Senate debates

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Trade Practices Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2005

Consideration of House of Representatives Message

12:01 pm

Photo of Steve HutchinsSteve Hutchins (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I wish also to speak in committee on this bill and express some of my concerns about the procedures that have occurred in the progress and passage of it. As I recall, and I am sure others will have the opportunity to correct me if I am wrong, we delayed the bill in this place on a number of grounds. One of the grounds was that articulated by Senator Murray at the end, which was in relation to the choice issue. It went back to the House of Reps and they chose not to adopt our position. So we are being consistent in our views on this matter. I do wish to express that I am disturbed, like a number of my colleagues, about what we are about to see occur in relation to this bill today.

Why will a union be prevented from negotiating collectively on behalf of small business if that union is chosen by those small business men and women to represent them? Why are they going to be precluded? It is clearly because of the ideological bent of the government. In my own experience, and I know Senator Sterle will follow me in this, in my previous occupation I dealt with a number of large and small companies on behalf of small businesses and I negotiated on their behalf with their major employers the rates and conditions under which they worked. I saw on many occasions in the 18 years that I did that job that accountants—and no offence to accountants; I am not having a go at the accountant who may follow me at some stage in this debate—had very little experience in how to set and negotiate rates in road transport.

I had 18 years of experience, and the organisation I worked for and represented has had decades of experience and information available on how to represent those small business men and women. But under this legislation the experience that that organisation, the TWU, and its officers—who, as I say, have four or five decades of experience in dealing with, knowing the ins and outs of and how to cost the operations of a heavy or light vehicle—will be precluded. That is not fair. It is just unfair that the people who have experience and can do the best job for those men and women, if they choose to have the TWU represent them, are going to be precluded.

Under this legislation the national farmers, chemists, newsagents, probably milk vendors and customs brokers can all seek leave to collectively negotiate with another group. Only in the last year the customs brokers got permission to negotiate collectively with the stevedores. Both those groups are in powerful positions, but the customs brokers sought to do that collectively. That was their choice; they were given that opportunity. Those customs brokers and stevedores have lorry owner-drivers that work for them. If they choose to have the TWU represent them with the stevedores or the customs brokers, under this legislation they will be prevented. However, their bosses can deal with each other collectively under this bill that is before us. I am pretty angry about why we have gotten to this stage.

I thought Senator Conroy was a bit gentle on Senator Fielding. I object to the fact and I find it obscene that Senator Fielding sits in Senator Harradine’s seat. Senator Harradine, in all his years as a member of this Senate from 1975, always operated morally and ethically. He always operated in any area which he pursued—from industrial relations to communications, health and social security matters—with that beacon that guided him, and that was his faith. I have always felt that somehow or other Senator Fielding should be prevented from sitting in that spot on that basis. I do not believe he has—


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