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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2237

Senator HARRADINE(4.25) —The task of the Hancock Committee of Review of the Australian Industrial Relations Law and Systems was indeed a formidable one. Its fixed terms of reference included:

With the aim and for the purpose of developing a more effective and practical industrial relations system in accordance with social, economic and industrial changes which have occurred and are taking place in Australia . . .

In attempting to discharge that task it has obviously entertained a great number of submissions, studied them deeply and come to certain conclusions. I must say in passing that some of the conclusions do not seem to be argued cohesively in the report, but that is not to say they have not been arrived at and the evidence that no doubt will be available to us at some time will show that those conclusions are correct. That is a possibility. One thing that concerns me is that some people have castigated this report and asked why it did not examine a deregulated system. For example, on the front page of today's Australian there is a statement by a contributor to that effect. He asks the question: Why did not the Hancock report come down with a recommendation for the same number of unions as there are in West Germany? There are two things I want to say about that statement. Why did not somebody, such as the writer in the Australian, bell the cat? Why did he not give evidence to the Commission?

Senator Robert Ray —That would mean work.

Senator HARRADINE —Yes, that would mean work, but it would also have forced those people to set down, if they could, their propositions in a cohesive fashion. They were freely able to bandy them about in the headlines of the newspapers but they were not prepared to subject them to proper analysis. I might say that the writer was not prepared to bell the cat before the Senate Select Committee on Industrial Relations Legislation and put forward these propositions. I am sure those people would have appreciated the consideration by all of those concerned would have found those propositions to be wanting. On the one hand they complain about the corporate nature of the industrial relations system in Australia-big unions, big government and big employers-and on the other hand they want bigger and bigger unions. The proposition in the Australian this morning was for the same number of unions as in West Germany. What has that got to do with the price of fish? For the benefit of the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button) I notice that the Hancock inquiry quoted large chunks of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Industrial Relations Legislation.

Senator Button —A very distinguished committee.

Senator HARRADINE —A very distinguished committee. Our Committee mentioned the doubt that union structures predominantly determine industrial relations outcomes. Union structures do not predominantly determine industrial relations outcomes. I will briefly make a couple of points in regard to the Committee's recommendation. My concern is that it has not given an adequate definition of what it means by 'craft' or 'occupation', what it means by 'industries' and what rights individuals who are long-standing members of unions would have when their unions are faced with abolition under these proposals.

I would like to mention a number of machinery matters. Perhaps they have escaped the minds of members of the Committee but they are evident to those of us who have been involved in preparing rules for registration at both the Federal and State levels. No doubt there will be opportunities for input on these matters and if and when legislation comes forward that will give us further opportunity for their full consideration.

Question resolved in the affirmative.