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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1157


Senator MacGIBBON(4.40) —This afternoon the Senate is debating the failure of the Government to protect the people of Australia from abuses of trade union power. No other country has indulged the whole gamut of union activities and union power the way Australia has. Successive Australian governments, whether Liberal-National Party or Labor, Federal and State, by legislation and administrative practice have protected, reinforced and promoted the unionisation of Australia. While that might have been a worthy aim initially, it has now been abused by irresponsible union leaders. We have reached the stage now, as both the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Chaney, and Senator Collard said, when members of the public are totally fed up with union abuses of power and the tragic consequences of that on Australian society. The Liberal Party knows it; the National Party knows it; the Australian Labor Party does not know it. It does not want to know it because it is beholden to the union movement for its candidates, such as Senator Cook, and for the money the union movement puts into its coffers.

Unionism as it is known in Australia is out of date. It is an anachronism we can no longer afford. What was relevant and worthy in 1885 is now doing a major disservice to the nation in 1985. It hits at current production. It affects future consumption. It destroys investor and entrepreneurial confidence. It destroys profitability. Above all, it is the very converse of its original intention. The original intentions of unionism were to promote the individual's right to work, the right to work with dignity and independence. The very thing that it set out to do 100 years ago is now the direct converse of the effect of unions in Australian society.

Are we a civilised society when we have picket lines? Are we civilised when people who do not want to work deny the right to others? They not only deny other people the right to work but also go around running picket lines, calling people scabs, intimidating and bullying people, and carrying out acts of thuggery that lead at times to the loss of human life. That is not the sort of Australia in which I want to live. That is not the sort of Australia for which I want to be a legislator. Yet this is what the union movement is about. That is why the people of Australia have had enough of it.

So far in this debate we have heard from the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, Senator Button, who obviously did not have his mind on the job. He seldom makes a good speech these days and this was one of his worst. The sole point that Senator Button brought up was the fact that it was a Queensland matter, not a national matter. He said it was a Queensland affair and so it did not matter. I have news for Senator Button.

Senator Jack Evans rambled on about the history of the movement. The interesting thing was that he missed the most important part of the history in dealing with the origins of the Queensland problem, and that was that the administration felt that because the union workers were moonlighting and doing so much contract work on the side it might as well officialise it and go to contract labour from the start. That is the origin of the whole thing. Senator Cook went on as usual, as a former trade union official, and demonstrated why, when he ran the campaign in Forrest, Peter Drummond's vote went up. Everywhere Senator Cook went the Liberal vote climbed through the roof, particularly in the industrialised town. While I am on the matter of Labor speakers, why do not the Labor senators from Queensland get up to speak on this matter? Where are they hiding? Why are they not speaking on a matter that is vitally important to them and to their State?

The Australian public wants change in our industrial relations. It sees that as the most important thing before us. The Australian public wants common sense in the way we manage our industrial affairs. Tax reform is quite secondary, even though it is important. If we proceed in the area of industrial relations, in the way we have in this country we will end up as a Third World country. Living standards are falling. As Senator Townley says on many occasions, the average debt per head of Australians is more than it is in Argentina, Chile or Mexico. This is largely due to the fact that we have a monopoly on the provision of labour by the unions of this country. Australia must have a free market for labour. We need legislation only to prevent exploitation of labour by employers. Present legislation exploits employers and the country. This country has to earn money through its industrial production. We cannot pay more and more to greedy unionists and shut out the world. If that happens, in the end the country will go bankrupt. If there is one asset which we have in this country it is the Australian work force. It can compete with any work force in the world. It is intelligent and resourceful. It is conscientious, dedicated and hard working, but it cannot work under the union system that we have imposed on society today.

The Labor Party has not realised that community attitudes to unions have changed very dramatically in the last year or two. That is demonstrated by the Queensland troubles. The Queensland Premier has wide support. Today's Courier-Mail, under the heading 'Strike right second to to power need', stated:

The right to a power supply is more important than the right to strike, says a major public opinion poll.

But most of the people surveyed believed in the right to strike as a general principle.

Of the people surveyed, 73.5 percent, particularly National and Liberal voters, said workers should not cut the supply of electricity in support of strike action.

Among Labor voters, almost 50 percent said electricity supply workers should not have the right to strike.

