Gaoled for Breaching the Award
Barry Hammonds and Graeme Haycroft
Part I: Barry Hammonds
Until Troubleshooters style Labour Hire Contracting,
all shearing in Australia was conducted under awards.
Queensland has its own, the Shearing Industry Award
- Queensland. Elsewhere shearing operations may be
subject to a Federal award.
The Queensland shearing award was first developed
in 1911 and though concessions have been made for electricity
and septic toilet systems, little else has changed
other than the amounts that must be paid to workers.
It has been believed that both State and Federal awards
do not allow shearing on weekends (though the Federal
award will, if it has rained), and believed that to
do so is a breach punishable by prosecution, fine,
and subsequent gaol if the fine is not paid. The was
also thought that the award also, rather curiously,
mandated that before anyone started shearing they had
to sign an agreement (a form of contract) that bound
both the employer and the employee to do a given amount
of work. The non-completion of that agreement, it was
thought, was in itself an offence and ostensibly meant
that any shearer who left a shed before the end of
the job could be prosecuted for breach of contract.
Best said is that those thoughts belonged to another
era. Most alarmingly, though, the award specifies considerable
capital expenditure by graziers in order to comply
For instance, whilst it doesn't mandate that the shearing
shed be built, it does say that the grazier must supply
the shearing gear which, presumably, must be in a shed,
and also allocates the shearer certain space in that
shed. It also specifies the provision of wool-presses,
shearing quarters to a mandated standard, and bathroom
and laundry facilities which, incidentally, Government
house would not be able to achieve. For instance, the
floors of the bathrooms must be made of concrete. There
must also be separate ablution and toilet facilities
The award, quite frankly, is unworkable and no-one
actually works to it. Apart from specifying the amount
and types of food that workers must eat, the provision
not of washing machines, mind you, but coppers in the
laundry, it also requires that bells be rung before
shearing starts and finishes, clocks must be on the
wall in designated positions, and any number of other
quite silly little rules which may have had some basis
in reality 90 years ago but today are observed only
in the breach.
But the Australian Workers Union (AWU) has, of course,
used this as a marvellous recruiting system. Because
it's not possible for anyone to actually shear economically
under the award, and in order that the shearing operations
can be conducted without people going broke, blind
eyes must be turned. The price for the blind eye, of
course, is that every worker in the shed must be a
member of the AWU. When this happens, any amount of
award breaches can be condoned without prosecution.
If, however, any contractor or grazier has the temerity
to use non-union labour he can count on being prosecuted.
You may remember, a South Australian shearing contractor,
Graham Bruce, was prosecuted at Charleville, along
with all his men, for shearing on a Sunday in February
1992. None of his blokes were members of the AWU. It's
a fairly effective method of ensuring that the AWU
membership remains strong in the shearing industry.
The very worst thing that can ever happen to them,
because their members view them in the same light as
most other union members view their unions, is that
if free choice in the matter was actually given, then
the vast majority of workers in the wool-handling industry
would not be members of the AWU. So the award underpins
the recruiting mechanism for the AWU.
The wide combs dispute was one of the first attempts
by the shearers themselves to bring some sanity into
what is, at best, an inefficient, silly industry. The
AWU's view is that God created only so many shearing
jobs and that any attempt to make the operation more
efficient would mean less jobs for its members. Now
there's nothing secret about this, in fact the AWU
has been promulgating this particular view since time
immemorial. On that basis of logic, shouldn't we return
to harvesting wheat by hand? The only thing that's
mystifying about it is why the employer associations
have not destroyed the argument totally. Be that as
it may, back in the early 'Eighties, when the first
New Zealand shearers came over here with their wider
combs, and cutters which were 50% wider again (92mm
as against 62mm) they were able to shear sheep at thirty
to fifty percent faster than with narrow combs. Fundamentally,
this is what the wide combs dispute was all about.
It wasn't about evil Kiwis or dangerous wide combs,
it was simply that by introducing a technological improvement
the number of jobs available to AWU members was reduced.
This subsequently was the case and it's estimated that
some 20-25 percent of shearing workers left the industry
as a result of the efficiencies introduced during the
wide comb dispute.
These efficiencies quite dramatically benefited graziers,
in that shearing was done more quickly. Half of a shearing
team are on day labour, the other half on piece work.
If more sheep are shorn in a day, then the job is done
quicker and it is not necessary to pay the day labour
people for as long. Fundamentally, that is the saving.
It is this simple mechanism of efficiency improvement,
together with all workers in the shed being on piece
rates rather than day rates, that has enabled our contract
labour teams to reduce shearing costs by about 10%,
whilst still paying workers more. (See Appendix 2).
In 1988, I took over another contractor's run of about
40,000 sheep, purchased it, and have since built it
up to over 250,000. In June 1990 I was found with a
shed-full of non-union workers at Minnie Downs and
warned I would be prosecuted for not signing them on.
It should be noted that almost no-one, repeat no-one,
signs anyone on to these agreements.
