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
Thursday, 24 October 1974
Page: 1955


Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I speak in support of the legislation. I was visibly distressed or depressed by the utterances of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Greenwood). When we look at the stark realities of the situation, we find that it was in 1969 that this momentous decision in the Moore v Doyle case was brought down. Because of the industrial changes that have occurred and have been inflicted on the work force and because of the strains that have been put on the trade union movement since that time, one would have thought that, whatever may be achieved by this legislation, there would have been a sense of urgency in having it enacted so that if there were any shortcomings in it we could build on it. I refer to the possibility of shortcomings because I know that Senator James McClelland and Senator Button will deal in depth with some of the legal misgivings on which Senator Greenwood expounded.

I want to deal with the more practical aspect of the industrial relations attitude of the average trade unionist and, what is much more important perhaps, some of the leading personalities involved. With all deference to what Senator Greenwood said about some trade unions having misgivings, I suppose it is a case of Hamlet without the Prince. The demarcation dispute to which the honourable senator referred would not have occurred if the key union, the Transport Workers Union of Australia, had not been involved. Senator Greenwood spoke today about a casual easytempo approach and an easy solution to demarcation disuptes. If an unfortunate demarcation dispute occurred involving segments of the Transport Worker's Union and there was a hold up at an airport Senator Greenwood would stand up in this place at question time and would ask the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) and the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) what the Government was doing.

I think it was most uncharitable of Senator Greenwood to question the diligence of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). I know that Senator James McClelland shares my view that there has been no legislation comparable to that in connection with which 1,000 copies of the tremendous report prepared by Mr Justice Sweeney- assisted by Mr McGarvie, Q.C.- were sent out. If Senator Greenwood had examined that report he would have seen that a number of unions, other than the Transport Workers' Union, were consulted. As recently as the 6-hour day march in which Senator James McClelland and I participated I had a conversation with Ted McBeatty, one of the leading actors in this drama involving the Transport Workers' Union. His parting words to me were: 'I hope that when you go back to Canberra you will get this legislation in orbit'. There is no secret about it.

Trade union goodwill and the goodwill of employers depends a lot on personal relations. It is a fact that the Federal Secretary of the Transport Workers' Union, Mr Harris, and the Assistant Federal Secretary, Mr Hodgson, have not always seen eye to eye with the New South Wales State Branch secretary, Mr McBeatty. The art of successful industrial relations is to get people on the same personality wave length. At the present time it is well known that there is a tacit understanding between the people I have named. I repeat that as far as this legislation is concerned if the Transport Workers' Unions want to work in harmony this will remove a tremendous source of irritation.

Senator Greenwoodembellished this point by referring to unemployment, industrial unrest, and so on. Senator Greenwood is aware that disregarding the world wide inflationary trends, with modern technical changes occurring, it is the Australian work force that bears the brunt of job placement and changes in working conditions. This reminds me of a time 7 or 8 years ago when I heard Country Party senators questioning whether the Waterside Workers Federation, the Storemen and Packers' Union and the Transport Workers' Union would accept containerisation. Anybody from Sydney- I know it applies in the other States- must be aware of the stresses when we have a new ball game industrially. As required, the Federated Clerks' Union entered into that dispute also. It is not a question of undue militancy. Unions have a job to protect the rights of their members. As a result, pressures and tensions are extended. Naturally, I suppose, when people want to score a strategic point they will have a look at union registration and all the kindred matters involved with it.

Something Senator Greenwood said frightened me. I think he feels that some non-Labor State Premiers will use a very minute section of the trade union movement in the same way as the Central Intelligence Agency subsidised a small element of the Chilean trade union movement. That would be bad for this country. I say that very deliberately. It would be a very serious state of affairs. If we get harmony between the 2 elements in the Transport Workers' Union I feel that the synthetic objections to 1 or 2 other unions that may feel that they want to get a few more members are a minor consideration. There is no question about that at all.

I should like to take this matter a little further in relation to the possible challenges that Senator Greenwood visualises. I say again and again that if we remove this competition for members that did exist in the Transport Workers' Union- in relation to fuellers and others in the union who work at the various airports- we would be taking a step to reduce any unnecessary or regrettable stoppages. I use the word 'regrettable' because no one could imagine that even when this legislation is passed there will be no industrial differences. One of the prices a free society will always have to pay is that people can push their point of view and have a confrontation. The natural corollary of what Senator Greenwood advocates is that a trade union secretary should rule by edict. In 90 per cent of disputes the management committee suggests further negotiations. The rank and file members of the union might think that they will put the screws on a bit and make the union officials work a little harder. It is not an edifying thing. It is mostly unfair to trade union officials. But it is part of democracy. Honourable senators have to take brickbats because of how we are performing and trade union secretaries expect the same.

If one reads the Minister's second reading speech and the report of Mr Justice Sweeney, one sees that State Ministers of Labor and others involved in the State industrial field should have been aware of what was happening. The greatest regret that I have is that too many State governments appoint people as Minister for Industrial Relations or Minister for Labor who do not know what it is all about. Mr Hewitt, M.L.C., in New South Wales would not have the faintest concept of industrialism. All he has been told is that he has to humble the trade union movement. That is his attitude. Some of the views of Mr Rafferty, his counterpart in Victoria, are the same. He is another one of these backwoodsmen who wish that it was the nineteenth century and that we could go back to nineteenth century England and something like Peterloo with the army going in and all these sorts of things.

