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
Tuesday, 6 November 1973
Page: 1532


Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I want briefly to support the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) and Senator James McClelland in refuting some of the assertions made by Senator Hannan. Senator James McClelland has explained the history leading up to these amalgamations. The next logical step is to ask what has happened so far as trade union democracy is concerned. The Amalgamated Metal Workers Union has conducted a series of ballots throughout Australia. There has certainly been competition. There was a tremendous lot of healthy competition for positions. That knocked over the first assertion that if we had this amalgamation we would get a sort of Orwellian complexion, that we would have no ballots or that all competition would be stifled. That has not happened. Across the chamber by interjection Senator Hannan then asked: 'You have had an amalgamation, what about demarcation disputes?'

Let us look at the areas where they exist. Senator Cavanagh pinpointed the building trades group. But let us take the matter a little further in relation to another unfortunate confrontation. I have friends in both the Transport Workers Union and the Sydney Branch of the Australian

Waterside Workers Federation. Obviously in this age there are technological changes to which Senator Cavanagh referred. There is always uncertainty and a harping away at job security. The moral of this story is that the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation had a conflict. Now, that did not occur in the metal trades sector. It was not an area in which amalgamation had been effected. I know that we talk about amalgamations in this area. It is a very wide area. It will require extreme crossfertilisation of ideas to achieve it. But if this happened we would not have the sort of problem that paralysed the Sydney waterfront not so long ago. Of course, if we want a corollary to the Transport Workers Union case we should consider our efforts to solve the problem in the Moore v. Doyle case. I say that because nobody knows whether some adverse ruling may dismantle what we are trying to do. But I repeat that there have been some unfortunate conflicts between the 2 transport workers ' unions in which working time has been lost. I know that the trade union movement has not benefited by it. But I know also that people get the idea: What I have I hold. The moral I am putting forward all the time is that the troubles cannot be explained by Senator Hannan 's bland statement that there was an amalgamation but we still have demarcation disputes. The major demarcation disputes have all occurred outside the metal trades.

I will take the position a little further: As late as last week in Sydney grave concern was expressed by the Federated Shipwrights and Ship Constructors Association of Australia about certain dock facilities and certain repairs to be effected to a vessel in the Captain Cook Dock. It could be argued- I think that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs would agree with me- that if the shipwrights ultimately became part of the present Amalgamated Metal Workers Union or even the Federal Moulders' Union of Australia as well you would remove that fear because they would be under the one umbrella and they would know that their work would be protected. I cite the statement of no less a person than the new Lochinvar of honourable senators opposite in regard to industrial relations, Mr Malcolm Fraser, the honourable member for Wannan in another place. He questioned whether some employers are as fair to some of the smaller unions as they should be. I do not doubt that on occasions certain employers might feel that the Moulders' Union or the Shipwrights' Union may not be able to mount the same militant momentum that the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union can mount. Therefore, the employers might not be averse to getting a bit tough with these unions. In fact, Senator Hannan is virtually hoisted on his own petard. I have indicated the areas in which there have been demarcation disputes which could be solved by amalgamations. If Senator Hannan is concerned, as he claims he is, about some of the smaller unions he could well and truly see that if they became part of a big trade union they might have more protective devices.

Senator Hannandoes not seem to understand and he gets rather narked about the number of people who participate in what the Amalgamated Engineering Union used to call a 'star night'. In the terminology of other unions, such meetings are called sub-branch meetings. Often this is where the policy moulding is done. Frankly, at a Amalgamated Engineering Union star night, an Australian Railways Union sub-branch meeting or a meeting held under any other union concept it is difficult on some occasions to obtain a consensus. That is why on occasions- this is accepted by many employers- the unions would sooner hold a stoppage and everyone be there, even those people who say that if they do go along they might not be able to stop someone who goes a little too far in his agitation. At least at such meetings there is an across the board consensus. This is the whole point. We hear talk about union members receiving a ballot paper and making sober decisions in their kitchens. I have never seen a major trade union dispute yet, whether it be within one trade union or within a group of trade unions on a site in which the position was as plain as black and white. Invariably, someone has moved a second or third amendment before a successful solution is found.

I will never forget a situation of which I was a ringside observer. It was a big dispute in Broken Hill which took place some 5 years ago. The present honourable member for Darling in the other place, Mr Fitzpatrick, was the minute secretary of the combined unions in the Mining Industry. A motion was moved and there were 7 amendments. This was a dispute that had gone on for 3 weeks. There was an extremely high powered debate. I think that the fifth amendment became the motion and was adopted. I have deliberately painted this picture to assure Senator Hannan that it is not in every dispute that a trade union member can open his letter box, take out the ballot paper sent to him and mark it yes or no. We know the position in the Senate with the give and take of debate. An idea is refined before we get the final instrument that goes out. I make this appeal to Senator Hannan in regard to his fears about the merger of the metal trade unions killing trade union democracy. That is not true. I know the vigour connected with the ballots that were conducted in New South Wales. I am sure that my Victorian colleagues would agree with me that in their State there are plenty of people who aspire to be trade union officials. Until some of the evils are removed in the area of demarcation disputes and even potential demarcation disputes- the Moore v. Doyle case is a case in point- the disputes will continue. Senator Cavanagh is trying to pilot legislation through the Parliament to remove the evils as far as is humanely possible. We appeal to Senator Hannan and his colleagues to give us the green light to achieve this.







Suggest corrections