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Monday, 5 June 2000
Page: 14541


Senator ELLISON (Special Minister of State) (4:32 PM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS (EFFECT OF INTERNATIONAL INSTRUMENTS) BILL 2000

This Bill responds to the High Court's decision in Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs v Teoh (1995) 183 CLR 273, which was handed down on 7 April 1995.

In that decision, the Court found that by entering into a treaty the Australian Government creates a `legitimate expectation' in administrative law that the Executive Government and its agencies will act in accordance with the terms of the treaty, even where those terms have not been incorporated into Australian law.

The Court also said that where a decision maker intends to act inconsistently with a treaty, procedural fairness required that the person affected by the decision be given notice and an adequate opportunity to put arguments on the point.

If not, the decision could be set aside on the grounds of unfairness.

The High Court made it clear that such an expectation cannot arise where there is either a statutory or executive indication to the contrary.

The High Court's decision gave treaties an effect in Australian law which they did not previously have.

The Government is firmly of the view that this development is not consistent with the proper role of Parliament in implementing treaties in Australian law.

It is a long standing principle that the provisions of a treaty to which Australia is a party do not form part of Australian law unless those provisions have been validly incorporated.

Under the Australian Constitution, the Executive Government has the power to make Australia a party to a treaty.

It is for Australian Parliaments, however, to change Australian law to implement treaty obligations.

For these reasons, on 25 February 1997, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General made a joint statement which set aside legitimate expectations arising out of entry into treaties.

This was a clear expression by the Executive Government of the Commonwealth of a contrary intention referred to by the majority of the High Court in the Teoh case.

The joint statement of 25 February 1997 replaced a joint statement which was made by the previous Government on 10 May 1995.

However, the 10 May 1995 joint statement continues to apply to decisions made between the date of that statement and 25 February 1997.

At that time, we also announced that legislation would be introduced into the Parliament to displace the legitimate expectation in administrative law which would otherwise arise out of the entry into treaties.

The Administrative Decisions (Effect of International Instruments) Bill 1997 fulfilled that undertaking and passed the House of Representatives on 26 June 1997.

It was introduced into the Senate on 27 June 1997.

The 1997 Bill was not debated by the Senate prior to the proroguing of Parliament before the 1998 election and it lapsed with the calling of the election.

The text of the present Bill is identical to the 1997 Bill.

It is a clear statutory indication to the contrary as discussed by the High Court in the Teoh case.

It gives this Parliament a role in restoring the effect of treaties in Australian law to that which they had prior to the High Court's decision in the Teoh case.

In passing this legislation, the Parliament will also be reasserting its proper role in changing Australian law to implement treaties.

Indeed, the Bill complements the treaty reforms this Government initiated on coming into office.

One of the principal aims of those reforms was to enhance the role of Parliament in scrutinising treaty action by the Executive Government.

Those reforms included: the tabling of treaties in Parliament prior to the Government taking action to fully become a party to a treaty; the preparation and tabling of National Interest Analyses for each treaty to which it is proposed Australia become a party; and the establishment of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties to examine treaties.

These measures, giving the Parliament a proper role in the treaty-making process, could have been introduced by the previous Government.

However, it was too intent on keeping Parliament in the dark about treaties.

This veil of secrecy now has been lifted.

I turn now to the terms of the Bill itself.

The Bill will restore the situation which existed before the Teoh case.

That is, if there are to be changes to procedural or substantive rights in Australian law resulting from adherence to a treaty, they will result from Parliamentary and not Executive action.

Indeed, this proper role of Commonwealth, State and Territory legislatures is emphasised in the fifth paragraph of the Preamble to the Bill.

Clause 5 of the Bill gives effect to the statement by the majority of the High Court that a legitimate expectation arising out of entry into a treaty by Australia can be displaced by executive or legislative action.

Clause 5 provides that no legitimate expectation providing a basis at law for challenging an administrative decision can arise out of the fact that Australia is bound by an international instrument or the fact that an enactment reproduces or refers to such an instrument.

The term `international instrument' is defined in clause 4 and covers, amongst other types of instruments, treaties and conventions.

To fall within the definition, the instrument must be binding at international law.

The definition also covers parts of such instruments.

The terms `administrative decision' and `enactment' are also defined in clause 4.

The Act will apply to administrative decisions made after it enters into force.

