19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON presented a: petition from certain citizens of New South Wales praying that action be taken to secure by referendum of the people an extension of the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers to enable the passing of legislation by the Commonwealth Parliament to control prices.
Petition received and read.
– Will the Minister for External Territories make a statement to the House to indicate what action the Government has taken to rehabilitate the natives whose villages and gardens were destroyed in the Mount Lammington disaster ?
– Yes, I shall endeavour to have such a statement prepared. I take this opportunity to say that extraordinary credit is due to the Administration of the Territory and itsofficials for the work that they did in respect of the disaster to which the honorable member has referred.
– As home-building is of the- utmost’ importance and as State controls affect the matter considerably, will the Minister for Works and Housing give, to the House particulars of the controls that are still operating on the building of houses in the various States?
– Whilst, generally, controls on the building of houses ] have practically disappeared in the various States some have been retained in certain States. The building of homes of moderate sizes is virtually now free of controls although some degree of control is still exercised over building materials, such as bricks, cement and corrugated iron, &c. I shall be glad to have a table compiled to enable the honorable gentleman to have precise . information in respect to the control of both homebuilding and of building materials in the States.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Works and Housing by reminding him of a question that I asked him, before the importation of prefabricated houses began, about whether any government official was to be sent abroad to Inspect the manufacture of such houses so as to ensure that pest-infested timbers were not used in their construction. On Tuesday I directed the Minister’s attention to the fact that pests had been discovered in timber used in connexion with imported prefabricated homes and he ‘ professed to have no knowledge of such an occurrence. I now ask the Minister whether he. has called for a report on the matter, and whether, in fact, the destruction by burning of borer-infested packing cases which I mentioned on Tuesday, occurred in Canberra. Did his department refer the matter to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in order to discover whether any antidote to the pests could be used? Does the Minister now realize that it is possible for infested timbers to arrive in Australia in prefabricated houses, and does he now consider it necessary to have some supervision overseas by Australian officials to ensure that we are not robbed when we buy these homes ?
– The honorable gentleman -has concerned himself with this matter over the last six or eight months. I oan assure him that there is a tight organization overseas, not only in Great Britain but also in other countries from which we are drawing supplies of prefabricated houses, in respect of the inspection of such houses. I have discovered that there were some borers in a small amount of bark that was left on the timber which formed the packing cases for some of the component parts of the first batch of houses from a contain manufacturer in Great Britain. That fact was actually discovered by the British manufacturer himself soon after the first batch had been despatched. I oan assure the honorable gentleman that,, both in Australia and overseas, every possible precaution is being taken in relation to the danger of importing not only pests, from which we in Australia have suffered in the past and may still suffer, but also all other matters in connexion with which inspection is necessary. I can also assure him that the component parts of the houses and all packing cases and containers connected with the importation of prefabricated houses, will be very carefully inspected in future. Our pests in Australia have not all been imported, but a good many of them have been.
– Has the Minister for National Development any evidence to give to the House in connexion with current stories about domestic and other animals and birds dying of myxomatosis?
– We receive constant reports from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and from State officers concerned in the field, who investigate such stories as those to which the honorable member has referred. All I can say is that of the stories that have come to me about cattle, domestic animals, including dogs and cats, wild animals, including foxes, and birds such as eagles dying from myxomatosis, in no case has it been established that the death of an animal, domestic or wild, has been caused by that disease. Some of the stories that have come to our notice have been quite circumstantial and have caused the officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization some concern, but in every case, after close examination, it has been established that some cause other than myxomatosis has been responsible for the reported death.
– Can the Minister for the Army state the total number of enlistments in the Citizen Military Forces as at the 1st March, 1950, and as at the 1st March, 1951?
– I shallbe very glad to obtain for the honorable gentleman the figures that he has requested. He may be interested to know that since this Govern mentcame into office 637 officers and 8,542 other ranks, making a total of 9,179 personnel, have enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces.
– Some time ago I read to the House a communication that I had received from some members of the armed forces, who stated that accommodation was not available in Sydney or Melbourne for servicemen who were on leave in those cities. The Minister for the Army said that the Government had the matter in hand. I now ask the honorable gentleman whether any action has been taken to ensure that adequate accommodation will be available in the capital cities of this country for members of the armed forces when they are on leave?
– I am pleased to be able to announce that in both Sydney and Melbourne, where the accommodation problem is acute, definite progress has been made in the direction desired by the honorable member. The matter does not arise to a great extent in capital cities other than Sydney and Melbourne. In both those cities, public organizations and groups of public-spirited citizens are co-operating with the Government in providing accommodation for servicemen. I hope to be able to make a full statement on the matter at an early date.
– Will the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior inform me whether it is a fact that an expedition organized by Mr. Neville Harding, a former Lord Mayor of Sydney, recently journeyed from Alice Springs in search of the alleged fabulous gold reef known as Lasseter’s Reef? Was that expedition accompanied by any Commonwealth officers? If it was, will the Minister inform me who the officers were? Has he seen a statement attributed to Mr. Harding since the return of the expedition to the effect that he has good reason to believe that Lasseter’s Reef exists across the border of the Northern Territory in Western Australia? If so, have the departmental officers who accompanied Mr. Harding on that expedition made any reports to confirm the possible existence and location of what is known as Lasseter’s Reef?
– It is true that Mr. Neville Harding, who is the chairman of Centralia Holdings Limited, organized an expedition from Alice Springs a month or so ago. He was accompanied by certain government officers, including the Director of Mines for the Northern Territory and the government geologist from the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, Canberra. Mr. Harding had claimed that he had information which should direct the party to the location of the supposed Lasseter’s Reef, but at the end of ten days it was decided to abandon the expedition, and return to Alice Springs. The Director of Mines reported that no indication of any kind had been found of the existence of any reef, and that, so far as he knew, there was no foundation for the belief that such a reef existed.
– I remind the Treasurer of a question which I addressed to him some time ago about pensions paid to officers who transferred from the service of the several States to that of the Commonwealth at the beginning of federation. The right honorable gentleman will recollect the circumstances. Those officers are in receipt of pensions which are paid to them as a right, and are adjusted from time to time. However, those persons are the only section of the community whose pensions were not adjusted when other pensions were increased recently. Has the Treasurer yet had an opportunity to examine that matter? If he has, can he indicate when a measure of justice will be accorded to those men?
– I shall treat the honorable gentleman’s question as being on the notice-paper, and obtain the information that he seeks as expeditiously as possible.
– I desire to address a question to the Treasurer. According to reports, several large cigaretteproducing plants are being removed from England to the Continent. These plants have produced cigarettes for the Australian market, in which their product sells at a price higher than that of Aus tralian cigarettes. Will the right honorable gentleman ascertain the position, and, if possible, obtain a transfer of dollars in favour of Australia from the dollar pool, so that Australian manufacturers may purchase additional supplies of American leaf for the purpose of making cigarettes and tobacco available to the public of this country at a price lower than that of imported cigarettes ?
– I shall have the subjectmatter of the honorable member’s question investigated and give him a reply as quickly as possible.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project is being constructed up to schedule or indeed ahead of schedule in some respects? If the present “rate of progress of construction is continued, is it a fact that 60,000 kilowatts of electricity will become available for industrial and domestic purposes within four years, 120,000 kilowatts within six years and over 300,000 kilowatts within eight years ? Can the Minister yet report the success of his splendid resistance to all moves to slow down or suspend, work on this project, and can he yet give the House an assurance that there will be no interference at all with the policy of full speed ahead with this urgent defence project?
– It is difficult to say whether the work is ahead of or behind schedule, but my personal impression is that in this first twelve or fifteen months of the life of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority vastly more has been achieved by way of investigation and preparatory work that has been achieved in any major work that has ever been put in hand in Australia before. The officers and all concerned have worked with a keenness that I have never encountered before in an enterprise of this sort. I believe the statement of the honorable member about the production of power, to be substantially correct. Hig estimates of production may even be improved. I have had certain proposals before me in very recent times that promise a considerable speeding up in the investigation and design stage of the works that would be normally put in hand in the next three, four or five years. I believe that the time periods the honorable member has given are conservative. So far as the progress of the whole project is concerned, I think that the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme suffers from the fact that it is generally regarded as a very large project that would only come into fruition in a long period of time, whereas the fact is that substantial quantities of power will become available at intervals of a relatively few years throughout the whole life of the project. Notwithstanding that fact, the Snowy Mountains scheme will have to stand up to the same critical examination as all other works and projects both Commonwealth and State throughout Australia in view of the drastic situation in which this country now finds itself. However, I have not much doubt that the works contemplated, at any rate in the early years of the project, and the considerable amounts of power that will periodically emerge, will ensure that the Snowy Mountains scheme will emerge successfully from that examination, particularly in respect of the drastic five or six years that lie immediately ahead of us.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been drawn the the tragic death of a new Australian in Sydney last Sunday? This young man was drowned while trying to save a small child. As it appears that he had no relatives in Australia able to attend to his burial, does not the Minister think it proper that the Government should assume responsibility for his proper burial, because he showed in a striking manner the characteristics which both new Australians and old must equally admire.
– I learned with very great regret of the tragic outcome of the gallant rescue attempts made by the young man Rollo Italago, and I am having some inquiries made into the circumstances oi the matter. It appears that he came to Australia a few months ago as a displaced person, under the auspices of the International Refugee Organization, and I .imagine, therefore, that up to the time of his death he would have been working under a work contract made with the Australian Government. The Government will certainly take the necessary steps to see that he is not buried as a pauper.
– Will the Minister for Air say whether enlistments into the Royal Australian Air Force are up to the expectations of the Government? If they are not, is it due to discontent among recruits because they are unable to obtain proper service clothing ? Is it a fact that many recruits who have been in the Royal Australian Air Force for over four months are without service clothing? Do the regulations of the Royal Australian Air Force permit airmen to work or parade in civilian clothing? Is it a fact that some recruits who have refused to work in civilian clothes have been sentenced to 28 days’ detention at Holdsworthy? Have a number of. men sought to be released from the service owing to the clothing position? Will the Minister have inquiries made in order to ascertain the facts of this matter?
– The honorable member is astray in all his questions. So far from the rate of recruiting for the Royal Australian Air Force being disappointing, the reverse is the case. There is a long waiting list for all aircrew positions and for 36 categories of the ground staff. During the last year, over 3,000 men were enlisted into the permanent ground staff alone. I am hoping that the establishment of the Royal Australian Air Force will be increased in order that we shall be able to accept recruits who are waiting to enlist. There is no shortage of clothing on any Royal Australian Air Force station. To my knowledge, no airman has been punished for refusing to work in civilian clothes. The morale of the force is high. I should be obliged if the honorable member could produce a single instance of a shortage of clothing.
– I shall do that.
– I invite the attention of the Treasurer to a press statement to the effect that the rate of tax payable upon wool-growers’ incomes will be increased substantially in 1951-52 and that before the end of June the Commonwealth will probably re-impose the wool sales deductions at a considerably higher rate than that which obtains at present? Is it the intention of the Government to single out woolgrowers in future for the imposition of higher or discriminatory taxes? Is the press statement to which I have referred vicious propaganda designed to mislead wool-growers ?
– The answer to the last of the honorable member’s questions is “ Yes “. In the circumstances in which we find ourselves, the speculative statements that have appeared in the ‘ press and that have been made by certain ‘public institutions are appalling. The matter raised by the honorable gentleman is one of Government policy. This Government has no intention to increase the rate at which the wool sales deduction is imposed. On behalf of the Government, I gave an undertaking that the rate would not exceed 20 per cent., and that undertaking stands.
– Is the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior aware that last week the Department of Social Services vacated a building in Toowoomba that had previously been used as a convalescent home and that an application has been made by the Toowoomba Hospital Board for the temporary use of the building in order to house long-term poliomyelitis patients who, owing to the limited isolation accommodation in the General Hospital in Toowoomba, are now accommodated under difficult and cramped conditions ? In view of the fact that this building is’ needed urgently by the Toowoomba Hospital Board, will the Minister give full and favorable consideration to the application and endeavour to obtain an immediate decision?
– I am not acquainted with the circumstances to which the honorable member has referred. I- shall have them fully investigated and give him an answer later.
– Earlier in the week the Minister for Health stated, in answer to a question, that only 50 per cent, of the doctors are co-operating in the Government’s medical plan for pensioners. Is he aware that in some towns and suburbs no doctors have offered to co-operate in the scheme ? Has the Minister any ‘plan in mind to provide free medical services for pensioners in those places?
– I feel sure that the honorable member has been misinformed if he believes that doctors are not available. As I have stated previously, the number of doctors who have offered to look after age pensioners exceeds the number who are attending to war pensioners.
– What is the number? ,
– The honorable member required information-
Honorable members interjecting,
-Order! If I hear any further interjections while the Minister is attempting to answer the question I shall take action.
– The number of doctors who have offered to attend to age pensioners is greater than the number of doctors who are attending to war pensioners and their dependants although the number of war pensioners and dependants who need treatment is greater than the number of age pensioners in such need. Therefore, there is no truth in the statement that doctors are not available. They are available throughout the whole of Australia. The only place in which there is a deficiency is Hobart, where, apparently, the so-called free scheme of the State Government has made the doctors averse to having anything to do with governments at all. It has been suggested that the names of the doctors who are participating in the scheme should be advertised. In this matter I am pleased, for once in my life, to be able to follow the precedent of the previous Government which did not advertise the names of the 2 per cent, of doctors who volunteered to work under the McKenna formulary scheme. The names- of the 50 per cent, of doctors who are co-operating in the present scheme will not be advertised either.
– Will the Minister for Health inform me of the number of registered medical practitioners who are actually practising in Australia at present? What is the total number of medical practitioners who are co-operating in the Government’s free medical scheme for war pensioners and in the Government’s free medical scheme for invalid and age pensioners.
– It would be rather difficult to ascertain the number of registered medical practioners who are actually practising because many who are registered have ceased to practice. However, from the information that I have been able to obtain, approximately 5,000 general practitioners are practising throughout Australia. At present, approximately 2,100 medical practitioners are working within the repatriation scheme, and from 2,300 to 2,400 are co-operating in the Government’s free medical scheme for pensioners.
– 1 ask the Minister for National Development whether the first runway at the West Beach aerodrome will l>e available for use in July and whether it could be used in tret weather instead of the Gawler aerodrome. Will suitable accommodation and other facilities also be available at West Beach before the end of the year? Is it contemplated that Henley Beach-road will be widened in order to carry the increased traffic which will use it, due to the development of the air port?
– I expect that the main runway at West Beach will be completed in from, four to six weeks. Good progress has been made in the construction of the second runway and I should think that about half of the earthworks required for its construction are ready. I would guess that about 50 per cent, of the work involved in constructing the taxiways, air Strips and drainage for the new field has been completed. The airport buildings are still in the final design stage. Their erection has not yet begun. T. should think that, if the Minister for Civil
Aviation so pleased, the main runway could be used, as an emergency measure, in about a month or six weeks’ time, but that does not presuppose that the honorable gentleman will allow the use of the runway for normal services. I have no information about the widening of the Henley Beach-road, but I shall make inquiries and will let the honorable member have the information that he seeks.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer concerning a paragraph of the. Auditor-General’s report, from which it appears that a very large sum of money is owed .to the Common wealth by private airline operators. The sum. mentioned is a bou,t £500,000. Can the Treasurer tell the House what is being done about these outstanding charges, which, I understand, were made for the use of ground facilities ? Has any settlement of the claims been reached? I understand that they have been outstanding now for some years.
– The report of the Auditor-General to which the right honorable member has referred relates to the year ended the 30th Junie, 1950, .and covers n period before this Government assumed office.
– This Government was in office in 1950.
– The amount that the right honorable member has mentioned was outstanding when this Government came into office. The matter has been and is receiving the consideration of the Attorney-General’s Department. I do not know what position has been reached, but I shall make inquiries amd advise the right honorable member for Barton accordingly.
– Having regard to statements which have appeared in .the press recently, will the Minister for Supply inform the House of the present position in relation to the stock-piling of rubber for defence ?
– The Government has taken steps to ‘accumulate large stocks of raw rubber as a strategic reserve, and the present position is very satisfactory. There have been some very ill-informed comments in the newspaper? ann one or two equally ill-informed comments by members of the Opposition about the matter, which may have given the impression that action has not been taken.
– What price was paid?
– The fact is that already between £6,500,000 and £7,000,000 worth of rubber has been bought by the Government at satisfactory prices.
– What were the prices ?
– I should be very foolish indeed to tell the honorable member for East Sydney oranybody else the price at which we buy our rubber. The whole of the Government’s activities in this respect have been designed to protect the tax-payers. Their interests would certainly not be protected if Iblurted out the prices which we are paying for rubber. I repeat that the prices are satisfactory. Theyare high, but, if we had bought our rubber all at once, as some know-alls wanted us to do, prices would have been much higher still. Rubber supplies are plentiful. The only problem is that of price, which, of course, is due to the fact that there has been a great deal of competition among many nations which are buying rubber heavily for the same purpose as we are buying it. In order to assist me in carrying out purchases of rubber, I have appointed an advisory committee which consists of very eminent representatives of the rubber trade. All buying is being done on its advice, and I have been told that the members of the committee are satisfied with the stockpile position.
– In addressing a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior, who is also Postmaster-General, I should like to explain that I wrote a letter to him in his former capacity requesting that certain land at Lockleys that is owned by the Government be made available to the boy scouts organization in that district. I received a letter from him as the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior informing me that the land belonged to the Postmaster-General’s Department and that he would write a letter to himself as Postmaster-General on the subject. Has he written that letter to himself? If so, what answer did he give in that letter in respect of my very deserving case?
– The honorable member has asked me a question that relates to my duties in my dual capacity as Postmaster-General on the one hand and as Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior on the other hand. As Postmaster-General I serve requisitions upon the Department of the Interior in respect of the acquisition of certain sites for post office facilities. When the honorable gentleman wrote to me in relation to the acquisition of the property that he has mentioned I, in my capacity as Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior, told him that I would take the matter up with the Postmaster-General. That means, of course, that I have to take up such a matter necessarily with the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department in order to determine where post offices shall be established, having regard to the convenience of the residents whom such facilities are designed to serve. As Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior, I have not yet received a report from the Postmaster-General, but when I do so I shall inform the honorable member.
– I point out to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that the south-western district of Victoria, most of which is situated in the electorate of Wannon, is experiencing one of the worst seasons in its history, having been without rain for practically the last two years. The dry season has had a most disastrous effect upon dairying production and wool-growing. Will the Minister inform me of the steps that should be taken by representatives of local primary producers’ organizations who wish to apply for drought relief?
– The traditional policy of Australian governments has been to consider claims for drought relief only in circumstances in which relief is rendered necessary as the result of droughts that occur on a nation-wide basis or, at least, on an extraordinarily wide basis. I doubt whether the drought in. the south-western district of Victoria to which the honorable member has referred can be regarded as coming within that category. In view of the fact that Hi at drought is more or less regional in scope, those seeking relief should approach the Victorian Government. If that Government is of opinion that the drought is on such, a scale that the Australian Government might properly consider granting relief to those ‘ affected, it should approach this Government. Applications for relief should- be made by the Victorian Government and not by individual organizations, in the district that is affected.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate whether any progress has been made by the Government to improve the wheat stabilization scheme to conform with the wishes of the industry?.
– The Government has in hand the matter that the honorable member has raised. The parties that comprise the Government announced as a matter of policy at the last general election that if returned to office they would be prepared to introduce legislation to extend th>3 duration of the wheat stabilization, scheme to a period of ten years. In accordance with that declaration I informed the Wheat Growers Federation last year - I think that I did so about nine months ago - that the Government would be prepared to negotiate with that body to ascertain upon what terms an extension of the wheat stabilization plan’ would be acceptable to the “wheat-growers. However, State as well as Commonwealth legislation will be required in order to amend the existing scheme. At the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council last August, I informed the State Ministers of Agriculture that if the States as well as the industry wished that the plan be extended to a period of ten years the Australian Government would be prepared to take steps to extend it. The position at present is that I have had one conference with the wheat-growers’ organ izations and have arranged another conference in Canberra on Saturday next in order to go more fully into the kind of plan that the wheat-growers’ organizations would consider to be in the interests of the industry. I had intended, as soon as I. was in possession of that information and had exchanged views with the representatives of the wheat-growers, to take the matter up with the State Ministers of Agriculture at the next meeting of the . Australian Agricultural Council which is listed to be held in Brisbane on the 19th April. I assure the honorable member and the wheat-growers generally that it is tie policy of the Government to honour the undertaking that its parties gave at the last general election that if returned to office they would extend to a period of ten years the wheat stabilization plan on terms that would be acceptable to the wheat industry and to the advantage of the country generally.
– I point out to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that food manufacturers in the southern States are being forced to buy sugar from retail sources in Queensland and to pay road and rail freights to bring the sugar south in order to ‘keep their factories going. Can the Minister inform the House who is responsible for that gilbertian state of affairs? Is the capacity of the refineries in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide inadequate to cope with the refining demand ? If so, is shift work in operation? Are the southern refineries being starved for raw sugar; or are Government planners interfering with the efficiency of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and Milliquin Sugar Refining Company Limited in the conduct of their business, which in the past has always met consumer demands ?
– The matter that the honorable member has raised does not come within the administration of my department. The relationship between the sugar industry and the Australian Government is maintained through the Department of Trade and Customs. However, I can assure the honorable member-that the.shortage of sugar,- which- all of us are aware exists in the southern States, has certainly not resulted from any intervention on the part of the Australian Government or of any other government. I am equally confident that basic facilities exist for the refining of adequate sugar for all our purposes. From my own knowledge of the matter, which is second-hand, the present shortage of sugar is due to a combination of causes, including the shortage of power which exists to a serious degree in Melbourne and Sydney, a shortage of labour, delays in transport and delays in shipping, including the slow turnround of ships. The shortage is due to a combination of those causes and the Government is seeking to implement general policies that are designed to overcome it.
– I ask the Minister for Supply a question that has been prompted by a letter that I have received from a constituent in “Wycheproof, Victoria, who is engaged in the road transport of general goods, chiefly primary produce, ‘and is unable to secure the tyres necessary for the effective running of his trucks. Is the Minister aware of the shortage of truck tyres ? Is that shortage due to lack of production, faulty distribution, or the export of truck tyres from Australia? Does the Minister agree that, because of the shortage of coal, motor transport has become increasingly necessary and important? Will the Minister do everything in his power to make more truck tyres available ?
– I certainly agree that truck tyres are an extremely important factor in road transport, which itself is vital to the country’s industry. As far as my department is concerned, the position is that tyres are subject to export control. They are on the list of prohibited items or of items that cannot be exported except with .my consent as Minister for Supply, and I can inform the honorable gentleman tha.t because of the need for conserving rubber supplies in Australia and of ensuring that our own economy is supplied with tyres, I do not give consent to the export of tyres. A few tyres may have left the country, but, by and large, the export of tyres is not permitted. I agree that tyres are in short supply at present. There are several causes for that fact,, one of which may be that (tyre-making firms were at one stage reluctant to purchase rubber because of rising prices. I think that that is the case, although I shall not be dogmatic about it. It may not be so. However, I consider that one very important cause of the- shortage is the power position in Australia’s industrial, centres. It has happened that a batch of rubber has been in the process of being manufactured into tyres when a blackout has occurred and the rubber has either been ruined or a delay in production, resulting in a shortage, has been caused. There may also be faulty distribution, although I do not know whether that is so. All of these matters, except the export of tyres, with which I have dealt, are essentially matters for private industry itself and have northing to do with the Government, or, indeed, with the Government’s proposals for stockpiling rubber. However, I shall examine the matter further and see what can be done to meet the difficulty that the honorable member has mentioned.
– I have an answer to a question ‘asked by the honorable member for Dalley last Tuesday. On that occasion he asked the Prime Minister a question concerning the alleged withholding of hides from the market by suppliers, and the Prime Minister promised to refer the matter to the appropriate Minister. Last night on the adjournment the honorable member attacked me-
-Order ! The Minister must confine himself to replying to the question.
– There has apparently been some confusion in the honorable gentleman’s mind, as the Department of Supply does not. exercise control over hides and leather, and certainly has not done so for many years.
– I was referred to the Minister by the Prime Minister.
– The Department of Supply has nothing to do with hides and leather, which is a matter for the Department of Commerce amd Agriculture. The honorable member’s question has been referred to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who will, no doubt,- give him an answer in due course.
– I present the report of the Public Works Corn.mittee on the foi lowing subject: -
Proposed erection of the Irwin Automatic Telephone Exchange at Perth, Western Australia.
Ordered to be printed.
– The honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) asked me a question yesterday about the dollar loan. I now inform him that the 100,000,000 dollar loan has been fully committed. Up to the 2nd March, 1951, the issue of import licences for goods to bc financed under the loan had been authorized to the extent of 76,200,000 dollars. The balance of the loan is specifically earmarked for tractors, agricultural machinery, power generating equipment and earth-moving equipment for the purpose of which the Dollar Loan Advisory Panel has recommended dollars. The rate at which the loan was committed increased very rapidly in the last few weeks, due mainly to the necessity for meeting heavy demands from State public departments for railway and powergenerating equipment. Few of the items being purchased under the loan have yet actually’ arrived in Australia, but this time lag was expected. A progressive increase of the flow of purchases into the country is anticipated during the next few months. I believe that the benefit that Australia will gain- from the highly productive equipment purchased with the loan will be great.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– I more -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Order of the Day No. 3, General Business, being proceeded with forthwith.
My- motion is, I admit, in effect,’ only for the purpose of making the position clear. Order of the Day No. 3 concerns a measure which was passed in another place on a subject which is regarded as important, at least, by the Opposition, by many other people outside, and, indeed, if one may gauge from, the petitions that have been presented to the House on behalf of constituents of members of the Government, by most people. The people wish a referendum to be taken on. the subject of prices control. I shall endeavour to avoid touching upon the general subject of rising prices in the few remarks that I propose to make, except to say that I consider that that subject is in the public mind. as it must be in the minds of members of the Government. It is certainly in the minds of members of the Opposition who consider that one of the greatest economic problems facing the country to-day. is the ever-increasing spiralling of prices. The Opposition in another place expressed its views in the form of the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill which was passed by that chamber and sent to this House for consideration. I contend that this House should be given the opportunity to consider that legislation, the purpose of which is to ask the people, by way of a referendum, to give authority to the Commonwealth to control prices.
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition is now debating the merits of an item on the notice-paper. He may only refer to the question whether the Standing Orders should or should not be suspended. He is strictly limited to the discussion of that matter.
– It is difficult for me to keep within the limits of the Standing
Orders when. I am giving reasons in support of the motion. I think that I shall be in order in saying that it is an act of grave discourtesy on the part of the House of Representatives, and of the Government, to ignore an item on the notice-paper which is not a motion standing in the name of a private member, but is a bill which represents the considered view of the majority of the members in another place. >I recognize the limitations which are imposed by the Standing Orders upon the discussion of this motion, but I hope that I shall not transgress if I state that grave discourtesy, disrespect and, indeed, contempt have been shown to members of another place. I take this opportunity to bring before the House and the public, by means of this motion, the action of the Government in avoiding any discussion of the. Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill 1950, by relegating it to the position of Order of the Day No: 3 under general business.
– That statement comes well from the Leader of the Opposition after what the Senate has done to measures that it has received from the House of Representatives.
– I thought that it was not proper for a Minister to reflect upon another place in the manner in which the Minister for Air (Mr. White) has just done. I expected that a Minister would retain sufficient dignity not to descend to that kind of remark.
– Order ! Any reference to another place is completely out of order under Standing Order 72. Any attempt to discuss the merits of it, or any reflection on this House for having failed to deal with business received from another place is also out of order. It is for the House to decide its own business.
– I shall not attempt to dispute your ruling, Mr. Speaker. You know that I am always eager to obey the Chair. But it is most difficult for me to speak to my motion without infringing the ‘ Standing Orders. I content myself with saying that, in the opinion of the Opposition, Order of the Day No. 3 under general business should be immediately considered by the House. The decision that Government business shall take precedence over private members’ business has pre vented the House from debating a matter of great national importance. The Opposition believes that the people should be asked, by way of a referendum, to give to the Commonwealth power to control prices.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion, and in doing so, I should like to add a few words to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). I submit that the motion for the suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill 1950 from being considered by the House without delay should be agreed to. Acceptance of that motion will not commit the House to an expression of opinion on the merits of the proposal that the people shall be asked, by way of a referendum, to empower the Commonwealth to control prices. During the last few days, honorable members on both sides of the chamber have presented petitions on behalf of numbers of their constituents praying that a referendum on that matter be conducted. There is a widespread demand for it. The importance of the matter is demonstrated not only by the petitions but also by recent expressions of popular opinion obtained throughout the Gallup poll method. The result of that poll shows that a great majority of the people are in favour of vesting in the Commonwealth power to control prices. Unless this bill can be considered by the House, there is no machinery by which the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth in that respect may be enlarged. This matter is of grave importance. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has emphasized during the week the lack of constitutional powers in some respects. It is commonly agreed that the Commonwealth’s lack of constitutional power to control prices is a lack of constitutional power in a vital respect. I submit that, regardless of the views of honorable members about the merits ‘of the proposal, the Government should give the House an opportunity to consider the bill instead of hiding it at the end of general business, in contemptuous disregard of another place.
– The Government has no intention of accepting the motion that has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), because it can only be interpreted as nothing short of political humbug. I shall expose the insincerity of the Opposition in this matter. Honorable members will recall that, yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) submitted a motion that Government business take precedence over other business, and that not one voice was raised in protest against it from the Opposition side of the chamber. The matter has become urgent for very obvious reasons. The control of prices by the Commonwealth can be adequately and appropriately debated at the right time. The Leader of the Opposition declared that the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill 1950 should be considered as a matter of urgency, but I remind him that the Opposition has had many opportunities to express its views on the subject of prices control.
– That is not true.
– Opposition members had ample opportunity, when the budget and various supply bills were before the chamber, to discuss prices control, because it is more closely associated with the budget and its principles than is the subject of this motion. The Government will not allow the Opposition to humbug the people of Australia in any other direction.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) proposed -
That the question be now .put.
– Before putting the motion, I desire to point out that yesterday the House unanimously carried a motion that Government business should take precedence over private members’ business on this day. If the motion now before the House is resolved in the affirmative, the effect will be to reverse what the House agreed to yesterday. I therefore have grave doubts as to whether the motion is in order.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! When the Speaker is on his feet the House will remain silent.
Dr. Evatt interjecting,
– Order ! The right honorable member for Barton is an exjustice of the High Court and should know better than to interject while I am addressing the House.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! A point of order may not be taken while I am on my feet. I have the right to be heard by the House in silence, as the Standing Orders provide. I have very grave doubts as to whether a decision of the House arrived at unanimously on one day, can be reversed by the suspension of Standing Orders on the next day. I shall have to investigate that position, but I think that the easiest way of settling the matter is to put the question to the House. If the House agrees, I shall dispense with reading the motion.
– I do object. The proceedings of the House are now being broadcast, and the people outside of this chamber are entitled to know what we are voting on.
– I request that the motion you are going to put to the House be read before it is voted on.
– I am willing to agree to that request. I was merely trying to save time by dispensing with the formality of reading it. The motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) is-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Order of the Day No. 3, General Business, being proceeded with forthwith.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . .. . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Order of the Day No. 3, General Business, being proceeded with forthwith.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 14th March (vide page 457), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill contains three proposals, each of which requires careful examination. Taking the three proposals together, I submit that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has not produced a single fact which shows that they are ‘necessary. T think it can be established that this is a provocative and pettifogging measure. It is provocative because the proposals embodied in it have been rejected by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, representing the whole body of Australian trade unions. The attitude of the Australian Workers Union, at any rate to some of the proposals, bias been much the same as that of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. As far as the proposed legal changes are concerned, I think they cam be summarized fairly by saying that ‘they are pettifogging proposals, or sheer propaganda.
I shall refer the House to the background of legislation of this kind. The Commonwealth Parliament has no power to legislate in respect of the internal affairs of trade unions. That power belongs to the State Parliaments, and it has been exercised, under trade union legislation, in all the colonies and States. The only power that this Parliament possesses to pass any law dealing in any respect with the internal management of trade unions is “derived from the provision of the Constitution which enables it to pass laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits’ of any one State.
– Is the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) suggesting that this measure, if passed, will be proved to be unconstitutional?
– I ask the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) to listen ho my argument. This measure is directed to the internal affairs of trade .unions. It is a far cry from making laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the .prevention and settlement of interstate industrial disputes when the Parliament attempts to impose upon trade unions registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act additional codes of legal rules that would be binding -upon all such unions, even though the members of those organizations were opposed to the rules. This is not. as the Prime Minister said it was, a question of the internal government of trade unions, but is one of the imposition of rules upon voluntary associations by an outside authority, namely, this Parliament.
– What about Schedule B bo the act ? That has been in existence since the act was put into operation.
– I shall come to that. Under the present law, which has existed since 1904, trade unions can be registered. In the famous Jumbunna case, objection was raised to the validity of that provision, but the High Court upheld the provision. The grounds on which it did so were that in preventing or settling disputes it would be more convenient to have a. system of registration of trade unions than to deal individually with hundreds of thousands of trade unionists or workers employed in industry, so that orders of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court could bind trade unions and their members. It was considered, that that would achieve co n venient representation.
As the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) mentioned by way of interjection, in order that organizations can be registered and become entitled to the benefits of the Conciliation and Arbi.tration Act, provision has always existed for trade unions :and employers’ organizations to be registered, under certain conditions, when they have complied with general principles which are described in a general way in Schedule B to the act. Those general principles prescribe, not. what the rules shall be but that the rules must provide Tor the election of committees of management and for the control of those committees by the members. I take those provisions as examples. If these conditions were not complied with, all that would happen would be that the organization would not be registered.
