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Thursday, 17 August 1989
Page: 311


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(8.13) —in reply -The Senate is debating the Industrial Relations (Directions to Stop Industrial Action) Amendment Bill, which I introduced earlier this week. It proposes amendments to the industrial relations legislation, and those amendments go to providing a system for enforcing the directions of the Industrial Relations Commission. I start by thanking those honourable senators who have contributed to the debate, perhaps also acknowledging the numerous senators from the Opposition who would have liked to have contributed but who joined with me in wanting to bring the matter to a vote tonight and so abstained.

I acknowledge the contributions, in particular, of Senator Cooney, Senator McKiernan and Senator Burns, all of whom spoke with a great depth of trade union experience. I wish to respond to some of the things that they had to say. I want also to respond to what was said by Senator Aulich, who contributed to the debate in a quite different spirit. I will touch on that separately. I thank the other three Government senators to whom I referred for their very serious contributions to the debate and I want to give them a serious response. I also thank Senator Chapman and acknowledge his contribution.

It is always easier to commence with the contribution of the honourable senator who has just resumed his seat, because it is freshest in one's memory. Senator Burns spoke of his concern about the abuse of workers and so on. I simply wish to assure Senator Burns that in referring to the role of the Federal Government the industrial relations policy which I helped to refine and reissued last year makes the point that there is an obligation to ensure that neither employers nor unions are able to abuse their power. I assure Senator Burns that as far as I am concerned protecting employees against abuse of power is just as vital and a matter of just as much seriousness as protecting the right of any employer. I point out to Senator Burns that the measures we propose are available to employees as well as employers.

In the particular case raised by Senator Cooney, where he pointed out some defect in the existing capacity of arbitral tribunals to protect the interests of employees in what he thought was an adequate way in the sorts of circumstances he mentioned, the procedures that we are suggesting should go into the Act would be available to the workers who could obtain an injunction which would put the employer at the risk of a contempt of court proceeding if the employer did not obey. So this is a two-way arrangement, not one that is put there solely for the purpose of employers.

What is it that we are seeking to do? We seek to make the longstanding industrial arrangements in Australia accountable. We seek to reach a situation where the obligations which arise from being a participant in the system are obligations that bind both the employer and the employee. For the benefit of those Labor senators who have spoken in the debate, I remind them that the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Willis-a child of the trade union movement, a man who worked for the Australian Council of Trade Unions, who worked with the present Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), who came into government as the Minister for Industrial Relations and who was the proponent of the industrial relations legislation which went through the Parliament last year-had this to say when introducing his original Bill in 1987:

An essential element of any industrial relations system which provides benefits and protections to registered organisations and their members is that there should be an effective means of ensuring adherence to the principles on which the system is founded and compliance with the decisions of its institutions.

I would have thought that was a very sensible and unchallengeable statement: if we are going to have a system of arbitration, it should bind both sides of the employment equation. Mr Willis went on to say that the existing bans clause provisions-which are precisely the provisions which exist in the new legislation-are provisions which have fallen into disrepute. Again, to use the Minister's words, they are now `substantially moribund'. That was the judgment not of the Liberal Party or the National Party, but of Mr Willis in 1987. Indeed, in the election campaign of 1987 Mr Willis made it quite clear in a debate with me on station 3LO in Melbourne that the Government would reintroduce its industrial relations legislation and it would contain compliance procedures. I quoted what he said in my second reading speech in this place on 18 November 1987, but for the benefit of Senator Burns and others I will quote him again. He said:

. . . the original proposals to prevent the use of common law and to require conciliation before trade practices action could be taken in respect of sections 45d and e against trade unions, that those provisions will not be gone ahead with--

in other words, Mr Willis agreed that the proposals should not be proceeded with-

nor will the increase in monetary penalties. That will leave us with a compliance system which is more similar to the one which currently exists but with some very substantial differences, a direction system which I believe will be more effective than the current bans clause system which has virtually been moribund for 20 years and also with an array of non-monetary penalties where unions or the employers refuse to accept Commission decisions or orders.

Mr Willis made those statements during the election campaign of 1987. For the benefit of Senator McLean, who has come back into the chamber, I say that it was an election undertaking of the Hawke Government given through its Minister, Mr Willis, that the Government would enact the legislation with directions and compliance procedures as well as remove the restrictions on the common law injunction and the fetters in the way of the use of section 45d and section 45e.

The basis on which this Government went to the people in 1987 was that there would be maintenance of sections 45d and 45e, maintenance of the common law injunction, and a directions and compliance provision along the lines indicated by Mr Willis earlier in that year. That was the election commitment, made clearly and in my presence, and subsequently dishonoured because Mr Crean, in August 1987, said `no'. That is the history of this matter. It is quite simple. There was a clear definition of the need from Mr Willis, a clear pre-election undertaking that the need would be met, and a clear dishonouring of that commitment. I say to those senators who have tried to present this as being a terrible union bashing that that is nonsense. This is modelled on a streamlined version of what was proposed by a Labor Minister for Industrial Relations, a man with lifelong experience in the trade union movement. Therefore, I say that the concerns that have been expressed, in my view, are quite exaggerated.

I acknowledge that some serious points were raised. Matters that I would certainly wish to consider in the committee stage of the Bill were raised by Senator Cooney in relation to possible breadth of penalties that would be imposed for breach of a court order, for contempt of court. I think that is a matter which we could consider in the committee stage of the Bill. Senator Cooney, for example, might like to bring forward an amendment which, like the original proposal of Mr Willis, puts some limit on the degree of punishment which could be imposed with respect to an action for contempt of court. One might wish, for example, totally to exclude any question of possible imprisonment. Certainly it has never been the intention of the Opposition that there should be other than monetary penalties in this area. That would be the sort of amendment that the Senate could very sensibly consider. Again I acknowledge the sensible contribution that was made by Senator Cooney in drawing that matter out. I indicated to him privately that that was a matter which I thought should be given serious consideration.

Let me turn to some of the other matters which have been raised. Senator Burns and Senator McKiernan are people who have worked in the trade union movement. Senator Burns is absolutely right about the value of what can be done within an enterprise. Of course it is possible to get considerable increases in productivity, which is precisely what the Treasurer (Mr Keating), the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh) and many other people have identified as the key requirement to solve Australia's economic problems. If one looks at what the system has delivered since the accord was put in place, one will see that the Australian work force is entitled to feel cheated. It has delivered flat productivity and declining real wages. I do not think that is what Senator Burns thinks the system should be producing.

