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Wednesday, 1 June 1994
Page: 1108

Senator KEMP (5.39 p.m.) —I support the remarks of my colleague Senator Crane. I wish to make a couple of brief comments relating to the use of ILO conventions which underlie much of this bill. It is an astonishing development in our political and constitutional history that a government which espouses, from time to time, the need for the sovereignty and independence of this nation has in so many areas incorporated and involved the ILO in our labour laws and the UN in human rights. The reason Australians will not accept the republican agenda is that they do not accept the republican push to involve UN and ILO committees in Australian domestic activities.

Senator Sherry —Could I take a point of order, Mr Temporary Chairman? I understand that in committee it is customary to deal with amendments before the chair. These amendments have absolutely nothing to do with the republic, and I think you should ask Senator Kemp to come back to the issue before the chair.

  The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Teague)—I uphold the point of order that the remarks of senators at this point in the debate should be relevant to the amendments moved by Senator Crane. I take the opportunity to remind Senator Kemp that he is not speaking from his own chair. I ask Senator Kemp to speak to the amendments before the chair.

Senator KEMP —Mr Temporary Chairman, I am absolutely indebted to you for those comments and for the advice you have given. As you are aware, the ILO conventions which Senator Sherry and so many others have mentioned in this debate underline so much of this legislation and the sorts of issues that Senator Crane is talking about. As I said, it is an extraordinary feature that so much of our law is now being determined offshore—in Geneva.

  I put to Senator Sherry in regard to his earlier remarks that of course previous governments, including the Fraser government, signed and ratified ILO conventions, but there is a fundamental difference which Senator Sherry ducked. These conventions were signed after consultations and agreement with the states, with employers and with unions. That is totally different from the disgraceful acts of this government before the last election.

  I draw attention to a number of interesting questions on notice to which I recently received answers which have confirmed precisely what I am saying. Senator Sherry may take some pride in the fact that Australian domestic disputes are being heard in Geneva. As someone who is proud of this country, I take no pride whatsoever in that. It beats me why the Labor Party believes that wisdom resides in Geneva but does not reside in our own courts and in our own judges. John Howard—

  Senator Sherry interjecting

Senator KEMP —If you think that Australian disputes are better off going offshore, I say to you: show a little bit of national pride. I thought you guys were meant to be interested in sovereignty and independence.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —Order! I am reminded by the President of the Senate that at all times occupants of the chair must remind senators that they are to address the chair in all their remarks. I remind everyone speaking in this committee of that.

Senator KEMP —Thank you, Mr Temporary Chairman. As usual, I am indebted to you for your advice. I regret to say that I was being provoked by those opposite. I was expressing a little bit of horror and concern at the fact that senators in this chamber believe that Australian domestic disputes are better considered in Geneva than before our own courts. Senator Murphy nods his head. In that case, he should come over here and support me very strongly when I say that ILO and UN committees have no role in Australian domestic disputes.

  I used to think those opposite had a bit of national pride and that they used to treasure the independence of this country. But, unfortunately, their republican Prime Minister (Mr Keating) has sold us out. I happen to object to that. I make the point that Senator Sherry, who raised the issue of ILO conventions—and I am speaking now because Senator Sherry got up and, in a rather unctuous way, said that the Fraser government used to sign these things; and presumably he would say the same things about the Menzies era—deliberately misled this chamber. These conventions were not used by the Liberal and National parties as a constitutional battering ram. They were signed after consultation with and the agreement of all parties involved. In every area where it was possible to do so, steps were taken to ensure that state legislation and relevant federal legislation were brought into line with the conventions before they were ratified.

  Senator Sherry got up and started to talk about ILO conventions. He pretended that in some way this was totally in line with what the Fraser government did. I say to Senator Sherry that I will come into this chamber every time this matter is raised to point out what a disgraceful organisation the Labor Party is. It seems to think it is appropriate for constitutional change to occur by ceding sovereignty of this nation to Geneva so it can acquire a head of power over the states. That is what this republican government has done.

  Senator Murphy shakes his head. Let me take you through it again very slowly. I know that this is a slightly difficult constitutional principle for you. But these conventions, particularly the convention on the termination of employment which virtually no other industrial country has signed—and I am taking you through this, through the chair—

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Kemp, I ask you to address your remarks through the chair.

Senator KEMP —As usual I am indebted to you, Mr Temporary Chairman, for your advice. There seems to be a senator who does not understand this issue, so I will take him through it again. Before the last election—

Senator Bell —I take a point of order, Mr Temporary Chairman. I hesitate greatly to introduce my first point of order, but you did remind Senator Kemp that it is customary to address the amendment before the chair. We have voted on the issue that Senator Kemp is so excited about. I think he should perhaps address the amendments before the chair.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —Senator Kemp is speaking to amendments 4 and 5 that are before the committee at the moment. Senator Bell is correct: I reminded Senator Kemp, following a point of order taken by Senator Sherry, of what is required of all of us in this debate. I ask Senator Kemp to continue to address his remarks to amendments 4 and 5.

Senator Bell —He has not yet done that so he can hardly continue to do so.

Senator KEMP —Would you kindly contain yourself, Senator Bell?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —Order! Interjections are disorderly.

Senator KEMP —In supporting the amendments before the committee, I say that it is well known by you, Mr Temporary Chairman, that this bill is based on a wide number of ILO conventions. These conventions, particularly the ones I am referring to, were signed without the agreement of the states or the employers. They were finally ratified before the election. It is important that we understand what the Commonwealth in effect has done. In relation to those two areas it has ceded sovereignty to an international organisation in order to acquire a head of power over the states. I say that it has ceded sovereignty because in future years actions by the government in respect of these conventions will become matters of dispute which will be resolved by Australians taking their cases to Geneva.

That is why we are seeing employers and employees going to Geneva to have resolved cases which in my view are properly the domain of Australian courts.

  In concluding my remarks, I say that it is very important that this chamber understands—and I stood up because I was provoked to do so by Senator Sherry, who deliberately misled this chamber—that this government is undermining the constitution of this country by ceding sovereignty to Geneva.

  Australians will not take that. It is a growing issue in this country. Australians are constantly asking why, under this republican government, so many of these disputes—Senator Sherry is looking embarrassed, and rightly so—are going offshore to Geneva, whether it be to the ILO or to the UN Human Rights Committee, where such great people as Fidel Castro nominate people to rule on Australian human rights. What a joke!