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Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Page: 60

Senator SCULLION (2:08 PM) —My question is to the Special Minister of State, Senator Abetz, the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Is the minister aware of instances of union officials barging into workplaces with little or no justification? Does the government have any plans to prevent these needless and invasive disruptions? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies?

Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) —I thank Senator Scullion, a very worthy representative of the people of the Northern Territory, for his question and thank him for asking it. I am, unfortunately, aware of a number of instances of union officials barging into workplaces with little or no justification, disrupting productive workplaces and invading the privacy of both employer and employee. Who could forget that terrible incident in 2001 when the balaclava-clad secretary of the AMWU violently invaded two workplaces in Victoria, causing shock, fear and terror to innocent employees? This incident has now been appropriately dealt with by the courts. Unfortunately, innocent employees and employers have no redress against less violent invasions of the workplace by union officials—invasions that are sanctioned by state Labor governments. I can confirm that the Howard-Anderson government is going to seek to correct this position in the very near future. I know senators opposite will not be happy with this, and their interjections have indicated that. After all, when you look across the chamber, what do you see? You see wall-to-wall trade unionists who have all leached off the hardworking people of Australia to earn an income prior to coming into this place. If you look even closer, you will see the puppet strings attached to their masters in the ACTU, but it appears that the puppet show has gone somewhat haywire. There you have—for those of us who watch The Muppet Show—the two grumpy old men sitting in the gallery, in Senators Faulkner and Ray. And, of course, Mr Latham and Senator Conroy provide the ongoing interaction that we observe from Punch and Judy puppet shows on a very regular basis.

Senator Conroy —Ho, ho, ho!

Senator ABETZ —I can understand that you do not find it humorous, Senator Conroy; I was not expecting you to. But running a business is hard enough without being confronted with a constant threat of your workplace being invaded by unionists. Today, less than one in five workers chooses to be a member of a trade union. What trade unions are seeking to do is exert power where they have none and where they are not wanted by the workers. It is time for Labor, for Mr Latham and for Senator Wong to recognise that unionists entering private premises is just not on. It is time for Labor and the unions to move into the 21st century with policies for the 21st century. By way of example, an ACTU official complained the other day about secret ballots, asserting that they were somehow undemocratic. That is the view of the union movement and of the Australian Labor Party—that having a secret ballot prior to strike action is somehow undemocratic. Just recently Labor's former adviser Rod Cameron said:

Labor's industrial relations policy must enter the 21st century; it must not retreat to some position that existed before Hawke and Keating.

That is the choice that Labor now faces. But it is hard to see how Labor can assert the right of entry into the workplace when their own leader refuses right of entry of his own shadow ministers into his own office, as Senator Conroy could well attest—or, indeed, when their own leader refuses right of entry of timber workers to his media conferences when he is announcing his forest policy for Tasmania. The Australian Labor Party are still the puppets of the ACTU, and until they shed themselves— (Time expired)