Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 3 November 1976
Page: 2299

Mr WILLIS (Gellibrand) -Let me first take up one point which was raised earlier and which relates to this clause. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Bun) made the point that the collegiate system in some way protects the rights of members in small States. It does not necessarily do any such thing. I say to the honourable member that the point I was making in my speech at the second reading stage was- it still is- that the collegiate system can be used to give proportional representation to the States on the Federal council of a union or to give more than proportional representation or less than proportional representation, depending on how it is organised. The system can be used for manipulation of the union in the way in which I suggest it is now being used in the Federated Clerks Union and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, as I mentioned previously. So, this does not guarantee anything in relation to the protection of small States. They may do more than proportionately well out of the system or less than proportionately well.

I now refer to the much more important matter of the amendment which has been moved by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and which is designed to insert a new sub-section. Firstly, we have had little time to look at the amendment. I do not know whether the Minister is to blame for that. He apologised to me and I accept the apology; but the fact remains that it is terribly difficult to look at a complex amendment over a meal break, and that is virtually what we have been forced to do. I understand that this amendment makes a substantial difference to the definition of 'collegiate electoral system' and will allow the operation of a system which will mean not only that some union officials will not be elected indirectly by the members but also that some union officials will not be elected by members even directly or indirectly.

Let me illustrate this point. The definition of collegiate electoral system' in clause 3 of the Bill states that the officers of a union must be elected by and from the college and to get on to the college the officers have to have been voted for in a rank and file ballot in the first place. The phrase by and from' creates the difficulty. It means that if officials of a union want to continue to be elected in order to become Federal secretary, or whatever, they have to be elected to the college and face a rank and file ballot. The Government by this amendment is now allowing officers of unions to avoid having to be elected to the college. They can just be added to the elected members of the college, as they are now in the Federated Clerks Union, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association and other unions which have a collegiate system. These officers, by being added to the elected members, form a college which then elects the officers, and so the officers become virtually selfperpetuating, particularly where they represent the difference between 2 factions. Usually there are at least 2 factions in any union. That is virtually the case with the Federated Clerks Union, as I said in my speech at the second reading stage. These officers represent the- difference between the 2 factions- the National Civic Council supported faction and the opposing faction.

As a result of allowing this amendment through, the 4 officers of a union will be allowed to be added to the elected members of the college and by that means to form a college for their re-election. This can go on and on, with the officers never ever having to face an election. This will not apply just to the Federated Clerks Union or the. Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association. The amendment will enable all unions to adopt this approach if they so wish. How far the Government is from the days when it was saying: 'Look at this terrible Dick Scott, the National President of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, who is elected by only 1.8 per cent of the members'. Now the Government intends to allow the AMWU, if it so wishes, to provide for a collegiate system in which Dick Scott and Laurie Carmichael, the Assistant Secretary and another bete noire of this Government, can just add themselves to the elected members of the Federal Council of the union for the purpose of determining a college and thereby having themselves re-elected. They need never face the rank and file again. That is what the Government will allow by this process. I think it is the most astonishing thing of all time to come from this Government which went to the people and had as one of its biggest planks that it was going to democratise trade unions and ensure that union officials were elected in a way which meant that they had to face their members, which said that it would arm every union member with a ballot paper. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) said that the Government would set the left wing officials and the communist officials trembling in their boots.

What is the Government doing now? It is making a farce of the whole situation by saying to every federal union official in the country that he can, if he can persuade the rest of the federal council to agree, have the rules changed to provide for a collegiate system so that he can be added to the federal council, the former college, and thus re-elect himself time after time after time. I think it is an extraordinary situation. It is more than just extraordinary; it is also very pointed because this has special relevance right now to a case which is before the Industrial Court. I refer to the case of Clarke v. John Peter Maynes. This is an application made under section 140 ( 1 ) (c) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, a section referred to by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) at the second reading stage of the debate. Section 140 (l)(c) states:

The rules of an organisation- shall not impose upon applicants for membership, or members, of the organisation, conditions, obligations or restrictions which, having regard to the objects of this Act and the purposes of the registration of organisations under this Act, are oppressive, unreasonable or unjust;

This application says that the rules of the Federated Clerks Union which currently allow for officers to be added to the elected members of the Federal Council for the purposes of forming an electoral college for the election of the officers, in fact are oppressive, unreasonable and unjust. They are the grounds of the application. If this amendment is carried it will have direct relevance to that case which is now before the Industrial Court. It will mean that the grounds of that application are removed.

I suggest it is not without some point, to put it at the very least, that the Government is now moving in a way which will assist a leading member of the National Civic Council to win a court case before the Industrial Court at present. I think the whole nation ought to be made aware of this and ask why. Further, I make the point that Mr Maynes has not been elected to the Federal Council for 22 years. He is a perfect example of a person who, once having been elected to the Federal Council and having become the Federal President, is being perpetuated in that position, without having to face the rank and file since.

Further than that, in the current proceedings before the Industrial Court, Mr Keely Q.C., appearing for Mr Maynes, applied for the hearing on 19 October to be adjourned. In making that application he said that the respondent for whom he acted, Mr Maynes, expected legislation to be enacted soon which would affect his legal position. This is a most extraordinary situation. The Queen's Counsel appearing for Mr Maynes in court on 19 October, before this legislation was introduced in this House, said that his client expected that legislation would be enacted soon which would affect his legal position. I suggest that that is an extraordinary situation.

Mr Street - That is right. We foreshadowed it in May.

Mr WILLIS -The Minister did not do anything of the sort. He did not suggest publicly at any stage that he would be coming in with an amendment like this, the amendment which he has just introduced in this House. He threw this amendment across to me at about 5.30 this afternoon. I had never seen it before and I do not think anybody else on this side had seen it before. We had not seen it before, yet on 19 October Mr Maynes knew all about it. This amendment was not in the original Bill which came into this place either. It is an extraordinary situation.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Suggest corrections