If Government senators look at the Budget Papers they will see that the Government estimates that wages will rise by 7 per cent this year but inflation will be 7 1/2 per cent. Productivity will be stagnant or declining. With productivity stagnant or declining-and these are the Government's figures-it is inevitable that real wages will not rise. Therefore there should be serious questions in the minds of the Government senators as to the effectiveness of six years of the accord when it has rewarded the Australian work force so badly. Australian workers have had wage rises twice as quickly as have our trading competitors, but they have been rewarded with diminished wages because our inflation rate is much higher. That is the real problem. The Australian work force is fed up and angry. There is a risk of a wages break-out because the system is not delivering.


Senator Aulich —What hypocrisy!


Senator CHANEY —I hear Senator Aulich, who has returned to the chamber. I mentioned his contribution to the debate somewhat unfavourably when I commenced this response. He says, `What hypocrisy'. I am citing the Government's own figures in the Budget. I challenge Government senators to refute their own Budget figures which show that the Government expects an increase in incomes of 7 per cent, inflation of 7 1/2 per cent and stagnant productivity.


Senator Aulich —You do not understand the concept of a social wage.


Senator CHANEY —I do not have time to worry about any more of Senator Aulich's contribution. The situation I have outlined is the sad reality which underpins the dissatisfaction in the work force at this time.

We are offering an approach to industrial relations which has a number of essential particulars. In a debate earlier this week on industrial relations matters in a much broader sense, we discussed a series of propositions which we believe need to be addressed if we are to break out of Australia's impasse. What are those propositions? Firstly, we say that we need to move the industrial relations system towards the enterprise, that it is by working together within enterprises that one achieves results. Some of the most senior trade unionists in the country have agreed with me on that proposition. The action has to happen within enterprises. That is the way the industrial relations system has to be re-shaped.

Secondly, we need a trade union structure which is a contributor to the direct dealing between employers and employees within enterprises instead of a source of demarcation disputes and problems. Again there is a good deal of common ground in that. The present Government, in its defence industries, for example, is working very hard to reduce the number of unions in any particular workplace. With respect to the submarine contract, it has insisted that the multiplicity of unions be reduced. Senior trade unionists admit that the most desirable position would be a single trade union per workplace. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) pattern of union amalgamations is not designed to produce that outcome. It is essentially a system which is based on political considerations and will not produce the desired outcome of single enterprise bargaining units. If that is a significant difference between us, so be it. The Opposition is right in that regard and will pursue that policy.

The third area that we discussed in a much broader debate last Tuesday was the issue of compliance. I have already quoted Mr Willis's very sensible view expressed in 1987 about the need to have that sort of compliance. Those senators who believe that some sorts of legal controls act against the interests of the work force and against good outcomes are flying in the face of the facts. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development 1987 report on adjustment and economic performance saw the absence of legal controls over collective bargaining as one of the distinguishing features of those European countries with the worst records in industrial relations. It pointed out that those countries with the worst industrial relations records over the last two decades have been those with the weakest framework of labour law-the United Kingdom, France and Italy. The report noted that the situation in those countries has improved in recent years. It went on:

It can be argued that the continued exemption in each of these countries of a broad range of industrial disputes from liability for civil damages not only increases strike frequency but also reduces the value of collective agreements to both workers and employers.

An essential element of any orderly and progressive system of industrial relations would be the precise quality that was described by Mr Willis in his second reading speech in 1987 as an essential element, namely, that the system should have an `effective means of ensuring adherence to the principles on which the system is founded'.

The current debate takes place at the time of a serious dispute relating to air pilots. That makes the debate somewhat relevant because the air pilots have been taken before the Industrial Relations Commission. The arbitration commissioner has given them directions which they have flatly ignored. Tonight they have escalated the dispute still further by saying that they will fly between nine and five. Obviously that will cause enormous losses to their employers as well as enormous inconvenience to thousands of the travelling public. One of the Government's senior Ministers told me this morning that the Government will come down hard on this issue. What will it do? It will push for the deregistration of the Federation. Then what? Where does that leave us? Absolutely nowhere.


Senator Burns —What about collective bargaining?


Senator CHANEY —This is a classic situation. One does not have collective bargaining in any acceptable sense, one has coercive bargaining. It has always been part of the policy of the Opposition that collective bargaining-an approach whereby industrial relations are regulated by agreement-is only satisfactory where there is an absence of coercive power. That is why we have a series of interlocking reforms which prevent the sort of industrial blackmail that we are seeing in Australia today.

What is proposed in this Bill is a simple, but very powerful, support for the Arbitration Commission in its decisions, instead of having the situation that we have debated so often here where the former Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in trying to deal with disputes in the building industry and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, reported on a state of industrial anarchy. During the plumbers and gasfitters dispute their unions spent six months thumbing their noses at the Arbitration Commission. Now the pilots are thumbing their noses at the Commission. The Opposition says that there has been enough of that, and it is time to give the Commission some genuine authority.

When we introduced this Bill on a previous occasion, as an amendment to the earlier legislation, we received strong support from a series of employer bodies-bodies which, I must say, have been very ready to criticise different aspects of our industrial relations approach from time to time. The person I would most like to quote, although there was support from the Associated Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of Australian Industry and the Business Council of Australia, is Mr Bert Evans. He, again, has been very ready to criticise Opposition policy if he disagreed with it, and he has been one of the leaders in the push for award restructuring, which has the very strong support of the present Government. He said this:

The Opposition's Bill has obviously been carefully drafted with the practicalities of day-to-day industrial relations in mind. It contains no provisions which any fairminded person prepared to abide by the rules of compulsory conciliation and arbitration could object to. On the other hand, it clearly would remove the imbalances which presently exist and which favour the recalcitrant unions at the expense of the employers who are trying to work within the system.

Let me turn to some specific matters which were raised by senators. I touch, but lightly, upon Senator Aulich's contribution, which made me cross because of his misrepresentation of matters which had nothing to do with this debate. Quite apart from the fact that he took no trouble to check when, for example, I was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, which was not in the 1980s but in the 1970s, he made some comments about the then Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, which showed either an appalling ignorance of Mr Fraser or a willingness to mislead the Senate on a quite interesting and important aspect of his prime ministership.


Senator Aulich —On a point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President: I ask the honourable senator to withdraw his remark about misrepresentation or misleading.


Senator Chaney —On the point of order--


Senator Aulich —If the honourable senator cannot take the heat in the kitchen, I suggest he gets out. I ask for a withdrawal.


