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Friday, 19 November 1993
Page: 3256

Senator CAMPBELL (11.03 a.m.) —One of the saddest things about Senator Bell's contribution was that he did not spend one millisecond addressing the question before the chamber. Regardless of the arguments about voluntary student unionism, we know that the Democrats are quite happy to see people compelled to join a union against their will because Senator Bell and the Democrats think that the nanny state knows best, that the government knows best, that big brother knows best. We will forgive him that fundamental problem of the philosophy of the Democrats and his own personal philosophy, that he would ensure that young Australian citizens would not have the freedom to make decisions, using their own free will and their own judgment, as to whether or not they want to be in an association. Senator Bell and his colleagues think they should not have that choice. We will forget that.

  The issue has gone far past that because the democratically elected government of Western Australia and its outstanding minister for education, Norman Frederick Moore, brought up in Bullfinch, have introduced the legislation. When in opposition it proposed this legislation in its policy for the 10 years, if not longer, and the Liberal-National Party coalition government was elected on that platform. The legislation has gone through the upper house at this stage, is awaiting debate in the Legislative Assembly and will become law, we hope, before Christmas.

  This is no longer the issue. That issue has been decided by the people of Western Australia; that issue has been decided by the government of Western Australia; that issue is before the people of Western Australia, and quite properly so. The state government of Western Australia wants to give individuals that freedom. It wants to give people the choice as to whether they join an association and it would like to see the student guilds and student unions adapt to that new situation.

  What we are really talking about in this amendment is whether or not the Commonwealth government of Australia, with the support of the Australian Democrats, will rip off Western Australia in state grants potentially millions of dollars. That is what the issue is here. It is not about whether or not we agree with voluntary student unionism. It is an issue about whether we agree with the principle that, if a state government does not do what Canberra wants it to do, we rip money off it.

Senator McMullan —It doesn't stop them from doing it.

Senator CAMPBELL —That is quite right. It does not stop them from doing it.

Senator McMullan —It just means they have to face up to the consequences. They have to pay for it.

Senator CAMPBELL —What Senator McMullan is saying, and what Senator Bell has agreed with—unless he contributes to this debate again—is that the consequence is that it is like someone holding a gun to a person's head and saying, `Bend over or I'll shoot you'. It is not dissimilar to the extortion bid on the life of heart surgeon Dr Chang. It is like someone holding a gun and saying, `Give me $10 million or I will kill you'. It is the same as any other act of bribery or blackmail. It is as simple as that.

  The state government has to make a decision: does it introduce its mandated policies while it has Senator Bell and his Democrats saying, `If you don't, we will rip potentially millions of dollars off the people of Western Australia through the general purpose grants.' This is the principle at stake here. I am sure there are probably other examples in federal-state financial relations where state governments are under similar pressure. What we have here is a very nasty example of the federal government saying, `If you take this action, we will penalise the taxpayers of Western Australia to the tune of millions of dollars'. Let us not be confused about this. Senator Bell thinks we are confused about it.

  We can have a debate about the philosophy of whether young Australians should have the freedom of choice to join a union, or the freedom to assemble, or the freedom to speak. We know that Senator Bell, in the political ad bans debate, chose that people should not have the freedom to express their political views in paid advertisements. So we know where he is coming from, but let us not debate that. We all come to this place with some ideological baggage, with some philosophical commitments and principles, and that is a very good thing. What a boring place this would be if we could not have a debate about philosophy, principle and ideology.

  But let us get to the nub of this issue; that is, whether or not state governments—or, indeed, local governments for that matter, to use Senator Bell's analogy—in undertaking a certain mandated action, introducing a policy, should have to deal with bribery, extortion and blackmail from Canberra. We in the opposition say no, they should not. We think that if a state government decides to have compulsory unionism then it should not be bribed not to. Equally so, if a state government decides to have voluntary unionism, it should not be bribed not to. That is our position. We make no ideological judgment. We would prefer to see voluntary student unionism on campuses because we believe in fundamental rights of individual Australians to make those sorts of choices. Just like the choice one makes when one gets up in the morning as to what colour socks to wear that day, we think people should have the freedom to decide whether to join an association or not.

  I discussed this matter this morning with the Greens and the Democrats. Neither Green senator will be supporting the opposition's amendment to delete this clause from the bill. Once again, we have an example of Senator Chamarette and Senator Margetts, elected by the people of Western Australia—mostly on Liberal Party preferences, I might add—

Senator McMullan —That was your choice.

Senator CAMPBELL —That is right; it was our choice. Mr Chairman might reflect on that. For the second time in a few short weeks, the Greens have taken an action that has cost their constituents very hard in the back pocket. The Greens acted against the wishes of a majority of the winemakers and grape producers in Western Australia. They left them out on a limb; they did not represent them. I recommend that Senator Chamarette and Senator Margetts not go down to the south-west or the Swan Valley for Christmas because they are most unwelcome there.

