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Thursday, 18 April 1985
Page: 1436

Mr TICKNER(8.03) —In supporting the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1984-85 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1984-85, I wish to return to a theme that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) raised in the House earlier today. The Prime Minister spoke on the hypocrisy and double standards of the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen. What I seek to do is to raise another blatant example of double standards, but this time of the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia in the Federal Parliament. It is an indictment of them that, when such important legislation is going through the House, there is not one single member of the National Party present in the chamber and only three or four members of the Liberal Party are present. I am particularly pleased that one of the three or four members of the Liberal Party present tonight is the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) because he has to be singled out for special treatment.

I speak tonight in support of this legislation and to raise matters of grave concern that I believe are indicative of what must be the demise of the Liberal Party and the National Party for which so many Australians have voted in the past. Those parties are no longer the parties that once represented the small 'l' liberal views in the conservative voice in this Parliament. I wish to refer particularly to the six pieces of industrial legislation that have been passed by the Queensland Parliament. In doing so, I support the Prime Minister in his letter to the Queensland Premier of 13 April in which he said that we have a national responsibility to proceed towards full compliance with the international covenants that were referred to in his letter.

These international covenants are not an initiative of the Australian Labor Party. The international covenants to which the Prime Minister referred include the Forced Labour Convention of 1930, which was ratified by Australia in 1933 by a conservative government. The second important covenant is the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention of 1957; again, it was an anti-Labor government, the Menzies Government, which ratified that convention. Another convention referred to was the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention of 1948. A further one was the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention of 1949, which is the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 98. The final one was the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by the Fraser Government in 1980.

The matter that I particularly seek to raise tonight concerns the appalling role of the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Party spokesman on employment, industrial relations and youth affairs. Speaking on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program The World Today on Monday of this week, Mr Shack was asked the question--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable members knows that he should not refer to a member of the House in that way.

Mr TICKNER —Thank you, Mr Speaker. The honourable member for Tangney was asked by a reporter for his view on the ILO conventions in respect of the Queensland dispute. The spokesman for the conservative parties, the honourable member for Tangney, said that those international conventions dating back to the 1930s were, in his precise words, irrelevant. That was then taken up by the reporter, who asked him whether, if they were in fact irrelevant, we should continue to be a party to those conventions. The spokesman for the Liberal Party on this matter said that he believed it was an open question. In other words, he refused to rule out the possibility that, should a Liberal and National Party government ever-heaven forbid-form the government of this country again, the question would be open as to whether that government would repeal any legislation enacted to give force to the ILO conventions and whether the Liberal and National parties would cease to be party to those conventions dating back, as I indicated, to the 1930s.

I now move to what I believe to be the essence of the credibility of the Liberal and National parties. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition, who is present in the House tonight, hears what I have to say. What I accuse him of is selling out the principles of his Party, selling out the principles of liberalism that were brought into this Parliament by Sir Robert Menzies and even supported by Malcolm Fraser. I accuse the Leader of the Opposition of deserting the principles of his Party. I do not expect that this statement of mine should be treated with credibility, unless I can deliver the goods. To do that I make reference, first of all, to the statement that was made, on behalf of the Australian Government, at the 1982 International Labour Conference in Geneva by the Deputy Leader of the National Party and honourable member for Gwydir, Mr Hunt. Speaking on behalf of the Fraser Government, he said:

. . . the ILO's unique tripartite structure provides the vehicle to assist and promote the development of tripartism throughout the world.

He went on to say:

Importantly, it also does this through the adoption and supervision of international labour standards. In the formulation and application of these standards, employers' and workers' representatives play a vital role.

Importantly, referring to two of the conventions referred to in the Prime Minister's letter, the now Deputy Leader of the National Party, the Party to which the Queensland Premier belongs, said-I quote him word for word-when speaking of these conventions:

The benchmark Convention, No. 87 on freedom of association and No. 98 on collective bargaining, go to the very heart of the ILO. The adoption of international labour standards is a significant function of the Organisation.

The ILO has established unique supervisory machinery. This seeks to ensure that those member countries which have ratified conventions apply them in law and practice.

Mr Robert Brown —Who said that?

Mr TICKNER —That was the Deputy Leader of the National Party speaking on behalf of the Fraser Government. How times have changed! I must continue because what the Deputy Leader of the National Party said in Geneva less than three years ago is still relevant. He said:

We call upon member States to respect the principle of freedom of association and to move as quickly as possible towards the full implementation of all the important ILO instruments on human dignity.

He said, on behalf of the Australian Government:

The Australian Government offers its full support to continuing action by the ILO to eradicate discriminatory practices in all their forms.

Those words did not come from a spokesman for the Labor Party. They came from a member of the same party as the party of the Leader of the Opposition, when it used to truly be a liberal party, before it took its ugly turn to the right and began to lose the credibility it once had as an opposition party. That is only part of the story. We know that in this chamber over a succession of years spokesmen have made statements on behalf of the Liberal Party, spokesmen who have always supported the ILO and the conventions that the Prime Minister has referred to in his letter. If the Leader of the Opposition doubts what I say I suggest that he looks at what the former Minister, Mr Ian Viner, said when he spoke in 1981 on behalf of the Liberal Party at the International Labour Conference in Geneva. He said-the same conventions, the same organisation, the same principles but a very different party in those days-the following:

Of course, the impact of standards cannot be explained simply by their existence. Recognition must be given to the vital role of the ILO's supervisory machinery. . . .

