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Tuesday, 30 May 1972
Page: 2242

Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) (Leader of the Opposition) - Senator Hannan who interjected and said Vox populi, vox Dei' was correct; the voice of the people is the voice of God, as the Government will learn. The statement by the Attorney-General has not been satisfactory. He has claimed, dishonestly, that the Opposition has filibustered. The truth is that the only person who exceeded the speaking times provided under the Standing Orders for the second reading debate on this matter was the Attorney-General himself. I had to move to give him unlimited time so that he might finish his speech.

On every occasion since then that I can recall when a Minister has asked to have a second reading speech on other Bills incorporated those speeches have been incorporated. We saw this occur a few moments ago with his fellow Minister, Senator Wright. The Attorney-General himself chose not to have a second reading speech incorporated but insisted upon reading it to the Senate, thereby consuming time. He makes this dishonest allegation that the Opposition has been filibustering. We want a proper discussion of this matter. It is immaterial whether this Bill is passed tonight or tomorrow morning. In any event, I would think that it would probably be through this chamber by lunch time. No-one else of whom I know - certainly I do not understand it to be the Government's attitude - but Senator Greenwood would put that that would be an excessive use of time to debate this matter.

I come to the substance of the matter. What the Attorney-General puts forward is specious. Why is it said that these unions are trying to beat the gun? Is it said that the little union of which I spoke and which sent a telegram to the AttorneyGeneral is somehow trying improperly to beat the gun? In its telegram, which the Attorney-General has, that union stated that it had attempted to take amalgamation action as from November 1971. This is a case of 2 small shows trying to get together because they are finding it difficult to carry on. One can understand the economics of this situation. One union has 303 members only. How can that union afford office staff and so on? They want to join together. The Attorney-General says: No. They are trying to beat the gun. They must be cut off and put through these impossible procedures'. All the experts in industrial affairs say that the procedures which have been set out here are designed to prevent amalgamations and even some of those who would support what is put here know that that is the truth. They will vote for this clause because they do not want amalgamations. Those who do want amalgamations realise the truth, that is, that the procedures are designed to delay and to impede and will have the practical effect of preventing amalgamations. ls the Liberal Party intending here to break everything that it has ever stood for? Not only does it set out to interfere with the corporate structure of these bodies, to prevent legitimate mergers, to interfere with the internal management of organisations and to see to it that people are not to be permitted to associate freely but also it will accept the precedent of retrospective legislation. Is this what the Liberal Party stands for?

Senator Greenwood - It is not retrospective.

Senator MURPHY - It is retrospective. If a Bill is to be put through and its provisions will operate back on the actions of these people so as to interfere, it is retrospective. If someone were to put in a request today or tomorrow, it would nevertheless be defeated. But for this provision, if that request wre put in some time before the proclamation was made, the amalgamations could go forward. The effect of this will be to prevent such an amalgamation. Let the Attorney-General deny that. If this Bill went forward in the form in which it came into this chamber, the requests which were made prior to the Bill becoming law and under this clause prior to the amalgamation provisions being proclaimed, could be made and the amalgamations could go forward. But if the Attorney-General has his way these requests made during that period- that is, any request as from last Friday - will be defeated. That is retrospective legislation in our view.

If the legislation can be made retrospective for a few days, it can be made retrospective for a much longer period. We know that this is within the the capacity of the Parliament but a very strong view has always been taken on all hands against retrospective legislation. It is abhorrent to persons, and I suppose it is worst in criminal law. I would think that even some of these provisions might have criminal ancillaries to them. Equally is it abhorrent in civil law. I had always thought that the Liberal Party was strongly against retrospective legislation. But we are being taught some curious lessons in this chamber. It is the Liberal Party which seems determined to break down every single element of the rule of law. The situation was bad enough before Friday, but the Government has suddenly realised that there is still a part of the Liberal philosphy on which it has not trodden. In its death throes this Party has gone mad and is determined to break down every tenet of the philosophy which it once had. lt has determined to break down whatever it can of the rule of law and it has set out to do its damnedest in this regard. The Government justifies all this in the name of crunching the unions. It will not succeed in crunching the unions. But the Government is teaching some very curious lessons to the people of Australia as to how legislation ought to be framed and as to how the rights of the people can be eroded and trampled upon.

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