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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4827

Senator MURRAY (12:10 PM) —I move Australian Democrats' amendment (5) on sheet 2621 Revised:

(5) Schedule 1, item 2, page 5 (line 29), omit “or the Minister”.

Clause 5 states:

(5) The Commission may make an order under subsection (2):

(a) on its own initiative, or on application by a former negotiating party or the Minister;

I turned to the explanatory memorandum to see if there was an explanation of why the words `or the Minister' were included, and there was not. It struck me that to put the minister in there is contrary to the very intention of the act. The intention of the act is, as far as possible, to keep politicians out of the process of bargaining—that it should be between employers and employees and, when that fails, it is up to the commission to resolve the matter. I know that this coalition minister, Minister Abbott, like his predecessor Mr Reith, occasions some aggression from those who disagree with him. However, I have found this minister able, intelligent and very capable. The fact that his political persona in the House of Representatives at question time might be quite confronting does not affect that judgment of mine with regard to industrial relations matters.

There is a fear, however, amongst those who are not supporters of the coalition, that coalition ministers' involvement in IR matters would always be from a position of bad faith. I do not accept that. There is also a fear on the part of employers and people who are coalition supporters that, in the event of a Labor government getting in, a minister who was acting with regard to industrial relations matters could also be regarded as operating from a position of bad faith. I do not think you can draw those conclusions. It is not who the minister is and which government it is that matters; what matters is whether the minister should properly be involving himself or herself. I cannot see that there is a reason for it. That is why I have withdrawn the reference.