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Thursday, 25 May 1972
Page: 2097

Senator McAULIFFE (Queensland) - We have arrived at an extraordinary situation in this chamber during this debate on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. We are only half way through the second reading debate, yet despite assurances we heard earlier from honourable senators on the Government side and those representing the Democratic Labor Party that in their opinion this Bill is one of the most important to have come before the Senate, the Government apparently is bereft of speakers. It has beenleft to the Australian Labor Party again to adopt the role of the watchdog of the interests of the workers of this country. If the Government declines to bring speakers forward while still claiming that it has speakers left, this is further proof of the continuing lack of concern of the Liberal Party for the Parliament and the people. If the Government has run out of speakers because it has nobody with adequate capacity to continue the debate, the sooner it moves out and makes way for the Australian Labor Party to carry on the business of this nation the better it will be for all concerned.

I read the second reading speech made by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) and I think I can fairly claim that it contained six salient features. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber already have canvassed most of those features. They dealt with them effectively and adequately, so I am prompted to speak only about that feature dealing with the amalgamation of unions or organisations. After listening to Senator Kane and honourable senators on the Government side one would think that the amalgamation of unions was the brainchild of Mr Laurie Carmichael.

Senator Kane - It was.

Senator McAULIFFE - Oh, no. Listen and I will tell you the facts of life. The Communist Party, at union level, has continually been putting obstacles in the way of the trade union movement and even at this stage is endeavouring to censure certain trade union officials for paying the fines which had to be paid before deregistration could be brought about and the way to amalgamation opened up. Mr Carmichael and the far Left opposed the payment of fines. I issue this warning to the Government: If it continues with this legislation and interferes with the amalgamation of unions it will allow peoplelike Mr Carmichael to say that paying the fines was of no avail. I suggest that honourable senators on the Government side think about that statement.

The amalgamation of trade unions has not just mushroomed in this community, nor is it something of the 1970s only. It has been the continuing goal of the Labor movement. It has been accepted always that only through a strong industrial and political movement can the unions ever expect to get the benefits that they continually pursue for their members. I refer to benefits such as just and fair wages to enable an adequate way of life, compensation, long service leave, guaranteed employment and so forth. All these things have been a continuing goal for the Labor movement and the trade union movement.

Early in the history of the Australian trade union movement it was appreciated that a lot of small unions, irrespective of how strong they might be, were working independently of one another, resulted only in the weakening of the Labor movement. Consequently, when attempts were made to amalgamate and form bigger unions and they failed, the Labor movement had to be satisfied with lesser confederations such as the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Officers and the Trades and Labour Councils in the respective States.

History reveals that there is a pattern in the Australian trade movement whereby workers seek to belong to unions which have a membership of, say, 10,000 or more. Kenneth F. Walker, in his article Australian Industrial Relations Systems', said that in 1930 there were 28 unions which had a membership of 10,000 or more. We find that that number increased to 38 by 1950. In 1970 the number of unions with a membership of 10,000 or more had risen to 54. Another comparison is that in 1930 the proportion of workers in unions which had less than a membership of 2,000 was 14.7 per cent of the total workforce but in 1970 the percentage had dropped to 4.7. I claim that those figures represent conclusive proof and show a distinct pattern and a desire on the part of workers since 1930, and possibly before if I could have obtained the statistics, to belong to big unions and for unions to amalgamate.

I want to refer now to the chronological order of the amalgamation of unions. In 1913 there were two great industrial leaders in Queensland, two trade unionists, who later were to play a major role in the political life of this country. I refer to Ted Theodore and Bill McCormack. Through their initiative and drive they brought about in 1913 the biggest amalgamation of any unions engaged in a common field or common industry. This field took in semi- skilled and unskilled workers. The amalgamated union became known as the Australian Workers Union. In all instances of ballots being taken to see whether union members required amalgamation or not, the ballots were carried overwhelmingly.

In 1921 and 1922 the metal trades group carried a ballot for amalgamation but the matter was not proceeded with because the Amalgamated Engineering Union at that time was tied to the United Kingdom. A reading of trade union history shows that in the 1950s the boilermakers' union, the blacksmiths' union, and the sheet metal workers' union progressed a long way towards amalgamation. Their efforts on that occasion proved to be forerunners of later amalgamations. The sheet metal workers' union did not proceed with the amalgamation in the 1950s because it regarded the union fees being charged by the boilermakers' and blacksmiths' unions as too high. However, in 1967 we saw the amalgamation of the boilermakers' union and the blacksmiths' union. It was only then, when Jack Devereux, a man steeped in Queensland trade union history, became chairman of the Australian section of the Amalgamated Engineering Union that that union began to take a deep interest in amalgamation.

