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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 1767


Senator JONES(3.22) —We have just listened to Senator Collard. We have before us a proposal under standing order 64. I think that during his speech he failed even to touch upon some of the things that he mentioned in his proposal. The proposal reads:

The failure of the Government to ensure Commonwealth services are available to the people of Queensland and to end the blockade of that State by the ACTU.

We ought to look very carefully at what has happened in Queensland. We should look at the view of the Premier leading to the dispute in Queensland. I believe that what is now happening in Queensland sets the stage for the blockade by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. If we look at the legislation that was put before the State Parliament by the Premier of Queensland, we would have to say-we would not have to say it in my words; I will quote a number of people who make the same points that I intend to make in a moment-that the sort of legislation that has been put before the Parliament of Queensland and which has been placed on the statute books interferes with the right to strike, the right to work, and the right to decide working hours and the conditions under which one works. The action that was taken by the Premier certainly created a position in which the trade union movement-not only the Trades and Labour Council in Queensland or the unions that are affiliated with the Trades and Labour Council, but also the ACTU which is affiliated with the Trades and Labour Council and any union organisation that was worth its money-would have had to have reacted against what was happening and the sort of legislation that was being enacted in Queensland.

Senator Collard spoke a moment ago. He is a former trade unionist who worked on the railways in Queensland. He did not for one second say that there should be some discussions between the Government of Queensland and the trade union movement. Did he say that we should sit around a table and have some discussions to try to arbitrate the dispute that is before us? No. He said that we should continue the confrontation, we should continue to fight against the trade unions, we should continue to make the unions feel as though they must blockade Queensland to try to bring about some change to the legislation that was introduced into the Queensland Parliament by the Premier of that State.

Let us look at what the Premier said prior to and in the course of that legislation being brought before the Parliament. I refer to a transcript of the 60 Minutes program. Jeff McMullin was the reporter. The introduction to his interview with Bjelke-Petersen outlines fairly clearly what was happening in Queensland. The transcript states:

The political career of Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen is littered with the ruins and wreckage of war but his latest battle may be the biggest yet and one that has implications far beyond Queensland. Sir Joh was hitting the unions with some of the toughest, anti-strike measures seen in Australia since the 1940s. His immediate target is to curb the power of the power workers, to make sure the lights stay on, but the new laws he's ramming through Parliament have much wider potential, setting the stage for huge fines, for sackings, for law suits, for a whole host of actions that could stop a union from walking out or even imposing bans. The Labor movement, of course, is fighting back.

A little further in the interview he asked this question, which I suppose is a reasonable question to ask the Premier of Queensland: 'Did you ever belong to a union yourself?'. The Premier's answer was: 'No, no way'. I think that that shows his attitude towards the trade union movement in Queensland. The Premier stated:

They walked into the trap, that's quite clearly. But you've also got to recognise and remember that we were not only up against this issue, we were up against a lot of thugs.

The Premier continued with a whole stack of untruths. I quote Bjelke-Petersen:

Well, I'm not against all unions; I'm against the militant ones and very many of them are militant, very, very, militant. They threaten your life. They threatened my life many times; they threatened to shoot me; they threatened to dynamite our home; they threatened to kidnap my children; they threatened to shoot my grandchildren, again and again.

Has there been any report or investigation into those allegations, or can we say that that is the type of man that we are dealing with? Is that the type of man who is building up a confrontation? Is that the type of man who has put Queensland into its present position? He now has his thugs in this place trying to argue that we should make the unions pull back from their attempt to try to change the legislation in Queensland. Jeff McMullin continued:

The new Queensland laws have outlawed strikes in the electricity industry. The old work to rule and go-slow tactic will also be banned as if they were strikes too. Any worker who complains about the rules could be sacked on the spot and you won't be able to look to the union to protect your job because Joh has outlawed compulsory unionism in this key industry. To enforce the new rules--

I think this is the important factor-

there will be a tribunal and the strong arm of the Queensland Police Force.

Let us look at some of the other views that were put forward during the same interview. Dr Fitzgerald, an academic from the Queensland University, who wrote A History of Queensland, stated:

These particular laws--

talking about the laws of Bjelke-Petersen-

I would have thought, are the greatest threat to the trade union movement in Australia in the last 50 years.

I state very clearly that the trade union movement is reacting to the greatest threat in 50 years. I hope that it continues to react. Dr Fitzgerald continued:

In the main, this sort of legislation is more likely to happen in a country--

I wish Senator Jessop were here to hear this-

like South Africa than any other western country. You see, there's a very close tie-in between the police force and the law and politics here, that the police force has been strongly politicised in the way that the police force in South Africa is strongly politicised. So the police are seen as being an agent of the Government.

Those are not my words. They are the words of Dr Fitzgerald, an academic who was speaking about the history of Queensland and what had been happening in Queensland. A little further in the interview, Jeff McMullin asked this question:

What can the ACTU do to you in this situation?

The Premier stated:

Nothing, absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing. I told them to jump in the lake when somebody suggested they wanted an answer from me on a certain date in relation to pulling back.

