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Tuesday, 22 February 1977
Page: 295

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - I am pleased to have the opportunity to follow the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) because it is quite clear from his address to this House this evening that the subject on which he spent most of the time available to him- trade unions- is a subject of which he has abysmal ignorance. He clearly comes from the Establishment. He represents an area that does not support those who believe in trade unions, although there are, of course, people in his electorate who do not vote for him and they are the people who do support the trade unions; they probably comprise the intelligent sector of his electorate. Clearly, from what he told us this evening, he has no knowledge whatsoever as to how a trade union functions. Because he comes from the Establishment he can see things only in the hierarchical structure and it has not yet reached his mentality that the people who take the decisions relating to trade unions are the members. Trade unions are democratic organisations, not like the political party to which the honourable member belongs and not like the other functions with which he associates. There is no direction in trade union movements. The decision is taken by the members of the unions and this is why people do band together: They are not instructed to do things; they come together of their own volition. This is why they take the action they do take, not because the voice comes down from the top.

The honourable member quoted- to use his words, they are not mine-a noted socialist, Paul Johnson. Unfortunately I have not had the time to dig out the statements in which Paul Johnson has union bashed even harder than the honourable member did tonight. Yet the honourable member holds him up as a paragon of the trade union movement throughout the world. Why did the honourable member not quote George Meany and go on from there? He said trade unions were all right. I know what he means. He means the Federated Clerks Union of Australia, the Australian Society of Carpenters and Joiners and all of those unions that are nice and respectable and will not to anything to upset the Establishment.

I want to speak on the same subject in regard to the Bill but before I leave the remarks of the honourable member I think it ought to be said that he spoke about the field of endeavour being exceeded by unions and then he went on to mention the Medibank levy. I do wish that the honourable member would be completely honest with the people of Australia and tell them that in his view, although 2.5 per cent of their income is now taken out of their salaries, this is not affecting their living conditions. I fail to see the logic in his argument. If I were back on the job I would be leading the fight to stop people from levying 2.5 per cent of my pay when the previous Government did not find this to be necessary. Of course it affects my standard of living. Of course it affects my income. The honourable member conceded that unions had a legitimate right to defend the incomes of their members. Then he denies them the right to strike because their salaries are going to be levied to pay for Medibank. Why does he not be logical and honest with us? Why does he not be consistent?

This Bill for an Act relating to trade practices is introduced by the Government in a very curious way, and this has already been raised by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young).

Mr Ruddock -It has nothing to do with conditions of employment. That is specifically excluded under the Act.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -If the honourable member for Parramatta will restrain himself I will come to that point later and explain to himclearly, he has not read section 45 (d) eitherexactly what that section says. It is one to which I am objecting along with a number of others. In his second reading speech on 8 December 1976 the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) said:

In April this year the Government established a committee to review the Trade Practices Act. That committee reported last August and the report was immediately made public. This Bill implements certain recommendations - ' Certain recommendations '- of that committee. It is the intention of the Government that the Bill be exposed at this time to allow detailed examination of its provisions by all interested persons. We invite submissions on any aspect of the Bill.

In concluding his speech the Minister repeated his appeal when he said:

I emphasise that the Government does not intend to rush into amending this technical legislation without adequate consultation with and study by the community.

What an extraordinary way of doing things! One would have thought that the committee's report was a document that deserved and needed public scrutiny. As the Minister concedes, the committee recommended on a number of matters which are not contained in the present Bill and which he did not mention in his speech. He did list some of these things as an example and tell us that they are still under consideration by the Government. If the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) is really seeking a consensus view, it would seem eminently more sensible to me to seek public discussion on the Committee's report or for the Minister to make a statement and invite submissions on that so that the broad principles can be discussed. Otherwise we have a Bill which will be looked at and amended, which means that this Bill will be withdrawn and another one introduced. That seems to be a messy way of doing things. Because of the major surgery being performed oh the Trade Practices Act and the new areas intended to be embraced by the amended Act and the Government's curious handling of the Bill, the dogs in my town are barking that the Government does not intend to pass or proclaim the Bill but is prepared to see it die in the prorogation of the Parliament. Time, of course, will tell whether the dogs in my town are smart. I think I have the smartest dogs in Australia living in my town.

