20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10:30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether his attention has been directed to the hardships that are caused to the business community by the continued practice of the Government of occupying privately owned offices and business premises in the capital cities and elsewhere throughout the Commonwealth ?
Will he consider the advisability of instructing a competent private estate agent or other authority on those matters to report directly to him on the situation in Sydney, with a view to effecting economies in the requirements of the Government for office accommodation ? As man y Commonwealth departments were established to meet war-time demands, will the Minister endeavour to find temporary accommodation elsewhere for them? Is he aware that many ex-servicemen have not been able to rehabilitate themselves in their former occupations because government departments are monopolizing offices and business premises? If that is so, will he employ his undoubted military technique by taking action to give free enterprise some relief from this army of occupation?
– Everybody knows of the difficulty that has occurred with regard’ to office space, whether for government departments or for private businesses, particularly in the various capital cities. That problem has been accentuated by the fact that because of shortages of materials practically no new offices or business premises have been built since the war in any of the capita) cities. State governments, naturally, have concentrated on housing programmes. All that I can say to the honorable member at the moment is that the problem is receiving very serious consideration. The matter that he has raised is allied in some ways to a question asked by the honorable member for Indi yesterday. If the Commonwealth will not build offices and if State governments will not allow offices to be built until the lag in housing has been overtaken, we get an unbalanced programme, and it is impossible for the Commonwealth to release any of the office space that it now holds in order to get off the back of the business community. The problem is very serious, and the solution of it is not easy, but I assure the honorablegentleman that we are doing the best we can in the circumstances.
– Has the Minister forLabour and NationalServiceseen the reportofthe statement by Mr.Monk the presidentof the AustralianCouncilof Trade-.Unions, in which hesaidthat he proposed to ask the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into certain statements which are contained in the report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board? That document was laid on the table of the House last Tuesday. If the Minister has read the statement, what was his reaction to it? Does the Government intend to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the matter ?
– As the honorable member is no doubt aware, the Government has made arrangements to bring to Australia an acknowledged authority on port and harbour methods. We believe that this gentleman will be able to make an expert examination of conditions in Australia and give advice to the Government which will be of great assistance to it.
– Will he be a royal commissioner ?
– No, he will not function as a royal commission. The Government hopes to obtain information more quickly than would be possible if a royal commission were established. It will be guided very largely by the information and advice that this gentleman can give to it. Doubtless he will confer with authoritative representatives of the various interests concerned. When the Government has his reportbefore it, consideration will be given to the taking of further action.
– I wish to direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. In the conduct of the affairs of this House, you have exercised considerable discretionary powers in the maintenance of silence and order. Will you give consideration to acting similarly in order to prevent the making of entirely personal attacks, of the type of which we had an example recently against a most respected member of the Government, which in fact are irrelevant and add nothing to the dignity of this House?
– I shall consider the question, but I should like the. honorable gentleman to specify the particular case that he has in mind so that I may prepare a statement on the subject.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. The copies ofWaggaand Albury daily newspapers that are available in the Parliamentary Library are never less than two or three days old. As there is a daily bus service from this area to Canberra, I ask whether you will ensure the expeditious delivery of these newspapers to the Library?
– I undertake to investigate the matter that has been raised by the honorable gentleman, and to advise him of the result.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that the shortage of tinplate is causing wholesale dismissals of workers in South Australia, where the Glen Ellen Cannery has already dismissed 50 per cent. of its employees and will close down its factory completely next Friday ? A similar situation exists in many other industries. Can the Minister indicate what steps the Government has taken with the object of obtaining tinplate and when South Australia is likely to receive additional supplies ?
– This matter comes under the administration of the Minister for Supply but, in his absence, I can say that the Government is very seriously concerned about the shortage of tinplate and the prospect of the present acute situationbecoming even worse. I know that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Supply have been devoting their attention to this problem for many months. There has been consultation right along the line within Australia with the users of tinplate, including both the manufacturers and the end-users who need the product for food processing and packing. The strongest possible representations have been made in every quarter of the world where it is possible to obtain additional supplies of tinplate. Inquiries have been made in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Europe and Japan. There will be no relaxation of the Government’s efforts to procure adequate supplies of tinplate for the food processing industries of Australia.
– In view of the present world situation in relation to oil supplies, can the Minister for Territories inform me whether the search for oil is still proceeding in New Guinea? If the search is still in progress, in what ways can the Government assist or direct the operation?
– The search for oil in New Guinea has ‘been going on sporadically for nearly 40 years, hut there has been a great intensification of activity in recent years. At the present time, the search is being conducted by private enterprise under permits that have been issued in accordance with the Petroleum Ordinance 1938-1947. The main operations at the moment are being carried out by the Australian Petroleum Company Proprietary Limited, and the Island Exploration Company Proprietary Limited, which are linked in ownership and management and which between them have, I think, five permits which cover areas in Papua. Up to the end of 1950, the Australasian Petroleum Company Proprietary Limited had expended £6,500,000 in the search foi- oil. The company was then employing a total of about 400 Europeans and more than 1,000 natives in the search for oil. They had carried out deep boring and I think that they had reached a depth greater than any that had been reached elsewhere in the southern - hemisphere. The company is proceeding with that search, not only hy drilling, but also by carrying out geologi- cai and other surveys. The third holder of a permit appears to have had some difficulty in complying with the conditions of the permit which was recently renewed on the express condition that construction in preparation for drilling had to be commenced by a specified date in 1952.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question in regard to a statement to the press which he is reported to have made concerning negotiations for’ the acquisition of a part of the Australian wool clip by America. Will the Minister assure the House that before any finality is reached in this matter wool-growers’ organizations will be consulted? Will this House also have an opportunity of discussing such an important matter before the auction system of selling wool i« dispensed with?
