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Monday, 4 May 1987
Page: 2231

Senator McKIERNAN(4.11) —This afternoon the Senate is discussing a matter of urgency raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney), who has been described in the media as an eminently reasonable man, in his new role as shadow Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. He has proposed what the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Haines, has described as an eminently reasonable motion. It reads:

The need to maintain the effectiveness of the secondary boycott provisions of the Trade Practices Act as a readily available remedy for abuses of trade union power.

It may be a matter of urgency for Senator Chaney. I wonder why that is so. With all the restructuring that has gone on in recent weeks and months in the Opposition and in the Liberal Party, perhaps it really is a matter of urgency for Senator Chaney and the Liberal Party. It might also be a matter of urgency for those people to whom Senator Haines referred as the New Right in Australia. I wonder whether this afternoon's urgency motion is an initiative of Senator Chaney, the Liberal Party or the New Right, or could it be a defensive action on behalf of Senator Chaney? It did not come as any surprise to me that such a motion came before the Senate this afternoon because, as usual, I referred to this morning's newspapers to check on what is happening in the big, wide world outside the cloistered confines of this House and this city--

Senator Haines —You don't believe what you read, do you?

Senator McKIERNAN —I noted with interest on pages 8 and 9 of today's Australian newspaper, under the heading `Clubbing together for the sake of the unions'-no doubt Senator Haines read it also-a comment by Gerard Henderson, who Senator Haines had cause to mention in her contribution this afternoon. In a long, rambling article Mr Henderson called for, among other things, business, big and small, to fight any attempt by the Government to repeal sections 45d and 34e of the Trade Practices Act, to prevent employers from taking immediate legal action under those sections and to remove the secondary boycott provisions from the purview of the Federal Court. I wonder whether it is really a mechanism on behalf of that eminently reasonable senator and Liberal Party spokesperson on employment and industrial relations to defend the position that he has taken.

We must know where Dr Gerard Henderson stands in the whole scheme of things. Senator Haines referred to an excellent article in the Business Review Weekly of 22 August last year by Pamela Williams. Under the heading `union busters-Their tactics and targets' there was a series of comments on the guru and his disciples, the guru in this case being H. R. Nicholls. The article spoke of the H. R. Nicholls Society. Incidentally, H. R. Nicholls wrote an article when he was 80 years old which criticised the then President of the Arbitration Court. The article by Pamela Williams had some very interesting things to say about Dr Gerard Henderson, whose article appeared in this morning's Australian newspaper. Under the heading `Dr Gerard Henderson', the article stated:

Opposition Leader John Howard's senior adviser, Gerard Henderson, started his climb to power though the ranks of the National Civic Council 15 years ago. Now keen to play down the link, Henderson worked part-time for B. A. Santamaria while he finished his university education. He wrote his thesis Mr Santamaria and the Bishops while working for federal politician Kevin Newman in Tasmania and later developed his views on industrial relations while working in the arbitration inspectorate in Melbourne. Finding himself with plenty of time on his hands in the inspectorate, he read through old cases, including the history of Justice Henry Bourne Higgins and his 1906 Harvester judgment on what constituted a fair and reasonable level of wages. This judgment, which has so enraged the economic dries, has played a strong role in drawing together the participants in the H. R. Nicholls Society . . .

Henderson subsequently wrote an article for Quadrant magazine on the `industrial relations club'-

it is quoted frequently; Senator Knowles referred to it quite recently-

which did little to endear him to the pragmatists in business and the system, but earned him a job with John Howard. There is considerable unease in the Liberal Party and some business circles about the degree of influence Henderson exercises over John Howard, particularly on industrial relations. One parliamentary Liberal describes him as an extremist who pulls Howard's strings-

I wonder whether any more strings have been pulled this afternoon by Dr Henderson-

Henderson's Quadrant article has been reprinted recently in a new book, Wages Wasteland, launched by John Stone. The book also carries a critical article on Justice Higgins by H. R. Nicholls Society founder and Western Mining Corporation executive Ray Evans.

In discussing industrial relations, union power and the settlement of industrial disputes we must examine where we are in Australian society today and who exercises influence over what happens today in the arena of industrial relations. Undoubtedly, the H. R. Nicholls Society, on behalf of the New Right in Australia-I think that Senator Parer may know something about that also-is having an unwholesome degree of influence over what is happening in our society today. Certainly, it is able to get article after article published in not only the Australian but also other reputable newspapers. There is a list of individuals who jump on any platform at any time propagating the beliefs of a section of the rich and powerful in society. Their aim is to influence public debate through the media and through the Liberal Party, as we have seen and can see on a daily basis from the number of opinions that are represented on the front bench of the Liberal Party today.