Clause 3 of this bill approaches the problem in an entirely different way which is quite contrary to previous practice. There is an attempt to add to the rules of existing registered organizations further conditions such as that an election must be by secret ballot and that there must be absent voting. As far as I know, provisions such as those contained in sub-clauses (2.) and (3.) of clause 3 have not been included in any previous legislation of this kind. It is proposed that a registered association shall be directed, by a statute of this Parliament, to comply with these conditions within three months. If it does not do so the result will not be de-registration or removal from jurisdiction of the court, but a direction by the registrar to alter the rules of the association. This is a completely novel proposal in relation to trade unions and if it were applied to the shareholders and the directors of companies there would be a cry from one end of the country to the other that the Parliament was attempting to interfere with the internal affairs of the employers’ organizations.
– The bill applies to them.
– The Minister always interjects too quickly and without knowledge. He should wait and hear what I have to say instead of barking out something which, in itself, is not untrue, but is quite misleading. It is perfectly true that employers’ organizations can be registered, but those organizations are not the employers of labour. The employers’ organizations are, for the most part, organizations of employing companies. It is not the actual employers of hundreds of thousands of people who are registered but the association of employers which represents the companies in court proceedings. I am speaking of companies
– The right honorable gentleman is getting right outside the field of debate.
– I am not getting outside the field of debate. I am pointing out that there is a great difference between the trade unions which are directly representative of their members and the groups of employers which are registered as organizations. If one thing is clear from the Prime Minister’s speech it is that it is not ‘ intended that the provisions f or secret ballots shall apply to associations of employers. Is there to be a secret ballot for employers? It would not work. There is no intention on the part of the Government that it shall do so. The bill is directed solely at trade unions.
– It applies to all organizations that are registered with the court.
– The Minister, as usual, snaps out a phrase which is only partly correct. How can provisions such as these be applied to a number of companies which are associated together in resisting the claims” of workers ? It is not intended to apply to such companies. This bill is directed against the activities of the trade unions and the inclusion of employers’ organizations is only a matter of form and, to a large extent, a sham. Anybody who is familiar with Commonwealth Arbitration Court proceedings will at once recognize that the application of this bill to registered organizations of employers would be impossible in practice.
– No doubt the right honorable gentleman is an authority on shams !
– Yes, I have learned something from the Minister. I know a sham when I see one. Although, in form, this measure is intended to apply to all organizations, in practice its provisions could not be applied in connexion with ballots to registered organizations of employers. Honorable members win listened carefully to the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday must be fully aware that what I have said is correct.
In substance, the intention of the Government is to impose these additional restrictions upon the trade unions. That fact is confirmed by an analysis of the bill. Clause 3 states that the rules of associations shall provide for the conduct of secret ballots and further that, if any organization does not alter its rules so as to comply with the provision, the Registrar shall alter them. That disposes of any suggestion of the absence of compulsion. Rules altered by the Registrar in that way would not be the rules agreed to by the members of the organization concerned. If Government supporters agree that trade unions should have the right to frame their own rules, why do they not concede that each organization should have the right to determine whether or not it will accept new rules to provide for secret ballots? No freedom to make , a decision voluntarily is proposed by the Government. Therefore, clause 3 is meddlesome and, for the reasons that I have submitted, possibly unconstitutional. It appears to me that the Industrial Registrar lacks power to alter the rules of a trade union and declare, “ This is done under the law with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes “. If unions registered with the court do not alter their rules so as to provide for elections by secret ballot, the result will be, not deregistration or removal from the jurisdiction of the court, but a compulsory alteration of the rules by the authority of this Parliament. Such a course of action has never been contemplated previously. This should be a matter for the trade unions to decide. It is one thing to say, “ If you do not have rule3 in a certain form, you cannot be registered with the court”. It is an altogether different matter to say, “You must alter the rules; if you refuse to do so, we shall alter the rules for you “. There is no precedent for any such action. It will alter the constitutions of existing organizations without giving their members the option of saying whether or not they approve of such an alteration. If the Government were sincere in this matter, it would permit the members of every registered organization to determine, by secret ballot, whether they wanted such changes to be made. The proposal in its present form can be described only as an attempt to interfere with the internal control of trade unions.
The Labour party favours secret ballots in principle and in practice. When the Prime Minister was asked, by interjection, how many trade unions did not provide in their rules for the holding of secret ballots, he showed that he was uninformed about the facts. The representatives of the Government should declare what basis they have for asserting that the general body of trade unions do not elect their officers by secret ballot.
– The Prime Minister did not say that. He said that he knew that many trade unions elected their officers by secret ballot.
– I do not know of any unions that do not employ the secret ballot for elections under their present rules. There may be instances in which branches of an organization, meeting at district conventions, elect certain officers without secret ballots, but those are general matters and I do not see any evidence to justify the bill. Its nature suggests that there is opposition within both the trade union movement and the Labour party to the holding of secret ballots. That is not true because union elections are conducted by secret ballot at present. There may be a few instances in which that method is not employed because it is not easily workable, but I am not aware of them.
What examination of the facts did the Government make before it drafted this legislation ? As far as I have been able to determine, it made no inquiries. No report has been made of cases in which secret ballots were not provided for by the rules of registered organizations. The constitutional power of the Parliament will be overstrained by legislation of this character. There is bound to be resentment by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the representative body of trade unions, against Government interference with the internal affairs of unions. I repeat that the legislation, in fact though not in form, is discriminatory and onesided. The Government does not intend it to apply to employers as actual persons employing labour. In a formal way, it will bind organizations of employers, but in fact it will have no effect upon them because the actual employers of 98 per cent, of the workers of Australia are companies. Companies in certain industries may group together and register themselves as organizations in order to put their case to the arbitration authorities when disputes occur. The Metal Trades Employers Association is an example of such grouping. It consists of a number of corporations which are engaged in the metal trades industry, and it is the registered organization of the employers in the industry. But obviously the real employers are, not the organization, but the companies which are members of the organization. If it be right that members of a trade union should be compelled to conduct secret ballots from time to time, it is equally right that shareholders of companies should be placed under the same compulsion. If an organization is to be compelled to express an opinion on an industrial matter, the decision of the employing company concerned in the same matter should be made, not merely by one or two men in the management, but by the whole body which constitutes the company.
– Companies elect their officers by secret ballot.
– That depends upon the rules of each company. In any case, I am not speaking of that. Officers of companies are not elected by secret ballot simply because the company is regarded as an employer under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That procedure is followed by companies for other reasons. Many trade unions are registered under State laws, which make provision for their management and control. This bill proposes to bring the management and control of unions under Commonwealth jurisdiction, not because this Parliament has any power over trade unions or associations of that kind, but merely as a measure incidental to the settlement of interstate disputes. The provision which 1 am discussing at the moment could not be described properly as being incidental to the settlement of such disputes. It is merely incidental to an incident of their settlement.
Clause 4 provides that the court shall have power to order that the views of an organization or a branch of an organization which is a party to an industrial dispute shall be ascertained. It proposes to enlarge that power of the court which applies at present only when proceedings in relation to a dispute are taking place before the court. The late Judge O’Mara directed once or twice that a ballot of members of an organization be held in order to determine whether or not they favoured certain stoppages. But the power under which those orders were made has been limited in its application, up to the present, to proceedings before the court. The Government now proposes that the power shall be exercised without that limitation. No facts have been placed before us in support of the proposal. Suppose that a ballot ordered by the court under that power related to a proposed strike and that the result of the ballot was in favour of the strike. The decision would virtually place the imprimatur of law on the strike. That is why the court has regarded the existing limited provision without interest and has made very little use of it. What is the object of proposing such an amendment? I repeat that it indicates the desire of the Government to interfere with the management and control of the trade unions. The court has never asked, as far as I am aware, that the power be extended. Suppose that, if this provision becomes law, the court should order a ballot and that the members of the organization concerned should vote against a stoppage. That decision would not make a stoppage unlawful. Similarly, if the vote were in favour of a stoppage, it would not accord immunity to the members of the organization. In fact, the ballot would be of no effect. It might take months to organize a ballot on an Australia-wide basis and, in practice, it might lead to serious interference with the affairs of an organization and would involve it in great expense. The bill contains a provision for the filing of quarterly particulars of membership. Some of my colleagues attach considerable importance to that proposal because it would be virtually impossible to satisfy such a requirement.
Under the existing law, a person who has been a member of an organization during a period of twelve months, may take action to set aside a union ballot and, if he acts reasonably, his costs may be paid by the Commonwealth even if his claim is unsuccessful. That is the law as it was enacted at the instance of the Chifley Government. The provisions of clause 6, which will amend that aspect of the existing legislation, propose to go much further than that. The clause will alter the law so that a prescribed proportion of the membership of an organization may apply to the Industrial Registrar to order a secret ballot before any charge of irregularity is made, whether that be the wish of the organization or not. Under .that provision, a small minority - we do not know how small, because that matter will be dealt with by regulation - may set in motion machinery by which elections for office can be taken out of the hands of the organization concerned and placed in the hands of the Industrial Registrar or the Electoral Office. The expense of conducting such an election will have to be borne by the organization. The Government seems to have ignored the fact that the law in relation to irregularities, which was passed during the regime of the Chifley Government, has worked smoothly and effectively. Yesterday, the Prime Minister gave to the House particulars that show that that measure is working satisfactorily; and I think that some of the judges have expressed approval of it. This measure goes further. Instead of an organization, through its rules, requesting that such a ballot be conducted by an outside authority, a group of members who may hold certain views, extreme or otherwise, may be able to have a ballot conducted in that way at the expense of the organization concerned and contrary to the view of the majority of its members. The substance of the amendment now proposed is contained in sub-clause (2.) of clause 6, which reads -
For the purposes of the last preceding sub-section, a request inside by the prescribed number or proportion of the members of an organization or branch of an organization shall be deemed to be made by the organization or branch.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister, without pinning himself down to a specific figure, mentioned 100 members. In an organization such as the Australian Workers Union, which has many thousand members, the exercise of this power by so few members could involve the organization in considerable expense and also cause utter confusion without any sufficient purpose- being served.
I submit, therefore, that the bill is quite unnecessary. It is not a real attempt to amend the law in order to meet any facts that have been placed before us in connexion with these precise provisions. It is a gratuitous and rather stupid attempt to interfere with the present system of trade union elections which are now subject to the Chifley Government legislation which prevents irregularities. That legislation has proved satisfactory not only to the trade union movement but also to the people. It provides a guarantee that if irregularities occur they can be cured. Under that act even one member can report an irregularity to the court, and even if he fails, he will be reimbursed the cost he thus incurs so long as the court is of the opinion that he acted reasonably. If this measure were applied to employers of labour as individuals, it would be bitterly resented by them. The Government should recognize that trade unions are voluntary associations and that the Chifley Labour Government provided far-reaching remedies in respect of irregular ballots, giving to the court wide jurisdiction to correct errors or abuses. If such irregularities are established to the satisfaction of the court, it may order a new ballot. Secret ballots are accepted as the basic practice of Australian trade unionism. That being so, why should this new and drastic step be taken by legislative alteration of the rules of an organization without the consent of its members ?
– Has not the right honorable gentleman heard about the Communists ?
– The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has referred to the Communists, but the proposed amendment, instead of affecting the Communists in the way that the Government suggests it will, may have precisely the opposite effect. It may ensure that the control in certain unions may be communistic if ballots are to be ordered at the request of Communists. Therefore, this measure will not work in one way only. It will cause widespread anxiety and indignation among all sections of the trade unions which are strong supporters of the system and practice of secret ballots.
As I notice that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has just entered the chamber, I repeat that the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which is very concerned about this matter, will be opposed to legislation of this nature. At any rate, that organization strongly opposed the Chifley Government’s act. It pointed out to that Government the practical difficulties, such as the great expense in which it would involve organizations, that would arise. The view of the Chifley Government was that the act of 1949 went a long way towards removing causes of discontent because it placed trade union ballots under the supervision of the court, which could make any appropriate order.
The power of the court to order a secret ballot is already embodied in the act. But the court has seldom employed that power because it is merely a registration of an opinion that has no legal effect whatsoever. I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service will agree with that statement. If the vote in a particular ballot favours a stoppage, that result does not make the stoppage lawful; and if the vote is against a stoppage it does not make the stoppage unlawful. Furthermore, if the vote is in favour of a stoppage there is no procedure for setting aside that decision except the ordering of another ballot. Immunity from penalties in respect of strikes does not result even if the ballot is in favour of a stoppage. The result of the ballot is merely an expression of opinion and nothing else. I have no doubt that that is why the court has acted so seldom under that power. Under this measure, the ballot is to be extended; but, again, no facts have been placed before the House. There is a danger of abuse in the proposed power to allow a minority of members of a trade union, or of a branch of a trade union, to approach the Industrial Registrar and ask him, without providing proof of any irregularity, to hand over the conduct of a ballot to a Commonwealth official at the expense of the trade union or the branch itself. By such means a minority, regardless of its political or industrial views, could cause instability and confusion in the organization to the detriment of the great majority of its members. This measure is a further example of the Government’s apparent determination to bring forward legislation which is against the will of the trade union movement. The Government should have consulted with the Australian Council of Trades Unions in this matter. The Minister for Labour and National Service has frequently consulted with officials of that body. Why should he not follow that course? In respect of other matters he has received co-operation from Mr. Monk and other officials of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, even during recent months. That body is seriously concerned in this matter because it exercises a general jurisdiction over trade unions as a whole. I repeat that this measure will encourage internal confusion within the trade unions. It has little or nothing to do with the Commonwealth’s legitimate constitutional powers in respect of interstate industrial disputes. On the contrary, it is remotely removed from that aspect. It cannot be regarded as coming within the main purposes of conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes, but is really a law for the regulation of trade unions. It is a self-contradictory measure because whilst, on the one hand, it pretends to encourage secret ballots and alters the rules of the organizations in the way that I have indicated, on the other hand it makes no provision for allowing the rank and file of the trade unions to determine whether they will alter their rules. If the Government is so anxious to protect those members of trade unions who favour such a change, one would think that the change might ‘be postponed until properly conducted secret ballots had been held in order to enable the trade unions to determine whether or not they approve of these changes of rules and trade union practice. The bill is not satisfactory; it partakes of the nature of propaganda and none of the three substantial amendments that are to be effected by it, when they are closely analysed, is justified.
.- The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) did not make clear whether the Opposition really intends to vote against the measure or to let it pass. Notwithstanding what the right- honorable gentleman has said, this bill contains several very important provisions. He suggested that they were pettifogging proposals, that they might be found to be unconstitutional and that they will impose control over the internal management of trade unions. 1 suppose that he would regard himself as an authority on the constitutionality of this measure, and, perhaps, he is trying to sell the idea that there may be another brief for him in it.
– I object to that remark, Mr. Speaker, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
-The right honorable member for Barton has objected to the remark and I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. Clause 2 of the bill provides that elections in respect of the offices of president, vicepresident, secretary, assistant secretary or other executive officer of an organization, or branch of an organization, shall be by secret ballot. Whilst it may be that at present elections of those officials are by secret ballots, honorable members from Queensland -know that even in so-called secret ballots, secrecy can be lacking to a considerable degree. I shall indicate just what the position is in that respect in that State. The State electoral law provides that every ballot-paper shall be marked with a number, and on polling day the presiding officer ‘records the number of the ballot-paper on the roll against the name of the person who exercises a vote. The presiding officer then seals the number ami it cannot be unsealed except upon the authority of an elections tribunal or of the Parliament itself. However, to the degree to which any authority, whether it be the Parliament or an elections tribunal, can order the unsealing of that number so that the manner in which any person voted can be disclosed, secrecy does not actually exist.
It is most desirable that secrecy should be absolutely guaranteed in respect of trade union ballots. Unless that be done an opportunity will be presented to the Communists, as has occurred in the past, to rig ballot-papers. We know that a good deal of that sort of thing is done particularly in northern Queensland among foreigners who receive their ballot-paper attached to their membership ticket and in their ignorance return the ballot-paper to their union organizer without having indicated how they wish to vote. One has no knowledge whatever of the number of ballot-papers within that category that fina their way into ballotboxes at elections in the unions concerned. With respect to the argument that this measure interferes with the internal management of trade unions, I suggest that honorable members should peruse Schedule B of the principal act. The right honorable member for Barton suggested that the matters set out in that schedule are not matters of internal control, but I believe that when honorable members study them they will agree with me that he is a little off the beam. That schedule sets out the conditions to be complied with by associations that apply for registration as organizations and by organizations and provides, first, for the election of a committee of management of the organization and of its branches. The schedule also deals with the powers for bringing industrial disputes before the court; the times when and the terms on which persons shall become or cease to be members; the mode in which property i* to be controlled and funds invested; tha yearly or other more frequent audit of the accounts ; the conditions under which funds may be disbursed for ordinary and extraordinary purposes; the repeal, alteration of, and addition to the rules; and how an application for registration shall be made to the court, and the form to be lodged at -the time of such application. Many of these items are just as much related to the internal management and control of a trade union as are the matters which are dealt with in the proposed new section 70a. Paragraph (&) of sub-section (1.) of the proposed new section provides for control of absent voting. We in Queensland have had some experience recently of the lack of control in relation to absent voting in State general elections. Honorable members perhaps know that in the ‘last Queensland State election a number of appeals against the conduct of ballots was made to election tribunals. There was evidence of forgery of absentee voting ballot-papers in three electorates. As a result of one of those appeals the election in one seat was voided by the court. Such incidents show that, notwithstanding this so-called ballot secrecy and the control that is exercised by returning officers, some individuals are able to commit forgeries as a result of which men may be wrongfully elected to Parliament. People in Queensland believe that such practices have been going on for a long time, and Labour party supporters in that State are desirous that all loopholes that permit such practices shall be removed, not only in relation to political elections, but also in relation to trade union elections.
T turn mow to the principle of compulsory voting in trade union elections. I am sorry that voting in trade union elections is not to be made mandatory by this measure. I appreciate the reasons for that omission that the Prime Minister gave in his second-reading speech. We believe in compulsory voting in relation to State and Federal general elections. Members of the Opposition cannot deny that they also support that principle, because while, they were in power they made no attempt to alter it. But apparently the Labour party is not prepared to accept the same principle in relation to the election of trade union officials. I cannot see why it objects to such a principle, unless it is because its members are afraid that the powers-that-be in the trade unions ait the present time, which probably help the members of the Labour party politically, are frightened that members of the rank and file of the unions who do not now trouble to vote at union elections, might vote out of office the whole of the present executives of some unions if compulsory voting were established, and might ‘also finally bring about some alteration of the platform and policy nf the Labour party, especially with regard to the socialization plank. In fact, I believe that members of the Labour party fear that df there were compulsory voting at union elections changes such as I have mentioned might be brought about. A provision for compulsory voting cannot be included in the legislation for the reasons that the Prime Minister has stated, but perhaps in the future we shall have to give consideration to the inclusion of such a provision.
I turn now to paragraph (d) of subsection (1.) of the proposed new section 70a, which seeks to make alterations in relation to the appointment, conduct and duties of returning officers, and the conduct of the ballot. I suggest that these provisions are very important. To many people they might not appear to be so important as are the provisions regarding the secret ballot and absent voting, or even the desirability of having a provision relating to compulsory voting, but I believe that they will give an opportunity for ballot-box control and the overcoming of plural and substitute voting. We in Queensland know that that sort of thing goes on. I remember that several years ago in Queensland each candidate in an election was supplied with a list of persons who voted more than once. One candidate was supplied with such a list-
– I rise to order. Is this matter relevant to the bill?
– Order ! It is relevant as far as I can see. The honorable gentleman is entitled to give illustrations in regard to the taking of ballots.
– One man voted nine times, and when he was apprehended he said, “ That’s nothing ! My father voted ten times.” It is desirable that there should be complete protection for the rank and file in trade union ballots so that plural voting and substitute voting can be eliminated. The Leader of the Opposition criticized sub-section (2.) and sub-section (3.) of the proposed new section 70a. I believe that if subsection (3.) is not included, then subsection (1.) will be useless. Sub-section (2.) provides that unions are to be given three months in which to alter their rules as prescribed by sub-section (1.), and subsection (3.) provides that if they do not so alter them, compulsory changes can be made in the rules. Sub-section (1.) will be ineffective without sub-section (3.). “What is the use of our passing laws that can become ineffective as soon as they are passed? It is imperative that we should include sub-sections (2.) and (3.) and also include a time limit on the unions in regard to the inclusion of the new rules.
I turn now to the proposed new section 72 which states, in effect, that the court may order a ballot of union members to be taken at any stage of the proceedings in relation to a dispute - that is, while proceedings are before the court or a conciliation commissioner. I suggest that this is a particularly important provision, as it can assist in avoiding industrial disturbances and perhaps chaos. If honorable members opposite will not accept that provision then I am unable to follow their line of reasoning. I believe that the court has the right to know the opinions of the rank and file of a trade union on any matter that is likely to cause a dispute. We know that there have been many occasions on which trade union leaders have called their members together in relation to a dispute, and only a small percentage of the members has attended. That small percentage has usually been composed of militants who have voted in favour of strike action that will bind all the members of the union. We believe that every member of a union should have his say before a strike is called.
I turn now to the proposed new section 96m. The right honorable member for
Barton did not offer much criticism of it, but he raised the question of who could appeal for control by the court of a ballot. Yesterday the Prime Minister indicated that he was prepared to consider any reasonable suggestion that the Opposition might put forward. The Opposition has put forward no suggestions. It has merely criticized provisions that I believe to be essential. The right honorable member for Barton also wished to know who would pay the costs of supervision of secret ballots. The proposed new section specifically provides that the salary of a Commonwealth officer who may be employed in relation to a union ballot will be paid by the Commonwealth. I believe it to be reasonable that the organization which is to benefit from the officer’s employment in that connexion should pay the actual costs.
When this bill becomes law it will give protection to the rank and file of the unions and, notwithstanding what the Opposition may say about it, trade unionists will welcome it. We believe that trade union members want secret ballots, and whether or not the Opposition agrees to this bill we shall receive the thanks of the rank and file of the trade unionists for having introduced it.
Sitting suspended from 12J& to 2.15 p.m.
– I listened with considerable interest to the speech of the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) in which he attempted to examine the ramifications ‘ of this bill. The impression that I formed yesterday when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) introduced this legislation was that it was neither more nor less than political humbug, and that impression was confirmed by the remarks of the honorable member for Petrie. The Government, if it were genuinely desirous of making the position easier for trade unionists to deal with the Communist menace, would have obtained advice from persons who had a knowledge of industrial arbitration instead of from persons who came from States such as Queensland and Western Australia in which comparatively few people work under awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. This bill can cause a serious problem for trade unionists in Queens land and for the Government of that State. Some honorable members may not be aware that Queensland has always set itself against conciliation and arbitration in the Commonwealth sphere. If any action is likely to make the average trade unionist in other States doubt the sincerity of the Government in respect of this legislation, it is the expression of opinions on an industrial matter by a person who has no knowledge of the subject, and who represents an electorate in a State which does not accept the principle of Commonwealth arbitration.
I propose to examine the clauses of the bill seriatim, because the measure cannot be dealt with on broad principles. The Prime Minister has admitted that the principles which underlie the bill are incidental to other principles. The honorable member for Petrie attempted to deal with the subject of the executive of a trade union, and to show that the proposed amendment to section 4 of the principal act had some relation to State politics in Queensland. It should be obvious to the House that, if a State situation is related to the need to take certain action in the trade union move - ment, this bill will not achieve the purposes for which the Prime Minister claims it has been introduced. The proposed amendment to section 4 of thi: principal act, which deals with the election of members of the executive of an industrial organization, creates a danger to the trade union movement. Those unions which are not under the domination of Communists are controlled, in the main, by councils and not by executives. Government supporters, if they examine the list of unions which are controlled by Communists, will find that, almost without exception, each of those organizations is governed, not by a council, but by an executive. Yet the bill provides, in effect, that the only person’s who arc to be elected by a secret ballot are the members of the executive.
Government supporters may not be aware that such a system is already in operation in almost every union. Even the leaders of the miners’ federation and of the Waterside Workers Federation are elected in that way. The Amalgamated Engineers Union complies with that provision. The members of the executives of’ those organizations are elected by the same form of machinery as is provided in this bill; Australia is a big country. A trade unionist in Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide or Sydney receives a ballot-paper for the election of the officers of the union of which he is a member. The only persons whom he knows are, in the main, those whose names appear on the ballot-paper. The result is that Communists are consistently elected to the executives of certain, unions by machinery which is identical with that proposed in this bill. Such a provision is an invitation to unions which are not controlled by executives to follow the lead given by this legislation, and alter their system of control to that by an executive authority. The bill does not provide for the election of a council by secret ballot, yet in the union of which I am a member, and in most other unions that are not subject to Communist domination, control by the rank and file operates. Members of the councils of many unions are elected by the rank and file in secret ballots. Those councils, in turn, control the executives. The Government should not think that the mere control of the executive of a trade union will injure communism in any way: This bill could assist the Communist movement.
The references by the honorable member for Petrie to proposed new section 70a, which prescribes the rules for secret ballots, were related to something that has happened in Queensland.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the general purposes of the bill, or does he object to only certain provisions in it?
– I shall indicate the only part of the bill that I am prepared to support as I proceed with my speech. I am opposed to the principles of the bill that will support the Communists, and enable them to do things that they cannot do now.
Proposed new section 70a (l.)(a) provides that the election of the executive officers of a trade union shall be by secret ballot. I inform Government supporters, because they are evidently ignorant of the fact, that trade unions, almost without exception, insist under their own rules oh’ the election of the members of their executives by secret ballot. Of course, I do not expect the representative of a constituency in Queensland to be aware of that fact, because there are, in the main, comparatively few unions in that State that operate under awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The State industrial- tribunal, the State Government and the whole of Queensland as a State have set themselves against interference by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in their own affairs. The industrial laws of Queensland contain provisions which go much further than the Commonwealth law goes in giving a union control of its own affairs, and even provide for compulsory unionism. I emphasize that, almost without exception, every union in Australia insists upon its officers being elected by secret ballot.
– Government supporters would not know that.
– Many people do not know it.
– The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) has stated the position correctly. That is why I say that this bill is political humbug. The average citizen talks about the need for the election of the officers of trade unions by secret ballot, but he really does not know what he is talking about. Many trade unionists realize that members of the executive of the organization of which they are members are elected by secret ballot only when they receive their ballot-papers from time to time. The workers generally do not appreciate that the great principle of the election of officers of industrial organizations by secret ballot is in operation in trade unions registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and with State industrial tribunals throughout the length and breadth of the country.
A few minutes ago, the Minister for Labour and National Service asked me, by way of interjection, whether I was opposed to the bill as a whole. I inform him that I am definitely opposed to proposed section 70a (1.) (&), which provides for absent voting in the election of the executive officers of a trade union. I noticed with considerable interest that the honorable member for Petrie dodged that point, and I concluded that he knows a good deal about what can happen under absent voting and postal voting. An analogy lias been drawn between postal voting at a general election and at an election of officers to the executive of a trade union. The person who makes such a comparison indicates his complete lack of knowledge of the meaning of trade unionism. It is immaterial, in a general election, where a person happens to be on polling day, because provision is made for him to cast an absent vote. A resident of Sydney, for instance, may be in Bourke on the day of the election, but he will be able to cast an absent vote. The position is different in respect of a secret ballot held for the election of officers of a trade union, particularly if the unionists are members of a transport union, or are engaged in seasonal occupations. Possibly 25 per cent, of the members of such a union would be eligible to cast a postal vote if proposed section 70a (1.) (6) were in operation. Such a system can have only one result. Every honorable gentleman will hand it to the Communist for his ability to be on the job in order to organize for himself. I believe that the Communists will capitalize on the system of postal voting in elections for the officers of trade unions, and the Government will not be able to prevent them from doing so. At present, a trade union has what is called a credentials list of its members who are eligible to vote. The ballot-papers are sent out by the returning officer, who has in his possession the credentials list, on which appears the signature of each member of the organization. My union has a complete index of the signatures of its members to whom ballot-papers are sent. Should any doubt arise about the genuineness of a signature of a member who has voted, it can be compared with the specimen signature on the credentials list. A Communist candidate for election will know that certain members who are entitled to vote at an election are absent, and will take advantage of that fact.
– Does the honorable member suggest that that is the practice in every union?
– If the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) understood the practice that trade unions follow in the conduct of secret ballots, he would not support this attempt by the Government to mishandle their affairs. Proposed new section 70a (1.) (c) prescribes that the rules of an organization relative to the election of an executive officer may provide for compulsory voting. The honorable member for Petrie displayed his hand completely when he discussed that provision. He claimed that it did not go far enough, and, by making that statement, he really put himself off-side with the Prime Minister, who admitted yesterday that, after certain discussions, he- considered that compulsory voting was not really possible within the framework of the trade union movement. The reason is not difficult to discover. Many workers, such as cane-cutters, move from place to place and from industry to industry in the course of a year. The provision for compulsory voting would take out of the hands of good trade union leaders the right to control the affairs of their organizations, as they do at the present time.
I have also, been astonished at the ignorance that has been displayed about proposed section 70a (1.) (d) (iii), which relates to the conduct of a ballot. It provides, in effect, that the act, and not the rules of a union, shall prescribe the procedure. An obligation is imposed upon unions to set out the manner in which persons may nominate for election to positions in those organizations, although their rules already deal with that matter.
– Then why is the honorable member complaining about the bill?
– I can explain my objections to the bill. Proposed section 70a (1.) (d) (iv) relates to the appointment, conduct and duties of scrutineers to represent the candidates at the ballot. This is one of the features of the legislation about which the trade union movement is most doubtful. Proposed new section 70a provides for the appointment and not the election of the returning officer and the scrutineers. Most trade unions insist that the scrutineers be elected and not appointed. That insistence means that the rank and file have a say in who are to be scrutineers. But this bill provides for the appointment of scrutineers to suit the wishes of whatever junta may be in control of the union at the time. The appointment of returning officers is not in line with the provisions for secret ballots that are mentioned in other proposed new sections of the act. Again, matters concerning the conduct of the ballots and the manner in which persons may nominate are covered by the rules of unions which are filed with the registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. 1 do not want to traverse sub-sections (2.) and (3.) of proposed new section 70a because they were dealt with completely by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt).
I pass on to proposed new section 72. The honorable member for Petrie again displayed his complete ignorance of. the implications of the bill when he analysed that provision. I do not think that he understands that this measure could be used to take control out of the hands of the industrial authorities of a State, for instance, Queensland. My union is an Australia-wide organization, and is registered under the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Queensland division of the union operates under a State award. The only contact that the Queensland workers under this award have with workers outside Queensland is in connexion with the work being done by New South Wales men on the railway line between the New South Wales border and Brisbane. Recently there was a stoppage of work by members of my union in Queensland. The New South Wales men were not concerned. This bill envisages that because New South Wales might be implicated in such a dispute, under this particular new section the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will be empowered to cut across the industrial arbitration methods and principles applied in Queensland and take the dispute out of the hands of both the union and the State authorities. It gives authority to the court to enter any dispute that may have interstate implications. I ask the honorable member for Petrie to tell the workers of Queensland what he said in this chamber and see what their reaction is. The registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is a man of very high standing, and the right honorable member for Barton knows that there was a time when the provisions involved in clause 5 of this bill, which amends section 91 of the principal act, were part of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In those days trade unions had to provide annually for the court a detailed list of their members. That system waa so cumbersome that it finally led the registrar to take the view that other records of the functioning of the unions should be sent to the court, but not the list of members. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that every union shall keep a list of its members, and the registrar knew that if he wanted to see that list he had power under, the act to obtain it.
At a time when honorable members hear Minister after Minister complaining about the lack of man-power and worn an -power in this country, a bill is brought down which requires the 150 or so unions registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to have lists of their members typed and tabulated and sent to the court. That is a waste of man-power or woman-power and is an unnecessary duplication of the records that already exist. It is also suggested that every change of address of every member must be tabulated, recorded and filed every three months. If that has to be done the time has arrived when the permanent House of Parliament should be built in Canberra and this building should be handed over to the registrar of the court because the staff that he would need under such circumstances would certainly fill it.
– Such records are kept at present by trade unions.
– Yes, but they are not typed ; they are kept in a recorded form. Honorable members on the Government side do not understand the difference between a tabulated list and a properly conducted register. Union rules provide that a register of members should be kept. They provide also that it should be kept up to date and should be open for inspection by members of the union at certain hours. Moreover, it must be made available to the registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court if required. I suggest that hundreds of girls would be needed in union offices throughout Australia to draw up and type these suggested lists. The whole proposal is ridiculous hypocrisy on the part of the Government. There is only one reason why the Government would require such lists, and that is because it lacks faith in the capacity of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to get from the unions the registers of their members when they are required. Nobody, whether inside this chamber or outside of it, can say that the Industrial Registrar has ever been denied any freedom of movement by any union in Australia at any time. Proposed new section 96m finally convinced me, if I needed to be convinced, that the Government is not sincere in its alleged desire to do the right thing by the trade unions, which are trying to do a proper job under their constitutions. The vast majority of the unions, including my own, conduct their affairs by way of secret ballot, and in that way actually keep the Communists out.
– Did the honorable member’s union have a secret ballot when it handed over to the Trades and Labour Council the strike in Queensland?
– I would not expect a Queenslander to understand anything of that nature.
– Apparently the honorable member is the only one who does understand anything.
– I am beginning to think that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr: Turnbull) is right. By this measure the Government proposes in respect of any union which is obeying the industrial laws of the country, to give any group of Communist members the right to go to the Industrial Registrar and have taken out of the. union’s hands the conduct of its own affairs. My union has a membership approaching 15,000, and all I can say is that if any honorable member can point to any other set of workers inside or outside of this country who have answered so promptly every call made on them throughout the years in peace and in war, then he has a right to criticize my union. Unless he can do that he should be quiet about matters that he does not understand. The Prime Minister made a feature of the fact that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act passed by a Labour government provided that where a ballot was suspected as being crook, any one member of the union had means available by which he could upset the ballot.