The agreements are designed to protect the employee
from the employer. However, they are seldom used, and
viewed as a waste of time by most people in the shearing
industry. Dudley Watson, District Secretary for the
AWU, visited Minnie Downs Station during shearing in
June 1990. The purpose of his visit was to sell union
tickets, but nobody was interested in buying. Dudley
then made up a list of all the breaches of the award
we were committing there, such as:
- Failure to have separate toilet facilities for the
female cook, although it was not required to have them
for the female shedhands. This meant I would have to
cart, to and from sheds, a portable ablution unit for
- Failure to have a copy of the Award posted in a convenient
and conspicuous place, and other such 'major' offences.
We even had the clock hanging in the wrong place.
A couple of weeks later I met Dudley Watson at the
AWU premises in Charleville, where he proposed that
if I were to make it a condition of employment that
all my workers joined the AWU, charges would be dropped.
There are two witnesses to this. I told Dudley I would
not force people to join his union if they didn't want
In between the time of Dudley Watson first coming
to Minnie Downs and the subsequent summons in May 1991,
we were found shearing in another shed, New Cashmere,
at St George, by Goondiwindi AWU representative, Larry
Arnold. The purpose of his visit was also to sell union
tickets, but nobody wanted to buy. Again, we were not
signed on and in March 1992 I was summonsed for this
During this period, the AWU needed to inspect all
my wage records and wanted names and addresses of all
employees who had been in my employ. I supplied this
information and was told that M. Smith, of Wairoa,
NZ, did not comply with Section 15.5 of the Industrial
Relations Act 1990-1991. They then requested pay advices
detailing starting and ceasing dates, where they were
employed, all Christian names and full addresses. A
lot of this information had been lost during the 1990
Charleville floods. After a letter-writing campaign
between both parties, their requests fizzled out.
Shortly after that, on 30 June 1992, I was again in
court for our failure to sign-on at New Cashmere. This
was regarded as my second offence, with no previous,
as I hadn't been prosecuted for the first offence when
I committed the second. I was fined $768.75. I refused
to pay and was subsequently arrested and jailed for
four days in the Charleville lockup in October 1992.
I had already spent two days in gaol for the first
offence in 1991.
In May 1992, we were shearing at Pendine Station and,
as we were trying to keep to a tight schedule, we needed
to work part of a weekend, so we were in agreement
to work on Sunday. Suspicions must have arisen about
our activity, because Bill Paton, AWU representative
for Longreach, paid us a visit. He was shocked that
we were working on a Sunday and informed me I was the
ruination of the shearing industry. He wanted to know
the names and addresses of the people working there,
solely for the purpose of prosecuting these people
for working. I refused to give him this information,
so he asked each employee and they also refused to
A couple of weeks later Dudley Watson appeared at
my home, demanding the names and addresses of the employees
working at Pendine Station. I again refused and in
July 1992 we received summonses for breaches of Sections
12.1, 12.2, 12.3, 12.4, 15.3 and 18.38 of the Industrial
Relations Act 1990-1991.
When this matter eventually went to court we were
charged under Section 15.3, which is 'failure to
have and to make available time and wages records to
an authorised person from the AWU'." We fought
this charge in court, using excellent local solicitors,
Skewas & Dempster, instead of the UGA industrial
officer who traditionally conducts these cases, and
gained our first victory. Sixty-five graziers turned
up to support us in court and attend a luncheon afterwards.
It was this day that the UGA support from Vice-President
Marcus Arthur was solidified although later contradicted
by his staffers. (See Appendix 5). Since that time
the AWU gained information from town gossip, and they
summonsed me in March 1993, proceeding with the charges
for permitting employees to work on a Sunday in May
1992 (See Appendix 3) at Pendine Station, for not signing
them on, and for not having a copy of the Award posted
in a convenient and conspicuous place. This case is
to be heard on 24 May 1993 in the Barcaldine Court,
just down the road from the Tree of Knowledge.
On Friday, 7 August, at the Charleville Railway Hotel
known locally as 'The Rocks', the Troubleshooters'
team was drinking in the lounge bar. AWU union official,
Dudley Watson, was in the public bar. One of the team,
Manuel 'Doobie' Smith, went into the public bar, thought
he heard himself described as a scab by Watson, went
around the bar to see if he heard correctly, and collected
a king-hit from Watson, requiring medical treatment.
Police were called and Watson was subsequently charged
with assault the day after the Queensland State election
on September 21. His charge was dismissed on October
13, and AWU official, Gary Ryan, then claimed Troubleshooters
were deliberately trying to attack the union, claiming
the charge was frivolous.
Part II: Graeme Haycroft
Now to the introduction of the Troubleshooters Available
(TSA) system. But before doing so, it's important to
note its background.
TSA is a labour-hire firm which operated in the building
industry, principally in Melbourne, from 1976. They
supplied contractors to builders on a daily labour-hire
basis. They were black-banned by the building unions
in 1985 and Troubleshooters principals, Peter Bosa
and Brian Groves, took the BWIU to the Federal Court
alleging breaches of Sections 45D & E of the Trade
Practices Act, and also breaches of Common Law. As
the case progressed, the National Farmers Federation
(NFF) took an interest and were persuaded to lend considerable
moneys to enable the fight to go through to fruition.