– I have seen certain headlines in this morning’s newspapers which mention the acquisition of wool. The statement that I issued to the press contained no reference to the acquisition of wool. The report has been based on pure speculation. The United States of America, the United Kingdom and France jointly invited the countries of the free world to participate in a conference known as the International Materials Conference at Washington in order to examine the availability of raw materials. The intention was to ascertain where adequate supplies existed, where there were surpluses, and where there were shortages. This conference appointed separate commodity committees. A wool committee met in Washington on the 2nd April. Before the Australian representative left to attend that meeting, I invited the leaders of the three federal Australian woolgrowers3 organizations to meet me and explained to them the matters that were likely to be discussed in the committee. I told them that if they chose to send representatives to Washington those representatives would be kept informed . of developments and consulted insofar as that could properly be done. The wool committee is to resume its discussions some time this month. The head of my department, who had previously arranged to go abroad on certain commodity contract matters, will lead the. Australian delegation. He and I met representatives of the Australian wool-growers’ organizations in this building the day before yesterday and informed them of the latest developments. I intend to keep them so informed. The policy of the Government is to preserve the auction system of selling wool in Australia.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture read a report in to-day’s press that-
– Order ! I have ruled repeatedly that questions must not be based upon press reports. There is only one way to prevent questions of that kind from being asked. In future, any honorable gentleman who refers to a press report when asking a question will not be allowed to proceed with his question.
– Synthetic wool interests in the United States of America are threatening Australia by an attempt to blackmail us into accepting the American proposal for the establishment of a system of allocation of stocks of Australian wool. I consider that this is very serious.
– Order ! The honorable member may not import comment into a question.
– Is it a fact that Australia is to send a representative to a conference that is to be held in the United States of America on this matter in the near future? Has the Government changed its attitude on this subject?
– I dealt with the general issue to which the honorable member has referred- in the reply that I gave earlier to a question that was asked by the honorable member for Wannon. The Australian wool adviser, Mr. G. J. Crawford, is to lead the Australian delegation that will attend a meeting of the wool committee of the International Materials Conference to be held in Washington later this month. I assure honorable members and the people that the Government is completely conscious of the importance of the wool industry to this country and that in respect of any proposal that involves competition with synthetics or interference with the auction system; it can be relied upon to do everything in its power to protect the industry.
– In view of the fact that the percentage of inaccurate weather forecasts in South Australia is probably higher than in any other part of the Commonwealth, will the Minister for the Interior consider establishing a series of weather bureaux throughout that State in order to provide adequately for the needs of primary producers who dwell in the diverse climates of so large an area? Will the Minister consider equipping such bureaux with mora modern facilities than those which exist in Adelaide at present, and take action to improve the meteorological services of Adelaide itself?
– I am not aware that the percentage of inaccuracies in weather forecasts is greater in South Australia than it is in other States. It is, of course, the endeavour of the meteorological bureaux to maintain as high a standard of forecasting as possible. At the same time it must be realized that it is not easy to be 100 per cent, accurate in forecasting the weather. For instance. South Australian meteorological officers very often have to rely on information received from ships in the Southern Ocean to enable them to forecast the weather with any great degree of accuracy, and at times there are very few ships in that ocean area. A large number of observation stations is established throughout South Australia, as in Other States, and as occasion permits more of them will be established. They are all supplied with the best instruments and equipment, that can be provided, and although they are not all as up to date in equipment as we should like, that position is being amended from time to time. I believe that a certain number of new instruments are now coming forward. I think it can be said that the meteorological station in Adelaide is as effective as any of the similar stations in the other State capitals, and we are trying to make improvements in efficiency from time to time. I should be glad if the honorable member would supply me with information of any specific instances, of inaccurate weather forecasts by the Adelaide station, although, of course, I do not mean merely isolated instances that might have occurred. When he does so I shall endeavour to have the matter investigated.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether, when the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the near future attends a conference of the StateMinisters controlling prices to deal with the subject of butter, he will have authority to urge upon the State Ministers an increase of the price of that commodity? If so, why has not the Government submitted the twin subjects of the price of butter and the return to the dairy-farmer to the same stringent judicial examination as that to which the basic wage is subjected?
– When the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture attends the conference he will have had the advantage of having had very close discussions with at least some of his colleagues, including myself, on the problems to be dealt with. He is fully in possession of the Government’s views on the matter, and I do not intend to prejudice his negotiations by discussing them publicly in the House at this stage.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been directed to reports that plentiful supplies of Australian butter are available ir Hong Kong at a price of approximately 4q per lb? Has Australian butter been sent to Hong Kong recently and is it still being sent there ? If so, will the Minister take action to discontinue the shipments until sufficient butter is available in Australia to meet the demands of the Australian people?
