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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1972


Mr N.A. Brown —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I remind him of his oft repeated statement that there is no such thing in law or practice in Australia as compulsory unionism. Is he aware of demands by the Federated Liquor and Allied Industries Employees Union that the management of the Brisbane Hilton International Hotel impose a closed shop in its establishment in favour of that union, and that it deduct union fees from employees, which is contrary, as he would also know, to the wishes of the employees of the establishment? Can he confirm that a senior Minister in his Government-namely, Senator Ryan-and her staff in active, open and quite declared support of the compulsory unionism campaign at that Brisbane hotel have boycotted, in support of that active campaign for a closed shop, the hotel and have cancelled established bookings? Does the Prime Minister still maintain that there is no such thing as compulsory unionism in Australia when his own Government and a Minister are actively supporting the enforcement of compulsory unionism and the closed shop at the Hilton Hotel in Brisbane?


Mr HAWKE —Let me make these points: Obviously if there were compulsory unionism in Australia it would be difficult to explain the fact that only 56 per cent of Australian workers are members of trade unions. It is a statistical absurdity for the honourable member to assert, in the face of that fact, the existence of compulsory unionism. Secondly, and parenthetically, let me make the point, as I always do when this particular gentleman raises this question, about the hypocrisy that is involved in his assertions on this matter because he is a member of the profession which has absolute compulsory unionism. One cannot be a barrister in Australia unless one is a member of the union. It is the only area where there is a totally closed shop.


Mr N.A. Brown —Absolute nonsense!


Mr HAWKE —He says it is nonsense, but he cannot refute it. The people of Australia will judge the virtue of the question coming from a member of this House who is himself not only a member of a profession which practises compulsory unionism but also is part of that practice. The third point I make is that I am not aware of the circumstances to which the honourable gentleman refers, but if there were compulsory unionism in Australia the circumstances to which he refers would not be necessary, by definition.

He knows from his practice in the industrial jurisdiction that workers in establishments will make an issue of the question of membership of a union, and indeed not only will unions but so will employers, very many of whom prefer their employees to be members of the relevant trade union because they regard it as an appropriate mechanism for the better conduct of industrial relations.

What the Minister for Education does or does not do in terms of her bookings in Brisbane or elsewhere is a matter of supreme indifference to me and will continue to be.