This subsequently happened, and an appeal to the High
Court was refused, effectively making the ODCO Pty
Ltd case (ODCO traded as TSA) a High Court decision
and, if you like, clearing the way for widespread application
throughout Australian industry. Presumably the NFF
saw its potential in rural Australia, although subsequent
events demonstrated that the NFF's affiliated Queensland
body, the UGA, were not as unanimously prescient.
At the time I was first contacted by Barry Hammonds
in December 1991, I was consulting with the Queensland
Confederation of Industry (QCI) and was there when
the proposal was originally put. In terms of my consultancy,
I determined that the introduction of the TSA system,
which involved payment of some fees by Hammonds, should
indeed be run through the QCI, in accordance with my
agreement with that body. The QCI didn't want to upset
the AWU, so the QCI and I parted company, fuelled also
by the complaints from the UGA about me to the QCI.
The NFF advised that, in order for the system to be
applied in the shearing industry, it would be wise
to gain the support of the UGA Queensland State President,
Bill Bonthrone. A direct approach was therefore made
to Bonthrone in writing, advising what we proposed
doing. He was subsequently advised by his industrial
relations officer that labour hire contracting couldn't
work in Queensland, and much as they would love to
see its introduction, it wouldn't be viable and would
be challenged in court and we would lose.
We then struck a deal with Bonthrone on a very simple
basis, since it seemed to us the determination of what
is legal should be made by legal practitioners. So
Bonthrone agreed and set the condition, which we think
was entirely reasonable, that if the solicitors for
the NFF gave it the all-clear under Queensland Law,
then he would recommend the UGA support it.
Opinions were then gained from McHenry Harris, the
NFF's solicitors, with David Russell QC providing the
Opinion with specific respect to Queensland Law. The
opinions of these eminent legal people were that there
were no obvious constraints to the promulgation of
a labour hire contracting system in Queensland, and
that any attack against it under any specific Queensland
law would be unlikely to succeed and that graziers
could not be prosecuted.
At a meeting with the UGA on 28 May 1992, at Warwick,
at which some of the NFF Executive were present, these
Opinions were presented but, presumably in spite of
the support from Bonthrone, the UGA decided they would
reserve their support until they obtained their own
opinion. This was peculiar because the first Opinion
had been gained specifically for them, in terms of
our understanding with Bonthrone.
Notwithstanding all that, Hammonds and I travelled
on to Charleville to talk with Hammonds' shearers to
ascertain if they were interested in the possibility
of introducing a labour-hire system, and whether they
would go along with it and support it. For historical
purposes, the meeting was video-taped by Caloundra
dentist and amateur videographer, Mal Myers.
Subsequent to this, the local AWU official, Dudley
Watson, soon found out about the strangers preaching
heresy and decided that attack was the best form of
defence by launched into a rather vigorous assault
against us on ABC radio. But rather more cleverly,
he decided that the Australian Tax Office should be
brought into the matter and they obligingly wrote quite
scary and rude letters to both Hammonds and myself,
based entirely upon hearsay, warning us about the penalties
that could be involved and what actions they would
take should we suggest in any way that people not have
PAYE tax deducted. (See Appendix 4)
The ATO, through one of their enthusiastic officers,
a Ms. Lynette Chilcott, even went on ABC Longreach
radio making all sorts of pronouncements about how
PAYE tax would have to be deducted, that what we were
doing was incorrect, which was rather interesting because
at that stage we hadn't even started. The documentation
hadn't been fully finalised, nor had the systems, in
fact all the ATO's attacks were based entirely on hearsay
provided by the AWU officials.
Interestingly, we subsequently met with the ATO and
it was resolved that we would make voluntary deductions
from the shearers' pay, as we had proposed, and simply
forward the moneys to them through the PPS system.
There endeth the ATO problem. There wasn't then, and
there never has been since, any attempt to avoid income
It became important, though, to create a high profile
for the introduction of the system. And indeed to take
it right up to those who would oppose it because at
that stage we were on our own, the UGA still not having
obtained their own legal opinion. So, on Saturday,
July 4, a public meeting was called in Charleville
(just after the Hammonds' court case on 30 June) where,
ostensibly, Hammonds and I would call for recruits
for the contract labour system. It was well attended,
with well over 100 people yelling and debating, but
interestingly the AWU officials, who had been invited,
decided they should not be there, that they would prefer
to attend an ALP function being held at Corone's Hotel
across the road on the same day, though oddly not at
the same time.
The meeting was highly successful, making wonderful
TV, and certainly positioned us in such a way that
it was very difficult for the accusation to be sustained
that we were sneaking in to do something untoward.
However, our launch was almost scuttled because the
grazier whom Hammonds had lined up for the first shearing
under the contract system the following week, a well
respected and courageous grazier, named Lionel Roberts
of Victoria Downs near Morven, had, quite reasonably,
contacted the UGA industrial officer to check that
it was okay, only to find that "concerns about the
system's legality" had been raised and the UGA were
still in the process of checking it out. To his credit,
Lionel Roberts came in from Morven to meet with us
and he was reassured by Vice President of the UGA,
Marcus Arthur, by 'phone, that to allow us to shear
his sheep would not be against the interests of the
UGA and Marcus pledged the resources of the UGA to
support Roberts. The matter was then resolved with
Warren Turner, the UGA industrial officer who, wittingly
or unwittingly, had so managed to rattle Mr Roberts
earlier, and we were over the next hurdle. Queensland
graziers owe a genuine debt of gratitude for the principled
example set by Lionel and his family.
