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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 1 Hansard (21 February) . . Page.. 137..


Mr Humphries: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am troubled by the phrase used by the Leader of the Opposition that the matter was being raised in a fraudulent fashion by the Chief Minister. In this place, to say that someone tells a lie is unparliamentary. To talk about someone being fraudulent or raising a matter in a fraudulent manner is to suggest not only an untruth but also a criminal untruth. Mr Speaker, fraud is a crime. It is a crime associated with the telling of a lie, and I think that is language which is excessive and ought not to be used.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Humphries, I will not uphold the point of order. I think the term used was "a fraudulent fashion". Had Ms Follett called the Chief Minister a fraud, she would most certainly have been asked to withdraw it. But I think the point that was made will give Mrs Carnell an opportunity to respond to the allegation of the presentation being in a fraudulent fashion. That is the way that I read it. I do not uphold the point of order at this point, but I do caution members to be careful with the words that they use.

MS FOLLETT: Mrs Carnell attempted to persuade the Assembly that the action which was taken by her in relation to payroll deduction of union dues was in some way the provision of a choice for the ACT work force. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that those members of the ACT work force who choose to be unionists had already exercised their choice. They had already decided to join the union which they felt best represented their point of view and would best protect their rights in the work force. It was nothing to do with Mrs Carnell providing them with choice; the choice was always there, and they took it.

Not all of the work force took the same choice. In fact, we very often see, including in the ACT, that a minority of the work force are members of any given union. That is the case here. So there can be no question whatsoever that Mrs Carnell was offering a choice. She was attempting to reduce a choice; she was attempting to use the payroll deduction of union dues as a weapon in an industrial dispute. She was using it as a weapon because she knew that, were union members required to fill in another form, many of them would not do so; the union would therefore lose membership; and the union dispute which the Government is engaged in would therefore be easier for the Government to control. It is a fact that when union dues fall away unions may not be able to pay their organisers; they may not even be able to pay some of their elected officials; and their capacity to conduct an industrial dispute or indeed any of their business is vastly reduced. That was what Mrs Carnell was attempting to do by removing the payroll deductibility of union dues. So let us not be under any illusion that choice was anything to do with it. In fact, as I said, the union members had already exercised their choice.

If any member cares to look at the salary deduction authority for the union member electing to become a member of a union, they will see that the salary deduction authority contains the wording:

This authority shall remain in force until revoked by me in writing.

It is signed by the union member. It has nothing to do with the Government. Mrs Carnell cannot influence their choice. A contract exists between the union member and the union, and it cannot be altered unless the union member changes it in writing. I believe that that was a fraudulent argument put forward by the Government.


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