Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 1 April 1971

Senator MILLINER (Queensland) - Mr Deputy President, may I seek your ruling on whether we should debate together this Bill, the Dried Fruits Levy Bill and the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill rather than deal wilh them individually? They are related Bills and T believe that it would be more appropriate to deal with them together.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Senator Cotton is in charge of these Bills. Is it his wish that they be dealt with together?

Senator COLSTON (QUEENSLAND) - To say that I am in charge of these Bills is perhaps not to indicate the tate state of affairs. At the moment I am sitting here by myself in a state of suspended animation. However, I think that in the circumstances the Bills should be proceeded with together.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is it the wish of the Senate that the 3 Bills be taken together? There being no objection, that course will be followed.

Senator MILLINER - The purpose of the Dried Fruits Research Bill is to establish a joint Commonwealth and industry research scheme. I believe that this is a particularly good proposition and, consequently, we shall offer no opposition to the Bills in principle, although we have circulated amendments which we propose to move at the Committee stage. Funds will be made available for purposes of research from levies imposed on producers of dried fruit and from a matching grant from the Commonwealth on a $1 for $1 basis. The Dried Fruits Levy Bill authorises the payment of the levy and places a ceiling on the levy of $1 a ton on currants, sultanas and raisins, and $5 a ton on dried apricots.

I address myself first to the levy. I think it will be agreed that growers should be obliged to pay the levy. We have no serious objection to that because the funds will be used for purposes of research. However, I suggest that it is unusual for a government to say that growers should be obliged to pay a levy for purposes of research, or for any other matter, and then criticise trade unions because they require their members to pay a levy or because they object strenuously when someone who takes up employment in an industry fails to join the appropriate trade union. The purpose in imposing the levy is to ensure that any producer who avails himself of the benefits of the research shall accept his responsibility to contribute finance towards the research programme. I repeat that this action of the Government in imposing a levy and insisting that growers pay it is entirely different from the attitude it adopts when trade unionists band themselves together and demand that all people working in an industry shall be members of a union.

There is also a contrast in regard to the penalties that are to be imposed for failure to pay the levy or contravention of other sections of the legislation with which a grower, producer or packer may find himself in conflict. I refer particularly to clause 11 (1.) of the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill, which slates:

A person shall not:

(a)   fail or neglect duly to furnish a return or information that he is required under the regulations to furnish; or

(b)   furnish, in pursuance of the regulations, a return or information that is false or misleading in a material particular.

For that misdemeanour the penalty is $200. Let us visualise what can happen if people who are required to make these returns or give this information fail to do so. It will lead to some serious deficiencies within the research programme. Yet they are to be fined only $200. I make a comparison between that and what happens to trade unions which are in a position in which they may fail to observe some provision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1970.

We see that there are no priorities, as far as the Government is concerned, as to how penalties should be inflicted. On the one hand, for what may be regarded as a serious misdemeanour which may tend to reduce the efficiency of the research programme a person can be fined $200. I contrast that with the penalties that this Government imposes on workers and trade unionists. For instance, section 111 (4.) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act says:

The maximum penalty which the Court is empowered to impose in respect of a contempt of the Court consisting of a failure to comply with an order of the Court made under paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) of section one hundred and nine of this Act is:

(a)   where the contempt was committed by an organisation . . . One thousand dollars;

(b)   where the contempt was committed by an employer, or the holder of an office in an organisation . . . Four hundred dollars or imprisonment for twelve months; or

(c)   in any other case - One hundred dollars.

That provision is similar in terms to what this Bill says. If, by a contemptuous action, a person does not conform with clause 11 (1.) of the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill, he can be fined ยง200. But that is not so in the case of a union, or an employer if it comes to that. A union can be fined $1,000, and an employer or the holder of an office in an organisation, such as a trade union secretary, can be fined $400 or imprisoned for 12 months. Is there any justice in a system that imposes penalties of that nature for failure to comply with the provisions of an Act? I contrast that situation with that of the grower, packer or other person who fails to comply with clause 11 (1.) of the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill now before the Senate.

