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Wednesday, 30 October 1974
Page: 2117

Senator MULVIHILL (NEW SOUTH WALES) -I draw to the attention of the Postmaster-General statements by some individuals on the Council of the Combined Overseas Telecommunications Unions with reference to the majority decision of the Vernon Commission of Inquiry into the Australian Post Office regarding the merger of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission with the proposed new telecommunications corporation. Can the Minister convey to the Senate the official viewpoint of those industrial organisations directly affected by the decision?

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - Is this to be a ministerial statement without leave?

Senator BISHOP (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) - Perhaps the honourable senator had better let me answer the question first. All honourable senators have received representations from a number of people who claim to represent the unions with employees in the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. Because of that I am aware of what has taken place and of the reaction from the unions which represent most of the employees. A great deal of propaganda is being fed into the media about this issue.

Senator Withers - Shame!

Senator BISHOP -Of course there is. The Government has decided that the merger should take place. In fact, only one union of which I am aware- it is a small union with fewer than 20 members; I think it has 16- is opposed to the merger. The largest union which has members working for the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, the Professional Radio Employees Institute of Australasia, has about 1,300 staff members in OTC out of a total membership of a little over 2,000. This union has come out in support of the merger. Yesterday its federal secretary said that he refuted the representations of some individuals who claimed to support the union movement. He said that his organisation was fully in favour of the merger. He also pointed out that representations were made to the trade union group which is now negotiating with departmental officers to make sure that the merger is satisfactorily completed. All those unions represented on the Council are in favour of the merger. What we are seeing now is a belated attempt by some people to misrepresent the position entirely. As I have said, the PREI is the largest union. It has a membership with OTC of 1,300 out of a total of 2,000 employees. The next biggest union has 140 members who favour the merger. Of all the other unions, some with only one or two members, there is only one of which I am aware which is against the merger.

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