Arbitration In Contempt

A Brief History of Mudginberri and its Implications for Australia's Trade Unions

Paul Houlihan

'The notion that industrial relations should be a matter for the individual employer and the individual employee is one which strikes many responsive chords but it is so far removed from reality that it is a dangerous distraction'.

    - Confederation of Australian Industry Director-General, Mr Bryan Noakes.


'... whilst the theory might be right, that the rights of the individual are supreme, the reality is that we have to deal with collective representative groups---we can't operate any other way in this society.

'It isn't a question of the supremacy of individual rights, it is a question as to how one collectively represents that grouping of individual rights to ensure that the outcome is in the best interests of the country as a whole, and that's what the trade union movement stands for and that is what it is committed to but it is not what Mudginberri stands for'.

    ---ACTU President, Mr Simon Crean


'The fact is that this matter will resolved only before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in a industrial sphere'.

    -Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Willis, in Parliament on 20 August 1985.


'... we have tried consistently to get that dispute where it should be---into the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission'.

    ---Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Hawke, in Parliament on 12 September 1985.



Location and Brief History

Mudginberri Station is some 250 km east of Darwin along the Arnhem Highway in the 'uranium province' of the Northern Territory.

It was, prior to the establishment of the Kakadu National Park, a traditional pastoral lease held for many years by the Pioneer Concrete group and taken over by the Commonwealth for the establishment of the Kakadu National Park.

The title to the Mudginberri Station Abattoir at the moment is somewhat confused following original advice from the Commonwealth that its future lease must be negotiated with the traditional owners of the area. That having been done the Commonwealth then changed its mind and decided that it was still the appropriate authority to confer a lease.

John David Pendarvls was employed as Manager of Mudginberri Station by Pioneer Concrete and in the early 1970's he developed a small abattoir at Mudginberri to take advantage of the huge herds of feral buffalo which exist in the flood-plain country which makes up most of the Mudginberri lease.

The country itself is mainly low-lying black soil country between the East Alligator and South Alligator rivers with the Arnhem escarpment to the East. The Abattoir is about 15 kilometres from Jabiru to the south and much the same distance from Pan Continental's uranium site to the north.

It is important to state, at the outset, that the National Farmers' Federation had no involvement with Mudginberri prior to 1983 when the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union served a log of claims, on Mudginberri, and on all other abattoirs in the Northern Territory.

One of the abattoirs they served was a member of the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association and in consequence a member of the National Farmers' Federation, and as such we gained rights to appear in this matter which would otherwise have been denied us. Prior to that action we had no dealings at all with Mudginberri.

NFF's decision to become involved in the meat processing industry stemmed from an inquiry made by the IAN in 1981 into various aspects of the meat processing industry, and from a report prepared for us by W D Scott and Co. which formed the basis of our submission to that IAN inquiry. That report highlighted the extreme inefficiencies that exist in most parts of the meat processing industry, due to the enormously powerful position enjoyed in the industry by the AMIEU, and, in particular, because of the most common piecework method employed, that is the unit tally system.

NFF's Industrial Committee, in conjunction with the Cattle Council of Australia and the Sheepmeats Council of Australia, decided that we were to become involved wherever possible in the meat processing industry, and seek to change the unit tally system, and to attack other sources of the industry's appalling lack of efficiency.

It is worth noting that in 1977 the main employer organisation in the meat industry, the Meat and Allied Trades Federation of Australia had itself served a log of claims on the Northern Territory meatworks intending to bring those works under award coverage.

This proposal was vigorously resisted by the AMIEU and the matter was dropped until 1983 when the Union itself proceeded to seek an award. At first instance the Union's log was dealt with by Mr Commissioner Gough, at a hearing in Darwin where he announced that it was his intention to apply the terms of the Katherine meatworks agreement to the entire Northern Territory meat industry. The Katherine agreement was one of the worst examples of a unit tally system and was instrumental in the closing of the Katherine meatworks some twelve months later.

