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Wednesday, 23 August 1972
Page: 318

Senator HANNAN - I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it not a fact that the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party last year at Townsville resolved that in the unlikely event of a Labor government, any trade union official using violence to damage property during or in furtherance of a strike should be immune from any action for damages? In view of the statement on a related matter - not an identical matter - this morning by Mr Hawke, I ask the Minister, from his knowledge of the ALP constitution-

Senator Willesee - I rise to order. Senator Hannan has alleged that the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party very categorically said that it had passed a certain resolution. Always, even in respect of newspaper reports, Presidents of the Senate - particularly the President you are replacing at the moment - have asked that a senator verify and vouch for the accuracy of the report. In this case I should like the honourable senator, if he can, to produce the minutes of the meeting to show that what he alleges is true. I think we will get ourselves into a very difficult position - we have seen a fair example of it today - if we can base questions on sheer fantasy, if we are able to rise and say that this is what happened in the Liberal Party or this is what happened when the Prime Minister was discussing things with the Queensland Premier when there is no basis of fact for what is being said.

Senator Wright - I think the Prime Minister would be-

Senator Willesee - Just a moment. Senator Wright would be the worst offender today. I hope and trust that, with his law degree behind him, he will examine tomorrow what he has said today and see some of the things that he did say. I suggest that we should carry on the tradition of requesting that people who make statements in the course of asking questions be able to verify the accuracy of those statements.

Senator HANNAN - I did not refer to a newspaper cutting.

Senator Willesee - I did not say that you did. . ,..

Senator HANNAN - The ' honourable senator mentioned newspapers in his reference to the Acting President. This matter was referred to in the Hansard reports of the recent debate in this chamber on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill: :

The ACTING PRESIDENT- Hansard reports? . ,

Senator HANNAN - Yes. "

The ACTING PRESIDENT- I do not think the point of order, is sustained. If Senator Hannan is speaking of a Hansard report he is entitled to do that. '

Senator Bishop - I take a point of order. I put to you, Mr Acting President, and to Senator Hannan that he is referring to comments by the Minister in respect of what he understood Labor Party policy to be. The point that Senator Willesee is making is that Senator Hannan . is using an alleged statement from the ^Federal Executive of the Labor Party when he cannot vouch for it or establish its; authenticity. In that case the point o£,i order raised by Senator Willesee is properly : taken. I suggest that the question should- not be allowed.

The ACTING PRESIDENT- I think it is recognised that it is not 'always possible for people who make statements to produce the minutes of meetings and so on to substantiate those statements.1 In this society in which we live we 'find out in various ways certain things which are going on. I think it is reasonable to accept that, this matter having been brought into the chamber, debated in the chamber and published in Hansard, it is possible to speak to that matter again because' apparently no objection was taken at the time it was mentioned originally and recorded in Hansard.

Senator HANNAN - Thank you, Mr Acting President. The Leader of the Opposition actually moved along those lines, recommending that we adopt the law as it stands in England.

Senator Bishop - The Liberal Party must be short of election material.

Senator HANNAN - I do not know why the honourable senator is so sensitive about the matter. I now proceed with my question. Is it not a fact that last year at Townsville the Australian Labor Party resolved that in the unlikely event of a Labor government being in office any trade union official using violence to damage property during or in furtherance of a strike or industrial dispute should be immune from any action for damages? I ask the Minister whether, in view of the statement in this morning's Press by Mr Hawke on a related matter, from his knowledge of the Australian Labor Party constitution Mr Hawke has the authority to cancel that plank of Labor's platform.

Senator WRIGHT - My information is that this matter was an item on the agenda put forward at the Australian Labor Party Executive meeting at Townsville in recent months.

Senator Keeffe - Was it the Slate Executive or the Federal Executive?

Senator WRIGHT - It was the Federal Executive. The proposition was that trade unionists participating in any action in an industrial dispute should be immune from legal liability. My information is that that proposition did not obtain the acceptance of the majority. The astounding thing is that such a proposition could reach the status of an agenda item in the considerations of the Australian Labor Party Executive. The proposition was that just because there is an industrial dispute trade unionists should have complete freedom to ignore law which exists for the protection of property and other persons. This principle must be asserted strongly and it must be understood because it is the principle which the Labor Party unashamedly adopts when it claims immunity for trade unions in respect of breaches of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. For several years it has maintained a campaign defying the offence provisions of that Act, and it has asserted that it will never comply with those provisions. This instance, which was referred to as the Townsville claim, is entirely in the same direction as that claim which trade unionists assert in relation to immunity from penalties for offences under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

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