That is discussion; round table discussion! The Premier continued:

I said: 'Just tell them from me, jump in the lake'.

That is the attitude of a State Premier who is supposed to be trying to resolve disputation in his State. Instead, he is causing the confrontation to continue. Much more can be said about that interview. Bjelke-Petersen has said on a number of occasions that he brought in the legislation and attacked the power industry unions because he wanted to make sure that the people in Queensland had a power supply. But his motives have changed. In an interview on AM on 9 May 1985, he was asked the following question by Mr Thompson:

I suppose there's some feeling that perhaps your interest is bringing the Hawke Government down might be above your interest in resolving this dispute.

Let me tell honourable senators what the Premier said:

Well my main objective is to get rid of the Hawke Government.

There has been quite a change in the objective of the Premier of Queensland. At first it was to make sure that we had a power supply; now it is to defeat the Hawke Government.

Matters of public importance relating to this matter have been proposed in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, in similar terms. Senator Collard has proposed a matter of public importance stating that the Government is letting the unions carry out a blockade of Queensland and is not acting. Honourable senators opposite are saying that the Federal Government should be brought down. That is the main motive of Bjelke-Petersen.

Let me go a little further. The Premier now has Jennings, a State member of parliament, putting out a statement in the Gold Coast Bulletin headlined 'Sack Hawke'. He has the same motive that is now put forward by Bjelke-Petersen-to defeat the Hawke Government. He is not worried about stopping the dispute in Queensland. He is making no attempts to see that people get power or to correct what is happening in Queensland to industry, small business, large business and imports and exports. All he is worried about is playing politics and creating a situation in which he can defeat the Hawke Government.

But that is not all. After the Premier made that statement, in a program on another Brisbane radio station Haydn Sargent said that he had a tape of Bjelke-Petersen saying that his main objective now was to defeat the Hawke Government. Do honourable senators know what Bjelke-Petersen's answer was? He said: 'I will send the solicitor. We will sue the person responsible. Many people are imitating me now and maybe that recording was an imitation. I have not heard the tape'. Did we ever hear anything so ridiculous? Because a statement he made on AM was raised on a talk-back program by Hayden Sargent, he said: 'My golly gosh, too many people are trying to interpret what I have to say. I cannot believe that the tape is correct. Someone may just have imitated my voice and said that it was me, the Premier of Queensland, talking'. That is the man who is running the State of Queensland.

I come back to the matter proposed under standing order 64 which referred to the Federal Government not doing anything in relation to the supply of electricity to Queensland. It is quite obvious that Senator Collard has not even bothered to gather his facts together. The following question was asked in the House of Representatives of the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy):

Will the Minister inform the House what powers are available to him under section 8 of the Postal Services Act in respect of mail bans currently affecting postal services into Queensland?

The material that the Minister used in answer to that question was the material that was used some time ago by, I think, Mr Sinclair, the present Leader of the National Party of Australia, in answering a similar question. The Minister said:

. . . this morning in this place the Leader of the National Party of Australia demanded that I issue a direction under section 8 of the Postal Services Act requiring the Australian Postal Commission to perform functions specified in section 7 of the Act. The Leader of the National Party suggested that the failure of the Government today to indicate that it would take that step would show that the Government was unwilling to take . . . a legally available option to bring that dispute

that is, the current industrial action-

to an end . . . it is necessary to explain the position according to the advice available to me . . .

This was the Minister for Communications talking about the bans in Queensland. He continued:

The fact is that no direction can be given by me which interferes with the Commission's function of forming a subjective judgment which is antecedently connected with the exercise of a power or duty vested in the Commission.

In other words, it is very clear that the Minister for Communications received advice that the Government had no right to interfere in what was happening. Let us go back and look at what the Premier said. He said, at first, that he was declaring a state of emergency and enacting legislation, which had been condemned by the Human Rights Commission, which talked about forced labour and which caused the sacking of 800 people in the Queensland electricity industry, because that would guarantee a supply of electricity to the people of Queensland. Since then he has had a change of mind. He has now decided that his main objective is not to settle the dispute and not to enable the people of Queensland to have a continuous supply of electricity but to defeat the Hawke Labor Government. That is what he is trying to do. He does not mind if he uses the people of Queensland as pawns in the game that he is playing to try to defeat the Hawke Labor Government. He is saying that this Government has not taken the steps that it needs to take. After Dr Fitzgerald said--

Opposition senators-Doctor who?


Senator JONES —Dr Fitzgerald, who is an academic with the Queensland University, stated very clearly that the Queensland legislation was the worst since 1940 and a disgrace to a democratic society. He also made it very clear that the Queensland Government's legislation was very much akin to the sort of legislation that has been enacted in South Africa. There is only one difference between what is happening in South Africa and what is happening in Queensland. There have been arrests in Queensland and it has passed the same sort of legislation. The difference is that in South Africa people are being shot. But in Queensland people certainly are being arrested, fined and sacked by the Premier of that State.