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Tuesday, 8 May 1973
Page: 1838

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I should like to explain to the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) what is at the heart and core of this clause of the Bill. We who have been brought up in the trade union movement - and on this side of the House there are about 20 who have spent a lot of their working lives as trade union officials - know perfectly well that you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink and that you can make an agreement but you cannot make the members accept it. Making an agreement in a board room with the employers' representatives is one thing, but getting the members to honour the agreement outside is another thing, as union officials and management have often learned to their dismay. If we want conciliation to work it has to be carried out in a democratic way - not in a bureaucratic way. If we want the rank and file of a union, who are covered by an agreement or, if you like, a consent award, to honour that agreement or consent award they ought to be consulted because it is their labour that is being bargained and sold. The union representative is their agent and he has, in my view, every obligation to consult his principals on the kind of agreement that he ought to make on their behalf. If he does not do that he cannot complain and neither can the other party to the agreement complain if the principals repudiate the agent who acted in their names. lt is not good enough to say that in respect of the negotiation of agreements the unions' chief officers or their management committees stand in the shoes of the membership. They do in respect of the ownership of property, they do in exercising property rights; they do in exercising certain other statutory obligations and requirements which are set out in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act; but they do not and they should not be seen to be standing in the shoes of the membership in relation to the negotiation of an agreement. When the agreement is put to the membership and the membership has an opportunity of considering it, if the agreement is accepted by the membership, who are bound by it after they have had it explained to them, the agreement becomes the agreement of the members - of the union in its real sense - and it is binding and should be honoured and carried out by those members. But when the agreement is made behind the closed doors of some board room and the people who have work under it - those who have to sell their labour under the terms of the agreement - are not even consulted, is it any wonder that they repudiate the agreement about which they have had no say at all? Half the trouble with industrial relations today is that the membership are not taken into consultation to the extent that they should be.

Mr Viner - By union officials?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Of course, it is by union officials. That is what I am saying. When I was the Secretary of the Australian Workers Union we used to negotiate agreements with the-

Consideration interrupted.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage) - Order! lt being 10.45 p.m. and in accordance with the order of the House of 1st March, I shall report progress.

Progress reported.

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