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Monday, 5 March 2001
Page: 24924

Mrs MOYLAN (3:10 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business. Would the minister inform the House of continuing attempts by trade unions to charge compulsory union levies to non-union members? What do these proposed charges mean for Australian workers and their families, and have there been any recent developments in this area?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business) —I thank the member for Pearce for her question, and I note that the Western Australian Labor government in her state is now trying to impose compulsory levies on students, let alone on workers. It is ACTU policy to force every non-unionist in this country to pay a $500 levy to the relevant trade union. If a company tried to charge people for services that they had not requested, it would be in breach of the trade practices legislation. Mr Speaker, if someone decided that your house needed a different coat of paint, proceeded to do the work without asking you and, when you came home, tried to charge you for it, that person would be guilty of a scam, pure and simple. They would be guilty of a scam.

Last month, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission declined to remove a compulsory levy clause from a certified agreement even though it held that this was designed to coerce people to join the union. In effect, it held that these clauses were compulsory unionism by the back door and that they amounted to the creation of a Claytons closed shop. I can inform the House that the Employment Advocate has decided to appeal this decision after receiving further legal advice that these clauses contravene fundamental freedom of association principles. If the ACTU succeeds in this campaign, 5.7 million Australians who are not members of a trade union face a $500-a-year union tax.

Where do members opposite stand? The opposition are fatally compromised on this matter, because in the last financial year Labor received $583,000 from the trade union at the heart of this dispute. No wonder they want a compulsory union levy: so they can recycle the money to the Labor Party. Unless the Leader of the Opposition repudiates this policy of the ACTU, unless the Leader of the Opposition says exactly where he stands, he will be guilty of having his hands deeply in the pockets of every Australian worker.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.