– I have no personaknowledge of this matter. I shall cause inquiries to be made into it, and shall advise the honorable member of the result. Broadly, my information is that practically no butter has been shipped from Australia for some months. Small shipments, especially prepared tinned butter, have been sent to tropical area3. It may be that some tinned butter ha? been sent to Hong Kong.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that some grocers in Melbourne have complained that during the last few weeks they have received” only 50 per cent, of their normal supplies of butter and that consequently a shortage of butter has been occasioned in Victoria, particularly in the metropolitan area ? In view of his statement that no commodity is under greater statistical control than is butter, can he give any reason why retailers in Melbourne have not recently received their normal supplies particularly as individuals who have purchased butter in Melbourne for the purpose of sending it to their friends in other States must have purchased it from retailers and such purchases could not in any way have affected the supplies made available to retailers?
– The honorable member’s statement that I said that butter is under greater statistical control than is any other commodity is not correct. T said that greater statistical knowledge is available about the placement of butter than is available with respect to any other commodity. The Government does not control the distribution, or sale, of butter. A shortage is developing to some degree in Victoria, and I have uo doubt that if deliveries by wholesalers to retailers are being regulated the object of such a procedure would be to space supplies over the anticipated period of shortage. However, I admit that I am merely guessing when I say that that is the position.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to an agitation in the Territory of Papua-New Guinea for the granting of representation on a territorial basis in this Parliament? In view of the growing importance of the defence and development of the territory to Australia I ask the Prime Minister, that, if the matter has not yet been taken into consideration, it be considered.
– My attention has not been drawn to that matter, and, therefore, I have not given consideration to it. However, I am sure that my colleague, the Minister for Territories, is examining that and cognate problems. I have not endeavoured to suggest to him that he should give them anything else but the fullest consideration, which, I am sure, he will do. I am sure that when he has done that he will bring any recommendations he has to make before the Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has been informed that 22 of the original members of 3rd Battalion in Korea are now on leave in Australia, and that of that number, four who have given their names have stated to the press that it was a common practice for the men to be returned to the line of duty after having been wounded three or four times, and furthermore, that that practice ceased only one month before MajorGeneral Kingsley-Norris went to Korea? In view of these facts, does the Prime
Minister consider that his recent statement to the House that all was well in Korea, was misleading, or otherwise?
– I did not make my statement to the House without the fullest - consideration, and I was delighted, as I am sure was every honorable member of this House except the honorable member for Parkes was delighted, the other night when I heard the splendid statement made by Major-General Norris at a meeting of members of this Parliament in which he fully disposed of these purely journalistic allegations.
– My question is directed to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and it concerns a statement made by the Minister early last week that arrangements have been made to produce quantities of the myxomatosis virus for the spreading of that disease early in the summer. Can the Minister inform mc whether the work of spreading the disease will be done only by scientific officers, or are arrangements being made for a large amount of the virus to be made available to farmers so that they can do their own inoculating, and thus spread the disease more quickly?
– The authorities of the Australian Government and the State governments are collaborating closely in this matter. It is not proposed that myxomatosis virus should be made available to individual primary producers, because the spread of the disease entails the inoculation of ‘ individual rabbits with a hypodermic syringe. That is a rather delicate operation to perform on rabbits. The inoculation will be done in selected areas agreed upon between Commonwealth and State authorities, and the rabbits will be inoculated by properly qualified people. After that the spread of the disease will be effected by contact between rabbit and rabbit and by the agency of mosquitoes and other insects. Individual farmers and pastoralists will be encouraged to get infected rabbits from these centres, take them to their own part of the country and ensure by natural and other means that other rabbits wil have contact with them until the disease is properly spread.
Air. SHEEHAN. - I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he has seen a report published in certain newspapers that a child recently died in the metropolitan area of Sydney from lead poisoning caused by the eating of paint flakes? In view of the fact that children cannot be prevented from eating loosely adherent flakes of paint, will the Minister request the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to ascertain whether zinc oxide, or non-poisonous pigment, can be used in the manufacture of paint rather than the poisonous pigments now being used. Will he also request that a report on the subject be furnished to the Government?
– I believe that the matter mentioned by the honorable member is quite an old problem. I am not award of the precise answer to the honorable member’s second question, but I shall ascertain it and advise him of it.
– As I have received several requests from ex-prisoners of war for assistance under the recently established Prisoners of War Trust Fund, would the Prime Minister inform me whether the board to administer this fund has yet been established? If it has not been established, when does the right honorable gentleman anticipate that it will be in operation, and to whom in the meantime should applications for assistance be directed?
– I shall be very glad to ascertain those particulars and advise the honorable member of them.
– My question is founded on my experience of buying a suit length of similar material to one that I bought two and a half years ago, the price of which was two and threequarter times the price of the suit length I bought two and a half years ago. What steps does the Treasurer take to insure that the subsidies which the Government pays on suit material are in fact passed on to the community?
– That question relates to a matter under the control, of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and I shall ask him to answer it.
– A subsidy at an average rate of 45d. per lb. is being paid in respect of wool, for the purpose of keeping clown costs to consumers. The subsidy is paid, not at a flat rate, but in accordance with a table of limits. Upon good quality wool of the kind that would be made into a suit length, the subsidy may be paid at the rate of more than 10Od. per lb. The payment of the subsidy is administered by the Australian Wool Realization Committee. The decision to pay the subsidy was not reached until consultations had taken place between officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Treasury, members of the Australian Wool Realization Committee, who had had war-time experience of wool subsidies, and the State Ministers in charge of prices control with the object of ascertaining whether the State prices control authorities would be able to ensure that the advantage of the subsidy would be passed on to consumers. I do not think that we can achieve perfection under any system of prices control, but the State authorities believe that the subsidy is being passed on to consumers and the Commonwealth r satisfied that that is being done.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, relates to an article that was published in the Wagga Daily Advertiser-
– Order! I have ruled repeatedly that questions must not be based upon newspaper articles.
– Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether, having regard to the chaotic position that exists in this country, he will reconsider the decision that he made in 1948 in regard to prices control and arrange for a referendum to be held upon that matter, in order that Australia shall be saved from complete economic collapse?
– The question relates to a matter of policy.
Motion (by Mr. ERIC J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Motion (by Mr. ERIC J. Harrison) proposed -
That Standing Order 104 - 11 o’clock rulebr suspended until the end of this month.
, - The motion to suspend the 11 o’clock rule generally indicates that the end of a sessional period is approaching. I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to inform the House, as soon as possible, of the details of the Government’s legislative programme.
– in reply - I believe that the Government’s legislative programme will occupy the House until the close of next week. The bills to be considered are the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2) 1951, the .Sugar. Agreement Bil1. 195.!, the Constitution Alteration (Powers to Deal with Communists and Communism) Bill 1951, the Defence Preparations B;11 1951, and the Ministers of State Bill 1951.
Question resolved in .the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to alter the Constitution by inserting therein provisions to empower the Parliament to make laws with respect to Communists and communism and to make a law in the terms of the Communist Party Dissolution Act 1950.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an net relating to defence preparations necessary during the present international emergency.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
.- I move-
Under this bill, parliamentary approval is sought to the new sugar agreement made on the 27th June, 1951, between the Australian and Queensland Governments. The new agreement will cover a period to the 31st August, 1956. As honorable members are aware, the Australian and Queensland Governments have, since 1915, entered into a series of these sugar agreements, the main purposes of which have been to stabilize the economy of the Australian sugar industry and provide consumers with sugarat a reasonable price. I feel that in both those respects the agreements have been successful. Broadly speaking, the Commonwealth undertakes, under the agreement, to impose an embargo on the importation of sugar. In its turn the Queensland Government accepts controlled domestic prices, controls production, accepts financial responsibility for export sales, and. contributes certain funds for the payment of rebates and for special assistance to the fruit industry, which uses large quantities of sugar.
Ordinarily, the existing sugar agree ment would expire on the 31st August, 195.1. but the sugar industry, insubmit- ting its case for an increase of price, requested that the increase, if it were granted, should operate as soon as this bill received parliamentary approval. The industry claimed that costs had increased to such a degree that sugar was being sold on the domestic market at an unremunerative price. The new agreement is the same, in principle, as the existing one, but contains some variations in details. These are -
I point out to the House that, in considering an increase of the remuneration to the sugar industry, it is necessary to keep in mind the actual retail price which will result from an increase of the wholesale price and the profit which’ might reasonably be allowed to retailers. The new retail price in capital cities of 61/2d. per lb. will allow retailers an increase in their profit margin from £5 4s. to £7 6s. 8d. a ton. One point which is not covered in the actual agreement is that the agreement will be open for review at any tune at the request of either government, except in regard to the provisions concerning the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. The major portion of the increased proceeds which will result from the rise in price will, of course, accrue to the sugar-growers and millers,who have had to meet greatly increased costs over the last few years.
During the period 1933 to 1947,. the retail price of sugar was 4d. per lb. in capital cities, whereas at the present time it is only 3d. per lb., that is, an advance of only 25 per cent. over a period of fifteen years, which was marked by substantially higher costs, particularly in the latter years. As examples of cost increases, I point out that field workers’ weekly wages rose from £4 9s. 6d. in August, 1939, to £8 16s. 6d. in April. 1951, or a rise of 97 per cent. In the same period, mill-workers’ wages have increased by 105 per cent., from 2s. 3.3d to 4s. S.ld. an hour, whilst the wages of cane-cutters, who operate mainly on piece-work, increased from 7s. 8d. to 12s. 3d. per ton of cane. The rates quoted are those applicable to the Queensland central sugar district. Wage rises are not the only increases with which the sugar industry has had to contend. Material costs have- risen by at least 80 per cent, since August, 1939. The cost of sulphate of ammonia, despite 4he operation of the Commonwealth subsidy, has increased by. 114 per cent. Jute sacks and hessian, which must be imported, cost 7£d. each and 5d. a yard “respectively in 1939, whereas to-day they cost 6s. 6d. each and 4s. a yard-.
The domestic price for sugar has been regarded generally as the stabilising factor in the economy of the sugar industry, although at the present time it is somewhat below the export price. Out of the return from domestic sales, growers and millers have had to meet increasing costs of production and, whilst the return has been maintained up to date at a fairly stable figure, these rising costs have progressively absorbed a greater portion of the return. If no increase in price were granted, it is certain that costs of production would exceed the return from domestic sales. It is a striking tribute to the efficiency of the industry that it has been able to absorb such a large measure of the rising costs of production.
It is unquestionable that some increase of price must be granted, and an analysis of the case for a price increase submitted by the sugar industry has revealed that, by allowing wholesalers and retailers slightly higher profit margins, the industry will be compensated for its increase of costs by a rise of the wholesale price equivalent to l£d. per lb. in the retail price. The decision to increase wholesale discount from 2 per cent, to l per cent, was taken following strong representations from wholesale merchants, who emphasized the greatly increased costs which they now had to bear compared with those which formerly operated. For instance, they pointed out that storemen’s wages had increased by 74 per cent, and that wages of female clerks employed by wholesale grocers had increased by 109 per cent, in the past five years. In monetary terms, the increase to wholesalers will mean that they will receive £1 6s. 8d. for handling one ton of sugar, compared with the existing rate of 16s. 7d. a ton.