We then proceeded to shear his sheep, which was a
day of great excitement with all sorts of rumours flying
that union officials were expected with teams of people
with baseball bats---God knows where they'd get them
from out there---to clean up everybody in the shed.
Thank goodness the ABC were there to film it all. Anyway,
of course nothing happened. The union official, Dudley
Watson, who had publicly threatened to come out and
prosecute us, didn't turn up, and our team happily
I left on the Wednesday, and on the Thursday the then
Industrial Relations Minister for the Government announced
that this dispute should be resolved in the Commission.
It was a curious thing to say, because there was no
dispute, just the disaffection of the AWU officials
that someone should have the audacity to do something
they didn't approve of.
Notwithstanding that, an Order for Compulsory Conference
was then issued upon Hammonds Pty Ltd, the shearing
contractor, to attend with the AWU and the UGA. What
transpired then, after some advice, was that it was
important to develop a strategy in conjunction with
the UGA to meet this challenge in the early stages.
It was felt, then, that it would be wise if we used
the same barrister, i.e. Russell QC, and the UGA's
solicitors. Over a period of two days, we were advised
it was okay to use the UGA solicitors, then it wasn't,
then it was, then it wasn't, and finally, two hours
before the proposed Commission appearance, it was.
We respect solicitors' rights and obligations to ensure
there is no conflict of interest in these situations,
but, in retrospect, the indecision was quite comical
and not, I might add, the fault of the solicitors.
Suffice to say the advice was that we should not attend
the Compulsory Conference at all, but simply have the
matter of the jurisdiction tested in the Supreme Court.
This particular strategy had the advantage of:
- 1. Having the matter resolved immediately, and quite
favourably on our terms, with no facts to suggest that
the people involved in the shearing were anything other
than contractors, or
- 2. Forcing the union to back down totally on the issue,
thereby ending it.
However, when this advice was duly given, the UGA
officials, for reasons known only to them, felt that
they should attend the Compulsory Conference anyway,
as a courtesy (whatever that means). Of course when
they arrived they were advised that "compulsory attendance"
wasn't required, despite what all the documentation
had said, and that it was really an "optional conference'.
Therefore our opportunity to have the matter tested
in the Supreme Court, with all the facts in our favour,
and no opposition was lost. As was the opportunity
to have the union publicly back down.
One of the conditions of these Conferences is that
you are not allowed to get a copy of the transcript
unless you give an undertaking of confidentiality.
The UGA therefore felt this precluded them from showing
it to Hammonds or me, although Hammonds is an affiliate
UGA member. The solicitors felt a conflict of interest
had arisen, so the common view strategy was defeated
and from then on we were alone again.
I decided to attend the second Compulsory Conference,
not only out of curiosity as to what the dispute was
about, but to obtain a transcript of the previous meeting.
In hindsight, had I known the contents, it's doubtful
that I would have gone at all. The transcript was given
reluctantly by the Commission, under pain of silence.
It was better to know where we stood at that particular
stage. Following this, a further date was convened
for a Consultation meeting, or something like that,
with the AWU and the UGA. What is probably more important
is that once the Commissioner had left, the union were
able to put their demands, and they went something
along these lines. 'We suppose, if we were in their
shoes, we would have done the same. We are simply a
competing business interest to them, and they wanted
to get rid of us.'
Their proposition was:
Are you going to go away?
No. We want to have this matter tested.
Fine, why don't you black-ban Lionel Roberts's wool?
They said "No". Then why don't you take us to the
Supreme Court for a declaratory ruling? They said "No".
Well, how about taking us to the Charleville Magistrate's
Court on the facts of the matter at Victoria Downs?
To which they replied, "No", they were old facts. (In
other words they didn't have any new facts.)
What they really wanted was for us to set up a test
shearing so they could send in the state government's
industrial inspector to decide whether the workers
were employees or not. In other words, they didn't
want to jeopardise AWU funds, but rather use taxpayers'
money to fight their battles. The UGA officers in attendance
were not in opposition to this proposal. We then left,
without disclosing what we would do. We did, however,
make a public announcement that we would look favourably
on the test shearing. It had occurred to us it would
be good to have the media there, and, when it was later
suggested, probably in jest, that Mark Stoneman should
be there shearing as well, I thought it was an excellent
proposition. After all, since Stoneman was the State
Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, if anyone
was going to be prosecuted it wouldn't be a bad idea
for it to be Stoneman, along with the rest of the team.
To his credit, Mark, who was fully aware of the ramifications,
agreed to set a lead.
At this stage the UGA had finally got their second
legal opinion from Murdoch, the barrister who normally
acts for the AWU and BWIU. The opinion has been kept
secret, but it does, we were told, "express some doubts".
