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Tuesday, 22 February 1977
Page: 292

Mr SHIPTON (Higgins) -At the outset I congratulate the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) for his approach to this legislation. I am terribly disappointed to hear the whingeing comments of the honourable members for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) that they do not have the opportunity to debate this issue properly because further amendments are not before the House. The Minister has been most responsible. He has encouraged debate, public interest and public submissions in this legislation. I would have thought that rather than being criticised the Minister ought to be congratulated for his approach. More thought should be given to legislation in this House. I would have thought honourable members opposite would agree with that.

One of the provisions in this Bill for the first time brings within the ambit of the trade practices legislation some of the restrictive practices of employees and trade unionists. Businesses will have redress against employees' secondary boycotts similar to the redress they already have against boycotts by other companies. I applaud this move. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in his second reading speech said the Government is giving consideration to keeping this in the Bill when it becomes an Act. I support that stand. The people of Australia will applaud this move to have restrictive practices of unions come within the Trade Practices Act. I support it, as I do the proposal by the Government to institute and establish an industrial relations bureau. I believe that Australians are sick and tired of the restrictive practices of trade unions. I believe in trade unions and support their behaviour if it is responsible.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - Obviously.

Mr SHIPTON - I ask the honourable member to listen. I will quote to him a leading socialist, the editor of the New Statesman magazine in Britain. He pointed out, not me, that the union was an economic function of the capitalist system. I support that. It is true that unions grew up within the capitalist system, admittedly and properly, to counter abuses in the capitalist system as a defence mechanism, but they have gone far too far. I direct the attention of the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) to some of Paul Johnson's comments on unionism. He said:

The unions have refused to recognise the limits of their historical role.

What has happened is that unions have entered the field of endeavour for which parliamentarians should properly be responsible. They have gone beyond the cause of their existence. For the honourable member for Port Adelaide to say that the Government will confront the unions and that we are on a collision course and for the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to say last week that he would refer such matters as the measures in this Bill and the measures concerning the industrial relations bureau to the International Labour Organisation is a load of rubbish. I agree, as I imagine everybody else in this House agrees, with article 23 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. I support that. To say that this legislation is offensive to International Labour Organisation rules and conditions is mere humbug.

I am absolutely sure that I will be accused of union bashing. When honourable members on the Government side tell the truth about the excesses of the trade unionism they are accused of union bashing. When Sir John Egerton and Senator Harradine speak they are called scabs. Let us look at the truth of the matter. In relation to introducing secret ballots for the election of union officials, Sir John Egerton says that it is no good having a secret ballot because Mr

Halfpenny, on the one hand, makes sure that all union officials on his committees are his friends and they make sure that the shop stewards and people on the shop floor are his friends also. The people of Australia can listen to what Sir John Egerton says because they know what he says is true and they respect him for that.

Let us look at what the people of Australia think about the excesses of union activities. In January 1977 an Age poll showed that 65 per cent of voters thought trade unions should not involve themselves in issues other than members' wages and conditions. A gallup poll in December 1976 showed that 80 per cent of Australians thought unions should not be entitled to strike or impose bans on political and social issues as distinct from industrial issues. That is what the gallup poll found that time and that is what the people think. For honourable members opposite to say that the people do not want the trade practices of the unions to be under control shows that they are the prisoners of the trade union movement- I will tell the House about that shortly.

The rule of law in this country has to be paramount. All of us are subject to the rules of law except the trade union movement. If I speed in my car on the way home I am subject to arrest and prosecution for speeding. In the area of industrial law- the honourable member for Burke knows this as well as anybody else- there has been anarchy because there are no sanctions that are enforced. I admit that the abuses of the private enterprise system have to be curtailed. The abuses can be on the one hand the abuses of management, of corporations and of industry, but society has to be protected against the abuses, on the other hand, of monopoly power as carried on by trade unions. It is our job in this Parliament to protect the public interest, to maintain that fine balance. That is what this legislation sets out to do. The rule of law must be paramount. Domination by either capital or labour cannot be permitted. In this legislation the Parliament is starting to protect the public interest. I was interested in what the honourable member for Port Adelaide said. He said the whole purpose of the Act was to protect the Australian consumer. All people are consumers whether they belong to trade unions or not. Members of the Australian public, as they are consumers, are sick and tired of being attacked by the excesses of the trade union movement. The arbitration system is under threat in this country because wage demands enforced by the strike weapon have fuelled the fires of inflation.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - You are still in the 1 7th century.

Mr SHIPTON -I tell the honourable member for Burke and others, if they can be bothered listening to the truth, that the rapacious wage demands, admittedly aided and abetted by the perhaps iniquitous tax scale that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has promised to do something about when economic circumstances permit, have in fact fuelled the fires of inflation. I received criticism on this a second ago. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has admitted:

Excessive union wage demands have caused Australia's unemployment and inflation crisis.

This Act must protect the consumer against the unlawful activities of business and the unlawful activities of unions. I have no doubt that excesses of union power have caused much of the current inflation. As Paul Johnson, the socialist author, points out, each union becomes an opponent of the other. As one union sees another union's wage demands acceded to it makes claims and they further fuel the fire. I say to the honourable member for Burke- I ask him to agree with the truth of this- that, in Australia today, many employees are more in bondage than was the serf of mediaeval times because they are the prisoners of the union movement. They are the prisoners of the union officials. All those people who were tested in the gallup poll I mentioned would reflect the views of consumers who are also unionists. They are sick and tired of this bondage. They all do not want to go on strike every time they are asked. They all did not want to strike over the Medibank issue last year. Johnson also points out that the trade union movement is the enemy of the old, the sick and the physically handicapped- those least able to look after themselves. I remind honourable members opposite of that fact.

