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Wednesday, 16 November 1983
Page: 2820


Mr WILLIS (Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations)(6.43) —I believe that the Opposition has still not given us good arguments for deleting sub-clause (1) and sub-clause (2) of clause 22, which is what the amendment asks us to do. I think we should understand that in regard to sub-clause (1) this amendment is, in fact, technical and is absolutely necessary to give effect to the intention of the Fraser Government's law in 1977. Since that time there has been a change in the New South Wales legislation which makes the format of the present law inappropriate and requires us to make a charge of the kind which is encompassed in sub-clause (1) in order for the effect of that earlier provision to continue to apply. Employees who under New South Wales law are deemed not to be employees able to be members of State unions under that State's legislation can be members under Federal law. That was the original concept. Without going into the technicalities of it, that change in the New South Wales law in 1979 now requires us to have a technical amendment in order to continue to give effect to the concept which the previous Government established when bringing in these provisions in 1977. So, the Opposition is destroying its own concept, firstly, in sub-clause (1).

In regard to sub-clause (2), I agree that the broader issues of independent contractors are complicated and difficult. There is a desire on the part of Opposition members to say that anything done in this area which makes any concession at all is a disaster. Let me say that I think at this stage we should be not thinking in terms of the broader issues. This is a very narrow amendment. It is designed simply to ensure that we clean up the situation which has been left to us from the past and enable people who have validly joined the union and who were non-employees until the amendments were introduced in 1977, and who have continued since then to be members to be deemed to be eligible members. Without that amendment we would have the situation, as I mentioned previously, where some organisations could be in difficulty. One could, for instance, have a challenge to an election which would reveal a series of technical invalidities as a result of such people perhaps not being-this is unclear, but it could be decided in this way-valid members of the organisation. That would mean that the whole electoral process in that organisation in the past may have been invalid. That would throw doubt on the whole administration of an organisation. That is obviously undesirable.

That situation could have been cleared up one way or the other by the previous Government. It did not do so. A situation of doubt exists. It is highly desirable that we make the situation quite clear. We believe that it should be made clear that people who have been members of an organisation prior to 1977 and who have continued since that time to be members of that organisation are valid members of the organisation. We should simply clear up all doubts as to their situation. Once we do that we will avoid the potential difficulties to which I referred and which could arise in the future.

Question put:

That the amendment (Mr Macphee's) be agreed to.