Who knows? With the NFF's policy being that of backing
winners, and only if a state affiliate, like the UGA,
recommends it, you don't have to be Solomon to realise
our position. With the UGA holding a secret opinion
which purportedly didn't support us, but ostensibly
confirmed the original view by the UGA industrial officer
to Bonthrone earlier in the year, the likely outcome
for NFF legal fund support, should we find ourselves
under legal attack, was not promising. We had no alternative
but to keep the matter public to raise the political
price of punitive legal action against us.
So on August 22 we set up Saturday shearing at Alan
Denton's property, Hillgrove. Current Affair attended,
Mark Stoneman came out and sheared a few sheep, and
the Industrial Inspector arrived and investigated the
whole proceedings, subsequently deciding (one presumes,
because this was over eighteen months ago) they would
not prosecute us. It made colourful TV with 15 or 20
cranky union shearers standing by and protesting, ultimately
more about the AWU union official not turning up than
our shearing on a Saturday. In effect, we took it to
the brink and they blinked. The opportunity is now
past for the government and, one would think, for the
unions, because since that time we've been able to
shear without any harassment. It's curious to note
that all union action taken against Hammonds was for
offences prior to him using the TSA system, not after.
It is an interesting side issue that in early August
1992 we received notification from, of all people,
the UGA, that one Joseph Ludwig, son of Bill Ludwig,
Secretary of the AWU, had registered the name Troubleshooters
Available on 10 July 1992 (See Appendix 6). We fell
about laughing. After all, what on earth could they
ever do with it? It was about late September that we
wrote to Joseph reminding him of the law relating to
"passing off", and they subsequently cancelled their
registration, and we picked it up. As we had previously
been unable to register the name because a Gold Coast
firm used it, Joseph's string-pulling ultimately helped
In order to really clarify the UGA's position, UGA
Vice President, Marcus Arthur, at the time of Hammonds'
trial in December for "failing to produce time and
wages records", (which incidentally we won) made clear
unequivocal public statements to the media that the
UGA would defend the legal principle of the labour-hire
system. Quite rightly, he did not endorse Troubleshooters
Available as a commercial firm, which we didn't want
anyway, but he made it abundantly clear that any legal
attack would be met with the UGA and NFF fighting funds.
(See Appendix 5). If this had been done on Day One,
the whole exercise could probably have been done quietly
and without controversy. There would have been no TV,
no media, no drama, just a quiet revolution in the
In no way is there to be implied in this paper any
criticism of the elected executive of the UGA, who
were simply embroiled in the technicalities of competing
advices but who consistently appeared publicly to support
our reforms. Ironically, however, the December 1992
issue of the UGA bi-monthly magazine, "The Grazier",
reported the December Charleville meeting, together
with a statement from Marcus Arthur to which had been
added, without his knowledge (we checked):
- " ... with the UGA's support remaining qualified by
the outcome of possible litigation, as the legal questions
are still being considered by the Crown Law Office".
Marcus Arthur said no such thing. This was a "helpful"
addition by a UGA staffer. (See Appendix 5)
Before closing, we should look at what costs have
been saved and how much shearing has been effected
under subcontract. The matters relating to the saving
of capital have not yet started to come into the equation,
because shearing sheds and shearing quarters are already
there. But over the next ten years, with non-award
shearing, it will become possible, in some situations,
for the contractor to arrive, literally, with a shearing
operation on the back of a truck---pretty much the
same as some crutching operations arrive now---put
up a marquee, run out some transportable yards, then
proceed with having the team of shearers, who have
arrived in caravans with their own cookhouse, get on
with the job of shearing the sheep, using laser shearing
devices. Who can predict what innovative people will
come up with if they are only allowed to?
Further to this, when one considers that the methods
used by shearers today are little changed from that
of 100 years ago, the whole technology of shearing
can now be changed. Laser shearing has been developed;
it cuts wool more cleanly, and with little physical
But the Wool Board couldn't see the potential, and,
after two pittance grants for research, diverted resources
to chemical and robot shearing, both of which are possibly
nothing but expensive mirages. We may still see the
day when shearing will be done entirely mechanically,
but it would be some time off. But if wool removal
apparatus is brought into the twentieth century, or
should I say twenty-first century, then it should be
possible for one shearer to shear, on average, about
300 sheep a day, which is double the amount they do
Most graziers would have $200,000 capital tied up
in woolsheds, quarters, etc, but used only 3 weeks
a year. If you compute the annual holding cost of this
largely unnecessary capital expenditure and divide
by an average number of sheep, say 10,000, then you
arrive at a hidden capital cost of around $3.00 per
sheep per year. Add then the contract shearing price
of $3.00 per sheep and you have a total wool removal
cost of about $6.00 per sheep. But without 'award shearing'
and the constraints it imposes, over a period of time
this cost could be cut in half. And as wool removal
cost is one of a grazier's biggest expenses, reform
here will significantly affect the wool industry viability.
The Hammonds team have already been able to shear
sheep in the order of $2.70 each (about 10% less),
whilst also ensuring that the payment to the workers,
in every case, is more than they would ever have earned
under the award. (See the Appendix for some comparisons.)
Obviously, reducing the price of shearing isn't about
cutting the earnings of workers but about making the
whole operation more efficient, and that's what the
labour hire contracting system has allowed to happen.
