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Thursday, 8 December 1983
Page: 3532


Senator DURACK(4.48) —I move:

(4) Page 18, paragraph 23 (a), lines 3 to 7, leave out the paragraph.

Clause 23 seeks to remove from the Act a number of provisions, and to substitute others. In the process, what has happened is that the Bill will significantly reduce the number of offences for which, upon conviction, a union member can be barred from holding office in the union. Although it is claimed, I notice, by the Government that the provision is restricted only to offences relating to elections or ballots, it removes a number of quite serious offences relating to failure to comply with Federal court orders, including orders in respect of secret ballots. I propose to state the policy behind the provisions in the existing Act, as introduced last year by the then Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Macphee. He referred to the recommendations of the Winneke Royal Commission and said:

. . . these recommendations highlight the need for the honest administration of registered organisations. These bodies play a vital role in Australian society. It is plainly against the interests of the community and the members of registered organisations if their administration is not competent and honest.

The Government does not doubt that by far the majority of registered organisations are honestly run, and not only the Royal Commission into the Builders Labourers Federation but also that into the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union has shown that there is an urgent requirement for legislation to combat corruption in the management of registered organisations.

Mr Macphee said that it was desired to try to equate the position under the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, with, as far as possible, relevant provisions in the Companies Act. Of course, we know that people are debarred from being directors of companies if they have committed various offences, particularly those relating to fraud and dishonesty or specific offences under the Companies Act. As I have said, the present Government has not resiled from that principle as far as I can see. It has sought to reduce the range of offences under which debarring from holding office will occur.

We are opposed to the changes being made in the list of offences as they exist in the Act. As I have said, some of the offences which are being removed as grounds for debarring people from holding office include failure to comply with orders of the Federal Court of Australia, in particular an order made by the Federal Court to comply with the rules of the organisation in respect of secret ballot; failure to comply with a direction of the Federal Court in observance of the rules of an organisation; failure to lodge with the Industrial Registrar details of moneys held by an organisation; and failure to lodge with the Registrar details of loans or donations over $1,000. They are quite important matters which go directly to the competence and honesty of people involved in the administration of unions. We believe that those provisions should remain in the legislation as grounds for debarring people from holding office. Therefore, the purpose of my amendment is to ensure that the present situation is retained. It certainly should be retained pending the conclusion of the tripartite inquiry and further consideration by the National Labour Consultative Committee in regard to these matters. They are the reasons I have moved this amendment.