But by legislative enactment the Government intends to take out of the hands of every decent trade union in Australia the right to run its own ballots in its own way in order to keep the Communists out. This legislation, if passed, will give to the Communist section of the trade union movement the power to cause so much confusion within the unions that we shall be faced with insuperable difficulties in the election of officers. The stronger the right wing group in a union the greater the opportunity this proposal will give the Communist minority to make it difficult for the union to function. Unlike honorable members of this House, most union councils - and I remind honorable members that they are not called “ executives “ - have to come up for reelection every year. Every year there is an opportunity for the members, including the Communist section, by secret ballot, to control the affairs of the union. But if the registrar is allowed to be approached by a handful of Communist members time and time again, then the union will spend all its money and time in making abortive efforts to run its own affairs.
– Talk sense.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) cannot treat unionists in that fashion. He cannot treat the great trade unions in the way that this bill proposes to treat them, by converting the whole movement into a shambles. The trade union movement does not need this bill to help it to attain rank and file control, and it does not need the assistance of the Government in the arrangement of secret ballots for the conduct of its own affairs. The trade union movement considers that if the Government is sincere -in its desire to help the unions to remove the Communist groups within them, and I agree that they exist, then it should hold conversations with the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the Trades and Labour Council of Sydney and such other organizations as have shown the people of Australia” how to scrape off the barnacles of communism.
– The Communists are at the top of the ship, not on the bottom.
– The honorable member who interjected is like the boy who was on the top of the tree. He was very pleased with himself until he fell down, and then he wished that he had been at the bottom. If the Government consults the Australian Council of Trades Unions it will find that body ready to co-operate in anything that will not damage the Australian trade union movement.
Mi-. EGGINS (Lyne) [2.45].- The speeches that have been made upon this measure by members of the Opposition have made me more convinced than ever that its introduction was justified. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) endeavoured to create the impression that honorable members on this side of the chamber know little or nothing about the Australian trade union movement. We know that many thousands of Australians have repeatedly been forced to strike and to remain on strike for some time. We know that suffering has had to be endured by the people of this country as a- result of strikes. We believe, therefore, that the majority of Australian trade unionists approve of this bill. The honorable member for Blaxland tried to induce the Australian people to believe that only the Australian Labour party is concerned about trade unionists. Trade unions and employers’ organizations are part and parcel of the structure of this country and they have a responsibility to the country, just as we have a responsibility to them. The National Parliament, having established the present arbitration system, has a responsibility to ensure that organizations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act shall have an opportunity to work in. the best interests of the country and to pull their weight.
Clause 2 of the bill seeks to insert, after paragraph (a) of the definition of “ Office “ in section . 4 of the principal act, the following paragraph: - (aa) the office of president, vice-president, secretary, assistant secretary ov other executive officer, by whatever name called,, of the organization ov branch.
That indicates clearly that officials of trade unions whom it is sought to bring within the ambit of the bill are those who are charged with the responsibility of guiding the activities of trade unions or other registered organizations, and the country has a real interest in the type of men who are appointed to those responsible offices.
Clause 3 seeks to insert in the principal act a new section to provide that, among other things, elections to an office specified in the proposed new paragraph that I have just read shall be by secret ballot. It has been said that in many trade unions provision already exists for that to be done. That may be so, but the objective of this measure is to make improvements in that connexion. The proposed new section also specifies that the rules of an organization in relation to an election for one of the offices to which I have referred shall provide for absent voting and may provide for compulsory voting. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said yesterday that experience gained as the result of the operation of this measure would show whether there was any necessity to alter the word “ may “ to “ shall “, but it is to be hoped that the trade unions and other organizations covered by this measure will be able to operate these provisions to the satisfaction of the country and themselves. The proposed new section also provides that the rules of the association which apply to elections shall make provision for or in relation to, first, the manner in which persons may nominate for election ; secondly, the appointment, conduct and duties of returning officers; thirdly, the conduct of the ballot; fourthly, the appointment, conduct and duties and scrutineers to represent the candidates at the ballot; and fifthly, the declaration of the result of the ballot. Those are reasonable requirements. . They will, if they become law, make it possible for the most competent and useful men to become leaders of these organizations and guide them wisely, in the best interests of the country and of the members of the organizations.
I point out to the House that the honorable member for Blaxland repeatedly referred to “ my union “, as though the union belonged to him, that he was the controlling influence in it, and that as long as either he or other members in a dominant position in it were satisfied, everything would be all right. The trade unions of this country have a responsibility to the nation. I am satisfied that the great majority of trade unionists are loyal and honest people who want to do a fair day’s work, in the interests both of themselves and of their country. I believe that they will do so, if they ase given an opportunity. But there is evidence that in some of our major trade unions there is something that is not quite right. One of the objects of this measure is to give trade unionists an opportunity to cleanse their organizations and provide for better administration.
One would have expected that honorable gentlemen opposite, in approaching this problem, would have endeavoured to point out to the House how, in their opinion, we can best improve production in this country. That is the aim of this measure. We need increased production, and we have to look to certain channels of activity to provide our basic requirements. It has been said repeatedly in this chamber, but it is worthy of repetition, that, although the number of men employed in the coal industry - at the present time is slightly greater than was the number employed in 1939, the production of coal now is less than it was in 1939. The production of iron ore has also decreased. During the last ten years our population has increased and consequently the demand for goods and raw materials has grown, but the production of some commodities has decreased. Therefore, there is obviously something wrong in the trade union organization of this country. This bill, if passed, will give trade unionists an opportunity to play their part in removing some of our difficulties, under leadership that will be useful to the nation as a whole.
My principal reason for intervening in the debate is to discuss this measure from the viewpoint of primary production. This nation cannot achieve full production unless in every field the greatest effort is made by members of trade unions. As I have said already, I am satisfied that the great majority of Australian trade unionists are eager to play their part and do their best, but there is indisputable evidence that the frustration caused by the activities of Communists has retarded production in many spheres of activity and that, as a result, the whole nation is suffering. Despite the fact that between 1939 and 1949 there was a marked drift of people from primary industries to the cities, and consequently a decrease of the number of persons employed in those industries, the level of primary production has been maintained, and, in many instances, increased. Primary producers, by their individual efforts and those of their collective organizations, have given a good account of themselves under great difficulties, but other industries, especially heavy industries, have not been able to maintain their production in the same way. That fact is causing great concern throughout the country. There is an increasing demand for all the products necessary for the welfare of this nation, and for the production of which we look to the trade union movement. Our roads are in a deplorable condition, but, because of shortages of materials, we are unable to do all the repair work upon them that needs to be done. The development of our transport system generally is being retarded owing to failure to produce enough essential materials. There is a tremendous demand by farmers throughout the country for agricultural implements, fencing materials and other necessities on/ farms.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is getting wide of the bill.
– I am endeavouring to show the importance of this measure to the general community. The bill deals with trade unions and similar organizations, but that does not mean that we should leave the discussion of it to those who are associated with those organizations and who are trying to convince the people that the Government has no right to touch the interests of their members or interfere with the operations of the organizations.
The speech that was delivered by the honorable member for Blaxland shows clearly that neither he nor other members of his party who occupy certain positions want the Government to come into this field. They know that this measure, if passed, would give to the rank and file of the trade unions an opportunity to rectify the present situation and make a greater contribution ibo the welfare of Australia.
Many principles incorporated in our arbitration system are involved in the provisions of this bill, which I am sure will appeal to the Australian people. I am astonished that members of the Opposition have not been prepared to endeavour to assist the Government in relation to the measure. The observations of the honorable member for Blaxland were most conflicting. He said that many of the proposals in the bill were already in operation. If that be so, why does he not support those proposals? The honorable gentleman said that he objected to certain other proposals in the bill, but he did not make a useful contribution to the debate by offering constructive suggestions. One would have imagined that as he has had a long experience of the trade union movement, he would have made some constructive suggestions on how we can overcome the difficulties that face the nation. Unless we have a mighty production effort in this country, the dangers that beset us will increase, yet all that we have had from the Opposition, even from those honorable gentlemen who could assist the House as a result of their experience; has been destructive criticism.
I emphasize the importance of this measure to the national structure of Australia. It is of importance to people other than trade unionists, and I am sure that the Australian people generally will welcome it. A responsibility rests not only upon the Government but also upon the Opposition to ensure that this measure, which will be of benefit generally to production, shall operate successfully.
– I say at the outset of my remarks that, as one who has been a trade union official for many years and a member of a trade union for over twenty years, I have no objection to legislation that would prevent corruption or malpractice in trade union ballots and at the same time not take from unions the right of selfdetermination. No one can justify corruption or malpractice of any kind in a trade union ballot, or, for that matter, in any other ballot. The Labour party wants to make it perfectly clear that it is not a champion of corrupt union ballots. What we say is that this legislation will not achieve the result that the Government hopes it will achieve.
– Will it assist?
– It will not even assist. It will have the opposite effect. The Government has as much hope of preventing malpractice and corruption in union ballots by legislation of this description as the State governments have of preventing starting-price bookmaking by legislation. It is absolutely impossible to do it. The corruption that takes place in union ballots is of a varied nature. It ranges from corruption on the job itself amongst the rank and file to corruption on the part of returning officers. By the same token, no matter how honest and genuine a returning officer may be, while corruption exists in the rank and file, he cannot possibly ensure a ballot that is free from malpractice. Conversely, no matter how honest the men on the job may be if the returning officer is corrupt a corrupt ballot will result.
The Communist-controlled unions are not the only ones that have been found guilty of malpractice in the conduct of ballots. It is important to remember that the number of unions that have been guilty of carrying on or permitting malpractice in ballots is very small. I know of one union which owes its present control more to the method of conducting its ballot than to any other fact. That union is strongly anti-Communist.
– The Australian Workers Union?
– No. It is not the Australian Workers Union. One of the most democratic systems of union election practised in Australia is that which is practised by the Waterside Workers Federation. I think that the Waterside Workers Federation has a 94 per cent, effective poll, which is absolutely secret and which even the most vigorous opponents of the Communist officials in that organization have never once criticized.
– All over Australia. If the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) has taken umbrage at that statement, I can only assume that he is thinking of other days. Mr. Healy wins every election that he contests in the Waterside Workers Federation by an overwhelming majority. The waterside workers at Port Adelaide elect a completely anti-Communist executive, but at the last Waterside Workers Federation election, Mr. Healy secured a number of votes from Port Adelaide which was far greater than the number of votes secured by the Australian Labour party candidate. That does not mean that the waterside workers at Port Adelaide are Communist sympathizers.
– It means that the Australian Labour party groupers are ineffective.
– It does not. Or at least, if they are ineffective, it is because of a fact to which I intend to refer. The reason why Healy is successful is that he has been able to secure results with which the waterside workers are completely satisfied.
– If they are satisfied with conditions why are they always on strike ?
– They are not on strike at the moment; but the existing conditions strengthen Healy’s position. The moment that the Kirby award was made Healy quickly took effective action. It is because the Communist official is always willing to capitalize on any industrial grievance that he gains the support of his members, who, unfortunately, forget that a Communist union official is only too happy to capitalize on any dispute whether it be justified or not. The important point is that Communist officials are always prepared to give vigorous leadership whether a dispute is genuine or not. The reason why Communists have gained’ control of unions is that the non-Communist officials who preceded them did not do their job. In cases where the Communists have gained control by means of corrupt ballots, the ballots were of such a nature as would not be affected by this legislation. I could name unions of which Communists have gained control simply because non-Communist officials had been too much inclined to take the line of least resistance and frown on strike action when it became the only means of getting justice. They were too much inclined to suffer from “ commitis “ and any one who advocated militant action was regarded by them as a Communist and rejected as being undesirable. Once the trade union movement permits governmental interference–
– It is not interference.
– What would you think if the Government tried to put into the rules of the Liberal party-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman had better address me.
– Then what would you say, Mr. Speaker, if the Government forced the parliamentary Liberal and Country parties to accept, a rule which compelled them, to elect Cabinet by a secret ballot? Would you say that that constituted interference with the internal affairs of those parties? There is just as much justification for doing that as there is for interfering in the internal affairs of trade unions. This bill represents nothing more than the thin edge of the wedge which will enable this Government to gain complete control of the internal affairs of the trade union movement.
– That is not true.
– Hie honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) knows that if the anti-Labour Government could get such complete control over the internal affairs of the trades unions as to prohibit them from contributing to the funds of the Australian Labour party it might hope by that means to starve the Labour party of finance. This bill represents the thin edge of the wedge. If the trade unions were to accept the measure, it would lead to the very form of control which is exercised in Russia and which is exercised over most of the unions that are affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions. The majority of Australian, British and American trade unions have not become affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions because they are not prepared to become associated with a body, the majority of members of which come from countries where unions are not free. If this legislation and other legislation which I understand is proposed by the Government is accepted the Australian trade union movement could no longer remain a member of the free trade union movement of the world.
Proposed new section 70a reads - (1.) In addition to the conditions referred to in sub-section (2.) of the last preceding suction, the rules of an . association applying for regulation relating to an election for an office in the association or in a branch of the association (being an office specified in paragraph (o) or (ou.) of the definition of “Office” in section four of this Act) -
What does the Government mean by “ secret ballot “ ? If this proposal were put into effect the Australian Workers Union, which is the strongest antiCommunist union in Australia, would be compelled to scrap the whole of its present rules governing the election of officers. If the Government thinks that the Australian Workers Union is going to accept, without protest, an anti-Labour government’s decision to compel it te throw overboard the whole of its rules governing the conduct of its own ballots the Government will have a very rude awakening. The rules of the Australian Workers Union provide that each member shall be provided with a ballot-paper. To that ballot-paper the member is required to attach a coupon from his membership ticket. Eight voting coupons are attached to the membership ticket received by each member of the Australian Workers Union in case there happen to be eight elections in the course of the year. . On each of those eight coupons is a number which indicates the branch to which the member belongs and the same number appears on his own membership ticket.
– Then it is not a secret ballot.
– I agree. It is not a secret ballot. Therefore, this bill will compel the Australian Workers Union to throw overboard the whole of the rules that it has made over the last 60 years. Those rules have been perfected to a point at which the union believes that no further alteration is necessary in order to enable a correct and democratic decision of “its members to be registered.
That union will be told to throw its system overboard and some outside body will be given the right to make a set of rules for it.
– It was not the method of balloting that kept the Communists out of office in the Australian Workers Union. It was a rule of the constitution.
– That is not true. The rule to which the honorable member has referred was not in the constitution until after the stage at which the Communists were threatening its existence.
– It was.
– When was the rule to which the honorable member has referred introduced?
– In 1928.
– Order! There have been too many interjections. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) is the greatest offender at the moment. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) needs no assistance, I am sure.
– The rules of the Australian Workers Union would not comply with the requirements of this bill because they would be deemed to contravene the provision that ballots shall be secret. I shall explain now another aspect of the election procedure of the Australian Workers Union. First ballotpapers are sent out to the various jobs. The rules provide that all ballot-papers for a particular job may be collected by the union representative and two other persons selected by the men on the job. Later, the ballot-papers are collected and counted by the same men, put into an envelope and forwarded to the chief returning officer of the union. The union representative on any job could find out, if he wanted to do so, how every man on that job voted.
– It is not a secret ballot.
– I am glad that the honorable member admits that. Although I have no authority to state what its policy will be, I am confident that the Australian Workers Union will be wholeheartedly opposed to the Government’s attempt to interfere with its rules in the manner provided for in this bill.
– The union has not objected to secret ballots in the past. It did not object to section 96m, which was inserted in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act by the legislation of 1949.
– That is an entirely different matter. The act of 1949 contained all the provisions that were necessary to counter malpractice and corruption in union elections. Corruption cannot be prevented entirely by any set of rules unless they are based on the totalitarian system of Russia or Nazi Germany.
– The Government is gradually heading in that direction.
– That appears to be so.
The legislation of 1949 was based on a recognition of the fact that all trade unions are not corrupt. It provided that any individual union member who believed that his organization had conducted a corrupt ballot could apply to the Industrial Registrar to have tie election declared invalid. Any such man had to satisfy the registrar that the ballot had been corrupt, which should not be hard to do. Evidence would be very easy to obtain. Upon receiving proof of malpractice, the registrar could then order another ballot. One member of this House has already availed himself of that provision. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) successfully challenged an election that had been conducted by the Clerks Union in Victoria with the result that a new ballot held under the terms of the existing law gave an overwhelming majority for the opponents of the Communists in the union. Th.e provisions of the 1949 legislation have not failed in any instance to bring about the result which the Government has declared that it wishes to achieve. This bill provides for absent voting. I do not know why that should be necessary, because Schedule B to the Conciliation’ and Arbitration Act already contains such a provision. Are we to believe that, the Prime Minister is. so com pletely incapable of framing effective legislation that he neglected to examine that schedule? There is no need for a song and dance about absent voting when the act already contains the required provision. The bill provides for the insertion in the principal act of a new section 70a, which stipulates that the rules of an association “ may provide for compulsory voting”. That is absolutely meaningless. A trade union may provide in its rules that voting shall be compulsory or it may not do so. The same proposed new section declares that the rules of a union shall make provision for or in relation to the manner in which persons may nominate for election. Good heavens, if anybody can tell me of any trade union in the free world which does not have .a rule to that effect, I shall be very interested to hear of it !
– I assume that the honorable member approves of this provision.
– I neither approve nor disapprove of it. I merely say that it is meaningless. Such provisions are already included in union rules. Unions will be required, under this measure, to have rules which provide for the appointment of returning officers. How could an organization conduct a ballot without a returning officer ? There must be provision also for “ the conduct of the ballot “. How on earth can a union conduct a ballot unless it has such a provision? Provision must also be made under this bill for “ the appointment, conduct and duties of scrutineers “. I do not know of any trade union in Australia that has not already had such a provision in its rules.
The bill is designed to give to minority groups in a union the right to compel their executive officers to conduct a ballot, through the medium of the Electoral Office, if the Industrial Registrar approves of their demand. A union executive, which may be anti-Communist in character, may be compelled under this legislation, if it becomes law, to pay the full cost of any election that is conducted at the behest of a bunch of Communists who believe that, by engaging in industrial corruption of a kind which the measure is not even capable of preventing, they will be able to gain control of the organization. The whole conception of the bill is absolutely fantastic. How does the Government propose to deal with the real culprits in the industrial field to-day? Most of our industrial troubles are caused by the leaders of Communistcontrolled unions which have courted deregistration and have been de-registered obligingly by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. This bill will not impose upon organizations such as the Communistcontrolled Building Workers Industrial Union any of the restrictions that the Government intends to impose upon such bodies as the Australian Workers Union. The Australian Workers Union is the greatest bulwark against communism that we have in Australia. It has been more effective in combating the Communists than have been all of the Government’s supporters put together. How can the Government attempt to justify the imposition upon that body of restrictions, which will not affect Communist-controlled organizations ? As soon as the bill becomes law, the Communist unions can easily escape its provisions by becoming de-registered. In any case, if any of them decide to remain within the framework of the arbitration system they may still evade the law by appointing their officers for life.
The Government has made no provision that regular elections shall be compulsory. The bill merely provides that certain courses of procedure must be followed if elections are conducted. The unions which are under Communist control can simply alter their rules so as to dispense with elections and appoint their officers for life. The result would be that the legislation would apply only to unions which continued to give full democratic rights to their members. An example of the sort of manoeuvre that I have in mind was provided in Tasmania yesterday. The Communist president of the Australian Railways Union has succeeded, I understand, in displacing by certain means the former secretary of the Tasmanian branch of the union and in putting in his place a man who, if he is not a member of the Communist party, is at any rate believed to be a Communist. There is nothing in this bill that could take away from the Australian Railways Union the right to make other appointments in the same way.
– The honorable member has said that the legislation will force Communist-controlled unions to become deregistered. What will those unions do then?
– They will have nothing to lose as the result of deregistration. The Building Workers Industrial Union is gaining better wages for its members now than it was able to gain for them when it was within the framework of the arbitration! system. Everybody .should realize that deregistration is not a penalty.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Normally, when one is waiting to speak on a bill in this House, one expects to hear constructive suggestions from the preceding speakers and perhaps to gain inspiration from their remarks. However, the usual fire and forcefulness of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) were lacking to-day. He spoke with a great deal of moderation. Indeed, his speech was characterized by a pronounced measure of pre-election caution. I consider that I am in a rather unique position in discussing this measure because I speak as an advocate of trade unionists but not of trade union officials. The bill is another concrete example of the Government’s eagerness to help the average trade unionist to regain his rightful position within his union organization. That position should be one of active authority instead of one of neutrality or near serfdom as it has been on many occasions, recently. The main object of this measure is to institute secret ballots in order to eliminate unrest and intimidation and to give to the individual trade unionist the responsibility and opportunity, free from coercion, to record his vote at secret ballots for the election of officials of his organization. I cannot understand why that proposal should give cause for argument. The principle of the secret ballot is unanimously accepted in respect of the election for all our parliamentary and semi-governmental institutions. As trade unions are institutions of outstanding value and owe a great responsibility to the country, the public must be enabled to accept the views expressed on their behalf as being in truth those of the majority of their members. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) has clearly demonstrated that considerable doubt exists in the public mind about the genuineness of ballots that are conducted for the election of officers in many unions. I have no doubt that honorable members opposite, whose remarks have completely lacked fire, would readily agree to the passage of the measure were it not for the fact that such action on their part would be unique in the light of their opposition to all the legislation that the Government has introduced since it assumed office. Whether the Labour party will reject this measure in another place still remains to be seen.
Clause 2 seeks to amend section 4 of the act to give a clearer definition of the term “ Office “ in an organization. No honorable member has objected to it. It simply clarifies what the Government has in mind in the use of that term. Clause 3 seeks to add a new section to the act which will deal with the rules of trade unions with respect to elections of their officers and provide that such elections shall be by secret ballot. Regardless of what the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) have said to the contrary, the provision will not interfere with the internal management of trade unions. That provision also has relation to absentee voting in elections for offices in trade unions. There is nothing unique or unpalatable about that. Provision is also made that the rules of a trade union may provide for compulsory voting. The honorable member for Hindmarsh asked why that provision was not made mandatory. The reason is that this Government is not dictatorial. It seeks to foresee troubles that may arise in trade unions and it has enough sanity and respect for the average trade unionist to give to him the opportunity to take the proper course himself. However, it is also provided that if an election is not carried out in a proper manner it may be reviewed by the court, and, in such instances, the court may order a fresh ballot at which voting shall be compulsory. Proposed new section 70a (1.) (d) provides that the rules of a trade union relating to an election for an office -
the manner in which persons may nominate for election;
Those principles are applied in a fair and honest mariner in respect of the democratic institutions to which I have referred. If the trade union movement regards itself as a major democratic institution, as it should do, I cannot see why honorable members opposite should raise any objection to those ordinary provisions which are designed to provide for secret ballots in trade unions. The term “ organization “, which occurs in many of the provisions of the bill, refers not only to organizations of employees but also to organizations of employers. Proposed new section 72 which is outlined in clause 4, provides that the court may order a union to conduct a secret ballot at any time that the court considers that course to be desirable. [Quorum formed.] The essence of that provision is to give to the court greater power to prevent major strikes or disputes from occurring in industry, whereas, at present, the court has power to act only after industrial unrest actually occurs. The next clause provides for amendments to section 91 of the act to ensure that a trade union shall keep a register of its members. That is highly desirable in order to eliminate plural voting at elections for offices in a union. The honorable member for Blaxland discussed that provision at length. He said that although all trade unions already possessed all the data to which these amendments refer, it would be too much to expect any of the 150 trade unions in this country to keep those records for the purposes set out in the bill. If one were inclined to treat the honorable member’s argument in a trivial way, one might ask him if he has yet heard of carbon paper. Trade unions will have no difficulty in. duplicating the records that they wail be required to keep under this measure.
Whilst I do not claim to be an authority on the -multitudinous’ and intricate ramifications of the trade union movement, I do claim, to be a champion of trade unionists as I know them in their homes and am aware of their responsibilities to their families. Because of that fact, and because I know that the average trade unionist is not a disruptionisit, I welcome this bill because its object is to eliminate disruption and strikes in industry by giving to the individual trade unionist a sense of responsibility .that he must retain if this country is .to progress. I have spoken in this debate in an effort to induce honorable members opposite to realize their responsibility in this matter. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, in his opening remarks, -said that he would support any proposal .that would tend to eliminate corruption within the trade unions themselves. However, he added that he did not know how that objective could be achieved. That is am attitude of defeatism, and (members of the National Parliament should be the last persons to act as defeatists. I repeat that the measure will eliminate corruption in respect of elections of officers in trade unions. I have no doubt that it will eventually help to restore peace in industry and bring about greater production, which is ‘the solution of -many of our present economic troubles. No one will suggest that low production will reduce prices. As the measure will enable members of the trade unions to exercise control over their leaders and give to them, without qualification, a choice of the men whom they want to lead them, I wholeheartedly support it.
-The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pittard) said that one of the objects of this most important bill was to give effect to the promise that the present Government parties made at the last general election that, if elected, they would restore peace in industry. The Government has changed its policy in that respect almost from day to day. A few months ‘ago it said that peace would be restored in industry as soon as the Communists were banned. The Communist Party Dissolu tion Act, having been declared by the High Court to be invalid, the Government parties have now introduced this humbugging measure, and have claimed that by the simple process of making provision for the election of officers in trade unions by secret ballot, peace will be restored in industry. It is obvious to any one who has studied the attitude of this inept and inactive Government that it desires merely to -make excuses for its complete -inability to give effect not only to its broad financial policy but also to its industrial programme, which, it claimed, was designed to clean up the trade union movement.
The -Government has been in office for fifteen weary months, but it has introduced this measure only now, on the eve of another general election, for the purpose of window-dressing. Whatever criticism supporters of the Government may offer concerning the attitude of the Labour party to this measure, members of that party know sufficient about the bill to be able at least to utilise all the time available to them to speak to it, whereas several Government supporters, who have participated in the debate, have lacked sufficient knowledge of the Government’s proposals to enable them to do even so much as that. If this ‘legislation is really as important as the Government would have us believe that it is, why has it been introduced only now, after the Government has been in office for fifteen months ?
As the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has said, nobody on this side of the House, or in the country for that . matter, who believes in democracy, fairness and honesty, could support people who seek by means of faked ballots to elect to the executive of trade unions individuals who have no right to be elected to such positions. In other words, as a party we stand for clean trade union ballots, properly supervised in accordance with the law. We want to give an opportunity to all trade union members to participate in the affairs of their unions, if necessary, through the holding of secret ballots. We have a growing realization of the importance of the responsibilities that lie not only on the trade union leaders of Australia but also on all members of trade unions, because of the great part that they play in the development of Australia, particularly on the industrial front. Therefore we on this side of the House are in favour of anything that will ensure that we have clean trade union ballots, conducted in accordance with the processes of democracy. It was for that reason that during the last Parliament the Chifley Government brought down legislation to give effect to these principles. That legislation has, in certain instances, enabled trade unionists in all States to clear out officials who were wrongly and illegally elected as a result of malpractices. That legislation was endorsed by the Australian Council of Trades Unions and had real practical effect in cleaning up the affairs of certain unions.
The Government has brought down this bill as its solution to industrial problems, but not as an elaboration of the Chifley Government’s legislation. Instead, members of the Government have pinned their whole future political destiny and the outcome of their peace-in-industry campaign, on secret ballots for trade union elections and on strike issues. Does the secret ballot offer a solution to all our industrial problems? Do members of the Government claim that immediately trade union officials are elected by secret ballot peace will be restored to industry and there will be no more industrial unrest? Do they claim that immediately on the introduction of secret ballots in relation to strikes, no matter how they are supervised, provided they are conducted fairly, industrial grievances will vanish and there will be no more strikes? “What position will the Government or any government, Labour or Liberal, face if a secret ballot of union members endorses the holding of a strike, as has happened in the past? Strikes have occurred in certain parts of this Commonwealth, which have been declared illegal by the authorities but which have ultimately been endorsed in a secret ballot of members of the trade unions concerned. I do not know what the Government’s solution would be to a problem such as that.
If secret ballots are the real solution of industrial troubles, why did the Go vernment delay in taking one in connexion with the recent crises on the coal-fields when one-day-a-week stoppages took place for a number of weeks? Why did it not take similar action in relation to the waterside workers’ ban on overtime? Under legislation available to it the Government could have ordered the miners’ federation and the Waterside Workers Federation to take a secret ballot on these matters. I am not under any illusions. Necessary as this legislation may be to preserve peace in industry, 1 cannot, in my most optimistic moments, see that it can be a permanent solution to the difficulties that will face any government or any group of industrialists. Any man who has only his labour to sell cannot, no matter what coercion may be placed upon him by governments or others, be induced to surrender the right to strike when he believes that he has an industrial grievance which has not been or cannot be, rectified by constitutional means at the disposal of his union. Many industrial disturbances occur every day which have no connexion with the activities of the Communist party. They will occur even when a law which provides for secret ballots is in operation. Therefore to say that such incidents will be avoided by the holding of secret ballots shows complete incompetence and a lack of knowledge of industrial matters on the part of the Government.
I turn now to the subject of secret ballots for the election of trade union officials. How do honorable members opposite explain the state of affairs that we have in major unions of this country, the officers of which have been elected by secret ballots ? I refer, for instance, to the miners’ federation, the Waterside Workers Federation and various other Communist-controlled unions. Sometimes the election of officers of those unions is challenged, but their leadership has not always been upset by such challenges. Men who are, in a sense, doing everything possible to hold up production in this country, are repeatedly elected by secret ballots to executive positions in trade unions. The whole matter boils down to the proposition that I put a few moments ago, which is that no matter what a man’s political colour may be he will return to office a trade union official who is doing the job that he wants done on his behalf. Men who are working to the detriment of the nation, and in many cases are working to the detriment of their trade unions, are elected over and over again to trade union offices as union representatives, organizers, and secretaries, and to other important union positions. I have not heard the Prime Minister or any member of the Government explain how that state of affairs will be overcome by this bill. The holding of secret ballots under the strictest official supervision may merely produce the same result as was produced when the ballot was conducted properly by officials of the unions.
The bill provides that the court may order a compulsory ballot. The fallacy of this measure is that it provides, in effect, foi a voluntary secret ballot. Of what use will a voluntary ballot be in relation to any proposed strike? How many honorable members opposite belong to insurance societies, or are shareholders of companies, and receive lists of candidates for election to boards of directors from whom they are asked to select a new board ? Not five out of ten of them would bother to vote in such cases, because no penalty is provided for failure to vote. That is the kind of problem the Government will face in relation to voluntary secret ballots of trade union members. Men will not bother to vote if there is no compulsion, and many thousands of ballot-papers will never be returned. If a trade union ballot can be compulsory, and if the Government is sincere on this issue, then why has it not made the ballots provided for in the measure compulsory as well as secret? I do not say that I support the view that such ballots should be compulsory, but I do say that those who support the principle of .compulsory ballots must also support the principle of compulsory trade unionism throughout this Commonwealth; because if it is good enough for a man to be compelled to vote in a secret ballot in a trade union under threat of penalty, then it is good enough that every citizen engaged in industry should be obliged to play his part in national development by being a member of an appropriate trade union, and also be in a position to vote in union ballots and to pay the penalties involved for non-com- pliance with any law in relation to such ballots. Any attempt to introduce compulsory secret ballots in trade union matters, which would be much better than voluntary secret ballots in effect, must go hand in hand with a policy of compulsory unionism.
I make no bones about stating my view that any man who shares the benefits that have been won by trade unionism in increased wages and improved working conditions, should be compelled to be a member of an appropriate trade union. Whilst I do not quibble over the principle of secret ballots, which we have in many avenues of our national life, it is probably not applicable in many avenues in which we are endeavouring to apply it. People say that if the ballots in political elections are secret then ballots in connexion with trade union matters should also be secret. In this democracy it is not a question of wanting to vote, but of having to vote. I mention that in order to show that the Government is only halfhearted in its proposition, and that the main purpose of the bill is to enable the Government to claim, before an election is possible, that it has endeavoured to carry out at least one of the many promises that its supporters made at the last general election.
Proposed new section 70a provides that the rules of an association may provide for compulsory voting. It also deals with the manner in which persons may nominate for election. Proposed subsection (2.) reads -
An association which is registered sub an organization at the commencement of this section shall, within three months after the commencement of this section, or within such longer time as the Registrar allows, alter its rules so that the rules include rules in accordance with the last preceding sub-section.
Proposed sub-section (3.) reads -
If an organization does not alter its rules as required by the last preceding sub-section, the Registrar may direct that the rules be altered in such manner as he determines and thereupon the rules shall be deemed to be altered accordingly.
That means that any kind of rule which any man without knowledge of trade union affairs and without any industrial experience, who happens to become a Minister of the Crown, decides upon, will have to be adopted by trade unions.
The adoption of such rules will be mandatory. There will be no appeal, although the rules may be quite contrary to the best interests and the welfare of the trade unionists. That provision is naturally objectionable to us and, I feel sure, to the great majority of trade unionists. Proposed new section 72 reads -
The Court may order that any matter upon which the Court thinks fit to ascertain the view of the members of an organization or of a branch of an organization which is a paTty to an industrial dispute (whether or not proceedings in’ relation to’ the dispute are before the Court or a Conciliation Commission under this Act, or whether or not some other tribunal is empowered to exercise functions or powers of conciliation or arbitration in relation to the dispute) be submitted to a vote of the members of the organization or of the branch taken by secret ballot (with or without provision for absent voting) in accordance with directions given by the Court.
