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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 2062

Mr CROSS —I ask the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations: Is the Government concerned about the recent Queensland Government amendments to its Industrial (Commercial Practices) Act? If so, does the Government propose to take any action to counter those amendments?

Mr WILLIS —The Government is concerned about the highly undemocratic nature of the amendments to the Industrial (Commercial Practices) Act in Queensland which, if effectively implemented, would virtually eliminate the right to strike in Queensland. We are also concerned about the possibly highly adverse industrial relations consequences of taking such a heavy-handed approach. If one looks at the legislation which has been introduced and now proclaimed by the Queensland Government, one can see that it is very authoritarian. It extends the Act from its previous application, to secondary boycotts and demarcation and preference disputes, to any industrial dispute which prevents or hinders trade and commerce between Queensland and any other part of Australia or any overseas country and makes participants in such industrial disputes liable to penalties of $50,000 for individuals or up to $250,000 for a trade union.

The legislation also involves extensive requirements on unions regarding giving seven days notice of a strike, including notice to any employer who thinks he might be affected by any strike that a union might undertake, and also provides for amazing evidentiary provisions which require the Queensland Supreme Court to take publication in a newspaper of any speech or statement attributed to any person on behalf of a union or broadcast of any such statement by radio or television as evidence that such a statement was made, unless evidence can be produced to prove the contrary. That means that in Queensland, in an industrial dispute context, members of the Fourth Estate are raised to the highest echelons. What they say is gospel unless proved otherwise. With all due respect to the Press, I think that that is an absurd elevation of the accuracy of what it might sometimes report. Those developments in Queensland are very serious, provocative, excessive. They are quite undemocratic measures to implement and this Government strongly opposes them. We note that that Opposition is supported by many people in Queensland, including the leaders of virtually all the major churches in that State and even the Press.

We note that trade unions have been expressing great anger about the legislation and in some cases have threatened to take industrial action. Let me make it quite clear that the Government does not in any way support-in fact, it strongly opposes-any industrial action by trade unions in Queensland in respect of that legislation. However, it is our intention to frustrate that legislation. In a couple of weeks I will introduce a new industrial relations Bill into this House which will contain provisions which will effectively render the Queensland legislation without effect. We believe that the Queensland legislation can be quite properly dealt with by the proper parliamentary processes of this country and without the need for any resort to industrial action. That action on our part will not be taken in isolation, but will be part of a comprehensive approach to ensuring that there is compliance with the decisions of the Commission and that we have a system of industrial relations in this country which is orderly and proper and maintains the position that this Government has brought about of very low levels of industrial disputation-a 60 per cent reduction from the levels recorded under the previous Government.