If they are correct, what is the Government trying to do? I believe that the Government is using this Bill as a weapon and that it intends to let the Bill lie upon the table with the threat that if there is any disruption in any area at all, the

Government will pick up the weapon and use it. The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) raised the question of unions being specifically excluded. I guess he is referring to clause 5 1 of the Bill. If he cares to read clause 45D he will find that it mentions only in the margin boycotts by employees. For the edification of the honourable member I would like to read that clause. I think it is important that it be read. The honourable member is a lawyer and therefore he should have some command of the Queen's English and should be able to understand what it says. Perhaps if I read it slowly and go through it word by word he may be able to follow me and know better what I am talking about.

Mr Martin - Even he might.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -As the honourable member for Banks reminds me, even he might. Clause 45D is in these terms:

*45d. An employee of a person (in this section referred to as the "employer ) shall not engage in conduct in concert with another person or other persons (whether or not the other person is also an employee, or the other persons are also employees, of the employer) for the purpose of hindering or preventing the supply of goods or services by the employer to a corporation if the hindering or preventing of the supply of those goods or services by the employer to the corporation would, or would be likely to, have a substantial adverse effect on the business of the corporation.

I repeat the point I made before. Nowhere in that clause are the words 'boycott 'or 'secondary boycott' used. Certainly there are exemptions in another part of the Bill. Perhaps the Minister can tell the House in his closing address what happens when truck drivers, for example, who are not engaged in any boycott but who are protecting their wages positions, refuse to move materials from one establishment to another. If the other establishment happens to be a corporation and the action of the transport workers causes severe detriment or has a substantially adverse effect on the business of the corporation, are they not embraced by the clause?

Mr Ruddock - What about the consumers?

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -If they are taking an action within one establishment in support of their comrades and their colleagues in another establishment, are they not also causing substantial -

Mr Ruddock - What about the people in New South Wales?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) is listed as the next speaker. I suggest that he keeps his interjections and his comments until such time as he is making his speech.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -I hope that his speech is more sensible than his interjections. Any action taken within establishment A, if it is supplying goods or services to establishment B, even if that action is taken to protect the wages and working conditions of the people in establishment A, or is taken in support of their brothers and sisters working in establishment B, would seem to me, from the best advice that I could get, to be embraced by that clause. Where is the exemption? It is certainly not in that clause.

Mr Howard - I will explain it to you later.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -I hope that the Minister can do so because it is one clause that it causing great distress to the trade union movement at the moment because it is too wide, too embracing and, furthermore, is in the wrong Bill.

Mr Graham - Why is it in the wrong Bill?

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -It is in the wrong Bill because this Bill has now been put down as an umbrella to scoop up trade union movements in an area where they were never meant to be scooped up. Australia is probably unique in the world for its legislation dealing with trade unions and industrial organisations. It has the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

Mr Ruddock - Equality before the law.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -The honourable member says 'equality before the law'. As a lawyer he will know that the law is equal to all. For example, rich men and poor men get arrested for sleeping under bridges. Rich men and poor men get arrested for begging in the streets, except that rich men never need to do those sorts of things. But the wording is specifically aimed at employees and, more especially, at their activities. I go back to the proposition which the honourable member for Parramatta called equality before the law. There is equality before the law in all areas but the honourable member has not taken the time and trouble to establish in his own mind the origin of the right of people to associate with one another to protect their own positions. This is the whole tenet on which the trade union movement was built and only in countries such as Australia, which has a totalitarian government, would one find such an action being taken to isolate an integral part of the fabric of our whole community- the trade union movement- and set it aside and say not that it will receive the same protection as everybody else but that it will receive special protection because it is engaged in special activities.

It is my belief that there are 2 aspects which are open to challenge. The Government seems to be drawing its powers from placitum (xx) section S 1 of the Constitution which states: . . . Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth . . .

There has been great legal argument on this matter. I am not a lawyer- thanks be to Him abovebut it is obvious to anybody that trade unions do not fall within that definition of corporations. If they do not fall within that definition of corporations which are the only corporations over which the Commonwealth has power to make laws, how will the Government embrace them? How will it convince people that an individualagain I refer to clause 4SD which mentions an employee, a singular person-or a singular person is a corporation? Is the Government relying on him injuring a corporation or is it saying in the Bill that it is all right for him to belt hell out of one man businesses but that he cannot get into a corporation? Is that what the Government is saying? An employee can never be recognised as a corporation and yet the Government is quite prepared to post a penalty of $50,000 a day for any action that he might take. The Government cannot identify his organisation- the trade union- as a corporation because it does not fit in with the definition contained in the Constitution yet it is quite prepared to hit the union for a bill of $50,000 a day. Apart from that, the Government is also ignoring the International Labour Organisation conventions which Australia has ratified which give to people the right to associate. If the Government is going to take that right away from people- the Government is making a very strong attack on that in this Bill- it will strike at the very basis of a free and democratic society. It will take the same sort of tack that a fellow named Hitler took in Germany in the mid- 1930s and it will destroy the trade union movement. If the people of Australia- I ignore the figures in the poll quoted by the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton)- allow the Government to do that, they must be prepared to accept the consequences. If any Government is prepared to attack the association of free people in a free country coming together for a legitimate purpose, it seems to me that the next step is not very far away from the situation I mentioned. It horrified me to think what the next step would be with people such as we have sitting on the other side of the chamber.

The use of language of the Minister rather escapes me, because in the margin of the Bill he uses the word 'boycotts' and in the second reading speech he uses the term 'secondary boycotts'. We have always had a much simpler expression to describe these sorts of things; we have always called them black bans. Now we have another expression. What the Government proposes to do concerns the workers. Without them not much work will be done. You can manage as hard as you like but nothing will happen until somebody bares his back, bends his back and makes his brow sweat. The workers are the people who make things happen, not the managers. It is the workers who will make it happen. It is the managers who decide that, for the sake of greed, the workers will destroy a building or will build on land that would be better used by the community.

The honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) blithely talks about community interests. What about the matter we are discussing here? Greedy governments- they are generally made up of greedy land developers- want to develop public open space for their own speculative profit. How does the Government propose to stop them? But a group of trade unionists comes along- they are the people who dig the trenches to put in the foundations, lay the bricks and put up the steel- and says: 'We will not do it; we are acting in the public interest'. Because it is a corporation building which is involved the Government proposes to fine them for taking that action. But they are certainly acting in the public interest. Yet the Government wants to take punitive action against them. What those trade unionist s are doing is called a green ban, if honourable members opposite have not caught up with the colloquialism. That action is embraced by this secondary boycott provision.

Let honourable members opposite figure it out. They do not know how dangerous that clause is. They have never thought about it. All those actions are. taken in the public interest. Whether or not the honourable member for Higgins thinks such actions are taken in the public interest is not relevant. History will show that they are taken in the public interest. But for the Government's short term gain honourable members opposite want to take punitive action against these people. Let me warn them against taking punitive action against the trade unions. For 23 years this country was governed by very conservative governments under a succession of very conservative Prime Ministers. During that time the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was changed. Every honourable member opposite will remember that. Penalties were provided for in that Act for bans and limitations. The same thing is occurring in this legislation. We are back to it again, except that this time the Government is trying to slip that provision into the Trade

Practices Act. Previous governments had such a provision in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We wrote it out when we were in government.

What did the present Government do then? It placed penalties against unions. When did it ever collect the money? When did it ever collect the fines? The only union that paid was the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society of Australia, and the only reason it paid was that it wanted to amalgamate with the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and it had to pay its fine to amalgamate. The Amalgamated Engineering Union owed the Government money. Did the Government collect that money? It is still owing. The Government did not have the courage to do it. If the Government did not have the courage to do it under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act how is it going to have the courage to do it under the Trade Practices Act? Why do we not have some honesty in this House? Why do not honourable members opposite tell us that all they are doing here is wagging a big stick. Nobody is quite sure whether they will be prepared to wield it. They are wagging it around their heads. It has happened before. They have had the opportunity. The Government had its penal clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act but it never did anything about them. Is the Government prepared to do something about it in this case? If it is, then I am frightened of it, and I think the people of Australia ought to be frightened of it.

There are many other provisions in this legislation. I just wanted to lay to rest this business that the unions must not stand above the law. They never have, they never did and they never will stand above the law. They are probably more law abiding than the people who sit on the other side of the House who used all sorts of extreme measures to get themselves on to those benches. Let me use another expression. I suppose that if a truck driver will not drive his truck down to another factory to deliver materials he is stopping supply. That has a familiar ring about it, has it not? So the Government intends to fine him $50,000 a day for stopping supply.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (MrLucock)Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Mr SHIPTON(Higgins)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

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