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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1298

Senator BLACK —Is the Minister for Finance, representing the Treasurer and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, aware of proposals reported in last Saturday's Canberra Times to use tax penalties among other measures to restrict trade union activity, and to use criminal sanctions against unions and employers who operate within the mainstream of present industrial relations practice and who resist adoption of those industrial relations practices proposed by the New Right? What are the origins of these proposals and what would be the effect of their implementation?

Senator WALSH —I did indeed see the article referred to in Saturday's issue of the Canberra Times, stuck away on the back pages somewhere. Perhaps that accounts for the fact that it has not received more publicity, because it is an article that reports some pretty extraordinary events, which I thought would have been considerably newsworthy throughout the country. Essentially, it reports that at a gathering of Surfers Paradise real estate agents and other members of the white shoe brigade, and another couple of people thrown in-who, I understand, took off like a rocket as soon as they realised what was going on and wanted to dissociate themselves very quickly from the proceedings once they realised what was going on-one Brian Ray, who was acquitted a week or two ago of a charge of conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth, an acquittal which says a great deal more about the difficulty of getting a conviction on conspiracy than it does about Mr Ray's guilt or innocence--.

Opposition senators interjecting-

Senator WALSH —He pinched $16m from the taxpayers.

Senator Chaney —I rise on a point of order, Mr President-and I also ask you when I sit down to restrain the Minister from his usual objectionable and unparliamentary comments about me when I take a point of order. However, the matter having gone to criminal trial and acquittal, to have the Minister making those comments is a gross abuse of this place. I have no personal knowledge of the facts of this matter and I would not think it at all proper to canvass the decision of the jury in that respect. I suggest that the Minister should be asked to desist from dealing with that matter.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. However, I would remind Senator Walsh that he was making remarks that were not entirely relative to the question that he was asked. I would ask him to answer the question as soon as possible.

Senator WALSH —I accept that, Mr President. I note for the record that Senator Chaney defends scumbags like Brian Ray as well as all the other people he habitually defends.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I both ask for a withdrawal of that and I suggest that it should not be recorded in Hansard. I am sick of this.

The PRESIDENT —I ask Senator Walsh to withdraw the remark he made.

Senator WALSH —Certainly, Mr President. As well as Mr Ray, another one of the group associated with this recipe for dealing with unions and industrial relations is a Mr Charles Connelly, the article reports:

whose antipathy to Mr Howard developed when as Treasurer he would not allow certain financial arrangements for medical practitioners . . .

It goes on to say that there are other Surfers Paradise real estate agents, including the Douglas brothers and another loosely knit group. In other words, it was a gathering, with one or two exceptions, of the sort of people who have coalesced around the Premier of Queensland, which is a gaggle of convicted criminals and some of those who are still facing criminal charges, including in the former category Minuzzo, one of the Callaghans, Milan Brych, and in the latter category the other Callaghan who is still facing a criminal charge, and Shrian Oskar, who is currently on the lam. It was that sort of gathering that produced this document. The journalist who wrote the Canberra Times article reported that the document shows considerable subtlety in dressing up some of the draconian and repressive provisions in rhetoric about equity and justice.

The proposals for handling the immigration issue, in a manner which plays on racist sentiments but does not involve use of the Queensland Premier's confrontationist approach, indicates the need for the Petersen backers to manage him to achieve their personal objectives and so on. But the proposals specifically on industrial relations are to use criminal sanctions against unions whose actions or activities are considered to be politically motivated. I do not know how that would be proven, but presumably in the way it was put forward by using a similar methodology to that which was proposed in 1950 and 1951-that is, if somebody stands up in parliament and names somebody as having a particular motivation, in that case being a communist, that that is then it. Somebody presumably would name a unionist conducting a campaign that was politically motivated and criminal sanctions would then be used against him. That would be a fundamental denial of civil liberties and inimical to the principle of voluntary association, which the paper professes to espouse. Finally, the draconian attitude to enforcement of ill-defined rules of behaviour about trade unions, as put out by this group, stands in stark contrast to their attitude to enforcement of the taxation laws and the use of penalties against people who decline to comply with those laws.