MATFA and the NFF reacted extremely vigorously to this ghastly proposal and, following a further hearing, Commissioner Gough was removed from any further dealing with this matter. Fortunately for the industry the good Commissioner has now retired.

The matter was taken up by Commissioner Ian McKenzie who proceeded on inspections in the Northern Territory and heard argument in Sydney on the making of a Northern Territory Award. In carrying out his task he faced a number of challenges from the AMIEU, even one to the High Court that he should refrain from further hearing the matter because of bias. All of these matters were eventually dismissed and McKenzie continued to deal with the matter.

In July of 1984 the AMIEU decided to step up the pressures and imposed picket lines at two of the small Top End meatworks---Point Stuart (Epitoma Pty Ltd) and Mudginberri. Point Stuart never recovered from this picket like.

As a result the matter was taken over by a Full Bench comprising the President, Sir John Moore, Deputy President Keogh, and Commissioner McKenzie. The ACTU and CAI both intervened before that Full Bench and, of course, sought a settlement of the dispute. That settlement led to the withdrawals of the s.45D Trade Practices action that Mudginberri and Point Stuart had instituted with each side paying their own costs. The usual undertakings were made by the Union about what good fellows they would be in the future, how they would observe any award that issued, and, importantly, that they would re-admit to membership of the Union those persons who they had illegally expelled from membership for their failure to take part in that recent industrial action.

That Full Bench only decided one issue, and that was the question of the appropriateness of a unit tally system for the Northern Territory. In a decision issued in September of 1984 they said that the Commission would not compel unwilling employers to observe a unit tally system but that they perceived the need for certain changes to be made in the then existing contract form of labour that existed, in particular the Top End works.

They instructed Commissioner McKenzie to continue hearing argument about the actual nuts and bolts of the award to be made, and this McKenzie did, completing his hearings in December of 1984. He handed down a decision in late April 1985. The day the decision came down the Union mounted a picket line at Victoria Valley meatworks, which is some 300 kilometres west of Darwin, and made it very clear to the owner of that works that the picket line would stay there until such time as he agreed to a unit tally scheme at his works.

On 9 May the Mudginberri works opened, and at 2.00 am, on 10 May, the AMIEU put up its picket line at Mudginberri and made the same demands as had already been made at Victoria Valley.

The position of Mudginberri as opposed to the other small works in the Northern Territory was complicated by the fact that it is an export works while the others all killed for the local market. In consequence Mudginberri requires the services of Commonwealth employees (meat inspectors), officers of the Export Inspection Service, a division of the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry.

On 10 May the meat inspectors refused to cross the AMIEU picket line and in consequence Mudginberri was unable to process meat for export.

Of all the disappointments that we endured during the Mudginberri dispute, the greatest of our disappointments were those concerning the Department of Primary Industry, its senior officers, and particularly its Minister, John Kerin.

The craven cowardice, under the guise of national interest, which was the hallmark of all the Department of Primary Industry actions in this dispute, has left a very nasty taste in the mouths of those of us who sought to have the spirit and the letter of the law applied.

The complete surrender of governmental authority by the Department of Primary Industry, to the AMIEU and the meat inspectors, was the worst example of such usurpation of power that I have witnessed in 16 years in industrial relations. The fact that the whole exercise appears very strongly to have been preconceived and predetermined added further to our enormous concern with the behaviour of the Government and the Department.

We believe it was preconceived because in previous years the meat inspectors have resided on the station, in very good accommodation provided by Mudginberri, and as such they would not have had to cross any picket line that the Union could establish. In 1985 the Department decided at the request of the inspectors that they should stay in the township of Jabiru which is a 'closed' town, that is, only those people involved in the uranium mining, milling and regulation of that industry are entitled to stay there, and in consequence, those regulations had to be amended to enable the meat inspectors to move there which meant that the inspectors then had to cross the Union's picket line. We suspect that that was known and planned months in advance.

