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Wednesday, 16 November 1983
Page: 2818

Mr WILLIS (Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations)(6.30) — The Government does not accept the amendment. I believe that the Opposition again does not fully understand what is before the Committee. The honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) raised in the second reading debate various concerns, in relation to independent contractors, which go beyond the matter which is now before us. I do not intend at this stage to go into those matters. But I am aware of his concern in this area and I assure him that the Government will, in the not too distant future-next year-make some amendments in relation to the area of independent contractors.

In regard to the matters now directly before us, all that we are seeking to do is to validate the membership of non-employees who were legitimately members of the union in the period between 1974 and 1977 when the Conciliation and Arbitration Act encompassed their membership and who, after 1977, were in a more dubious state as to their ability to remain members. The situation simply is that there is a lack of clarity about that area. We wish to make it quite clear that such members who continue as members, and who were members prior to the 1977 amendments, have the clear right to remain members of the union. I believe it is important that that is done. If that does not prevail, we have a situation where they have participated in all sorts of activities of the union. Those people are not in any way being coerced. They are people who are voluntarily members of the union and who have participated in actions of the union in various ways. If their membership is not validated, it could be that the activities of the union could be said in some respects to be invalid. It will certainly be one hell of a mess to unscramble the omlette which would have been created after 1977.

The whole point is simply therefore to ensure that there is valid membership by such people who joined when there was no doubt under the Act that they had a right to join and whose validity of membership now is not entirely clear. That is all that is before us. I believe it is a very sensible amendment, one which is desirable if we are to have clarity-which is important in respect of the organisations involved-about the position of these people. I cannot see any real reason why the Opposition will not accept it.