That provision is inserted, among other reasons, to prevent strikes, but the secret ballot of the union members is not to be taken until after a strike has been declared. In effect, a strike which may last a week may be the subject of a ballot, the taking of which might last a month. Cut there is no provision in the proposed section to prevent disruption in industry so it will be completely useless and will not be in any way effective to prevent illegal strikes. Furthermore, another fault in the proposed new section is that its provisions are not limited to strikes, but may be applied to any matters that the court decides should be put before the members of a union. Any subject may be brought up for decision by the members of a union by way of a secret ballot. That fact brings home completely to honorable members on this side of the House that the Government is endeavouring to usurp the privileges and rights of unionists, and to introduce methods that have probably been decided upon at a Liberal party conference in Sydney or somewhere else.
This bill, as was pointed out earlier by the honorable member for Blaxland in his excellent and informative speech, which was backed by an intimate knowledge of the trade union movement, provides that industrial . organizations shall supply lists of their members to the Industrial Registrar at threemonthly intervals. The honorable member stated that it would be almost impossible to fulfil such a requirement. At present, unions are required to submit an annual return of ‘their memberships :to the Industrial Registrar, and that should be sufficient for the purposes of this bill. If this proposal is adopted, the staffs of trade unions will be constantly engaged in revising the lists of their members, and noting changes of address. The honorable member for Blaxland pointed out that if the Communist party wanted an opportunity to ring in a number of members, this provision left the gate wide open for them to do so, and they would take full advantage of it. It will be impossible for trade unions to supply accurate information about their membership to the Industrial Registrar every quarter.
I now direct attention to proposed section 96m (2.), which reads as follows : -
For the purposes of the last preceding subsection, a request made by the prescribed number or proportion of the members of an organization or branch of an organization shall he deemed to be made by the organization or branch.
It might happen that 100 Communists in a union could constitute the prescribed number or proportion of the members required to demand a ballot. A minority group in a union, which might be militant or right-wing, might be sufficiently strong to muster the prescribed number of members to demand a new ballot. The number, or proportion of the membership, is not prescribed in the bill. It is not 10 per cent., or 20 per cent, of the total membership of the industrial organization. I suppose that the prescribed number will be determined by the Department of Labour and National Service. Such a provision, is wide open to abuse, and wall defeat any purpose which the Government undoubtedly has in. mind to prevent a certain amount of manipulation in trade union ballots.
Proposed section 96m (4.) reads as follows.- -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the rules of the organization or branch, the person conducting the election may take such action and give such directions as he considers necessary with a view to ensuring that no irregularities occur in or in connexion with the election.
I .presume, as was stated by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, that such a procedure is the ordinary routine which is adopted by the person conducting the ballot, .and is included in the bill to safeguard the interests of members in the conduct of a ballot. But the situation could easily arise in which a minority group in a union could take the business of the organization out of the hands of those who sincerely desired *o do the best that they could for it, simply because the prescribed .number, or proportion of members has not been defined.
Opposition members have shown that this bill will not solve the difficulties associated with the conduct of ballots for the election of trade union officers, and the .problem of industrial unrest. The bill is a half-baked affair. I do not consider that the Government is sincere in its intentions on this matter. This legislation falls a long way short of what was promised by the Prime Minister in his policy-speech during the last general election campaign in relation to compulsory secret ballots and othe safeguards which, he thought, would bring about harmony in industry, and increase production. The Government, .fifteen months after taking office, has hurriedly introduced this bill, possibly because an election is approaching, in an endeavour to convey the false impression to the people that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party were sincere when they promised to introduce legislation to solve industrial troubles. This legislation is a halfhearted and weak attempt to cover up the Government’s complete lack of industrial policy. Various provisions of the bill expose the utter lack of experience of members of the Government in industrial affairs.
It is significant that all the attempts which have been made by the Government to bring about peace in industry have been directed against one section of the community. I refer, of course, to workers and trade unionists who are the real producers of wealth, and have only their labour to sell. The producers of hides are on strike. They will not send hides to the market because they consider that the price is too low. Cement is being exported because the price obtainable for it abroad is higher than the local price.
The Government has failed ,to take effective action to ensure that hides and cement are available to the Australian people, but it desires to take strong action against those who work in industry, whether the unions concerned are controlled by the Communists or by the right wing of the Labour movement. Every attempt on the pa;rt of this Government to bring about peace in industry has been directed at those persons who toil for a living. We ask the Government to show some impartiality in its industrial policy and drive for increased production, and to take some measures even if they are only half measures, against that section of the community which controls the wealth of the country and against those persons in industry who hold up production because of high rates of taxation and other reasons. Let the Government show its sincerity by taking some action against those interests.
The Labour party contends that this bill is just another move in a series of moves that have been made by the Government against the trade unions in an endeavour to coerce the workers to sell their labour at a price lower than that to which they are entitled. Whilst certain of the principles enunciated in this bill will have the support of all reasonable Australians, the measure, as a whole, is so ineffective, and reveals such a bad approach to the problem, that it deserves condemnation. I shall vote against it.
– I have listened with great interest to the speeches of a few members of the Opposition, and particularly to that of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). My own view, which, I think, will be shared by the people of Australia, is that this legislation is long overdue. I agree that it should have been introduced a long time ago, but it is now before us, and it should receive the wholehearted support of Opposition members, if they are honest in their approach to it. The right honorable member for Barton has a great legal brain, but I have not heard a man who possesses such qualifications as he does deal with a bill so inadequately as he dealt with this measure. Obviously, his heart was not in his task. I am not sure whether or not he understood what he was talking about.
– The happenings in another place probably threw him off the beam.
– The principal objection of the right honorable member to the bill was that it was provocative. His grounds for making that statement were that the Australian Council of Trades Unions was opposed to the legislation. Of course many unions will be opposed to it; of course, the Australian Council of Trades Unions is opposed to it now; of course, some members of the Opposition are opposed to it now. Why? Opposition members are in their seats now; officials of the Australian Council of Trades Unions are there now; and the heads of certain unions are there now. Of course, they object to the bill. But X believe that this legislation will make great changes in the personnel now in control of various unions. We shall then see a great change of heart among members of the Opposition who are now opposing this bill. It would be interesting to come back in a year’s time, when that change of personnel has taken place in many of the unions.
– The honorable member will not be in this chamber then.
– The half-hearted approach of the Opposition to this bill is due to the fact that members of the Labour party are torn between two impulses. On the one hand, some of the representatives of electorates in industrial areas have not yet won their preselection ballots, and they are a little afraid to be outspoken lest they may not secure the support of unions which will feel the effect of this bill.
– The honorable member has not yet been appointed to Cabinet, either.
– On the other hand, some Opposition members would like to support this legislation.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would not know.
– Oh, shut up!
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I can scarcely hear my own voice.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is interjecting from a seat other than his own.
– I am in my place.
-Order! Is the honorable gentleman in charge of the bill on behalf of the Opposition? .1 thought that the right honorable member for Barton had that responsibility.
– He is not in the chamber at the moment.
-The honorable member will remain silent.
– I am in my .right seat. I correct you.
– It was very significant indeed that the right honorable member for Barton did not mention the domination that Communists exercise over certain unions. I noted particularly that the whole emphasis of his speech was on the effect that this bill might have on strikes. But the bill is not aimed primarily at that aspect. It is aimed primarily at the election of the officers of trade unions. That fact, to my way of thinking, is the most important aspect of this legislation. Yet the right honorable member for Barton who understands such matters, sidestepped that issue very effectively, and did not at any time mention the unions which this bill was endeavouring to get at.
What are the circumstances that have led to the necessity for this legislation? Every honorable member knows that the need for this bill would not have arisen had it not been for the domination by the Communists of certain of our major key unions. Every one also knows, and it is of no use to burke the question, that many elections of officers for those major unions will not stand the light of day. They are corrupt, and they are known to be corrupt. They are corrupt even when secret ballots have been held. We all know it. I do not attack in any way the great body of unionists in Australia.
– Not much.
– I believe that I have done as much for unionists as most Opposition members have done for them. I know unionists intimately, and I believe that they trust me. Unionists, as a whole, are splendid citizens, and there is nothing against them. Their only fault, and it is shared by most Australians to-day, is that they are too apathetic. They have allowed things to happen that they should not have permitted. This general feeling of apathy among Australians has caused a great deal of damage. It is regrettable that we cannot ask every citizen, including every unionist, to be alive to the dangers of this apathetic approach, particularly in the conduct of union affairs.
It is strange that we hear of very little trouble in unions which are not key unions. When does one hear of a strike in an unimportant union, so to speak, in this country? There are hundreds of unions in Australia, yet we hear of strikes only in certain key unions, such as those associated with the coal-mining industry, the shipping industry, and the other vital industries on which the Australian people depend for their livelihood. Those unions control the key industries, the efforts of which can raise our standard of living -and put value back into the £1. The majority of the trade unions are not affected at all by industrial disturbances. We all are aware, honorable members opposite as well as honorable members on the Government side, that a planned scheme has been put into operation by the Communists over the years, not because they are merely leftists who have no militant characteristics, but because they are determined to infiltrate the major unions for a specific purpose. That purpose is certainly not to benefit Australia or the Australian people, but to destroy Australian democracy and to sell this country out to the Soviet Union so that it may become a satellite of Russia. That is what the Communists are planning to-day, and what they have planned for a long time past. It is obvious that the plan is being put into effect through the unions that control the vital .industries upon which Australia depends. It is about time that a government had the courage to give into the hands of those courageous members of the unions of this country who, thank God, we still have, and who are prepared to put up a genuine fight to rid our basic unions of Communists, an instrument with which they can do it.
To-day there are groups of people thai are becoming more organized as every day passes by, and are prepared to carry out the fight in the unions against the Communists. I know, as do honorable members opposite, just how that fight is being carried on. Certainly to some extent the organization against communism is underground at the present time, and will cause an intense disturbance within the ranks of the unions, but the organization is there and we must place into the hands of those who will fight for democracy the weapon which will enable them to win their battle. It is tragic that the Communist Party Dissolution Act has been declared invalid. If that act had been put into effect it would have had a great influence upon the Australian industrial situation. However, of itself, it was not a weapon that could have been most effective in eradicating communism from the unions. That act was a declaration of war on Communists in Australia, but I firmly believe that the most potent thing that can be done to eradicate communism from the unions is to give to the unions the power envisaged by this bill. Then the genuine unionists will fight to cleanse the unions of the .terrible disease within them. In that way we shall be striking a. blow against communism and a blow for the interests of Australia and Australians. It ill behoves honorable members of the Labour party to pay lip service to their opposition to the bill to-day. I know what is in the back of the minds of some of them, and I know that secretly they welcome the opportunity that this bill will give to the unions. The fight within the unions will be fierce, but I believe that in the end those who stand for true democracy will conquer and will be the means of exterminating communism.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) made some comment to-day in which he used my name. He said this bill was a subtle means of preventing unions from becoming affiliated with a political party. That is not so. However, let me tell him that I sincerely believe that one of the great tragedies in Australia to-day is the fact that a great political party is based upon unionism. I say that deliberately, because I believe it to be contrary to the principles of democracy that a political party which sets itself up to represent the whole of the people of Australia should be permitted to be affiliated with bodies that are fighting for a merely sectional interest. A great deal of what has occurred throughout the years indicates that what I have said is the truth. A political party which is based upon unionism must be subject to the pressure that develops from the bottom, and must ultimately become nothing else than a stooge for the unions that it represents here.
– What is wrong with that?
– It is apparent that the honorable member for Hindmarsh quite frankly admits that the Labour party is a stooge for the unions. Such a state of affairs takes away from the Parliament the very reason for its existence. The Parliament should be a proper democratic institution which can properly represent the whole of the people of Australia. Yet because the leftists and the Communists in the unions have brought about a certain condition and are able to exercise political pressure on the Labour party, we have witnessed this drift in Australian affairs during the last several years. For the first time in the last nine years we ‘ now have an opportunity to remove the evils that have developed through political representations of that type. Who could possibly say that it is in the interests of Australia that the pernicious darg system which operates in certain essential industries should remain a feature of our industrial life. The great City of Sydney would not be suffering from blackouts to-day had it not been for political interference, backed up by unions which are largely Communist controlled. The Leader of the Opposition, while Prime Minister and acting Prime Minister of Australia, exercised a right given to him under the National Security Regulations to override the decisions of three Australian arbitration courts. On several occasions he sent men back to work on conditions which were beyond the conditions awarded by the courts, completely ignoring the awards.
Every arbitration court in Australia was overridden by the. National Security
Regulations. and as a result of that the machines at the great power stations of Australia were subjected to such destruction that they never recovered the condition that they were in before the occurrence of those . strikes, which were brought about by half a dozen Communists. It is not known to the people of the City of Sydney, or indeed of Australia, that at certain times during those strikes sabotage of machinery was suspected. I, myself, have no doubt about what took place. It was necessary to put officers of the Criminal Investigation Branch of the New South Wales Police Department into Bunnerong power station to investigate certain sabotage that was obviously taking place. It was difficult to pin that on to any of the people concerned, but we know that it was going on. That is the sort of thing that has been sponsored by this weak-kneed type of democracy that the Labour party represents. Honorable members opposite say that they are democrats, but they are not. They are merely stooges for certain unions, and it is definitely not in the interests of Australia that that should be so. I have said that in answer to the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) criticized the voluntary secret ballots provided for in this legislation, but with the same breath he said that he did not agree with compulsory ballots. What does he agree with? Perhaps he would like to leave the whole matter in the hands of the unions. The unions are voluntary organizations, but not in the ordinary sense. They are registered within the arbitration system. They have the benefits and protection of the arbitration system. Surely, therefore, it is proper that industrial unions should be subject to certain discipline by the system under which they operate. That is not an interference with domestic arrangements or with the conduct of the unions. I think that honorable members opposite have not their hearts in this fight. We hear them prate from time to time like parrots, right from the Leader of the Opposition down to the most insignificant member of the Opposition, about the Government putting value back into the £1.
– That is a most important matter.
– It is very important, and one that I admit is very closely associated with the bill now before the House. The people of Australia are being misled, or there is an attempt to mislead them, into the belief that there is something that this Government has failed to do that might have put value back into the ?1. A small child, if he stops to think about the problem, will clearly perceive that value cannot be put back into the ?1 unless we produce sufficient goods to meet the needs of the people.
– How is it proposed to produce those goods?
– Sufficient goods to meet the needs of the people cannot be produced, nor oan value be put back into the ?1, unless communism in the vital unions is destroyed.
– “We are producing enough wool.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! This is not a bill that deals with industrial production, it is one that deals with arbitration and ballots within unions. The debate cannot be allowed to wander into the field of production and other side issues.
– I am dealing with the matter from the point of view of -the unions associated with certain important industries in Australia. ‘One of our most important products is coal. I am speaking from the point of view of production, and of certain things now being done by unions which this measure seeks to rectify. Coa] is basic to the needs of Australia. To-day the production of coal is very little greater, in underground mines it is less, than in 1942. When one considers that the demand for power has increased since 1942 by from 130 per cent, to 140 per cent., one understands why we are in our present parlous economic situation. The fall in the production of coal has occurred because the union which controls the coalmining industry has deliberately prevented an increase of production.
– I rise ito a point of order. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) is deliberately evading your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
-Order ! The honorable member must deal with the bill, as must every other honorable member. The matter of production is not involved. The matter under consideration concerns ballots within unions.
– I bow to your ruling, but the question is what the unions are doing in this industry and how this hill will affect them.
– The honorable gentleman should not try to evade Mr. Speaker’s ruling.
– Order ! That is a matter, not for the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), but for me. Our names may be the same, but our duties are different.
– If decent trade unionists were in control of the mining unions, there would be no shortage of coal in this country. But the Communists have control of those unions, and they are keeping their feet upon the necks of the Australian people.
– Literally. They are retarding the development of this country. The object of the bill is to root out Communists from Australian trade unions, especially those connected with the coal-mining, steel, shipping, power and building industries. We. have witnessed the spectacle of unions of building workers deliberately trying to prevent the training of building operatives under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. As a result of that action, we are short of building tradesmen of all kinds. Communist control of vital unions is having that effect upon Australia. This bill represents an attempt - in a small way only, because I believe there is much more still to be done - to rectify that position.
The Opposition has criticized the measure, but what is there in it that is illogical or that can be justly criticized? Let me summarize its main features. It is proposed that postal voting shall be allowed in elections of trade union officials. That is nothing new, although a previous speaker suggested that it was. I assume that there is no serious objection to that proposal. It is proposed that existing organizations shall be brought into line with new organizations.
The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) objected to that provision of the measure, but could we possibly have a rule that applied only to newly registered unions and not to those that had been registered for some time ? That provision is obviously necessary. It is also proposed that a registered organization shall be required to maintain a properly authorized roll of its members. That is a new provision. I have often wondered how unions conduct their ballots, although I agree that some of them may keep proper records. Surely it is reasonable to require registered organizations to maintain an authorized roll of their members in order that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court shall have at its disposal the means of conducting a ballot if, in certain circumstances, it requires that to be done. One of the best means by which trade unionists can be enabled to resume control of their organizations and rid them of Communists is the secret ballot, but it is necessary that a proper returning officer shall be in charge of ballots. The bill seeks to provide that, upon a request made by a certain number of members of an organization - the number has not yet been stated, but I understand that that will be done later - for an election for an office in the organization, the Industrial Registrar or an electoral officer shall conduct the election. The principle of that safeguard should be endorsed by every member of the Parliament. If a number of members of an organization believe that there is something amiss, surely it should be competent for them to request that a ballot be conducted under the supervision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or an electoral officer, in order that a true expression of the opinion of the members may be given.
Although this bill could in some respects go further than it does go, I believe that what is in it is good and will be of great benefit to those people who genuinely wish to rid trade unions of Communists. If we cannot do that, God help us all, because the key unions will gradually assume complete control of the country. In view of the present condition of the world and of the statements that have been made about the need for defence preparations in Australia, it is vital that we should rid the unions of communism. This measure will give to those who want to fight communism in trade unions an opportunity to do so. It will give to them the ammunition with which to fight. I have enough confidence in the decent unionists of this country to believe that they will take advantage of the opportunity presented by this bill to fight to cleanse their unions of communism. The only purpose of the bill is to rid this country of the evil thing that is penetrating our vital trade unions.
I appeal to honorable gentlemen opposite to cease being stupidly party political about this measure. It is one that should be above party political arguments. I believe that the Australian people would give great credit to the Labour party if it approached the bill in the spirit of trying to improve it and make it more effective. If honorable gentlemen opposite did that, they would receive more credit from the Australian people than they will receive for the fight that they are now waging, with their tongues in their cheeks. They are opposing the measure because an extraneous body, not elected by the people, has instructed them to do so.
.- We have witnessed a rather interesting spectacle in this debate. There must be thousands of Australian workers who are deriving much amusement from the fact that they have suddenly found a lot of supporters in unexpected places. The members of the Government parties, after having been in office for fifteen months and having introduced the most vicious anti-Labour and anti-union legislation, now want Australian trade unionists to believe that this Government believes in trade unionism. I shall endeavour to prove that the Government is, in fact, composed of union haters.
Throughout the history of the trade union movement, anti-Labour parties of one description or another, consisting of individuals of the same type and going under varying names, have taken all kinds of repressive action against trade unionists in an endeavour to destroy their organizations and prevent any improvement of working conditions in this or any other country in the world.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) must relate his remarks to the bill.
– I am endeavouring to show that the real purpose of the Government is, not to assist the trade unions but, by subterfuge, to delude Australian workers and trade unionists into believing that it is acting in their interests. Anti-Labour governments have supported deportation of trade unionists and putting men into gaol for long periods for having gone on strike.
– Order! There is nothing about gaol or deportation in the bill.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite have said that the purpose of this measure is to eliminate the Communists who, they allege, dominate some of our key unions. Let us examine whether the real danger to trade unionism, as such, comes from a. few Communists who hold office in trade unions or from the infiltration of the unions by supporters of the Liberal party who want to destroy trade unionism in this country. Honorable gentlemen opposite may laugh. I suggest that they confer with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who was for a period an unfinancial member of the Federated Clerks Union and, during his period of membership, conspired with a man named Dobson to injure that organization and its members. There is evidence that there are elements in this country which support the Liberal party and want to destroy the Australian trade union movement. They use various methods in order to do so. They do not always adopt the tactics of direct assault upon the unions by an anti-Labour majority in this Parliament. Sometimes they use the more cunning and subtle method of putting their stooges into trade unions.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what connexion there is between the bill and the point that the honorable member for East Sydney is endeavouring to make. He has referred to “ stooges “, as he calls them, being put into unions. How can that be relevant to the bill?
– The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) charged members of the Opposition with being “ stooges “.
– I called the honorable member for Bennelong to order twice. According to the marginal notes, the bill deals with rules to provide for secret ballots, the ordering of secret ballots by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the keeping of records by organizations, and the conduct of elections by the Industrial Registrar upon request. The debate must be kept within those four corners. I shall not object to passing references being made to matters that are not strictly relevant to the bill, but the honorable member for East Sydney has so far been well outside the four corners to which I have referred.
– I assume it will be in order for me to answer the arguments that were advanced by Government supporters, including the Minister in charge of the bill. It has been suggested that all the troubles and dangers that confront trade unions are due to the- activities of a section of trade unionists who are members of the Communist party. I a.m endeavouring to show that the real danger to trade unionism comes from honorable gentleman opposite, who profess to be the friends of trade unionists. The honorable member for Bennelong suggested - doubtless only because he thought he had a large audience - that a section of trade unionists was entirely responsible for the black-outs that are now occurring in the metropolitan areas of Sydney. He referred to a ban upon overtime imposed by employees of the Bunnerong power house, but he did not state the facts. Any honorable member who is familiar with Sydney knows that the Bunnerong power house is in an isolated position. When men are obliged to work unusual hours, it is difficult for them to obtain transport to and from their homes. Because the employees at Bunnerong were asked to work excessive overtime, as a result of the inefficiency and incapacity of the honorable member for Bennelong, who, as chairman of the Sydney County
Council, was largely responsible for the unsatisfactory position, they were compelled to make a protest. The honorable gentleman twitted members of the Opposition about not being democrats, but he sat as a member of the Sydney County Council when he was no longer an alderman of the North Sydney Council and also, by his vote, assisted the present chairman of the Sydney County Council to retain his position.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not confining his remarks to the bill.
– I am making a passing reference. I shall content myself with saying that the record of the honorable member for Bennelong is not one which proves that he is a democrat or believes in democratic principles.
Who asked for this legislation? Who wanted it?
– The trade unionists.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite say that the trade unionists wanted, this legislation. I challenge the Government, before it proceeds further with this measure, to have a ballot of all trade unionists in this country conducted by the Industrial Registrar in order to ascertain whether trade unionists want governmental interference with their affairs. That would bo a real test. If the Government proposes to introduce a scheme that will affect wool-growers or wheat-growers, a plebiscite is conducted first in order to ascertain whether the wool-growers or wheat-growers want the scheme. What would be wrong with taking a plebiscite of trade unionists to find out whether they want legislation of this kind?
I do not accept the view of honorable gentlemen opposite that there have been many corrupt ballots in trade unions. I believe that trade unions, with their widespread organization, have had proportionately less corrupt ballots for the election of officers than have organizations such as the Union Club in Sydney and the Melbourne Club in Melbourne. There are honorable members opposite who belong to these “ distinguished “ organizations.
– What has this to do with the bill?
– Listen to the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) rushing in to defend his wealthy friends. Their method of dealing with applications for membership is by a secret ballot all right, but the mere act of dropping one black ball into a box prevents an applicant for membership from being successful. I suggest that the Government might give some attention to ballots that are conducted by various other organizations. Why all this concern about the trade unions? The trade unions are able to look after their own affairs and I venture to say that the trade unionists have conducted their affairs in a manner which bears favorable comparison with that of any other organization in this country.
I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) that no matter who conducted the ballot, certain officials of the trade unions would be elected, not because they are members of the Communist party, but because they have been good trade union officials’ who have done their job and looked after their members. Honorable members who support the Government have suggested that members of the Communist party ought not to have the right to act as an officer of a trade union even if he has been elected by a fair ballot. What is to happen to the trade unionist who has been elected as the result of a fair ballot? Does the Government suggest that he should be left alone? Not at all. The honorable member for Bennelong said that it was a tragic thing that the High Court had disallowed the Communist Party Dissolution Act. Let us examine what the Government would have been able to do to the trade union movement under that legislation. That act would have allowed the LiberalCountry party Government, in effect, to select trade union officials. What sort of trade union movement would have resulted from that state of affairs? The trade unions would have resembled the American company trade unions for which the manager of the company selects the secretary, and collects the dues as well as directing the affairs of the organization. By that means, it is claimed, continuous production is achieved because any man who attempted to protest against any injustice that he might suffer would lose his employment. That is the type of union that the Government wants and which it attempted to establish by means of an act to which it gave the misnomer of the Communist Party Dissolution Act. That act was designed to deal not only with members of the Communist party, but also with any man who came within the definition of “ Communist “ in the bill. That would have meant that any man who was deemed to be a Communist, because his name had been gazetted, would have been prevented from occupying an office in a trade union. Not only Communists but also men who had merely been militants in the trade union movement and who were supporters of the Australian Labour party would have been prevented from being candidates for. trade union office. Because the High Court has thwarted that intention, the Government has now introduced another measure on the pretext of holding out the hand of friendship to trade unionists. There is an old and true saying concerning Greeks bringing gifts and I think that it applies in this instance.
Many honorable members opposite have never had any actual experience in a trade union except as members of the British Medical Association or the legal profession. The Government’s proposals are one issue upon which all unionists’ will be united whether they be members of what are termed by Government members “ corn-dominated “ unions, “ leftist “ unions or unions of the “right”: There is no suggestion that any member of the Opposition does not believe in properly conducted trade union ballots. Honorable members of the Opposition believe that any ballot conducted anywhere ought to be conducted in a proper way, but that is vastly different from what is proposed in the bill. The honorable member for Bennelong, if he had. his way, would even deny the right of the trade unions to affiliate with the Australian Labour party, which shows how much he knows about the history of unionism in this country. It was out of the struggle and experiences of the trade union movement that the Australian Labour party came into being. Trade unionists recognized, after many unsuccessful efforts to improve their conditions, that it was necessary, in order to protect their interests, for them to send men to Parliament. It is not possible to separate the trade union movement from the political wing of Labour. The trade union movement is the industrial wing of the Labour movement of which the Australian Labour party is the political wing.
Honorable members apposite who contend that the Labour party should not be associated with the trade union movement do not understand the history of trade unionism, and they do not understand the history of the Labour movement. They have the hypocrisy to say that this legislation will apply to employers ad well as to employees! That statement has been made quite a few times. Honorable members will be able to recall the prosecution of .the late Mr. John Brown, the coal baron. After the big lock-out in the coal industry some years ago, the then anti-Labour . government, in an attempt to make it appear that such matters were dealt with on an impartial basis, decided to prosecute John Brown. After that anti-Labour government had been re-elected, what happened? The prosecution of John Brown was withdrawn because it did not believe in prosecuting employers. It did not believe in applying an act of this type to its own organizations and supporters. It would not have been permitted to do so. Honorable members on the Government benches talk about outside control! At least the Australian Labour party is controlled from within the Labour movement itself.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting right away from the bill.
– It is very interesting, Mr. Speaker.
-It may be, but it is out of order.
– I shall give to the House one or two illustrations of how this bill will affect trade unions. Honorable gentlemen opposite have spoken about the need for secret ballots. Is it not a fact that most of the illegalities in regard to ballots: have- occurred in connexion with secret ballots? If men have to assemble and put up their hands- it can be seen who is voting and the hands can be counted. I have no objection to secret .ballots. As a matter of fact, the secret ballot that is conducted in relation to the election of -a member for East Sydney is an excellent ballot because it has an excellent result. I have no objection to secret ballots if they are properly conducted. But honorable members opposite have suggested that the purpose of the Government is to eliminate illegalities: If a decision is necessary on some matter at a meeting in a room one can count a show of hands and know that the count is correct. The Government’s purpose is to destroy trade unions financially and otherwise. This bill before the House applies not only to disputes but also to any other question on which the court may order a ballot to be taken and the cost of the ballot is to be borne by the organization. Not only the court but also any minority in a trade union may cause a ballot to be held despite the .view of the majority. It costs one particular organization £1,700 to conduct a ballot of its New South Wales branch alone.
If the Government is sincere in its desire to help trade unions and considers that these ballots should be held, at least it should be fair and reasonable and agree to meet the cost of them. But the Government does not care how many ballots are ordered or how chaotic a trade union’s affairs may become, because the weaker it can make the trade union’s finances and the weaker it can make the trade union as an organization the more likely is it to be able to apply its policy against the workers. The Government’s purpose in this connexion is quite obvious. Anybody who has examined the legislation affecting workers and trade unions which the Government has introduced must admit that the trade union movement has been singled out for particular treatment. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) spoke in eulogistic terms about the assistance and co-operation that he had received from the Australian Council of Trades Unions. It is interesting to note that the Government accepts the recommendations of the Australian Council of Trades Unions when’ it suits it to do so.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting right away from the bill. The Minister for Labour and National Service has taken no part in this debate so far.
– But I have no doubt that he will do so. However, my remarks could apply to other members of the Government because not only the Minister but also the Government has accepted the advice of the Australian Council of Trades Unions when it suited it to do so, although it has rejected that advice on other occasions.
– The Australian Council of Trades Unions does not come within the scope of this bill, which concerns secret ballots and the methods by which they are to be conducted. The honorable member must relate his remarks to the bill.
– As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, although you may have been unconscious of it, I have been speaking on the bill since I commenced my speech.
-Order! That remark is a reflection on the Chair.
– Then I withdraw it.
– If the honorable gentleman makes any more remarks of that nature he will resume his seat.
– I was almost about to do that.
– Order! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! A point of order may not be taken on my instruction to the honorable member for East Sydney.
– My point of order relates not to your order to the honorable member to resume his seat, but to your statement that honorable members may not mention the Australian Council of Trades Unions. If that is a valid ruling I should like to know why you have allowed any reference to the Communist party.
– Order ! I have allowed references to the Communist party because it was referred to by the Prime Minister when he introduced the bill.
– You rule, then, that honorable members may refer only to what the Prime Minister mentioned in his opening speech? That is to say, that the Communist party, of which there is no mention in the bill, can ‘be referred to only because the Prime Minister has mentioned it, and that honorable members can mention only matters to which the Prime Minister has referred?
-Order! I gave no such ruling.
.- I must confess that I was interested in the explanation given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) of the marginal notes to the clauses of the bill. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) seemed to have two chief objections to this bill. His first objection was that it was provocative. His second objection was that the bill had alreadybeen turned down by the Australian Council of Trades Unions. If the Australian Council of Trades Unions turned down the measure - and “ turned down “ is a sinister expression - it must have had some sort of foreknowledge of the bill. After all, the measure was introduced into this House only a few hours ago. Therefore, in fact, the Australian Council of Trades Unions could not have turned down the bill.
– I rise to order. The honorable member is discussing the Australian Council of Trades Unions and I understand that you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled that such references are out of order.
– The Australian Council of Trades Unions does not come within the scope of the bill. Honorable gentlemen must deal only with the subject of the bill.
– “With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I point out that T am referring to the speech that was made this morning by the right honorable member for Barton, who said that the Australian Council of Trades Unions had already turned down this bill. I submit that, in replying to him, I must of necessity make a brief, if unwilling, reference to the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
-Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the terms of the bill.
– Then I shall leave the Australian Council of Trades Unions” alone. It’ is a great misfortune for the whole nation that the Australian Labour party did not leave it alone, too.
The chief objection raised by the right honorable member for Barton was that the bill was provocative. Provocative to whom ? “We must presume that he considered it to be provocative to the trade union movement as a whole. But the provisions of the bill are not related exclusively to the trade union movement. They will be equally binding upon employers’ organizations. Therefore, all of the right honorable member’s objections in relation to provocation, if they be competent, in any degree, apply as much to employers’ organizations as they do to the trade union movement generally. For my own information, and for the information of the electors whom I have the honour to represent in this House, I refer again to the six marginal notes to the clauses in the bill. The first two are unimportant, if I may say so without disrespect. The first, as is usual, refers to the short title and citation of the bill, and the second deals with definitions. We can pass over them. The third marginal note, which is the first important one, reads, “Rules to provide for secret ballots “. The proposed section to which it relates provides definitely that the rules of an association shall provide for elections to be carried out by secret ballot. But the right honorable member for Barton, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House, says that that is provocative! The next provision is for absent voting. That means that, any member of an organization, be he an employee or be he an employer, who is unable to attend the appropriate meeting, may nevertheless exercise his right to vote at an election. The right honorable member for Barton considers that that is provocative. The next provision is that, the rules of an association “ may provide for compulsory voting “. Some organizations are so large and have such a widely spread membership that it would be almost impossible to impose compulsory voting upon their members in a satisfactory way. Therefore, the bill provides merely that the rules of an association may provide for compulsory voting.
– There is nothing new about that.
– Admittedly, but the right honorable member for Barton has said that it is provocative!