There were a series of compulsory conferences before Deputy President Keogh, all of which failed in their endeavour to have the Union lift the picket line and have the inspectors proceed to work.

Finally Mudginberri Station decided that it had no recourse left to it under the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and invoked s.45D of the Trade Practices Act. Mudginberri applied for and was granted an interim injunction restraining the AMIEU from picketing the meatworks and preventing the works from proceeding as an export industry.

Mudginberri proceeded for a permanent injunction which was granted on 12 July. By this time the AMIEU had faced a contempt hearing for its refusal to observe the interim injunction and had been fined $10,000 plus $2,000 per day for each day that the picket was maintained at Mudginberri.

The Union was subsequently sequestrated in order to have those fines paid. On 25 July an action was commenced against the Department of Primary Industry and Mr Kerin under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act which sought to overturn the decision by Kerin and the Department not to supply inspectors to Mudginberri. The hearing was before His Honour Mr Justice Neaves.

It is worth recording that this application before Neaves was the only decision we failed to win in some twelve separate litigations surrounding Mudginberri, and, in a momentously important decision, a Full Bench of the Federal Court on appeal overwhelmed Neaves' decision late in December.

The position that has been reached now is that there is proceeding before His Honour Justice Morling the application by Mudginberri Station for damages from the AMIEU for the losses incurred because of the Union's activities last year.

Obviously that decision will be appealed, leave will be sought to go to the High Court and probably somewhere about June or July this year, through one means or another funds will start to move from the AMIEU to Mudginberri Station and that will be the end of the beginning of the Mudginberri dispute.

The really important aspect of the whole Mudginberri dispute, as the name of this address states, is on its implications for the Australian trade union movement and possibly even more importantly for Australia's small business sector.

What Mudginberri has shown is that where an employer believes in what he is doing,, the law as it stands now is there to enable him to protect himself, and his employees, against rapacious action of unions who have forgotten the purpose for which they have been brought into being.

Society has conferred upon trade unions enormous benefits and standing because society has deemed that their purpose merits such beneficial and even discriminatory standing.

One of the important aspects of Mudginberri is that society, through the Courts, has served notice on the trade union movement that by the continual exceeding of their charter trade unions have, as it were, worn out society's welcome and our society is in the process of reassessing the rights and obligations that it will demand from trade unions in the future.

In this context the role of the Arbitration Commission is quite interesting in that no one in the H R Nicholls Society would ever expect anything other than the most flagrant pragmatism from the Arbitration Commission. Many have been surprised at the strength shown by that Commission in all of the events surrounding these disputes in the Northern Territory.

We at NFF take the view that you cannot look at what has happened in the Northern Territory in isolation, thinking that the Commission would not have done that, but rather that the Commission looked at the parties before it; looked at the recent history of those parties, and decided that in the final analysis the National Farmers' Federation would be in the fight for the long haul; that they would not walk away from a favourable decision and would in fact demand such a decision; and in consequence the Commission was prepared to make the decision it did.

If I may make a personal observation based on sixteen years working with the Commission. The one consistent feature of the Commission's behaviour has been that it always wants to find in favour of the side that it considers will win the dispute. Traditionally, and overwhelmingly, that has meant finding in favour of trade unions.

There are, however, many incidents in mining awards, oil awards and indeed a number of other industries where the Commission has made difficult decisions in favour of the employer in the face of severe union condemnation only to see the employer then give away the Commission's decision in order to gain the acquiescence of the unions concerned.

In our case the Commission knew from its experience in disputes like the wide comb dispute that that was not going to happen.

That factor has to be before the minds of the H R Nicholls Society, in making condemnation of the Arbitration Commission that it is an institution imbued with a desire to sustain and continue itself, and the inherent pragmatism of the institution must be used to our advantage.