Let us look at some other sections or the Conciliation and Arbitration Act> Section 152 provides:

An organisation shall keep, in accordance with this section, the following records:

It then sets out that the organisation must keep a register of its members showing the name and postal address of each member, and things of that nature. For failure to comply with this provision of the Act an organisation may be fined $20 for each week of default. Would that failure be any more heinous a crime than the one contemplated by clause 11 (1.) of the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill? I suggest that it would not. This shows the discriminatory nature of Acts of this Parliament when such acts are directed against workers and trade unions.

Senator Prowse - Are not these people workers?

Senator MILLINER - Of course they are workers. I am not suggesting otherwise. What 1 am suggesting is that under clause 11 (I.) of this Bill a person who fails to comply with the requirement to furnish certain details can be fined up to $200 whereas in similar circumstances a secretary of a trade union can be gaoled for failure to do some things that are nowhere near as serious as what is contemplated by the provisions of this Bill. Let me examine some other sections of the Conciliation r.nd Arbitration Act. I turn to section 169 which provides:

Notwithstanding anything contained in the rules of an organisation or of a branch of the organisation, an organisation and every officer of an organisation or branch of an organisation . . . shall take such steps as are necessary to ensure that all ballot papers . . . used in connection with ... an election for an office are preserved and kept ... For a period of one year after the completion of the election.

If the secretary of a union fails to do that - incidentally, I suggest that it is a domestic matter within his own union - he can be fined $200 or imprisoned for 12 months, or both. Where is the justice? Under one piece of legislation of this Parliament a person can be fined $200 for failing to do something, and under another piece of legislation of this Parliament a person can be fined $200 or imprisoned for 12 months, or both, for something almost identical. If honourable senators on the Government side claim that that is justice F suggest that they should put the word 'justice' in inverted commas. Lel me turn now to section 1 70a (2.) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which is in these terms:

A person shall not . . . obstruct or hinder a person ... in the performance of his functions in relation to an election or in the taking of any action under the last preceding subsection.

That carries a penalty of $200 or imprisonment for 12 months, or both, in other parts of the Act there are numerous instances of similar penalties. For example, if a person records more than one vote in a trade union ballot he can be fined $200 or imprisoned for 12 months or both. I ask honourable senators on the Government side to examine their consciences to see whether this is not discriminatory and directed towards persons in the trade union movement. I now address my remarks to section 177(1.) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. lt provides:

Any organisation or person bound by an industrial agreement shall for any breach or nonobservance of any term of the agreement be liable to a penally noi exceeding Mich amount as is fixed by the industrial agreement: and if no amount is so fixed. then to a penalty not exceeding in the '-asc of an organisation One thousand dollars, in the case of an employer Five hundred dollars, and in the case of an employee Twenty dollars.

That section is worthless because it has been held over the years in all industrial tribunals thai you cannot contract yourself out of an award. I direct the attention of the Senate to the discriminatory nature of the legislation which the Government introduces and enforces. I have no objection to clause 1 1 of the Bill before us which provides that a person shall be required to perform certain functions and that if he fails to do so he is required to meet the penally. I believe that such provisions in a Bill of this nature are necessary, but 1 ask honourable senators on the Government side to re-examine the minimum fine of $200 in the light of the fact that other sections of the community can be fined anything up to SI, 000 or be imprisoned, or both, for misdemeanours of a similar character.

I have indicated that the Opposition has no desire to oppose the Bill. We believe that it will be in the interests of the people involved. Nevertheless I felt compelled to stale the Opposition's views when I learned that the penalty for failure to observe the provisions of the Bill was the minimum amount of $200 in view of the penalties which can be imposed on trade unions and workers tinder the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

Senates WEBSTER (Victoria) (12.22)- We have heard an amazing exhortation from Senator Milliner. The whole point of his comments, I lake it, is that he is dissatisfied with the penalty to be imposed under clause 1 1 of this Bill. Because of his knowledge - a significant knowledge, I may say - of the arbitration and certain other legislation he feels that a much harsher penalty should be imposed upon the individuals who fail to comply with the provisions of this Bill. That seems to be a little inconsistent with what is usually put forward by the Labor Party. Front a reading of the comments of other members of the Parliament and from listening to Senator Milliner, perhaps it is fair to say thai their ignorance of this industry has led them to the point where the only fault they can find wilh this Bill is that the treatment set out for persons who fail to observe the provisions of clause 1 1 is not sufficiently harsh.

Senator Milliner - I did nol say that.

Suggest corrections