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Tuesday, 8 May 1973
Page: 1806


Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - I think honourable members will appreciate that the measure before the House is in a sense incoherent because it reflects the divided personality and purposes of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). From his own personal experiences the Minister has come to hate his own union and to be in opposition to it. Yet as a member of the Australian Labor Party he is perennially dedicated to the proposition that the unions are above the law and that the unions should make the law. Because he has these divided purposes the present measure is in a sense incoherent. On the one hand the power of shop stewards is to be exalted and this will make for disruption in a sense directed against the central powers of their own unions. On the other hand, the unions as a whole are to be put above the law and are to be made free of any responsibility for what they do. This division of purposes probably illustrates the influences of people in the unions who are out not to help the members of their own unions but to cause disruption as a settled policy. We have heard of the law of the jungle but this is the first occasion on which I can recall the Parliament being asked to license tigers.

The unions under our present system, and even more so under the proposals before us, have become law making bodies. In a sense, as I have said, they are law making because they are above the law. Too often a union is able to impose a sanction on its own members. The impression has gained currency too often in the community that union law is in some way superior to the law of the Australian nation. This is one of the most dangerous delusions that we could possibly entertain.

A proper Bill should have 2 purposes. The first purpose should be to protect individual members of trade unions against terror and victimisation by some kind of kangaroo court in their own unions. Any parliament should have the desire to protect members of trade unions against that kind of tyranny and abuse. The second purpose - and some people would think it a greater purpose - should be to preserve industrial peace in the community. I believe that many trade unionists have now become thoroughly sick of being called out on senseless strikes over trivial matters and have become even more disgusted at being called out on strikes which are not senseless but are evil in regard to political rather than industrial matters with which they have little concern. In point of fact, they may disapprove of the announced political actions of their own unions. I believe that we have to try to protect not only the whole community but also members of trade unions against that kind of abuse of power. If we are seeking a rise in living standards in the community - and surely we all want that and surely we all want to pay the highest possible wages consonant with avoiding inflation - that can come about only through increasing productivity.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order!The time allotted for the second reading stage has expired.

Question put:

That the Bill be now read a second time.







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