Senator Panizza —And definitely don't go to the Pilbara, where they have to pay extra for fuel.

Senator CAMPBELL —Senator Panizza is quite right. A letter in this morning's Australian criticised the WA Greens for not making any achievements on environmental policies. The Democrats are beginning to expose the Greens for what they are when it comes to their lack of ability to have any effect over here on environmental policy. The Greens senators, regardless of their political beliefs and philosophies, have the potential to support the people of Western Australia.

  Let us remind the Greens of what they are doing. They are potentially ripping off Western Australian taxpayers to the tune of up to $5 million by refusing to support our amendment. We have had this week in the national capital a furore over the funding of the sports grants and the political pork-barrelling meted out by these corrupt sporting grants through Minister Kelly's office. An amount of $3.9 million went to Western Australia: $600,000 went into the seat of Swan; $500,000 went into the seat of Canning; and equal amounts went into the electorates of Brand and Perth. The four most marginal Labor seats in Western Australia, together with Cowan, received in excess of $2 million in pork-barrelling grants to try to ensure that Mr Beazley and Mr Gear in particular were returned to this place. I am focusing on the amount of money that is involved.

  There has been a furore about this matter amongst the Australian people. The West Australian newspaper yesterday ran an editorial on the waste of taxpayers' money in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to save Mr Gear's and Mr Beazley's political life. Both those gentlemen, who were returned to this place by between 100 and 200 votes, owe their political life to the blatant and corrupt political pork-barrelling that was meted out through the minister's office. It was a disgrace. We are talking of a total of about $2.1 million to $3 million in global terms in Western Australia in the last financial year. The Democrats and the Australian Labor Party are now combining to rip $5 million out of Western Australia.

  If when the guilds in the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University and other campuses become voluntary they behave in the most obnoxious, nasty manner by not servicing their students and basically running down the unions, they will have very low memberships because no-one will want to be a member of them. The Higher Education Funding Legislation Amendment Bill 1993 provides that those unions will receive a top-up to ensure that they are not financially disadvantaged by their membership being voluntary.

  If all those unions were atrocious and no-one joined them, they might still elect one of Senator Chris Evans's or Senator McMullan's mates as their president and have an executive and so on, but they may not have any members. It is potentially possible for a guild in Western Australian to have no members, just a president and an executive. It would be a sort of military dictatorship on campus.

  This federal government, through the higher education funding bill, and now through the States Grants (General Purposes) Bill, will fund those unions to the level at which they were funded under compulsory membership. So this federal government, with the help of Senator Bell, Senator Woodley and the Democrats, will be ensuring that these totally unrepresentative unions will be funded by the taxpayer.

  We need to focus on what will happen when a voluntary union on a campus of, say, 10,000 people has only 100 members. Will the government be pumping a couple of million dollars in to it? I hope no student union would ever fall to those levels. As I said in my contribution to the second reading debate last night, I hope there is an incentive in the system for the unions to be run well, to make decisions in the interests of the students, to provide services that students want to use, and to provide inducements to join unions and to get involved in them, such as discounts at bookshops and coffee shops.

  This bill does not even give them the incentive to come up with ways to make it popular to join the union. We are giving them an enormous incentive to be unpopular. Why will they bother going out and getting members and membership fees if the government will give them millions of dollars if they do not? Why would the Australian Labor Party or the Liberal Party bother going out to get people to join them and raise funds for them to run their normal political operations if the government would give them millions of dollars to run them?

Senator McMullan —To win preselection; that is why you would do it now—the reason you do it now.

Senator CAMPBELL —That is exactly right. We all go out to find members to join political parties to get involved in the democratic processes of those parties. We encourage that. But there would be no need to do that on a campus in Western Australia because they would not need to go out and find the money. They would just say, `We have only got 15 members left on a campus of 10,000 people, but who cares. We only need 15 members. We have a president, a vice-president, a secretary, an executive and nice cars to drive around in', and the poor old taxpayer would pay for it.

  I conclude where I began: Senator Bell did not focus on the key element of this measure proposed today, which is to exclude clause 20. Does Senator Bell go along with the bribery, the extortion and the blackmail—or `greenmail', considering the way the Greens are behaving today—to ensure that the taxpayers of Western Australia have up to $5 million ripped off them? Schools, teachers, facilities for disabled children and programs for disadvantaged Aboriginals will be put at risk because of his action. Funding for those people in need will be put at risk by his action, because he would rather see the money put into unrepresentative unions that do not represent their students. That is the question Senator Bell needs to answer. He has not even addressed it. The people of Western Australia in particular want to know why he will take their money away from them to ensure that young people in Western Australia do not have the freedom to decide whether to join a student union.