However, the term `administrative decision' extends to an administrative decision reviewing, or determining an appeal in respect of, a decision made before the commencement of the legislation.

The 25 February 1997 Joint Statement will continue to apply to decisions made between 25 February 1997 and the date of entry into force of this Bill.

It is unclear from the decision of the High Court in Teoh's case whether State and Territory administrative decisions may be the subject of legitimate expectations arising out of treaties.

This uncertainty could not be allowed to remain.

Therefore, the Bill is expressed to extend to State and Territory decisions.

Since ratification of a treaty is a Commonwealth executive action, it is entirely appropriate for the Commonwealth to legislate to control the effect of that action in Australian domestic law generally.

The States and Territories support Commonwealth legislation on this issue.

However, they differ in their views on whether the Commonwealth legislation should be applied to State and Territory decisions.

Therefore, clause 6 of the Bill contains a `roll-back' provision.

This excludes the operation of the Bill in relation to State or Territory administrative decisions where the relevant State or Territory legislature passes, or has passed, legislation having the same or similar effect as this Bill.

This means that it will be open to a State or Territory to have its own legislation of similar effect.

South Australia enacted such legislation in 1995.

Therefore, the Bill will have no application to State administrative decisions in South Australia.

Nor does the Bill prevent any State which wishes to do so from passing a law or taking its own executive actions in relation to treaties accepted by Australia which might themselves create a legitimate expectation.

In that case, the legitimate expectation would flow from State law, and not the Commonwealth executive act of ratification.

Clause 7 puts it beyond doubt that Parliament is not affecting the way in which treaties may otherwise have relevance in Australian law.

Let me mention a number of existing uses covered by clause 7.

The Bill will not affect the operation of treaty provisions which have been incorporated into Australian law.

For example, it does not affect the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which are given the force of law by the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act 1967.

Secondly, the Bill will not affect the operation of an Act which provides for the redress of grievances in respect of alleged breaches of international instruments to which Australia is a party.

For example, the Bill does not affect the operation of procedures available under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986.

Thirdly, the Bill does not affect the operation of legislation which provides that compliance with an international instrument is a relevant consideration in making an administrative decision.

For example, under the Air Navigation Regulations, compliance with Australia's bilateral air services agreements is a relevant consideration in making various decisions.

Fourthly, the Bill does not make compliance with an international instrument an irrelevant consideration in making an administrative decision where that would otherwise be consistent with the scope and object of the particular statutory provision.

Fifthly, the Bill will not affect the use by courts of international law in the form of treaties in the interpretation of statutes.

Finally, it will not affect their use of international law as a source of guidance for the development of the common law.

This use of treaties as one source for the development of the common law is to be distinguished from the High Court's finding that treaties gave rise to legitimate expectations in administrative law.

It is the legitimate expectation aspect of the Teoh decision with which this Government and the previous Government disagreed.

That is the aspect addressed by this Bill.

I note that the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee reported on the 1997 Bill.

While the majority recommended that the Bill be passed as introduced, the reports of the minority, including Opposition Senators, opposed the Bill.

This change of position on the part of the Opposition is monumental.

When the 1997 Bill came before the House of Representatives it was supported by the Opposition.

Furthermore, the strength of feeling which the Opposition, when in Government, demonstrated on this issue was no more evident than in the speech given by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and former Member for Holt to the Mason and Beyond Conference in September 1995.

He stated:

`My lack of enthusiasm for Teoh is not especially a function of my lack of appreciation of how it has narrowed the gap between international and domestic law: rather it is a function of my belief that Teoh creates a decision-making environment that is unworkable in practice, and that it goes further than the court was compelled to go by any legal principle, or should have gone, in upsetting the present balance between Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The pre-Teoh balance was a delicate one, to be sure, but nonetheless one perfectly attractive in theory and workable in practice'.

There can be no doubt those words are his own.

They encapsulate the reasons why this legislation is necessary in order to restore the proper role of this Parliament in the implementation of treaties.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

PRIMARY INDUSTRIES (EXCISE) LEVIES AMENDMENT BILL 2000

The purpose of this Bill is to remove a sunset clause (that is, clause 7) from Schedule 18 to the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Act 1999.

The sunset clause of Schedule 18 to the Act provides that Schedule 18 to the Act ceases to be in force at the end of 30 June 2000.