The actions of the Queensland Government are supported not only in Queensland but also right across Australia. Australians want three things in industrial relations: They want voluntary unions, no picket lines and no strikes in essential services. They see unionism in the modern age as being a matter of election; not of compulsion. A voluntary union system is what the community demands. The community upholds the right to strike. That is not challenged, except in relation to essential industries. One of the big changes that the Labor Party has not picked up is that the community no longer believes that if people want to strike they can deny the opportunity for others in the community who have the qualifications and the will to work, to take their places. The second essential difference is in the matter of strikes by workers employed in essential services. Society today is far too complex, far too interdependent, for a crowd that has a monopoly on the supply of something like electricity to hold the community to ransom, particularly when one realises that most of the people who went on strike in Queensland were on incomes of around $40,000 to $50,000 a year. They were not scraping along just above the dole line. In a nutshell, we are moving to a society that will have voluntary unionism. Strikes by those involved in essential services will be forbidden under legislation. Workers who want to strike may do so but they have to expect that others will take their places. We will see an arbitration system that sets minimal wages only and does not tie up the whole ball game as is the case at present.

The debate today has been brought about by the action last night of the Transport Workers Union of Australia in blockading Queensland. This anarchistic action has the support of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Federal Government. Today the ACTU called on 160 unions to run a hit list against 51 so-called Queensland companies. I want to touch on two very important points, the ACTU's position and that of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). The ACTU's position is a double cross. It broke the one and only rule of labour relations in Australia; that is, that a striking union has the support of the ACTU and the Labor government. That has been the one inviolate rule of the labour movement.

The history of the strike in Queensland is that Mr Kelty went to Queensland on 21 February. At that time the strike was unresolved. By 6.15 on the night of 21 February, the strike was over. Mr Kelty pulled the rug out from the striking Queensland Electrical Trades Union members. Mr Dolan, the head of the ACTU, sent Mr Kelty. The Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, Senator Button and all the Labor Cabinet, including the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Gareth Evans, who is in the chamber, must have known and been party to this act of treachery with respect to the labour movement. What is the ACTU now doing? It is covering up with nationwide strikes. It is quite careless of the effect of this strike action on the loss of jobs, profits and exports.

On Saturday afternoon I flew from Townsville to Brisbane. Eight ships, which are vital to Australia's export trade, were anchored off Hay Point. Those ships are awaiting loading as a consequence of this problem in Queensland. The action in which the ACTU is involved is unlawful. It is a flagrant, wilful breach of section 45D of the Trade Practices Act because it is a gross secondary boycott on a national scale. As Senator Collard said, it also breaches section 92 of the Constitution, which provides that trade between the States is to be free and unimpeded.

I now turn to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is Prime Minister for all Australians. He is not the Prime Minister of just the ACTU or the labour movement. He is not the Prime Minister only of New South Wales and Victoria; he is the Prime Minister of Queensland, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and all the rest of Australia. As a Queenslander I say that we are Australians first and Queenslanders second. We have a Prime Minister who I would have thought would have been bound by ALP resolutions one of which states that 'a Labor government will direct its program towards achieving a just industrial society in which all Australians have a right to work'.

This Prime Minister supports and the Cabinet supports the law breaking by the ACTU. The Government says that it will not enforce section 45D and that it will not support the Constitution. I would have thought that a Prime Minister would be bound to uphold the law unless he wanted to take the community as a whole into anarchy, which is what will happen if the Prime Minister does not get to the root of the problem which the community wants fixed. The community wants the industrial relations problem fixed. It does not want the diversion of an attack on the Queensland legislation. The Queensland Government has done the best it can in very difficult circumstances. Let us hear from the Labor Party what it will do. Let us not have a character assassination of the Premier of Queensland. Let us have something constructive from the Labor Party.

This Labor Party is absolutely careless of the consequences to Queensland of this boycott legislation. It is careless of the consequences for primary industry-for the beef and sugar industries, It is careless of the effects of the boycott on manufacturing industry. It is careless of the effects of the boycott on the exporting industries of coal and alumina. The Labor Party is quite careless of the consequences of the boycott for Australian industry, of which Queensland is an integral part. We have a Prime Minister who not only is failing to uphold the law but also is condoning and encouraging the breaking of it. If he holds the law in contempt can he wonder at all if the public does the same to him and to the laws he wants to make?

We have aimless leadership from the Prime Minister. We do not have a hawk; we have a chook running this country.

This is the latest act in a long line of careless government. The Labor Government does not care about the unemployed. The Labor Government does not care about the sick. The Labor Government does not care about business. The Labor Government does not care about the farmers or primary industry. The Labor Government does not care about the defence forces. Above all, the Labor Government does not care about ordinary Australians who are going about their ordinary jobs in an orderly, predictable and responsible way. This Government has failed to protect Australia in all ways, and no more strikingly so than in its failure to attack the abuse of power by the bullies in the union movement.