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Tuesday, 6 November 1973
Page: 1528

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - When the debate on these clauses was adjourned on 25 October I was replying to some questions which had been raised by Senator Hannan. Senator Hannan expressed great opposition to the amalgamation of the metal trades unions in Australia. Of course, honourable senators know that although the previous Government made it extremely difficult for trade unions to amalgamate when it introduced the last amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act even that Government was not prepared to legislate so as to prevent the amalgamation of the metal trades unions. This amalgamation was made with the full approval of the then Government, and the present Opposition cannot condemn this Government if it thinks that anything bad has resulted from the amalgamation. I think that employers today approve of the fact that as a result of the amalgamation of the metal trade unions they have only one organisation with which to deal. Employer interests have found it more desirable to deal with one organisation than with a multiplicity of organisation.

It is true that all demarcation disputes are unfortunate insofar as they should never occur and, win, lose or draw, the workers do not get an extra 10c put into their pockets and from time to time extreme hardship is caused to industry. Demarcation disputes can mean the abolition or annihilation of the unions concerned. But this does not occur in the metal trades today in which all classifications in the industry are amalgamated into one body. Unfortunately we have not seen this happen in other industries. The previous amendments were put into the Act for the purpose of stopping the modern day trend towards amalgamation, a trend which must grow stronger as newer technology eliminates certain trades and increases activity in other trades. The amendments were made for the purpose of making it more difficult for amalgamation to take place and for effective trade unionism to operate.

What the Government seeks to do now is to allow amalgamation, if that is the desire of those working in the industry. If necessary, when requested by 250 members or a quarter of the membership, a court conducted ballot may be held to show a true expression of opinion of" the members concerned. All we want is noninterference in trade union affairs. If we can achieve this we will be able to bring about much more harmony in unionism. Amalgamation creates strength in bargaining negotiations but it leads to a quicker solution in negotiations because they are conducted with one organisation rather than a multiplicity of organisations, and it stops all demarcation disputes that may occur. The defeat of the proposed amendments put forward by the Government will make no difference to the amalgamation of the metal trades unions which is the union concerned in the only complaint that Senator Hannan has raised against the clauses we are now discussing. He made these complaints because he remembered something that happened in the metal trades. His source of grievance is over now. However, at no time did he tell us where an amalgamation of the building trades unions, for example, would be detrimental. I know that the master builders would appreciate such an amalgamation. Also, if these unions were amalgamated one small section of the industry would not be able to impose green bans. Negotiations would take place between a combined building trades union and other bodies and we would possibly see a reduction in the number of disputes.

However, I suppose the die is cast and a decision has been made that amalgamations will not take place. But let this Government not then be condemned for the disputes that occur because we have given the Parliament a completely new document which can be used for the purposes of settling disputes. However, we do not have the power in the Senate to implement our ideas. We are not to be given the opportunity to show that our plan will settle industrial disputes. We are prevented by the action of the Opposition today from implementing an effective means of settling industrial disputes. I ask the Committee to carry the proposed amendments.

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