Schedule 18 to the Act provides for the imposition of levy on transactions involving sheep, lambs and goats. The levy raises around $16 million per annum. Those funds are paid into consolidated revenue and then disbursed to a number of purposes for the benefit of the sheep, lamb and goat industries. Those purposes are marketing, research and development, and animal health.

Without an amendment to or a repeal of the sunset clause, there will be no statutory basis, after the end of 30 June 2000, by which levies can be raised for the above purposes.

Shortly after the levy became effective on 1 July 1998, the then Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, the Hon John Anderson MP, wrote to the Sheepmeat Council of Australia advising that he required the Council to initiate a review of the transaction levy mechanism and provide an agreed industry recommendation on the most appropriate mechanism to apply from 1 July 2000.

The Sheepmeat Council after extensive consultation has provided Government with a report, recommending that no change be made to the current levy regime and that these arrangements continue beyond the end of 30 June 2000. Accordingly, to give effect to industry's recommendation, there is a need to repeal the sunset clause.

The inclusion of the sunset clause came about as a consequence of a Report dated 25 November 1997 by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee on the Live-stock Transaction Levy Bill 1997. That Committee, in its Report, found amongst other things that there was considerable division of opinion on the scheme of the transaction levies proposed by the Live-stock Transaction Levy Bill 1997, particularly between producers in the sheepmeat industries and those in the wool-producing industries. The Livestock Transactions Levy Bill 1997 was amended to introduce the sunset clause in order to prompt a review.

(The Livestock Transaction Levy Act 1997 was repealed by the Primary Industries Levies and Charges (Consequential Amendments) Act 1999 but replaced, in effect, by Schedule 18 to the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Act 1999 as part of a wider portfolio levies and charges legislation rationalisation exercise.)

Whilst the divisions referred to in the above Senate Report may still be in existence, it appears that the issues have been comprehensively addressed in the Sheepmeat Council's Report. A proposal for a levy rebate for lambs used for wool production was considered and found to be impractical under Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry-Australia's Levies Management Unit's levies collection legislation. It would weaken compliance, complicate the audit process and significantly increase administration costs.

In any event, there was no evidence of opposition from the peak wool growing organisation, the Wool Council of Australia, who chose not to make submission to the Sheepmeat Council Review of the levy arrangements.

Further, wool producers receive the benefit of the levy relief arrangements that are in place from 1 September 1999 until 31 August 2001. The levy relief arrangement reducing the levy from 2% to 1% on lamb sales was introduced by the Government in response to the tariff rate quota regime imposed by the United States government commencing on 22 July 1999.

The repeal of the sunset clause will allow the continuation of the levy mechanisms in accordance with the wishes of industry.

PETROLEUM EXCISE AMENDMENT (MEASURES TO ADDRESS EVASION) BILL 2000

The amendments proposed in this Bill improve the government's ability to address excise evasion occurring through fuel substitution.

This Bill facilitates prosecutions for fuel substitution offences by removing some technical difficulties with the legislation and allowing use of evidentiary certificates in prosecutions.

This Bill also ensures that a broader range of imported products that can be used in fuel substitution activities, such as imported chemical grade toluene, are covered by this legislation. The record keeping provisions of the fuel substitution legislation are also extended to cover these products.

Special provisions in the Excise Act 1901 allow changes to the excise tariff to be made by gazetting a proposal or tabling a proposal in parliament.

Over time specific tariff items have been included in a variety of legislation. These references restrict the government's ability to quickly amend the tariff by gazettal or proposal.

As some forms of excise evasion through fuel substitution occur when parties systematically exploit weaknesses in the excise tariff structure any restriction in the government's ability to quickly amend the tariff is a restriction on the government's ability to quickly address fuel substitution.

This Bill removes those specific tariff items and replaces them with generic descriptions.

These changes do not affect the way excise is levied or impose an additional excise liability - they simply give back to the government the power to quickly amend the tariff to protect the revenue.

Full details of the measures in this Bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

I commend the Bill.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT (FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE) AMENDMENT BILL 2000

The Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 is the basis upon which Commonwealth financial assistance is provided to local government through the States and Territories. This financial assistance has two components:

general purpose funding (section 9 payments); and

local roads funding (section 12 payments).

Under this Act local government is estimated to be entitled to around $1.32 billion in financial assistance grants for 2000-01. Each year, the Treasurer determines the escalation of local government assistance by having regard to movements in the level of the financial assistance grants and special revenue assistance paid to the States.

