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Wednesday, 16 December 1992
Page: 5181

Senator COOK (Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Shipping and Aviation Support) (3.20 p.m.) —Mr Acting Deputy President, I am flabbergasted. Try as I may to educate Senator Crane in what the Act really means, I find that he either is unable to understand a simple proposition or deliberately avoids understanding it. He put a proposition to me in a question; I responded by making an assertion that it was untrue and produced evidence to prove I was right. What has Senator Crane done? He has said I am wrong, and his way of establishing that is simply by asserting, and not proving a damn thing. In terms of the scales of logic here, I win, he loses; that is the outcome.

  But let us go to some of the other facts that I did not have time to cover in a three-minute answer. Senator Crane has said—and I think I have him down correctly as a quote—`The evidence is absolutely clear that it is bringing these people into the award', or words to that effect. The evidence is not absolutely clear at all. There is no evidence to support that proposition because the claim that has been referred to was a log of claims on 23 July, as the Master Builders Association says, of its rival employer organisation, the HIA, before this legislation was in force. The log of claims of 23 July sought to cover exclusively conditions with employees. Read the log of claims. It refers to employees; it does not refer to contractors.

Senator Crane —Refer to 2(b).

Senator COOK —It does not refer to contractors; it refers to employees. It is what the technicians of industrial relations appearing before the Commission call, and in the parlance of arbitration is known as, `a roping-in application'. These are potential respondents to a Federal award who are not at the moment respondents, who are served by a claim to enable an arbitrator to decide, if the point is contested, whether or not they ought to be covered by an award. So there is no irrefutable evidence here of anything at all, except that in the view of this particular union those particular employers ought to be covered by an award in so far as their employees are concerned. It has nothing to do with their contractors, if they have any, but only with their employees.

  It may be a union view that the employees of this company are entitled to be covered by an award, and that view may be right. But it has not been tested yet. The obvious response of the employers, if they disagree, will be to contest. It will go to arbitration and go through a process of hearing and determination to find out what is right. If the Commission errs at law, it will go through the courts system on appeal to make the law right.

  Senator Crane has no evidence whatsoever to support his contention, which leads me to the next consideration: why in the absence of any evidence does he persist in making the assertions he does? One can be charitable and say he is mistaken—this is Thursday of the last week of sitting—

  Opposition Senators—Wednesday!

Senator COOK —But because there is a pattern here, it would be unreasonable to say that he is simply mistaken. He wants to make a political point; he wants to smear these unions; he wants to kick the anti-union can; and he wants to try to score a few brownie points for himself in the National Farmers Federation or wherever else he thinks his constituency is. I say to Senator Crane: `Well, go for it, that's your right; but don't ever pretend that it's true, because it ain't'.