It is significant that the conventions of freedom of association, freedom from forced labour and freedom from discrimination are not only among the most important of the ILO's human rights instruments but are also those which have been ratified by the largest number of countries.

These are the same conventions and the same organisations that the Prime Minister referred to in his letter to the Queensland Premier. Mr Viner continued. The Leader of the Opposition is looking decidedly nervous and preoccupied. Well he should! Speaking on behalf of the Fraser Government, Mr Viner continued:

Consequently, the Australian Government strongly supports the role of the Committee on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations in supervising particularly the application of these vital human rights standards.

I am afraid that that is still only part of the story. It continues. I must say that another very important contribution to the standards and statements on industrial relations of the Liberal Party was made by the late Sir Phillip Lynch. The context of his statements is worth remembering. He spoke in the Parliament, this very House, on 15 May 1973 about the International Labour Organisation. He was speaking specifically about changes debated by this Parliament which gave full force and effect to the new constitution of the International Labour Organisation. Do honourable members know what was the view of the Liberal Party and the National Party?

Mr Peacock —It would not exist today had we not kept the Americans in it.

Mr TICKNER —The Leader of the Opposition interjects in a feeble defence. Perhaps he is a bit worried to hear the words of Sir Phillip Lynch in this chamber tonight. In 1973 when Sir Phillip Lynch was the spokesman for a true Liberal Party it was a very different story. The Liberal and National parties both supported the Australian Labor Government under Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in its initiative to support the amendment to the ILO constitution. It passed through this chamber unanimously. I will return to that theme in a moment. In speaking to the International Labour Organisation Bill 1973, the late Sir Phillip Lynch said of the ILO:

However, we believe that the primary need for the future is not so much the development of a more extensive code of principles but a rigorous examination by member states of the methods of transferring existing principles into action.

In the course of the debate Sir Phillip Lynch went on in a very commendable way, to take up the Opposition, to challenge its credibility. Was the Opposition, he implied, serious in its commitment to the ILO? He went on to say:

The Opposition calls on the Minister to make it perfectly clear to the House that any convention which is ratified by him is a convention about which he can say with total confidence that it will not be observed simply in accordance with the spirit of the law but will be observed rigorously in Australia both at a Commonwealth and State level.

I commend the late Sir Phillip Lynch for that very important statement.

I return to the theme I started on, which was the statements by the Liberal Party shadow spokesman on the ILO conventions, to which Australia is a party and also to his condemnation of those treaties, clearly supported by his Leader, which is at complete variance with everything the Liberal Party, and, I must emphasise, the National Party, has ever stood for. In relation to the ILO conventions, it is important that we remember that Australia was a foundation member of the ILO and that the ILO was established in 1919 as a result of Part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles. That is how far back Australia's involvement with the ILO goes. That part of the Treaty was subsequently detached and renamed the 'Constitution of the International Labour Organisation'. The Organisation has been brought into the relationship as a specialised agency within the United Nations. The development of a system of international labour standards was the principal purpose behind the creation of the International Labour Organisation and remains one of the essential activities of the organisation.

I have already said that the ILO Act was passed in 1947 by the Australian Parliament, which approved the ILO Constitution at that time. In 1973 an Act passed through both Houses of this Parliament unanimously approving subsequent amendments to the ILO Constitution and the ratification by Australia of those amendments. The Leader of the Opposition is a person of some legal background. He ought to know that the ILO Constitution is very specific. It imposes on Australia an international obligation to give effect within Australia to the principles of the ILO. That is an indisputable fact of international law. However, one would not know that from hearing the statements of the Opposition. That principle arises from two main reasons: First, each treaty Australia enters into in its own right imposes obligations on the parties to the treaty and secondly, the ILO constitution requires members to implement ILO conventions that they have ratified. Specifically, Article 19.5 (d) provides that a member State is to 'take such action as may be necessary to make effective the provisions of such Convention'. It has been recognised that this requires the implementation of the convention, both in terms of legislation and practice.

I do not propose to take the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party and the National Party any further. What I wish to do is again highlight how out of step with Australia the Liberal and National parties are and how desperate the Leader of the Liberal Party is in his attempts to retain his leadership, so desperate that he will embrace any extremist cause or viewpoint if he can manage, in his opinion, to squeeze a few political points from it. That principle applies to the extremist and racist League of Rights or the Queensland Premier's draconian legislation, which was clearly condemned in foresight by the late Sir Phillip Lynch, by the Deputy Leader of the National Party and by the former Liberal Party spokesman, Mr Viner.

I emphasise again how much support and concern there is in Australia-not just from the Labor Party-for the views being expressed in this chamber by the Government. The Anglican Primate of Australia and Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Reverend John Grindrod, has expressed his concern; 31 Catholic priests have written to the Courier-Mail; the head of the Industrial Commission in Queensland has attacked the actions of the Queensland Government; and concerned Australians from all walks of life are prepared to take the step of being arrested to defend the principles of civil liberties that the Liberal Party once stood for. When that happens we can see how far out of step the Liberal Party is.

This chamber suffers when there is no credible Opposition. It is with regret that I accuse the Leader of the Liberal Party of deserting the principles of his Party and accuse the Deputy Leader of the National Party of failing to defend the principles which he once stood for and which he represented on behalf of the Australian Government in Geneva less than three years ago.