None of these efficiencies can be contemplated under
In summary, despite the support of the graziers and
what appears to be the support of the elected UGA executive,
there is still a long way to go. Graziers who ring
the UGA about where they stand if they use labour hire
contracting are still advised by their Industrial Department
that "whilst they support in principle, they cannot
recommend that members use us (TSA) until we are proven
legal". Damned with faint praise! The latest UGA Annual
General Report devotes three pages to "Industrial",
but nothing about labour hire contracting systems which,
by any measure, is the most significant change to industrial
relations in the shearing industry since the introduction
of the Award. Not one item in those three pages in
any way suggests that graziers' costs will be reduced
by the UGA's industrial activities. No mention at all
of a strategy to eliminate all the impediments to efficient
capital usage and slash wool removal costs. Sad really.
So, considerable work still has to be done to convince
the graziers themselves that they are not going to
achieve the results they want through the traditional
industrial relations system, but only through the free
market of contracting. We hope we can achieve these
reforms before the wool industry dies.
Meanwhile we battle on.
8 December 1993
Part III: Graeme Haycroft
Prior to our paper being delivered in Canberra in
May 1993, we knew Barry Hammonds would be appearing
at the Barcaldine Magistrate's Court on 24 May 1993
and presenting a 'not guilty' plea for the three charges
brought against him for alleged breaches of the Queensland
State Shearing Award prior to using the TSA
labour hire contracting system. The charges were:
- i) permitting shearing on a Sunday;
- ii) permitting shearing without first signing shearing
- iii) failure to post the Award in a prominent place.
We felt it was important to demonstrate that the whole
Rural Industrial Relations system was in fact held
together by the foolish compliance of the United Graziers'
Association with union dictates, and that the penal
provisions of the now infamous Award were virtually
unenforceable if you forced the union to actually prove
the facts rather than just conceding them. So, even
if graziers wanted to continue using employment relationships
instead of subcontract ones, commonsense would prevail
and changes to expensive and efficient work practices
could, in practice, occur.
Our strategy was quite simple: go to the spiritual
home of the union movement and Labor Party two days
before the centenary of the Labor Party's formation,
under the Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine, and achieve
a win for the real workers by demonstrating that the
AWU couldn't fight its way out of the proverbial wet
paper bag and that the traditional submissive strategy
of the UGA was simply flawed. They were too easily
bluffed. This meant winning not only on the facts,
but having a legal argument prepared, just in case.
So, with the media lined up, we arrived at Barcaldine
with our "trump card", David Russell QC, to represent
Hammonds. Russell volunteered his services on this
issue and although his appearance had been a fairly
closely kept secret, it was let slip in good faith
by a local grazier to the local United Graziers' Association
representative on the day before the court case. Within
2 hours I was advised, by the media, that the local
Longreach AWU district representative had been told.
Perhaps they didn't feel we should have too much advantage.
On the first charge, before the local Magistrate,
senior counsel, David Russell QC, quite brilliantly
noted that the 1990 Queensland Industrial Relations
Act had introduced changes that meant certain Awards
could be interpreted differently. Thus, from the moment
the Goss Government passed this Act, shearing operations
by contractors (not graziers) were legal on weekends,
although penalty rates would apply. Prior to that,
the Award was properly interpreted as totally disallowing
On the second charge of permitting shearing without
shearing agreements being signed, he argued this was
never meant to be applied to shearing contractors,
but was designed by construction to always apply to
the owner of the sheep. On that basis, Hammonds had
previously spent at least six days too many in jail,
and the whole recruiting mechanism of the AWU was underpinned
by a furphy.
The third charge was frivolous anyway as the Award,
which was supposed to be posted, had to be at Hammonds
office, if anywhere; not at the shearing shed.
As it subsequently turned out, the AWU could not produce
evidence to actually prove anybody had been shearing
on a Sunday, nor that shearing agreements hadn't been
signed, so the legal questions weren't ever considered.
This was absolutely the best possible result for the
graziers and shearers because it demonstrated that
these punitive provisions are virtually unenforceable,
illustrating that, in future, even if the AWU could
actually prove the facts of the case, the legal arguments
could come into play and the charges would be dismissed
anyway. The AWU faced a hiding for nothing.
In practice, the result has meant that any attempt
by the AWU to stop weekend shearing is now so remote
that graziers, contractors and workers can negotiate
commonsense weekend cutouts (that's where shearers
finish the job on a weekend rather than stopping on
a Friday and returning on the Monday to shear just
a few sheep), secure in the knowledge that they are
virtually beyond prosecution. Further, shearing contractors
can no longer be coerced into forcing their workers
into the AWU against their wishes. It's still fiddling
at the edges but a vast improvement on the status quo.
Had the Barcaldine decision been decided on the legal
questions it would have been a pyrrhic victory anyway,
because the AWU would have just trotted into a compliant
Industrial Relations Commission and got the Award amended
to negate the win. They would have simply argued that
the Award doesn't mean what everyone thinks it does,
and custom and practice suggest the wording should
be changed to reflect that. And, on past performance,
the United Graziers' Association would have been unlikely
to have mounted any worthwhile opposition. The net
result would have meant absolutely no change. Hardly
in anyone's interest.
