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Tuesday, 24 September 1974
Page: 1345

Senator JESSOP (South Australia) - I enter this debate because Senator Button spoke earlier and mentioned the factsenator Poyser- You came in late.

Senator Greenwood - There are more speakers on our side than on yours.

Senator Poyser - Only because the agreement was broken. There are more coming in at the last moment.

Senator JESSOP - I am very interested in the by-play but I believe that I have a right to rise in this chamber and to speak on a matter particularly when the question of a dispute at Port Adelaide was introduced into the Senate by a Government speaker.

Senator Poyser - Why did you not tell your Whip at the appropriate time?

Senator JESSOP -I informed my Whip at the appropriate time that I wished to speak for 5 minutes on this issue. I think it is very important that honourable senators show an interest in the industrial disruption that is occurring in Australia under the present Labor Government. I am very interested in the dispute at Port Adelaide that was mentioned by Senator Button. I fail to see that amalgamation of the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation would overcome this problem because in the trade union movement there is a personality problem amongst the hierarchy. In my view, that is the area where the main problem arises.

I would like to refer to the incident at Port Adelaide which involved a dispute between the 2 unions that I have mentioned. I believe that the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd, which was the employer involved on this occasion, was perfectly correct in consulting with the Waterside Workers Federation to determine which particular union should supply the labour for that operation. After consultations were held with the Waterside Workers Federation well before the completion of the roll-on roll-off terminal the waterside workers assured BHP that they were the appropriate labour force to deal with the unloading of the cargo at that area. It appears to me to be quite strange because Port Adelaide was the only area in Australia where the TWU chose to have an argument on this question. I recall that on the occasion when I and the honourable member for Wakefield, Mr Kelly, inspected the terminal at Port Adelaide we were assured by the workers and the management that the WWF was the appropriate source of labour upon which to draw. I believe in that situation amalgamation would not have been the answer to the problem.

Another thing annoyed me when I was in Adelaide at about that time. A TWU meeting was held at the St Clair Youth Centre. Subsequently I spoke to a TWU member who is a friend of mine and who was very much disturbed by the fact that when he went into the centre to attend his union meeting he was not asked whether he was a financial member of the union. He was not asked to produce his card or to identify himself with that union. He was opposed to the argument that was presented to him. I too was concerned at the manner in which the proposition was put to the meeting. He told me that when the members were asked to vote on the proposition the matter was decided on the voices. In his view the voices were almost equal. As there was an argument on the voting procedure at that union meeting they decided to divide as we do in this House- to walk to one side or the other- but there was no deliberate attempt to determine the actual numbers. They said, 'Oh yes, the ayes have it', and that was it. In my view, there are many areas of concern in the minds of the public of Australia about the way in which these meetings are conducted. I think that the Liberal Party is quite right in suggesting that secret ballots ought to be held for the election of union officials.

Senator Button - There are secret ballots.

Senator JESSOP - We are asking for proper secret ballots.

Senator Milliner - Tell me one union where that does not happen.

Senator JESSOP - I agree that there is provision for compulsory secret ballots, provided that a union member is prepared to get up on the floor of a meeting and request it. But how many union members are prepared to do that? We on this side of the House believe that proper secret ballots ought to be arranged.

Senator Poyser - What do you call a proper secret ballot?

Senator Greenwood - One where there is no intimidation.

Senator JESSOP -Exactly. That is what I was trying to point out- that the average trade unionist is frightened to get up and request it at his union meeting. Therefore, Opposition policy is that proper secret ballots ought to be arranged. Another thing that I believe we ought to be looking at is the total role of the trade union movement in Australia. In my judgment the unions of Australia are taking government out of the hands of this Parliament. That has been evident in South Australia on more than one occasion. I am particularly concerned about the fact that the Seamens Union, for example, can determine which vessels it should unload. Greek and Spanish ships have been coming into Port Adelaide, and because the union does not agree with the internal policies of the governments of the countries from which those ships emanate, it has determined that its members will not unload the vessels. This seems to me to be a typical example of domination from left-wing unionists at the top of these unions. I believe it is high time that the trade union movement in Australia woke up to this problem. I believe that our policy with respect to union disputes is quite proper and I shall therefore support the Opposition in opposing this Bill.

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