Senator Mulvihill - He had a very effective political career.

Senator McAULIFFE - Jack Devereux in Queensland was very active. He played a major role in both the political and industrial life of Queensland. Ballots, in accordance with the existing arbitration Act were carried out by the Metal Trade Unions. The results were accepted as being valid by both the Federal and State Registrars. I think it is an important point that ballots in accordance with the current arbitration Act were substantially carried by all unions and that the Federal and State Registrars accepted the validity of the ballots carried out. Let us have a look at figures so that they can be put in Hansard and will be there for future research. In the Amalgamated Engineering Union 6,976 voted for and 1,039 against. In the Sheet Metal Workers Union there were 8,832 for and 3,346 against. In the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society 9,620 voted for and 3,275 against. This made a total of 25,428 for and 7,660 against, representing a 3 to 1 majority.

Senator Greenwood - Does the honourable senator know the total membership?

Senator McAULIFFE - I knew that the Attorney-General would come in. I purposely recapitulated what I said and quoted those figures in case I might have missed him. I knew that he would come in and say that that represents only a small minority. I know something of the ramifications of the Liberal Party and Australian Country Party organisations. They mushroom branches overnight to try to secure the endorsement of their candidates who aspire to become members of Parliament. I think the less the Minister says about that the better.

Senator Milliner - What is their constitution?

Senator McAULIFFE - I heard the honourable senator read from it the other night. It was the greatest argument against this Bill that could ever be developed in this Parliament. As I said, I welcome the Attorney-General coming in. I am pleased that he grabbed at the burley which I spread around for him. In the Bill which is before the Senate the proposal is that ballots can only be conducted among unionists who are on the electoral roll. Other members who are not entitled to vote are those who have been unfinancial continuously for the 12 months immediately preceding the opening of the ballot. I know that the Attorney-General has some electoral experience and intelligence. He knows that that qualification, for a start, reduces the voting membership to 90 per cent. Out of that 90 per cent more than 50 per cent of the unionists have to vote. Then a majority has to be obtained out of that number. I could go on and fire many shots which would explode the correctness of the proposition which the Government has before us. But 1 am going to let my case rest by quoting one of the AttorneyGeneral's colleagues - the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) who was the architect of this Bill. In a speech at the Central Industrial Secretariat dinner of the Australian Council of Employers Federations and the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia on 2nd March 1972 in Melbourne he said:

The normal percentages in officially conducted ballots for office bearers range from 12 per cent to 75 per cent-

Here is the punch line - and in the majority of such elections less than 50 per cent of eligible members have voted.

This practical comment on actual happenings proves the impracticability of the proposed legislation, particularly when it is remembered that the Minister bases his assessment on figures for a period when there were less safeguards in the old legislation than is proposed in the new. The Government is not fooling anybody. It knows as well as we do the saying which we have heard in this chamber before: There is none so blind as he who will not see.' The plain commonsense of this legislation is that the Government has been forced to introduce it against its wishes for political expediency. The purpose is to jump on to the backs of the Democratic Labor Party for its preferences. Without them the Government would have no hope of winning at the polls. Everybody knows that that is the reason why this Bill is being introduced.

I must congratulate Senator Carrick on his eloquent address last night. But he did not come to grips with the matter before us. He quoted certain clauses and said that he would dissect them and have a look at them. I was beginning to think that we should nickname him 'mirror' because he wanted us to look into things all the time. He presented his argument along these lines but he did not come to grips with the main reason for this proposal. Let us clear the trees away so that we can see the wood and the main reason for the introduction of the Bill. I repeat that there is no doubt in my mind, as I know there is no doubt in the minds of anyone on this side of the chamber or in the minds of honourable senators on the other side that this Bill is a political stunt to try to save the Government's hide at the next election.

Senator Milliner - Who made that statement about voting?

Senator McAULIFFE - The Minister for Labour and National Service.

Senator Milliner - Who was that? Was that Mr Lynch?

