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Tuesday, 8 May 1973
Page: 1829

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - I refer again to the matter that has just been raised in an endeavour somehow to give an impression of refuting the statement made by the Minister or the explanation given by the Minister. I do not pretend to have a sharp and agile mind and on many occasions I think it is rather obtuse, but the provision seems very clear to me. I read again from sub-section (4.) of section 5 of the principal Act. It states:

In any proceeding for an offence against this seclion . . .

That to my rather dull mind would mean section 5 - if all the facts and circumstances constituting the offence, other than the reason for the defendant's action are proved it shall lie upon the defendant to prove that bc was not actuated by the reason alleged in the charge.

It seems to me that what we are doing with clause 6 in this Bill is simply adding to section 5. So if we add to section 5, I cannot follow the argument of the learned honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) that subsection (4.) ceases to exist, lt seems to me that it exists as if nothing had been done to the Act and that all that is being done to vection 5 is that words are being added. They do not subtract from or add to sub-section (4.). lt seems that the Opposition's argument is simply another device to draw a smokescreen across this very important question. So many fallacies have been raised by honourable members on the other side in this debate that on occasions I have been wondering what honourable members on the other side have been debating. It is also very interesting to note - and it is appropriate to mention it at this stage in view of the furore that went on in this chamber this morning when it was claimed that the Opposition was being gagged in its opportunities to speak on this Bill and that it was being limited - that only 6 members of the Liberal Party have spoken in this debate and that there has been ample opportunity in the Committee stage for more members of the Opposition to engage in the debate but they have not bothered. Once again the remarks this morning were another smokescreen. Incidentally, only one member of the Australian Country Party has spoken.

Mr King - That is not right.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - I am sorry. There have been 2. The whole purpose of this clause of the Bill, as has been adequately explained, except obviously to the understanding of the Opposition, is to provide protection for employees who are engaged in legitimate union business. The right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) spoke about great difficulties being experienced in Britain, and he attributed those difficulties to the unions in Britain. He gave me the impression that since the change of government in Britain and the ascension of Mr Heath and his Conservative Government there had been less industrial trouble in Britain. As I read the newspapers, it seems to be the other way. It seems that the trade unions have resented the oppressiveness of the Conservative Government in Britain and quite naturally have reacted against that oppression. The right honourable gentleman told us that we must learn lessons. The lesson to be learned in Australia is that the oppression of trade unions will bring about exactly that sort of situation. It is also interesting to note that whenever the right honourable gentleman speaks in this House on this matter he continually uses the word arbitration'. Never does he use the word conciliation'.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order! I suggest to the honourable gentleman that he confines his remarks to the clause and does not deviate too far.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - With respect to you, Mr Chairman, I am trying to make a point. To make the point I must draw a distinction between conciliation and arbitration. The purpose of clause 6 is to bring about a position in which there is less inflammation of industrial situations. The general inflammation of industrial situations starts in the factory. I drew attention to the right honourable gentleman's continual use of the word 'arbitration' because that is the way in which his mind functions. He and the class of people he represents always think of arbitration. The trade unionist thinks of conciliation and negotiation. If one thinks of negotiation one will start thinking about the people on the factory floor, on the job, negotiating directly with their employer or his representative. They are in a very weak position to negotiate if they run the risk of being railroaded out of the factory simply because they have had the courage to stand up to their employer on behalf of their fellow employees.

This clause seeks to prevent that sort of situation occurring. It seeks to encourage negotiation at the factory level where uninhibited negotiations can take place within the rules. Obviously honourable members opposite have not read the Bill. Clause 6 (a) seeks to insert the following paragraph in the Act:

(f)   being an officer, delegate or member of an organisation, has done, or proposes to do, an act or thing, in an industrial establishment or elsewhere, for the purpose of furthering or protecting the industrial interests of the organisation or of its members, being an act or thing - these are the pertinent words - done within the limits of authority expressly or impliedly conferred on him by the organisation.

The organisation in this case is the union. Shop stewards will not be acting unilaterally or as free agents in this matter. They can only act lawfully. They can only act within the limits of authority expressly or impliedly conferred on them by their unions. They are in an excellent position to open negotiations, and on very many occasions they settle disputes.

No reasonable person would expect a single employee of a corporation or a group of employees of a corporation - the word 'corporation' has been used continually during the course of this debate - to stand alone against that corporation unless they in turn were guaranteed some form of protection. The Bill provides that protection. No reasonable person could dispute the terms of the Bill. All sorts of nit picking have been engaged in by the Opposition in an endeavour to show that this Bill has some ulterior motive. One would think that, with the passage of this Bill, the revolution was about to start, to paraphrase the remarks of the honourable member for Moreton. I am sorry to be boring him so much that he has to yawn continuously.

Mr Killen - I apologise. It is just tiredness, not boredom.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - Thank you. The matter deserves the wholehearted support of this House. I trust that it will have that support. The right honourable member for Lowe has promised us a division on the matter. That shows how strongly he feels about it. Perhaps that is not such a bad idea. Let us show the trade union movement and the 5i million people who work in this country to provide the other 8 million people with the goods and services they need, exactly who stands where when it comes to the protection of the employees and the privilege to be retained by die employing class. The measure will certainly pass this House. There is no doubt in my mind that there are sufficient people with sufficient wisdom in this chamber to support such a measure.

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