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Thursday, 14 October 1999
Page: 9708


Senator COONEY (12:16 PM) —This is another example of where legislators—and in many cases quite correctly, in my view—interfere with market forces. It is an attractive demonstration of a socialist approach to society. What you are trying to do is to adjust the balances between two forces. I hope that philosophy remains in this chamber when we come to talk about the Workplace Relations Act, because what we will be doing then is trying to find means whereby we can adjust unequal forces.

This is a strike against the old capitalist system. It is a strike for the socialist approach to things; that is, where you try to get some fairness into the system by frustrating forces which flow within the marketplace normally. To get over that problem you say it is going to be more efficient and you demonise a particular group of people. You say that the 10 per cent—not the 90 per cent—are the demons because they are capable of greenmail, and if you are within that 10 per cent you must be a greenmailer by definition. In the old days they used to call that a witch-hunt. Then you get some authority from the Australian Securities Investment Commission to say, `These are evil people and therefore we will frustrate the market forces that operate in their favour.' Not only that, but you then say, `If there's going to be a court case about this, you're not going to be able to call your own witnesses. We are going to tell you what witnesses to call. ASIC, which has been very upset about greenmail, will choose those witnesses for you.'

I would not like to run the sort of case where you say, `These 10 per cent of people are all greenmailers; they are evil people. We have to suppress them. ASIC has told us about these people who get too much money. We are going to get ASIC to choose the witnesses in this case and they will have to be happy about that.' It just seems to me an extraordinary approach that, where property—and property of course is at the basis of Western society, as Senator Hutchins knows, and we have respect for property—is in the hands of that 10 per cent of people, we say that these people are evil and therefore we are going to affect their property rights. If they want compensation we will give them that—it is fair compensation—and if they want to call certain witnesses we say, `No, you're not allowed to call those witnesses; we will tell you what witnesses you can call.'

I can understand all this. It does my old socialist heart good. I am not sure it does my old socialist heart so good when I know that I cannot exercise the rights that I should be able to exercise to at least run my own court case. Nevertheless, if the—I almost have to say—bolshie government and the Democrats want to take this approach, I do not think we can do anything about it.