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Monday, 23 February 1987
Page: 444


Senator COONEY(5.12) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

A reading of this report may well leave the impression that it raises mundane issues only. One issue not mundane is that of the categories from which the Australian Meat and Live-stock Selection Committee is drawn. They are set out in section 11 of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Selection Committee Act. The various categories indicate that the cattle producers, the sheep producers and the meat processors and exporters are represented, but there are no representatives from either the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union or the Australian Council of Trade Unions. In other words, apart from management, there is no representation on this body from the people who actually work in the industry.

The thrust of both the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Selection Committee Act and the one that runs with it, the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act, is that most people working in the industry have no voice in the workings of the Corporation, yet the Corporation performs functions that are vital not only to the well being of the industry in general but, in particular, to the well being of the people who work in it. Most of the people who work in it are represented by unions and in particular by the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union. Both the Acts presuppose that proprietors and managers are the only ones capable of attending to the welfare of the industry, and that they alone have the necessary interest in it to want to do so; and that the workers on the stations, in the abattoirs and in the shops are deficient in skills and lack a proper regard for the prosperity of the meat industry. The fact is that workers have a stake in the industry-they realise that-just as do those who fit the categories provided in section 11 of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Selection Committee Act.

I will develop this point a little. There is much said these days about unions having too much power, but it can be seen from both these Acts that very little influence is available for the workers and their unions to exert in the fields set out in section 7 of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act.

If the meat industry is to flourish in Australia there must be co-operation between producers, processors, management and workers. Denying workers and their organisations any voice in the functions of the Corporation, which are set out in section 7 of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act, deepens the division between employers and employees. Employees are represented by their unions and the unions have great management skills. I give one example. The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union, on the initiative of Mr Curran, the Secretary of the Victorian Branch, conducts a most successful superannuation scheme for its members in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales. There are millions of dollars in that fund. It is one of the most successful superannuation schemes to be run. The unions, and in particular this union, the Victorian branch which I know something about, take great care of their members and attend to their needs most helpfully and in a very generous way.

I think-and I hope all other members of the Senate agree with me-that a union with the responsibility it has to its members in the meat industry should have representation on a body which has much to do with the prosperity or otherwise of that industry. For example, under section 7 the Corporation is required:

. . . to improve the production of meat and live-stock in Australia; to encourage and promote the consumption and sale of Australian meat, and the sale of Australian live-stock, both in Australia and overseas . . .

I suggest that had the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union been a member of this Corporation, the sorts of struggles that took place in Portland arising out of the export of live sheep would never have happened or would not have been so bitter. On that occasion there was a lack of consultation with the employees at the abbattoirs. This may well have been prevented or there may well have been a happier result, had there been representation of the union on the Corporation's board. As I said, that would be in the interests not only of those who conduct the abattoirs and produce the meat, but also of the workers generally.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.