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Wednesday, 14 August 1974
Page: 946

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise) - The Government will vote against this amendment if it is persisted with. The reason for that is that we have had in this country for a very long time a set of laws in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Since 1904 it has existed in various forms. That legislation provides a code for dealing with the restrictive practices to which the honourable senator has referred. For some 70 years we have had laws about restrictive trade practices of trade unions and of organisations of employers. It would be very foolish to put in this legislation provisions which dealt in some different way with the restrictive practices of trade unions and of employer organisations and of the members of those organisations which are dealt with in some detail in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That is why one would not even endeavour to touch upon this topic. I will not be drawn into a discussion on what causes inflation and the other matters raised by Senator Wright because I would like to proceed with the Bill. But even Senator Wright should appreciate how foolish it would be to endeavour to deal with this kind of restrictive practicesand they are restrictive practices, whether of employers or employees organisations- other than in the context of the legislation which deals specifically with that kind of practice, that is the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The wisdom of this was recognised by Senator Wright's own Party when in the existing legislation, the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, in section 35 (5) dealing with examinable agreements- because that was the approach which that legislation has- it was stated:

(5)   In determining whether an agreement is an examinable agreement, regard shall not be had-

(c)   to any provision of the agreement relating to the remuneration, conditions of employment, hours of work or working conditions of employees;

Senator Wright -It refers to provision of an agreement not to an act done.

Senator MURPHY - This was an examinable -

Senator Wright - It did not say you would not have regard to strikes.

Senator MURPHY -This is the provision dealing with agreements and it states that no regard shall be had to those matters. In the United States, as Senator Wright has indicated, in the Norris-La Guardia Acts the same approach was taken. It is very unwise, in fact one might say it is very foolish, to start to tamper, in laws dealing with business practices, with industrial laws. If Senator Wright wants to have stronger laws dealing with any kind of activities of trade unions then the course is open to him- it was taken during the period that his government was in power- to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to go directly to the set of laws that deals with that subject matter. A government could modify those laws in order to carry out its particular philosophy or its prejudices or whatever it might be. Do not let us start to tangle those matters into a law dealing with business practices. What is contained in this clause is very sensibly worded. If Senator Wright examines the paragraph that he is seeking to delete he will see that it contains this specific reference: not being an act done in the course of the carrying on of a business of the employer of those employees or of a business of that organisation.

If a trade union gets into some kind of a business activity, it is subject in its business activity, in the same way as any other corporation, to the provisions of this legislation.

Senator Greenwood - It would have to be registered as a company.

Senator Wright - It would have to be a trading or foreign corporation within the meaning of the Constitution.

Senator MURPHY -When one is dealing with business practices, surely it is wise to keep to what one is dealing with. I suggest that Senator Wright ought not to try to alter the industrial laws of this country by some endeavour to delete a paragraph in the midst of the restrictive trade practices laws which are really dealing with another subject. If he wants to do something in order to carry out his views, whether they be on strikes, lock-outs or other things, I think that some Bills in the conciliation and arbitration area are coming before the Senate shortly, and no doubt we will hear a great deal from him at that time. But please do not endeavour to mess up a law which is dealing with a subject matter which is long overdue to be dealt with.

Senator Wood - I second Senator Wright's amendment.

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