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Thursday, 17 October 1996
Page: 4441

Senator CONROY(5.00 p.m.) —I rise to speak on this report. In particular, I urge members of the government to have a good look at this report and read it. I would particularly like to urge the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Reith) to do that.

The Minister for Industrial Relations was asked a question today in question time and decided he wanted to expound his knowledge of areas covered by this report and by industrial relations. But he seemed to be unable to grasp a simple fundamental fact—that is, the difference between being a member of a union and being an official.

Like a number of other speakers, I want to declare that I was an official of the Transport Workers Union and therefore have a vested interest in his answer. Besides highlighting me and a number of other Labor senators who have recently come to this chamber, the minister decided to prove his ignorance of industrial relations and the Industrial Relations Commission—

Senator Bishop —Again.

Senator CONROY —Yes, again—by citing a number of new Labor senators who were simply members of unions and had written in their pecuniary interest forms that they were members of the meatworkers union or the CPSU.

Senator Hogg —The SDA.

Senator CONROY —Or the SDA. The minister does not seem to be able to understand that very important fundamental difference between someone who is a paid official and someone who is a member. He could not even manage that. So he stood up and, for five minutes in question time today in that other place, he made a tirade against all the union officials.

Senator Crane —Are you going to mention the report so I don't have to take a point of order?

Senator CONROY —I have mentioned that I wish the minister would read this absolutely excellent report.

Senator Bob Collins —You can take a point of order; that will take another couple of minutes.

Senator CONROY —Yes, because we will be debating you for five minutes.

Senator Crane interjecting

Senator Hogg —You weren't named.

Senator CONROY —You were not named, Senator Crane, but I was. I do not have any problem with being accused of being a part of the Transport Workers Union of Australia, particularly the Victorian branch. You used to be a unionist, Senator Crane, so I do not know how you missed being on his list. Are you still a financial member?

Senator Crane —Yes, absolutely.

Senator CONROY —It is amazing how he missed you out. He had members of other unions, and he still managed to have a go at them.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Calvert) —Order! Senator Conroy, would you address your remarks through the chair?

Senator CONROY —Sorry. I repeat that I think this is a very good report. I urge the Minister for Industrial Relations to read it and get a grasp of it because it is his portfolio. Instead of trying to destroy the commission and its roles and functions, he should have a good read of the report and get across his portfolio.