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Monday, 23 June 1997
Page: 6029

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON(5.28 p.m.) —For sheer hide, it is widely acknowledged that the member for Stirling (Mr Eoin Cameron) takes the cake in this House. Today we have heard him talk about the Secretary of the Trades and Labour Council of Western Australia being primarily preoccupied with keeping his job. The member for Stirling has a track record of trying to get on side again with the member for Swan (Mr Randall), the former Senator Crichton-Browne and the good old boys in regard to his preselection situation. That is what today is about. It is not the first time that he has tried to divert this parliament from aged care, pharmaceuticals, the question of working for the dole and a variety of other issues by this kind of industrial relations diversion.

I think this parliament well recalls that he was the frontrunner—the person who led the charge—with regard to wild claims that the trade union movement of this country should basically take out of their members' fees the damages for a few irresponsible hooligans and agents provocateurs with regard to damage to this House. It is not the first time that he has attempted this. He is a bit under a cloud with the member for Swan and other elements of the conservative wing of the Western Australian party on other issues. It is not the first time he has tried to get back in the good books with regard to this kind of policy area.

It is also of some moment that this debate comes on the same day as the Australian newspaper sites two surveys, one from the Melbourne Institute and the other from AGB McNair on behalf of the Australian Business Chamber, which of course goes to real issues in this country—dissatisfaction of the broad electorate with regards to industrial policy, employment creation and those kinds of issues. We have a situation today where this debate is fundamentally based upon the member for Stirling's personal need to keep his particular occupation. He has a hide to say otherwise.

There are very worrying aspects of this legislation. We have people over there trying to say that there are no great changes in this. One instance of this regards the inspection of books. This government has a very sorry record on human rights and civil liberties in this country. We have seen them attack legal aid. We have seen them attack the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. We have seen them not protect people's privacy rights with regards to outsourcing. At the same time, we have seen them stringently cut back the finances of the Ombudsman's office. The conservative parties have a very sad track record in this country over the last few years with regards to people's rights to take on the government, to challenge laws and to have their day in court.

This question of the inspection of books is essentially about revealing to the employer those people on the site who are union members. I admit that in some cases it could be a very small minority of people. It could perhaps be only one person. To get access to these records in the future, there has to be a revelation of the individual's name.

Equally, we have not heard very good reasons why there has to be 48 hours notice. Up till now that has not been a requirement here. This is obviously about protecting a minority of employers who are defrauding their members. That is what this is about.

We also talk about the question of essential services. The people in this field have an even worse situation under this legislation. Of course, it is a broad attack on workers in general, but we find here that there is a requirement that they have to sign a `continuity of supply agreement'. Not only have they sought to bring in this legislation and rush it through the upper house in Western Australia, but even with regards to this matter, they have not given the final say to the parliament or the people of Western Australia. They have left the definition of essential services and essential industries with the minister himself.

Earlier I quoted the comments by Ms Anne Burn about this minister. I would like to further quote what she said on 16 May. She said:

Mr Kierath has been driven by personal ideology to ram through changes to workplace laws that were bound to cause a costly campaign of industrial action and Mr Court has lacked the strength to steer the government on a less dangerous path.

Moderates in Cabinet believe the government could have had its secret pre-strike ballot with minimum fuss if it had dropped the other contentious clauses.

She is essentially saying that this is driven by Kierath's personal predilections, despite Court's opinions. We all know that there have been very active phone calls from the Premier to the trade union movement at various stages during this conflict to try to get a middle way.

Today we see, once again, a very fundamental attack on people's human rights in Western Australia, defended by this member.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Vaile) —Order! The time allotted for private member's business has expired. The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 104A. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.