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Wednesday, 14 May 1980
Page: 2242

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - My assignment is relatively easy. In supporting the amendment proposed by Senator Button, I must dispose of this mythical rank and file trade unionist who is seen as a kind of industrial Diogenes seeking the truth in relation to the finances of his union. I can do no better than ask the Senate to agree to the incorporation in Hansard of page 2 of the Miners Federation of Australia journal Common Cause of 26 February 1980, which contains the Federation's balance sheet. For the edification of Senator Walters, under the heading 'Investments: General' reference is made to investments in water board loans and the New South Wales Permanent Building Society. Another group is found under the heading 'Investments: Long Service Leave'. On the other side of the balance sheet is shown the amounts of money spent on Australian Council of Trade Unions affiliation, office expenses and so on. I ask that that page, which shows the Miners Federation's finances for the last 12 months, be incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-








Auditors Report:

The above Balance Sheet has been compiled from the books, records and information supplied by the Federation. Subject to some assets at book values, the above Balance Sheet, in my opinion, presents a correct view of the Financial position of the Federation at 3 I December I 979.

W.   J. MAXWELL, Chartered Accountant, Registered under the Public Accountant Registration Act, 1945, as amended.

Sydney, 26 February 1980.

Senator MULVIHILL -If the rank and file member is still searching for the truth he would find in the 19 March 1980 edition of Common Cause the detailed minutes of the central council meeting of 3 to 7 March 1980, showing the various donations that had been made and the decisions reached. They are all there. I am not asking for that document to be incorporated in Hansard but I believe that it demonstrates the rights of Miners Federation members. The whole process is of a refining nature. The next level is that of the lodge officials at the various pits. An equivalent procedure could be followed by members of the Australian Railways Union which, in my own State of New South Wales, has a network of sub-branches. Mr Rank and File, to whom Senator Walters is referring as searching for the truth, could pester his sub-branch secretary as to what action the State council of the union had taken on a certain matter, for instance whether a union organiser had been accident prone with a car. He could, by resolution, demand information but I suspect since representation on the council would occur on a zone basis- three councillors being drawn from some regions and one from others- that a councillor who wished to be re-elected would obtain all necessary information during the year, much less a balance sheet presented at the end of a financial year. What I have mentioned about the Miners Federation is equally true of the Australian Railways Union and its journal Railroad, the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union of Australia, the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia and a host of other organisations. The same format applies throughout. So this mythical idea that someone has to rush to the Industrial Registrar frankly does not hold water.

However, one does encounter the vexatious litigant, the person who causes considerable expense to a union by pursuing some frivolous point. One finds that in some cases the court rebukes him or he leaves the industry altogether. Of course it is a fact of life, whether a union is left, right or centre, that people on their way to industrial stardom from the workshop floor and seeking to get a reputation must pursue the truth and find out all the answers. I have given the Senate four or five instances of that happening in the modern trade union movement today.

Senator Buttonin a most eloquent speech referred to the discouragement of people seeking elevation in official union positions. He could have gone a lot further. Take the example of a union in the manufacturing sector, such as the Federated Rubber and Allied Workers Union of Australia. I have told this story before. It relates to such matters as the protracted hearing of a log of claims, meetings and people working three shifts. It is only lately that the State has belatedly provided certain interpreter services. A union of that size has been slaughtered in many ways by the tampering with, and the lack of, protection on tyres and the rubber industry generally. On the one hand the number of its members is diminishing. On the other hand, it has a high ethnic content and it has added costs arising from that factor. Even in compensation cases today it is accepted that if one has to document a case and there are language difficulties with witnesses, that involves additional costs in union operations.

I think Senator Walters referred to the Industrial Relations Bureau. I would be very surprised if Mr Linehan 's files do not contain copies of the union journals published throughout the year. Some of them may be published every two or three months or perhaps twice yearly and others are published every month. All that I have said tonight is contained in the February issue of this year of Common Cause. My comments are duplicated throughout that issue. Senator Walters made indirect reference to Mr Justice Sweeney and a particular maritime situation. She should remember that it is just like black.marketeering. If there is a snide employer or a contractor who wants to make a swindle deal with a group of employees or something like that the truth ultimately comes out. There is no question about that. I would say without hesitation that one would find that management committees are fairly vigilant. Even if they are not, there are enough people in the rank and file who are always fairly vigilant. I resent the person who stays at home in front of his television and will not give up one night a month to go along to see what is happening in relation to the questions that can be elicited at a branch meeting.

I simply end on the note on which I started. A perusal of virtually every trade union journal will show that all the information of major significance is already listed in a union's balance sheet. If it is not listed there, most unions carry the minutes of their Central Council, as happens in the case of the Miners Federation, or the State Council as occurs with in the case of the Australian Railways Union. Largely through legislation enacted by Clyde Cameron in relation to delegates to national conventions, the requirement is that all delegates have to be elected by the rank and file members. To continue to be elected, those people must transmit to rank and file members the major decisions that are taken. People should have no illusions about this matter. Some of the decisions even in relation to grants and donations are not carried unanimously. The majority decision is accepted but invariably these people, whether they are called State councillors or management committee members, are always relaying to the rank and file members what motivated such decisions. If they did not they would not last long in their positions. The existing custom and practice in virtually 99.5 per cent of the unions are as I have suggested. The other unions- the 0.5 per centare living on the breadline. Those unions are denied amalgamation, a matter to which Senator Button referred.

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