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Wednesday, 18 September 1985
Page: 712


Senator BOSWELL(5.40) —The annual report of the Trade Practices Commission covers the very worthwhile activities of the Commission as it attempts to create the best environment for free enterprise to prosper while protecting the consumer. The chief tool of the Commission is the Trade Practices Act. In this respect, I was interested to see in the report under the heading `Substantive Amendments to the Trade Practices Act 1974' that no mention was made of the Government having tried to throw out sections 45D and 45E in the dying stages of the last Parliament. These sections prevent unions from using industrial action against companies with which they are not in dispute, because doing so puts pressure on the companies or the governments with which the union is in dispute. They are reasonable laws which protect enterprise, and almost everyone in the community recognises this. Those laws have the overwhelming support of all sections of business. However, because the union movement does not like them, because they impose some responsibility and restraint on unreasonable union actions, this Government has been very reluctant to enforce sections 45D and 45E.

There are a number of classic examples. One example is the deliberate union blockade of Queensland earlier this year. That was a blatant attempt to assert influence to the disadvantage of a third innocent party. The union movement cut off transport, mail services, food supplies and other essential services to the Queensland people. A clearer case of the breach of section 45D of the Trade Practices Act and the law of our land could not be found. The Federal Government then, as now in the Mudginberri dispute, refused to invoke the provisions of section 45D. Senator Button today in Question Time said that the unions should obey the law and the law should be enforced. That is good rhetoric, but we have not seen any action from the Government.

In the Mudginberri dispute we have seen the same total disregard for the Trade Practices Act by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Government. This morning the President-elect of the ACTU stated that because a court had enforced section 45D of the Trade Practices Act in relation to the action of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union, the unions will be going on the attack with a campaign of industrial action. There could be no clearer example of the sort of union activity and attitude that the ordinary Australian no longer considers acceptable. Because the ACTU does not like a court upholding a section of the Trade Practices Act, it will launch a campaign of industrial intimidation. We have seen already the beginnings of this campaign with the pointless damaging actions of the Transport Workers Union which refuses to load any Australian beef or lamb for newly developed markets. Only five minutes ago a message came through on the Australian Associated Press wire which I believe states that the ACTU will blackmail the rural industry. The telex states:

Australia's rural industry would face a national campaign of industrial action co-ordinated by the ACTU within the next two weeks.

The campaign has been designed to support the Australiasian Meat Industry Employees Union in the Mudginberri dispute and to warn off employers and the National Farmers Federation from taking legal action against unions.

If that is the ACTU's response, it completely underestimates the rural people of Australia and the National Farmers Federation. They will not be blackmailed and intimidated. Mudginberri is the first shot fired. I can tell the Senate now that every time a union stops trade, blockades or does anything that is irresponsible, the National Farmers Federation and the rural people will answer it in the courts of Australia under sections 45D and 45E of the Trade Practices Act.