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Thursday, 17 October 1996
Page: 4437

Senator HOGG(4.40 p.m.) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

As a former long serving trade union official—

Senator Cooney —And proud of it.

Senator HOGG —And very proud of it, I have had a great deal to do with the Industrial Relations Commission and the Industrial Registry over a long period. I have always greatly admired the work done by those organisations.

In referring to this report, I want to take note of the significance of a case before the commission in the last financial year, as referred to at page 9 of the report. The significance of this matter is that it may well be the last time, if the Workplace Relations Bill is passed, that we see the commission intervening in matters such as this. I refer in particular to the matter of the Tweed Valley fruit processors. I will quote from the report because the matter was seen to be of such importance that it was highlighted as one of the three major cases reported. The report says:

In this matter (Print M6526) the Full Bench dealt with the issue of whether an appeal lies against a refusal to approve an enterprise flexibility agree ment (EFA). The Bench held that there were limited grounds for appeal on the basis of jurisdictional error.

Then, at the start of the next paragraph it says:

In this decision, the Bench found that the agreement resulted in a breach of the `no disadvantage' test.

I cite that because I fear that if the Workplace Relations Bill before the Senate is passed, then the no disadvantage test will disappear and so also will the ability of the independent umpire. So this report holds particular significance in that it may well be the last time that something of that significance appears.

The second thing that I wanted to refer to, because I know that union membership and people not wanting to be in unions has always been a bugbear for people, is at page 37 of the report. Page 37 of the report contains the heading: `Applications for certificates of conscientious objection'. This gives people the right to withdraw from unions or not to be part of unions, should they so desire, by going through the proper processes of the Deputy Industrial Registrar. It is interesting to see in the report that there were 92 applications pursuant to section 267 in 1993-94, 60 in 1994-95 and 69 in 1995-96. When one considers the number of workers in the work force in Australia, this is an insignificant number indeed.

I want to draw the Senate's attention to pages 56, 57 and 58 of the report. There one sees a report on industrial democracy operating within the province of the Industrial Registry. These pages draw attention to a very enlightened approach to trade unionism, to employer-employee relations and to the development of a cooperative spirit in the workplace. Page 56 says:

The primary objective of the new industrial democracy plan is:

To bring about significant participation and involvement by Registry staff in the decision making processes of the registry.

Again, if the Workplace Relations Bill that is before the Senate is passed, that will disappear.