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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1562


Senator CROWLEY(6.12) —I am pleased to have the opportunity, as many of my colleagues did, to speak to the 1983-84 annual report of the Australian Trade Union Training Authority. In particular, I would like to endorse the remarks of all of my colleagues from the Government side and refer to some of the points that I had in mind raising if and when I had an opportunity to speak. Surprisingly, I find that I have the opportunity to speak this evening and not tomorrow. I wish to take up that part of the report which refers to the attention paid to occupational health and safety by the Trade Union Training Authority. My colleague Senator Cook referred to the use of training days by TUTA in State centres.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! For the information of honourable senators, as the Sessional Orders have been suspended each senator may speak for 30 minutes.


Senator CROWLEY —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I can elaborate at much greater length on the provisions of occupational health and safety under TUTA. I thank the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Grimes, for that. I am pleased to be informed of the extra time that I now have at hand. The point to which Senator Cook alluded and which I think it is important to make again was that during 1983-84 some 9 per cent of the training days conducted by TUTA State centres were devoted to courses specifically concerned with occupational health and safety matters, with a higher proportion of those days occurring in States where legislative changes were taking place or were already planned. In my own State of South Australia the State provisions for occupational health and safety, through legislation and the establishment of structures in the State, have meant that the South Australian Trade Union Trading Authority has been very concerned with occupational health and safety matters.

The Trade Union Training Authority was very interested in following closely the establishment of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission. The Authority followed the establishment of the Interim Commission and the subsequent report from the Interim Commission on the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission. The Authority has already decided, given its current provision for staffing and given the range of topics that it judges are necessary for its consideration-that is, the conditions it feels are fundamental to meet its commitments to trade union training-to limit to 15 per cent the number of days of training on occupational health and safety issues. While it is possible that the Authority could devote 100 per cent of its time to occupational health and safety issues, the TUTA board has decided that a maximum limit of 15 per cent would be reasonable given, as I said earlier, the commitment to a whole range of other issues that it judges are necessary to fulfil its functions.

It is noted in this report and it is a matter of some comfort to the Trade Union Training Authority that the interim report from the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission states specifically that as a matter of priority the Commission should give consideration to the question of training trade unionists in occupational health and safety-that is, the Commission itself should be responsible for picking up much of the training in occupational health and safety for trade unionists. That is a matter of some comfort to the Trade Union Training Authority because, unless there is an allocation of increased staff and provisions, it appreciates that it cannot actually meet the needs of a massive increase in training in occupational health and safety, which, of course, the Authority judges to be very important but not its only requirement.

The occupational health and safety seminars that have been conducted in this area already have covered legislative changes and the question of repetition strain injury. They have looked at asbestos as a specific item of interest as apart from another topic of general chemicals. They have looked at problems of dust, noise, screen-based equipment, stress, safety in the construction industry and health and safety committees. Of course, the topics in the seminars would have covered a number of the structural and organisational arrangements necessary to address any and all of those topics.

The occupational health and safety courses at the state level have also addressed the role and functions of delegates and committee members in the occupational health and safety area of unions, the relevant legislation and statutory machinery, the identification and investigation of health and safety hazards, and the problems of sources of information and the provision and dissemination of that information. So as well as specific topics of hazards for workers there is the necessary provision of information and the addressing of topics such as the infrastructure to provide workers with not only the information but also the organisational and structural mechanisms to handle that information and to act responsibly as a consequence of having that information.

One further area which I note is listed as a topic that the Trade Union Training Authority has devoted some time to in courses covers the review of the anti-discrimination legislation and procedures in relation to employment and sexual harassment. Senator Cook alluded earlier to some 20 per cent of the student hours being taken up by women attending Trade Union Training Authority courses. I am sure that those courses would have been a matter of specific importance to them, but it is also a matter of importance for the whole trade union movement to understand exactly the implications of anti-discrimination legislation. Understanding legislation and the effect it can have for workers and on workers is very important. As I stated earlier, the Trade Union Training Authority has spent a considerable part of its course work on this and judges that that part of its course work is very important-in fact, more important than almost anything else it can address.

The necessary provision of information and ways in which one can handle that information is one of the basic requirements of the Trade Union Training Authority. That is why it was established in the first place. It continues to be its most important charter. I think the courses reviewing the sex discrimination legislation and all anti-discrimination legislation, and the sexual harassment clauses in that legislation, are a very good illustration of the way in which the Trade Union Training Authority educates and provides information to its members. It also provides the information on what that legislation contains by way of protection for its members. They need to have access to that information as does any citizen in our community. While some of the legislation is specific to people in the work place much of the legislation is necessary for them to know generally. That is one of the areas in which the Trade Union Training Authority provides its resources for workers who attend its many courses.


Senator Robert Ray —What sort of courses do they have?


Senator CROWLEY —I could run through the whole list if Senator Ray would like. If he thinks that would be a good idea, if thus challenged, I could list the courses mentioned here. I suppose, in fact, that in listing the courses it is a very neat way of elaborating on what the Trade Union Training Authority judges to be its priorities in the way it organises its courses and their content. Many of the courses address industry, particularly the skills and knowledge required in the industrial area. Some of the courses address the importance of union negotiation and the skills workers would need to be able to fulfil their role as representatives of a union movement or a work force. There are courses addressing negotiations in the work place, union policies and procedures relating to national wage cases, the prices and incomes accord, the formulation of claims and the preparation and presentation of their cases--


Senator Archer —We have read all that.