Senator Chaney —Madam Acting Deputy President, on the point of order: I said that the honourable senator made comments about the then Prime Minister which showed that he was either ignorant of the then Prime Minister's views on certain matters or he was setting out to mislead. I did not say which it was and I have no intention of withdrawing the remark.


Senator Aulich —Madam Acting Deputy President, I seek your judgment in this matter. I have raised a point of order, and I will be specific about the issue. The honourable senator was talking about the question of me misrepresenting, and it is on that issue that I seek your guidance. He cannot have it both ways.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Giles) —Senator Aulich, Senator Chaney chose his words very carefully, and I do not believe that on this occasion there is a point of order.


Senator CHANEY —Madam Acting Deputy President, I simply want to make the point, which is irrelevant to this debate but which was raised by Senator Aulich, that it is quite notorious that Prime Minister Fraser was extremely supportive of all of his Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs and that none of them, including me, had to deal with the Prime Minister in the way that was suggested by Senator Aulich. I wish again to publicly acknowledge what I thought was a principled, continuous and positive interest in Aboriginal affairs by the previous Prime Minister.

Senator Aulich spent a good deal of his time trying to suggest that there was some extreme view of industrial relations being pushed by the Opposition. I simply challenge the Government senators' seriousness on that point by saying that I wish to incorporate into Hansard the formal policy which was issued by the Liberal and National parties last year, which sets out extensively the policy we are promoting, and which is supported by all of us. I seek leave to incorporate the document in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

LIBERAL AND NATIONAL

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS POLICY

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This document revises and updates the policy released in May 1986-a policy which has proved a pacesetter in terms of the directions it advocated for change in industrial relations in this country.

Since 1986 some changes to industrial relations have been in the direction advocated. Indeed, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission's adoption of the second tier wage structure in 1987 was consistent with the thrust of the existing policy.

The model we laid down two years ago emphasised greater prosperity through increased productivity based on workplace cooperation, the development of an alternative stream of industrial relations through voluntary agreements, a redressing of the balance of power which had shifted too far in favour of the unions and protection of individual rights through genuine voluntary unionism.

Its aim was to provide a far more flexible and fairer framework within which industrial relations issues could be resolved to the benefit of the whole community.

Regrettably, despite some tentative steps along the paths we advocated, the Hawke Government has generally failed to meet the challenge of change.

This policy builds on the success of the 1986 document and maintains the Liberal-National Parties' position at the forefront of the campaign for genuine industrial relations reform leading to a far less regulated system-essential if Australia is to boost productivity and improve living standards.

Main Features:

A strong restatement of the need for a more flexible, less centralised system with the focus where it belongs-at the enterprise level

Legally enforceable voluntary agreements available to all enterprises regardless of size, removing the former initial restriction to firms with 50 or less employees

Specific provisions to guarantee genuine voluntary unionism

outlawing of closed shops

abolition of the power to grant preference to union members

Compulsory secret ballots before strike action

Strengthening of union deregistration procedures

Greater emphasis in awards and voluntary agreements on the use of grievance procedures

Tough new enforcement provisions allowing speedy access to the Federal Court to deal with those who fail to comply with the decisions and orders of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, or who breach the ``no-strike'' provisions of voluntary agreements

reform of provisions relating to union structure to

promote direct employer-employee dealing at enterprise level

facilitate creation of single enterprise bargaining units

give the workforce (via secret ballots) the ability to determine creation of new unions or other changes to representation

Encouragement of use of the common law in the civil courts where appropriate to obtain redress from damage caused by industrial action

Retention of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission but with reforms to:

require consideration of the economic impact of its decisions and an estimate of their effects on productivity, employment, inflation and international competitiveness

allow changes in wages and conditions to vary between firms and industries

place greater emphasis on conciliation and negotiation

encourage and facilitate restructuring of awards on an enterprise or industry basis

prevent extension of Commission jurisdiction to areas traditionally outside the award system

Protection of the rights of independent contractors

Total ban on payment or acceptance of strike pay

Enactment of comprehensive Commonwealth essential services legislation

Maximum encouragement of employee participation, profit sharing and share ownership

A more flexible, market-oriented approach to public sector industrial relations

Financial support for parties oppressed by unacceptable industrial behaviour.

1 INTRODUCTION

1.1 There is a need for fundamental change in the way we organise and conduct industrial relations in Australia.

1.2 Australia needs a less centralised, more flexible system which will provide greater freedom to employers and employees to choose how they regulate their own affairs.

1.3 A more flexible system is in the interests of all Australians:

it will bring about more harmonious relations between employers and employees, by stressing co-operation and common interest, not conflict;

it will enable people to work more productively and with greater satisfaction;

it offers the best prospect of higher living standards and improved job opportunities.

1.4 The success of a more flexible system requires an end to the abuse of power which has been such a feature of industrial relations in Australia.

A system in which the rule of law applies:

will protect fundamental civil liberties, including the freedom to join or not to join a trade union;

will ensure that all members of the community are free to get on with their lives without being subjected to stand-over tactics;

will make those who abuse their power accountable for their actions;

will introduce greater certainty and predictability into industrial relations.

1.5 Under the existing system Australian living standards have declined-in absolute terms and relative to the rest of the world.

1.6 A more flexible system will increase productivity and thereby achieve faster real growth in wages and profits.

1.7 The key to good industrial relations and higher productivity is the strength and quality of the relationship between employer and employee. We need a system where employers and employees work as a team.

1.8 The current system places the emphasis of industrial relations away from the workplace, thereby encouraging destructive ``them and us'' attitudes. It creates the perception that industrial relations is about winners and losers.

1.9 Our policy is about ensuring that the focus of industrial relations is where it belongs-at the level of the individual enterprise. At workplace level employers and employees can see most clearly that they have a common interest in the success of the enterprise.

1.10 We recognise that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, will for the foreseeable future, continue to play a role for many enterprises. However, employers and employees should be free to have their industrial relations regulated by means of voluntary agreements rather than by an award of the Commission. We expect an increasing proportion of the workforce to negotiate agreements as the benefits of this approach become clear.

1.11 For those who choose to remain within the jurisdiction of the Commission the system will be made much more flexible. We will use the experience of the second tier and other techniques adopted by the Commission to achieve better results. In particular, we will encourage awards to be made as flexible as possible, and will seek to shift the focus of the system away from national cases to the enterprise and industry level. There will be a greater emphasis on negotiation and conciliation.

