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Tuesday, 30 May 1972
Page: 2249

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - May I pursue what has been said by Senator Mulvihill? This is a very serious matter for the trade unions. It arises under clause 2. Really, what the Government ought to do if it intends to persist and use the weight of numbers to pass this legislation is to at least let those trade unions, which have amalgamations in progress, carry them into effect. That could be done by delaying the proclamation of the proposed section which deals with amalgamations. Mr Short is an eminent trade unionist. He is the National Secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia.. Yesterday he spoke to Senator James McClelland and myself and put the problem of his organisation. It has an amalgamation pending with the Federated Artificial Fertilisers and Chemical Workers Union , of Australia. The Federated Ironworkers Association is a body of some 68,000 workers. The Artificial Fertilisers and Chemical Workers Union has approximately 2,000 to 3,000 members.

Senator Cavanagh - It is reported in today's Press to have 2,500 members.

Senator MURPHY - I am told that it has 2,500 members. Mr Short informs me that faced with the prospect of having to follow the procedure which is set- out in the Bill it will become a financial impracticability to carry out this amalgamation. We believe that those unions which want to amalgamate should be given an opportunity to do so if their amalgamations are in progress. As we all know, these things involve a lot of discussion. A great deal of work and expense is involved. Why should unions be prevented from pursuing amalgamations if they want to amalgamate?

Mr Short,as one experienced1, in this field, asked me to express to the Senate his viewpoint that if this code for amalgamation is brought into effect it will frustrate the amalgamations. It will have the practical effect, except in some very rare instance, of making it impossible to effectuate the amalgamations. It will lead' to an intensification of demarcation disputes. It will mean that the amalgamation, instead of being an orderly process, will depend upon the raiding of members of smaller unions by the larger unions. It will lead to all kinds of friction and disputation which everybody in industry wants to avoid. Demarcation disputes are the most senseless and purposeless of all disputes. No-one is involved in such disputes except the organisations. It would be far better if they were allowed to have their way and go through this evolutionary process of amalgamation.

Why are the amalgamations necessary? They are necessary because there are technological changes and changes in population. Changes are occurring in industry which mean that the unions should rearrange their organisation and their membership in the same way that industry has to rearrange from time to time. We find that changes affecting equally the employers side of industry and the employees side of industry. If we are to have an efficient community, then those changes must be reflected in the organisation of the trade unions. The Government should be endeavouring, as the employers as well as the trade unions would want, to achieve a procedure where the amalgamations can be made simpler instead of more difficult. Those which have begun are in the national interest. I would like to know which of the amalgamations which have occurred under the existing procedures are against the national interest. I have been associated with a number of them such as those in the printing union, the hotel trades union and a large number of others. J have been closely associated with some of them and others of them I have observed taking place. I have not heard anyone say that there was anything wrong with any of those amalgamations. Every time an almalgamation has been effected there has been praise from industrial authorities and officers of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. There has been praise from those in industry. The employers have all supported and welcomed the amalgamations. I have heard no complaint from any organisation against any of the amalgamations. There has never been any real endeavour to prevent them.

An endeavour was made in relation to the Amalgamated Engineering Union, but everyone knows that that was a stunt which was tried in the last few days for political purposes. Apart from that, everybody concerned in these amalgamations has wanted them. The proof of the value of amalgamations is in what has happened. They have been welcomed. They have worked well. Why is the Government trying to stop them? Can anyone say how the national interest is advanced in the slightest degree by putting these difficulties in the way of organisations which are trying to do something which all those concerned with industry say should be done? One would think that honourable senators opposite would try to approach this matter rationally. What we are suggesting is in the public interest. It is demonstrably for the benefit of the nation that these amalgamations proceed. We ask that the proposed section be defeated so that whatever code is ultimately adopted an opportunity will be given for the amalgamations which are in progress to proceed. If the proclamation clause remains, it should be used in such a way that amalgamations which have begun, which are bona fide and in which some substantial progress has been made should be allowed to continue.

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