Senator CROWLEY —I am pleased that the honourable senator has read all that, but I am happy to take the opportunity that the motion has given me to provide this information to anybody who happens to be enjoying the opportunity of listening to the Senate this afternoon. In fact the honourable senator may well know about it but I think it is very important to provide the opportunity for those people who are listening to know it also. In fact, it is a very good illustration of what the Trade Union Training Authority is about-providing information to people who need to know it and who can benefit from knowing it. Therefore, I will proceed, if the honourable senator does not mind.


Senator Lewis —Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. It is quite clear that what the Australian Labor Party is doing in government is endeavouring to prevent this Parliament from debating the dairy industry arrangements.


Senator Robert Ray —You challenged us to speak on TUTA.


Senator Lewis —I must say that I was sufficiently stupid to say that I would give honourable senators opposite an opportunity to speak. Clearly there were three or four honourable senators opposite who wanted an opportunity to speak for a few minutes on the Australian Trade Union Training Authority. I thought I would give them the opportunity to do so. They are now filibustering so that we cannot debate on air the problems of the dairy industry. The point of order is that Senator Crowley is trying to read into the Hansard the report which has been tabled. The motion is that we take note of the paper. We have taken note of the paper and, therefore, it is a misuse of the Senate procedure simply to stand in the chamber and read the report into the Hansard.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. Senator Crowley is in order in debating the motion before the Chair. I call Senator Crowley.


Senator CROWLEY —Mr Deputy President, rarely do the listeners of Australia have the benefit of such a lucid analysis of Senator Lewis's capacities as he himself has just given us. 'I did not know I could be so stupid', said Senator Lewis. Well done! I thank Senator Lewis for an assessment of his own abilities. We on this side of the chamber concur. How stupid could the honourable senator be? I was trying to refer to some of the material within the Australian Trade Union Training Authority annual report for 1983-84. I take up one of the points that Senator Harradine raised earlier. He referred briefly to some of the material produced by TUTA and in particular mentioned a book entitled In the Commission. Senator Robert Ray also alluded to this quite excellent production.

I noticed also that listed under the material prepared by TUTA are two wall charts. One of these wall charts actually describes the steps required in making a Federal award. This may not be a matter of particular interest to people who belong to traditional trade unions or who work in traditional work areas. However, one of the things of very real interest to me is the problem confronting many women who, when they are in the work force, find that their job descriptions are not specifically under any Federal award. In fact, one of the issues I talked about yesterday in the debate on the supported accommodation assistance program legislation was the priority listing there of an award to cover women providing work or staffing in women's shelters and in child care centres. Neither of these areas of employment for women is at the moment covered by a Federal award. In fact, they are not covered by State awards. The challenge for government and for people in that area of work is to go ahead and describe an award. That is listed as a priority area of consideration in the supported accommodation assistance program legislation. That is a very important area. I am delighted to find such information has been produced on a wall chart.

It is interesting to note that many people who are involved in paid work do not know what Federal award covers them, much less what State award covers them or, in fact if there is an award, how they can find out what their award is and what their rights are. I would say that to this point four or five women have approached me asking where they can find information in regard to the award they are working under. When they discover that they are not covered by an award they ask what steps are required to establish an award. I am delighted to find in the manual the report of a wall chart which specifies and details how one goes about making a Federal award and what the required steps are. I know that might be a matter of surprise to Opposition senators in this place but I am very pleased to have the opportunity to report that this is not an imagined or filibustering piece of information.

I assure honourable senators opposite that it is a matter of real experience. It is a matter which has been raised with me by constituents and which highlights once again the difficulty that many women in the work force experience. They are not covered by awards because they are not working in traditional work areas. It is a matter for priority consideration by the Government under the legislation introduced in this chamber yesterday. I am therefore very pleased to see the Government and the Trade Union Training Authority once again very much in harmony-although I have never actually known them to be out of harmony.

Finally, I want to say that I, like many of my colleagues, have had the opportunity of contributing to some of the courses in TUTA. On a number of occasions I have been invited to speak as part of a number of courses provided by the South Australian Trade Union Training Authority. That is partly because of my previous role as a doctor, partly because of my experience as a working woman and partly because of my interest in occupational health and safety. I think there are any number of areas of concern for women in the work force, whether they be paid or unpaid. Principally at that stage, however, we were looking at the problems of women in the work force. I have been very interested to make my contribution to the TUTA courses in South Australia. Women participate in TUTA courses either as participants or as people who have expertise and who come along to contribute by way of teaching. The problem for women highlights the point I made earlier about the difficulties for women being in a special category and not necessarily covered by traditional awards. They are also exercising their opportunity, and very pleased to take that opportunity under TUTA, to highlight some of the specific problems for women in the work force.

It is still a fact that most women would say that they actually hold down two jobs-their paid work job and the work of maintaining a home or hearth when they get back home from the work force. That double job role provides in particular the likelihood of increased stress for women. Dealing with that sort of stress is becoming a very real consideration for unions and, in particular, is becoming the subject of courses of TUTA. Many other problems of women in the work force which have not been addressed so much in the past by our union representatives because they did not have a massive representation of women or, dare I say, a considered awareness of the particular problems of women in their work forces are now able to be brought out into the open and highlighted and then addressed through the opportunities that the Trade Union Training Authority courses give them. For any number of reasons, from my own experience in response to constituent inquiries and in response to this report, I am delighted that the motion that has been agreed to by the Government in this place has allowed me the opportunity to make those comments.

Motion (by Senator Lewis) put:

That the debate be now adjourned.