I draw from that a lesson for Australia's unions and a lesson for Australian employers. I believe the lesson for the trade union movement from Mudginberri is that there is a system of real law, of courts whose decisions are to be observed and whose penalties are enforceable. This has led to a considerable degree of consternation among the fraternal comrades who feel that such procedures are entirely uncalled for. They profess to see nothing wrong with a system which enforces a decision upon employers but leaves unions able to accept or reject those decisions. They are justifiably concerned that employers have opened the door of real law to the jungle of industrial relations.

Small employers have also been keenly aware of Mudginberri and its outcome. There have been a number of occasions since July of last year involving civil action against trade unions, all of which to date have had the desired result as far as we are aware. Small business is finding a new and effective weapon, albeit an extremely costly one, with which it can defend itself when unions behave in a manner which is beyond the law.

The decision at Dollar Sweets is a classic example of what can be achieved provided you are prepared to take the hard options and see the issues through.

Trade unions will come to grips and will assess this new position of enforcement while seeking to bring every possible pressure to bear on employers not to exercise the rights they enjoy as citizens but rather to accept their serf-like status under the aegis of the Arbitration Commission.

I think it was appropriate to put the quotes that commenced this paper right at the start, so that none of us are under any misapprehension, about the difficulties that we face, in seeking to have the relations between employer and employee carried on in a logical, sensible fashion. When we see the senior employer spokesman, the senior employee spokesman, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the Prime Minister, all trotting out the same tired old party line, we can clearly realise that the course the H R Nicholls Society is embarking upon is no cakewalk.

Rather what this Society must seek to do, if it is to do justice to the memory of H R Nicholls, is not to be intimidated by the size of the guns against us; but rather to be uplifted at the potential of the rewards before us for all Australians: if we can make the necessary steps to change from a position, where industrial relations is seen as some form of alchemy available only to the anointed members of the inner circle of the 'Club', to a position where industrial relations is seen for what it is; is the basically simple business of getting someone to do the job for you in a way and for a price which is acceptable to both parties.

Jay Pendarvis has not only shown enormous courage and strength but, even more dangerously to 'the Club', he has applied common sense to the industrial arena.

That to 'the Club' is the real heresy.



CHRONOLOGICAL OUTLINE OF MUDGINBERRI DISPUTE

This dispute involves the Mudginberri, Meneling, Victoria Valley and Alice Springs abattoirs. The works were traditionally award-free and had worked on a system of contracts with employees. This involved a series of contracts between companies created for the purpose and payment was strictly by result: so much per head or carton of product.