Senator McAULIFFE - It was the Attorney-General's own colleague. The Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party talks of communist influence. 1 have known the Leader of the DLP for some years. I must say that it is to his credit that one of his fortes and one of his chief bogies has been his opposition to the Communist Party. He has been consistent in this, even though in other instances he might be consistent in his inconsistency, particularly in the way in which he and his party vote on social service legislation in this chamber. But the Communist Party has fragmented. The Attorney-General and Government senators know that it has fragmented into so many divisions that it is hard to ascertain who holds executive positions. I can speak of Queensland. There is only one communist holding an executive position in any of the 3 metal trade unions and he will retire at any time. There again, there will be only one communist in the newly amalgamated body. I do not know whether my friend Senator Gair who apparently wants to interject is trying to give me a leg up or trying to shoot me down but I say this: If anyone wants to thumb the pages of history - I want the honourable senator to let me finish before he interjects - they will find, if they make a close political study of the history of Queensland, that during the time that the honourable senator was Premier of Queensland there were more communists in the trade union movement than there are at the present time. But if anyone were to say that that was brought about by the honourable senator's activity, they would be grossly unfair. Everyone in this chamber knows that when Senator Gair was Premier of Queensland, he was not responsible for all the communists in the Trades Hall. But it is a fact of history that during his premiership there were more communists associated with the trade union movement than there are now.

Senator Gair (QUEENSLAND) - With their help you destroyed the Labor Party.

Senator McAULIFFE - I am not blaming the honourable senator for it. As 1 said before, no-one has been a greater fighter against communism than the honourable senator. Returning to the question of communism, if all the rantings about commumism by the Liberal Party are right,let me say that I can recall when it was shown to the world just where the Communist Party stood in relation to the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. The Communist Party has never been a supporter of the Labor

Party, as was shown conclusively in the Federal election in 1961 when the fate of the then Prime Minister, Robert Gordon Menzies, was hanging in the balance. Mr Killen was the sitting Liberal member for the Queensland electorate of Moreton. In that electorate all the preference votes had to be counted. Even the Communist Party's preferences had to be counted. When they were counted, they elected Mr Killen as the Liberal member for Moreton and kept the Menzies Government in office. I say to members of the Democratic Labor Party: If they were sincere they should have appealed to the Liberal Party to resign because it retained office aided and abetted by the Communist Party's preference votes. Senator Gair knows as well as I do that it was the Communist Party's votes in 1961 that elected Jim Killen as the member for Moreton and returned the Menzies Government.

Senator Greenwood - I take a point of order. The Government is concerned to have the Bill passed, as the Senate is nearing the end of the sessional period. Mr Deputy President, I draw your attention to standing order 419 which states that a senator shall not digress from the subject matter under discussion. I think that we have been very tolerant for the last 10 minutes. The Bill has not been mentioned once. The trade union movement has not been mentioned once. The discussion has been simply on communism. While the subject matter of the Bill covers a wide range, I submit that the honourable senator has digressed from it and that all honourable senators would be much helped if the honourable senator would return to the subject. That is why I ask you, Mr Deputy President, to so rule.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I have considered the point of order. I suggest that it would make for a more orderly proceeding if honourable senators kept a little closer to the Bill.

Senator McAULIFFE - Mr Deputy President-

Senator Gair - Get back to the bookmakers. You know more about that.

Senator McAULIFFE - If Senator Gair invites and tempts me, I might have to say something about him. If he behaves himself, he will get off scot free. He should not push his luck too far. I have been insulted by experts; I do not have to take insults from Senator Gair.

I thought I was developing a case on the Government's challenges and references to militancy in the trade union movement. I thought I was exploding its case and exposing it for the valueless propaganda that it is. However, I shall continue. The status quo has been preserved initially in relation to amalgamations as far as the Executive is concerned. I am suggesting that in future, with the larger amalgamated trade unions, it will be more difficult for the communists to be elected to office in those larger organisations which are and which will continue to be controlled by the Australian Labor Party. Mr Denis Murphy of the Department of History at the University of Queensland - a young scholar who has made a very close and valuable political study of the amalgamation of unions - delivered a very fine paper to a conference held by the Waterside Workers Federation in Brisbane on 27th February. He offered arguments in favour of the amalgamation of unions into larger unions. He pointed out that there are some very obvious advantages to be gained. So that his observations can be included in Hansard for honourable senators opposite and Democratic Labor Party senators to study, research and digest, I will state them. The advantages that this young scholar, and student of political science and authority on the amalgamation of unions saw are these:

(a)   Provision of organisational and administrative services;

(b)   Elimination of demarcation disputes;

(c)   A reduction in time and cost through having one union negotiate with an employer or association of employers in an industry;

(d)   Provision of research facilities which will become increasingly important as technological changes apply to industries and more international companies are formed;

(e)   Provision of social facilities - holiday homes, clubs, credit unions, housing loans, libraries, union educational services, which union members will rightly demand from their union;

(f)   A stronger, more closely knit industrial and political Labor movement;

(g)   There is a major need for a national trade union college in Australia to provide union education. It is more likely to come from pressure from strong and significant trade unions.

Another interesting situation arises from the Government's proposed interference - I say that it is interference - in the amalgamation of trade unions. Twenty years ago the International Labour Organisation constituted a Committee of Freedom of Association. The Committee was constituted to examine complaints received concerning alleged infringements of trade union rights. In the 20 years that it has been in existence it has had reason to consider 700 applications, lt has deliberated on 700 applications in those 20 years. In those deliberations it has been guided by the terms of Convention No. 98. which covers the human rights of individuals, and Convention No. 87, which was done in 1948. lt is Convention No. 87 in which we are mainly interested at this point of time. Contrary to what senators on the other side of the Senate have said, 1 have mentioned the trade union movement and I have related my arguments to the Bill. I suggest that they listen a little more intently and that now they have started listening they should get Hansard tomorrow and read my whole speech to see whether my argument has been developed in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Senate.

The main theme of Convention No. 87 is the right to organise. This is the convention in which the Opposition is interested in relation to the Bill. Seventy-seven countries have ratified Convention 87. Among those countries is Australia. It is fair to submit that Australia must find itself in a very invidious position. On the one hand, it is a party to Convention No. 87 which protects the rights of the trade union movement to organise and to have freedom of expression and freedom of organisation. It is a signatory to Convention No. 87. On the other hand, today members of the Government that is a signatory to the Convention are trying, in a hypocritical manner, to steamroll through this chamber a Bill that does nothing but interfere with the rights of trade unions and their members. I wonder whether this is a breach of the conditions adopted by the International Labour Organisation and its Committee of Freedom of Association. Is the Government putting itself in conflict with the Organisation? ls it exposing itself to criticism or examination by the Organisation? The terms of the Convention are self-explanatory. They may be summarised as follows:

In brief, Convention No. 87 guarantees to all workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever and without previous authorisation, the right to establish and join organisations of their own choosing; these organisations are to have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organise their administration and activities and to formulate their programmes, without interference by the public authorities; they may not be dissolved or suspended by administrative authority; they shall have the right to form federations and confederations, and to affiliate with international organisations of workers and employers; those rights also apply to federations and confederations; the acquisition of legal personality by organisations may not be made subject to conditions restricting the exercise of these rights; in exercising them workers and employers and their respective organisations must respect the law of the land, but in turn the law of the land may not be such as to impair, nor may it be so applied as to impair, the guarantees provided for in the Convention; the extent to which the guarantees provided for in the Convention shall apply to the armed forces and the police is to be determined by national laws or regulations.

I will be very interested to hear how the Attorney-General, who is in charge of the passage of this Bill through the Senate, relates the present intentions of the Government in this Bill to the pledges it has given to the International Labour Organisation and how it relates its attitude to trade unions in this country to world wide opinion.

Senator Kaneusually leans over and has something to say to me about where the Australian Council of Trade Unions stands on a particular issue and he has done so on this occasion. I think I should advise not only Senator Kane but also other honourable senators of where the ACTU stands on the amalgamation of unions. The inference of Senator Kane's remark was that the ACTU could be opposed, on some technical ground, to the amalgamation of unions. For the sake of the record, 1 think I should state just where the ACTU stands. I shall do so by quoting an ACTU executive decision relating to the Government's intention to legislate to prevent amalgamations. The decision was taken on 24th February 1972. It reads:

The ACTU notes the attempt by the reactionary DLP and its counterparts in the Country Party and the Liberal Party to interfere in the internal affairs of the trade union movement, particularly in regard to the amalgamation of unions -

We point out (hat amalgamation of unions has been in the objectives of the ACTU since the very inception of that body and that many unions in the intervening years have availed themselves of these provisions for the purpose of strengthening the trade union movement and providing a better service to members.

