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Thursday, 18 April 1985
Page: 1387

Mr PEACOCK —My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer him to an answer the Prime Minister gave to a question based on the premise that, for the Queensland industrial dispute to be resolved, there would need to be a change in the Queensland legislation. The Prime Minister answered:

No that assumption is not necessarily correct because the matter I believe could be resolved without the repeal of the laws. I mean you can have legislation on the statute book which is not implemented.

I ask the Minister whether he believes that laws properly instituted and on the statute books should not be enforced against the trade union movement thereby placing the trade union movement above the law.

Mr WILLIS —The question of the enforcement of law is a matter not just for the Government but for other persons. I take it that this question is directed to the Trade Practices Act. Certainly there have been many threats flying around that the use of the Trade Practices Act--

Mr Peacock —He said that the Queensland legislation does not have to be repealed.

Mr SPEAKER —Order!

Mr Peacock —The Queensland legislation does not have to be repealed.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting.

Mr WILLIS —There have been many threats flying around about the use of the Trade Practices Act by--

Mr Peacock —It is the Queensland legislation, not the Trade Practices Act.

Mr WILLIS —Mr Speaker, are you going to let--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I warn the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Peacock —My goodness! I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. In terms of relevance of answers, the Minister said: 'I make the assumption that the Leader of the Opposition is referring to the Trade Practices Act'. I was thereby entitled to respond to the assumption that he had given voice to by saying that the assumption was wrong. I ask you to withdraw your warning.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! No, it is not a ruling. The Leader of the Opposition has been warned. He asked his question. The Minister has the call to be heard by the House and he should do so without interruption.

Mr Peacock —Are you not withdrawing the warning?

Mr SPEAKER —No, I am not withdrawing the warning. I call the Minister.

Mr WILLIS —The question was very broadly based and capable of varying interpretations. I cannot read the honourable member's mind. I repeat that the Trade Practices Act is open to those affected by secondary boycotts to take action under the law. The law is there and can be used by them. But I think it would inflame the situation enormously if that were to take place. It has certainly not been the Government's policy to support the use of the Trade Practices Act. The Government has sought to amend the Trade Practices Act to take out section 45D. We believe that that would be in the interests of better industrial relations in this country. But, nevertheless, while the law is there it is open to employers to use it; regrettably, that is still the case.

Let me say that, with respect to the Queensland legislation, as the Prime Minister has said, it is not necessary to have that amended to settle the dispute in terms of preventing industrial action. The basic issues which would prevent the extension of industrial action do not involve the amendment of the legislation, desirable though that may be. The absolutely basic issue in this dispute is the re-instatement of the sacked South East Queensland Electricity Board employees. I believe that that issue can be addressed separately from the issue of the legislation. I believe that, if that issue were addressed directly by the Queensland Government in consultation with the trade union movement, which would have been possible in the format that we proposed to the Queensland Government, resolution of this whole matter would be achieved. There would be no blockade and no industrial action and there would be resolution of the dispute at least to the point where rational discussion could then go on about the Queensland legislation. But the rejection of that means that there is no possibility of that occurring and we face a blockade which apparently is desired by the Queensland Government.