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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 1491

The CHAIRMAN -I do not think so.

Senator HANNAN - I come back to the Bill. The Opposition is opposed to clause 66. Ballot papers might not be received and it is our belief that people who oppose the amalgamations should be entitled to send out a 'no' case. Clause 67 which covers the repeal of section 158N, deals with the determination of the results of a ballot. The alteration of the criterion of voting is from a majority of more than 50 per cent of eligible voters to a simple majority of those voting which, as I said before, technically could be 2 people although in practice this is unlikely. The provision leaves the way open, of course, to connivance and is contrary to most concepts of effective membership control. Clause 68 removes the penalties in relation to ballots and takes away the Minister's capacity to make regulations for penalties. We feel that it clearly removes a restraint upon improper practices and would be a significant repeal bearing in mind that unions at present run their own ballots.

Clause 69-1 think this is the last one we are taking in this group- relates to alterations to the rules of amalgamating unions. The Opposition opposes this clause because of the inter-related matters to which I have referred in regard to section 158h. Many statements have been made, largely by Labor spokesmen, about the desirability of reducing the number of unions. The Minister can correct me but my recollection is that there are about 300 unions including the small craft unions. Is that so?

Senator Cavanagh - Possibly it is in excess of that.

Senator HANNAN - In that vicinity. There could well be a case where it would be advantageous to the members of the union and the community for some amalgamations to take place. The Opposition's only comment on the whole aspect of amalgamations is that they should reflect in substance and in essence the substantial will of the members of the organisations concerned. For these reasons -

Senator Mulvihill - Would you define the word 'substantial'?

Senator HANNAN -We would be willing to listen to some reasonable variant provided it substantially reflected the will of the organisation. There is no magic in 50 per cent. If one gets 50 per cent voting one at least knows that a substantial body of the rank and file has taken sufficient action and cares enough to look after its own interests. For these reasons the Opposition completely opposes clauses 64 to 69. I ask the Minister whether he wishes to deal with clause 70 now or whether it is to be dealt with separately.

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