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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 2337

Senator LITTLE (Victoria) - I do not wish to go over the whole philosophy on amalgamations. At this stage of our consideration of the Bill, after the second reading speeches, we know that there are those amongst us who have entirely differing points of view on the question of amalgamation. The Australian Democratic Labor Party has some reservations about clause 51, but perhaps for reasons different from those expressed by Senator Murphy. In his amendment he is trying to deal with a very special set of circumstances. On that point, we find that we can go quite part of the way.

It seems reasonable that it should not be necessary for a major trade union to conduct a ballot as a general principle when it absorbs another union that does not have a membership exceeding 5 per cent of the total membership of the major union. However, this could lead to some weaknesses. The stage could be reached where a major trade union with 80,000 members could absorb a union with 4,000 members, bringing the total membership to 84,000. As a result, the 5 per cent figure would rise. Within a period of one year a major trade union could absorb as many as 10 other unions. As each of them would not have membership constituting 5 per cent of the total membership of the major organisation, the situation could get completely out of hand. For this reason we propose to move an amendment to Senator Murphy's amendment. I ask Senator Murphy to give most serious consideration to our proposed amendment. Although we feel that we can go along with the general principle that he is trying to establish, we do not feel that the security we seek would affect his proposal. In order to achieve the protection that we seek it will be necessary for the amendment that we propose to move to Senator Murphy's amendment to be agreed to. We accept all of his amendment except paragraph (b) of proposed sub-section (7.). Therefore, I move:

In proposed sub-section (7.), leave out paragraph (b) and insert the following paragraph: "(b) the total number of members that have been, and could be, admitted to the organization upon and by reason of the amalgamation and any amalgamations that have taken effect during the two years preceding the date of lodgment of the application under section one hundred and fifty-eightF of this Act does not exceed five per centum of the number of members of the organization as at the beginning of that period of two years;".

After proposed sub-section (8.), add the following proposed sub-section: - " '(9.) Where an exemption under the last preceding sub-section has been granted to an organization, a further exemption under that section shall not be granted to that organization in respect of an amalgamation in relation to which an application under section one hundred and fiftyeight f of this Act is lodged within twelve months after the lodgment of the application under that section in respect of the amalgamation in relation to which the exemption was granted.'.".

The effect of the amendment is that it will not interfere in any way with the right of a major organisation to seek exemption from a ballot except when over a period of 3 years it exceeds the 5 per cent level of its membership by absorbing other trade unions. This would mean that if the major union wished to do that within a period of 3 years it would need to conduct a ballot of its members. If after the period of 3 years rt wished to amalgamate with another union, thereby exceeding the original 5 per cent of its membership, again it could seek exemption from holding a ballot. This would be the total effect of my proposed amendment. We believe that it would achieve that and nothing more. We feel that there are no dangers in the proposal and we suggest that it is a sensible move.

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