Retail grocers have also experienced increased costs. For example, assistants’ weekly wages have risen from £8 3s. in 1950 to £9 lis. in March, 1951, and the price of paper bags has risen by at least 100 per cent, in the last twelve months. The fixing of the wholesale selling price at £53 6s. 8d. a ton and the new retail selling price at 6$d. per lb., or £60 13s. 4d. a ton, will leave retailers a margin of £7 6s. 8d a ton, compared with the present level of £5 4s. The Commonwealth Prices Consultant has advised that the’ State Prices Commissioners agree with the new level of wholesalers’ and retailers’ margins. In view of the substantial, fund, which at present totals over £1,000,000, that has been accumulated by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, primarily as a result of the temporary non-payment of export rebates, the Government has agreed to the industry’s request for suspension of the annual payment of £216,000 to this committee. However, it is stipulated that payment must be resumed if and when the committee’s funds fall below £500,000. The suspension of payment for the time being will not interfere with the committee’s functions.
The sugar industry in Australia has an enviable record of efficiency, and every effort has been made to absorb rising costs. The price of sugar in Australia has not fluctuated to the same degree as have the prices of most other products. Sugar was sold in 1920 at 6d. per lb. retail, and since then the price has varied between 4d. and 5d. Even at 61/2d. per lb., which will be the new retail price after this bill has been approved, the Australian public will be able to obtain sugar at prices which are lower than those that apply in most other countries. As at the 1st January, 1951, prices of sugar expressed in Australian currency were, in round figures - United Kingdom, Bid. per lb.; Sweden, 7d. per lb.; New Zealand, 9d. per lb.; United States and Canada, lOd. per lb.; France, ls. -2d. per lb.; and Italy, ls. 6d. per lb. Under successive agreements, the sugar industry has developed into an industry of major importance which, exemplifies the success which can be achieved by Commonwealth and State co-operation. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 4th June (vide page 957), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- 1. support the bill. I propose to discuss it only in general terms, but first I shall answer some of the arguments against it that . have been used by honorable members opposite in the course of the debate. The Opposition’s attitude was well summarized, in my opinion, in the dangerous speech that was made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) yesterday. I say that the speech was dangerous because it was based upon the unwavering belief that the trade union movement should, exert political pressure on this Parliament. The honorable gentleman complained that the consent of the trade union movement had not been sought before the bill was introduced. I sincerely hope that this Parliament will never reach the stage of submitting any of its proposed legislation to any association, trade union or other institution. Its proposed laws should be submitted only to the nation as a whole. I am aware that the Government from time to time consults authorities outside the Parliament for technical reasons. But all governments do that. To submit legislation to any kind of pressure group would be a totally different matter. The honorable member for Bendigo also said that the bill represented an attack on the trade union movement alone. I reply to that charge by saying that the actions of the Government parties before and since the assumption of office have proved that they realize that the free cooperation of the trade union movement is essential to the process of good government. We enjoy the confidence of thousands of trade unionists. I, for one, would not be in my place in this House to-day had I not received the votes of many unionists at the general election.
During the Address-in-Reply debate, J. referred to the Government’s intention to introduce this measure and discussed the respective responsibilities of employer* and employees. I pointed out that themain responsibilities of the employerswere to give adequate service to their” clients and customers and to provide fair conditions of work for their employeesat fair and reasonable wages so that they” should work in a contented and happy’ frame of mind. Employees also, assumecertain responsibilities when they acceptpositions in industry. They have aresponsibility to their employers and: to their fellow citizens to perform their tusks efficiently. It is because we believethat it is the desire of members of the; Australian nation to do these things thatthc. Government has introduced this legislation. In other words, we know that the need of the trade union movement is to act in all ways possible for the good of its members and to realize its responsibility to the whole nation. Too often honorable members opposite have falsely claimed to be the only repre’sentatives of those whom they call the workers. That claim is complete nonsense.
This bill provides, amongst other things, that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court shall have power to enforce its awards. That seems to me, as a layman, to be a most reasonable proposition, especially as nearly every one believed that the court had that power until the recent High Court judgment was delivered. The bill’ provides that the rules of industrial organizations shall require that elections of their officials shall be by secret ballot. We . believe in the necessity for secret ballots in the election of members to this House and when we remember the fight i hat has gone on in past generations for the privilege of conducting the secret ballot it is difficult to understand why honorable members opposite have opposed: the inclusion of the principle in this measure. The bill provides that a percentage of the members of a trade union may petition the Industrial Registrar of the
Court to hold a ballot in order to prevent irregularities and it is provided that the court shall have power to order such a ballot if it considers that in so doing it may prevent or settle an industrial dispute.