  • 1977 Meat and Allied Trades Federation of Australia served a log to create an award for these workers in the Northern Territory. The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union resisted the application and it was stopped.
  • 1981 MATFA again served a log concerning the Territory, but it was not proceeded with.
  • March 1983. AMIEU served a log for an award in the Territory. The National Farmers' Federation became involved as the claims log was served on a member of its N.T. organisation, who was also a member of MATFA (Bond Beef Company). The AMIEU demand was for the adoption of one of two existing awards: the Katherine Meat Works Agreement or the Queensland Meat Industry Agreement Award. Both awards are based on the 'unit tally' system. Determination of matter continues in 1984.
  • May-June 1984. Matter brought to a head with a series of industrial disputes involving Mudginberri and other works, Point Stuart, which never recovered. Pickets and strikes at Point Stuart and workers expelled from AMIEU at Mudginberri for refusing to strike. At this stage, the companies invoked terms of Section 45D of the Trade Practices Act and sought a reference of the dispute to a Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
  • July 1984. Full Bench convened in Darwin, conference and an agreement reached including: employers stopping Federal Court action; employers undertaking not to discriminate against workers involved in the dispute; union undertook to accept and work to the terms laid down in the award to be made by the Commission and expelled union members be re-admitted. AMIEU submitted that a unit tally system should be introduced and that the union should be the sole body to negotiate for employees.
  • September 1984. Full Bench ruled it would not (not) impose by arbitration the unit tally system on unwilling employers.
  • November 1984. Full hearing before Commissioner McKenzie on actual terms of Award.
  • May 2, 1985. Award brought down. Award standard Federal meat award except that it enables employees to negotiate piecework arrangements with the employer.
  • May 3, 1985. A picket was mounted on Victoria Valley meatworks, contrary to AMIEU undertaking.
  • May 9, 1985. Mudginberri opened for season. Being an export works, it required Federal Department of Primary Industry inspectors.
  • May 10, 1985. AMIEU picket at Mudginberri. DPI inspectors refused to cross.
  • May 11, 1985. AMIEU organiser Pat Roughan tells Mudginberri workers that, the only way that they would be re-admitted to the union would be by going on strike and mounting a picket at Meneling. Mudginberri workers refuse. They are being denied work but have remained on the station.
  • May 20, 1985. Conference with Deputy President Keogh between MATFA and AMIEU. Union said it would only negotiate on the basis of a unit tally system. Mudginberri again seeks relief through Section 45D in the Federal Court.
  • May 24, 1985. s 45D application stood over to 27.5.85 (Justice Beaumont, Federal Court) and DP Keogh hears application from DPI to instruct meat inspectors to go into Mudginberri. Keogh adjourns.
  • May 27, 1985. Justice Beaumont grants injunction effective from 30.5.85.
  • June 1985. At request of DPI DP Keogh convenes compulsory conference of all parties. He requested AMIEU to remove pickets and enter into negotiations. There have been a series of subsequent Federal Court hearings.
  • June 14, 1985. Application made to Justice Morling for order of contempt against the union as AMIEU was still picketing. Stood over to June 17.
  • June 17, 1985. Union solicitors sought leave to be excused and withdrew, union did not appear. Chief Justice Bowen said that if Mudginberri could establish the contempt before him he would sequestrate the union.
  • June 21, 1985. Federal Court imposes a fine on AMIEU of $10,000 plus $2,000 per day that the picket is maintained at Mudginberri.
  • July 1985. Brief respite from legal action.
  • July 9, 1985. Federal Court commenced hearing of application for final injunction. On the same day, application by Mudginberri against Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Kerin, and the Department of Primary Industry was mentioned.
  • July 12, 1985. Justice Morling grants final injunction under Section 45D.
  • July 15, 16, 1985. Justice Bowen hears application for sequestration of AMIEU against contempt of the interim injunction.
  • July 16,1985. Hearing continues.
  • July 18, 1985. Sequestration of union ordered, operative from 25.7.85.
  • July 25, 1985. AMIEU calls national 24 hour strike; application against Kerin and DPI comes on.
  • July 29,1985. Federal Court ordered the sequestration of AMIEU funds.
  • August 1, 3, 1985. The Administrative Decisions Judicial Review Tribunal hears case requesting that the Department of Primary Industry be directed to provide an Export Inspection service.
  • August 7, 1985. The Federal Court hears case regarding AMIEU contempt of the Court's decision to 'finalise' the order to lift the pickets. Hearing held over to 12 August.
  • August 8, 1985. The Federal Court is to hear appeals by AMIEU against sequestration, the final orders to remove the picket line, and the fines imposed.
  • August 9, 1985. Full Bench of Federal Court continues hearing AMIEU appeal against:

    1) 21 June temporary injunction under s.45D restraining AMIEU from secondary boycotting Mudginberri, and

    2) the Federal Court sequestration order under which the sequestrators control 2.3 million dollars of AMIEU liquid assets.

  • August 10, l 1, 1985. 60 Minutes TV crew films interviews at Mudginberri with Proprietor, J D Pendarvis and NFF Industrial Director, P X Houlihan.
  • August 12, 1985. Solicitors for NFF, Mudginberri and MATFA convey to Prime Minister, in writing, confidential terms upon which a negotiated settlement could be reached.

    Hearing of contempt proceedings by Justice Lockhart commences to determine whether AMIEU is defying 12 July permanent injunction granted under s.45D.

