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Thursday, 9 December 1993
Page: 4330


Senator CHAPMAN (9.35 p.m.) —I welcome the advice from the Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services that the government is going to accept the amendment moved by Senator Crane on behalf of the opposition. Undoubtedly, without that amendment, this clause writes large the one-sided nature of this legislation. Without that amendment, this clause lists the grounds on which an employer cannot terminate the employment of an employee. Those grounds include membership of a union and participation in union activities. It excludes the prevention of an employer terminating the employment of an employee because he or she does not belong to a trade union.

  That is the essence of the amendment that has been moved by Senator Crane—to include non-membership of a trade union as a reason whereby an employer cannot dismiss an employee. That is a very important amendment to the legislation because it highlights the importance of the individual over the collective. Without that amendment, this clause, as originally drafted by the government, clearly elevates the collective over the individual. That demonstrates the priority of this government: it gives a much higher priority to the collective than it does to the rights of the individual. To some extent, although this legislation still remains very unbalanced, the amendment moved by Senator Crane will redress that imbalance to some extent. To some extent, it will redress the imbalance of a piece of legislation that has been drafted for the benefit of a mere 30 per cent of the work force in the private sector who are members of a collective—trade unions—as against the 70 per cent who prefer to retain their individuality and not belong to a trade union.

  On that basis, I support the amendment and particularly welcome the government's willingness to accept it. It is good to see some sense and some measure of bipartisanship on this issue. It is a pity that the government does not exhibit the same sort of bipartisanship with the other sensible amendments that we moved earlier in this debate.