The fourth marginal note states, “ Court may order secret ballot “. That means that the proposed section to which it relates will provide protection for individual members of associations. If any group of members believes that an injustice is being perpetrated upon themselves and their fellow employees, they may make an application to the court, and the court may order the conduct of a secret ballot in order to resolve the question finally and irrevocably in a. democratic way. The fifth marginal note states that records are to be kept by organizations. How important that is! There have been occasions when crises have arisen in organizations of the kind to which the bill applies and when records have been found to be entirely unsatisfactory or even, in some instances, untraceable. Careful searches have failed to disclose any sign of the existence of records of some trade unions. Therefore, the bill provides that records must be kept by organizations. Yet the right honorable member for Barton declares that even that is provocative to the trade union movement! The sixth and final marginal note states that the Industrial Registrar may conduct elections upon request. Obviously, it would be idle to give to members of an organization the right to apply to the court for a secret ballot if the ballot were likely to suffer from a repetition of the corruption which marred the previous ballot. Therefore, the bill concedes to individual members the right to ask the Industrial Registrar to conduct, or arrange for the Electoral Office to conduct, an election. Those brief marginal notes explain the purpose of the bill, and their meaning should be perfectly clear to everybody who sets out to study the bill without party political prejudice of the kind that has been displayed by members of the Opposition to-day. “When I. listen to members of the Opposition objecting bitterly to a proposal for the, use of the secret ballot in trade unions, I wonder what has happened to the Labour movement. Have those honorable gentlemen forgotten the political history of their party, and the political history of mankind as a whole? In the beginning, the secret ballot was unknown. For hundreds of years it was denied to men and women throughout the Englishspeaking world. A long, painful, and sometimes bloody, struggle had to be waged before the right of the secret ballot was conceded to reputable men and women. Yet members of the Opposition have risen in turn to oppose this bill, the object of which is to provide for the holding of secret ballots! Those honorable gentlemen are alleged to represent what is called the working class. They must have forgotten the great struggle that won for democrats the right to have secret ballots. That struggle continued year after year, for generation after generation, and finally success was gained, not by one great victory, but by means of successive small concessions, until the whole scheme of democratic society, apart from the trade union movement, was covered. In the first place, the struggle was for the secret ballot for the election of parliamentary representatives. That proposal was opposed then just as the present proposal is being opposed by members of what is known as the Australian Labour party. I have no doubt that, in those far-off days, the opponents of the secret ballot for parliamentary elections used arguments precisely the same as those we have heard in this chamber to-day. But the secret ballot for parliamentary elections was conceded to the people because of its inherent goodness. Later, a demand arose for the extension of the principle of the secret ballot to local government elections. Again, there was opposition from individuals who, like the right honorable member for Barton to-day, said that the proposal was provocative. However, wise counsels prevailed and local government elections’ are now carried out by means of the secret ballot wherever democracy is allowed to function. Similarly, every reputable organization uses the secret ballot for the purposes of electing office bearers and of framing major decisions on policy. Members of the Opposition, who say that they represent the workers, seem to have forgotten those centuries of political struggle, which ultimately gave us* the priceless privilege of the secret ballot. They want to deny to the trade unionists of Australia the right to enjoy the benefits of the secret ballot.
I know that many individuals are terrified of the consequences of the secret ballot. That is not a new experience; it is as old as democracy itself. I have no doubt that such terror is the sole reason for the objection to this measure that has been raised by members of the Opposition. They are terrified of the consequences of the secret ballot. A few minutes ago several honorable members opposite asked me by interjection to give instances to illustrate what I am saying. I am quite prepared to cite incontravertible examples in that respect. I have been directly connected with agricultural production for 30 years. Primary producers’ organizations function on democratic lines. Each of them conducts elections of its office-bearers by secret ballot and as a means of making all their major decisions. But only five years ago when the Chifley Labour Government had cause to introduce what it called a Wheat Stabilization Bill and the scheme provided for in that bill was submitted to the growers for approval, some representative growers demanded that that approval ,be sought, by secret ballot whilst others who, like honorable members opposite, were terrified of the consequences, bitterly opposed the holding of such a ballot. The latter growers excited the sympathy of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. He said that it would be very difficult to arrange for the taking of a ballot of the growers. Indeed, he said it would be impossible for the Government to do so. Consequently, the primary producers’ organizations were forced into circumstances in which the conference that was considering the stabilization plan threatened to break down.
– I rise to order: I submit, Mr. Speaker, that what the honorable member is saying- about the wheat-growers has nothing whatever to do with the bill before the Chair.
– I ask the- honorable member for Riverina to confine his* remarks to the bill.
– I am referring to my early experiences of secret ballots and the lack of them. I mentioned “secret ballots “ in practically every one of my sentences and I propose to continue to do so until I conclude my remarks. I was relating to the House an instance in which a secret ballot would have been denied to the wheat-growers but for action that was taken by the organization that I have the honour to represent and the valuable assistance that it received in the matter from the wheat- . growers of Western Australia.
-Order ! The honorable member is going, outside the scope of the bill. “ Mr. ROBERTON.- In the instance which I am citing the Government of the day acceded to the wheat-growers’ request for a ballot and a ballot was carried out in some States with the result that the issue was resolved.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman will not be in order in proceeding along that line. The bill before the Chair relates, not to wheatgrowers, but to industrial unions.
– Wheat-growers, like other primary producers, have accredited organizations some of which are registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and I submit that the provisions of this bill could be applied to them as well as to organizations like trade unions or employers’ associations. But if the Chair rules that I may not refer to primary industries-
-Order! The bill before the Chair deals not with primary industries but with trade unions, and makes provision for secret ballots in trade unions.
– With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I submit that the bill deals with organizations other than trade unions. It deals with the general principle of the secret ballot and relates to all organizations that are registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I regret that the Chair has called me to order; but I shall bow to its ruling. However, I am able to cite another classic example of the worth of the secret ballot as it affects persons whom 1 have the honour to represent. If I may refer, in passing, to the subject of a stabilization scheme for the wool-growing industry-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not proceed to discuss the wool industry.
– I have tried valiantly to make my point ; I have failed, and I accept the result. I have no hesitation in saying that the lack of the secret ballot has been the cause of the corruption that exists in the industrial movement, embracing both employers and employees alike ; it has opened the door wide to the corruption that has descended upon the industrial movement from top to bottom. [Quorum formed.’] The lack of the secret ballot has opened the door to collusion between mediocrities which, I have no hesitation, in saying, is, with the exception of corruption, the greatest single cause of the industrial strife and turmoil that have descended upon the community. That is why a group of mediocrities has been able to take possession of industrial organizations and make decisions that are binding upon the thousands .of members of those organizations and, consequently, upon the community as. a whole. Similarly, the lack of the secret ballot has opened the door to tyranny in its worst form - the tyranny of the bully, the loud-mouthed advocate, the larrikin, the irresponsibles and the destroyers. Because of the lack of the secret ballot, the destroyer is permitted to carry on with his nefarious activities. Conversely, the secret ballot will close the door on corruption. That is the greatest virtue of this measure. The secret ballot will prevent the collusion between mediocrities to which I have referred and will bar the gates against the tyranny of the bully, the. larrikin and the loudmouthed advocate whom we know too well and as the result of whose activities all of us have suffered in the past. In addition, the secret ballot will enable justice to be done to those who were injured in that way in the past and will restore in full measure the civil liberties and human dignity of the individual that have been lost in most of our industrial movements in which no secret ballot is now allowed to be held.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said that this measure is a danger to the trade union movement. He added that, already, nearly every trade union has the secret ballot. If that be so, in God’s name, what justification exists for the honorable member, or any of his. colleagues, to speak and to vote against it? If the principle of the secret ballot is already observed in the trade union movement, the only adverse criticism that can be made of the bill is that it is redundant. But that would not be sufficient justification for any honorable member to speak against it, to describe it as provocative and to say that the trade union movement has already turned it down. The honorable member for Blaxland also claimed that the trade unions has reached a state of comparative perfection in the election of their office-bearers and in the method by which they make decisions in respect of policy. That state of perfection, if it has been reached, is entirely unsatisfactory to me and to the people whom I represent, and, as it is bringing this country to ruin, I suggest that the sooner a state of imperfection in which the principle of the secret ballot in truth is observed, the better will it be for the trade unions and for the community as a whole. The honorable member. for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) suggested that I might deal with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward). I confess that the honorable member for East Sydney makes me feel uncomfortable when he speaks about gaols and prosecutions and matters of that kind. He may be competent to speak on such matters, but if I shall not be in order in referring to primary industries in discussing a bill that deals with the secret ballot, I fail to see that the honorable member for East Sydney was any more justified in referring to gaols and prosecutions.. This measure has been demanded by the Australian people. It expresses their belief that those who are required to join a trade union or an employers’ organization, or do so voluntarily, should have the protection of the secret ballot.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is not to be wondered at that the Opposition opposes this measure, which has been introduced by the Liberal Government, for, after all, is it not true that the Liberal party exists primarily to destroy the Labour party? Is it not also true that the heart and the machinery of the Labour party consist of the trade union movement of this country? It is perfectly logical for the present Liberal Government and the Liberal party to attempt by every possible constitutional means at their disposal to destroy the Labour’ movement and those associated with it. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to profess that they are the real friends of the trade unionists, because history records that they, and their predecessors in office, throughout the long constitutional history of this country have ever decried and opposed trade unionism, the political Labour movement, and all associated with them. It is true that from time to time,, by deceitful and lying propaganda, they have been able to persuade a percentage of trade unionists to support them at general elections, and there is not the slightest doubt that at the last general election they persuaded a number of them to do so. For these reasons we are bound to view with suspicion and distrust any measure that is introduced into this chamber by this Government, ostensibly to buttress the trade union movement, but as we know definitely in an endeavour to harass and destroy that movement. The trade union movement also takes that attitude. Honorable members opposite cannot name one trade union which, either by deputation or in writing, has asked for the introduction of this measure. As a matter of fact it is strange and rather sinister that this measure has followed the decision of the High Court in relation to the Communist Party Dissolution Act. The real purpose of the bill is not to provide cleaner methods in trade union elections and affairs, but to encompass the destruction of the Communist party by preventing Communists from holding offices in trade unions. I agree that it is desirable to prevent Communists from holding such offices, but the only one democratic means whereby they can be prevented from doing so is, by the exercise of the will of the trade unionists themselves, democratically, in ballots arranged and conducted by their own organizations. That process is going on now throughout the length and breadth of Australia as the various trade unions become conscious of the fact that the Communist party is not a desirable party either politically or industrially, and that its members are not likely to manage trade unions to the advantage of trade unionists. The best methods for the extinction of Communist organizations and for the removal of Communist officials from trade union office are being helped along by the Labour movement and the unions affiliated with it, and the introduction of this measure by the ‘Government, instead of destroying the Communists, will actually help them, because it is obvious that under it they will be strengthened. There is not the slightest doubt that anybody who wishes to strengthen an organization need only bring down repressive legislation, and the organization will achieve fame and, ultimately, success. It is rather remarkable that a government that has introduced a measure such as this should have the support of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), who is very articulate about the virtues of the secret ballot, because as far as the election of members of the Cabinet is concerned-
– Order !
– The Liberal party does not utilize the secret ballot in relation to Cabinet appointments, which are made by the exercise of the authority of the Prime Minister.
– Order! The honorable gentleman has heard me call him to order for speaking in that strain, and he must desist from continuing in it.
– May I then refer to “ certain organizations “, and leave the identification of them to your own imagination, because you will not know what is running in my mind? This particular organization, which is one of the largest in the land, does not hold a ballot when it desires to select its executive officers, with the result that we get some of the evils that were pointed out by the honorable member for Riverina. We get misfits and all sorts of “passengers”. I might point to the Minister for Air (Mr. White) as an example.
– Order! The honorable gentleman may not indulge in a discussion on the Minister for Air in relation to this bill.
– Any criticism by the honorable member for Lalor would be highly flattering.
– I regret that I am out of order in that matter. I have pointed out the reasons for the Opposition’s attitude to this measure. Long ago I, along with millions of other people, discovered the nature of the real struggle between the various sections of this community, which will exist as long as the capitalistic system of society lasts. There is a gulf that cannot be bridged, and that will exist as long as there are employers and employees, because it must be perfectly obvious to anybody that, as long as employers strive to take more out of production, the employees must be left with an ever diminishing share of the value of what is produced.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting wide of the bill.
– I am on the bill.
– The bill deals with trade unions.
– It is obvious that, from the Government’s point of view, some measures must be taken that will perhaps facilitate the election to trade union executives of officers who may be more kindly disposed towards employers and Jess resolute in their efforts to extract from the Government’s big business supporters a larger share of the fruits of industry for the workers. It is perfectly nonsensical to think that trade union organizations will view favorably, and without distrust, a measure of this character that has been introduced by a Government which, in common with its predecessors, would without a shadow of doubt destroy the trade union movement if it had the opportunity to do so. I could bring to this chamber, in support of my statements, quotations from the daily press over a long period of years. Prom time to time people with anti-Labour views, many of them mem bers of this Parliament, have stressed at various conferences their belief that arbitration ought to be abolished’ and that the power of trade unions in this country should be whittled down, all for the purpose of ensuring that employers shall enjoy a greater share of production than otherwise would be the case. Personally, I have no objection to secret ballots. 1 think that they are quite all right. I am one of those people who have never cared who knows how they vote, either in parliamentary elections or in trade union elections. I point out that at Labour caucus meetings decisions art made on a show of hands.
– Order ! The private affairs of the honorable gentleman’s party are not the concern of the House or the country.
– I am merely pointing out that at certain meetings ballots are taken by a show of hands, but that on the other hand organizations like the Australian Country party caucus and the Liberal party caucus-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is trying to evade my ruling.
– Then let me say that if any organization desires to have a secret ballot of its members I see no reason why it should not have it. But I have a strong objection to the adoption of the principle that a parliament may order a union to take a secret ballot and I object also to the proposal that the registrar of the court may hold a secret ballot of a union’s members without the union being represented in th? conduct of the ballot. I oppose also the proposal that the Government shall have power to order a union, or any other form of organization, to take a secret ballot. ~No trade union should be forced to take such a ballot at the dictation of a government instrumentality. I have had the experience, over a long period of years, of meeting disgruntled and disappointed candidates for preselection as electoral candidates for the Liberal party or the Australian Country party. Some of them have told me, when they have met . disappointment at the hand of juntas, what they thought of their own party’s processes. In fact, on one occasion a disappointed candidate who, had hoped to be selected to stand against me in my electorate’, told me that his organization was neither more nor less than a gang of people who were worse than the Communists.
– Was that a Liberal party organization ?
– Yes. It was a common thing for those people who had suffered disappointment, to come along and “ spill the beans “ to the candidates against whom they had hoped to stand at the general election..
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting outside the bill.
– Those practices on the part of political organizations are going on. All sorts of misdemeanours are being perpetrated. Old ladies are being lured into the towns from their country villages by the provision of free car trips so that they can vote for certain political parties.
-Order! The honorable gentleman cannot pursue that line of argument. The subject covered by the bill is perfectly clear. It is not the subject with which the honorable member is dealing. I have already given the honorable member a great deal of latitude.
– I am pointing out that any organization that has weaknesses within itself and whose members are dissatisfied with its methods of election, is an organization which should take steps to right the anomalies in its own conduct and procedure, and should provide for the essential features of secret ballots. Many organizations throughout the length and breadth of the land, whether they be churches, friendly societies, political organizations, tennis clubs or lodges, from time to time, by virtue of the apathy of the rank and file members, find themselves in the position that the elected officer’s are the only members who are keen and interested in the affairs of the organization and are continually re-elected. Eventually power corrupts some of those officers, and malpractices occur, but in the long run, when the rank and file awakes, it sweeps off the board those officers who have indulged in iniquitous practices. Is there any more reason why the Government should single out the trade unions for special treatment, interfere in their affairs and dictate to them? Why should trade unions be the only organizations to be cleaned up to please the employers of this country, but certainly not to please the trade unionists themselves? I only say in passing that it has been pointed out that the Australian Council of Trades Unions has not asked for this legislation. If it had asked for it, one could understand the Government taking some notice of such a request from such an organization. In the circumstances I join very willingly with my colleagues in opposition to this particular measure. Some honorable members opposite have said that we are not enthusiastic in our opposition to it. I, personally, am always enthusiastic in my opposition to any measure that a Liberal party government may bring in that is deleterious to the welfare of the people generally. Reference to Mansard will show that I have supported the beneficial legislation that has occasionally been introduced by conservative governments. The accusation by one Government supporter that the Labour party had held up the legislation of this Government is not true. I mention, in passing, that the Opposition has supported much of the legislation that has been introduced in the last twelve months.’
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order discussing that matter.
– I was making only a passing reference to it. The Government claims that this bill will be the means of cleaning up some of the malpractices that undoubtedly occur in some trade unions, but no valid reasons have been advanced in support of it, and I oppose it vigorously, because I am thoroughly familiar with the records of nearly all Government supporters. They pose as friends of the trade union movement and of the Labour movement, yet the organizations that selected them as candidates, without holding a secret ballot, did so for the specific purpose of destroying the Labour party. Therefore, I cannot support the bill.
The conciliation and arbitration system should not contain, punitive measures but should function, as it was primarily designed to function, to heal the breaches that undoubtedly and inevitably occur between employers and employees. I shall support any practical measure to bridge that gulf, because I believe in an evolutionary constitutional change that will eventually establish a more co-operative state of society. I also believe in the process of extracting for trade unionists a greater proportion of the fruits of their labours, but I agree that such extraction should be as painless as possible. Therefore, I support the system of arbitration.
– Order ! The honorable, member must direct his remarks to the bill.
– I shall do so. I support all the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that will improve relations between employer and employee. I believe in painless extraction in preference to violent extraction. The Labour movement itself believes in painless methods for extracting for the workers, by the arbitration process, a fairer share of the fruits of their production. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act should not contain punitive provisions. Trade unionists should not be fettered, restricted, directed, guided and, indeed, almost ordered by the Industrial Registrar to adopt a course that the ‘Government decides is desirable, any more than church organizations, tennis and football clubs, political organizations, lodges and the like should be subject to government interference in conducting the election of their officers and their affairs generally. For the reasons that I have given, I oppose the bill most enthusiastically, and with all the vigour that I can command.
– A visitor who wandered into this chamber during the speech of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), or a person who was listening to the broadcast of the proceedings, could be excused for believing that the purpose of this bill is to impose restrictions on trade unions, whereas, in fact, it will mean the emancipation of the honest and decent Australian worker from the industrial bullies who batten on him. This legislation merely aims to ensure that a proper ballot shall be held for the election of officers of trade unions. It is common knowledge that four key unions are affiliated with the Communist party. They are the Waterside Workers Federation, the Seamen’s Union, the Federated Ironworkers Association- .
– And the steelworkers.
– I thank the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) for having prompted me. Those four unions are controlled by Communists, and approximately twenty other unions are largely under the domination of Communists. The honorable member for Watson will not be able to plead ignorance of that fact. Opposition members who profess to represent the worker, appear to have forgotten that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was established by a Liberal Government in 1904. Trade unions are registered with the court and, for that reason, their affairs should be conducted honestly. The affairs of the majority of unions are conducted honestly, and the organizations themselves are respected. To be a trade unionist was once to have the stamp of being a good worker, but nowadays some of the key unions are under the control of men whose fealty is not to this country, but to Soviet Russia. Some of them are the enemies of the Australian people. Opposition members, if they require an example, have only to recall the former secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association, who, for years, caused strikes in Australia, and is now installed in Peking, in Communist China. No doubt he is in touch with his fellows in Australia with the object of acting treacherously to this country, in which they have lived for so long. The Government has introduced this bill for the purpose of liberating the unions from the control of men of that type, and it will be welcomed by many members of industrial organizations. Australian housewives do not need to be told of the difficulties that they suffer as a result of blackouts that are caused by strikes. The savings of the people are dwindling-
– Order ! Will the Minister direct his remarks to the bill?
– This bill is essential to the advancement of Australia. Our country, which is blessed by Providence, should be leaping ahead at this time, yet we suffer from wounds that are inflicted by the men who cause strikes and industrial upheavals. The Government wishes to eliminate some of those men from executive positions in the trade unions. If the Labour party cannot free the unions from the control of those men, it behoves the Liberal Government, a predecessor of which established the system of conciliation and arbitration in Australia, to undertake that responsibility: The people of Australia, if they are given the opportunity to express their views upon the industrial policy of the Government, will relegate the Labour party to the shades of Opposition with depleted numbers.
Much of the present difficulty arises from the fact that the Labour party is not its own master. It is harassed by Communists. It is true that individual members of the Opposition tell us, “ We hate the ‘ Commos ‘ as much as you do “, yet they make speeches that are in line with those of the Communists. I shall not mention any names, or look in any particular direction when I say that the speeches of some Opposition members may well” have been taken from writings of Stalin or Lenin. Some Opposition members are apologists and others may, in a sense, be regarded as fellow travellers. There are people in the various capital cities who adopt such slogans as “ Recognize China “ and “ Stop the war in Korea “. Some of them are misguided persons, but others are malevolent and their loyalty is given to an alien country.
– What has this to do with the bill?
– Opposition members are afraid of those people. The honorable member for East Sydney will be one of the first victims if they should ever assume control of this country.
– Order ! I ask the Minister to deal with the bill.
– I shall do so. The Labour party should support this bill, yet for some incomprehensible reason, it is opposing the measure. Opposition members dare not stand up to their masters.
The lights of the chamber becoming dim,
– I have underrated my forensic powers. Possibly the dimming of the lights is an indication that a pittop meeting has been held, and that a black-out will follow shortly. Lack of production has taken the value out of the £.
– Order! The Minister must; relate his remarks tfr” the bill.
– I realize that I must not cite too many examples, but I can sr.y that it is quite obvious that the Labour party should support this measure in the interests of a happier Australia. But Opposition members are. afraid to vote for the bill, because they must play up to the people whose support they are seeking in their pre-selection ballots for the next general election. It may be that the Parliament is on the eve of such an occasion. Who knows? Opposition members will need the support of some of those men who batten on the workers and trade in industrial disaster. If some Opposition members do not win their pre-election ballots-
– Order ! The Minister must confine his remarks to the bill.
– Very well ! If a fair and honest ballot is held for the election of the officers of every trade union, the representation within the organization will be better. Does any Opposition member contend that Mr. Brown, of the Australian Railways Union, Mr. Thornton, formerly of the Australian Federated Ironworkers Association, and Mr. Healy, of the Waterside Workers Federation, would have secured office if compulsory ballots had been held? Certainly not! The Communists know that decent men do not attend pit-top meetings and similar gatherings. They muster a few of the rabble in the stadium, or in a similar hall, and can carry a resolution without difficulty. A decent Australian, if he were to express his views at such a meeting, might .he hit on the head.. The Government wishes to ensure that trade unionists shall be able to vote as they please in an election of union officials. Why do Opposition members object to that proposal? Why should not a union have an honest roll? Is there any objection to the appointment of a government officer to conduct such an election? A union roll should be as honest as the Commonwealth electoral roll.
– There are honest union rolls.
– Frequently a union cannot give, on request, the exact number of its members. However, I agree with the honorable member for East Sydney that some unions conduct their elections perfectly honestly; but the royal commission in Victoria that inquired into the activities of the Communists adduced evidence that some unions could not produce a list of their members. Hundreds of unionists do not vote in an election of union officials. The Opposition should welcome this bill, which will clean up certain malpractices and ensure that the rights of the decent Australian, who has a stake in the country, will be safeguarded. It should not be the casual or the nondescript person, who has not enough to do, or the enemy of the Australian people, who elects trade union officers. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that the officers of industrial organizations shall be elected by secret ballot, and, if necessary, by a compulsory secret ballot.
– I know of no union that elects its officers by any other method.
– The royal commission in Victoriathat investigated the activities of the Communists was informed that many ballots had been faked. Opposition members should support this bill. The cessation ofindustrial stoppages will result in an increase of production. The workers will earn higher wages, and there will be greater prosperity.
– Order ! Will the Minister relate his remarks to the bill ?
– I need not say any more. Opposition members have every reason for supporting this bill, because it will clean up the administration of certain trade unions, the reputation of which is beneath contempt at the present time. The decent unions will not be affected by it, and the decent worker will receive assistance to achieve his emancipation. I exhort the Labour party, which professes to fight for the interests of the worker, and to be his advocate in this Parliament, to support the bill.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Debate (on motion by . Mr. McBride) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McBride)- - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of customs under customs tariff proposals.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide that the duties set out in the Customs Tariff Amendment No. 4 of the 7th December, 1950, shall be validated to the 30th September, 1951. The opportunity has not presented itself to the Government to have these proposals debated.
The goods principally concerned are wine, gloves, stone and coal drilling machines, hand tools, articles of glass, phenol, carbolic acid, strychnine, medicines, passengers’ personal effects and glass syringes. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
.- This is an interesting measure that concerns only the trade unionists of this country and the control of their organizations. Neither the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) nor any of his supporters up to date has demonstrated .that any request lias been made by the trade union movement for this intrusion in relation to its affairs. We know that a struggle is taking place within the trade union movement. That is a struggle for the leadership of the organized working class of Australia. Only two groups of people are concerned, those who pledge adherence to the’ Australian Labour party and those who support the Communist party. In that struggle the Government has no place. The interests that the Government represents are the common enemy of both these: sections within the trade union movement. The parties of which the Government is composed have a bad record of legislative interference, with which this effort is on a part and which will cause nothing but resentment and resistance throughout the trade union movement. However, a third class exists in the trade union movement, and perhaps that is the class to which the Government is now pandering. It is a class that has been brought into the trade union movement by compulsion, and has always been the most difficult to organize and to keep financial. It is ever ready to tolerate unwanted interference with the trade unionism of which it is unwillingly a part. The line up is composed of the Government parties and that section in the trade union movement which would favour legislation of this character. These political dissentients are the only persons in the trade union movement who will welcome the bill.
The Prime’ Minister has said that the bill is designed to enable minority groups to demand certain rights. In that they will be aided and abetted by the Communists, because everybody who has studied the progress of the Communist party knows that its members are the enemies of the Government and of the Opposition and that they fasten themselves on to all kinds of agitations within all kinds of movements in the hope that they may be able to capitalize on their support of those dissentient bodies and perhaps capture control of them. I say that the Government, by aiding these dissentients in the trade union movement, because no genuine trade unionist wants this alleged assistance, will do nothing but accentuate the difficulties that the genuine trade union movement labours under in dealing with the Communist menace, and will aid the Communists in their white-anting of the trade union movement. The Prime Minister said that the Government had reason to believe that certain union ballots were not properly conducted, and gave that as one of the reasons why the legislation has been brought forward. Although he was asked, by way of interjection, to name any union in which a crooked ballot had been held he was unable to name one.
– What about the Federated Clerks Union in Victoria?
– I am making this speech ; the honorable member’s turn will come later. The honorable member’s leader, who introduced this bill, although invited by interjection to name a union in which the elections had been unsatisfactory, was unable to do so and confessed that he could not do so.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Let me accept that unanimous howl of disapproval as indicating dissent from what I have said.
– Order !
– I want to know why the Prime Minister, if he did know of particular unions in which crooked ballots had taken place, did not, in response to interjections, disclose them? After all, it would have been a trump card in his hand, and perhaps would have completely justified the introduction of this measure to many people. Although challenged,” he was unable to give any substantial evidence, in fact was not prepared to cite one particular organization. That allegation was nothing more than a smoke screen to enable the Prime Minister to aid not only the Communist white.anters, but also other dissentient forces in the trade union movement, and to discomfort and if possible to destroy the effectiveness of that movement. Let us examine what has happened to date with regard to the activities of minorities, about which we have heard so much. Provision was made in previous legislation for dissentients or people who claimed to Iia ve been, subjected to an injustice, to appeal to the court. However > up to date, according to the Prime Minister’s figures, there have been only thirteen applications to the court for the court’s intervention, eight of which were found by the registrar to have some validity, but in only two of the thirteen cases were orders made by the court for fresh elections. I understand that in one of the cases, although the Government undertook to pay the costs involved, no costs have ever been paid to the sucessful union. If that is evidence of the support that the Government gives to the trade union movement, what hope will the trade unionists have under this measure?
– What government undertook to pay costs ?
– I am not concerned about which government it was.
– It was a Labour government.
– I am not concerned about that, because it was during the term of a Liberal government that the case was finalized. If a promise was made by a Labour government it should have been honoured by any other government. In proposed new section 96m, provision is made that all charges and all costs in any cases, no matter how irresponsible they may be, are to be a charge against union funds. Therefore, the Government in its benevolent interest in the unions and in its attempt to keep out the Communists, is doing something that will weaken all trade unions which are fighting against communism. That is because an unprescribed number of members of a trade union will be empowered to bring all sorts of legal and financial actions and the union will have to pay the costs. Let us examine some of the provisions of this legislation which is supposed to be an industrial cure-all. It provides by proposed new section 70a that trade union rules shall provide that the election of officers shall be by secret ballot. Can any honorable member tell me of any union in Australia that does not hold a secret ballot for the election of its officers?
– What is the name of that union ?
– I shall tell the honorable member at the proper time.
– Perhaps the honorable gentleman oan find one, but I remind him that one swallow does not make a summer. There may be one such union in the whole of Australia, but that provision already exists in the rules of 99.9. per cent, of the unions. I give the Minister the one that he proposes to tell us about. It will be interesting to discover whether he knows of more than one. The proposed new section also states that the rules may provide for compulsory voting. I know from my experience of the trade’ union movement that the Communists have been able to secure their present grip on the movement only because of the apathy of the majority of rank and file unionists in exercising their right to vote. Nobody can convince me that in the ranks of trade unionists the support that the Communists have is in any way comparable with the influence that they exert. The proposed new section states that the rules of an organization shall make provision for or in relation to the appointment, conduct and duties of re*turning officers ; the conduct of the ballot ; the appointment, conduct and duties of scrutineers; and the declaration of the result of the. ballot. Can any honorable gentleman opposite name a trade union the rules of which do not already contain those provisions?
– Then why worry about them?
– I am not worrying about them. What I am worrying about is the utter futility of the National Par* liament being asked to pass legislation requiring trade unions to do something that they have done already.
The bill also seeks to provide that, in the event of a strike, it shall be within the competence’ of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to order a ballot to be taken.
– Before a strike, also.
– I agree that that is so. Proposed new section 72 reads as follows : -
The Court may order that any matter upon which’ the Court thinks fit to ascertain the views of the members of an organization or of a branch of an organization which is a party to an industrial dispute … be submitted to a vote of the members of the organization or of the branch taken by secret ballot (with or without provision for absent voting) in accordance with directions given by the Court.
Suppose a strike was in progress and negotiations for a settlement were taking place. Suppose also that, at a stage when those negotiations were likely to .bear fruit, the trade union concerned - it might be the Australian “Workers Union, which has a membership of 150,000 - was required to conduct a ballot by postal vote in order to ascertain whether or not its members wished to remain on strike. Possibly the strike would be over before the ballot-papers could be despatched.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that a judge would be silly enough to order a ballot to be taken in such circumstances ?
– I am referring, not to what a judge might be silly enough to do, but to what this Government has been stupid enough to propose. While a ballot of, in the case of the Australian Workers Union, 150,000 members was being taken, the dispute might be settled and the men be back at work. I point out that neither the court that was responsible for ordering the ballot nor the Government that was responsible for the legislation would have to bear the cost of that stupid and unwanted action. It would be a charge on the funds of the organization concerned. I say without hesitation that, with encouragement of this kind, dissentient groups within a trade union could keep the organization in a state of constant turmoil and, by requesting that ballots be conducted at its expense, could break it financially. In my opinion, that is what the Government intends shall happen.
There is another interesting provision in this measure. Sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 96m provides -
An organization or a branch of an organization may request the Industrial Registrar that an election for an office in the organization or in the branch (as the case may be) be conducted under this section with a view to ensuring that no irregularity occurs in or in connexion with the election.
I ask honorable members to note that the request may be made by a branch of an organization. Sub-section (2.) of the proposed new section reads as follows: -
For the purposes of the last preceding sub1 section, a .request made by the .prescribed number … of the members- nobody knows what the prescribed number is - of an organization or branch of an organization shall be deemed to be made by the organization or branch.
Under those provisions, a trade union would catch it both coming and going. The trouble-makers in a union might be people who had become members as a result of the policy of compulsory unionism and were ready at any time to stab unionism in the back, or Communists who were ready to capitalize any popular movement in order to damage the organization that they cannot otherwise control. With the kind of backing that this bill would provide, an unprescribed number of trouble-makers could demand, not only that the union conduct a ballot for election of officers but also that a ballot be taken upon the question of whether the members should strike or, if they were on strike, whether they should return to work and, if so, upon what terms. Ballots upon any of those questions would have to be conducted if a request for them was made by an unspecified number of members. That would be a ridiculous position.
– Will the honorable gentleman tell us what happened in caucus this morning?
– I am not here to say what happened in caucus, any more than I am here to tell the public how the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) once publicized the fact that he was a fascist. I am not here to publicize things that I do not want to be publicized. Under this cure-all which, it is said, will settle all the troubles , of the trade union movement, ballots would have to be conducted at the behest of an unspecified number of members of a union. A ballot could be demanded by a group which, in proportion .to the total membership of the union, was very small. The group might be composed of permanent dissentients who had been forced into the union under compulsory unionism or consist partly of Communists who desired to exploit any movement within a union which they could not capture in order to discomfort the officers of the union. An unspecified number of members of an organization could demand that a plebiscite be taken of the whole of the membership. Can honorable gentlemen opposite imagine anything more ludicrous than that? The proposal is that a ballot shall be held not if a request for one is made by the members of a State branch of a union or the majority, of the members of the union, but if the request is made by an unspecified number of disgruntled persons. Under this measure, an unspecified number of members in any State could put an organization like the Australian Workers Union to the expense of conducting a postal ballot of 150,000 members. If this measure had been in operation a fortnight ago, we should have witnessed the ludicrous spectacle of the miners and waterside workers returning to work at a time when their unions were conducting a ballot upon the question of whether or not they should have gone on strike.
It has been said that the bill is designed to settle industrial disputation, but I believe that, if it were passed, it would assist the elements in the trade union movement who wish to cause industrial disputes. There is the kind of disputation that occurs naturally between employers and unions. In addition,Communist groups in unions endeavour to “ cash in “ on popular moves within the organizations. Will the Minister for Labour and National Service, who has had so much contact with the trade union movement, deny that the Communists use the tactics of “cashing-in “ on popular agitations?
– I admit that freely.
