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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4820

Senator SHERRY (11:26 AM) —I thank Senator Harris and Senator Murray for their contributions. The reason for the Labor Party moving these two provisions on good faith bargaining and the management of good faith bargaining is that, as I outlined earlier, the Labor Party believes that there should be certainty from the start. Senator Alston refers to certainty as a straitjacket, but the fact is that the types of behaviour that are outlined in the Labor Party's amendments in respect of good faith bargaining are what I think the community would expect.

People in the community who are not part of industrial relations negotiations would normally expect that, from the word go— from the commencement of any negotiations—the parties involved would agree to meet face-to-face at reasonable times. It is normal behaviour that any reasonable person in the community would expect of anyone entering into discussions. It is also good manners to do so, as is actually attending meetings that the parties have agreed to attend. This is not just necessary for good faith bargaining, it is also good manners. When you agree to a meeting date, unless there are some extenuating circumstances, you attend that meeting. You do not, as some sort of disruptive tactic, agree to a meeting and then simply not show up. That goes for whoever would practise it, whether it is the employer or the union. Regrettably, these things do occur from time to time, so the Labor Party prefers that we have certainty from the start.

These provisions are not straitjackets. They are reasonable approaches which any reasonable person would believe should be practised by anyone in any sorts of discussions more generally in the community. If you do not have these provisions, defining the sorts of things that we have laid out would develop over time through court or commission decisions. That, we believe, is unsatisfactory because it would take time to evolve and it would not necessarily be consistent—and it must be on the basis of consistency, certainty from the start and reasonable definition and outline of what constitutes good faith bargaining. If you showed this list to a person in the street and asked whether they thought that it was a reasonable set of proposals, they would say they are and that they are what any person would expect in any approach to negotiating. If we have that certainty from the start, then it will be clearly understood by all parties in negotiations that these sorts of reasonable proposals are guidelines and outlines as to how parties should behave in their treatment of one another in such negotiations.