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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1566


Senator MacGIBBON(6.37) —I wish to address the report of the Australian Trade Union Training Authority. I am mindful of the fact that some transport drivers are members of trade unions. We have just seen a very interesting demonstration in which the Government wisely agreed to a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders so that we could debate the great crisis that exists on the east coast of Australia relating to the dairy industry, the plight of the farmers, the plight of the consumers and the general public who need their daily milk. What happened? The Australian Democrats and the Australian Labor Party voted against Senator Lewis's honourable motion that we no longer talk about trade unionism but that we talk about the reason why the Standing Orders were suspended. The Democrats stand side by side, as usual, with the Labor Party, supporting the bully boys of the unions.

Let us look at this report of the Trade Union Training Authority. We have heard Labor senators chanting the catechisms, as they always do, in support of their lords and masters in the trade union movement, so that they can guarantee their pre-selection at the next premature election. I do not know whether that is six weeks or six months away. But they are working hard to make sure that they get the nod. I think that that is a good thing. I am happy to give them the time to do so because if there were a competition, maybe some better people would be elected to the Government's ranks. When we read this report of the Trade Union Training Authority, the thing that hits us like an express train is the fact that it does not deal with what trade unions ought to be about. It is a traditional reiteration of everything from the time of Karl Marx onwards. It deals with traditional trade union attitudes. It pays no recognition to what the Australian community in 1985 expects from the trade union movement. It pays no recognition to what the Australian community expects of unionists. I say to Government senators who have their heads in the sand that times have changed. They have only to take notice of what is going on in Queensland and to see the support not only in Queensland but right around Australia for Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and his policies of bringing the union movement within the law of Australia. But do we find in this book anything about the changed circumstances in Australia? Not a bit of it; just the hackneyed old cliches about doing business the way the unions have always done it.


Senator Bolkus —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I have the advantage of having read the Trade Union Training Authority's annual report 1983-84. It bemuses me that the honourable senator was referring to Karl Marx. There is no mention of him in the report and there are none of the old cliches. I ask the honourable senator, through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, whether he has opened the book.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Elstob) —There is no point of order, but I ask Senator MacGibbon to keep his comments to the report and to address his remarks through the Chair.


Senator MacGIBBON —I will, Mr Acting Deputy President. The point is that this is the annual report required by law from a statutory authority for the expenditure of public funds. As a representative of the people from whom those funds are collected, I make no apology and I will not be silenced by people like Senator Bolkus in bringing this Authority to account. Let us get that point perfectly clear. It if is not clear, I will repeat it. The Australian Trade Union Training Authority shows no recognition at all of the changed community perceptions. One of those great changes is reflected in the fact that unions and the union movement have a social responsibility to the people of Australia. The days of pursuing selfishly narrow economic goals to the advantage of a selected few in the trade union movement, the ultimate economic monopoly in the Australian community, are past. The next Government, when it comes to office in six or 12 months time, will legislate to ensure that the monopoly position of labour will not ever arise again.

The shortcomings in the report are very clear. We see nothing in relation to the responsibility of the trade unions to provide essential services. The days of people being able to strike and hold the community to ransom are gone forever. The right to strike is not challenged except for those providing an essential service. The point is that we see none of these changes reflected in this book. How can an authority which sets itself up as a training authority be so oblivious to community attitudes? How can a training authority be so oblivious to and ignorant of changes overseas? I refer to the great changes which have taken place in Britain, on which the Australian trade union movement bases all its reports. The failure of Scargill and the mine workers after twelve months of bloody fighting, the way they were brought within the law of the land, is something that the Australian Trade Union Training Authority should take notice of.

Trade unions do have a social responsibility. They have a responsibility to obey the law and we see no legislative recognition in this report. It is impossible to sustain the argument, as my colleagues opposite will endeavour to do, that there is no law applying to trade union leaders or to trade union members. I have news for them. When the new government is elected in six months time we will have laws and we will have penalties that are enforceable. Most importantly, we will have voluntary trade unionism and the people who wish to get others to come in--


Senator Crowley —Rubbish!


Senator MacGIBBON —If Senator Crowley likes, I will talk about some of the other things that we will bring in. We will get rid of this boycott situation. There is no sense of responsibility here. We have an Australian Council of Trade Unions movement supporting a blockade on Queensland this very day. The unions say that it will run for two days. I can guarantee that it will be as ineffectual, meaningless and irrelevant as was the last attempt to hold a boycott. These people have a hide to run a secondary boycott from outside Queensland against the good people of Queensland. This is the law of the jungle and this sort of stuff cannot be tolerated. As a simple legislator, I look for a reflection of this sense of responsibility in the report and I find none. Honourable senators might think I am a little disappointed. I am more than that; I am annoyed to find that there is no responsibility at all coming out of this Australian Trade Union Training Authority.