– Under this measure an unspecified number of persons who, as the Minister admits freely, take advantage of popular movementsto further their own objectives, could demand that a ballot be taken of the whole of the financial membership of a trade union with members throughout the Commonwealth. It has been sand that there are more ways of killing a cat than by choking it with butter. Another way of causing disruption within the trade union movementhas been evolved, and the disruption will have the blessing of the Government. The expense of ballots taken under the provisions of this fruitless and futile measure will be borne by the genuine trade unionists of this country. That is the position as I see it.
It has been said that this bill is designed to remedy industrial troubles, but, in my view, it will create them. I have never been opposed to organized bodies of employers, anymore than I have been opposed to organized bodies of employees, because I realize that the only way in which industrial disputes can be settled is by negotiators who have the imprimatur of the employer as a body and the employees as a body. The struggle in the trade union movement is not between the present Government parties and the Labour party. The industrial mo vement of Australia does not give a snap of its fingers for the parties to which honorable members opposite belong. The struggle for- the leadership of the working class movement of Australia is between the Labour party and the Communist party. I warn the Government that, legislation of this kind will assist the forces that wish to destroy those who want the arbitration courts to be used for the settlement of disputes between employers and employees. This measure will assist dissentient groups in the trade union movement. The strongest organized dissentient group in the movement is the Communist party. I say definitely that, if we passed this measure, we should be putting into the hands of Communists who were in a minority in a trade union which they could not control a weapon that they could use to destroy it.
– This is a bill to provide for effective secret ballots. Its purpose is to strengthen the law that relates to the election of officers of organizations registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and to enable a vote of trade unionists involved in an industrial dispute to be taken either before a strike or during the progress of a. strike. One would have thought thata bill having those purposes, which commend themselves to every person in Australia who wants the rule of law to apply in industrial affairs and to see an end of anarchic strike action in this country, would have met with the approval of all political parties in this Parliament, and that all honorable members would’ have said that they wanted to make it work. Let us make this bill effective. Let us defeat the Communists and smash their influence in trade union affairs. That is the purpose of this bill. It is a matter of very grave importance to the Government that those who claim to speak for the trade unions in Australia have adopted this destructive, narrow, carping approach to a bill of so much consequence to the trade union movement and the people of Australia as a whole. It is not without significance that, although the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) had the call just before the suspension of the sitting-
– Order ! The honorable member for Port Adelaide did not have the call,
– I saw the honorable member rise, Mr. Speaker, and quite obviously he was seeking the call. However, the point is not of great importance except inasmuch as the Opposition had as its opening speaker to-night a very senior and responsible member of the party, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), a former Speaker of this Parliament and one of its most capable debaters. The irony of that situation is that the honorable member for Dalley was for many years one of the most outspoken and vigorous members of that section of the Labour movement which called itself the Australian Labour party (Non-Communist). The fight inside the Labour movement was so keen at that time that the movement was divided into those who considered that others in the party were supporting communism and those who composed the official Labour party. The honorable member for Dalley was at that time a senior member of the Australian Labour party (Non-Communist). If this bill will do anything effective it will smash the deadly grip that communism has been able to place on the throat of the basic industries of the Commonwealth of Australia. Where do members of the Labour party stand on that issue? Do they want to strengthen the Communists?.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! If the honorable member for Wills (Mr.. Bryson) continues to interject I shall invoke Standing Order 303. The same applies to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– Do members of the Labour party want the Communists to maintain this grip which they have on our essential industries or will they help us to fight this evil which has crept into our community life1? The honorable . member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) said in his opening remarks that the Government was intruding on what was a private fight inside the trade union movement between those who supported the Labour party and those who supported the Communists. What a presumption! There are approximately 1,500,000 trade unionists in the Commonwealth of Australia and to divide them into two narrow groups - those supporting the Labour party and those supporting Communists - is to ignore the tens of thousands of trade unionists who have no political or industrial affiliations and are pre-, pared to judge every issue on its merits; and it is to ignore also, the hundreds of thousands of trade unionists who are loyal supporters of the Government’s side of politics. Yet honorable members of the Opposition say that the Government is intruding! The Government is not intruding. It is taking this action because the Australian people as a whole are vitally concerned about the conduct of these important public organizations. The Government’s right to intrude in their private affairs such as the election of their officials and the formation of their rules has been questioned. The Government’s right is the right of a government that represents the people and has to maintain law and order and industrial decency. It. is- the same kind of right that governments from the parties on both sides of the House have exercised in relation to other bodies, including public companies. The Parliament has passed in great detail legislation concerning companies> and has made them comply with strict requirements because it was in the public interest to dp. so. It is ‘in order to protect the public interest that the Government considers that organizations of employers and employees should be required to obey the rules set out in this legislation.
Not only the political supporters of this Government are vitally interested in this legislation. I remind the honorable member for Dalley that many honorable members who sit behind him ‘have a very acute interest in it - an interest which they have not hesitated to demonstrate outside this Parliament as occasion required. I do not usually accept newspaper reports at their face value; I know that all too often they give some garbled version of a discussion; but the report that appeared to-night in the Melbourne Herald of the caucus meeting on this matter which took place early to-day is of some interest.
– Order ! . I have prevented other honorable members from discussing their party’s affairs.
– I am only seeking to contest the claim of the honorable member for Dalley that the Government has no right to intrude in this matter because it is purely a concern of the trade union movement itself. “Without going into the details of the report which honorable members will be able to read for themselves, I challenge honorable members opposite to say truthfully and frankly that there is not a very acute division in their own ranks as to whether or not this legislation should be passed. I say with every confidence that there are members sitting behind the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) who wish that the rules of their political organization would permit them to vote with honorable members on this side of the House in support of this legislation. The reason is obvious. In the industrial movement, whatever may be the view of the official body the Australian Council of Trades Unions, there has been an upsurge in the ranks of unionists who have demanded that they be given the right to have clean ballot* before being dragged into a strike against their will and before a dispute reaches the stage at which, whether they like it or not, they have to impose hardship on unionists in other industries.
Conference declared that Communists hold office in a number of unions only because they run and rig the . union ballots. The demand for clean union ballots to be vigorously pressed by all members of the Ironworkers’ A.L.P. Industrial Group.
The conference referred to was the second national conference of the Ironworkers Australian Labour Party Industrial Group. Will any honorable member of the Opposition deny that that is an authoritative statement from an influential section of the industrial movement of New South Wales? In a circular issued on the 16th February, 1951, by the campaign committee of the Australian Labour Party Industrial Group, Victoria, it was stated that the group advocated the appointment of independent returning officers and that all unions’ elections should be conducted by such officers, preferably through the Commonwealth. Electoral Officers ; that voting should be secret and that voters should not be required to sign or in any other way deface their ballot-papers; that ballot-papers should be printed by the Government Printer ; and that candidates should have the right to appoint scrutineers. That statement was contained in a resolution which was reported in the Melbourne Age of the 17th February.
I shall now quote from the NewsWeekly of the 28th February, 1951. I understand that a shorter report on the matter appeared in the Melbourne Age of about the same date and that it concerns a meeting convened by theAustralian Labour Party Industrial Group. A tribute is due to thosemen inside the industrial movement who, recognizing the menace of aggressive communism inside the trade union movement, have gone to a lot of trouble and risked a great deal of intimidation in order to fight the challenge as it developed inside the trade union movement. The meeting to which the report relates was held in the Lyceum Theatre in Melbourne on Sunday, the 25th February. At it, a motion demanding that legislation be passed by both the State and Australian Governments to stop union election irregularities was passed unanimously. The estimated attendance of 1,500 people filled the theatre to capacity. The full text of the resolution was -
This meeting . draws” attention to the fact that although the A.C.T.TJ. and the Australian Labour party recognized that ballot rigging occurred in certain unions and agreed to legislative action to remedy the situation, the practice still continues. It declares _ that democracy cannot function unless the decisions of trade unions and their elections express the opinion of the majorities of members determined by ballots conducted in a proper manner, lt is the considered opinion of this meeting that legislation is necessary to ensure clean union ballots and elections, and the keystone of such legislation should be the conduct of elections and referendum ballots by independent returning officers.
I point out that this was not a Communist gathering.
– Was the Minister there?
– No. But I am extremely interested to know that at least there are some people who claim to be supporters of the Australian Labour party and true Australians at heart who have the courage to fight communism instead of skulking behind majority resolutions which protect them from their electors. The resolution continued -
The meeting therefore calls upon the Federal Conference of the Australian Labour party to support the campaign by seeking immediately Federal legislation. It also calls upon all State Governments to bring down similar legislation to ensure clean elections in State unions and branches of Federal unions which are not registered with the Arbitration Court.
The report of the meeting in the NewsWeekly continued -
Mr, T. Brennan, president of the Victorian Labour party, chaired the meeting and said that the Victorian State Executive was wholeheartedly in support of clean union ballots. He read out greetings and resolutions in support from the Victorian branch of the Federated Clerks Union, the Waterside Workers Federation, the Newcastle branch of the Ironworkers Union and the Newcastle combined A.L.P. groups. Many parliamentarians and members of the State executive were in attendance.
Some honorable members who are now in the chamber were also there, I understand.
I have taken a great deal of the time that is available to me in order to answer the charge that the Government is trying to impose unfair restrictions on the trade union movement. The truth is that the Government took this course of action because it considered such a measure to be necessary. It has convincing evidence that a very large proportion of trade unionists throughout the length and breadth of Australia are demanding that such action be taken. In justice to the Labour party, I acknowledge that it introduced a bill when it was in office in 1949 to deal with irregularities in trade union affairs. But, in the view of this Government, that legislation did not go far enough. Many members of the Labour party who attended the meeting to which I have referred agree with that view. Even under that legislation, thirteen applications have been made to the court already as the result of suspected irregularities in trade union matters. I refer honorable members also to the findings of the Royal Commission on Communism in Victoria. The commissioner, Mr. Justice Lowe, dealt with allegations of ballot irregularities and reported that charges of that nature had been fully established in only one instance but that there were grounds for suspicion in many other instances. All members of the Opposition who have spoken in this debate have admitted the existence of irregularities, yet all that they have done has been to express laboriously some carping criticisms of the details of the bill. If they believe that irregularities are continuing and that this evil is polluting the trade union movement of Australia to-day, they should rise and say, “ Yes, we must do something about this matter. We do not like parts of the bill and there are other parts of it that we think could be improved, but we are prepared to join with the Government in presenting to the people legislation which, from our experience of the trade union movement, we know will be effective.” That would be the sort of answer that the people could understand. They would respond to such an approach to the problem, but this negative, destructive, criticism, this refusal to see any merit in our proposals or to make any, constructive suggestions, put the Labour party where the people believe that it belongs, back in the company of those whom it is afraid to challenge and fight - the Communists who constitute such an influential section of the trade union movement in Australia. The Government is out to smash their influence. It believes that this legislation is an essential weapon in the fight against communism and it regards the legislation that was introduced last week for the purpose of strengthening the power of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as an equally important instrument in that struggle.
The Communists have made no secret of what they are trying to do inside the trade union movement. I have here an official publication which was issued under the signature of the president of the Communist party of Australia, Mr. L. Sharkey, who is known to honorable members because of his activities in other directions. This pamphlet is regarded as the bible of the Communist party of Australia in relation to its trade union activities. It was published first in November, 1942, and a second impression was made in the same month. A third impression was made in December, 1942. and a fourth was made in February, 1943. Those facts give some indication of the spread of the pernicious doctrines of communism through the trade unions. Does any member of the Opposition imagine that that spread has not been effective and that Communist influence in the unions to-day is not profound? Why, during the recent coal strike, the miners’ federation issued almost daily 3,000 informative pamphlets containing instructions, counsels of action and lines of propaganda to selected Communists and Communist sympathizers in the trade unions. They are the white ants inside the movement. Time will not permit me to develop this argument in detail, but I invite honorable members to read the pamphlet and study the professed objective of the Communists to smash the arbitration system because it stands in the way of the class struggle that they seek to promote. It deals with strikes of
Strikes, properly led and conducted and properly timed, are a revolutionary weapon. Strikes develop the labour movement, organize and unite workers and win the intermediate social strata to thu side of the revolution.
As, recently as February of this year, Comrade Elliott, another notorious spokesman for the Communist party inside the trade union movement, who is the secretary of the Seamen’s Union, reminded a gathering in the Federated Ironworkers Hall in Sydney of the fact that an organized body of workers seized the town of St. Louis in the United States of America last century by force and remained in control for a fortnight until it finally surrendered .to a strong military force. He said that he had no doubt that the Communists, who ware well organized, could take control of Sydney for a similar period, but added -
When we take over we want to take over permanently.
By using their influence within the trade union movement, the Communists hope to foment strikes and bring about a situation that will eventually enable this arrogant spokesman of the Communist party and his comrades to gain permanent control of our cities.
– What has this to do with the bill? ‘
– It has everything to do with the bill. The Government has no wish to interfere with the domestic affairs of trade unions, and, had the trade unions in the basic essential industries not fallen into the hands of Communist disrupters, the bill would never have seen the light of day in this Parliament. It is here to-day because the trade union movement so far has demonstrated that it cannot defend itself against the Communist menace. There are men inside the unions who need the support of this legislation and there are men who sit behind. the Leader of the Opposition in this House to-day who hope with all their hearts that this bill will become the established law of the land. They are fighting their own desperate uphill battle, and tb.ey .need all the help that -we and the people outside the Parliament can give to them if this issue is to be fought to a successful conclusion.
The Communists set out to gain control of the great individual trade unions so that they could use the organization and the propaganda machinery of those bodies to spread their doctrine. They aim to use coercion, ballot rigging, intimidation and eventual seizure of control by amalgamation with the object of building up finally to an effort that will paralyse the economy of the nation and the normal machinery of government. When they have reached the stage at which ‘ they can wield the weapon of the general strike with a political background, as they have done in other countries, they hope to take the final desperate step of violent revolution. I do not say that the ordinary trade unionist who goes along and votes for a Communist candidate at union meetings has in his mind any of those desperate eventualities. He votes for a man who, he thinks, is a good union organizer. But, time after time after he has registered his vote, his intentions are. thwarted as the result of the illegal tactics that are pursued by the controllers of union affairs* I have not heard one member of the Opposition claim that ballot irregularities do not occur within the trade unions. In fact, the Labour Government’s legislation of 1949 established its belief that such irregularities were taking place. If such irregularities occur, and if the existing legislation does not go far enough towards stamping them out, many members of the Opposition- and thousands of trade unionists throughout Australia must support the Government’s action. Why deny us the opportunity to put this situation right?
Members of the Opposition have criticized the proposal to amend the principal act so as to give power to . a judge to authorize a vote of unionists in relation to any dispute that may lead to a strike or to authorize a vote during the course of a strike. I do not know why they should take that attitude, because the Labour Government’s legislation included a provision that was similar to that in many respects. As the act now stands, a judge may order a vote to be taken while proceedings are taking place before him. Nobody suggests for a moment that a judge is likely to -exercise the proposed power frequently or stupidly. In fact, since the existing provision to which I have referred has been in force, it has been invoked only on two occasions as far as I am aware. But there were many occasions last year and during this year when good results could have been obtained if the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had had the power to conduct a vote before a strike commenced. The existing provision in relation to votes that may be taken during proceedings before the court is virtually a dead letter. The two instances that I have mentioned occurred before the Chifley Government introduced its amending legislation of 1947. That legislation took away from the court the authority to deal with all but a restricted number of matters. Conciliation commissioners were given power to deal with all residual matters, but they were” not given the right to conduct ballots during the course of strikes. The Government proposes, by means of this bill, to give to the court power to order a ballot of members of a union before a strike occurs or, if a strike has occurred as the result of a decision by a conciliation commissioner, during the course of that strike. I should think that most sensible men would say that that would be a very helpful and useful part of our arbitration law.
The honorable member for Dalley tried to ridicule the fact that the Government intended to authorize a significant minority of unionists to ask that any election of officers be conducted underthe auspices of the Industrial Registrar. He said that this provision would place a weapon in the hands of the Communists and would defeat the Government’s objective. The answer to that assertion can be obtained by making a study of the relevant provision. Under its terms, a minority of members of a union may apply to the registrar to conduct a ballot, and the registrar may make a direction accordingly. There will be no compulsion upon the. registrar to act in that way. The proposal is that, if a significant number of union members makes application, the registrar, not being without some background knowledge of such- matters, shall be able to exercise his own good sense and discretion in deciding whether or not an election should be conducted under his auspices. All this fanciful talk about upsetting the conduct of union affairs and placing weapons in the hands of the Communists falls completely to the ground when one examines the provision in a common-sense way.
-Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– We have heard a very able . speech by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). Nobody is likely to deny that he can present a case with great force and conviction, and I shall not attempt to do so. However, he sought, more than anything else, to misrepresent the point of view of the Labour party, which was the underlying intention of the Government when it presented this measure to the House in the first place. The Minister made quotations from documents, including statements of which the Communist Sharkey was the author, as evidence of the relationship that exists between the Communists and the trade unions. I have been a member of a trade union for over 40 years. During that period I have held practically every official position in my organization, including that of federal president, and federal secretary. It was a key trade union and, if it had chosen to do so, could have carried on a strike throughout Australia, but at no time did it ever resort to Australia-wide strike action simply for the purpose of obtaining what is wanted. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. J.ames Harrison) is now the federal president of that trade union. The Communists have never exercised any influence in any organization that I have had the honour to represent. It is deplorable that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Labour and National Service should seek to bolster this bill with arguments that are nothing more than propaganda in preparation for a general -election - if the Government can contrive to have one - in the near future. The Government having failed to achieve what it desired because of the decision of the High Court, which declared the Communist Party Dis solution Act to be invalid, has now with great haste introduced this measure under which it seeks to do things that are particularly objectionable to trade unionists. It is significant that the Minister has not claimed that he has consulted with any representatives of the trade unions in relation to this bill or in respect of the methods that the Government proposes to implement under it. As I notice that the Minister has nodded his head, I ask him now to name any trade union with whose representatives he has consulted in connexion with this measure.
– Early last year I consulted with the president and the secretary of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I am not claiming that they would support this measure; my talks with them were sufficient to lead me to believe that they would probably oppose many of its provisions.
– In view of that admission and in view of the remarks that the Minister has just made in his speech, it is clear that the Government has introduced this measure merely in order to injure the trade unions, which are the backbone of industry in this country and of the Australian Labour party. Supporters of the Government, who showed that they are completely uninformed upon the subject, have suggested that the trade unions are separate organizations and should confine themselves to industrial action. Every well-informed person knows that the trade unions practically formed the Australian Labour party in order to obtain redress for. the injustices that had been done to trade unionists in the past. There can be no doubt that the trade union movement is completely behind the Australian Labour party. Some honorable members opposite made great play about the existence within the Labour party of groups that hold differing views on this legislation. Do honorable members opposite deny that groups holding differing views on various live political issues exist in the Liberal party and the Australian Country party? Do they deny that within their parties one group is pressing strongly for the revaluation of the Australian fi, whilst another group is opposed to such a proposal? Whilst members of the Labour party may hold differing views about the methods that should be employed in putting forward the party’s policy, all of them accept the policy that is finally determined.
The Minister amplified what had Deen said somewhat inadequately by Government supporters, who alleged that members of the Labour party were divided among themselves. That allegation is completely unfounded. I make that statement as one who is regarded as a moderate member of the Labour party. I repeat that whilst members of the Labour party may differ about the methods by which the party should proceed, once its policy has been laid down no member of the party departs from it. I do not think that the same can he said about members of the Government parties. For instance, one reads in the daily press of differences of opinion among members of those parties concerning revaluation of the Australian £1.
– Order! The honorable member is getting outside the scope of the bill.
– As you, Mr. Speaker, permitted the Minister for Labour and National Service to refer to differences within the Labour party, I am showing that such differences exist within the Government parties.
– Order! The honorable member may criticize the Government parties, but he may not proceed to discuss revaluation of the Australian £1.
– I mentioned that subject merely as an example of the wide divergence, of opinion that exists between the Government parties which have introduced this measure not only to interfere with but also to injure the trade unions. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) said that this measure is provocative. I go further and say that it is injurious to the trade unions and that the Government intends that it shall serve that purpose. The Government found itself frustrated when the High Court declared the Communist Party Dissolution Act to be invalid. Following that judgment the Government should have given to the people an opportunity, by way of referendum, to say whether the Constitution should be so altered as to enable it to achieve the objective that it had in mind when that legislation was passed. Instead, it has introduced this measure for the purpose of injuring the trade unions because it realizes that the trade union movement is solidly behind the Labour party. Is that a fair approach to the problem ? The Government has introduced this measure knowing that the Parliament is not likely to pass it and that, in that event, it will have an election placard that it can use when a general election takes place.
-Order! The bill does not refer to a general election.
– In making that remark, I have in mind the. fact that certain honorable members opposite must realize that if a general election takes place they will not make a reappearance in this House. Neither you, Mr. Speaker, nor I, need entertain any fears on that score. I repeat that the Communists do not exercise any influence in the Labour party. Some supporters of the Government advanced shocking arguments in the course of their speeches in this debate. For instance, the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) asked the Opposition to advance constructive proposals for the purpose of improving this measure which, it is clear, is nothing but destructive. Such a suggestion is ridiculous. Yet, Government supporters have invited the Opposition to put forward proposals with a view to modifying those that the Government has presented. It would be futile, if not impossible, to present constructive proposals in respect of a measure that is intended to be destructive.
– Because the” bill is entirely unnecessary. I am a member of a union that has held secret ballots for as long as I can remember. Those ballots were completely secret and no protest has ever been made about the manner in which they were conducted. I do not claim that the trade unions are perfect ; but nearly all of them conduct secret ballots for the purposes for which they are to be prescribed under this measure. Honorable members opposite may claim that those who support the Government . parties’ behaviour in a similar respect is perfect, but they cannot substantiate that claim. This measure is designed to grind down the trade unions. It will place them in a position in which, in all conceivable circumstances, an outside authority may order them to conduct ballots at their own expense. The cost of conducting ballots in the organization of which I am a member has been estimated at from ls. to ls. 6d. for each member. The trade unions have no surplus funds with which to meet such expense, and they may be obliged repeatedly to strike levies in order to do so. I find it very difficult ; to understand,., many of the statements that the honorable member for Lyne made. The Government appears to be crawling down a furrow to the drain of disaster. Its supporters claim to possess knowledge of something about which they are completely uninformed. It is very seldom that I speak on any matter about which [ am not reasonably informed, but the statements that members of the Australian Country party have made in this debate show that they have no inkling of the manner in which trade unions conduct their affairs. For instance, the honorable member- for Lyne said that the Labour party was a.fraid to interfere with the trade unions. Such a statement is amusing. Would .the honorable member advocate that the Government should interfere in a political . way with the British Medical Association, the Institute of Accountants, the Law Society, primary producers’ organizations, graziers associations and organizations of civil engineers, dentists, surveyors, professional officers and the like?
Supporters of the Government well know that, generally, the shareholders in a company have practically no voice in deciding what attitude their company shall adopt towards .claims that arc ordinarily made by employees with respect to wages and conditions of employment. Can honorable members opposite cite one instance in which the shareholders in a company have been asked to indicate their views by a formal vote on what action should be taken with respect to logs of claims that organizations to which its employees belong lodge with the court? Every honorable member knows that that is not done. I can speak with first-hand knowledge of what was done in similar circumstances by the Theatrical Entrepreneurs Association when my industrial organization was operating a picture theatre. I attended a meeting at the Bijou Theatre, Melbourne, as a member of that association. When the log of claims that had been submitted by the theatrical employees came up for consideration, the chairman was horrified and wanted to throw, it into the wastepaper basket. When I suggested that the association should confer on the matter with the employees themselves, he regarded ‘. me as something*’ that ‘ had appeared from the bowels of the earth. T was howled down by the chairman and other members of the association as a person who was unfit to belong to such a body. That attitude is typical of the attitude of many employers. They have never shown willingness to give an opportunity to shareholders in their companies to consider requests that are made on behalf of their employees. At the same time, trade unions are obliged under the conciliation and arbitration la.w to submit all proposed logs to their members for approval. Yet, honorable members opposite, including the Prime Minister, have stated that under this measure employers and employees will be placed in exactly the same position. In view of the facts that I have given that statement is ridiculous and it will not help the right honorable- gentleman to appear in a. favorable light in the eyes of trade unionists. Under the 1949 act any member of a union has an opportunity to challenge what he believes to be an irregularity in the conduct of a ballot in a trade union or a branch of a trade union. Therefore, no necessity exists for this measure, which merely takes control of the business of those organizations out of the hands of their officials and places it in those of an outside authority. As a member of a trade union for over 40 years and as one who has occupied official positions not only in the trade union to which I belong “but also in such bodies as the Trades Hall Council and the Commonwealth Council of Trade Unions, I know, as do all my colleagues, that the trade unionists of this country will resent this interference in their affairs just as much as employers would resent any attempt by the Government to interfere similarly in the conduct of their affairs. They do not- propose to do the same things to them. I believe that the Government regards this bill merely as advance propaganda for a possible general election. That is why it has been introduced at this stage. Government supporters have expressed astonishment that we are not willing to join hands with them in relation to this matter. That was one of the Minister’s pleas to-night. Join with the Government in crushing communism ! As a matter of fact, we are as much, or more, the enemies of communism as are the Government parties. In fact, the parties now in office regard the Communists as their allies, and use them as such at general elections. The Government parties have always brought forward the pawn of communism to try to delude the people, and have been able to do so because they have at their disposal unrivalled channels of publicity that the Labour party could never hope to secure. This propaganda has been going on in the press for a long period as a lead-up to this bill. It is still going on, and will still go on, whatever happens, no matter whether it is decided that we shall soon go to our masters or remain in being . as a Parliament. That propaganda will go on because the ground is being prepared for the very definite purpose of deluding the people into the belief that the Labour party is-, and will continue to be, the friend of the Communists, whereas, in fact, the very word “ communism “ is hated within the ranks of most trade unions. Every trade unionist knows that this bill will not accomplish the purposes for which it has been ostensibly designed. I believe that the Government is just pretending in this matter. I am sorry to have to say that because I should like to see a government in charge that would have an honest desire to elevate the interests of the people. The Government has no such desire, notwithstanding the assertions made from time to time by honorable members opposite.
Many new honorable members have been deluded, and perhaps disillusioned, by the Government’s proposals. Perhaps they- have been disillusioned about the worth of previous legislation that the Government has brought down.. I suggest that this legislation is just asworthless as that which was invalidated by the High Court recently. The Government does not want this legislation passed. What it wants to do, if - it possibly can, is to get us to reject it - as we must if we do our duty - so that it can go to the people and say, “ We gavethe Labour party an opportunity to help to crush communism, and it refused to take it “. That is what the Ministerfor Labour and National Service wants. I have always imagined him to be a man of liberal mind who might claim, to be regarded as a true Liberal, but latterly,, notwithstanding the fact that he poses as a true Liberal, he has shown himself to be a complete reactionary. So are you all. You all are reactionaries.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman will address me. I am the only reactionary whom he may address as “ you “.
– I shall conform to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, by addressing you instead of honorable gentlemen who sit behind the Government, although it cannot be denied that they are responsible for a bill that is atrocious and that has been brought forward for the purpose of placarding to the people their alleged intentions. They do not want the bill to be passed, because that would rob them of a great deal of their electoral thunder. It is sheer hypocrisy for honorable members opposite to say that they are disappointed because we have not welcomed this measure. I say that the intentions of the Government are to try to place Labour in a position in which it cannot rebut the allegation that it is affiliated with communism because it lacks the great organs of publicity that the Government parties have.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman had better begin to deal with the bill.
– I turn now to clause 2 of the bill, which reads -
Section four of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraph (a) of the definition of “Office’’ the following paragraph: - ” (aa) the office of president, vice-president, secretary, assistant-secretary or other executive officer, by whatever name called, of the organization or branch.”
Clause 3 also refers to “ office “ and therefore it . was necessary to have a definition of that word. Paragraph (c) of clause 3 provides that the rules of an association may provide for compulsory voting. It does not intend, apparently, to make compulsory voting mandatory. If the Government regards compulsory voting as being essential, it could provide for it under this bill, but instead of that the union rules “ may provide for compulsory voting “. It leaves entirely with the Government the decision of whether or not there is to be compulsory voting.
– That shows how liberal we are.
– Yes, the liberality of the Minister and the Government is such that they want to set traps for the Labour party. Perhaps those experienced in trade unionism, although maybe not so widely experienced in politics, will not be easily trapped. The proposed new section 70a states that the rules of an association - shall make provision for or in relation to . . . the appointment, conduct and duties of scrutineers to represent the candidates at the ballot . . .
In the case of my union, the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, there are frequently as many as 25 or 30 candidates in an executive election. Imagine the expense that would be involved in appointing scrutineers for every candidate, who certainly would be entitled to demand them. In addition to the cost of conducting an election, there would be the cost of providing the scrutineers. In fact, I think it would be impossible to obtain scrutineers, because there would be a shortage of locomotive enginemen, especially in view of the fact that many members of the union would be driving trains miles from the scene pf the ballot. I doubt whether the authorities would be willing to give 25 locomotive enginemen time off from their work to act as scrutineers. I am not suggesting that trade union ballots are not sometimes corrupt, but I think that in from 95 to 99 per cent, of cases they are conducted fairly and squarely for the benefit of the men. Proposed new section 72 reads -
The Court may order that any matter upon which the Court thinks fit to ascertain the views of the members of an organization or of. a branch of an organization which is a party to an industrial dispute whether or not proceedings in relation to the dispute are before the Court or a Conciliation Commissioner under this Act, or whether or not some other tribunal is empowered to exercise functions or powers of conciliation or arbitration in relation to the dispute) be submitted to a vote of the members of the organization or of the branch being taken by secret ballot (with or without provision for absent voting) in accordance with directions given by the Court.
Analysed, that proposed new section is seen to mean that a ballot would have to be taken all over Australia. Imagine the time that would be occupied in taking a ballot of men from all over Australia and stationed as far apart as Port Hedland and Townsville. The taking of such a ballot would occupy a long time, and it might be .a considerable time before the result of it would be obtained. I do not think that my organization has ever gone on strike without taking a ballot, although it is possible that strikes have taken place r,.s the result of a ballot that was taken before certain eventualities occurred, which authorized that action if such eventualities occurred. I consider that it is only right that that procedure should be followed. The record of the men whom I have represented in the trade union field over many years, will bear comparison with that of any body of unionists in Australia. I think that they have been involved in some stoppages in recent years, but I can say that they went for 25 years without any stoppages. In fact, they received the thanks of the Government and the applause of honorable members opposite for the work that they did during the war. They worked extraordinary hours, but they did not get much reward for it later ‘when they went to conciliation and arbitration.
– What reward does the honorable gentleman think they should have received?
– I think that they should have received recognition for the fact that they worked long overtime and were not paid overtime rates when they had completed eight hours of duty, and also did not receive overtime payments for travelling time. Most people thought they should have been given those benefits, but that was not the view of the commissioners appointed to deal with the case. I had hoped that the Government would be impressed by the views that have been expressed by responsible trade unionists on this side of the House who are men of moderate views who do not seek strife and do not rise at every opportunity and accuse the Government of always acting against their interests. However, that has apparently not been the case, and it cannot be denied that the Government is anting against the interests of the unionists, both here and outside, in this measure. I feel very strongly about the measure and the purposes of the Government in introducing it, and I say that we are not likely to yield one iota nor to do what the Government asks us to do. With Hrs bill the Government has ventured into a field in which it lias little knowlodge and small experience - not at the request of the trade unions, but against the desire of the unions.. It did not consult the trade unions about the bill. If there was consultation, as has been suggested by the Minister, then it was twelve months or so ago, as he has admitted, and it was not in relation to the present position. The Minister has also admitted that the trade unionists with whom the Government consulted last year would have been opposed to this bill.
In its anxiety to provide itself with an election cry, the Government is prepared to go to the extreme length of doing injury to the trade unions. I make that statement emphatically as a trade unionist of wide experience, and I regret that the Government has taken such a stand. Similar tactics were employed by its predecessors, with dire results to them. I remind honorable members opposite that in 1929 an anti-Labour government tried to abolish the system of conciliation and arbitration. That reactionary political enterprise brought complete and welldeserved disaster on its authors. That example ought to act as a warning to some honorable members opposite. The government that tried to take the action to which I have referred met with a crushing defeat, which led to the election to this Parliament of the present right honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), one of the greatest conciliators Australia has ever known. He is a moderate man and he succeeded-
– Order ! The right honorable member for Melbourne Portshas nothing to do with this bill.
– If he were heretonight he would say the same things as I am saying. He is a credit to this Parliament. I say that the action of thegovernment that put forward proposalssimilar to, though perhaps more complete, than those that are contained in this bill, met with a crushing defeat,, and I believe that, eventually, when the public becomes aware of what is intended by this measure, this Government also will meet with defeat. I believe that the Government is quite indifferent to whether or not the bill becomes law. It has brought it down, as I have said, for the purpose of providing itself with propaganda for an . expected general election.
– Order 1 Reference to a parliamentary election is not within the scope of this bill.
– I have no desire to depart from the guidance that you have been good enough to give to me, Mr. Speaker, but at least I can say that the bill has a purpose other than that advanced by the Prime Minister when he introduced it. The only thing for which the Government can be given credit, if it deserves credit, is the carefully prepared plan which it hopes to use, by means of its unrivalled publicity machine, to delude the people-
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I can conceive of no measure that Would bring greater satisfaction to the great body of rank and file trade unionists in Australia than will this one, which seeks to provide for secret ballots for the election of office bearers in trade unions. I believe that it will be welcomed by 90 per cent, or more of trade unionists who are not Communists. One should ask oneself why this measure is necessary. The story is a long one, and I do not propose to weary honorable members with all of it. We all know the story of how communism started to implement itself in 1919 and 1920. The story is one of a situation that has existed for more than 30 years. It began in Australia about 1920. A few of the more radical and more clever militants were chosen for training in Moscow, and, on their return to Australia, they gradually insinuated themselves into the trade unions. They had learnt the whole business of subversion, including, among other things, the rigging of ballots, and all the psychological measures for undermining the state of mind of a. great body of decent men. That task was not easy ; but it was a task to which many Russian brains had been devoted. The techniques had been effected, and a handful of Australians and near Australians, who had been trained in those methods, gradually infiltrated the trade unions. That process went on for many years.
