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Tuesday, 9 November 1976
Page: 2495


Mr BURR (Wilmot) - I hope I can have the indulgence of the House to very briefly quote from a speech of mine last week. In speaking to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2) 1976 1 said:

I believe- and I believe this view is also held by the average worker- that unionists do not want a part of either the extreme Left or the extreme Right. They want moderate trade union leaders who have at heart the genuine interests of the worker and not the wielding of political power.

For making those comments I was accused by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) of union bashing. I am not sure what the honourable member for Burke interprets as union bashing but I well remember a few weeks ago reading an article written in the Australian Financial Review under the nom de plume of 'Modest member of Parliament'. He stated that anyone who dares to criticise the union leadership in Australia must inevitably be branded a union basher. I think that this was borne out by the comments of the honourable member for Burke in branding me a union basher for simply saying that the rank and file trade unionists of Australia in fact want to be led by moderate trade union leaders who have their genuine interests at heart. While I must admit to being somewhat peeved by the comments of the honourable member for Burke, I was heartened to some degree when I read the Australian this morning and noted the remarks of one of the most formidable and noted trade union leaders in Australia, Sir John Egerton. Sir John Egerton had this to say on this question:

Unions have been let run wild and the situation is now where they are dictating not just industrial policy but foreign policy, defence policy and a whole host of other things that are not properly within the concept of bona fide trade unionism.

Further on Sir John said:

I am very much opposed to the blatant political actions that some unions are involving their members in and to the detriment of the members.

I am relieved that Sir John adopts the same attitude as I to the actions of the trade union leaders in involving themselves in blatant political actions that are, in fact, to the detriment of the trade union movement and to the detriment of the trade union rank and file member. I was also interested during the debate last week on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in the comments of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). The honourable member said during his speech at the Committee stage of the Bill:

Honourable members Opposite are so inclined to talk about unions but not one of them has ever been a member of a union.

In point of fact the honourable member has not done his homework. I point out that for many years I was a member of a trade union. In fact, I was a member of the Australian Workers Union for 8 years and I was a member of the Printing and Kindred Industries Union for a further 3 years. During the period that I was a member of the AWU I worked as a shearer and a casual farm labourer.


Mr Hodges - A good one too.


Mr BURR - I was a good one. I went on further when I was a member of the PKIU to work as a shift operator in a paper factory. Perhaps honourable members opposite wonder why a person who came from such a lowly background might choose to join the Liberal Party of Australia. The reasons I chose to join the Liberal Party was that I worked with those people- the ordinary workers of Australia- who are the very basis of this country. I know what they want, not what the trade union leaders think they want but in fact they do not want I know because I have worked with them. That is the reason. I have gained an intimate knowledge of those people on the shop floor. I believe that it is the Liberal Party which can best represent the ordinary rank and file trade union member in Australia, not these people who abuse their role in the trade unions for blatant political reasons.







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