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Thursday, 30 September 1993
Page: 1530

Senator KEMP (3.33 p.m.) —I rise to support the motion moved by my colleague Senator Crane to take note of the answer given by Senator McMullan in question time today. Today Senator Minchin used a very devastating phrase, which I think bears repeating in this chamber. He said, `We have a government by the unions, for the unions'. That is precisely what the document that Senator Crane tabled today is all about. It demonstrates once and for all the nature of the government that runs this country—and who is, in fact, running that government.

  This is an appalling document. It is appalling for a number of reasons: firstly, because it was concocted in secret between the Minister for Industrial Relations, Laurie Brereton, and the ACTU; and, secondly, because of the nature of the agreements which have been reached. These agreements are far-reaching and will substantially change the nature of labour market relations in this country and buttress further the power and privilege of the ACTU and the mega-unions which this government has helped create in recent years.

  To add to what my colleague Senator Crane said, it is interesting to consider the far-reaching nature of this document which has been revealed to the Senate today. A new industrial relations court is to be established. The old AIRC will be abolished and a new industrial relations court will be established. It also raises, in an intriguing way, the fact that the government is backing away, as a result of what it sees as a ruling from the ILO, from the 10,000 member rule for unions. I suggest to Senator Bell that that leaves him in a particularly awkward circumstance. Senator Bell and his colleagues stood up in this parliament barely 12 months ago—maybe a bit longer—and argued strongly for the support of the ACTU Labor government proposal for the creation of mega-unions. Senator Bell dumped on the old policy—

Senator Bell —I didn't.

Senator KEMP —Senator Bell's party dumped on its old policy and it voted with and supported the government's 10,000 member mega-union rule. Of course, now the government is backing away from that. So where does that leave the Australian Democrats policy? I put it to Senator Bell that it is a very good lesson for him and his colleagues now that the government is discussing these issues with the trade unions. It will leave the Democrats like a shag on a rock, like they have been left as a result of this particular in principle agreement between the ACTU and Minister Brereton.

  As my colleague Senator Crane has said, the document indicates that there will be major changes in relation to the secondary boycott issues; there will be major changes in relation to the legislative arrangements for ILO conventions. As a nationalist in this chamber, I am very opposed to the involvement of international law in domestic disputes in this country. I would have thought that, as there has been a bit of the old republican push on the other side, those opposite would also be a bit opposed to the involvement of international law in the legal system of our country.

  Every time we pick up a Labor document these days, we find the ILO or the UN being involved in Australian domestic circumstances. That is a very bad trend in this country. Of course, in order to conduct civilised relations between nations, we need international law and we need it to be observed. But it is far better in a democracy that, when we are concerned about relations between people in our own country, we rely on our own legal processes and our own laws. One of the most disturbing features of this so-called republican push is the desire of the Labor Party to further entangle us in international and UN conventions, and this document once again proves that point.