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Thursday, 3 November 1983
Page: 2296

Mr MACPHEE —My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The Minister will recall a meeting that he had with officials of the Transport Workers Union on 21 October to discuss proceedings being taken by the Trade Practices Commission against the union. Before that meeting the TWU assistant secretary said that he was seeking three commitments from the Government, namely, the immediate withdrawal of the proceedings, payment of $10,000 in costs and a guarantee that there would be no similar prosecutions. In the light of the TWU secretary's subsequent statement that the action would be withdrawn and the costs would be paid, I ask the Minister: Has the Government contacted the Trade Practices Commission about this case? What was the basis of this approach? Who is paying or contributing to the union's legal costs? Has any assurance been given that no similar action will be taken by the Trade Practices Commission against the TWU or other unions?

Mr WILLIS —Yes, there was such a meeting involving the Attorney-General and me in Melbourne on about the date that the honourable member mentioned. At that meeting we discussed the case which had come before the Federal Court of Australia as a result of action taken by the Trade Practices Commission. This resulted in about 11 days of hearings before the action came to an end. The union has put forward various proposals to us which are of the order that the honourable member has mentioned. It is true, as he is aware, that we agreed to pay the costs, involving around $10,000, and to withdraw the action. However, it was also agreed that we would take action in the future to try to remedy the operation of the Trade Practices Act in respect of trade unions. It is Australian Labor Party policy to repeal sections 45D and 45E of the Trade Practices Act, but this case did not involve those sections. It involved the use of sections 45 and 47 of the Trade Practices Act in relation to trade unions. This is a unique situation. As far as I am aware, it has not previously been the case that those sections have been used against any trade union. In those circumstances we agreed to review the Trade Practices Act to see whether we could ensure that those sections of the Act would not apply to the trade union movement in the future.

Mr Howard —You have gone further than the Prime Minister did.

Mr WILLIS —Would the honourable member please let me finish the answer? As the Prime Minister said, in answer to a question some time ago, before the end of this session we will be putting forward an exposure draft of the revised Trade Practices Act. That exposure draft will be there for comment. It will be introduced this year. It will not be put through the Parliament until the autumn session next year. There will be plenty of time for Opposition members who oppose what is in that draft to make their opposition known and for others in the community who are concerned about it to make their views known to the Government. We will consider the recommendations that we receive on that exposure draft and then put forward the final Bill, which will go through the Parliament next year. I think that is as far as I can go in my answer.