1.12 This policy will give people more choice. We reject the attempt to impose uniform standards and approaches. In a world of increasing uncertainty and change a more decentralised and diverse approach will produce the best outcome for Australia and Australians.

The Role of Government, Employers and Unions

1.13 The role of the Federal Government is primarily to set the framework within which employers and employees conduct their affairs. In particular, the Government has a responsibility to ensure there is a proper legal framework which encourages good industrial relations and protects the rights of the individual. This means ensuring that neither employers nor unions are able to abuse their power.

1.14 The Government has a responsibility to ensure that its economic and industrial relations policies are properly integrated. This includes, for example, making sure there is adequate competition in product and other markets. Competition is the best incentive to employees and employers to improve their industrial relations and lift productivity. The Government has an important role in providing sufficient information about the economy, so that all those involved in industrial relations fully understand the consequences of their actions.

1.15 Another important role for Government is as a direct employer. In the past, public sector employment has been particularly prone to inflexibility and inefficiency. We will adopt practices in the Commonwealth public sector that will set an example in the pursuit of flexible and harmonious workplace relations.

1.16 Finally, the Government has a responsibility to ensure that the public interest is protected and that industrial disputes are not allowed to disrupt essential services.

1.17 Management has a critical role in ensuring good industrial relations. Unfortunately, encouraged by the centralised nature of the industrial relations system, Australian management has often tended to place too little emphasis on employee relations. This approach is beginning to change.

1.18 There is a growing realisation that efficient, productive and competitive enterprises require a vision shared by both the workforce and management. This means breaking down the barriers that have traditionally existed between management and employees and building up a relationship of mutual trust. Our policies will give management both greater incentive and a greater capacity to develop and improve its employee relations. There is no doubt however that to get the full benefit of these policies will require greater effort on the part of management.

1.19 The Liberal and National Parties believe that unions have an important role to play in representing the legitimate interests of their members. We welcome responsible unionism and support the right of all employees to join a union. However, we totally reject compulsory unionism. Just as employees should be free to join a union so they should be free not to join. This is fundamentally a matter of civil liberties. Genuinely voluntary unions are also more likely to act in a responsible manner and to concentrate on properly providing for their members.

1.20 A Liberal and National Government will consult with unions and employer organisations on matters of mutual interest-for example industrial legislation. However, we totally reject the tendency for unions to become an arm of Government as has happened since the 1983 election. This is not in the interests of parliamentary democracy, employers or employees.

The Legal Framework

1.21 This policy proposes a number of important changes in the legal framework which governs industrial relations. As well as reducing rigidities these changes are designed to introduce greater stability, certainty and accountability into industrial relations at the workplace.

1.22 In the past, people have been frightened to use their legal rights in the face of bullying tactics-particularly by some elements of the union movement. We are firmly committed to upholding the rule of law in industrial relations, and will support those who wish to exercise their legal rights.

1.23 There will be new compliance provisions designed to improve the workings of the conciliation and arbitration system. Arbitration by its very nature involves a third party making binding decisions-yet under the system as it operates in Australia unions may defy Commission rulings with impunity. Effective compliance provisions will support those prepared to follow the rules of arbitration, while penalising irresponsible behaviour.

1.24 Our proposals on voluntary agreements enshrine the principle that once the parties have agreed to terms and conditions of employment these will be legally enforceable, and cannot be varied by industrial action for the duration of the agreement. Failure to follow this principle would weaken the value of agreements for employees and employers alike.

1.25 The proposals on grievance procedures and secret ballots will support the proper and effective resolution of industrial disputes while minimising the use of industrial action.

1.26 Finally, the policy makes clear that certain kinds of industrial action such as secondary boycotts and disruption of essential services are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Impact on Women and the Young

1.27 The new flexible approach to industrial relations in this policy will provide additional opportunities for new entrants to the workforce and assist those who want more flexible working arrangements.

1.28 The Liberal and National Parties support equal employment opportunity principles. Procedures for employment and promotion which seek to ensure that the person most qualified for the position is the successful applicant are to the advantage of both employer and employee.

1.29 We will ensure that equal employment opportunity legislation is implemented in a sensitive manner which will enhance rather than diminish the impact of the legislation. While we support equality of opportunity we do not support positive discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, religion or on any other grounds.

2 VOLUNTARY AGREEMENTS

2.1 A principal objective of this policy is to return the primary responsibility for industrial relations-including the determination of wages and conditions-to employers and employees at the workplace. Strong economic growth, sustainable increases in real wages, and improved living standards can only come from increased productivity. That is best achieved by a co-operative and flexible approach within individual enterprises. Our proposal to allow negotiation of voluntary agreements is an important step in this direction.

2.2 As part of making the system of determining wages and conditions of employment more flexible, where employers and their employees agree, they will be free to have wages and conditions of employment determined by an agreement between them instead of by an award. Agreements may take into account such factors as regional economic conditions, the availability of labour and the recognition of skills.

2.3 We will actively encourage the making of voluntary agreements. Such agreements will assist in developing a common purpose between employer and employees, for the benefit of all.

2.4 To encourage their use, we will publish guidelines on their drafting and contents and will publish model forms of agreement that may be used by employers and employees.

2.5 We will also advocate that agreements of this sort should be used as a means of increasing efficiency, introducing new technology and management methods, removing archaic work practices which limit the productivity and profitability of firms, improving employer-employee relations and introducing more flexible work practices. In particular, more flexible hours of work, permanent part-time work and flexible rewards for skill and ability will be able to be introduced by this means.

2.6 Agreements may be negotiated individually by employees or groups of employees.

2.7 Employees may appoint an agent, including a union, to negotiate on their behalf. Former officers or employees of an association whose registration was cancelled for misconduct will be prohibited from acting as agents. Other measures will be taken to prevent de-registered unions playing a role in the negotiation of voluntary agreements.

2.8 An agreement must provide for at least the relevant minimum award rate of pay for ordinary weekly hours of work for the particular classification of the employee. For the purposes of the agreement, that award rate of pay shall be calculated as an hourly rate.

2.9 Voluntary agreements may then determine other rewards and payments, conditions of employment and changes to work practices that are agreed upon.

2.10 Agreements made under this proposal will be in writing, signed, dated and witnessed.

2.11 Agreements made by minors will require approval by the minor's legal guardian or other appropriate adult.

2.12 An agreement may contain its own dispute settling procedures for dealing with disputes arising while the agreement is current.

2.13 To assist in this regard, we will make regulations under the Act setting out private dispute settling procedures which may be used by the parties. Parties may have access to the services of members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on a fee for service basis as part of their dispute settling procedures.