Under the Government's revised tax reform package, the Commonwealth retains responsibility for providing financial assistance grants to local government. It is necessary to amend the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 to remove the nexus with States' financial assistance grants, as these will be abolished from 1 July 2000 as a result of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Reform of Commonwealth-State Financial Relations (the Agreement). A key feature of the Agreement is the payment of all GST revenue to the States.

The amendment allows local government financial assistance grants to be maintained on a real per capita basis.

The matters to which the Treasurer must currently have regard in making an adjustment to the escalation factor will be nullified by the reforms to Commonwealth-State financial relations and are therefore deleted. This will leave a general discretion as in the present Act. However, under the amendments, the discretion can be used only if the Treasurer considers there are special circumstance to make the adjustment. In making a decision to adjust the factor, the matters the Treasurer is to have regard to are the objects of the Act, set out in section 3, and any other matters he thinks relevant.

Under clause 17 of the Agreement, the States and Territories agreed, inter alia, that local government would operate as if it were subject to the GST legislation.

As undertaken in clause 18 of the Agreement, the Commonwealth is legislating to require the States and the Northern Territory to withhold from the financial assistance grants, for any local government authority in breach of clause 17 of the Agreement, a sum representing the amount of any unpaid voluntary or notional GST payments. Amounts withheld by the States and the Northern Territory are to be paid to the Commonwealth.

The amendment Bill will also clarify the roles of the Minister and Statistician relating to calculation of projected population figures used in estimating State entitlements. The Statistician will prepare the estimates on the basis of assumptions specified by the Minister, after consulting the Statistician. The Statistician requested this amendment.

WORKPLACE RELATIONS AMENDMENT BILL 2000

An enduring characteristic of the Howard Coalition government has been our commitment to policy-making in the national interest.

Our workplace relations policies are designed to benefit both the national interest and our workplaces as a whole, not narrow sectional interests.

We are transforming what was for decades a centrally controlled industrial relations system into one where outcomes are put above process, where co-operation substitutes for backroom deals, and where agreements between employers and employees at the workplace level have primacy over the intervention of third parties.

Two broad goals underpin these reforms.

The first is to ensure that Australia has a workplace relations system that sustains and enhances our living standards, our jobs, our productivity and our international competitiveness.

The second is to promote a more inclusive and co-operative workplace system, one that accepts the realities of a diverse, mobile and skilled labour force - where most employers and employees are capable of making agreements on wages, conditions, and work and family responsibilities subject to a safety net of minimum standards.

Achieving these goals has required structural reform to the system.

As the recent Budget papers noted, international authorities have recently concluded that “structural reforms have raised Australia's sustainable productivity growth, thereby enhancing the growth potential of the economy”.

The result has been lower unemployment and jobs growth, with 699,600 new jobs created in workplaces since March 1996 and an unemployment rate today of 6.8% - and the flow-on benefits to families from those new jobs.

One of the structural reforms that has underpinned these outcomes is the system of genuine workplace or enterprise bargaining.

The overwhelming majority of Australian employees in the workplace relations system are now employed under enterprise or workplace agreements - whether collective or individual, whether under federal or state laws.

This system of enterprise bargaining has produced mutual benefits for workers, employers and the national interest, on almost every criterion - better wages, relevant conditions, higher productivity, more jobs, increased competitiveness, greater workplace participation and lower dispute levels. It has been consistent with the economic and social goals already mentioned.

Significantly, its outcomes have been far superior to those of the centrally controlled system that preceded it.

Evidence that enterprise bargaining is central to the national interest lies in the fact that it has, since the early 1990's, and until recently, been a policy attracting bipartisan political and industrial support at federal and state levels in every Australian jurisdiction.

In fact it was the Keating Labor government and the ACTU that both adopted it as policy in their Accord Mark VI in 1990, and pursued it vigorously in industrial tribunals, legislatively and publicly.

For all of the deficiencies of the Keating Labor government, for all of the inadequacies of the bargaining model implemented at that time, Labor knew what we all know - that the enterprise bargaining system was a structural reform in the national interest.

Its importance is underscored in the Budget papers which state the position clearly. “The strongest productivity growth in the private sector has also been in those industries dominated by enterprise bargaining - mining, finance and insurance and manufacturing” (Budget Strategy and Outlook 2000-1 Budget Paper No. 1).

