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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2360

Senator WALTERS(6.20) —This evening we are debating the Trade Practices Amendment Bill 1984. As I understand Senator Harradine, he believes that that is not an appropriate place for any industrial relations material. That material is included in the Trade Practices Act because businesses also have to abide by the provisions of the Act. They also are not permitted to indulge in boycotts. Let us look at exactly what a secondary boycott is. It is primarily section 45D of the Trade Practices Act that we object to being dismantled by this Government. The secondary boycott provision was brought in by the Fraser Government and has been applauded by employers throughout Australia as the most effective piece of legislation dealing with industrial disputes that Australia has seen-certainly the most effective legislation that we passed while we were in government.

Let us look at the aim of the legislation and at what a secondary boycott is. I can give a very good example from my State of Tasmania. There was a transport workers strike throughout the whole of Australia. The private bus owners of Tasmania canvassed their members who all decided, every single one of them, that they did not want to go on strike. Therefore, the private bus owners said: 'Fine , we will continue working'. The transport union at that time was most upset and threatened the employers, the private bus owners, with a boycott on petrol. It said: 'We will not allow you to get petrol at any petrol station in Tasmania'. That had nothing to do with the transport workers but a totally different union was brought into that dispute. It was because of that threat or that decision by the Transport Workers Union of Australia, that it would take that action and bring into a dispute which had nothing to do with them a completely innocent union with a completely innocent number of employers, that the private bus owners said: 'If you do that we will invoke section 45D. We will invoke that section of the Trade Practices Act which gives us the power to stop you from declaring that secondary boycott'. As a result of that threat, the Transport Workers Union moved off and did not take any such action. Only that threat solved that particular dispute. During the Transport Workers Union strike throughout Australia, the private bus owners in Tasmania were able to work and carry on with their jobs because their union members wanted to do so. That is a very simple example of what a secondary boycott is.

The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) has made a deal with the unions. I will look later at the sorts of unions with which he has made a deal. He said that his Department-a nice independent body is it not; the Minister's Department-had examined 25 boycott disputes involving unions which have occurred since the beginning of 1983. The Minister said that out of those only three had been resolved as a direct result of the section 45D provision. That does not add up. Indeed, the Confederation of Australian Industry, because its members were so concerned that this Government was going to do away with the only effective piece of legislation, as they saw it, to get over this iniquitous secondary boycott threat by unions, did a survey of its members. The Confederation got 20 out of 25 responses. Those responses were unequivocal. They absolutely, overwhelmingly stated that they believed that the secondary boycott legislation was most effective in solving the disputes that they had had.

As I said Senator Harradine was speaking on behalf of the responsible trade unions of Australia. He was not talking on behalf of the unions mentioned in the Confederation of Australian Industry survey. Let us look at them. For example, the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia is mentioned time and time again. Also mentioned a number of times were the Transport Workers Union of Australia, the Builders Labourers Federation, the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen's Association of Australasia, the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia, the Seamen's Union of Australia, the Federated Clerks Union of Australia and the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, and so on. The employers of all these unions instigating secondary boycotts were asked what the result of a secondary boycott was on their particular industrial dispute. Without exception all the employers said that it was absolutely devastating to them as businesses. Many times the comment was: 'Stop operations completely'. One comment was to the effect that there was a financial loss in the form of fixed costs of approximately $US7,000 a day with the prospect that a ship would not be able to transport a load of oil from Singapore to Hong Kong, involving a further loss of $US88,000. All the employers said that the disputes disrupted their businesses and on most occasions stopped operations totally.

It is indeed an indictment that the CAI had to have a secret response, if you like, in which those surveyed were not named because the employers were intimidated by the union members. They were too frightened of union retaliation to have their names printed. What a shocking indictment of the radical section of the Australian union movement that the CAI survey was not able to name the employers who contributed. We hear so much from the Government about civil liberties. People cannot even speak and gain protection under this Government.

Let us look at a few of the other questions in the survey because they are interesting. One question asked:

For how long had the boycott action been in place before you filed applications under the Trade Practices Act?

The majority of those employers surveyed said that it was quite some time before they took that drastic action. Some of the replies were: 'approximately three weeks'; 'three months off and on'; 'three weeks'; 'at least a month'; 'about one or two weeks'; 'approximately two weeks'; 'four weeks', and so it went on. These were the sorts of delays before action was actually taken.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

Senator WALTERS —Madam Acting Deputy President, prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner the Senate was debating the Trade Practices Amendment Bill and I was quoting from the survey conducted by the Confederation of Australian Industry of its members who had instigated proceedings against unions indulging in secondary boycotts. I was saying that the replies to the survey of CAI members all assured the Confederation that indeed section 45D had helped them tremendously. The survey asked these questions:

Did the boycott action cease prior to an injunction actually being issued by the Federal Court?

If so, do you think this was attributable to pending ss. 45D or 45E action?

If not, how soon after the issuing of the injunction did the boycott cease?

In other words, it asked whether there was a need to instigate the 45D secondary boycott section or would just a threat of instigating the section work. Many of them said that just the threat of using that section was enough to make the unions taking the industrial action at the time come back into line and drop the industrial disputation. As I indicated earlier in my speech, this occurred in Tasmania in a matter very important to our State. Other respondents said no, the injunction actually had to be issued before the union would drop the industrial disputation. I also pointed out that the unions we were referring to were not the responsible unions. They were all unions that over the years have caused tremendous problems-the storemen and packers, the transport workers, the builders labourers and so on. I had indicated that Senator Harradine in his speech really referred only to the unions that would not use this method of disputation-the more responsible unions-and that is why I feel that the retention of this legislation to deal with the more radical unions is most essential.

I did agree to speak for only 10 minutes. We have been gagged by the Government and by the Australian Democrats on this legislation and so I am unable to proceed any further. An arrangement has been made. The Government has seen fit to gag the Opposition and not permit it to take the full time to debate this important Bill. As a result, I now have to hand over to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) because, as usual, he has demanded twice the time we have had to speak. He has 20 minutes and the rest of us promised to stick to 10 minutes. It is only as a result of the agreement reached that I will sit down.