2.14 Agreements must contain a clause acknowledging that both parties accept the terms and conditions set out in the agreement for the period of its duration and will not take any industrial action designed to vary those conditions over that period.

2.15 An agreement will have a specified term of operation. An agreement may provide that it continues in operation after the expiration of the term and until one month's notice is given of the intention to bring the agreement to an end.

2.16 Subject to the requirement for the payment of the hourly rate of pay calculated by reference to the relevant minimum award, an agreement may determine one, some, or all of the terms of employment between the employer and employees:

if the agreement covers one or some of the terms of employment, then to that extent the relevant award and any new award shall not apply to the employer and employees;

if the agreement covers all of the terms of employment, and is expressed to do so, then the award and any new award shall not apply at all to the employer and employees;

an award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will therefore only apply to the extent that the terms of employment are not provided for in the agreement.

2.17 Voluntary agreements will be available to enterprises of any size.

2.18 The Act will be amended to give voluntary agreements the status of awards.

2.19 The Act will also be amended to provide that the Commission will not have jurisdiction over those industrial matters that are covered by a voluntary agreement whilst the agreement is current.

2.20 To prevent flow-on into awards of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Act will be amended to exclude the provisions of a voluntary agreement from the matters the Commission may have regard to when it is hearing and determining an industrial dispute. We will also legislate to the extent necessary to ensure that there is no flow-on from voluntary agreements into awards of the Commission.

2.21 Should a trade union take industrial action calculated to have the provisions of a voluntary agreement granted or incorporated into an award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to which the union is a party, the taking of that action shall be a ground for the Commission's suspending or cancelling the award so far as the award applies to, or is in favour of, the union or its members.

2.22 The grounds for de-registration of an organisation will provide that any persistent conduct which, in the opinion of the Federal Court has been deliberately engaged in to frustrate the proper workings of the proposed system of determining wages and conditions by voluntary agreement, shall be a ground for de-registration or suspension from registration for a specified period.

3 EMPLOYEE PARTICIPATION AND INCENTIVES

3.1 It is fundamental to this policy to encourage a common purpose and mutual interest between employee and employer.

3.2 The evidence is clear that enterprises which foster good relations with their employees consistently perform better than enterprises with a poor industrial relations record. More and more Australian businesses are realising that their workforces are potentially their greatest asset-to the benefit of the enterprise and employees alike.

3.3 The Liberal and National Parties strongly support and will encourage all forms of employee participation-ranging from employee consultation through to financial incentives, profit-sharing and employee share ownership. It is essential however that any initiatives are developed on a voluntary basis. The Liberal and National Parties oppose enforcement of employee participation, or `industrial democracy', through legislation.

3.4 The Liberal and National Parties are convinced that as increased competitive pressures compel employers to look for new ways to increase productivity, employee participation and incentive schemes will flourish.

3.5 The task of the next Liberal and National Party Government will be to ensure that their introduction is facilitated. Our policy to return responsibility for industrial relations to the workplace, will provide a framework conducive to all forms of employee participation while more specific initiatives may be required to encourage particular schemes.

3.6 For example, in March 1988, the Liberal and National Parties introduced legislation into the Senate to remove the tax penalty imposed by s.26AAC of the Income Tax Assessment Act on employees who purchase shares in their company at a discount price. This legislation encompassed proposals announced in the 1982-83 budget and affirmed in the 1987 policy speech. This initiative has since been adopted, in more limited form, by the Hawke Government.

4 THE ARBITRATION COMMISSION AND WAGES POLICY

4.1 This policy will reduce the role of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. However, the Commission will, for the foreseeable future, continue to settle disputes and determine wages and conditions of employment for a significant proportion of the workforce. Therefore, it is essential the conciliation and arbitration system itself continues to develop a more flexible approach, one that encourages negotiations at the workplace and is responsive to the needs of individual enterprises and industries, while at the same time taking into account the impact of its decisions on the national economy. In short, decisions of the Commission must reflect economic realities at the national, industry and enterprise levels.

Establishing the Economic Framework

4.2 To achieve this, it will first be necessary to ensure that the Commission, unions, employers, and employees are well-informed about the state of the economy. A future Liberal and National Party Government will publish regular economic assessments which will provide a sound basis for sensible economic decision-making.

4.3 As well as reviewing economic conditions, these assessments will provide a basis for establishing a desirable goal for aggregate unit labour cost outcomes.

4.4 A crucial objective will be to keep unit labour cost movements, including on-costs, in Australia in line with or lower than labour cost movements in our trading competitors. This is essential if this nation is to be internationally competitive. Over recent years nominal unit labour costs have increased at two to three times the overseas average. The best way of reducing unit labour cost growth is by improving productivity, as this offers the opportunity for higher real wages and living standards. Moreover, such an objective is perfectly compatible with a range of wage outcomes across individual enterprises or industries, depending on their productivity and economic circumstances.

4.5 The Commission will be required to assess the economic impact of its decisions, in particular the effect that they will have on productivity, employment, inflation and international competitiveness. We will amend the Act to ensure that these factors are taken into account in all relevant Commission proceedings, and the Commission will, further, be required to provide estimates of the effects of its decisions on these factors.

Approach to Wage Fixing

4.6 Once these broad economic constraints have been specified, we will urge the Commission to adopt an approach to wage-fixing which, as far as possible, seeks to achieve outcomes appropriate to individual enterprises and industries.

4.7 Since the release of the Liberal and National Parties' Industrial Relations Policy in May 1986, there have been some significant changes in the attitudes of the parties and the Commission's approach to wage-fixing, and some of these have been along the lines recommended in that document. For example, the 1987 National Wage Case which introduced the two tier approach moved away from the principle of wage indexation and reduced the role of comparative wage justice.

4.8 The ``second-tier'', though far from perfect, acknowledged the importance of the workplace in determining wages, by encouraging negotiations at the enterprise level in pursuit of productivity improvements as a basis for wage increases. Such developments potentially provide a start in introducing much greater flexibility into the conciliation and arbitration system.

4.9 The position of a Liberal and National Party Government before the Commission will be that the Commission should build on the advances made under the second-tier. In particular, against the background of the broad macro-economic requirements, it should allow changes in wages and conditions to vary between firms and industries. Such diverse outcomes are perfectly compatible with achievement of competitive aggregate unit labour costs so long as wage increases are based on the economic realities confronting the firm or industry.

