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Thursday, 20 November 1986
Page: 2604

Senator COOK —Has the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations seen a letter to the editor of the Australian, published in Wednesday's edition of the paper, from the H. R. Nicholls Society luminary, Western Australian Liberal Party guest speaker and Peko-Wallsend Ltd Chief Executive--

Senator Haines —Is that `loony`?

Senator COOK —Luminary, but the same thing applies. Has the Minister seen the letter from Charles Copeman protesting at the editorial it ran on 15 November? In the letter Mr Copeman defends the dismissal of workers at Peko's Sydney Besco Batteries factory at 30 minutes notice on the grounds that they were paid for the period of notice required under their award. I ask the Minister: Does this justify the means by which Peko effected the Besco Batteries plant closure?

Senator WALSH —I have seen the letter from Mr Copeman which was published yesterday. Frankly, I am not at all impressed by the defence he offers for the sacking, at 30 minutes notice, of employees who had been employed by the company for many years. His defence hinges on the fact that the employees were paid for the period of notice required under their award. Of course it is well known that, if Mr Copeman and others in the New Right got their way, there would be no award because there would be no Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or industrial tribunals. Under those circumstances workers in some future Besco Batteries situation would not get, unless the employer deigned to give it to them, their payment in lieu of notice and they would be sacked at 30 minutes notice, as they were in this case-out the door and only paid for that day, most likely.

That is the sort of utopia which the extreme Right wants, a world of two classes-those who get the sack and those who do the sacking. I interpolate here that I understand the New Right is fragmenting and that the Housing Industry Association has left the Australian Federation of Employers, that Association, I presume, having come to the conclusion that its interests and the interests of employers, employees and society generally would not be advanced through associating itself with the policies of the New Right. If the Liberal Party leadership is not prepared to dissociate itself from Mr Copeman and others and their tactics in the field of industrial relations, it is time that those in the Liberal Party who do not want to be part of a political organisation dominated by an outside group with such an obvious set of self-interest did something about it. In particular I think it is true that people, such as the honourable members for Denison, Boothby and Goldstein, did something about it.