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Wednesday, 3 November 1976

Mr WILLIS (Gellibrand) - I wish to address myself particularly to proposed new clause 6 which seeks to amend section 171D of the principal Act. This is complicated legislation. I must again register my very strong protest about this kind of amendment being thrown into the House with the Opposition having practically no time to look at it, to investigate it and to understand its full ramifications. It is a disgraceful way we manage business in this House. But we have found out enough about the legislation to know why it is being introduced in this fashion. The Government is probably very ashamed to let the full story come out. Section 1 7 Id which the proposed new clause 6 amends is part of the so-called Sweeney legislation which was introduced by the Labor Government in 1974 to implement the findings of the inquiry into co-ordinating industrial organisations. In effect it was to try to redress problems arising from the case of Moore v. Doyle.

Section 171D provides for a scheme of reconstitution of a union in the event of the Court's finding that an invalidity exists. The Court can order new elections to be held and it can decide what form those elections for officials can take. It can provide, as the law currently stands, that in reconstituting a branch which is found to be invalid, elections for officials may be conducted via a collegiate system or a rank and file ballot. That is how the legislation stands now, it is as it was implemented by the Labor Government following the recommendations of the royal commission in 1974. This amendment will change that situation. It will limit the choice available to the Industrial Court. In reconstituting a union the court no longer will be able to change the form of election of union officials from what it was in the rules of the organisation before the invalidities were found to exist. In other words, if the rules of the organisation previously provided for a collegiate system of voting the court cannot order that the new system be by rank and file ballot in reconstituting the branch or the organisation as a whole.

This matter has very substantial significance particularly as the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) said at the end of his speech to introduce this amendment that it will apply to proceedings even though they may have begun before this amendment was passed through this Parliament. There is a case now before the Industrial Court which this legislation will directly affect. It is the case of Egan v. Harradine and involves the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association. Various members of Parliament probably are aware of this case. There has been a lot of publicity about it in the newspapers. I think all of us have been circulated with information about it from both sides in the dispute. The matter has been going on for some time. In December 1975 the Industrial Court called upon the parties in that case to bring forward schemes for the reconstitution of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association in accordance with section 17 ID of the Act but the national president, Mr Maher, challenged the constitutional validity of that section in the High Court. Because of the High Court action the schemes for reconstitution were not brought forward.

It is important to note that the High Court upheld the validity of section 171D so what the Government is now doing is to alter something which was the product of a royal commission and which was upheld by the High Court. The High Court having upheld the constitutional validity of that section the Industrial Court could now order elections of whatever type it thought appropriate if it so decided.

In regard to the scheme for reconstitution, it was envisaged that both sides in the faction fight would bring forward a scheme for consideration by the Industrial Court. In the light of statements by one of the people involved, Mr Egan, it was thought probable that he would include a proposal for a rank and file ballot for national officers. Under this amendment he could not do this because the rules of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association in force, or purporting to be in force, currently provide for collegiate elections. Therefore in this long portracted case of Egan v. Harradine this legislation is specifically relevant. It certainly will disadvantage Mr Egan and his opponent, Mr Maher, who has opposed the rank and file ballot system will be considerably advantaged.

I suggest that this is no accident. I suggest that this amendment is like one of the previous amendments; it has been introduced with at least a large eye on what is happening in an important union in this country. The ultra right wing control of that union is under strong challenge and this Government is acting deliberately to change the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in such a way as to protect the ultra right wing controlling faction in that union- in either the Federated Clerks Union in the first case I mentioned earlier or the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association in this case. I suggest that this is a pretty shameful episode. I suggest it shows that the National Civic Council has considerable influence in the Liberal Party these days, something which I think would not be of great solace to many people in the Liberal Party. Indeed, honourable members sitting on the Government side now and others who are not present at the moment would be rather worried about what is happening. I am sure that they have not really been fully apprised of what is involved in this legislation. It was thrown into the House with practically no warning. So far as I am aware, a lot of Government supporters have no idea of what is involved. I am sure they do not know what is involved. We have been given the minimal amount of time to understand it. The Government has tried to sneak it through the

House as quickly as possible because it is embarrassed about it. If it is not embarrassed about it it ought to be because this represents a very shameful episode in the history of this Parliament.

Mr Young - Mr Chairman-

Mr Kelly - Not again.

Mr Young - Well, Bert, we have to put up with you a lot and I suggest that on a subject that you know nothing about-

The CHAIRMAN - Order! I call the honourable member for Port Adelaide.

Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:

That the question be now put.

Mr Young - Here we go again.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! What the honourable member for Port Adelaide said prior to my calling him had no relevance to the subject under discussion. The question now is: 'That the question be now put'.


Question resolved in the affirmative.

Original question put:

That the new clauses proposed to be inserted (Mr Howard's amendment) be inserted.

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