4.10 A major Commission role will be to assist the parties in removing impediments to increased productivity and higher real wages. Primary responsibility for negotiations should rest with the parties themselves-employers and employees-preferably at the individual enterprise level. This will help promote a sense of common purpose and, in turn, increased efficiency and productivity. We will urge the Commission to develop appropriate guidelines which will provide a basis for negotiations between the parties as well as for making its own decisions.

These would include:

Adopting higher productivity as a central objective. Eradication of restrictive work practices, the introduction of flexible working arrangements, and improved training and skill formation are important ways to improve productivity.

Introduction by the Commission of more flexibility into its awards so that it can accommodate the needs and wishes of individual enterprises and their employees. Legal impediments to variation of awards by the Commission in their application to individual enterprises and workplaces will be removed, for example, the requirement that there be uniformity of conditions throughout an industry.

Recognition that benefits from increased productivity flow in a number of ways including lower prices and therefore increased real wages and higher employment. Improvements in productivity should not, therefore, be taken necessarily to justify equivalent increases in nominal wages. Importantly, adequate returns must flow to investors to encourage further investment for the production of wealth in the future.

A much greater emphasis on conciliation and negotiation, with arbitration only being used as a last resort or where the conciliation process is being flouted by resort to industrial action.

Ensuring that proper regard is had to the specific conditions of the enterprise of industry concerned, including its capacity to pay any increase in labour costs.

4.11 We will encourage and facilitate, by legislation if necessary, the restructuring of awards on an enterprise or industry basis.

4.12 In addition, we will encourage the continued use of agreements between employers and unions, such as certified agreements, for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes.

4.13 We will oppose the Commission extending its jurisdiction to areas which, traditionally, have been determined outside the award system. We will legislate to this effect if required.

4.14 We will prevent the extension of superannuation via arbitrated awards, although we will continue to encourage individuals to participate in superannuation schemes to provide for their own retirement.

4.15 We will encourage the conversion of paid rates to minimum rates awards, particularly where such awards have failed to maintain themselves as true paid rates awards, or where a large number of employers is covered. We will prevent the creation of new paid rates awards. Paid rates awards, which stipulate actual rates of pay and proscribe over-award payments, limit the capacity of employers to respond to labour market conditions or to introduce more flexible methods of remuneration such as productivity or performance bonuses.

4.16 Where paid rates awards are retained they should contain properly assessed and identifiable minimum classification rates. We will oppose the insertion of new supplementary payments in minimum rates awards and will legislate to prevent the Commission making recommendations about over-award payments.

Youth Wages

4.17 The Commonwealth will institute proceedings, in co-operation with the States, to have junior wage rates set in all applicable awards.

4.18 We will also ensure, by our submissions to industrial tribunals and by advocating a training wage, that youth wages are set at levels that encourage the employment and training of young people and are not obstacles to their employment and training.

5 LIMITS ON INDUSTRIAL ACTION

5.1 A principal objective of this policy is to make parties responsible and accountable for their actions. We believe that this will develop in an evolutionary fashion as individual workplaces increasingly become the focus for decisions on wages and industrial relations. To ensure the efficacy of any contractual system, legal remedies must be available when one party fails to meet its obligations. The disturbing imbalance of power within the conciliation and arbitration system where unions frequently defy Commission orders with impunity will be redressed.

The Rule of Law

5.2 We will ensure that employees, employers, their representatives, and others involved in industrial relations are equal before the law, that the law applies to all, and that it is enforced.

Common Law

5.3 We will encourage the use of the common law in the civil courts in appropriate cases as a means of obtaining redress for unjustified industrial action.

5.4 In co-operation with the States, we will endeavour to streamline procedures for such court actions to ensure simpler and swifter hearings.

Compliance with Commission Decisions

5.5 We will enact legislation already introduced in the Senate to ensure that there are effective sanctions for those who fail to comply with the decisions and orders of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

5.6 This will enable the Commission to issue directions to stop or prevent industrial action. Such directions would be enforceable by injunctions issued by the Federal Court. Failure to comply with injunctions would constitute contempt of court.

5.7 In addition, any person who suffers loss or damage as a result of industrial action in breach of a direction would be able to sue the responsible organisation for damages in the Federal Court.

5.8 We also will review all penalties under the Act to ensure that they are appropriate and effective.

Compliance with Voluntary Agreements

5.9 A voluntary agreement will be legally enforceable and the normal remedies provided under the law of contract will be available to all parties.

5.10 In addition there will be statutory provisions to ensure that where industrial action in breach of an agreement takes place, the aggrieved party may apply to a civil court for an injunction against the industrial action. Failure to comply with an injunction would constitute contempt of court. There would also be provision for the aggrieved party to sue for damages resulting from action in breach of an agreement. Similar remedies would apply to those who induce either employers or employees to break agreements they have made.

Financial Support for Oppressed Parties

5.11 In general, industrial disputes are a matter for settlement between the parties. The Government's offer of financial assistance to firms complying with its code of conduct in defiance of the Builders Labourers' Federation is an example of how in extreme circumstances direct financial assistance may be warranted. We will give assistance in appropriate circumstances.

5.12 We will also grant legal aid in appropriate circumstances to employers or employees, in cases, for example, concerning secondary boycotts or breaches of voluntary agreements.

Grievance Procedures

5.13 We support much wider use of grievance procedures as a valuable method of dealing with disputes at the workplace level without resort to industrial action.

5.14 We will foster forms of voluntary agreements which contain appropriate grievance procedures to deal with disputes arising during the term of the agreement.

5.15 We support the widest possible use of grievance procedures in awards. Unfortunately, while many awards already contain grievance procedures they are often not adhered to. Failure to comply with a grievance procedure will constitute grounds for the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to issue a direction that industrial action cease.

Secondary Boycotts

5.16 We will maintain the effectiveness of, and if necessary strengthen, the secondary boycott provisions of the Trade Practices Act.

5.17 We will use the powers of the Minister to bring proceedings under the Trade Practices Act in appropriate cases.

Essential Services

5.18 Industrial action may sometimes pose a real threat to public order, or to the safety, health or life of individuals. The States have at their disposal a variety of essential services legislation, and where such threats arise in State jurisdictions, they will be best able to act accordingly.

5.19 The Commonwealth currently has no essential services legislation. We will enact comprehensive legislation to protect the public and the national interest in the Commonwealth area where unacceptable threat to health and safety arises, and where economically essential services or the defence of Australia are prejudiced.