Yet the enterprise bargaining system is today under serious threat, politically and industrially. The ACTU leadership and certain unions have opportunistically turned their face against it by supporting a return to industry wide pattern bargaining.

Enterprise bargaining is the system where wages and conditions are determined by genuine negotiation at each enterprise through workplace participation by management, the workforce and their representatives, with outcomes based on local circumstances and mutual interests.

Pattern bargaining on the other hand is the practice whereby unions demand common outcomes in respect of terms and conditions of employment across a swathe of employers or an industry in lieu of genuine enterprise bargaining, and then use the statutory protected action provisions to legitimise industrial action in pursuit of such claims.

Pattern bargaining is designed to undermine Australia's successful enterprise bargaining system and return workplace relations outcomes to a centrally controlled one-size-fits-all approach.

This is currently the case in one of Australia's major industry sectors - the manufacturing industry - an industry where business welfare and an employee's job security is closely allied to international competitiveness and productivity growth.

Pattern bargaining is a manipulation of the legislative right to enterprise bargaining provided for by the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (the Act) and by the previous Labor government's industrial legislation. Under pattern bargaining, union officials making backroom deals assume control over multiple outcomes, not by participative workplace negotiation involving local circumstances and those who have most at stake - employers and employees.

This Bill is essential to maintain the integrity of the enterprise bargaining system in Australia, and its mutually beneficial outcomes.

The Coalition indicated in our 1998 workplace relations policy that we would improve the legislative framework to distinguish between protected action in pursuit of genuine bargaining, and illegitimate bargaining and related industrial action.

We are now acting on that undertaking.

Employers and employees have clearly embraced enterprise bargaining in the past decade. More than 17,000 collective agreements have been formalised under the federal system alone, with thousands more under State bargaining systems, as well as individual workplace agreements under federal and some State laws. More than 80% of all federal award employees are covered by enterprise bargaining agreements. Agreements made directly between employers and their employees, with limited third party involvement, are becoming increasingly used as a vehicle for better wages and flexible and innovative employment conditions and work practices.

Threats to enterprise agreements are not confined to the manufacturing industry. Manipulation of the legislative bargaining regime, if not contained, is capable of flowing onto other industry sectors where like minded union officials seek to dictate wage and condition outcomes. The manufacturing industry campaign, which is already underway and escalating in Victoria from 1st July presents a serious threat to the workplace relations system.

Such an outcome would compromise many of the gains made in that and other sectors since the introduction of enterprise bargaining nearly a decade ago. It would not be in the national interest.

This is a matter that calls for immediate remedial legislation.

The provisions contained in this Bill will:

Qualify access to the right to take protected industrial action so that where, on application by a negotiating party, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission finds that a party is engaging in pattern bargaining (as defined) it must terminate the bargaining period, rendering industrial action unprotected at law;

enhance the effectiveness of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission's power to issue orders that unlawful industrial action cease or not occur;

give the Australian Industrial Relations Commission a power to order cooling-off periods in respect of protected industrial action where this will assist the resolution of matters in dispute;

protect existing rights to pursue common law remedies in response to unlawful industrial action in Supreme Courts without additional litigation in the form of anti-suit injunctions being sought from or issued by the Federal Court; and

make other minor or technical amendments necessary for the effective operation of the industrial action and compliance provisions of the Act.

It is important to note that these substantive amendments in the Bill relating to pattern bargaining, cooling off periods and unprotected industrial action provide an important determinative role for the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, as the independent arbiter on disputed maters. In this way, the Bill recognises a proper and enhanced jurisdiction for the Commission, in addition to its existing functions.

Orders relating to unprotected industrial action

The present section 127 of the Act was introduced to provide a timely remedy for parties affected by unprotected industrial action. This section empowers the Commission to issue orders to stop or prevent industrial action. Whilst section 127 has generally proved to be an effective mechanism, delays in the making or enforcement of section 127 orders have in some cases had the negative consequence of extending the period during which businesses are exposed to unprotected industrial action.

The proposed amendments are designed to overcome these problems by amending the processes by which such orders are made. The new provisions will require the Commission to deal with section 127 applications within 48 hours of their lodgement, including the determination of whether the industrial action is or is not protected action.

If the application is unable to be determined within the 48 hours, the Commission is required to issue an interim order to stop or prevent the industrial action, unless to do so would be contrary to the public interest.

