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Thursday, 28 October 1993
Page: 2793

Senator PARER (5.44 p.m.) —I would like to support Senator Crane's motion. Irrespective of the flowery words of people such as Senator Murphy, this government is seeking to entrench union power in the hands of a few union heavies—no more, no less. That is what it is all about. It is all about a pay-off for the most dishonest campaign run by the union movement for the last election. We all know what happened; we were there. We saw them go to the workplaces; we had people phone us up. Nurses came to see us and said, `Do you know the union came to see us and said, "If you vote Liberal you're going to lose your job"?'. That is totally dishonest—the normal way the trade union movement operates in this place.

  One of the things that everyone is aware of is that 70 per cent of people in the private sector are not union members, and they do not want to be. In my lifetime I have worked in all areas of the economy. I have worked in non-union shops and I had my own business at one time where a number of employees were union members and they continued to be union members because they were in a trade where they required a union ticket if they wanted to go back to it. They had to go back to a closed shop. It was the ultimate lack of freedom.

  I should tell Senator Murphy what our policy does. It simply entrenches the right of individual Australians within this society to decide whether they want to be a union member or whether they want to resign. I would have thought that that was a basic freedom that a democratic country such as Australia desired. What is the government frightened of? Why are the unions frightened? Why is the government entrenching union power? If it was good enough, people would willingly join. There is nothing more coercive and more of an attack on the freedom of individuals in this country than a closed shop.

  I listened to the claims of honourable senators opposite—the union apparatchiks—the other day. I do not want to name them because I might be wrong; it might have been Senator Burns. They were saying that union membership was not compulsory. What a joke! This is what the whole enterprise bargaining system is about. The so-called free enterprise bargaining of the non-unionised sector is saying, `Yes, you can apply for an enterprise agreement but we are going to get a union heavy there and if he doesn't like it, he will have the power of veto'.

  If Senator Murphy were genuine about doing the right thing by the 70 per cent of people who do not want to be members of unions, he would facilitate their ability to make an agreement with their own employer on the basis that the relationship between an employer and employee is important. They know that if they are successful and their business is successful their jobs will be secure, rather than the opposite, which would occur under the government. But they do not want that.

  In his speech Senator Murphy said that Queensland was not mentioned. I was delighted to hear him say that. Senator Burns will attest to the fact that about 80 or 90 per cent of the employees of the Metway Bank in Queensland decided they wanted to have an enterprise agreement with their management. What happened? The unions put on the greatest stunt we have seen in our lives. They demanded that there be union representation. They tried to get them pushed into the federal jurisdiction, as honourable senators opposite are probably aware. They tried every trick in the book. The members themselves hung out because they knew they could get a better deal. The Metway Bank then came under sustained attack by the monkeys in Queensland—the members of the Labor Party—at the request of the organ grinders in the trade union movement who said, `You've got to get Metway because it will not allow the unions to participate in this process'.

  The unions got the bank money-wise. They used a piece of legislation to take from the Metway Bank $18 million which rightfully belonged to it. The ironic part of all this and the thing that has amused me is that I happened to see an annual report the other day from Metway Bank, and guess who is a fairly large shareholder. The ALP itself! It is an amazing set of circumstances.

  The thing that genuinely concerns me about this legislation is that everyone would agree that what is necessary in this country is an increase in the number of people in full-time employment. We have around one million people out of work because of the recession we had to have. The man who is now the Prime Minister of this country pulled the levers, jacked up interest rates to stop imports coming into Australia, shot all the innocent bystanders and created unemployment. That is exactly what happened. I do not think anyone would dispute that.

  This legislation encourages employers—and we should bear in mind that the majority of employers in the private sector are in the small business sector—to put on casual and part-time labour, not full-time labour. I read the other day in the paper that there is concern in the community that if the people who work overtime did not do so, the employers would put on full-time labour.

  I have never said that the hourly rates of pay in this country are too high. In fact, with the reduction—

Senator Murphy —John Howard has.

Senator PARER —He has not. That is not true. I have never said the hourly rates of pay are too high.