Strike Pay

5.20 We will make it an offence for any employer to pay, or any employee to accept, strike pay.

5.21 The Act will be amended to prohibit a union from taking industrial action in pursuit of a demand for strike pay.

5.22 An employer may seek an injunction terminating such action and any person or organisation inciting such action shall also be liable for damages for any loss suffered. In addition, conduct of this kind shall be a ground for deregistration of the trade union.

Stand-down Provisions

5.23 The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission shall not have any power to require an employer to pay wages to any employee who cannot be productively employed because of the consequences of industrial action.

5.24 We will ensure that employers have effective stand-down rights to deal with rolling bans and strikes.

Secret Ballots

5.25 A Liberal and National Party Government will strengthen the provisions in the Act relating to secret ballots to make ballots compulsory before industrial action.

5.26 Any person who either suffers harm or is threatened with harm from industrial action where a secret ballot has not been held will be able to seek an injunction in the Federal Court to prevent or terminate the action. There will also be provision for parties who have suffered from such industrial action to sue for damages.

5.27 We will legislate to ensure that stringent standards are satisfied before a valid secret ballot will be regarded as having taken place.

5.28 Industrial action taken after a secret ballot has been held will not in itself have general legal immunity. For example, secondary boycotts or industrial action in breach of a Commission direction would still give rise to injunctions whether a secret ballot had been held or not.

6 PUBLIC SECTOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

6.1 A Liberal and National Party Government will adopt a more flexible, market-oriented approach to industrial relations in the area of Commonwealth employment.

6.2 Public sector pay and conditions will be such as to enable employers to recruit, retain and motivate the staff they require in order to achieve their objectives. In determining pay and conditions the following factors will be taken into account: economic conditions, cost, the need to be fair to employees, and the need to reflect differences in market conditions, individual performance, skills and experience. Public servants will as far as possible be provided with terms and conditions of employment that are broadly comparable to, but not more generous than, the private sector.

6.3 A Liberal and National Party Government will not tolerate the use of bans and limitations by Commonwealth employees. We will restore the ``no work as directed-no pay provisions'' of the Public Service Act, and will ensure that in addition to essential services legislation the Commonwealth has effective powers, including stand-down powers, for dealing with industrial action.

7 TRADE UNIONS

Freedom of Association and Union Structure

7.1 The Liberal and National Parties' approach to trade unions is conditioned by the fundamental goal of promoting close, co-operative, flexible and productive relationships within enterprises for the mutual benefit of employers and employees.

7.2 We believe that genuine voluntary unionism and greater scope for workers to choose their union combined with an increasingly enterprise-based industrial relations system, will help to bring about a union structure which is more accountable to the membership and more likely to contribute to good industrial relations.

7.3 The existing union structure is a significant impediment to improved relations between employers and employees in many enterprises. Most employers are forced to deal with several unions, which tend to vie with one another and press narrow sectional interests within the labour force, thus creating demarcation disputes and disrupting employer-employee relations.

7.4 The existence of unions largely based on occupation, rather than industry or enterprise, also encourages the rapid flow of wage adjustments from one part of the economy to other areas.

7.5 The Liberal and National Parties will ensure that:

(a) membership of trade unions is genuinely voluntary;

(b) the closed shop is outlawed;

(c) the structure of registered trade unions in enterprises which are operating under the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and its awards will be determined by the wishes of the members of those unions. Freedom of association will be preserved subject only to Commission supervision of matters relating to the formation of new unions and amalgamation or fragmentation of existing unions with a view to ensuring that, as far as possible, new union structures contribute to the objectives of:

ensuring that employers and employees within an enterprise deal directly with each other;

minimising interference by people or bodies with no direct interest in the enterprise;

facilitating the consolidation of single enterprise bargaining units.

A variety of union structures and sizes could meet these criteria including unions organised on an industry or enterprise basis.

Interested parties will be entitled to have their views heard by the Commission on these issues. There will be provision as appropriate for appeals to the Federal Court.

7.6 In addition, where there are disputes between unions over union coverage such disputes will be determined where applicable by reference to the workforce. In such cases the role of the Commission will be to define the choices available to the workforce and it may indicate which choice, in the view of the Commission, is likely to facilitate the desired employer/employee co-operation.

7.7 Where employees wish to form a new union to represent them or to vary existing union structures to represent them more effectively there will be secret ballot provisions to enable the wishes of the workforce to be determined. When those wishes are established by secret ballot the desired structure will be approved unless, in the opinion of the Commission, it will provide a less effective structure to promote the objectives set out in (c) above, or, in the absence of special circumstances, there has been a determination on union structure within the previous three years.

7.8 Specifically the Liberal and National Parties will:

make it an offence for any person or body, including a trade union or employer, to require a person to join or remain a member of a trade union against his or her will. It will therefore no longer be necessary to obtain a certificate of conscientious objection before being entitled to protection against being coerced to join a union. It will also be an offence for a union to take or threaten industrial action with the purpose of seeking a ``closed shop''. Employers or employees facing such action may seek an injunction for its termination and damages will also be available.

legislate so that a member of an organisation who has not paid his or her subscriptions for a period of six months will be deemed to have resigned from that organisation;

prohibit collection of union dues by employers except where there has been a specific request by the individual employee and the employer consents;

legislate to enable any group of employees proposing to form a union or to amalgamate or fragment an existing union to approach the Commission to set in train the procedures outlined in (c) above;

ensure that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission shall not have the power to grant any form of compulsory unionism or clauses giving any preference to members of a trade union over employees who are not union members;

legislate, if necessary, to ensure full portability so as to preserve both voluntary unionism and legitimate superannuation rights where an employee's desire to resign from a union is compromised by his or her membership of a union superannuation fund.

De-registration

7.9 When circumstances justify de-registration of an organisation we will ensure that it occurs swiftly and in a fully effective manner.

7.10 In addition to using the present provisions on de-registration we will introduce specific legislation where appropriate, along the lines of the legislation used to de-register the Builders Labourers Federation. Such legislation would enable the Minister to apply to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for an enquiry into an organisation's behaviour. Such enquiries would be conducted as expeditiously as possible.

7.11 If the Commission certifies that the organisation has engaged in serious industrial misconduct, the Minister would then be able to effect the immediate cancellation or suspension of the organisation's registration.

7.12 Where questions of liability for fines, penalties or damages may arise, the Commission shall have the power to sequester an organisation's funds and to place them in the hands of an administrator until such questions be resolved.

7.13 Office-bearers of de-registered organisations will not be permitted to hold office in the same or any other organisation for a period of five years.

