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Wednesday, 16 October 2002
Page: 5336


Senator SHERRY (6:38 PM) —Since the issue we are discussing— proposed section 20(1B)—was suggested and drafted by the Labor Party perhaps I could indicate the opposition's point of view. I have talked about this issue in some detail not just with the adviser to the shadow minister who is in the other place but also with the ACTU. We are advised and they are confident that proposed section 20(1B) would meet the intentions of, certainly, the Labor Party and the trade union movement. We are confident that proposed section 20(1B), which is the new test to apply to 20(1)(b), would have the desired objective and that, given the facts in that case, Suncorp Metway would not pass the new test in proposed section 20(1B). We do not believe that it would in any reasonable interpretation by a commissioner examining the facts of the case before them.

The other point I would make about this matter is that we do have some guidance in the decision by former Vice-President McIntyre, albeit that the case was determined on a totally different point: shareholding. We do have some guidance as to the intention of parliament in the second reading speech given by the minister in the other place. I am not sure who gave the second reading speech in this place—whether it was Senator Alston or some other minister—but we do have some guidance in that area. We are as confident as we could reasonably be that proposed section 20(1B) would meet the desired goal. Certainly from a Labor Party point of view and from the ACTU's point of view it is reasonably worded. To tighten it up any more would get us into the difficult areas that we discussed previously—the whiteboards, the tea and the bikkies, the coffee and those sorts of things. There has to be some level of discretion on the facts presented before the independent commission and the commissioner who is hearing the matter. For that reason, the Labor Party is satisfied and happy with the legislation and we will be supporting it. I must say it is particularly rare that Senator Alston and I do agree—on these issues anyway.


Senator Alston —It is a historic moment, Nick.


Senator SHERRY —Yes, it is a very historic moment. From the Labor Party's point of view we are certainly more than satisfied with the provision that we are considering.