The answer to those who have said that the bill represents an attack on a “ certain section of the community is that : it gives to members of those organizations the power to conduct their own affairs. “ When I visited the coal-mining area in my electorate recently, I made notes of my conversations. During that visit 3: was asked a number of questions in regard to the Government’s intention to introduce legislation that would provide tor a secret ballot not only in the election of union officers, but also at pit-top meetings. It was admitted both by the management and the miners that this might not be an easy thing to do because ‘ leaders of the trade union movement, fearing for the security of ‘ their positions, would fight hard against it and argue that it would be an interference in trade union affairs. That forecast has been shown to be true because that line of argument has 4been most used by the Opposition. Those employers and employees who supported the hill, mentioned the small percentage of unionists that attended recent meetings that were held in the. area. An incident was quoted concerning one mine where approximately 300 men out of a total of 1,000 attended a meeting. The reasons for non-attendance ranged from a pathetic “ What’s the use ? “ to actual fear. One man who attended the meeting said that he had not intended to vote for the proposed stoppage of work but that within a few minutes there were two men on either side of him. He received a jab vi”n the ribs and a voice said to him, “ Where is your hand, mate ? “ and he soon put it up. I suggested to those representatives of the union whom I was able to meet that the solution of the problem was an understanding between management and employee with a view J to assisting the Government. I found that the desire for a strong and good lead to be given by the Government existed throughout, the whole area. Not only the “ management, staff, and workers at the mines but also the housewife and the businessmen in the towns were looking to the Government to give a lead not only to solve the problem with which they were faced that week but also to lay a solid foundation for their industry.
I congratulate the Government for having introduced this measure because I believe that it has thus taken an important step in advancing the interests ‘ of the industry. One miner who retired from the industry recently said that, having viewed things in perspective during the whole of his career, he realized that there would always bc petty stoppages in the coal-mining industry so long as a coal-mine was working. He believed, and it is widely believed, that Communists use what may be a legitimate industrial complaint as a peg on which to hang a big plan of unrest, disruption and discontent. This bill has been designed to cope with that situation. I believe that it is a good bill. It will do much to remove the present troubles and to avoid a repetition of those that have been suffered in the past because it will give the trade union member, himself, the means of expressing his desires freely in the conduct of the affairs of his association. When speaking on this subject in 1949 the then Leader of the Opposition said that proper control of the affairs of the trade unions by their members instead of control by individuals or bodies which were not members, had become essential not only to the trade union movement but also to the entire community.
.- This is a bill to alter the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act in several important aspects. For the purposes of my argument I shall deal with it as being divided into three main sections. The first section sets out to provide that trade union elections shall be held in a manner that will not permit corrupt practices of any kind; the second seeks to impose on .a trade union, and on the workers who constitute its membership, an obligation to take, at the direction of the. Commonwealth Arbitration Court, a ballot of its members ‘before it resorts to strike action.
The third section is general in character, and I shall deal with it later.
As far as the first section is concerned I maintain that there is no case to be made out against clean and secret trade union ballots. Provision for the holding of secret ballots already exists in the rules of every trade union registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The bill will not achieve what the Government claims it will achieve with respect to the conduct of union ballots. It cannot do so, because there is no provision in it either for the compulsory election of trade union officials or for compulsory balloting. The bill provides that when an officer of a trade union is to be elected by its members, the election shall be in accordance with certain principles, but it does not say that any officer of a union must face an election. In other words, it leaves the gate wide open for trade unions to appoint their officers for life and thus dispense with the need for compliance with the provisions of the first of the three main parts of the bill. Incidentally, the Communist-controlled trade unions are not the only unions that are guilty of corrupt practices in connexion with union ballots. Let it be clearly understood that there are just as many anti-Communist trade unions as there are Communistcontrolled unions guilty of corrupt ballots. But all of them put together represent only a very small section of the tradeunion movement. This bill will not interfere with them, and is completely useless in that respect.
I venture to prophesy that within twelve months of the passage of this bill a great percentage of the trade unions in this country will dispense with the election of officers, and will circumvent the provisions of the bill by appointing their officers for life. They can do so by the simple process of altering their rules, which must be registered with the Industrial Registrar, provided that they satisfy, the Registrar that the alterations have been made in accordance with the rules of the court. I know that already the officials of at least four Communist-controlled trade unions have secretly decided that they will circumvent the provisions of the bill by availing themselves of the means that I have indicated. Therefore, instead of making the present position better, the Government will succeed only in making it worse, because Communist trade union officials will appoint themselves for life and will justify themselves to the members of their unionsby saying that they did so only to circumvent the Government’s legislation.
I turn now to the provisions that seek to place an obligation upon a trade union to conduct a ballot of its members before it resorts to strike action. Expressed in simple, layman’s language the bill really proposes to take from the tradeunion movement and the workers who constitute it the right to strike. The proposed new suction 72 provides that where a trade union is a party to a dispute, and the court considers that the views of the members of trade unions in connexion with that dispute should be ascertained, it may order that the dispute be submitted to a secret ballot to be held in accordance with directions given by the court. Under the proposed new section 78 any official of the union who advises or encourages a member to vote in favour of striking against an award, no matter how unjust the award may be, may be fined £100. He will be fined that amount for even advising his members, during the course of the ballot, to vote in a way that he considers right. In any event, proposed new paragraph (c) of sub-section (1.) of section 29 provides that even if a majority of the members of a union vote in favour of a strike, the court may still order the members to disregard the decision and to continue to work in accordance with the award. Failure to comply with such an order by the court will render the union liable under proposed new section 29a to a fine of £500, and a union official liable to a fine of £200 or twelve months’ imprisonment. Here we have the imprisonment provisions of the criminal code introduced for the first time into arbitration legislation. The rank and file member of the union who obeys the majority decision expressed by his fellow members in a secret ballot that has been taken in accordance with the court’s order, may be fined £50. However, there is nothing in the measure that will give a union or its members the legal right to strike or to limit production, even if the strike is deemed by a majority of its members to be justified. I repeat that the proposed new section 78 (1.) provides that a union official shall not, during the currency of an award-
Sub-paragraph (i) could refer to a regulation strike. The section further provides that an official of a union shall not advise, encourage or incite a member of it - (ii) toadopt a practice in relation to that work, where the result would bea limitation or restriction of output or production ora tendency to limit or restrict output or production.
