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Labor's new attack on free speech



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NEWS RELEASE

JOHN; HOWARD, M.P. MEM^ER FOR BENNELONc SHADOW MINISTER FOR 1NPVSTRtAL RELATIONS, EMPLOVMENT & TRAINING

IRET 029/93

LABOR'S NEW ATTACK ON FREE SPEECH

The continued persecution of the-Housing Industry Association (HIA) by the Keating government ("Australian", page 2) is a blatant attack on the right of free speech in Australia.

It is the latest example of the deep authoritarian streak which runs through the Labor Party. It is further evidence of just how divisive is the Prime Ministership of Paul Keating.

The HIA has been thrown off the two principal housing industry bodies which advise the government and denied any contact with either Ministers or the bureaucracy as a reprisal for the anti-Labor stance the Association took during the recent

federal election.

This is despite the HIA having by far the largest membership of any housing industry body in Australia and its wide recognition as a powerful voice for all sections of that industry. At 25,000, its membership is virtually double that of the next largest organisatjon.

Its only crime was to campaign vigorously against the Keating government's sub-contractor legislation which it believed damaged the interests of its members.

A recent decision of the industrial Relations Commission (on 30 June) justified the pre-election concerns of the HIA. The Commission's decision in favour--j of the Tasmanian TWU demonstrated that contrary to government claims the sub-contractor legislation went far beyond sham transactions and embraced bona fide sub-contractual arrangements.

Apparently it has now become an offence punishable by bureaucratic and ministerial v ictimisation to advocate other than a Labor vote in this country,

What happened to the basic concept that, once elected, governments were there to represent all the people?

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

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This "winner takes all" approach is totally un-Australian and should be profoundly offensive to all fair-minded people.

The NIA's campaign against the Keating government's legislation, although strong, was no more vigorous than the campaign of the ACTU against the Coalition.

I am certain that if the Coalition had won the last election and then frozen out the ACTU from any consultative process it would have been loudly (and rightly) condemned for such a

narrow-minded punitive approach.

This latest attack by the Labor Government on free speech fits a clearly emerging pattern.

First, there was the attempt to ban political advertising, fortunately frustrated by the High Court.

In the Mabo debate, criticisms of the Government's approach has been labelled racist or extremist in the hope of silencing critics.

Now there is the spiteful pursuit of an industry association for exercising its undoubted democratic right to express a point of view in an election campaign.

Such an illiberal response should be repudiated by all who care about free speech in Australia.

SYDNEY 21 July 1993

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