  • August 14, 1985. Mudginberri commences action in Federal Court against Meat Inspectors Association seeking orders:

    1) requiring EIS inspectors to enter Mudginberri and perform inspection despite picket line, and

    2) restraining the MIA from aiding and abetting the AMIEU in its defiance of s.45 injunctions.

  • August 15, 1985. Administrative Decisions Judicial Review Tribunal decision by Justice Neaves rejects Mudginberri application for order directing DPI to supply export accredited inspectors to Mudginberri..
  • August 16, 1985. Federal Court fixes 14 October for hearing of Mudginberri claim against AMIEU for damages.

    ACTU/AMIEU breaches confidentiality and releases to media confidential terms of settlement proposed by NFF and conveyed to Prime Minister.

  • August 18, 1985. Picketer throws a log of wood through the windscreen of a vehicle owned by Mudginberri.
  • August 19, 1985. In preparation for damages hearing on 14 October, Mudginberri retains partner in Deusburys to assess financial losses incurred by Mudginberri due to business interruption caused by picket line.
  • August 20, 1985. In Federal Parliament, the matter was raised by the Opposition in Question Time and as a Matter of Public Importance (on the Government's failure to act).

    Employment and Industrial Relations Minister, Ralph Willis told the House that the Government would do all it could to end industrial action.

    He said it was 'highly regrettable' that the AMIEU had taken action against the Arbitration Commission decision. The Government was attempting to make sure the matter was dealt with through the industrial processes.

    The ACTU had decided to back the AMIEU plans to take the matter back to Arbitration.

    To do this, the picket line would almost certainly have to be removed.

    The AMIEU will seek to have the NT award varied in two ways; to abolish the contract system and have it replaced with the tally system and to strengthen the union preference clause.

  • August 26, 1985. A group of QLD meat processors meet separately and with AMIEU QLD organiser Annear to discuss Mudginberri.
  • August 27, 1985. MATFA convenes national meeting to be held 5 September and to which Messrs McLachlan and Pendarvis will be invited. CAI inform MATFA of its intention to seek to defer National Wage hearing until ACTU withdraws support for AMIEU picket at Mudginberri.

    Through MATFA, NFF requests CAI to seek Government support for this stand at National Wage Case and prior to hearing convene brief meeting of all employer representatives to obtain their support at hearing.

    Mudginberri solicitors instructed to file appeal against Neaves J's refusal to order Commonwealth to supply essential meat inspections at Mudginberri.

  • August 28, 1985. Arbitration Commission hearing by Commissioner Sheather of AMIEU application to vary NT Meat Processing Award with respect to preference and payment by results set down for 29 August.
  • August 29, 1985. Mudginberri solicitors file for an appeal against Neave J's refusal to order Commonwealth to supply the essential meat inspections at Mudginberri.

    Commissioner Sheather in Arbitration Commission briefly hears AMIEU application to vary NT Meat Processing Award with respect to payment by results and preference of employment. Further hearing adjourned to 4 September when MATFA is scheduled to respond to AMIEU request that further hearing be referred to a Full Bench.

    During the hearing Commissioner Sheather stated that the President of the Commission would not deal with the reference until the pickets were lifted and if the request for a Full Bench was refused and Commissioner Sheather made responsible for the hearing he would not deal with the matter until the pickets are removed. The AMIEU is to report to the Commissioner on 4 September upon its intentions with respect to the pickets.

  • August 30, 1985. AMIEU stages 24 hour nationwide stoppage in support of campaign against Mudginberri.
  • September 9, 1985. Right-wing unionist Frank Troja of reform team to challenge AMIEU's Wally Curran in Victorian union election.

    Owners of Mudginberri abattoir begin legal action in Federal Court against federal meat inspectors. It is alleged that the Meat Inspectors Association and two of its officers aided and abetted the AMIEU in breaches of the Trade Practices Act. The hearing will begin in Darwin on 15 October.

