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Monday, 13 December 1993
Page: 4416

Senator KEMP (4.47 p.m.) —I would like to endorse the remarks of my colleagues Senator Crane and Senator Parer. I do not think I would be astonished if anyone in this parliament got up and argued against the secret ballot. All of us would agree in a whole host of areas of our lives that secret ballots are important. In this modern era it would be a great surprise to me if we had honourable senators standing up in this parliament and opposing the right to a secret ballot on an issue which affects people's lives. If there are people who stand up and oppose this, I would hope they would only be on the other side of the chamber. It is my understanding that in the past the Australian Democrats have supported the use of secret ballots. I hope that they continue to support that.

  In the debate on this amendment I thought that Senator Parer provided the committee with one very great insight. The clause as it now stands in the bill gives the trade unions the right to intervene in any arrangement in the industrial area; that is, any agreement freely entered into between employers and employees. It is a very worrying development that the government should be seeking to entrench a statutory right of the unions in that manner.

  To translate, for any factory in a country town that is trying to make an enterprise agreement to keep its doors open in a highly competitive world, this will, in effect, mean that the John Halfpennys and the Wally Currans of this world—

Senator Burns —Both good blokes.

Senator KEMP —Senator Burns says that they are good blokes. Only one person in this community has cost the jobs of more ordinary working people in this country than Wally Curran and John Halfpenny—and that is Paul Keating. These are people who have cost the jobs of so many ordinary working people. If ever a contradiction has been shown between the new Labor Party, which is mainly concerned with entrenching union power, and the old Labor Party, which was mainly concerned with improving the lot and jobs of workers, it came through that comment of Senator Burns.

  This clause, as it is now, gives the John Halfpennys of this world the right to intrude into any factory where any agreement has been reached between employers and employees. I think that is a very worrying development. I would hope the Democrats will support the motion moved by Senator Crane. It is a very important motion; it is a motion which provides some protection for employees and employers against the power and privilege of trade unions. I think it is one of those tests that the Australian Democrats—a party which had its roots in small business—will have to undergo, as we wonder whether it is prepared to get up in this chamber and defend small business. I am fully aware of the enormous amount of work which has been done in the last two or three years by trade unions in lobbying Democrat senators trying to sway them. The ACTU has worked out that the main blockage to union power and privilege in this country is the Australian Democrats.

Senator Carr —Not the Liberal Party!

Senator KEMP —No. The ACTU was very much aware that Don Chipp's great slogan was to oppose big unions. Don Chipp stumped this country opposing big unions and big business.

Senator Bell —And big business.

Senator KEMP —Big unions and big business. That is the historical basis of Senator Bell's party. I would have hoped that this would be an area where there would be no dispute between people on our side of the chamber—the Democrats and, indeed, the coalition—in standing up for small business. If Senator Bell will not support this motion, I hope he will get up in this chamber and explain to small businesses right throughout this country why he is not prepared to give them that freedom. I think this is an important test. Senator Bell can sneer, shake his head, carry on and all the rest of it. But small business is important—and it was important to Senator Bell's party.

  I congratulate Senator Crane. This is a motion which, above all, stands up for small business. In the past Senator Bell's party has stood up for small business. However, if Senator Bell finds that he cannot support Senator Crane's motion, I would certainly like him to stand up in this chamber and record in the Hansard and over the radio why the Australian Democrats, under Senator Kernot, believe it is important that trade unions have the statutory right to intervene in small businesses, whether unionised or not, in this country.