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Thursday, 24 October 1974
Page: 1967

Senator BUTTON (Victoria) -One really shudders to think about the qualifications which Senator Greenwood raised after shopping around for a small trade union to object to this legislation. One wonders what the result would be if the Opposition were ever in Government again. If government was ever to be conducted on the basis that after 5 1/2 years of waiting following the Moore v. Doyle case, 3 years of work on this problem and the presentation of a report to the Parliament 3 months ago the Opposition then felt it necessary to shop around for opposition to this legislation in remote and very small corners of the industrial relations scene, we would virtually have no government at all.

Senator Greenwood - Do you say that we shopped around for Mr Maher 's telegram?

Senator BUTTON - I am sure you did.

Senator Greenwood - It came as a pleasant surprise to justify an attitude.

Senator BUTTON - Where better could one shop than with the federal president of the Shop Assistants Union. Not only did the Opposition shop around for Mr Maher's telegram. Its shopping around also took the form of letters from the Opposition spokesman in the House of Representatives on labour matters. That is why the amendment was proposed by the shadow

Minister, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in the other place. In that amendment he said, in effect: 'We needed to be satisfied that a number of unions were happy about the provisions of the Sweeney report. ' As to the attitude of the States one wonders about the stand of Senator Greenwood as one who aspires to statesmanship again, about this legislation being desirable and the fact that it is desirable being recognised, for example, in the State of South Australia by the enactment of complementary legislation already. One would think that Senator Greenwood as a constructive and potential Liberal statesman would say to his colleagues in the State industrial sphere: 'How about doing something about it?' That would be better than shopping around trying to get State Ministers to send telegrams here in answer to inquiries, saying that they were concerned about certain aspects of the legislation. Earlier in this debate Senator James McClelland properly referred to the notion of co-operative federalism, a term frequently espoused on the Opposition benches. In this debate the Opposition is not in any way co-operative but is rather obstructive in every respect except, one hopes, when it comes to a vote on the legislation.

So I am concerned that in uttering these vague and dire warnings of the dreadful things to come Senator Greenwood will encourage his State colleagues in Queensland and New South Wales, and perhaps in Western Australia- no encouragement is needed in South Australia- to introduce legislation which is complementary to the legislation now before the Senate. Of course, that legislation by its passing in this place may provoke in the State field action which is recognised as being so urgently necessary. Also the passing of the legislation might be an important occasion for the Opposition which has on a number of occasions obstructed legislation in the Senate relating to conciliation and arbitration matters because it does not understand the problems which are involved. It might be an occasion for the honourable member for Wannon, who has a feel for industrial relations which a rabbit might have for ping pong, and Senator Greenwood, who appears to be the spokesman on industrial matters in this chamber, to give some advance consideration to the industrial needs of the industrial relations community and particularly of the employers, whom one might have thought the Opposition represents, if only in a punitive sense, in this chamber.

The doubts and qualifications expressed by the Opposition to this legislation can only be resolved when the legislation is passed. Only then will we see whether those qualifications and doubts are in any way justified. It may be that in 2 years' time Senator Greenwood can come back to this chamber and say: 'Look, that legislation has now been to the High Court and the doubt which I expressed in the debate on the legislation as to its constitutional validity has now been resolved against the position adopted by the Labor Party'. I am sure that if I am still here I will look very humble when he comes back to make that pronouncement. But, of course, he will have that pleasure only if the legislation is given the opportunity of being tested in the High Court. He will have the pleasure of saying that we were wrong only if complementary legislation is not enacted as a result of his own failure to persuade his Liberal Party colleagues in the States that this legislation is, as he expressed a minute ago, a desirable piece of legislation which should be proceeded with in order that the many problems associated with the Moore v. Doyle decision can be overcome.

I make those comments because I want to assist Senator Greenwood, if I may, in embarking upon that course in the interests of asserting the authority of the senior House of the National Parliament in the Australian community. It is not only an authority to reject legislation from time to time but also an authority which should be asserted in persuading other legislative bodies in this country that legislation of this kind which is, admittedly, so much in the national interests should be passed and complemented by the States in an exercise of co-operative federalism. The problem is a very important one. I wanted to say more about it, but I am encouraged by the benign expression of Senator Greenwood as he spoke a few moments ago. My only reason for speaking was to encourage Senator Greenwood to convey that benign smile which he gave us in the Senate into constructive channels in urging on his State colleagues the necessity to complement this legislation as quickly as possible and, if necessary, to enable the High Court to deal with the legislation. I am sure that he will do this if he is really concerned about the constitutional validity of the legislation.

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