On September 16th, Russell QC and I later explained
to the United Graziers' Association the ramifications
of this quite landmark decision, and suggested that
their best tactic would be not to say nothing and let
perceptions work to their advantage. Within seven days
a news letter came out stressing that the case had
proved nothing, that shearing still could not be done
on weekends, and that although they "supported the
Troubleshooter principle, (they) couldn't support it
in Queensland until it was tested in law". Defeat was
snatched from the jaws of victory.
We did, however, subsequently manage to obtain the
"secret Opinion" which supposedly cast doubt on the
legality of Troubleshooters in Queensland, and the
reason it had been kept secret became immediately obvious;
the UGA's barrister actually supported us. He agreed
graziers who use the system could not be prosecuted,
but the UGA had been publicly saying the precise opposite.
Whether or not a legal challenge to the labour hire
agency would succeed or not is irrelevant to potential
client-users of the system. The issue that was most
important was whether any potential client-user (i.e.
UGA member) could suffer any liability by using the
proper applications of labor hire contracting. On that
point the UGA's barrister said, inter alia,
that graziers could not be prosecuted. However
he did say, that on the off-chance that the agency
TSA was prosecuted, anybody associated with the counselling,
procuring or aiding us in committing an offence might
also be prosecuted. Whilst this provision might in
rare circumstances apply to, say, an industrial officer
who was actively promoting us, it would never
in practice apply to a grazier.
Graziers either just use the system or watch as their
contractors use it. It was therefore extremely mischievous
to suggest that there was a chance of graziers being
prosecution if they used labour hire contractors. But
as the Opinion was kept secret, of course we had no
way of knowing that we were being misrepresented in
this way. I felt we were getting nowhere being nice
to the UGA, so we had nothing to lose by openly criticising
them in the hope that we'd get a public airing of the
In December, capitalising on grazier dissatisfaction
with the UGA endorsement of Keating's Mabo legislation,
I attacked the UGA, drawing the analogy from Mabo to
Contract Labour that their decision was unrepresentative
and against their members' interests. All the main
rural media featured the story. The response from UGA
President Bonthrone, and UGA Industrial Officer Turner,
was very hostile. Any pretence of labour market reform
for their members was abandoned in an attempt to sabotage
my credibility, and, by implication, that of Hammond's
agency. It was essential to respond publicly to the
incorrect things they said about us. After all, the
purpose of the exercise was, as I said, to get a public
airing of the facts so that the UGA members could know
what had been going on.
I therefore authorised the publication of a solicitor's
letter quoting Queen's Counsel opinion on the UGA's
position (See Appendix 9). Again all the main rural
media ran it. This must have been acutely embarrassing
to Messrs Bonthrone and Turner because it exposed the
indefensibility of the UGA position and clearly showed
they had, presumably unwittingly, been misleading their
members. It vindicated our stand and was absolutely
In summary, based on the facts assembled in this paper
there's no escaping the sad conclusion that at a time
of maximum crisis in the wool industry, when any sort
of cost-saving labour market reform should have been
supported, the UGA simply used marginal doubts about
the legality as, at best, an excuse to do nothing for
18 months. By contract, there wouldn't be one union
official in this country who, if faced with a similar
situation, would not have marched full steam ahead
and damn the consequences to further (as they would
see it) the best interest of their members.
The graziers of Queensland owe a debt to the Hammonds
of Charleville who achieved, by their quiet example
of intelligence and fortitude, what the graziers' own
association simply could not, or would not do. Potentially
the most significant change in the pastoral industry
work practices was introduced without bloodshed, without
traditional IR goo-ha, without crippling strikes, without
hugely expensive court battles, without high level
Give me ordinary people with ordinary values any day.
I'm, proud to have been able to help Barry & Moera
Hammonds do their bit, and whatever it cost me in time,
sweat, tears and money was well worth it.
I'd do it again tomorrow.
- 1. Chronological order of events.
- 2. Comparison of rates paid to Hammonds team -v-
- 3. Summons for Sunday shearing at Pendine Station.
- 4. Copy of letter from Australian Taxation Office.
- 5. Copy of 'doctored' report in the UGA magazine.
- 6. Copy of the Minutes of a meeting, to evidence
what Marcus Arthur actually stated.
- 7. Copy of Registration of Business Name by AWU official, Joe Ludwig.
- 8. UGA branch Newsletter, June 1992, giving the UGA
position (or its officer's opinion) on Troubleshooters
- 9. 'Troubleshooters row resolved'; Queensland Country
- 10. P W Skewes & Dempster letter to the Editor
QCL, January 26, 1994.
- 11. "Shear delight as the ties have it", The Australian,
Chronological order of events
- 1988 Hammonds became a shearing contractor.
- June 1990 Hammonds found shearing at Minnie Downs
without signing workers on, failure to have separate
toilet facilities for female cook, failure to have
award posted in convenient and conspicuous place, failure
to have clock in correct place.
- July 1990 Hammonds met with Dudley Watson before
two witnesses, and Watson offered to not proceed with
prosecution if all Hammonds' workers joined the AWU.
- April 1991 Hammonds found shearing at New Cashmere
station without having signed on workers.
- May 1991 Summons served on Hammonds for the
June 1990 breaches at Minnie Downs.