  • September 10, 1985. Mudginberri station begins court preliminaries for an appeal against a Federal Court decision that the federal Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Kerin, did not have to order the meat inspectors to cross the picket line.

    His Honour, Mr Justice Pincus on behalf of Keely and Sheppard J J, the Full Bench who heard the AMIEU appeal against Justice Morley's decision of 12 July granting the final injunction under s.45D, dismissed the Union's appeal on the costs awarded against the Union.

    The decision is very strong and written in such a way that it will be very difficult for the AMIEU to get leave to appeal to the High Court.

    This matter opens the door for Mudginberri now to commence action against the AMIEU for the damages that it has suffered due to their illegal behaviour of the last four months.

    Mr Braysher, an eminent litigation accountant, has completed his investigation of Mudginberri's damages and his report indicates there are sustainable damages ranging from 1.6 to 2.8 million dollars depending upon how much of the meat that has been processed during the dispute and is currently in cold storage in Darwin can be recertificated and exported.

  • September 11, 1985. AMIEU fined $100,000 for continuing Mudginberri picket in defiance of order. Union also required to pay costs---total estimated at $279,000.

    Sequestration order: Current order continued. Judge indicates second order to follow.

    Union given seven days to pay fine, O'Toole indicates that the Union will not pay.

    Business Council of Australia announces support for Mudginberri management and employees.

    Council said that it was critically important for all Australians that the issue is resolved in favour of the employers and the employees of Mudginberri in order to uphold the rights of small groups, support change in the interests of competitiveness and reject the abuse of union power.

  • September 12, 1985. Minister for Primary Industry, John Kerin defends Government role in Mudginberri.

    Says the Government has upheld the law throughout the matter. Says the section 45D matter is a separate issue from the abattoir matter.

    Mudginberri raised in several questions during Question time. Prime Minister says both sides are in the wrong, attacks the role of NFF in the matter.

  • September 18, 1985. Ten unions, including Waterside Workers' Federation, Federated Storemen and Packers', Transport Workers' Union and Australian Public Service Association discuss tactics over Mudginberri dispute.

    Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Ralph Willis, tells Parliament that he will appeal to ACTU to abandon industrial action over Mudginberri. Is critical of 'link' between NFF President, Ian McLachlan and Elders which has accepted tally system at NT abattoirs.

    AMIEU loses appeal against Federal Court fine of $44,000 for continuing Mudginberri picket. l September 19, 1985. Employers bring court action designed to de-register the AMIEU. Justice Evatt tells hearing that deregistering a union had never solved industrial disputes and those involved should think about them very seriously.

    Matter adjourned until October 3 and 4.

    Work on damages claim for Mudginberri Station continues.

  • September 20, 1985. Date of payment due for AMIEU $100,000 contempt fine for continuing picket at Mudginberri.

    Union indicates that it will attempt to have sequestration order lifted once funds to cover second fine are seized.

  • September 24, 1985. Transport Workers' Union, Qantas, TAA and Ansett meet to discuss union bans on the export of chilled meat from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane airports.

    AMIEU's sequestered funds released by Federal Court. Mr Justice Lockhart refused to allow the funds to be held to meet claims for legal costs by the Mudginberri owners.

  • September 25, 1985. AMIEU plans series of stoppages next week. 24 hour strikes begin in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania on Monday. NT will not be included in order that an undertaking given to Arbitration Commission head, Sir John Moore, not be breached.
  • September 30, 1985. AMIEU calls off Queensland 24 hour stoppage following Supreme Court injunction to restrain meatworkers from joining national protest.

    Opposition spokesman on Primary Industry, Ralph Hunt claims Australia has lost $7 million in exports because of trade union disruption to the meat industry.

    ACTU rejects call by Employment and Industrial Relations Minister, Ralph Willis, to abandon industrial actions over Mudginberri.

  • October 1, 1985. Queensland Premier Bjelke-Petersen threatens to close State owned Cannon Hill abattoir.
  • October 2, 1985. Australian Small Business Association announces it will donate to fund to assist Mudginberri.