An official who infringes that provision will be liable to a fine of £100. But if the court asserts its injunction powers the penalty will be even greater. The AttorneyGeneral comes into the picture now, and for the first time is able to openly join forces with the employers against the workers. If, upon the Attorney-General’s application under the provisions of section 29, the court orders by injunction that a union or any person shall accept an award, the penalty for advising, inciting or encouraging a person not to work in accordance with the award or for any employer, or for advising, inciting or encouraging any person to retard, obstruct or limit the progress of work to which the award applies, by using go-slow methods, or to work in a manner different from that customarily applicable to the work, is to be a fine of £500 if a union is the offender. If the offender is a union officer he may be fined £200 or be sent to gaol for twelve months. An ordinary worker in industry may be fined £50. Proposed new section 29a (4.) makes that provision. The court will have power to hear, in actions for contempt, the court’s own accusations against any person who strikes against any of its own unjust awards. In such a case the court may find him guilty and impose penalties. Under the proposed amendment of section 119 trial by jury is to be specifically denied to a union or a person charged with contempt of court for failure to observe any order of the court.
In order to help the court and the bosses, each union will be compelled, by proposed new section 91 (1.), to keep certain records and to supply a copy of them to the Industrial Registrar. Such records shall be available to any person for inspection. Any member of the public may go to the Registrar’s office and look at any of the documents that the union is to be obliged to file with the Registrar. Now, what are the documents that ran be made available to anybody, including the secretary of the Liberal party, the secretary of the Communist party, the secretaries of the chambers of manufactures, or the secretaries of the employers’ federation? They are records which include a register of the members of a union containing the name and address of each member, the address being the member’s place of residence, and the date upon which each such person became a member of the union. There is also a list of the names, postal addresses and occupations of the persons who hold office in the union. Moreover, there is something which is entirely new in this particular field, that is, an account in proper form, as determined by the Government, of the receipts, payments, funds and effects of the union. That account is to include the salaries that the union pays to its officials, the payments it makes to the Australian Labour party, the donations or affiliation fees that it pays to industrial and political organizations. Such other records are to be kept as the Government may determine by regulations. Those records can be anything from the minute books to the most secret documents in the possession ofthe union. By a simple regulation the Government may force a union to place any document in the office of the Registrar, where it will be open to inspection by anybody, including enemies of the union. When a visit to the Registrar’s office may prove to be inconvenient to the enemies of a union, the Registrar may authorize any person. even a secretary of a chamber of manufacturers, or of an employers’ federation, or the secretary of the Liberal party, or an agent of the cominform, to enter the union office and inspect the register of members. Failure to comply with such an order of the Registrar will render the union liable to a fine of £20 under proposed new section 91 (8.). Any failure to keep records, or to file them with the Registrar, will render a union liable, under proposed new section 91 (1.), to a new kind of fine, that is, a fine of £10 for every week that the union continues in default.
– Those obligations are no more stringent than are the rules under which every public company operates.
– They certainly are. It is not possible to obtain the names and addresses of the members of an employers’ federation. Also, I say for the benefit of the honorable member, it is not possible to obtain the names of the members of a freemasons’ lodge by making application for them. If it be right to force trade unions to reveal their assets and funds, and if it is right to compel them to reveal the names and addresses of their members, surely it is equally right that the names of the members of a freemasons’ lodge should be revealed!
– That is the worst piece of nonsense that the honorable member has ever spoken.
– It is just ns right for the names of the members of a freemasons’ lodge to be revealed as it is for the names of union members to be revealed. But the Governmentwould never do that. The bill also proposes that each union shall file with the Registrar each quarter a list showing all alterations of the names and addresses of its members during the preceding three months. Failure of a union to file each year a list, in proper form, of receipts, payments, funds, and effects will render it liable to a fine of £10 a week for each week of default. It is important to remember that all documents filed with the Registrar must be made available to the public for inspection. Each union shall at all times during which a person is a member of the union keep a duplicate or butt of the latest union ticket issued to him, showing his name and usual place of residence. If he is temporarily living away from his usual place of residence when the ticket is issued, the union has to state the place where he was living. A further provision is made in proposed new section 91 (10.), which provides that the Government may issue regulations setting out the way in which a union must keep its records. No matter how involved the method may be, the Government may compel a union to use any particular method for keeping its records. The crowning feature of the whole bill is that none of these provisions apply to deregistered unions or unregistered unions, such as the Building “Workers Industrial Union of Australia. If this bill becomes law, as it certainly will, possibly by next, week, the fees of all unions will have to be increased by at least 50 per cent, to meet the extra cost involved in keeping the additional records prescribed, in complying’ with the regulations and in keeping the records that have as yet not been prescribed.