Those men who had espoused communism learnt better than anybody else the technique of using the rules and regulations of the trade unions at their meetings. For instance, they learnt the technique of tedium at meetings, in which matters of importance were kept until towards the end of a long sitting, when all the decent members had become tired, and gone home. Then the small body of tight-lipped Communists who were left had their way. We know of those happenings in all their grimness, but it was not until 1945, immediately after the conclusion of World War II., that the small body of tight-lipped men who. by then, had obtained a tight grip on a wide range of Australian trade unions, really began to show their teeth. It is only in the last five or six years that the trouble has been caused, and during four or five of those years, the Labour party was in control of the treasury bench in this House.
– I direct attention to the state of the House.
– The Clerk will ring the bells, but I may say that if quorums are needed, I can get them quite easily when any honorable member is speaking.
– I think, Mr. Speaker, that you should do so. That is your duty.
– Order ! It is not my duty to do so, but I do not mind undertaking it.
– The story that is being told by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) deserves a bigger audience. [Quorum formed.]
– I shall not trace the long and rather grim story of the rise of communism in Australia other than to say that the grip on the unions was established over the years after 1920. It had been practically perfected by 1945, and the Communists then began to show their teeth. It may be asked why the trade unions were selected. Well, Lenin gave the answer to that question very early in the piece when he said -
Without the trade unions, revolution is impossible.
In every democratic country, the Communists have attempted, and often have succeeded, in gaining control of the key trade unions. They have done so in Australia. The simple facts are these : There are approximately 2,500,000 persons who work for wages in Australia, of whom about 1,250,000 are members of trade unions. Approximately 500,000 of those 1,250,000 persons are members of unions that are controlled by Communists. That control is made more effective by the fact that those unions are associated with the vital industries on which the continued civilized life of this community depends. They are the key unions, so much so that as a Communist once said to me, and as I have repeated in the House on another occasion, “ The Communists believe that they hold Australia in the hollow of their hands “. That is not an idle boast, as we Australians have come to know to our cost in recent years.
Only a very small fraction of the 500,000 members of the unions that are controlled by Communists are themselves Communists. The unions concerned have a. very large annual income, which amounts to between £750,000 and £1,000,000. It will thus be seen that the Communists control an extremely powerful group of unions. Our secondary industries are a most important part of our economy. The value that is added to production by our secondary industries is approximately £500,000,000, and the total value o”f secondary production is approximately £1,600,000,000 or £1,700,000,000. We all know the degree to which communism directly and indirectly has slowed down the rate of production in Australia by strikes of key men, one-day strikes, outright strikes, and general go-slow tactics, apart from other- things that are! retarding production. The Communist influence has been paramount. I hasten to say that it is not the only factor that is retarding production, but it is one of the most important factors. Several hundred million pounds would have been added to the total value of secondary production had there not been the Communist influence in secondary industries. If we had that additional several hundred million pounds of additional production to-day the present inflationary trend would almost completely disappear.
– What has all this to do with the bill ?
– Order ! The Minister will not be in order in referring to inflation during the debate on this bill.
– With respect, Mr. Speaker, the link between my remarks and the bill is a simple one. The purpose of this bill is to eliminate Communists from the control of trade unions. Comm unison is ‘the menace, which I have attempted to reduce to terms of money. This bill is designed to enable trade unionists themselves to cleanse their organizations from within, and to make it possible for them to vote sincerely for their own office bearers, without the fear of victimization that exists at the present time.
What is the reason for the growth of communism in Australia? Labour governments have been in office for a significant number of years in the period during which communism has been on the upgrade. Of course, no sensible man’ would say that the Labour movement is a Communist movement. It is not a Communist movement. There may be individuals in it, and perhaps a significant section of it, that have espoused communism, but members of the Labour movement on the political and industrial sides are good Australians, and they cannot be broadly branded as Communists. Therefore, I ask: What is the reason for the growth of communism? It is only relatively recently that the menace of communism has been generally recognized. I ‘believe that the Labour party has only recently realized the- meal menace of communism in Australia and elsewhere. I am not trying to throw mud at the Labour party, but I consider that very few socialists can really forget that the only country of consequence that has really achieved socialism in practice is Soviet Russia. That has established a background of sympathy with what happened in Soviet Russia, and it is only now being dissipated in the minds of decent Labour people. Communist Russia has done its fell work, and the Communists in Australia have done their fell work against possibly a rather reluctant but nevertheless sympathetic understanding of their ideals. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, communism was not a menace in Australia. The Labour movement might very well be excused for not having taken communism seriously in those years. But there is no excuse whatsoever for the failure of the political and industrial wings of the Labour movement to take communism seriously in the last five years, as the Labour party in Great Britain and in almost every other civilized country has done.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) loses no opportunity to laud the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru, and rightly so. I echo what he has said about Mr. Nehru. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister of India said, not a month ago, but five years ago -
The Indian Communist party is not an Indian political party. It is a Russian political party.
That statement is perfectly true, and I commend it to the Leader of the Opposition, who has such a genuinely high regard for Mr. Nehru, which I share with him. The Leader of the Opposition has made many statements about communism. On one occasion he said -
Let us never forget that only by curing the evils through which communism spreads can we finally destroy communism itself.
That is true of the Asiatic mainland, and of the old countries of the world that have slums, and dreadful conditions of poverty, but it is not true of Australia, about which the right honorable gentleman was speaking. I have a knowledge of the dreadful poverty and other ills of the Asiatic mainland.
– What did the Minister do to remedy them?
– There is nothing like those dreadful conditions elsewhere on the face of the earth. But Asia is one matter, and Australia is a wholly different matter. I defy the Leader of the Opposition to point to any set of conditions in Australia to-day, or, for that matter, in any other day, that could he a breeding ground for communism.
– There are any number of them, such as the emergency housing settlements.
Mr. Bernard Corser. - I rise to order. Is the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in order in interjecting constantly whenever the Minister refers to Communist Russia or to communism.
– I did not.
– Every time the Minister refers to communism, the honorable member for East Sydney interjects, and distracts him.
– Order ! “All interjections are disorderly on a strict interpretation of the Standing Orders. I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to refrain from interjecting.
– I shall now read another statement by the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps I am using it out of its context, but it will not suffer on that account. The right honorable gentleman said -
Do not. think and do not act in the belief that you can defeat communism merely by saying you are opposed to it.
I throw that statement back to the right’ honorable gentleman, because he has said many times that the Australian Labour party will never support subversion. No one expects it to do so, but there is a great deal more to be done in coping with communism than merely saying that the Australian Labour party will not support it. The right honorable gentleman said -
Do not let us delude ourselves that you can defeat communism by saying that you are opposed to it.
I ask the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters to state what they have done’ in the last five years to cope with communism in Australia in a large way or in a small way:
– I am not allowed to answer that question.
– Order .’
– It is a notorious fact that the answer is “ Nothing at all “. That means, not that the industrial Labour movement has not done anything, but that the members of the Australian Labour party have done nothing at all in this Parliament except to say that communism is an ideology, against which they do not propose to take legislative action. But I do not think that they would say that to-day. However, a body has grown up of its own accord in the industrial movement, the members of which call themselves the Australian Labour party industrial groupers. The object of that body is to combat communism in the unions and to try to cleanse the unions of their present Communist leadership. That movement is fairly widespread in Australia, and is most active in Victoria, although it exists in the other industrial States. That Australian Labour party industrial group movement has had no moral or other support from the Australian Labour party. I know that because I have spoken to many members of the group on the coal-fields and in factories and workshops in many capital cities: They have complained to me with the greatest bitterness that they are engaged in a dirty uphill fight against the Communists, who observe no rules. These men who are working against communism are on the job constantly. They spend most of their week-end and night time leisure in the fight, and yet they have not received a single word of moral support, and no material assistance whatsoever, from the Leader of the Opposition or from his supporters.
The Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister, visited the coalfields either before, during or soon after the coal strike of 1949. I visited the coal-fields myself a week or two later. I met a number of people there> Communists, Australian Labour party industrial groupers and others. The AustralianLabour party industrial groupers expressed in terms of the greatest bitterness the complaint that the Prime Minister had been on the coal-fields for some time, but that in not one of his speeches had he mentioned the word “ communism “.
That is inconceivable-, nevertheless it is true. I checked those statements by obtaining the reports of the speeches of the then Prime Minister from local newspaper offices, and found that what had been complained of was quite true. There was not one mention of communism. If ever there was a Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, it was there.
– I rise to a point of order. Have the statements of the Minister anything to do. with the matter before the House, which is a bill that relates to trade union ballots?
– .Some recent statements of the right honorable gentleman have a lot to do with the matter before the House, but I think that he might now relate his remarks more to the bill itself.
– This bill is designed to help the decent elements in the trade union movement, of which the Australian Labour party industrial groupers are the foremost. The measure will give some moral support to those men, who will be able to tell their fellow workers and the non-Communists in the unions that they can -vote for whom they please without fear of the dirty reprisals that they have been subjected to in the past. I hope that honorable members will not discount this bill and will not regard it merely as a one that has been introduced at relatively short notice. It is a most important measure and it will bring comfort and relief to the minds of hundreds of thousands of decent trade unionists throughout Australia. Practically every week I visit workshops and industrial plants and talk to men in all walks of life. I frequently talk to men at the bench and on the job, and I know what they are going through in their efforts to cope with communism. Large numbers of them are ashamed of themselves for not having the guts to stand up to the Communists at their union meetings, but . having had described to me what has occurred I doubt whether, if we were placed in the same position, Ave would have the guts to stand up for our rights. This measure is the forerunner of many measures that this Government, either in its present form or in some other and later form, will introduce to help the decent element among the workers of Australia. This bill is designed to attack communism and we all realize that where Communists are concerned, either in or outside of Australia, it is a case of their survival or ours. The bill is designed to ensure the survival of democracy.
– We have just heard a tirade of abuse from the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) against the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) and members of the Opposition generally. The Minister tried to trace the rise of communism in this country, but conveniently for him, he started only from 1945. He said that honorable members on this side of the House have done nothing to combat communism. I ask the right honorable gentleman what he did during the 1949 coal strike, when every member of the then Labour Government, all members of the Labour party who were in this House, and many others who were not politicians, did all that they could to end the coal strike? At that time, I myself, as a union organizer, was out endeavouring to defeat communism on the coal-fields. But at the same time the Minister for National Development was conferring with one of the leading Communists on the northern coal-fields. That is the secretary of the Burwood Miners lodge.
– Does the honorable member say that the secretary of the Burwood Miners lodge is a Communist? If so, I say that he was not a Communist then. He was an Australian Labour party industrial grouper.
– The right honorable gentleman visited Mr. Fraser, one of the leading Communists in Newcastle?
– Yes, and half a dozen others, also.
– The Minister admits that he was Using Communists - in all probability against the then Labour Government.
– That is absolute nonsense.
– At least he admits having conferred with these people at a time when we were struggling to end one of the most disastrous strikes that has ever occurred.
– I met them, I did not confer with them.
– At that time, how many members of the present Government made any effort to defeat the Communists and end the coal strike? Not one of them. ,Not one of them spoke at a meeting anywhere in the northern part of New South “Wales, or indeed in any part of Australia. If the Minister had been fair he would have traced the rise of communism back to 1923 when it first raised its head in Australia. Perhaps he could then have told the House about the poverty that existed at that time on the coal-fields, and about what happened there during the depression. Perhaps he could have told us how the miners were locked out of the mines in the ‘thirties, yet he is blaming communism for what is happening to-day. T believe that this bill, if passed, will make a contribution to the cause of communism similar to the contribution by the recent Gallagher incentive award.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Honorable members may laugh, but that is because they do not understand the coal industry; nor do they understand the constitution of the unions and how they should be controlled. This bill will do nothing to combat communism. In fact I hope to show how it will help the Communists. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) raised his blood pressure in the course of telling the House that the Labour movement had done nothing at all against communism. That is not so, but what contribution has he himself made? I say that the Minister used the Labour movement to suit himself on certain occasions and yet on other occasions he has condemned it. This bill purports to be designed to assist the rank and file of unionists to take part in the affairs of their own unions, but it will do nothing of the sort. Proposed new paragraph (aa) of section 4 provides that certain officers shall be elected by secret ballot. That paragraph reads -
The office of president, vice-president, secretary, assistant secretary, or other executive officer, by whatever name called, of the organization or branch.
Those officers are to be elected by secret ballot. The bill is silent about sub-branch officers of unions which have membership throughout Australia, and does not provide for council officers, because they are not executive officers. It does not provide for secret ballots for the election of union representatives in workshops, even though it is well known to us that the workshop is the point at which communism starts to attack the unions. When it is realized that the bill does not provide for a secret vote of members for the election of officers, whatever position they may hold, it is easy to understand that it can have no effect on the unions. The bill has been brought to this House in a fit of pique on the part of the Government because the High Court threw out its Communist Party Dissolution Act. Another reason why it is brought before us is so that it can be used for propaganda in a possible general election. It will be of no advantage to the unions, because it does not provide any security for people such as the members of the Australian Labour party industrial groups. Proposed new section 70a provides that certain things shall happen in respect of election by secret ballots. It indicates that provision shall be made for absentee voting. I inform the House that it is impossible to provide for absentee voting in respect of the members of a union such as the Australian Railways Union, because those members are migratory. They may be in one part of a State to-day and several hundred miles away next month. During a dispute it will be almost impossible to get such men to vote.
It is said that certain malpractices have occurred in respect of union ballots. That might be so, but I do not subscribe to that belief. I believe that it is necessary at times to have a secret - ballot in unions because that is the only- way in which fair and correct representation can be obtained. But I do not subscribe to crooked practices in respect of ballots whether they be in unions, financial organizations, big industrial concerns, sporting bodies or the Liberal party itself. Quite recently in Newcastle during the New South “Wales general election it was found that the Liberal party was canvassing for members so as to make sure that certain people would have the voting strength that would enable them to become members of selection- committees for the electorate of Hamilton. In the process of obtaining those members a number of Communists got into the Liberal party. I raised that matter in the House some time ago. Therefore it is apparent that malpractices occur not only in unions but also in political organizations. My organization has held secret ballots for as long as I cam remember. They are necessary owing to the ramifications of the organization. The ballot-papers are printed by a government printer on watermarked paper. When they have been returned to the returning officer, they are lodged with the Postmaster-General’s Department until the day on which the ballot closes. On each day during the count of the ballot-papers, the ballot-box is sealed and returned to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for safe-keeping. It would be difficult to imagine a better system than that, yet on one occasion a returning officer received a bundle of approximately 200 ballot-papers, all of which had been signed by one person. The reason why that can be done is that the Communists and those who are opposed to the Labour movement are able to do their work on .the job. They collect the ballot-papers in such a manner that they can fill them in as they wish, sign them and return them to the union. The cost to my organization of conducting ballots in New South Wales is £1,000 every two years, the ballot being a biennial one. The Communists make contacts on the job throughout the country. When men are working in gangs of 20 or 30, one Communist can persuade them-, often because of the bad conditions under which they are working, to record their votes in a certain manner.
Last month, 1,100 new employees joined the railway service, and 800 of them became members of the Australian Railways Union. More than 200 or those men were new Australians. It is not astonishing that one person should be able to influence the votes of men who do not understand the union’s requirements and are told by him that their conditions will be improved if they oast their votes in a certain way.
– Is the honorable gentleman ref erring to a man who holds a position similar to that of a shop steward ?
– I am referring to the ordinary working man who has no direct interest in political affairs and can be influenced in the casting of his vote by reason of the fact that he knows it is necessary for him to join a union because the union will obtain for him better working conditions, wages and amenities. He will allow the Communist stooge, who pur-sues his political activities on the job, to influence him in the casting of his vote. These stooges who are on the job hand round to the men simple how-to-vote cards .when elections of officers of the union are being held. The new Australians will mark their ballot-papers in the way in which they are told to mark them. That goes on throughout the country.
It has been said that this bill will cure those ills. I say that, far from doing that, it will ‘make a contribution to the Communist cause. because, although it provides for secret ballots, it does not provide for postal ballots. Some unions oan conduct their ballots by sending ballot-papers -to men on the job. It is true that they can hold secret ballots and that the ballot-papers can ‘be returned to the head office of the union, a post office box or wherever the returning officer has specified, but there is no way in which any control oan be exercised over the manner in which the men complete the ballot-papers. Between Sydney and Brisbane there is ‘ approximately 600 miles of railway line, on which there may be working 30 gangs each consisting of up to 30 men. If ballot-papers were sent to those men, although the votes would be cast in secret there would probably be a man on the job -to carry out the requirements of the Communist party.
The Minister for Labour and National Service has suggested that trade union officials do not go out and fight the Communists. I have been doing that for a number of years with the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). Night after night we have fought the Communists. We have gone into railwaymen’s camps at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. and told the men of the union’s requirements. The Minister has said that we hide behind pious resolutions, but I have never done that. I realize the tremendous task that confronts the trade union movement in endeavouring to regiment the workers in a manner satisfactory to the requirements of Labour. We have never been helped by the members of the Government parties, because until now they have never had any interest in the ordinary working people of this country.
– The honorable gentleman’s own Government was in power until recently.
– Our own Government endeavoured to ensure that the. working men and women should have security and full employment. I believe that if the ordinary workers had security and full employment there would be no room for communism in Australia, but, owing to the increased cost of living, they are finding it extremely difficult to live respectably in the community. If the Government wants this measure to be an effective instrument, it must go a long way beyond the point at which the measure stops.
Proposed new section 70a states that the rules of an association relating to an election for an office in the association or in a branch of it shall provide that the election shall be by secret ballot, shall provide for absent voting, and may provide for compulsory voting. I ask honorable members to note the use of the word “may”. I believe that the Government deliberately refrained from seeking to provide for compulsory voting because it realized that if a person could be compelled to vote in trade union ballots and parliamentary elections it could also be argued that he could be compelled to become a member of a trade union. I believe that it would he of advantage if membership of ‘ trade unions were made compulsory, because the people who are now avoiding joining trade unions could perhaps make a contribution to the defeat of communism in the unions if they became members. The fact that the Government has not sought to make provision for compulsory voting weakens this measure.
It is also stated in proposed section 70a. that the rules of an association shall make provision for or in relation to the manner in which persons may nominate for election. That provision could be of great assistance to the Communist party, because they could cause a rule to be framed in a way that would suit their purposes. The proposed new section states also that the rules of an association shall make provision for or in relation to the appointment,’ conduct and duties of returning officers. An old saying of the Communists is, “ Give us the returning officers, and you can have the others “. I have been too long in the trade union movement not to know what that can mean in a ballot. The returning officer checks the register which contains the names of members who are eligible to vote. Some members are not’ eligible because they are unfinancial members of the organization. The returning officer should then order the requisite number of ballot-papers to be printed, but on many occasions Communist returning officers have ordered more ballot-papers and envelopes to be printed than were necessary. In union ballots, it is usual for approximately only 33 per cent, of the ballot-papers to be returned. I have no need to tell honorable members what a Communist returning officer would do if he had a surplus of ballot-papers and knew that ordinarily only 33 per cent, of the ballot-papers sent out were returned. He would do what was required of him by his organization. This bill will not meet that position at all, because under its provisions an organization will be allowed to nominate its returning officers in its own way.
– The honorable gentleman has not read clause 6.
– My organization has an election committee, which conducts ballots. The committee is appointed by the State council of the organization, and is a means of ensuring that ballots shall be conducted properly.
Proposed new section 70a also states that the rules of an association shall make provision for or in relation to the appointment, conduct and duties of scrutineers to represent the candidates at the ballot, and also the declaration of the result of the ballot. How could candidates possibly appoint scrutineers to represent them at a ballot which was being conducted in two or three hundred different places at the one time? The ballots of many unions are conducted in that way. I contend that the proposed new section will do nothing to impede the work of the Communist party. The miners’ federation conducts secret ballots at the pitheads. In the north of New South “Wales, the ballot is different from those in the south and west of the State. The ballots for the election of general officers and members of the central executive are .conducted simultaneously iIi. perhaps, 70 or 80 different places at the one time. The miners vote by a show of hands and elect their own returning officer and scrutineers. What provision is there in the bill to ensure that that practice shall be stopped? What reaction would there be among the miners if the Government tried to stop it? The cause of most of the stoppages in the mining industry is the resentment of the miners at the very bad conditions that they have worked under throughout the years. It is only necessary to alter their conditions to bring about contentment and peace.
– Why did not the honorable, member take steps to do that?
– This is the first time that I have been a member of this Parliament. The Labour Government did endeavour to do something for the mining industry by establishing the Joint Coal Board and appointing the tribunals. I do not ^intend to complain about Mr. Gallagher, but I believe that he made a mistake when he brought in his award which provided for incentive payments. I believe that he had no more right–
– Order! The honorable member may not discuss the decision of the tribunal.
– If peace can be brought to the coal industry by preventing one-day stoppages it will be possible to defeat communism in other industries, which will then function with complete effectiveness. At the present time, because there is discontent in industry, not very much can be accomplished. The Waterside Workers Federation holds secret ballots, and what happens in that union ? Particularly in those areas where there is non-Communist control their leaders are re-elected because those men have done a job in the years gone by which has warranted their return. If the present leaders of the waterside workers are to be deprived of their positions, the conditions of the ordinary fellow on the job must be secured. One could say a lot about what has happened on the waterfront and it would not be to the credit of the Government. I brought under notice in this House a matter affecting the waterside workers in Newcastle which concerned an occasion on which the men had been penalized, even though Judge Kirby ultimately decided- that they had acted correctly. This bill does nothing to impel the Opposition to support it. Quite a lot could be said in respect of the other clauses of the bill, but the time at my disposal will not permit me to say it. Honorable members of the Opposition are thoroughly justified in opposing this measure, because it cannot do for the members of trade unions generally what the Government would perhaps wish it to do.
.- I point out to the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), who is a new member, that when the coal strike was on in New South Wales some of the members of the present Government did make a genuine offer to assist in the settlement of it. The offer was made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to the then Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that they would go with him to the coal-fields and endeavour to settle the’ dispute.
– That would have done a lot of good!
– It would probably have done more good than the honorable member’s advocacy in East Sydney of the continuation of the strike. The honorable member for Shortland was very wide of the mark when he said that nobody on the Government benches to-day did anything to assist in the settlement of that strike. The honorable member for Shortland said that the legislation before the House makes no provision for the appointment of men to act as shop stewards. If he examines the act of 1949 he will find that, in section 4, “ office “ is denned as -
Therefore it will be possible to have an election in respect of any member who occupies an office, even if it be as low as that of the steward who collects some of the fees.
I agree with the honorable member for Shortland that some provision should be made for postal voting. The Minister has informed me in conversation that the proposed new section that deals with absent voting will cover the subject of postal voting. The honorable member also made some reference to the influence of returning officers. He was dealing with clause 3, but apparently omitted to look at clause 6, which was written into the legislation to give the opportunity to the moderate section of the unions to approach the registrar before an election and request him to conduct it if they could see that there was any likelihood of malpractice taking place. It is not probable that the registrar would appoint a Communist returning officer, and fall into the trap that would be laid by such an individual.
The criticism of the measure by honorable members of the Opposition seems to me to be very hollow. They have not offered any constructive criticism. They have not suggested in what way the legislation could be improved. They have said repeatedly that it is inadequate, but they have not had the courage to say what other provision it should contain. They have been very loud in their denunciation of the legislation as being merely an attempt to break the unions. Have honorable members ever heard such rot? The Government has never attempted to break trade unions. Honorable members of the Opposition have spoken in favour of conciliation and arbitration, but I invite them to examine the platform of their party in order to ascertain whether any section of it plainly supports that principle. I have not been able to And a clear statement of it in the constitution of the Australian Labour party. The suggestion that the Government intends to break the unions is made only for rabble-rousing purposes.
Honorable members of the Opposition have also said that this legislation, if passed, will assist the Communists. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) said that if a prescribed number of members of a union made a request to the registrar of a court to hold an election it would give to the Communists the opportunity that they wanted. The honorable member for Dalley knows well that the Communists do not like the idea of secret ballots that are conducted along proper lines. They are the ones who commit malpractices. Is it feasible that they will go to the registrar and give him the opportunity of conducting a ballot along proper lines ?
– Why does not the honorable member go back to the cow bails ?
– I might get the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) a good job there if he was worth paying, but I am afraid that he would not be. The argument of -honorable members that this provision will help the Communists makes it apparent that they have not studied the act that was introduced in 1949 by the previous Government. They have claimed that the bill is designed to cause dissension in the Labour ranks. It is a fact that there is some dissension in the ranks of the Labour movement to-day. However, this bill is designed, not to accentuate that dissension, but to clean the ranks of the trade unions and give to the Australian Labour party industrial groupers a chance to rid themselves of the Communist menace and to do the job that they consider should be done.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) put forward the suggestion that the object of this legislation was to break the trade unions so that they could not make subscriptions to the Australian Labour party. Have honorable members ever heard such an argument? The honorable member alleged that the intention of the Government was to force costly elections upon the unions so that their funds would become depleted and they would thus be prevented from making contributions to the Austraiian Labour party. Such an idea could be the product only of the brain of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Despite all that has been said by honorable members of the Opposition, it is known that even in their own ranks there are certain members who are hoping that this legislation will be passed and that some are of the opinion that it should do more than it proposes to do. I believe that it should do a little more, but that, nevertheless, it is a start on the right road, and one that is acceptable to moderate unionists throughout this country. [Quorum formed.] I thank the honorable member for Watson for calling for a quorum and thereby directing attention to the fact that not many of his colleagues were in the chamber. The disagreement that arose between members of the Opposition at their caucus meeting this morning may explain their apparent lack of interest in this legislation tonight. The situation in caucus certainly hit the headlines in. the newspapers. I shall not transgress your earlier ruling on the subject, Mr. Speaker, but honorable members have studied the evening newspaper report and it is well, known that an unholy row has developed within the ranks of the Labour party in relation to the bill. Moderate members of the party want the measure to be enacted, but those who tend to give the Communists the” opportunity to pursue their objectives are riding rough-shod over them and keeping them quiet in this chamber.
Every reasonable person must agree that the bill will not harm any union that is prepared to carry out its functions’ in a proper manner. It is designed solely to deal with those organizations which, have conducted their affairs in a way that has enabled them to hold the people of Australia to ransom. We have heard members of the Opposition state repeatedly that there are not many Communists iii Australia and that very few unions are controlled by Communists. But it is well known that the unions that are controlled by Communists are key unions which are able to disrupt the whole economy of the nation.
– Mr. Justice Lowe said that there were not many Communists in Australia.
– I agree with that view; but they are in key positions; and’ that enables them to dislocate industry and to cause chaos in every direction. This bill is designed to deal with their activities. It will not injure any unionthat is prepared to carry out its functions correctly. On the contrary, it will help the moderate unionists in the Australian Labour party industrial groups to get rid of the “ Commos “ who are white-anting their organizations. Those men, whom the Labour party did not assist at any time during its eight years of office, welcome the measure. Members of the Opposition have objected to the proposal embodied in clause 4, to give to the court power to conduct a ballot of union members at any time during which a dispute is in progress. That is designed merely to widen a power that is now vested in the court. The Labour party did not lift a finger to alter the existing law in relation to the ordering of ballots by the court during the eight years in which it was in power although, during my experience in this Parliament, it has had two shots at amending the Conciliation and. Arbitration Act. What hypocrisy it is to say now that the provision is wrong when, the party- had the opportunity over a long period of office to remove it from the act! We have been told that the conducting of secret ballots under the terms of clause 3 may put trade- Unions to undue expense and trouble. The facts’ are that most, of the provisions of proposed section 70a, which will be inserted in the act by that clause, are contained in the Conciliation and. Arbitration Act already and that every union complies with them. The proposed new provision will merely enlarge the existing provision slightly.
I have dealt with clause 4 in my replyto the honorable member for Dalley. What is wrong with clause 5? All that is proposed in that clause is that unions shall make available to the Industrial Registrar lists of their financial membersand shall periodically bring them up to1 date so that the registrar will be in readiness to conduct an election at any time; This will not cost the unions- anything extra because- they already keep” lists of their financial members. There has been much talk about clause 6. The only amendment of the legislation enacted by the Chifley Government which will be affected by this clause will be the addition, of the provision that a prescribed number of union members may appeal to the register to conduct a ballot if they are of the opinion that there is likely to be any malpractice in connexion with voting. Who will suffer from that provision? It will not affect to any great degree such unions as the Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, of which the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) is a member, but it will affect the Australian Railways Union, in which Mr. J. J. Brown is a prominent figure. What is the good of having a powerful engine, to haul a train, with a good crew which can conserve coal and use the locomotive to the best advantage, if a member of a different union is riding in the guard’s van and is likely to apply the brake at any time ?
The bill is designed to help moderate unionists to get rid of the Communists in their organizations so that industry in Australia can return to normal conditions. The honorable member for Hindmarsh referred to-day to the Australian Workers Union. I admit that that is a very large organization which has members scattered throughout the country, but it has nothing to fear from this legislation because it has done perhaps more than any other union has done to rid itself of the Communist element. The bill cannot have an adverse effect upon it.
– The bill will not affect the Australian Railways Union, because it conducts secret ballots already.
– But that union is controlled in Victoria by J. J. Brown, and the Communists in its ranks rig ballots and engage in all sorts of corrupt practices in order to maintain their control of the organization, as the honorable member for Shortland has already pointed out. This legislation will enable the moderate unionists to ask the registrar to conduct ballots. Such applications may not be successful, of course, but at least the moderate members will have the opportunity to appeal to the registrar for help. Legislation enacted by the Chifley Government enabled any unionists who suspected irregularities at elections to ask the registrar to make investigations. Thirteen applications have been made under that provision, but the objective of blocking Communist activities has not been achieved. We hope that the- wider provisions of this bill will put an end to corruption by enabling action to be taken before ballots are held.
The honorable member for Dalley said that the bill would be used by a small coterie of Communists for their own advantage. I believe, as do many members of the Opposition, that the Communists do not like the light of day. They prefer to work underground in order to smash the trade unions from within. Are the Communists, who are so few in number, likely to come out into the open and ask the registrar to conduct elections? Of course not! The honorable member for Dalley was only “flying a kite”. The bill is welcomed by members of the Australian Labour party industrial groups, who- for years have been asking their representatives in this Parliament to help them to get rid of the Communist menace. No organization that is prepared to conduct its affairs honestly has anything to fear. Therefore, I support the bill, and I believe that it will be supported by moderate trade unionists, throughout Australia. It will enable such men to clean up their unions so- that we all can get down to the task of ensuring a continuous flow of production for the benefit of the whole nation. It will enable them to prevent the holding of pinpricking strikes, such as the one-day stoppages that were recently conducted in the coal-mining industry. I shall not discuss the merits or the demerits of the Gallagher award for the miners. Members of the Opposition may smile when I mention this subject, but surely they agree that it is wrong that only one-third of the total number of miners should be able to call their colleagues out on strike and cause industrial chaos! The public must be protected. I notice that some members of the Opposition are still smiling, and laughing. I hope that they will be able to laugh when they are called upon, at no distant date, to explain to the electors why they have opposed a measure that is designed to help moderate unionists to get rid of the Communists in their organizations.
Question put -
That the bill be nowread a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 34
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Billread a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
National Service Bill 1950.
Without requests -
Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1951.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Most honorable members will have learned from press reports that the tuna industry in Australia has made considerable progress during the last few years. Last year, I took the opportunity in the House to advocate the chartering of a tuna vessel from the United States of America and the engagement of an American crew for such a Vessel with the object of teaching Australians the most modern methods of catching tuna. Shortly afterwards, an American organization set up a tuna factory on an island between Australia and the United States of America at a cost of some millions of dollars and despatched tuna vessels tofish in that area. Subsequently it was found that the tuna would not only shoal but also would not take a live bait. Consequently, the organization concerned, has on its hands that expensive factory which is not able to obtain adequate supplies of tuna for processing. For that reason it sent one vessel to New South Wales with the object of catching tuna in adjacent waters and snap freezing them with a view to transporting them to the factory on the island that I have mentioned where they would be processed. However, in spite of the fact that the Commonwealth fisheries authorities recommended the proposal, the New South Wales Government refused to allow that organization to export its tunain that way. The company is now obliged to process its tuna in New South Wales. Most honorable members realize that there is a tremendous future for the tuna industry in Australia. Officers of the Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research. Organization have discovered one of the most extensive tuna grounds in Australian waters off the coast of Western Australia. Tremendous difficulties must be overcome in establishing the industry in that State because of the remoteness of the fishing grounds. In spite pf those difficulties, however, Western Australia is on the eve of establishing a flourishing tuna industry off its north-west coast. Unfortunately, various government departments have placed practically every obstacle possible in the way of the Hunt Canning Company, which is engaged on. the project. I raise this matter now in the hope that the Ministers concerned will influence their departments to adopt a more co-operative attitude towards the company, which lias been engaged for many years in the canning of fish of various kinds. Recently the company transported its salmon canning equipment from the south coast to the north coast of Western Australia in motor trucks. For the last three weeks truckloads of men and the necessary materials to erect a factory have been immobilized on the north coast because the company has not been able to obtain a site from certain Commonwealth departments to enable it to establish its factory. Some weeks ago representatives of the company chartered an aeroplane and inspected possible sites for the erection of the factory at Exmouth Gulf. They found that many unoccupied buildings were still standing on the aerodrome there, which had been used by the Royal Australian Air Force during the war. They thought that if they could obtain the use of two of the buildings it would greatly assist them in establishing the tuna industry on the north-west coast. Because they could get no satisfaction in Perth I flew to Melbourne on their behalf. I obtained a positive assurance from the Department of Civil Aviation that if the aerodrome buildings at Exmouth Gulf were unoccupied they would be made available to the company. I was given authority to convey that information officially to the company. Largely as the result of that assurance the company despatched its employees and salmon canning equipment to the north-west coast. In order to ascer tain whether the buildings were in fact unoccupied, the department sent two of its officers to the area. After making inquiries they found that the buildings had been leased to Ampol. The department subsequently informed me that if the buildings were not being used, the lease to Ampol, which had been arranged on a monthly basis, would be terminated and that the buildings would be made available to the canning company. However, the department has taken no further action and the company is unable to do anything in the matter. Adjacent to the aerodrome are 16 acres of land on which no buildings have been erected. This land is situated in close proximity to the water and is served by a good bitumen road. The canning company indicated that if it could purchase or lease that area it would erect its own buildings and establish its factory there. I remind honorable members that the area to which I refer is hundreds of miles from the nearest towns of Carnarvon and ‘ Onslow. Both the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of the Interior have refused to lease or to sell, the land to the company. The Government should take steps to make the land available to the company so that it may establish this industry, which is so urgently needed in Western Australia. When the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. White) was in Western Australia recently I discussed this matter with him. Subsequently he gave explicit instructions to his department to do everything possible to assist the company to establish its factory. Unfortunately, I have not been able to keep him informed of the latest developments. I believe that, had he been fully informed of them, the company’s wishes would have been met.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to raise a matter that I consider to be of great importance. I refer to the insult that has been offered to Eire by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender). When we were considering the Estimates some time ago, we questioned the Minister regarding the vacant office of Australian representative to Eire. He then said that no action has been taken to appoint a successor to
Mr. Dignam, the former Australian representative to Eire, because there was no longer any useful work for such an officer to do. In correspondence which has since passed between him .and the Irish National Association in Australia, he has endeavoured to retract, alter, or put his own interpretation on that statement. That is why he now seeks to avoid answering direct questions on the matter. He has said that he has nothing further to say on the subject, because, despite the fact that honorable members opposite are jeering at me, he was so foolish as to insult such an important and friendly nation aa Eire. To insult the Irish and persons of Irish descent who have contributed so greatly- to the development of, not only Australia, but also the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations was foolish. It was particularly so on the part of the Minister, as he is so .soon to transfer bis activities to the United States of America where a large and powerful section of the community consists of either Irish nationals or the descendants of Irish nationals. This is a poor start for his mission to “Washington.
Let us examine the manner in which the Minister has treated Eire in comparison with other countries. In the Estimates for the current year the vote for the Australian Embassy in Eire was reduced from £13,000 to £10,000. In explaining the reason for the reduction the Minister indicated that it was in line with his policy of reducing the cost of Australian representation abroad. Let us see how that statement tallies with the truth. An examination of the Estimates reveals that the cost of Australian representation in other countries has been greatly increased instead of having been reduced in accordance .with his alleged instructions. The vote for the Australian Embassy in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was £55,000 for 1949-50; this year it has been increased to £102,000, an increase of almost 100 per cent. To say the least of it, it is strange that this Government, which has been so vociferous in its attacks on communism and the Communist party, should have increased the vote for Australian representation . in Russia by almost 100 per cent. Let us examine the votes for Australian, representation in other countries. With the exception of South Africa, the vote for which has been reduced by £1,000, and the legation in Chile, which has been closed down, in no instance has economy been effected in accordance with the Minister’s alleged instructions. The vote for Australian representation in Pakistan amounts to £29,000; and that for representation in the United States of Indonesia to £39,000. On the basis of the votes endorsed by the Minister, he apparently believes that one Indonesian is worth four Irishmen. The votes for other Australian legations abroad are: Brazil, £29,000; Israel, £24,000; Egypt, £21,000; and the Philippine Islands, £32,000. The lowest amount of all has been provided for our representation in Eire. That is why the Minister has avoided giving direct replies to questions asked by certain persons, but the subject will not be so easily brushed aside as the Minister hopes by his statement that he has nothing further to add to what he has already said on it. The Irish National Association, which speaks .for a large section of the Australian community, and the Australian community of Irish descent, will not take this insult from a Minister of this Government very lightly. The Minister will find that unless some action is taken to correct the position there will be severe repercussions. Let us examine the Minister’s argument. He has said that the reason why he has not filled the post of High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Australia in Eire is that no suitable man is available for it. Who are available to fill- that post? First of all, Mr. Dignam, who was Australian representative in Dublin in recent years. He was a capable officer who had ably represented this country and was prepared to carry on with his duties. He had not asked to be relieved of them. Therefore, all this talk about not having a suitable man will not bear examination. As- a matter of fact, since the post of High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Australia in Eire has become vacant, Dr. Burton has been sent to Ceylon to represent Australia there. Yet the -Government still, claims -that it could not obtain a suitable applicant to occupy the important post in Dublin. I want the Minister to give direct answers to the following questions: - Why is the Government not filling the post? Why was Mr. Dignam’s appointment terminated? Why is the Government expending more money on Australian representation in other countries, including the ones that I have mentioned, although it has reduced expenditure from £13,000 last year to a paltry £10,000 this year on our representation in Ireland ? The Minister said that this had been done under a general instruction. I want him to prove that there is some substance in the suggestion that he gave a general direction, because Australian representation in other countries that I have indicated has been the subject of large increases of expenditure. I say that this Minister, with the consent of the Government, has deliberately set himself out to offer a direct insult to a friendly power that has done much towards the development of this country and of other countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– Like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I am at a loss to understand why the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) has provided no Australian representation in Ireland for the last twelve months. I ask the honorable gentleman why he has not given a definite reason for his inaction. The secretary of the Irish National Association in Sydney con-, tacted me in connexion with this matter, and I told him that the best thing he could do was to write to the Minister, who would give him the reasons for the Government’s failure to send a. representative to Ireland. I understand that he did so, and in a long letter in reply the Minister gave no better answer than he gave to me when I asked him a question on the subject last week. I have had letters from the Irish National Association’s branches in Queensland, Melbourne and South Australia on this subject. I ask the Minister what Ireland must have in order to obtain Australian representation similar to that which almost every other nation has. The people of Ireland will regard the discontinuance without notice of our representation in their country as a great insult. When we consider that the Irish nation had more soldiers fighting in the last war, in proportion to its eligible population, than did any other country that took part in that war- :Mr. Gullett. - That is fearsome rot! The Irish nation did not even take part in the last war.
– Six Victoria Crosses were won by Irish soldiers in the last war. That is more than any other country can claim. A gallant airman’ who lost his life in operations over the English channel in the defence of Great Britain and liberty was Paddy Finucane, an Irishman. Yet the Minister has raised the allowances for our representation in every country under the sun except Ireland. I think that the time is ripe when this Government should declare itself outright, and say whether the partition of Ireland has not something to do with its attitude. I do not wish to disparage Northern Ireland, because when I speak of Ireland I speak of the country as a whole. When the Minister for External Affairs arrives in Washington to take up his appointment as our ambassador there he will find out that he will be asked questions on this matter. This morning’s Sydney Daily Telegraph publishes the following report : - i
Members got up and cheered when Mr.. Sean MacBride . entered the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday.
Mr. MacBride, Ireland’s Minister for External Affairs, is on an official visit to Washington.
Leaders of the Senate, including U.S. VicePresident, Mr. Barkley, entertained him at lunch.
When we speak in defence of Ireland we are told by some people, who are not’ game to supply answers to questions, that we are being sectarian. AH I can say is that a person who enters the homes of any Irish people, either in Australia or Ireland, will generally find on the wall a picture of an Irish patriot who was not a Catholic, but a Protestant. I refer to Robert Emmet, who fought for Ireland’s independence. We do not intend to take this matter lightly. We shall protest, not only in Australia, but also in America and the world at large, against the injustice that is being done to our country.
-When the Minister framed the requirements of his department when the budget was being prepared he must have had in mind the reduction of our expenditure on representation in Ireland when he decreased the vote by £3,000, notwithstanding that the status of the position was raised from High Commissioner to Ambassador. Yet he increased the estimated expenditure for our representation in Russia from £55,000 to £102,000. Yet honorable members opposite rise in this House and attack Russia. If the Government wants some one to fight the Russians and communism, the best people I know to do the job are Irishmen. Ninety-nine per cent, of Irishmen are fighting communism. The sons and daughters of Irishmen are spread all over the world. They are teaching in schools and universities, and I can assure honorable members opposite that none of them will be found to be teaching communism. Fifty per cent, of the crews of British ships that enter Sydney Harbour are Irish. The Minister for External Affairs has lost his chance. He had twelve months in which to do the right thing by Ireland, but I can assure him that he will not have another twelve months to perform his duties if a double dissolution of the Parliament occurs.
.- I associate myself with the protest that has been made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue).
– The honorable member should be ashamed of himself.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) should have his head read. He is so stupid and narrow that he does not know sense when he hears it.
– Order! There will be no compliments.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Gippsland thinks that because I have no Irish blood in my veins - to the best of my knowledge - I am not entitled to join with my colleagues in protesting against the treatment of the Republic of Eire by this Government. The Chifley Government entered into negotiations with the Government of Eire for Australian representation in that country, and Irish representation here. Those negotiations were concluded successfully, and the Republic of Eire has been ably represented by two very cultured people, Dr. Kiernan and his charming wife. As one who has enjoyed the hospitality of that couple–
Government members interjecting ,
– This is not a matter for ribaldry or facetiousness.
– Order ! I do not think that the representatives of a foreign power should be discussed in this chamber.
– The representatives of Eire have fostered in this country the goodwill that should exist between all nations, and I am sure that a similar spirit was shown by Australia’s representative when he was in Eire. I realize tha t trade between Eire and Australia is not very great, but I believe that it could be developed considerably. In these circumstances, it is shameful that high level Australian representation in Eire has been allowed to lapse by this Government and that expenditure on such representation has been reduced. As the honorable member for East Sydney has pointed out, Australia is incurring considerable expenditure on representation in Egypt. I doubt very much whether representation in that country is nearly so important to us as are good relations with the Republic of Eire. The Irish people have made a great contribution to the development of this country. Together with other immigrants of the British race, they pioneered many of our rural industries. They are to be found in almost every walk of life in this country. Why then has this shabby treatment been meted out to them? I repeat that, as one who has no Irish blood in his veins, I add my protest to those of the two honorable members who have already spoken on this matter.
I wholeheartedly support the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden) about the tuna industry. While I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, it was my privilege to come into contact with, the concern which has established the tuna fishing industry on the east coast of Australia.
– The Minister spent £1,000,000 and caught three tuna.
– The pioneers of the tuna industry in New South Wales will be astounded to hear the derogatory and facetious remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). If his interjections are indicative of the attitude of the Government towards this important industry, it has a poor outook indeed. In my opinion, tuna is the most delicious of all canned fish. We are sending to the United States of America substantial quantities of both tinned tuna and frozen tuna ready for canning. It is most desirable, therefore, that the industry should be assisted by the Australian Government in every possible way. I understand that the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has endeavoured to assist the industry, but I join with the honorable member for Swan in making an earnest plea that something more should be done, particularly by the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of the Interior to develop the industry in Western Australia. The organization operating on the east coast of Australia has its head-quarters at Bermagui. Its product is equal in quality to anything that is produced in other countries. It is so good, in fact, that only small quantities are available for the Australian market. Consequently, the Australian people are not familiar with this delicious food. Like Australian lobster tails, Australian tuna is in great demand in the United States of America and Canada and exports of these delicacies are considerably easing our dollar problem.
– I direct the attention of the House to an anomaly that exists in connexion with the insurance policies of full-time and part-time members of our defence forces. Servicemen who have not made a close examination of their insurance policies may not be aware of the fact that some of them, particularly those held by members of the Royal Australian Air Force become invalid if the insured person is killed in an aircraft accident. Attention has been focused on this matter by the tragic loss of young airmen late last year near Newcastle. The mother of a pilot named McKenzie applied to the State Insurance Company in Brisbane for the payment of the sum for which her son had been insured. She was told that the policy was invalid. The letter that she received from the company reads as follows : -
I now have pleasure in attaching hereto my cheque for £40 5s. 7d., less receipt stamp duty, in settlement of your claim. This is a refund of the premiums paid, plus interest.
To complete my file., would you kindly sign and return to me, at your earliest convenience, the enclosed Claim Receipts Form.
That is a heartless way for any company to treat a widow who has lost her son. I urge the Government to take this matter up with the appropriate insurance authorities with a view to having it clarified so that volunteers for the armed forces may know where they stand in relation to their insurance policies. I contend that while they are members of the forces, they should receive the same protection as they enjoy in civil life. It is possible that some companies do provide such protection for their policy holders, but that practice is by no means general. If we want to build up our defence forces, this matter should be given the fullest consideration by the Government.
– I rise to support the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who have protested against the unjustified action of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) in depriving a country of Eire’s importance and high international standing of Australian representation by an ambassador. The Australian Government considers that Eire is only entitled to a consulate, and has ‘placed a very minor officer in charge of it. Nearly twelve months ago this Government, acting upon the decision of the Minister for External Affairs, summarily dismissed the then High Commissioner to Eire, Mr. Dignam, an eminent King’s Counsel, and now a justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The work of Mr. Dignam was praised by every one who had the privilege of coming into contact with him. As there can be no justification for hurling this insult at a friendly country, I shall endeavour to ascertain the motive -of the Minister for External Affairs in deciding that Australia (should not be represented by an ambassador in that grand little country, Eire. I shall offer several suggestions as possible answers.
I submit to the House quite seriously that the Minister is so completely opposed to everything for which the Labour movement stands that he is determined to insult every country that has played any part in establishing and developing that organization. He knows perfectly well that people of Irish extraction have played no small part in overthrowing the yoke of “ squattocracy “ and monopoly capitalism that the Liberal party and he represent in this House to-day. The Minister evidently considers that he has. a duty to the Liberal party to insult, a country, some of the nationals of which have played such an important role in the great Australian Labour movement which, very shortly, will throw this Government out of office. I remind the Minister, whose hatred of Irish nationals is such as to lead him to insult Eire, that the Irish nation has produced no fewer than five Prime Ministers of Australia. I refer to Mr. J. H. Scullin, the late Mr. John Curtin, Mr. J. B. Chifley, the late Mr. J. A. Lyons and Mr. F. M. Forde.
Bach of those gentlemen played a prominent part in the Labour movement. I see on the Opposition benches two other gentlemen of Irish extraction, the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who could easily qualify for, and probably will fill, the office of Prime Minister.
Perhaps the Minister has insulted Eire because of certain political beliefs. Is it because he resents the fact that Irish nationals have thrown off the_ yoke of absentee landlords? Is it because he resents the fact that the Irish people will not stand for the kind of thing for which the Liberal party and he stand? Or is it something worse? This, I suspect, is probably the answer. Is it sectarian spleen? That is what I want to know. We know perfectly well that there is no room for certain people in the Liberal party. Is that the reason why the “Government and its supporters are carrying on their bitter attack against that grand little country? I shall tell the Minister of the fate that may well be in store for him. He has been happily wielding the axe to cut off the heads of other people, and I inform him that if he is the Australian ambassador to Washington after the next election, I shall do everything in my power to ensure that he gets the sack, because he has not the ability to fill such a responsible position. The next Labour government will be lacking in its duty if it allows a person who has given vent to such bitter sectarian and national spleen as has the Minister to continue to represent Australia in a country of such importance as the United States of America, in the development of which the Irish nationals have played such an important part. The Minister has offered a serious- insult to Eire, and I believe that the sooner the Government takes the control of the Department of External Affairs out of his incompetent hands> the better it will be in the eyes of the world. The sooner he -resigns his seat in the Parliament to take the job which has been forced upon him in Washington, and the sooner the electors are given the opportunity to condemn this Government, the better it will be. I hope that the next Labour Government will sack the honorable gentleman, and the sooner that happens the better- it will be for Australia’.? diplomatic representation abroad.
No one can seriously suggest that the attitude that the Minister has adopted towards Eire is a part of an antiCommunist campaign. Whatever the other grounds may be for the hatred of Ministers and their supporters for the Irish people, they cannot include the ground that the Irish are pro-Communist. I remind the House of the point that was made by the honorable member for East Sydney when he said that, whilst the Government is trying to make it appear that it is a bitter opponent of communism, it has increased the amount of the vote for our representation in Soviet Russia from £55,000 to £102,000 per annum, and the vote for our -representation in Indonesia to £39,000 per annum.
– The Minister had dinner , with Dr. Soekarno.
– That is true. Soekarno, according to reports, was at one time a Communist collaborator, if not a member of the Communist party, and later a Japanese collaborator. Yet the Minister has the audacity to insult Eire, some of the nationals of which have played an important part in developing the characteristics of the Australian people. The allocation of only £10,000 for our diplomatic representation in ‘Eire is an absolute disgrace, and I, for one, am. not prepared to stand idly by, or remain silent while such an insult is hurled at -that country.
– I could hardly believe the evidence of my pars when J heard responsible members of this House deliberately introduce a sectarian issue.
Mr. -Glyde Cameron * - The sectarian issue waa introduced by the Minister himself.
– I shall come to that point. The only direct reference to sectarianism was made by a member of the Labour party, and .it is my view that those who raise such a sword will die by .it. I have no doubt that .this is *a deliberately conceived plan, and it is well that the people of this country .should .know that the plight .of the Labour party is so desperate that .some .of its members who will be dragged unwillingly before the electors, -are prepared to .stoop .to any shabby trick in. an, endeavour to win &. “few votes. “Mr. ‘Ward. - Will .the Minister now .get’ on -with his speech
– I shall .say .what I intend to say in my own way
– This is the first time that -the Opposition ‘has ‘.been able to get the Minister to say anything about this matter.
– Only men who ‘completely ‘lack a sense <of ‘responsibility would ;seek ‘-to ‘make a religious cleavage in -any .’country. I ‘feel sure -.that .those who ,have any weal ‘regard -.’for ;religion always respect ‘the -religion of the other man, irrespective -.of what that religion may .be.
– That has nothing to do with it.
-It has a great deal to do -with it, because that issue was raised deliberately by’ the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. .Clyde Cameron), and .every honorable member know.s -that. I am a man of -many faults, but I can never be accused of being intolerant of another man’s religious beliefs. No honorable member pan suggest that. “Let me come now to the specific issue that has been raised in this debate. It -is sometimes forgotten by members of the Opposition that it -was the present Government, and not the previous ‘ Labour Government, that raised the status of pur representation in Eire from a legation to that of an embassy.
– Hear, hear!
Mr. SPENDER. _ The honorable member can keep repeating that remark, like a parrot. 1 have reason to think that I “have some ,1-rish in me - perhaps that is apparent to-night. If any . honor ab.le member suggests -in this House that any . Minister of the Crown, -whoever -he may be, would offer an insult to any country, it is as stupid a remark -as any -that could b.e -made. I emphasize that pointibecau.se I was responsible, as Minister -for Externa’l Affairs, for -raising the prestige lot diplomatic ^presentation [between Australia and Eire from that of .a .legation ito -that of -an (embassy. “Let me add that jat the time that .was done the (Government ;of .Eire .knew, from discussions that had taken -place, that-it-.was -not expected that we iw.ould proceed forth., with to -fill -.the -position .qf ‘ambassador :to -that country. As:the right honorable -member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) -will -concede., that ^frequently is’ -the position. The mere ?fact that one -nation agrees to the .-exchange .qf diplomatic representatives with another nation .does *n,qt .oblige -the first nation to ‘appoint ja diplomatic representative .qf equivalent status. This matter mas previously -been discussed in connexion -with our >representation in the Union of Soviet ‘Socialist
Republics. On more than one occasion when I have been pressed to withdraw completely our representation in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics I have said that, notwithstanding all the bitterness that I have against communism as a destructive force in the world, we should not do that, because I believe that we should endeavour to live at peace with the Russian people, and should maintain diplomatic representation with that nation. What actually has happened is that our ambassador to Moscow has returned to this country on leave, and his position has not since been filled. I have not heard any member of the House say that we have insulted Russia by our action, nor has any honorable member accused me of offering a deliberate insult to Russia. On the contrary, everybody knows that I have refused to accede to suggestions, some of which have come from members of the Opposition, that we should withdraw our diplomatic represenation in Moscow.
I take this occasion to refer to a particularly scurvy and miserable trick in which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) engaged a few minutes ago. If he knows what the words “ scurvy “ and “ miserable “ mean, I think that he will appreciate what I have to say on the matter now. He complained of the increased cost of our representation in Russia. He knew very well what our representation had previously cost, and he also knew very well the reason for the increase. He knew that that increase was due to two factors that I have previously explained in this House. From recollection, I think that I explained, in answer to an inquiry by the honorable gentleman a few months ago, that the increased cost of our representation in Moscow was due, not to any act of the Australian Government, because our representation in Moscow is now numerically less than it had been, but was due to the revaluation of the rouble and the withdrawal of a special diplomatic rate of exchange from the diplomatic corps. The’ consequence to us of the action of the. Russian Government was that the cost of our representation in Moscow was approximately doubled.
– Why did the Government reduce the expenditure on representation in Eire ?
– The cost of our representation, in Eire is less but it was not reduced at all. There is not a scintilla of truth in the miserable allegation, that is made for purely party political purposes, that I deliberately reduced the cost of our representation in Eire.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– I did not interrupt the honorable member for East Sydney, who is now interjecting, but, of course, he never could take it. His game has always been to engage in attack, but never to take it. However, he will take it from me now. We have not been represented in Soviet Russia or the Union of South Africa for a long time. I suppose it is suggested that, because we have not appointed an ambassador or High Commissioner to those countries, both those countries have been affronted. I say, quite deliberately, from my own knowledge of my colleagues and, generally, of supporters of the Government, that we have a great regard for the rich history of Ireland, and for all that Ireland has meant.
– Tell that to the Marines !
– I say that quite deliberately. I also say, in reply to the allegation of certain members of the Opposition that certain nations have been affronted because particular diplomatic posts have remained unfulfilled, that that allegation is false and is opposed to every principle of diplomatic representation. The honorable member for Hindmarsh accused the Government of engaging in sectarianism because this country had appointed, he alleged, only a consulgeneral to Eire. [Extension of time granted.] The honorable member knew so little about the subject that he said Australia was represented in Eire only by a junior consul-general.
– He did not.
– That is what the honorable member said, but, of course, the honorable member concerned would not remember his assertion five minutes later. The fact is that Australia is represented in Eire by Dr. Wynes, who is a senior counsellor, and is, perhaps, the most senior counsellor in our diplomatic service. That gentleman is at present acting as charge d’affaires in Eire. The honorable member for East Sydney attacked the Government because it had not appointed a high commissioner to that country. He should know that high commissioners are appointed only to countries within the British Commonwealth. I say quite definitely that, so fatas diplomatic usage is concerned, and so far as I am aware, the particular status of representation in any country is never regarded as an insult, except in the minds of some people. In saying that, I exclude completely the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue). The other members of the Opposition who took part in this debate had no objective other than to secure a miserable political advantage, which they - failed utterly to obtain.
– I rise to order. I ask that the Minister be required to withdraw his last remark, which obviously included me.
– I had forgotten that the honorable member had spoken.
.- I desire to make a brief reference to an important announcement made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) in connexion with the dried vine fruits industry. The Minister has stated that in 1951 the British Ministry of Food will pay to Australian producers of dried vine fruits increases of 66 per cent, on currants, 79 per cent, on sultanas and 94 per cent, on lexias above the prices paid last year. He explained that the prices finally agreed upon for 1951 were expressed in sterling, f.o.b. Australian ports. In Australian currency the prices are as follows: -
Those prices, the Minister said, are the result of negotiations in London in which representatives of the United Kingdom Government, the Australian Government, and the Australian dried vine fruits industry engaged. Certain men in the Australian dried vine fruits industry played an important part in those negotiations. Mr. Mallock and Mr. O’Donnell went overseas, on the first occasion and carried the price negotiations to a certain stage. They then returned to Australia and conferred with growers and with those concerned generally in the matter. I understand that Mr. O’Donnell was unable to leave Australia a second time, but Mr. Mallock and Mr. Gordon proceeded to Great Britain. As. a result of their negotiations carried out with the assistance that they received from the Australian Government, these good prices have been announced by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. As the representative of the Mallee, where more dried vine fruits are produced than in all the rest of Australia. I can say that these prices have met with general approval from those engaged in the industry. However, they will not bring prosperity to the industry because, unfortunately, the crop this year is one of the lightest on record. Nevertheless, honorable members will understand that such a sharp rise in prices will help the industry considerably. The Minister also made reference to longterm agreements, but he pointed out that the Ministry of Food in Great Britain had informed him and the growers’ representatives that these prices must not be considered as a basis for negotiation in other years and must not be taken as being of a permanent nature. The Government follows a policy of longterm contracts, and the conditions under which they will be made are to be discussed with senior representatives of the British Ministry of. Food who are now in Australia. It is hoped that a formula will be evolved for use as a basis for negotiated prices under long-term eontracts.
The Sunraysia people are pleased with the prices obtained, but last year, although they had a record crop, because of unfavorable weather conditions the return ultimately turned out to be very disappointing. Consequently, they asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for a subsidy of £15 a ton on fruit exported to the United Kingdom. The Minister immediately set in motion tie resources of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics so that a comprehensive survey of the industry could be made. The bureau was- instructed to discover the cost of production so that the Government might be able to decide whether it was necessary to pay a subsidy on the fruit exported. I ask the Minister whether1 he- can give the House any more information about the findings of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, because the investigation was made a long time ago and the details of it have not yet been released to those engaged in the industry. We are hopeful that this subsidy will be made available, and also that those engaged in the industry who have suffered more than others will get some compensation from the State or Australian Government so that they may be able to maintain their position as producers. Most of these men are returned soldiers, and many of them, in places like’ Robinvale, are just starting in the industry, and good prices and good seasons in the future and some subsidy or assistance at this stage will be of paramount importance to their continuance in it.
[11.4’7]. - The, honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Gilmore) brought to the attention of the House the case of an airman who was killed, during air exercises and whose relatives were pa-id by the insurance! company with whom his life was insured only the money that he had paid on his policy. The insurance office concerned is theQueensland Government Insurance Office, and I agree that its attitude is a petty one. -Such an attitude is maintained not. only by that insurance office, but also by many others. I think that I shall have the support of most ‘ honorable members when I say that it. is, a. very short-sighted policy on the part of insurance companies to take, such an attitude towards men in the services.
– The company should be nationalized.
– The honorable member should realize that this is a nationalized concern. A lump sum of £1,000 is payable under’ the Workmen’s Compensation
Act in respect of men killed in the services. In the. event of total incapacity an amount of £1,250 is payable. However, upon the death of a serviceman, only his widow can draw the maximum amount- of compensation. In the case to which the honorable member for Leichhardt referred a widowed mother is concerned, and it is only if she can prove complete dependence that the full amount will be paid. If she can prove only partial dependence only a proportionate amount will be paid. That unsatisfactory state of affairs applies to both servicemen and civilians. I agree with the honorable member for Leichhardt that men in the services should not be at a disadvantage in regard to insurance policies compared with those who, for their own reasons, remain civilians. There is no insurance penalty rate charged against motorists, or motor cyclists, and I believe that aviation companies should bring themselves up to date and take financial risk in respect of men who risk their lives in aviation. Civil airlines insure their passengers for £2;000, and if a young man is in the Royal Australian Air Force or the Citizen Air Force and is training for the defence of his country his policy should not become void in the case of accident. The Air Force Association has made representations, I have made representations on the matter and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) intends to take it up with the underwriters .to see whether these insurance penalties cannot be. waived.
All governments have, given concessions to taxpayers in respect of insurance,, and these actions have, greatly benefited insurance companies. Surely there should be reciprocity by the insurance companies, and the penalizing of servicemen should cease. I think that insurance companies should take careful notice when I say that they should give justice to those who serve, and if they can give retrospective effect to policies such as those of the young’ man who was, killed, then they should’ do so.
I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden) that it is d’esirabl-3 to overcome the handicap being suffered by the company in Western Australia1 to which he referred. The matter was mentioned to me when I was in Western Australia recently and I took it up with the petrol company, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Trade and Customs. There have been conferences on the subject during the past two days in Perth, and I hope that there will be a satisfactory outcome..
.- I support the appeal of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) for assistance to the dried vine fruits industry and draw- the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to the manner in which the industry has been affected in Western Australia by adverse seasons during the last three years. The production there in the 1950 season was less than 50 per cent, of the average production. In fact, it was the lowest since 1934. In the two previous years production was similarly below the average. This series of bad. years has very adversely affected the economy of the industry, and although the very fine price that has been arranged by the Government in the contract with the United Kingdom will, compensate those concerned to a degree, I have no doubt that it will be necessary for the Government to rehabilitate the industry in order to ensure its stability and to encourage continued production of these vitally necessary commodities for consumption both in Australia and overseas. Assistance is required in this industry throughout Australia, but particularly in Western Australia. With due respect to the honorable member for Mallee,. I think that conditions during the last three years have been a little worse in Western Australia than in the district that he represents, and that Western Australia has a prior claim for consideration. The industry there is only in its infancy. As in every industry, the- growers in that State must, stand on their own feet, but it must be remembered that over the years they have assisted the Australian economy generally by marketing their products at a reasonable price. As they have assisted the people of Australia they are now entitled in their, adversity to a measure of assistance from the people.. That. is. one ground on- which a plea is- made for. assistance.. . .Another, is. that it is necessary to encourage the expansion of the industry in Western. Australia. Because of adverse seasons and low returns, many of those engaged in- the dried vine fruits industry inWestern Australia have been obliged toseek employment off their farms in order to get sufficient money to maintain a reasonable standard of living. The fact, that they have not been able to remain on their properties and devote their full, attention to production has had a bad effect on the properties. I hope that the Government will give the most sympathetic consideration to this matter and provide a substantial measure of assistance to the industry.
.: - The Government recognizes quite clearly that, the dried vine fruits industry provides settlement in areas where otherwise there would be no intensive settlement at all. It is the policy and desire of this Government to support, sponsor, and aid that industry on every occasion possible. The price negotiations recently concluded with the British Ministry of Pood have been extraordinarily successful. They represent a price increase for various types of fruit of from 70 per cent, to 90’ per cent, compared with the price that has prevailed during the last two years, which is splendid for the industry. Unhappily it coincides with a very light crop in the Murray areas this year. It is partly out. of acknowledgment of the light crop this year, following a succession of light crops, that the British Ministry of Pood has gone the distance in the price of the fruit that has enabled us to make such a favorable announcement. As is the case with all primary commodities, the price negotiations by the Government have been assisted by the. presence in London of representatives of the industry itself. The leaders of the. growers? organizations that the honorable, member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull)’ mentioned, Mr. Mallock, Mr. McDonald, and Mr. Gordon, have been to- London on two occasions- to aid these negotiations. The honorable member for Mallee reminds me that about a. year ago, at his request, I visited Mildura.. Following a request by the; growers, I directed, the Bureau of
Agricultural Economics to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the whole economic circumstances in the industry, including its average cost of production and the cost in various regions. In view of the facts that were revealed in its report, I agree that the Government should give consideration to the request of the industry for. a subsidy of £15 a ton of fruit exported. It has been made known by me to the leaders of the industry that I have been in possession of that report since last November. It is known why I have not released the report, and the reason is understood and accepted by the industry. Now that price negotiations have been concluded,I shall release the report as promptly as possible. However, it is now somewhat out of date because of the recent basic wage increase of £1, and certain other cost movements that have occurred. I have asked the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to add an appendix to the report which will, without affecting the original report, bring it completely up to date, and make it fully useful. I expect to release the report in about ten days’ time to the industry and to the State governments interested. The officers of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics will be prepared to go to the various districts, if needed, to explain the manner in which the report has been compiled. The bureau operates as a service to government departments, and it is completely free from policy direction. It is as free as a court to conduct its own investigations, and to present its own findings in its own manner. The officers of the bureau are prepared at any time to explain and defend their findings, if challenged, so that it shall not be considered that its findings have been influenced by political direction. The report deals not only with the industry in total, but also with the Sunraysia, midMurray, and very important Western Australian areas. I am sure that the findings in relation to the separate regions in which the industry is conducted will be of great interest to the State governments concerned.
The very senior officials of the British Ministry of Food who are in Canberra now are engaged in discussions with senior officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and myself to discover what understanding can be reached in order that, in relation to future commodity contracts, we can be guided, not by the processes of haggling and horsetrading but by certain criteria, upon which we hope to agree, and upon reference to which in the future we shall be able immediately and without rancour to decide what prices shall be paid. The policy of the Government is to endeavour to secure for each industry whose commodities are the subject of bulk contracts a price that will not only cover bare costs of production but will also provide an incentive to the industry by which it may thrive and expand its production to enable it to meet our own needs and those of the United Kingdom. I hope that that policy will meet with success.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Taxation - Twenty-ninth Report ofCommissioner, dated 1st December,1950, together with Statistical Appendices.
Ordered to be printed.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Windsor, New South Wales.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance - 1951 - No. 1 - Crown Lands.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1951 - No. 1 - Workmen’s Compensation.
Regulations - 195 1 -
No. 1 (Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance and Northern Territory Government Ordinance ) .
No. 2 (Police and Police Offences Ordinance) .
Public Service Act - Appointments - PostmasterGeneral’s Department - W. A. Craig, N. J. N. Evans, J. V. Ferris, A. E. Fulton, J. C. F. Lane, R. K. McKinnon, R. R. Morcom, N. R. Schwertfeger, A. C. Scott, W. J. Stuart.
House adjourned at 12.6 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as fellows : -
;CONNOR asked the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister fox National Development, upon notice - ]. What -was the total apportionment of ‘-the dollar loan for -the importation .of -earth -moving equipment?
– .The answers to. the honor. able member’* questions are as -follows-: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19510315_reps_19_212/>.