    Federal Court paves way for damages case to go ahead.

  • October 3, 1985. A Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission---D P McKenzie, D P Keogh and Commissioner McKenzie---demand that the union undertake to desist from all further industrial action relating to Mudginberri and associated matters, and to undertake to abide by the NT Meat Processing Award. Hearing adjourned until 4.10.85 for union to reply to demands.
  • October 4, 1985. AMIEU announces it will go ahead with national stoppage despite Arbitration Commission recommendation.

    The AMIEU failed to provide the Commission with the undertakings it sought, and without hearing any argument from the employer side, adjourned hearing until 17 October.

  • October 24, 1985. Damages hearing continuing, adjourned until 9 December in Sydney.
  • October 31, 1985. Appeal from the decision of the Administrative Decisions Judicial Review Tribunal heard in Sydney by a Full Court of the Federal Court consisting of Bowen C J Pincus and Evatt J J. This appeal is from the decision of Neaves J, sitting as the Administrative Decisions Judicial Review Tribunal, in which he rejected our case that Minister Kerin, and the DPI, had a duty to provide an export inspection service to Mudginberri Station despite the AMIEU picket line.
  • November 19-22, 1985. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission took evidence in the Northern Territory on 19th, 20th, and 21st on the application by the AMIEU to review clause 33 of the NT Meat Processing Award. This is the clause which permits the negotiation of piecework arrangements between the employer and the employee without any mandatory involvement by the union.

    On the 19th the Full Bench inspected the abattoir at Mudginberri and proceeded to take evidence from selected employees. On 20th they took further evidence from employees and evidence from Mudginberri's owner, Jay Pendarvis.

    On 21st the Commission resumed in Darwin, concluding Pendarvis' evidence, and taking evidence from the owner of the Victoria Valley Meatworks, Mr Don Hoare, and the owner of Meneling Meatworks, Mr Bob Bright.

    On 22nd the Union called four witnesses to testify to various aspects they wished covered.

    The matter to resume for final submissions in Sydney on 12 December.

  • November 22, 1985. The High Court in Melbourne handed down its decision on the application by the AMIEU for an order nisi requiring that Justice Morling stand down from hearing the Mudginberri application for damages. This action follows a move by the AMIEU to have the Judge disqualify himself on the grounds of bias which he had already rejected.

    The High Court rejected the Union's application and as such the damages hearing set down for Sydney on 9 December and if necessary in Darwin on 2 December will now proceed if either party wishes to take further evidence.

  • December 5, 1985. His Honour Justice Morling reconvenes Federal Court hearing of Mudginberri's damages action in Darwin to enable cross-examination of witnesses called earlier in proceedings.
  • December 6, 1985. AMIEU seeks leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia on two questions arising out of dispute.

    1. Application challenging the validity of Justice Morling's finding that the Union had breached s.45D of the Trade Practices Act by placing a picket line on Mudginberri.

    ---Application dismissed by High Court

    2. Application contesting the power of the Federal Court to impose a fine for a civil contempt of Court and application to question the power of the Federal Court to impose a continuing fine for a civil contempt.

    ---Union granted leave to appeal to High Court on these questions.

  • December 10, 1985. Justice Morling recommences hearing on damages in Sydney. Federal Court agrees to an application by AMIEU to have Mudginberri damages hearing deferred until early in February. Application allowed on grounds that relevant documents had not been made available to the Union in adequate time to allow them to present their case. Despite strong denials the Judge deferred the hearing until after the legal vacation and set down the new hearing for early February.
  • December 19, 1985. Full Court of the Federal Court (Bowen C J, Pincus and Evatt J J) in Sydney yesterday upheld Mudginberri's appeal against the decision by Justice Neaves in the Administrative Decisions Judicial Review Tribunal. The Full Bench argued that the Commonwealth has an absolute obligation to supply export inspection services to export works which comply with the law.


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