Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 2071 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
Let us have a look at the history of the Government's performance on industrial issues in the ACT. Before the last Federal election they hired the right-wing industrial activist Houlihan to manage their affairs and forced on us the greatest industrial confrontation we have had in my memory and which cost the ACT taxpayers somewhere around $5m. It was all about politics and ideology. It was nothing to do with bus services or the rights of workers. It was about stirring up a confrontation before the election. I think the Transport Workers Union ought to be congratulated for not rising to the bait this time around, because that is what was intended this time around.
Out of the blue Brendan Smyth called for expressions of interest. We know where Mr Smyth was trained. He was trained in the same office as Mr Houlihan wanders through occasionally, Peter Reith's office. But in his case he only went to kindergarten. He is using tactics which are in many ways the same as those that Reith used on the wharves. They attack workers' wages and working conditions which have been given to them by their bosses and use that as a basis for sacking them all and replacing them with lower paid workers. The funny thing about this industrial dispute that the Minister has whipped up is that he is now attacking the wages and working conditions which his Government offered to the workers in an enterprise bargaining agreement. Now, whatever happens, if - - -
Mr Smyth: We are not attacking the wages at all. We offered them extra money.
MR BERRY: You attack wages and working conditions, Minister. Do not try to mislead us again. You have had one go already, yesterday.
Mr Smyth: No, you are wrong. You misquoted yesterday. I have what I said here, and I did not mislead you at all.
MR BERRY: Mr Speaker, this Minister will say anything to get himself out of a corner. The fact is that he stood up here today and attacked the working conditions of bus drivers. For example, I heard that he attacked their annual leave benefits. He described them as being 61/2 weeks. That is misleading in itself because they get four weeks annual leave and 21/2 weeks leisure leave in lieu of rostered days off arising from the 38-hour week agreement which was done years ago and which has been in place for aeons. So, stop these misleading statements, Minister.
It is not a very bright government that stands up in the middle of enterprise bargaining agreements and attacks the wages and working conditions of workers they are trying to negotiate with. You want to cause trouble. That is what you are up to. You want to cause trouble. You do not want to settle this matter. You want to get on with your ideological campaign rather than deal with the issue of providing public services here in the ACT. Mr Speaker, it is very clear that the Government embarked on a campaign of privatisation from the day the Liberals were first elected in 1995. That has been their position.