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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1567

Senator ZAKHAROV(6.44) —I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the annual report of the Australian Trade Union Training Authority, not only because I have been a member of unions for many years and felt the need before the establishment of TUTA for just the sort of courses which it runs but particularly because the Clyde Cameron College is in my own State of Victoria. Its establishment there has been of very great benefit to the local community in Albury-Wodonga and it has been a focus for the development of that twin city which is a tribute to the Whitlam Government that established it.

There is a lot of excellent material in this report which, unfortunately, I will not have time to cover. I understand that some of my colleagues would like to speak to this matter as well.

Senator Grimes —You have a quarter of an hour.

Senator ZAKHAROV —Right. Firstly, I refer to the matter of women. Senator Crowley has already referred to this matter, but I am a woman unionist myself and for many years when I was involved in unions I also had young children and found it very difficult, as did other people in my position, to get training of any sort and, in particular, trade union training. In those days many unions were fairly resistant to the idea of women taking office in unions anyway or encouraging women to take a very active part in union matters. So one of the things that I welcome in this report is the reference to the fact that the proportion of student training days utilised by women attending TUTA State centre courses is 24 per cent. Of course, the State centre courses are held in the capital cities of each State. I understand that they are listed in the back of the book. Honourable senators opposite may want to check where they can attend one of these centres. They might find it very educational. One difficulty with the Clyde Cameron College is that of people being able to travel to it. Therefore, TUTA also conducts a number of courses around the country. These are listed on page 6 of the document.

Senator Lewis —Read it out.

Senator ZAKHAROV —No, I will not read it out. I do not wish to waste valuable time. I know from personal experience when travelling around as a senator, and no doubt other senators have heard this too when they have been in provincial centres of their own States, that these courses are of very great value to local workers and particularly to local women because of the handicap they have during child bearing years of not being able to get away readily from their home town. People can come in off the job to attend these courses-they are usually of several days duration; they are not prolonged courses-in their own town. That is extremely valuable. On top of that, of course, the trade union postal courses that TUTA holds are extremely useful.

The names of the courses bring me back to the debate on the matter of public importance today in which honourable senators were talking about falling standards. If standards have fallen I wonder why it is necessary to have introductory English, everyday English, arithmetic and statistics courses for adult workers. Judging from the way some members of the Opposition talk when we have debates on education, one would think that in the good old days everybody could cope with this basic education and it is only today's students who cannot. Very clearly, these courses fill a need. Not only do they cover basic matters such as the ones I have mentioned but also, very importantly, they include things like clear thinking, which is vital. There would be many in this place who would benefit from such a course, I am sure. Also included are courses on running a meeting and there is an introduction to economics. It is extremely important these days, particularly in negotiation with employers, to have a very good knowledge of basic economics or even to be able to speak the language of economics so that one is not snowed by the employer talking about macro and micro, marginal rates and all those sorts of things.

The Training Authority also produces materials and publications of its own. It refers particularly to new 10-minute videos on speaking at meetings and drafting a motion. In the back of the book one finds a list of a number of other publications which are extremely useful for people working in unions, covering such basic things as chairing a meeting, speaking at a meeting, producing a report and so on. This is the sort of education which I believe should be available to all school students. I am very pleased that moves are being made in my home State of Victoria to broaden the curriculum in schools to include just those sorts of basic citizenship skills which are needed if people are to be able to cope, in union groups or any other community groups in which they may be involved.

The report also mentions non-English speaking student participation. About 11 per cent of student training days are taken up by unionists from non-English speaking countries. The languages are listed in the report. That is an extremely important aspect. In the course of my work as a senator I have travelled around a number of large factories in Victoria and have been struck by the number of unionists who do not have a good working knowledge of English, sufficient to enable them, for example, to negotiate in respect of their own pay and conditions. Unfortunately, over the years since we have had mass migration to this country this situation has been used by employers in an appalling way to deny people their rights. I heard recently of a woman whose English was poor and who had been working for many years for something like half award wages. Finally she was put in touch with the union, which is now fighting to get her back pay. Because she did not speak English well her employer was able to con her into thinking that she was getting the right pay and was working under the right conditions. The same person is also suffering from repetition strain injury because she understood that she would be sacked if she complained about the rate at which she was asked to work. A great deal of exploitation exists in the Australian work place and some of the worst affects people who do not have a good grasp of the language. I would like to see the 11 per cent of student training days involving language training increased to a much higher proportion.

The report also talks about the relevance of the accord to the work of TUTA. It is particularly pleasing that a study of the accord has been introduced widely into TUTA courses because that has important implications for the working of the accord. It is important that workers understand why there is an accord and how it works. I believe that this sort of knowledge which has been disseminated through the trade union movement, has been responsible for the historic downturn in industrial disputation that has occurred under the Hawke Labor Government in the last two years and has been referred to frequently in this place.

I am also pleased to see that the report mentions a pilot course. All honourable senators could understand this, whether or not they have read Karl Marx or the report. The report contains a photo showing the participants in a pilot course for disabled workers. These workers are often discriminated against. When they do get work they will often suffer less than award conditions because they know that it will be much harder for them to get another job than it would be for an able bodied person. Again, I think it is very important that those people be given an opportunity to undertake TUTA courses which are tailored to their needs. Many of TUTA's courses are tailored to the particular needs of the people who are likely to want the training. The courses are tailored not only to the particular needs of a particular union but also to the needs of a particular work place. I know that members of my own union, the Victorian Secondary Teachers' Association, have courses specially tailored to their needs because, of course, working in a school with children is very different from working with objects in other occupations. I shall conclude my remarks at that point to give my colleagues the opportunity to speak on this matter.