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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4821

Senator SHERRY (11:35 AM) —The minister is being a little provocative in that contribution. I did expect him to respond to Senator Harris. I just want to make it clear to the Senate chamber on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, particularly as we are being broadcast, that the minister has cast an aspersion. He made reference to a number of Labor senators having a trade union background. It is important in that context to understand that before a number of Labor senators were trade union officials, they held a wide range of occupations and jobs. Senator Campbell, to whom Senator Alston occasionally makes reference, was an official of the AMWU—

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Lightfoot)—That is Senator George Campbell.

Senator SHERRY —Yes, Senator George Campbell, of course. Senator George Campbell was a metal tradesman—an apprentice— who worked in shipyards, as I understand it.

Senator Alston —Probably a union activist from day one.

Senator SHERRY —He could not have been a union activist from day one, Senator Alston. Even you must understand that. I will conclude on this point: what we can say about the government is that they are dominated by lawyers. Senator Alston referred to the arcane nature of industrial relations. You could make the same comment about the law and lawyers and the way they behave in some respects. What we do know about lawyers is this: once a lawyer, always a lawyer. That is generally what happens.

Senator Ferris —Once a trade unionist, always a trade unionist.

Senator SHERRY —At least, Senator Ferris, trade union officials have had an occupation in the real world outside the legal world before they become trade union officials. It is extraordinarily rare for a person to be a trade union official—in fact, I do not know of an example—and not have spent some considerable time in the work force carrying out their particular occupation and job. On this side of the chamber, the Labor Party is proud of that.

What we know about this mob opposite is that about half of them have been lawyers from day one—law students and lawyers. So, if you want to make the point, Senator Alston, about union officials, we will obviously respond. We have got a government dominated by lawyers. Senator Alston is a lawyer. You look along the front bench and half of them are lawyers. Well, big deal—once a lawyer, always a lawyer. You make the point about union officials and I am very proud that we have significant representation of people who have been union officials and who have had significant experience in a whole variety of occupations—everything from meatworkers to shearers, metalworkers and hotel workers. There is a huge variety of very rich experience and contact among Labor senators—who are representatives of working people in this country—on this side of the chamber, unlike the other side of the chamber, which is dominated by lawyers. They are everywhere.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Lightfoot)—The question is that amendments (2) and (3) be agreed to.

Question negatived.