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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 2915 ..

MR DE DOMENICO (continuing):

Mr Berry talked about the appointment of Mr Paul Houlihan. It is well known around Canberra that the unions and a number of industrial relations experts have been critical of what is perceived as a lack of strategic capacity in the ACT public service in the management of its industrial relations. The Office of Public Administration and Management earlier this year therefore appointed Mr Houlihan; not Mrs Carnell, as Mr Berry said, but the Office of Public Administration and Management. When Mr Berry starts talking about people misleading the Assembly, he should read what he has to say from time to time. Twice this afternoon he said, "Mr Houlihan was appointed by Mrs Carnell". He was not appointed by Mrs Carnell.

Mr Berry: Whom was he appointed by?

MR DE DOMENICO: He was appointed by the Office of Public Administration and Management earlier this year. It appointed Mr Houlihan as a consultant to advise it and, where necessary, advise its agencies on industrial relations matters. Specifically, Mr Houlihan has been working with agencies to assist them in developing lists of possible productivity measures to form the basis of the enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations. Mr Houlihan has completed this task. It is now clearly up to these agencies to decide whether or not they wish to receive further advice from Mr Houlihan. If their answer is no, Mr Houlihan's services will no longer be required.

Mr Houlihan was not engaged to recommend radical and untoward practices; he was engaged, after a number of other consultants were considered, to fill a gap perceived by members of the public service in its experience. The Government will not be told either by the union or by the ALP which consultant it is to allow its public service to employ. It is worth noting that the quality of the list of productivity measures to be forwarded by agencies is very high. That comes not just from me but from some of the unions. They have also said that they are very impressed with the way the whole thing is going.

In summary, let us look at the facts. Firstly, the Government initiated the enterprise bargaining negotiations; and the unions have often been slow in responding. That is fair enough, because they are complicated negotiations; we all know that. Secondly, the Government has moved to improve its strategic capacity in the industrial relations area. Thirdly, the Government has been careful to ensure that the processes of negotiating the management of industrial relations generally do not become politicised. It makes no apology for the Minister himself not leading the negotiations. Fourthly, the Government has taken a low-key and sensible approach to the management of industrial relations issues and industrial disputation, despite the claim from the Opposition that somehow the appointment of Mr Houlihan is evidence that we have not. Finally, the Government has ensured that management has been talking to staff but has not done this at the expense of communicating with the unions. The test of the pudding is in the eating.

Mr Berry was running around half-cocked yesterday, talking about all sorts of things. Whilst he was doing that, Mrs Carnell and I met with the unions. The unions decided to call off their industrial action before Christmas. We are now sitting down at the negotiating table, and I am very confident that by the end of next month we will have an enterprise bargaining agreement negotiated within a timeframe of four or five months; whereas it took this crowd opposite 18 months to negotiate their own agreement.

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