Senator Murphy —Where do you get the three bucks an hour?

Senator PARER —If Senator Murphy listened instead of gabbling on, he might learn something. This is typical of a union meeting. If anyone says something in a union meeting that the other members do not want to hear they turn off the microphone or shout that person down. This is the typical bullying that one expects from a closed shop union meeting. If someone stands up and says something that the others do not like, they either shout him down or turn off the microphone so he cannot be heard. We all know about that old tactic.

  The point I was making is that this is a disincentive. It is not simply a matter of the rates of pay per hour; it is a matter of unit costs of production. I think Senator Burns will know about the worst aspects of many awards. I think he will look back and say, `Why did I do that in the good old days?'. I can see the look of guilt written all over Senator Burns's face. He did things because he could get away with them in affluent times. Over the passage of time those actions created unemployment. Conditions of work destroyed the productivity of this country. We have also seen—

Senator Burns —Management practices.

Senator PARER —Oh my goodness me! Senator Burns certainly comes from the last century if he blames management practices. The next thing he will talk about is putting kids up chimneys. If there is genuine concern about the lack of employment opportunities, it is important that this government address the problem in a way that will fix it instead of bowing to the industrial arm of the ALP, the union movement, and entrenching its powers, which will be to the detriment not only of existing employees in Australia but, more importantly, those who cannot get a job.

  I am indebted to a recent report of the Business Council of Australia which tracks in chronological order the events that led up to the introduction of this legislation. This shows the utter chaos of this government. The Prime Minister has a habit of lifting the expectations of everybody. He has done it with Mabo and he has done it with the industrial relations policy. He says that everyone is going to be a winner. That results in a whole lot of disappointed people. The Business Council's report states that on 21 April:

  The Prime Minister, in a speech to the Institute of Directors—

I suppose he is covering his options in case he wants to choose the Paris option—

presented a model where enterprise bargaining would be the primary determinant of wages and conditions of work, with simplified awards continuing only to provide a safety net for those few employees unable to make workplace agreements. Enterprise bargaining would be accelerated and would result in agreements that were full substitutes for awards rather than add-ons, the Commission would use its arbitral powers only rarely,—

This is the Prime Minister, Mr Keating, speaking in April, just after the election—

mechanisms would be introduced to enable agreements to be effectively enforced. . .

The report then states that on 16 June:

  The Minister for Industrial Relations, in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, supported and enlarged on the Prime Minister's vision. New elements added were protection against unfair dismissal and provision of unpaid parental leave as minimum standards, the right to strike, and the need to spread enterprise agreements to non-union sector.

Senator Murphy —And that is what is going to happen.

Senator PARER —Senator Murphy says that is what is going to happen. It is not going to happen because no employer or employee will go for an enterprise agreement when they know that standing there will be a union heavy who, win or lose, will turn up the next day and say to the fellows, `Comrades, you better join the union because if you don't we will make life so difficult for you that you won't even get your supplies delivered to the premises'. That is what happens in the real world and that is the monopolistic attitude of the trade union movement.

  On August 10 the Business Council made a submission and followed it up. One can see the evolution of the process. The report states that on 20 August:

  The Minister for Industrial Relations, in a speech to the Trade Union Promotion and Publicity Campaign Seminar, unveiled his specific proposals for change. The original proposals had become substantially modified—

surprise, surprise—

awards, "suitably updated," were to become the safety net for the enterprise bargaining system, and "appropriate access to arbitration" retained; rather than enterprise bargaining providing the overwhelming avenue for wage increases, two parallel streams of enterprise agreements and awards were envisaged; "Non-union deals would not be allowed to undercut award minima" . . . In addition, sections 45D and E of the Trade Practices Act were to be transferred to the Industrial Relations Act . . .

When sections 45D and 45E were introduced in the 1970s the then leader of the ACTU was Mr Robert Hawke. It is on record that he told the then minister, who introduced the legislation, `If you go ahead and do this, I will ensure there will be blood on the streets'. Mr Hawke said to Mr Howard that there would be blood on the streets. Of course there was not blood on the streets. What happened with the passage of time was that sections 45D and 45E of the Trade Practices Act became a deterrent to militant unions taking secondary and primary boycott action. That is exactly what happened.

