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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 763

Senator PARER —My question is directed to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce. I draw the attention of the Minister to a practice called badge show day which is held in Broken Hill every quarter by unions to ensure that employees are paid up union members. I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the badge show day rules, which are printed in the local paper, include:

Instructions that all members of affiliated unions shall not work on a shift with any non-unionist or with any member of an affiliated union not in possession of a recognised badge. No employee can commence work until they have been cleared by the head steward; . . .

Any employee found guilty of working on `Badge Show Day' without a badge shall be fined the equivalent of a day's pay.

Does the Minister agree that these rules make a mockery of statements by the Labor Government that unionism is not compulsory in Australia? Does he also agree with the recent editorial in the Australian which describes closed shops as `the most unjustifiable bulwarks of trade union power' and `a fundamental breach of civil liberties'? Finally, is this the sort of stupidity which is one of the root causes of the lack of productivity and competitiveness of our Australian industries?

Senator BUTTON —First of all, let me say that there is no legislation or any regulation in Australia that makes trade unionism compulsory.

Senator Walters —There is union preference.

Senator BUTTON —Mr President, I do not know how much I have to put up with this. Senator Walters may have renal colic or something like that which produces these low moans every now and again, but I should not have to put up with it always at Question Time. Let me say to Senator Parer that there is no legislation or regulation in Australia that makes trade unionism compulsory. It is true that there are certain circumstances that are matters of practice or negotiation within particular industries where there is full union membership in plants. It is also true that in Broken Hill there have been long established traditions in labour relations matters. Senator Parer may remember only a few years ago when people used to talk about the Broken Hill industrial relations climate as a successful one because, when there were disagreements, they were argued out and negotiated and contracts were entered into a la some of the proposals now put forward by John Howard and the Opposition spokesman on industrial relations, Mr Brown. Those people have proposed exactly the sorts of arrangements that used to exist at Broken Hill and be widely admired. Senator Parer complains about them today. The fact is that they produced satisfactory results in Broken Hill from the point of view of an industrial relations record. At a time when this country is becoming increasingly competitive in a wide range of activities, Senator Parer really has to gouge the bottom of the barrel to dig up this sort of example, which has presumably just recently come to his notice. I am not saying that I approve of or agree with everything that happens at Broken Hill. If I were a feminist, I certainly would not do so and, being a Labor politician and a Minister in this Government, I do not do so. But the fact is that those arrangements have worked over the years. Different circumstances apply in different situations. As I said at the beginning, there are no regulations or laws that provide for compulsory unionism in Australia.