Far from hindering amalgamation, we believe the Government has an obligation to assist the ACTU in building a strong responsible trade union movement in Australia.

We also remind the Government of ils obligation to the 1LO and its numerous conventions, a number of which emphasise the right of unions to organise, the right of freedom of association. The recent Teheran Conference very clearly affirmed these principles.

The ACTU has expressed its firm position regarding amalgamation in the following terms, namely -

That provided appropriate safeguards in accordance with current Legislation are available to registered organisations, the amalgamated body should have automatic registration.

The executive warns the Government that any legislation or administrative action intended to prevent amalgamation properly effected in accordance with the existing provisions of the legislation will be strongly resisted by the entire Australian trade union movement.

The ACTU also determines that in addition to action on the Australian front, it will report the interference to the 1LO with a request that the 1LO special committee inquire into the interference by the Austraiian Government in the affairs of our workers' organisations - the employees trade unions.

That should clear up for Senator Kane just where the Australian Council of Trade Unions stands in the matter. If he would like a copy of that document, I would be only too happy to provide him with one afterwards.

Whenever the subject of conciliation and arbitration is raised attacks are levelled at the trade union movement by almost all sections of the community. I nearly cried last evening when I heard Senator Carrick say that there is no greater champion than he is of the rights of the genuine trade union leader. I did look hard at him and think about interjecting, but I decided to leave it to his own conscience. He might believe what he said but he certainly does not display that attitude in this chamber. He might in his heart feel that way but in his head he must think otherwise because his addresses in this chamber have not stamped him as being in any way a champion of the trade union movement.

Despite the attacks which have been made on the trade union movement it has a history and a tradition that are unequalled by any other organisation. We hear much about strikes and industrial disputes but they represent only a small part of trade union activity. Unfortunately it is that part which receives the widest publicity. Every day trade union officials are engaged in widespread activities, including finding employment and fighting employment injustices, unjust wage payments, unjust sackings and victimisation. They are continually concerned in community affairs. Even the Government will admit that without the full co-operation and assistance of the trade union movement many of the committees it establishes would be unable to function without the support of the trade unions.

The trade union movement cannot and will not accept restrictions on its right to involve itself in the political life of the community. I want to deal briefly with that point. In doing so I will be relating my remarks to this debate because the claim was made last night by Senator Hannan that the trade union movement has no right to interfere in the political life of this country. He quoted the President of the Queensland Trades and Labour Council, Mr John Egerton, as having said on the Australian Broadcasting Commission that he would resist any attempt to prevent the trade union movement from exercising its right as the representative of the organised workers to interfere in political issues. Mr Egerton is perfectly right; the trade union movement initiates the demands and the Australian Labor Party carries them out. Ever since the birth of the great Australian Labor Party, that has been the premise on which the industrial and political wings have functioned. The trade union movement initiates the demands and the Australian Labor Party, in government, carries them out. Improved working conditions, social services, health, education, housing and a host of other things are the concern of the trade unions as the organised strength of the lower and middle income groups. Surely they are political matters and surely no-one in this chamber, whether he be on my left or immediately in front of me, as are members of the Democratic Labor Party, would deny the right of the trade unions to intercede in these matters.

At every opportunity attacks are levelled in this chamber and outside it at the trade union movement. The most recent attack was on the stand of the trade union movement on apartheid when the Springboks were here on a rugby union tour. Tt was attacked inside and outside this chamber on that occasion. I say to honourable senators opposite that history will prove that the trade union movement's stand on that matter was right, just as history has proved that the trade union movement's stand in opposing the shipment of pig iron to Japan was right; just as history has proved that the trade union movement's stand on independence for Indonesia was right; just as history has proved that the trade union movement's stand on the phoney war in Vietnam has been right. On all the great issues of our day history will continue to prove the trade union movement right.

Challenges were thrown left and right by Government supporters last night at those honourable senators on this side of the chamber who are members of a trade union. I have been a member of a trade union all of my working life and I still am. While 1 am in the Senate I will continue to fight for and advance causes that will bring about greater harmony between the political and industrial wings of the great Labor movement. I feel it is in the interests of the nation and the people for roe to do so. I hope that this Bill will get the treatment it deserves and be thrown out by the Senate.

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