  I recounted in here the other day—and I will not go through it again—the experience I had with the matter. It was not a punitive thing at all; it was a matter of last resort. The other day, as a result of an interjection, I asked Senator Murphy which union he was in and he told me. I congratulate him for telling me because when we asked Senator Cook last year he would not tell us. He ducked and weaved all over the place. At least Senator Murphy told me.

  Senator Murphy is a member of a mega union consisting of forestry workers, miners and all those sorts of workers. It was interesting that only about a month ago his union decided to pull every coal miner in Australia out on strike. They went on strike because they did not like the price that BHP was getting for coal being exported to Turkey. Every coal miner in Australia went on strike. I was contacted by miners from the Hunter Valley and from the Bowen Basin, which is in my state. They said to me, `We do not know why we are on strike, but we are going on strike because the union leaders told us to'.

  CRA and one other company decided to use sections 45D and 45E of the Trade Practices Act. The unions said that if they wanted to do that they could. It was nothing to do with them because they had not sold the coal to Turkey. The coal miners were pulled out against their will, production was down, our reputation as an overseas supplier suffered yet again and the union decided it would not have a four-day strike, it would have a three-day strike. I understand that the companies have withdrawn the section 45D and 45E process and have not proceeded with the damages, but it was there as a deterrent. That decision was made on 20 August.

Senator Crane —And it worked.

Senator PARER —Yes. The report states that on 20 August to 2 September:

The Secretary of the ACTU—

here comes the organ grinder—

in various media interviews, categorically opposed significant parts of the Minister's proposal, particularly the opening of enterprise bargaining to non-unionists.

There is the rub. There would be no enterprise agreements between 70 per cent of the private sector work force because the ACTU did not want to see the power slip away. It wanted to put itself in the position of unionising people who do not want to be unionised. In other words, it wants the power of economic life and death over individual people.

Senator Sherry —What did the electorate say at the election? That was in our election manifesto.

Senator PARER —I already covered that before Senator Sherry came into the chamber, so I will not go over it again. We know about the campaign of lies run by the labour arm of the Australian Labor Party. The Secretary of the ACTU would not let it be open for non-unionists. The report states that on 5 September:

Media reports indicated that the Government and the ACTU had agreed on six areas of change—

What a farce this is! Are those opposite the elected government of this country or not?

Senator Sherry —That's right; we are.

Senator PARER —No. They have to rush off and get permission from the non-elected ACTU before they can bring in legislation that will improve the lot of every Australian and, I might add, make it more likely that we could get the unemployed into productive jobs. The people in the business community who employ real people in real jobs are reading about this in the paper, irrespective of what Senator Murphy says about consultation. The report continues:

. . . the ACTU would be pressing hard on other issues, including the repeal of section 118A—

The report states that on 6 September:

The Business Council issued a further media release pointing out that the ACTU proposals and their apparent endorsement by the Prime Minister were missing the real point about the need for fundamental reform to the industrial relations system—

That is what is needed—fundamental reform.

Senator Murphy —What does that mean?

Senator PARER —It means freedom—the freedom of people to make their own decisions; the freedom of people to decide willingly and voluntarily whether they want to be a member of the union or not.

Senator Sherry —Coercion!

Senator PARER —Coercion. That is exactly what this legislation is about. The report states that on 17 September:

The media reported that the Minister and the ACTU had reached "a deal" which further entrenched union power and did nothing to facilitate effective enterprise bargaining . . . the Government seems to be talking only to the ACTU and to be caught up in its thrall.

I will conclude with those remarks. I reiterate that, if this government is serious about tackling unemployment, creating real jobs, creating real full-time jobs and not giving incentives to people to go for the casual and part-time work, it must grasp the nettle, make its own decisions and not do things simply at the whim of a couple of union bosses who are not interested in their own workers and who are not interested in the unemployed.