as opposed to the lie is that wages have increased, not fallen: over
the twelve years since 1983 there has been a 7.2% increase in real wages.
And a twenty per cent increase in per capita incomes after the tax and social
security changes.
The lie about wages and incomes is compounded by hypocrisy not just by the
curious fact that John Howard has opposed every wage increase bar one since
1978. Its compounded by what has been done in Western Australia by a Liberal
Government particularly by what has been done to the nurses of WA and
what will be done nationally by a Federal Liberal government.
When we talk about nurses, of course we talk about more than nurses.
We talk about parents. We talk about the children they have to support. We
talk about families.
The same can be said about teachers teachers who in this state have been
similarly abused.
The fact is that every time we talk about workers blue collar or white we talk
about Australians who fulfil a range of essential roles and responsibilities.
The next time the Coalition talks about families ask them about wages
including youth wages. In WA they are offering $ 4.00 per hour for youth wages.

Nothing supports a family more effectively than a decent wage.
And after the decent wage comes employment security.
Under the current arrangements nurses are all covered by the Federal Awards.
This protects some of the basic conditions of nurses' pay penalty rates,
overtime pay, holiday leave.
You know what penalty rates and overtime are worth to you. You know the effect
if you lose them.
During a normal year, most nurses work on weekends. Most work night shift.
You all get holiday leave loadings. And out of this work you support yourselves
and very often your families.
Under a Coalition government, as we have seen under Mr Keirath, these
protections and supplements are not guaranteed even though they may
account for more than 25 per cent of an individual's income.
Let me give you an example:
Take away the penalty rates, and nurses who work just weekends lose 38% of
their annual pay.
Or take the example of full time registered nurses who work some weekends and
some nightshifts throughout the year if they work the same hours without the
penalty and overtime rates they will lose 22% of their income.
About $ 100 a week.
Now the Opposition says that this won't happen because only those who want to
go off the Award system will go off.
But this is not how labour market operates!
In 1994 1.73 million Australians faced a new employer.
39,400 nurses were among them.
Many have just graduated. A large proportion are returning to work after having
children. Some are people who have recently moved from the country to the
city, from one state another.
The Opposition says they will have a choice. But they won't.

What choice will these people have if the employer says the job doesn't come
with penalties and overtime?
Say a nurse's husband's job obliges him to move to Albany, or your wife wants to
move east to be with her parents, say you want a change of climate, or you want
to have a child you need to leave, and in leaving you leave the present Award.
Under a Federal Coalition government thousands of nurses will not be able to
change jobs without losing pay a lot of pay.
Someone told me the other day of a friend of theirs a librarian in Victoria who is
earning $ 35,000 a year. She wanted to work closer to home and she saw an
advertisement for a position which was identical to the one she presently holds
identical in all respects bar one, the salary. Leaving the job meant leaving the
benefits she had inherited from the award, and negotiating a whole new deal.
The whole new deal in her case meant a salary of $ 19,000 a little more than
half of what she was earning.
So she had to stay where she was.
The Coalition calls this choice.
But she had no choice no choice, but to stay.
You can think of this as a scare campaign if you like, but what I am really about
is warning Australians that the Opposition's attitude to the labour market is one
of the big differences between us.
The Coalition's position on industrial relations reflects a view of the world in
which employers have a pool of working poor to call on in an ultra competitive
market place.
It reflects deep seated beliefs and prejudices prejudices against trade unions,
prejudices in favour of that 19th century philosophy which boils down to every
man for himself and every woman for herself prejudice against the idea of an
egalitarian and inclusive Australian ethic and ideal.
The next time you hear the Coalition talking about " battlers" I think you should
recognise it for the rampant hypocrisy it is these are the battlers whose wages
will be cut and whose security will be undermined in the interests of cutting costs
for business.
The media are saying that industrial relations will be a major election issue. In
this case, the media are right.

But I suspect what is generally understood by industrial relations is too narrow.
Industrial relations go to the heart of the basic social relationship the
relationship between workers and their employers.
It goes to the heart of economic competitiveness and efficiency objectives, I
might say, Labor has pursued like no other government.
But what goes under the name " industrial relations", goes much further than this.
It goes to the fundamental tenets of what Australians have always meant by a
good society that is a fair society, a society in which the effort is always made
to extend the realm of opportunity and bring into it those who have drifted onto
the margins.
Our industrial relations, determined not just our efficiency but our ability to meet
these traditional social goals. They determine our whole social fabric including
the strength of our families and the opportunities we can extend to our children.
Our industrial relations are a measure of how much we actually believe in the
ties that bind us all as Australians, or how much we merely pay lip service to
them. So when people say that industrial relations will be a major issue in the next
election campaign, in fact they understate the case because what we think
about industrial relations defines our ideas about Australia, about what sort of
people we are, what sort of society we should become.
The way you are treated here in Western Australia impinges directly on these
questions. The Commonwealth Government will support you because you
deserve support, and because it is in the interests of Australia that you receive
justice. ends.

Transcript 9791