I would like to cite the renowned jurist Roscoe Pound, a former Dean of Harvard University. In his book Legal Immunities of Labour Unions he says:

Immunities, relieving particular persons or special classes or groups from the duties and liabilities appointed by law for their fellow men, have been regarded from of old as odious.

He points out:

The substantially general privileges and immunities of labor unions and their members and officials to commit wrongs to person and property, to interfere with the use of highways, to break contracts, to deprive individuals of the means of earning a livelihood, to control the activities of the individual workers and their local organisations by national organisations centrally and arbitrarily administered beyond the reach of state laws, and to misuse trust funds-things which no one else can do with impunity.

At this time I also cite a summary of the work of the economist Emerson Schmidt which is in these terms:

Labor unions have created special problems in the government sector. Here the union officials sit, in effect, on both sides of the bargaining table. In many cases they elect, or play a dominant role in electing, top officials in the executive branch-federal, state, and local-as well as in the legislative branch, who then support them in their demands on the public purse.

That comment applies to the United States of America, but the direct analogy applies in this country to the Australian Labor Party which is a prisoner and creature of the trade union movement and which can never get away from it. Occasionally when in government Labor tried, but the union movement put pressures on the leadership and it buckled. What happens here is that they sit on both sides of the fence.

At the weekend the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) adequately dealt with Mr Hawke's complete conflict of interests as President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions on the one hand and Federal President of the Australian Labor Party on the other. There is a conspiracy between the Labor Party and the trade union movement and they can never break away from that. Another eminent economist, Gottfried Harberler, in his book Economic Growth and Stability makes some interesting comments which are most relevant to this legislation. He says:

To begin with, labor unions have acquired over the years, de jure or de facto, numerous important immunities and privileges which go far beyond anything accorded to business or other private associations. ... If unions and their leaders were held financially responsible for damages caused by breach of contracts, illegal strikes, intimidation and violence, considerable moderation in wage bargains could be expected.

This measure is a step towards bringing the excesses of the monopoly of union power under control. I believe that it in itself will help to control inflation because it will lead to moderation in wage demands. I believe that the union structure must properly reflect the wishes of employees rather than the wishes of the bureaucrats in the trade union movement and the union leaders. It must be in touch with what the people on the shop floor want. Today the people on the shop floor know that the trade union movement wields too much economic power. They know that it must be subject to the public interest.

Here in this legislation for the first time we are making the restrictive trade practices of the union movement subject to the same rules of law as those to which industry and business are subject. Why should the excesses of unionism not be subject to the rule of law and the public interest?

Why should they be exempt? This Government is tackling the issue. We have been threatened by the leader of the ACTU and by honourable members opposite that we will be reported to the International Labour Organisation and that there will be a direct confrontation. Any confrontation will be the work of those union officials who want to bring down the private enterprise system, because they must know as all Australians recognise that the vast majority of people in this country want responsible trade unions of course, but that the excesses of unionism must be rejected.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mr SHIPTON -Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had shown how excessive monopoly behaviour of trade unions, like the excesses of monopoly power of the private sector of capital and business, must be subject to the trade practices legislation. Employees boycotts, outlawed in this Bill, have added to the costs in the private sector. They have been inflationary. I welcome the step taken in this legislation. It is proper. It establishes the rule of law. It protects the public interest and it attacks inflation. It protects consumers. Any confrontation by the union movement in respect of this or any other legislation will be of its doing and contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of Australians.

I would like to turn to section 49 of the Actthe price discrimination section- which this legislation proposes to repeal. I was unimpressed by the arguments of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) who spoke for a long time but who- I say with great respectsaid very little. He did admit that to some extent predatory prices were covered elsewhere in the legislation. I believe that the effect of section 49 in the existing Act has been inflationary. It has kept prices up because once a manufacturer had sold to one customer and another customer came along and wanted to buy at a lower price he was unable to do so because of the provisions of this legislation. I accept that people have made submissions to the Government. One does not want to be dogmatic in this area. I suggest that the Minister should look at these submissions and then let us see whether other sections of the Act can be accommodated to meet the perhaps legitimate objections and aspirations of those who are affected.

The price discrimination provisions were put into this Act as a result of the Murphy legislation. I believe that this was done without any examination of its effects on the Australian economy. I believe the trade practices legislation has to reflect the nature and structure of the Australian economy and the repeal of section 49 has to be looked at in that light. We have to remember that we still have section 45 concerning contract arrangements or understandings affecting competition. We still have the monopolisation provisions and we have the exclusive dealing provisions. Listening to Opposition supporters speaking one would think that we seek to repeal the whole of the Act. What the Minister has done here has been to invite inquiry, debate, submissions, further debate here tonight, and further consideration of submissions after the debate. We will get trade practices legislation that hopefully reflects the state of the economy and the aspirations of consumers, and at the same time protects the public interest.

I would like to talk about the merger provisions because they were attacked by the honourable member for Grayndler in his speech tonight but I do not think enough study has been done on these. I believe that they have to be looked at in the light of the Australian economy. If one accepts what the honourable member for Grayndler said one assumes that increased competition in fact encourages lower prices. I am not sure that that is true. I believe that the policies of the Industries Assistance Commission in the past have in fact been to encourage concentration in industry to stop fragmentation so that the costs to the Australian consumer and the Australian economy can be lowered by long production runs.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock -The honourable member's time has expired.

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