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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1743

Mr SMITH(10.43) —Last year, during the debate on the appropriations for the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, I raised some issues with relation to Commonwealth funding for the Trade Union Training Authority, known as TUTA. Tonight I wish to comment further upon the operations of the Authority, as I am not convinced that the current funding arrangements and organisation of TUTA are affording the Australian taxpayer value for money. TUTA was established by an Act of this Parliament in 1975. Whatever the original validity of the decision, the training of union representatives has been segregated from general tertiary education for well over a decade. Despite this decade of independence not much is known within the broader community about the operations of TUTA.

Before discussing changes that I believe should be made, there are a few facts about TUTA I would like to bring to the notice of the House. Funding for TUTA is almost entirely from the Commonwealth. It is $8.3m in 1986-87. The bulk of TUTA's operations are conducted at the Clyde Cameron College, although courses are offered under TUTA's auspices at another 100 centres throughout Australia. Fifteen thousand eight hundred union representatives undertook 721 courses of varying duration during 1985-86. These trainees represented 199 different unions. Since 1982, the number of students participating in TUTA courses has more than doubled; the number of courses offered has increased by 350. Of all the participants in TUTA courses, only 1,552, fewer than 10 per cent, actually attended Clyde Cameron College, which is a residential college.

Clyde Cameron College is supposed to be the showpiece of TUTA's operations, yet it soaks up only 15 per cent of TUTA's total funding, an amount of $1.6m. Unions, I believe, must contribute far more to the operations of TUTA than is currently the case. With Australia's top 20 unions having combined assets of $118m, it is ludicrous that trade union training is almost entirely funded by the taxpayer, particularly so when it is remembered that union income is not taxed. Organised labour now has access to superannuation funds, and I believe it would be advised to commit funds to union training rather than rely on continued government funding in the present climate.

Within my own State of Tasmania, last year 859 participated in courses conducted by TUTA in Hobart, Launceston, Burnie and George Town. It is interesting to note that while nationally 67 per cent of participants at TUTA courses were from public sector unions, in Tasmania this figure was only 59 per cent. However, since public sector unionists account for only 47 per cent of all unionists, there appears within TUTA to be an over-reliance upon public sector unions for support. This apparent over-reliance can be redressed if the operations of TUTA are brought into the industrial relations field of tertiary education. The 1977 Paine inquiry into trade union training recommended the retention of a separate trade union training operation. Ten years on from that report, the record of TUTA leads me to suggest that there must be a greater integration of trade union training with a more general program of education within the industrial relations field. Furthermore, courses stressing trade union practices, and indeed all industrial relations practices, should be open to all major parties operating within the industrial relations environment. This is not only desirable, I believe it is eminently possible and practicable. For instance, union training at the Clyde Cameron College could be incorporated within the auspices of either a university or an institute of technology.

Within the various States, TUTA courses could be offered in conjunction with existing tertiary education centres. For instance, the Tasmanian State Institute of Technology in Launceston could and should be utilised as much as possible as it already offers an industrial relations course of high repute. Many articles, some dating back as far as 1980, have drawn attention to the twin edged sword that the union movement takes by allowing government to fund its union training authorities. I believe it is about time unions started to think about picking up the tab themselves.