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Wednesday, 1 June 1994
Page: 1111

Senator SHERRY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy) (5.56 p.m.) —The government does not support the two amendments. I will make a few comments in respect of Senator Kemp's contribution. I notice that he has just returned to the chamber. It is a pity that he was not here to hear Senator Bell's contribution.

Senator Kemp —I did hear it and I will respond to it.

Senator SHERRY —I am glad that you heard it; I am not glad you are going to respond to it. Firstly, I did not mislead the chamber. I was a little more sensitive than perhaps I should have been, but as I was going to speak on this matter, I knew I would have an opportunity to rebut your allegation which is not true. As usual, you blundered into the debate. You did not realise you had won the previous vote, as Senator Bell outlined. You wandered the world with your continual allegations about Geneva conspiracies.

  The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Teague)—Order! Senator Sherry, I said I would remind everyone in this debate that I am reminded by the President of the Senate that all senators will address the chair.

Senator SHERRY —I remind you, Mr Temporary Chairman, that Senator Kemp wandered the world, talking about Geneva and interference from Cuba. He could not even find his own seat to begin the debate. He should spend a bit more time concentrating on what he is doing and saying. Senator Kemp also does not appear to realise we are talking about one convention—that is, convention 137. I remind Senator Kemp that the ratification of the convention was in 1974. It was supported not just by the unions; Senator Kemp might be startled to hear the employers supported the ratification of this convention. When preparing the regular reports to the ILO—

Senator Kemp —I have spoken about that—weren't you listening?

Senator SHERRY —Senator Kemp will get himself out of anything. When preparing the regular reports to the ILO on the application of the convention in Australia, the government was always seeking comments from the peak employer and worker organisations. That might shock Senator Kemp: the government has sought both employer and worker organisation contributions. There have been no concerns raised by the peak bodies, the ACCI and the ACTU, in this reporting process in relation to convention 137, which is the convention we are dealing with here. We are not dealing with other conventions; that is the convention we are dealing with in this legislation. Successive governments—again, it might surprise Senator Kemp—including Liberal and National Party governments have continued to report to the ILO every four years on this convention.

  In respect of the two amendments before the committee, the effect of the proposal the opposition is putting is that, in order to delegate or revoke a delegation of any of its powers under the act, all members of the committee must agree, rather than the government's proposition that three out of four should agree. Under the present legislation the committee can only delegate to the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour. This may have been appropriate under industry arrangements prior to the reform program, but the industry has changed significantly, and so has the role of the association.

  It is appropriate that the committee be able to delegate more broadly if it sees fit. This legislation enables it to do that while maintaining scope to delegate to the association.

Under the current act, the committee can delegate where at least six of its nine members agree—that is, with a two thirds majority. Under the bill, delegation requires at least three of the four members of the committee to agree. With the opposition's proposed amendment, the committee could not delegate unless all members agree. That has the potential to make the committee unworkable. In some perverse way, that is probably the opposition's intention.

Senator Crane —That is pretty perverse logic.

Senator SHERRY —It is perverse of the opposition to try to create gridlock. Imagine if we tried to get a 100 per cent vote in this Senate on every piece of legislation—the country would grind to a shuddering halt! Not even the opposition would take states rights to that extreme. Imagine needing the 100 per cent vote of all the state representatives in the Senate. But that is what the opposition is suggesting in this amendment—an unworkable situation.

  Requiring a 100 per cent vote to achieve any outcome is an absurdity. I know that those opposite are used to being in opposition and, perhaps a little unhappily, look forward to many more years in opposition, but to require a 100 per cent veto to enter into some sort of arrangement that would effectively create gridlock is an absurdity.

  I do not know whether those opposite know about the problems that Polish parliaments had in the 18th and 19th century. They needed a 100 per cent vote to pass anything and, as a consequence, passed nothing. That is what those opposite are suggesting we should have in this legislation. What a ridiculous amendment! What a ludicrous amendment! It is no wonder they are still in opposition.

  This is a deliberate attempt by those opposite to make this legislation unworkable. It is typical of the negative approach which, unfortunately, we have become used to over the past 10 or so years. If they cannot make it work, if they cannot put forward positive suggestions, they put forward rubbishy amendments that are totally negative and achieve a nil outcome. For that reason we oppose the two amendments moved by the opposition.