I will not deal in any great depth or detail with what Senators Chaney and Knowles had to say. However, a number of questions need to be answered in this whole issue of industrial relations, such as: What is legitimate trade union action? What are unjustified actions? What are excessive demands? Qualifications must be put upon those. The previous Opposition representative for employment and industrial relations matters, Mr Neil Brown, QC, MP, issued a Press statement on 14 April which stated:

Common law actions and proceedings in the Federal Court under 45d and e are the only effective recourse employers and ordinary Australians have against unjustified union actions.

I repeat: `Unjustified union actions'. The record corrects some of the figures which Senator Chaney gave in response to an interjection by Senator McIntosh. Section 45d of the Trade Practices Act has been on the statute book since 1977-10 years-and section 45e has been there since 1980. In that period there have been a total of 129 actions taken under both sections of that Act. I can give honourable senators the number per year: Five in 1977, 20 in 1978, four in 1979, nine in 1980, and so it goes on.

Senator Sheil —They are injunctions; they are not actions.

Senator McKIERNAN —Hang on, Senator Sheil; I have not finished yet. There were 129. I can in turn give the honourable senator the details of the number of actions taken under each section. There were 117 actions under section 45d, eight under section 45e and four joint ones under sections 45d and 45e. Senator Sheil should now listen carefully. The number of injunctions granted was 66, just over half of the number of applications. If that is the most effective way of controlling industrial relations in this country, I will eat my hat. With 129 applications in 10 years, there is no way that the use of this legislation is justified. Out of those 66 injunctions that were issued, how many actually reached the damages stage? The answer, of course, is two-two out of 129. We have talked about Mudginberri and the case of the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union of Australia has been referred to as well. There were three other permanent injunctions granted-

Senator Chaney —What about the interim ones?

Senator McKIERNAN —As distinct from interim injunctions, which we can deal with in detail if Senator Chaney so wishes. In 1978 there was the case of Tillman's Butcheries; in 1979 a case involving a company named Wribass; of course in 1985 the case of Mudginberri; and in 1987 the plumbers case, which makes a total of four. How really effective have sections 45d and 45e been in the resolution of industrial conflict in this country?

I have a list here. If I were to go through each of the 129 cases on it, I would need an extension of time. But honourable senators can take it from me that the vast majority of cases, which will prove the figures that I have just spoken about, were settled, not through the use of the Trade Practices Act but by negotiation between the parties or on the direction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

Senator Parer —How many were settled without 45d?

Senator McKIERNAN —Great play is made of the Mudginberri dispute. I have no doubt that my friend and colleague, and opponent, from Queensland, Senator Parer, will make some note of that in his contribution later on, but I think even he will have to admit that the Mudginberri dispute was not settled by the use of the Trade Practices Act. The return to work and the withdrawal of the pickets were not achieved by the use of that piece of legislation. They were achieved through the good offices of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

In winding up I express some thoughts and fears about what is happening in our society and about the influences that are being brought to bear at the moment in the arena of industrial relations, influences expressed in today's paper and in recent publications by people such as Gerard Henderson, Mr Copeman from Robe River and John Stone-standard-bearers of the New Right who today have an undue influence on the Liberal Party in Australia. Those people are elected by no one and are accountable to no one except to serve their own rich and powerful friends, to serve the powerful individuals and corporations which seek to impose their own economic fantasies on the community.

Another friend of mine, who on this occasion is not an opponent and who will be entering this place next year, John Halfpenny, described Dr Henderson as a Rasputin, and we all know what Rasputin got up to. But a better description not only of the individual but of the collective mob of the New Right, was also given by John Halfpenny when he referred to the New Right as Australia's version of the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, if anybody in this chamber or anywhere in the community wants to impose an ideology such as that practised by the Ku Klux Klan or the New Right of Australia, he will need his head examined. Such is the case with the H. R. Nicholls Society. It would pay members of the Opposition, and the Liberal Party in particular, to read up on what H. R. Nicholls was about and to see what influences and what opinions Nicholls had not only in the arena of industrial relations in the latter part of his life, when he was probably verging on senility, but also about women in the work force, and compare his influence and thoughts then to what happened in the Liberal Party in very recent times over equal opportunity. I also have a word of warning for those on the right of the political spectrum, particularly the National Farmers Federation. If the views of the H. R. Nicholls Society are going to filter through to that organisation, it should note that Nicholls had something very powerful to say about the role of farmers in Australia today.