Independent Contractors

7.14 The Act will be amended to make it an offence to force, or attempt to force an independent contractor, partner or self employed person to join a union. It will also be made an offence to discriminate against such a person on the ground that he/she is not a member.

7.15 We will at all times encourage and preserve the rights of independent contractors, partners and self-employed persons. In particular, the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission shall be strictly confined to relations between employers and employees.

Accounts and Audits

7.16 We will conduct a thorough examination of the operation of those sections of the Act which deal with the accounts and auditing practices of registered organisations, and will amend them where necessary to ensure that organisations keep proper and audited accounts which are readily available to members.

7.17 We will also amend the Act to ensure that the accounting, auditing and other financial obligations of organisations are as nearly as practicable the same of those of companies.

8 STATE-COMMONWEALTH JURISDICTIONS

8.1 Maximum provision will be made for the reciprocal and complementary exercise of State and Commonwealth jurisdictions by means such as joint sittings of tribunals, to achieve greater consistency and integration, reduce anomalies and injustices and prevent the leap-frogging of industrial claims.

8.2 We will ensure that a proper balance is maintained between Federal and State jurisdictions. For example we will prevent the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission from making a Federal award covering an area of employment which is satisfactorily handled by a State jurisdiction.

9 CONSULTATION

9.1 We will consult regularly with employee and employer representatives on all aspects of industrial relations policy. Consultative mechanisms should promote the co-operative ethos embodied in this policy.

9.2 We will discuss with employer and employee representatives the development on a tripartite basis of a voluntary code of conduct to govern the behaviour of the parties in industrial relations.

Policy issued 29 June 1988


Senator CHANEY —I thank the Senate. I go on to quote a couple of paragraphs which are vital to an understanding of that policy. Paragraph 1.13 states:

The role of the Federal Government is primarily to set the framework within which employers and employees conduct their affairs. In particular, the Government has a responsibility to ensure there is a proper legal framework which encourages good industrial relations and protects the rights of the individual. This means ensuring that neither employers nor unions are able to abuse their power.

I repeat what I said earlier in the debate: It is just as vital to me to see the protection of employee interests as it is to see the protection of any other interests in industrial relations. The other two paragraphs I wish to refer to which are relevant to the accusations which were made in a very wild way, in my view, by Senator Aulich start at paragraph 1.18 and read as follows:

1.18 There is a growing realisation that efficient, productive and competitive enterprises require a vision shared by both the workforce and management. This means breaking down the barriers that have traditionally existed between management and employees and building up a relationship of mutual trust. Our policies will give management both greater incentive and a greater capacity to develop and improve its employee relations. There is no doubt however that to get the full benefit of these policies will require greater effort on the part of management.

1.19 The Liberal and National Parties believe that unions have an important role to play in representing the legitimate interests of their members. We welcome responsible unionism and support the right of all employees to joint a union. However, we totally reject compulsory unionism. Just as employees should be free to joint a union so they should be free not to join. This is fundamentally a matter of civil liberties. Genuinely voluntary unions are also more likely to act in a responsible manner and to concentrate on properly providing for their members.

I make no apology at all for reintroducing into this Parliament a Bill which would remedy one of the defects in the Government's industrial relations legislation. Again, I will respond to a point made by Senator Aulich, who waved the Bill around and said, `This is the industrial relations policy of the Opposition.' I will not, for reasons of frugality, seek to incorporate this document into Hansard, but I will table, again, the extensive amendments which were proposed by the Opposition to the Government's industrial relations legislation. I seek leave to table that document simply to illustrate the broad concerns over a range of areas of industrial relations which reflect the policy which I have had incorporated into Hansard.

Leave granted.


Senator CHANEY —I thank the Senate. I turn briefly to what was said by Senator McLean. I wish to point out to him that the decision by the Government to withdraw the directions and compliance procedure was, as I said earlier in this reply, made after an express undertaking to the contrary made just prior to the 1987 election in a debate between me and Mr Willis on station 3LO in Melbourne. The tradition of the Australian Democrats, as originally established by, then, Senator Chipp, was that their role in this Parliament was `to keep the bastards honest', if I may quote Senator Chipp. I would have thought that in this case it would be a serious matter for consideration by the Democrats that the relief we are seeking to put into the Bill is of the same nature as the relief which was promised by the Government at the time of the 1987 election. This is not the last time, I suspect, that we will be debating this matter. I certainly will engage in further dialogue, as Senator McLean has suggested. But I say that the passage of this legislation through the Senate would be one step towards keeping this particular Government honest on this particular issue.

Senator Cooney raised two matters which I would wish to address. The first is the possibility of limiting the power of the court to punish for contempt by excluding the option of imprisonment, and that is a matter which needs serious consideration. As I said, it was always the intention of the Opposition to promote pecuniary penalties, not the court discretion to imprison. Of course, the court has unlimited discretion to punish for contempt of court as was shown in the plumbers and gasfitters case where it chose to fine the plumbers and gasfitters union $280,000 for its contempt of the court's order.

The other point of substance made by Senator Cooney was whether in all cases the remedies which the present Industrial Relations Act provides are adequate to protect the interests of employees whose rights are being flouted by employers. I am sorry that Senator Cooney is not here for me to answer directly. The point I make in response to Senator Cooney is that this Bill, if enacted, would give the employees about whom he expressed concern the capacity to obtain a court injunction and to put exactly the same sanction on the employer as I have just described. In other words, there would be unlimited power of the court to punish for any continuing contempt by the employers. I think that is a fair coverage of the issues raised in the debate on this legislation.

I remind the Senate that this legislation is not raised simply to deal with the pilots' dispute, although that is a classic example of the capacity of an organisation to thumb its nose at the Commission, to accept its benefits on the one hand but refuse to accept decisions which it does not like on the other. This amendment was first put forward by us in 1987. It was again put forward by us in 1988. It has represented the long considered view of the Opposition, completely in accord with the views expressed by the former Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Willis, in 1987 that a change of this sort is essential if we are to have a more orderly system of conciliation and arbitration in this country.

I close by repeating that the present system has let the workers of Australia down. If Senator Burns had been asked in 1983 whether he thought there would be any possibility that an outcome of 6 1/2 years of Labor Government would be a decline in real wages, I think he would have said no. Senator Burns and other honourable senators with a long history in the trade union movement should ponder the failures of the present system and its failure to produce a lift in productivity, which is essential if real wages are to be improved in this country. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Question put:

That the Bill be now read a second time.