This bill is nothing less than a direct attempt to abolish the right to strike, which, as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) said, is the only thing that differentiates between a free, man and a slave. It must always be remembered that a strike against an unjust award of the court, provided, thai at all times the union concerned has exercised all constitutional means of obtaining redress and that it has resorted to a strike only in the last instance, is the only way in which workers can rectify unjust decisions of the court. It is only a foolish man who would say that any human being, be he a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or of any other court, is completely infallible. It would be shutting our eyes to facts if we disregarded the lessons of history which show that arbitration court judges have at times, like all human beings, erred. Unless the workers preserve their right to strike, an unjust decision by a judge could never be rectified.
The passing of this bill will be the most deadly blow ever delivered against the trade union movement. As our late beloved leader, Mr. Chifley, said. the Government is trying to establish tame-cat “ unions that will do exactly what it tells them to do. In an important speech that that right honorable gentleman delivered to the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party just prior to his death, he said that the workers had to stand in line like soldiers and fight any attempts that were made, from any quarter, to destroy or weaken the structure of the trade union movement of this country. I believe that Australian trade unionists will not fail to heed that warning and will accept the challenge that is being thrown out by a Government that seeks to destroy and weaken the movement to which they belong. I believe that all sections of the trade union movement, whether of the right, left or centre, will unite in a mighty effort to combat this measure.
If, in the past. .British workers had always accepted the decisions of their parliaments, we should still be wearing leg irons and working in chain gangs. It was only by defying the decisions of a parliament that the Dorchester labourers and those who fought with thom were able to defeat the tyrannical laws of the British Parliament. The passage of this measure will force the trade union movement of this country to do exactly what trade union movements throughout the world have had to do when subjected to repressive action. The trade unionists of this country must fight all forms of tyranny. If they permit the form of tyranny to which this bill will give rise to stalk: the country, sapping the life-blood of the trade union movement and the strength of the Labour movement, it will not be long before they will find themselves in the position in which their forebears were placed in 1S90. T believe that all sections of the movement will combine in an effort to destroy or make impotent this piece of infamous legislation. Surely it is a case, of hanging together now or hanging separately later. If Australian trade unionists do not stand side by side like soldiers and fight for the right to organize themselves, they will rue the day when they failed to do so and will dis cover that they will have to fight again the battles that were fought by those who went before them.
The Government has revealed its real intentions. The Government parties were returned io power largely by the votes of members of the trade union movement. It is, in some ways, a good thing that this bill has been introduced, because, by introducing it, the Government has shown clearly that it is not the friend of the trade union movement that it tried to make the workers believe it was during the general elections of 1949 and 1951. By a simple analysis of this measure, the workers will be able to see that this Government is the avowed enemy of the trade union movement and wants to destroy the movement and all that it stands for. The Government is attempting to do that under the pretence of destroying communism. It is offering a. sprat in order to catch a mackerel. It believes, quite correctly, that all sections of the Australian community want clean ballots, whether in elections of trade union officials or of parliamentarians. Tt has told the people that if they want this bill, which it claims will ensure clean ballots, they must also accept something that will destroy the trade unions for which clean ballots .arc sought. This measure, which purports to make provision for ensuring that ballots shall bc clean, will not achieve that objective, but it will achieve the second and real objective of the Government. The bill cannot, ensure clean ballots for the election of trade union officials, because two vital provisions have been omitted from it. There is no clause that provides that trade unions officials shall bc elected by a ballot, and that every member of a trade union shall be compelled to exercise his right to vote at a ballot for the election of officials. The real object of the hill is to destroy the right to strike, and by doing so, to destroy the trade union movement and al! that it stands for. If the unions were deprived of their right to strike, their power would he taken from them and they would be destroyed completely.
Although the Government claims thai it wants the co-operation of the trade unions, it has introduced this bill without even consulting the trade union movement upon it. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), who is a newcomer to this Parliament, and who has not yet learned the finesse of Liberal party politics, was fair enough to say a few moments ago that he hoped that t he Government would never submit for the consideration of the trade union movement any legislation that affected the movement. Would the Government introduce a bill that vitally affected Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited without having first consulted Mr. Essington Lewis at length? Would it introduce a bill that vitally affected the private banks without having first consulted Mr. Osborne, the brother of the honorable member for Evans, who, incidentally, will shortly be appointed as a Minister in this Government? in relation to this measure, the Government is playing the role of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is posing as the friend of the working class, hut at the. same time it is sponsoring the most deadly legislation in the annals of this Parliament. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) can afford to laugh, because he knows that what I have said is true, but what he ought not to laugh at is that not one of the deadly blows for which this measure provides will fall upon the shoulders of the Communist- controlled unions that were deregistered because they refused to obey the law. The blows will fall upon the shoulders only of law abiding unions that are registered with the. Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
I believe that this measure, in addition to forcing unions to appoint their officers for life and to increase their fees by 50 per cent., will force all unions to cancel their registration with the court. If that happened, the unions would have no alternative to adopting the Communist; technique of collective bargaining and the law of the jungle would prevail. I hope that the bill will be rejected, but, in view of the Government’s majority in this chamber, that is a forlorn hope. If it, be passed, I hope that the trade unionists of this country will read the history of the working class and learn what their forebears had to do to protect their rights.
.- Too often in this debate the problem with which the bill now before us deals has been approached from two aspects: first, the purely industrial aspect, and, secondly, the almost entirely legal viewpoint. Those approaches are justified only to a degree. In order to deal with the fundamentals that underly the problem we must go back to the dawn of the industrial age when ruthless exploitation characterized labour conditions. As some honorable members have reminded us, trade unionism developed to a degree in England and in this country as a result of that exploitation. