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Wednesday, 30 August 1972
Page: 532


Senator BISHOP - My question which is addressed to either the Attorney-General or the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service follows on the answer to the question asked by Senator Webster in relation to the trade union organisation. I ask: Does the Minister believe that trade unionists should not receive the protection afforded by most modern democratic states in regard- to legitimate acts in pursuance of their registered aims as trade unionists? Is he aware that the codes of the International Labour Organisation affirm such protection in various conventions and recommendations, and that this Government is a party to that Organisation? I also ask the Minister: In his opinion should a unionist member of a registered organisation be liable for action under the civil law and also for penalties provided in. the Acts relating to arbitration in the various States of the Commonwealth? Should he, in short, be subject to 2 penalties for legitimate activity as a trade unionist?


Senator WRIGHT - With the concurrence of my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, I take the opportunity to answer the honourable senator's question. You will have noticed, Mr Acting President, if you listened carefully to the first part of the question, that the whole verbiage which surrounded the question had as its kernel legitimate acts of trade unionists in an industrial dispute. Our adherence to the rule of law affirms protection for the legitimate acts of any person. Any act in accordance with law attracts no civil liability or penalty. So much for that point.


Senator Bishop - But, senator, may I-


Senator WRIGHT - If the honourable senator will pardon me, I will continue my answer. Senator Bishop returns to the proposition, which we now have the Labor Party on record as affirming, that no legal action shall lie against any organisation for anything which arises in any way in or in connection with an industrial dispute. This has been a contention since the Taff Vale case in 1890, vehemently propounded in the United Kingdom until, by a despicable political compromise in 1906, England gave a partial immunity in this field which Heath's Government modified and almost abrogated - certainly abrogated last year in respect of all unregistered trade unions. At the same time, though, we erected a system of law and order. That enables me to answer the third part of the honourable senator's question.

Our system of law and order was by means of a court, as we called it then, in the arbitration field, with arbitral jurisdiction and also law enforcement jurisdiction. By means of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Commonwealth Industrial. Court we maintain today an improved system. As to whether it is proper for an action to give rise to 2 remedies, one civil compensation and the other pecuniary penalty, if I today were to strike Senator Bishop on the nose I could be prosecuted and for the offence have either a penalty inflicted or imprisonment imposed. That would not prevent Senator Bishop suing me in the civil courts tomorrow for compensation for the wrong done. There is nothing inconsistent with the ordinary law of England or of Australia to say that 2 remedies, one penal and the other compensatory, shall exist at the same time.

With regard to the reference to the International Labour Organisation, I have spoken too long. I will take an occasion later to reply to that point.







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