- July 1991 Prosecuted for the Minnie Downs offence
and fined $640.
- August 1991 Two days jail at Charleville lockup for
refusing to pay the fine.
- December 1991 Hammonds responded to NFF article and
was referred by them to Haycroft.
- February 1992 Haycroft started to process agency
arrangements for Hammonds in accordance with QCI guidelines.
- Approach made direct to Bonthrone by Haycroft
for support for the introduction of the system.
- Haycroft and QCI parted company, after complaint
fuelled by UGA.
- Arrangements made with Bonthrone that Hammonds
and Haycroft would, at their expense, gain legal opinion
on the issue for the UGA.
- March 1992 Summons served on Hammonds for the April
1991 offence at New Cashmere station.
- May 1992, 10th Hammonds found shearing at Pendine
Station on a Sunday.
- 28th Meeting at Warwick whereby UGA decided McHenry
Harris and Russell QC's opinion not good enough and
UGA's own opinion needed.
- 30th First meeting of Haycroft with Hammonds' shearers
- June 1992 2nd AWU first warned of Troubleshooters
- 9th Threats from Australian Taxation Office.
- 25th Letter from Haycroft to Bonthrone advising
of the 4th July national media story, that the media
would probably want to know UGA position, and suggested
it may be wise to gain the second legal opinion.
- June 1992 30th Hammonds convicted in Charleville Magistrate's
Court for April 1991 New Cashmere offence.
- July 1992 4th Meeting at Charleville Town Hall to
launch Troubleshooters Available.
- 6th First contract shearing at Lionel Roberts'
Victoria Downs property. Though invited, union officials
did not attend.
- 9th Supposed "Compulsory Conference" at Queensland
IR Commission. Contrary to advice, UGA attended. Haycroft
and Hammonds did not.
- 10th Information supplied to UGA solicitor so
he could finally brief barrister Murdoch for the UGA
- Joe Ludwig registered the name Troubleshooters
- 14th Optional conference at IR Commission, attended
by Haycroft to obtain transcript of July 10 conference.
- NFF's Graham Blight made it perfectly clear on
national media that they support Troubleshooters Available.
- 20th Closed meeting with AWU and UGA at IR Commission
where proposal was made to set up test shearing.
- 27th UGA General Manager, David Moore, advised
that the Murdoch opinion on the efficacy of Troubleshooters
Available in Queensland was unavailable for perusal,
but advised that it cast doubts and graziers who use
the system might be persecuted.
- August 1992 9th AWU's Dudley Watson initiated a
brawl with Troubleshooter shearer, "Doobie" Smith.
- 22nd Current Affair camera team recorded first
legal weekend shearing in Queensland at Alan Denton's
Hillgrove property at Morven, where Mark Stoneman sheared
some sheep. The Industrial Inspector attended, as did
some 20 'award' shearers to protest. Nobody from the
- September 1992 l9th Labor government re-elected in
- 21st Dudley Watson charged by police with assault.
- October 1992 14th Dudley Watson cleared of assault
- Hammonds to gaol for four days after refusing
to pay fine for offence committed at New Cashmere,
- December 3rd 1) Hammonds trial at Charleville Magistrate's
Court for Sunday shearing offence at Pendine, May 1992.
- 2) UGA Vice President, Marcus Arthur, made unequivocal
media statements guaranteeing UGA support of the Troubleshooters
Available system in the event of legal attack on the
- 3) Marcus Arthur chaired local meeting of sixty-five
(65) graziers who travelled to Charleville in support
of Hammonds at his trial.
- 4) Charleville was, and still is, in the throes
of a dreadful drought, but it rained that day. A motion
for support of the system was carried unanimously.
- January 1993 UGA December issue of "The Grazier"
released, qualifying the unanimous support for graziers
of Troubleshooters Available but inferring it may still
be illegal (See Appendix).
- March 1993 UGA annual report came out devoting
three pages to industrial matters, but not one line
about Troubleshooters Available.
- 13th Federal election won by the Labor Party.
- 26th Summons served on Hammonds for offences allegedly
committed at Pendine Station, May 1992.
- May 1993 24th Hammonds pleads not guilty to
charges, which will be heard, sometime in July, probably
at Barcaldine, across the road from the "Tree of Knowledge".
- August 1993 30th Hammonds cleared of charges for award
breaches at Barcaldine.
- September 16th Meeting at UGA offices with D Russell
QC to explain ramification of Barcaldine decision and
the true position of graziers who use Troubleshooters
or have their contractors use Troubleshooters. UGA
legal opinion surfaces.
- 26th UGA Newsletter published rebutting Russell
QC's opinion by claiming that great doubts still existed
about the legality of Troubleshooters and pointing
out that weekend shearing is not possible and, in effect,
the Barcaldine Court case proved nothing.
- December 8th Article in media by Haycroft claiming
that UGA was misrepresenting Troubleshooters to its
WAGES COMPARISON OVER
40 DAY PERIOD
These figures have been work out over a 40 day period.
The sub-contract ones are an average for that period.
SHEARERS ON PER HEAD BASIS
(Please go to Contents page for more Appendices.)
Why HR Nicholls?