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Tuesday, 18 May 1965

Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) . - I would like to know from the Minister whether or not this particular amendment was requested by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It was indicated that a number of these matters were discussed and, in fact, were initiated by the A.C.T.U. Could the Senate be informed as to whether the request for the amendment was made by the A.C.T.U.?

Senator Gorton - I do not have that information.

Senator MURPHY - Senator Wrightindicated that he proposes to support the amendment, not because of the reasons that have been advanced by the Minister, but because he agrees to a reduction in the rights of the trade unions. Apparently he and the other supporters of the Government accept the amendment to this clause because it significantly cuts down the rights of the trade unions, the rights of the inspectors, the rights of the registrars, and indirectly the rights of persons who are affected by the underpayment of wages.

I have gone to some trouble to put to the Minister considerations which indicate that the basis on which the Bill has been presented to the Parliament is incorrect. No answer has been forthcoming from the Minister. He has not disagreed with what I have put forward.

Senator Gorton - Or agreed with what the honorable senator has put forward.

Senator MURPHY - Nothing has been said, despite the fact that he has been given ample notice and that his advisers are present in the Senate. Senator Wright, after having considered the matter, apparently agrees with the view I put, but he thinks it is right that this reduction in the rights of the unions and the inspectors should occur. He says, in effect: " I think the view is correct, but I think that the rights should be cut down and that there should be a limitation of 12 months."

Senator Wright - Surely it is anomalous to say that proceedings are not subject to some limitation.

Senator MURPHY - Madam Temporary Chairman, what Senator Wright is putting forward is an argument which may or may not be valid, but it cannot be right that a Bill which has been passed in another place is dealt with on a different basis here. Is it not even worse that the matter should be considered without the merits being discussed? Considerations have been put forward by myself. They have been supported by Senator Bishop. Senator Wright has accepted the substance of these, but he says, in effect: "I believe that the change that is toeing made is right, notwithstanding the fact that it is being put on a false basis in this Parliament." That cannot be right.

The Opposition in the Senate, of necessity, has to accept the second reading speech of a Minister when he introduces a bill. One cannot assume all the time that there will be an error. One cannot search through the legislation until one finds that the Minister's speech incorrectly represents the alterations that are to be made in the law. I have no doubt that in another place the Opposition, as well as the Government, accepted the explanation at its face value and dealt with it accordingly. It is entirely wrong that this chamber should be dealt with in this way. The measure has been introduced on a basis which is challenged as being incorrect; no answer has been given by the Minister; and one Government senator who spoke to it accepted the argument that it was an incorrect basis but he has proceeded to say: " That satisfies me, anyway."

I can only say that it may well be that the A.C.T.U. accepted this explanation at its face value, as the Opposition originally accepted it when it decided to support the measure. It is a most reprehensible way of presenting legislation and of dealing with it in this chamber.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 10 to 14 agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

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