The point I emphasise is that if this legislation is rejected and delayed, as Senator Greenwood would like, the trade unions which expected constitutional changes via the national Parliament will find that the unions will have to slug it out, as it were, in a campaign to get members. It will be a matter of who can be the strongest. We preach about negotiations. Senator Greenwood might have in the back of his mind some of the misgivings of the Queensland Branch of the Federated Clerks' Union. I can assure him that 1 or 2 of the officials in that organisation appear to have a maverick approach to industrial relations. That is their attitude. I know that the Minister for Labor has made endless pilgrimages to meet people who have widely divergent ideological attitudes in the trade union movement.

The great tragedy about this situation is that where there is a will there is a way. We will always have people who are stirrers. They cost the union members a lot of money in stupid litigation. Some years ago, when there was an endless wrangle in the Postal Workers' Union a man named Neville Lynch had this attitude. He was defeated in ballots by thousands of votes. Yet he would persist with these vendettas. These sorts of people are like the jackals that get outside the campfire and live off corpses. This is their whole attitude and we do not want this sort of thing. I think that members of the major unions such as the transport workers and the meat workers are the people we should placate. It can be said that there has not been enough consultation. There were a number of unions that were well aware of the implications of the Moore-Doyle case. If one looks back into industrial history one sees that the Electrical Trade Union put its house in order and the Shop Distributors Union did the same. Other unions have come in that category.

In the overall considerations that were arrived at Mr Justice Sweeney made an evaluation. I think I can put it in a slightly different vein. I do not know what type of reading Senator Greenwood indulges in but there is a book in the Library on Sir Victor Feather, the retired president of the British Trade Union Council. It is true that Great Britain has a collective bargaining concept somewhat different to ours. But whether it be theirs or ours, he made the point that the successful role of trade unions is carried out by fighting limited wars. They accept limited victories and do not enter into total warfare. In most cases even with such an illustrious jurist as Mr Justice Moore or Mr Justice Robinson people have to make concessions. It does not matter whether it is Mr Harris or Mr McBeatty who is leading a transport workers union or its equivalent. If we are going to hold this legislation back the position will be something like that of a shipping convoy in wartime. One might wait until every ship is in good condition but at some stage they have to leave the port of embarkation. This is the recurring theme in this matter. Of course, we will never get the perfect system. I suppose we will have to accept what we can get at a given time. We have heard Senator Greenwood talk about the urgency of the matter. I point out to him that what happened took place in 1969. It is now 1974. At least we are launching something at this time.

Senator Greenwood,as a former AttorneyGeneral, will know that under our federal system the graveyard of lost causes is found in the numerous examples of the failure of the States to co-operate with the Australian Government in regard to uniform legislation. I think the honourable senator will remember the questions that I asked him when he was Attorney-General in regard to a uniform firearms code. I think that he accepted the proposition and that he believes in such a code. But I know that in my State of New South Wales the then Chief Secretary, Mr Willis, felt that he would be genuflecting to Canberra if he agreed to a uniform firearms code. That is an equally desirable reform. I simply make this point: I believe that additional changes will take place in our work force. Let us get away from this vexed question and these so-called dirty words trade union amalgamations'. They are in themselves on many occasions difficult without what is visualised in this reform.

I commenced my speech by stating that Senator Button and Senator James McClelland would deal with some of the fears in a legal sense expressed by Senator Greenwood. I have talked to the leading protagonist in this dispute, Mr Edward McBeatty, the controversial secretary of the New South Wales Transport Workers Union. If he is prepared to reach a resonable agreement with his counterparts in the Federal structure of the Transport Workers Union, that alone to me justifies such a procedure. To me there is nothing worse than just coasting along. I do not know how many such disputes we have had to examine over the years. Mr Acting Deputy President, you and I know that in this year of 1974 the whole advertising syndrome is based on instant action. I know that instant action can have repercussions. But, although we have been grappling with the problem since 1969 and more technological changes are not around the bend, all the Opposition is saying is that we do not know whether the trade unions would accept the conditions for non-incorporated registration and we do not know the position of the States. Let us be realistic about the position. I am one who is perhaps a little idealistic. I believe that Canberra should be the pacesetter. I say very bluntly to members of the Opposition who are adopting this attitude that there will be other disputes involving the Transport Workers Union or other disputes over the internal control of unions. Such disputes may involve unions whose members are engaged in essential services.

If the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, or the Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, appears on the television program 'Monday Conference ' or a similar television program and accuses the members of the Opposition of being guilty men, they will come into the Senate and say that those remarks represent a gigantic smear. They become very resentful when we use the word 'obstruction'. As I see the position, a neon sign showing the word 'obstruction' could be placed in front of the Opposition's amendment. I do not say that in any Utopian way. I do not say it as a distant observer to the position. It was good enough for one of the people involved in this dispute, Mr McBeatty, to say to me on 6-hour day that he hoped that when I came back to Canberra I would support action to implement speedily the product of the mind of Mr Justice Sweeney. That is what we are trying to do today.







Suggest corrections