Industrial action and pattern bargaining

The definition of pattern bargaining in the Bill means that pattern bargaining is a course of conduct, bargaining or the making of claims in a campaign or part of a campaign that involves seeking common outcomes in respect of wages or other employment conditions. The Commission must be satisfied that two elements exist:

the conduct, bargaining or making of claims is part of a campaign that extends beyond a single business; and

the conduct, bargaining or making of claims is contrary to the objective of encouraging genuine enterprise or workplace agreement making.

A course of conduct or bargaining by an association of employees that extends beyond a single business is taken to be contrary to the objective of genuine enterprise bargaining unless the Commission is satisfied that all of the common elements sought are of such a nature that they are not capable of being pursued at the single business level.

An organisation of employees would not be considered to be engaged in pattern bargaining merely because it is seeking terms and conditions of employment which would give effect to a Full Bench decision establishing national standards.

This approach will ensure that bargaining, and in particular protected industrial action taken in support of bargaining, is focussed on mutually beneficial outcomes at the enterprise level.

Limiting protected industrial action to persons directly involved

Arising from the operation of the existing Act, the Government's attention has been drawn to circumstances where unions have sought to involve all their members who are employed by an employer negotiating an agreement in taking protected action irrespective of whether the employee would be subject to the proposed agreement. This is not the intention of the 1996 Act.

The Bill proposes amendments that would ensure that protected action during negotiations for a certified agreement are only available to those to whom the proposed agreement will apply.

In practice, the effect of these proposed changes will be that industrial action will not have immunity if it is taken in concert with any person or organisation of employees that is not protected in respect of industrial action being taken.

Court to determine if action is protected action

The proposed provisions would expressly confer jurisdiction on the Federal Court to determine whether industrial action is protected, and, if so, whether the industrial action is covered by the immunity provided by the Act.

Although the Federal Court already has such jurisdiction, questions have arisen in the operation of the Act as to whether its jurisdiction is exclusive of the jurisdiction of State or Territory Courts. The proposed amendments will clarify that the Federal Court's jurisdiction in respect of these matters is not exclusive.

In addition, proposed provisions will protect existing rights to pursue common law remedies in response to unlawful industrial action in Supreme Courts without additional litigation in the form of anti-suit injunctions being sought from or issued by the Federal Court.

Power to order cooling-off periods

Under the existing statutory scheme, the Commission has used existing provisions to order a form of cooling-off period to provide a circuit breaker during particularly difficult bargaining disputes. Such decisions have been made in the best interests of the parties and should be given specific statutory recognition.

The Bill does that.

Under the proposed amendments the Commission would suspend a bargaining period for a specified period, on request of one of the negotiating parties, if it were satisfied that the suspension would assist parties to resolve their differences, provided that the suspension would not be contrary to the public interest. Industrial action taken in relation to a proposed agreement while the bargaining period is suspended would not be protected action.

This Bill is necessary to ensure that the legislative framework relating to enterprise bargaining and industrial action is properly meeting its intended objectives. Without this remedial legislation, the checks and balances in the system which regulate the rights and responsibilities of employers, employees, unions and employer associations will be undermined by illegitimate bargaining and immunity for illegitimate industrial action.

That cannot and should not be allowed to occur. The national interest, as well as the mutually beneficial outcomes that the enterprise bargaining system is providing Australian workplaces must remain paramount.

In introducing this Bill it is appropriate to note the persuasive evidence and submissions made by the Australian Industry Group and its members to the Senate Employment, Workplace Relations, Small Business and Education Legislation Committee last September. In conjunction with other business organisations, the Ai Group has clearly identified the need for this remedial legislative action in order to maintain the proper conduct of workplace relations in the manufacturing sector. I am therefore hopeful that this legislation will be in place by 1st July 2000.

Before concluding, I should also acknowledge the constructive discussions the government has had with the Australian Democrats on this issue. In their minority Senate report last November, the Democrats indicated that government proposals at that time were deficient, but that the matter justified further consideration. This Bill reflects a range of revised government proposals. Those revisions, whilst still addressing the problem of pattern bargaining and associated industrial action, take into account more fully both evidence given to the 1999 Senate committee, as well as the policy thrust of the Australian Democrats - particularly their concern for a proper role for the Commission in these matters.

Debate (on motion by Senator Quirke) adjourned.

Ordered that bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.