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Tuesday, 16 April 1985
Page: 1034

Senator HAMER —I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: Has the Government considered the possibility that the blockade proposed by trade unions against the people of Queensland is in breach of section 45D of the Trade Practices Act? If so, does the Government propose to seek a restraining injunction under section 80 of the Act to protect the rights of Queenslanders which are threatened by the proposed breach of the law by union action or does the Government regard trade unions as being above the law?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am not aware of whether any consideration has been given to the implications of the proposed industrial action for breach of section 45D of the Trade Practices Act. The Government's position in regard to section 45D, or at least so far as the Trade Practices Act is concerned, is that it is appropriately directed to the preservation of a competitive commercial environment and not appropriately directed to the resolution of industrial relations problems or problems which are of an industrial relations character. It is very difficult to characterise the outrageous behaviour of the Bjelke-Petersen Government in Queensland as other than behaviour of a kind directed to undermining the whole industrial relations structure as we have known it in this country, or at least in that State. With that in mind, I doubt whether the Government would be seriously inclined even to contemplate the possible application of any part of the existing Trade Practices Act in relation to such a course of activity.

Senator HAMER —May I ask as a supplementary question whether the Minister is saying that, although this Parliament decided that section 45D should remain in the Trade Practices Act, the Government is not prepared to exercise its duties?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I can live without synthetic moral indignation, but I make the point that the Trade Practices Commission for the whole life of section 45D never at any stage initiated any proceeding under that section itself because it, the Commission, as the appropriate arm of government to deal with these matters, shared the view of this Government that it was a wholly inappropriate piece of legislation to be finding its way into the Trade Practices Act. It is perfectly proper for any government or any organ of government to make the kind of judgments as to the appropriateness of a particular legislative form of redress in particular circumstances. Should any commercial organisation want to take advantage of what it might be advised to be the applicability of section 45D, it is at liberty to do so and this Government will not do anything to stop it.