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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4823

Senator HARRIS (11:50 AM) —I rise to indicate that One Nation will also support the Democrats amendment. We support it largely because it makes reference to Justice Munro and his decision in what is now known as the metals case. It has a particular influence on pattern bargaining. The ACTU submit that the Workplace Relations Amendment (Genuine Bargaining) Bill 2002 is intended to have, and would have, substantially the same effect on the bargaining process as the original 2000 bill. For the same reasons, the ACTU do not support the bill. In their submission to the Senate on this legislation, the ACTU wrote:

Campaign 2000

The 2000 Bill was introduced as the Government's response to what it claimed would be industrial Armageddon in Victoria resulting from enterprise bargaining claims being pursued against a large number of manufacturing companies.

The reality was quite different. There was no significant industry-wide industrial action, in spite of agitated predictions to the contrary, and agreements were concluded on an enterprise-by-enterprise basis, with most industrial action occurring at the enterprise level.

In his decision in Australian Industry Group v. Automotive, Food, Metals, Engineering, Printing and Kindred Industries Union, Print T1982, Justice Munro said:

Industry-wide demands are often made by unions and sometimes pursued at national level. It is not that character of the demand that may cause offence to the policy embodied in section 170MP and paragraphs 170MW(2)(a) and (b). I see no reason why such claims may not be advanced in a way that involves a genuine effort to have each employer concede the benefit sought. In such cases, the `pattern' character of the benefit demanded, its source, and even the uniform content of it, may be a cogent demonstration that the negotiation conduct is genuinely directed to securing agreement from the other party.

Justice Munro concluded his decision by stating:

I explain the order and declaration in that way because no part of my reasoning should be taken to mean or imply that it is not lawful or industrially proper for the unions to pursue the core conditions objectives of Campaign 2000. However, the Act operates to inhibit the ways in which common conditions can lawfully be collectively bargained for. If the relevant unions are to continue to pursue the core conditions now associated with Campaign 2000, the necessity of doing so in a manner that complies with the single business bargaining focus of the Act must be adequately heeded.

I believe that it is important to place on the record very clearly what Justice Munro was saying. In response to Senator Murray's statement that we know that notes carry no weight at law, I disagree with him because—

Senator Murray —That is not what I said.

Senator HARRIS —If I have misconstrued it, I apologise. I believe notes do carry weight at law. Section 15AB of the Acts Interpretation Act clearly says that if a piece of legislation is obscure or unclear, in coming to decision in relation to that legislation, the judiciary can refer to extrinsic evidence. That extrinsic evidence obviously includes the content of the bill, the minister's second reading speech, the government's explanatory memorandum, the Bills Digest and the debate in this chamber. Therefore it is absolutely paramount that, in carrying out our duties in this chamber, we place on the record the actual intent. In that way it most definitely does carry the force of law.

Question agreed to.