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Claim that more white collar unions should affiliate with the Labor Party which should also take less money from the corporate sector

ELLEN FANNING: The ALP's election win is leading to a reassessment of the relationship between the political and industrial wings of the Labor movement itself. One senior party official says there's a need for more white collar unions to formally affiliate with the ALP. Senior National Vice-President, Ian McLean, says it's time unions representing public servants, teachers and finance sector workers recognised the value of affiliation. Mr McLean, who's also the Queensland Secretary of the Left Wing Communication Workers Union, is speaking here to P.M.'s Peter McCutcheon.

IAN McLEAN: What's happening is that the traditional affiliates of the party - the building groups, manufacturing, et cetera - the numbers in those unions is declining, and the big growing area of the work force is the services industries. Most of the unions that cover workers in the services industries aren't affiliated with the party. I think those unions should be able to see, out of the recent election, that they need to have a voice in the forums of the Australian Labor Party and they should affiliate now.

PETER McCUTCHEON: What percentage of the union movement would you say is not affiliated with the Labor Party?

IAN McLEAN: I'd say about a third, and that's not good enough. I mean, one of the problems that the party has is maintaining its financial viability and, unfortunately, during the '80s we were a bit inclined to seek support from the corporate sector, and I think that, to some degree, had an influence on our policies. I'd like to see the Labor Party independent completely of the corporate sector, but that will only occur when all of those white collar unions affiliate with the party.

PETER McCUTCHEON: So are you maintaining the Labor Party could do without corporate money completely if all white collar unions affiliated with the ALP?

IAN McLEAN: We still wouldn't mind having donations from the corporate sector where those donations were given on the understanding that they saw the value of having a political party in governments that were completely independent of influence from big business.

PETER McCUTCHEON: So to what extent do you believe the corporate sector has had influence over Labor Party policies?

IAN McLEAN: I think there were times during the '80s where there was influences from the corporate sector and from the bureaucrats with economic rationalist ideas that did over-influence our party, and some of the mistakes of the '80s can be traced back to those influences.

PETER McCUTCHEON: What specific issues have you got in mind?

IAN McLEAN: Oh, I think it was just a general thing. I think there was an interest in privatisation, reducing the public sector, all of those questions. And I think the election now gives us a chance of re-establishing, within the forums of the Labor movement, belief in the public sector, a belief in government intervention as far as industry policies are concerned. And the unions that cover the people that are affected by those questions should be in there with a voice.

PETER McCUTCHEON: What would white collar unions gain by affiliating with the ALP?

IAN McLEAN: Influence on the policies of the party.

PETER McCUTCHEON: But don't they have that already, albeit in different forums?

IAN McLEAN: Well, it's a matter of balance. I think there would have been, at the conferences in the '80s, decisions that would have gone the other way had the public sector unions in particular been represented at those forums.

PETER McCUTCHEON: Some people would argue that the union movement and the Labor Government are too close together. I mean, really, does the Labor Government want to be seen closer to the union movement?

IAN McLEAN: Well, it should. The union movement just made a significant contribution to returning it, and I think we should be around to remind them of that.

ELLEN FANNING: Ian McLean, a Senior National Vice-President of the ALP.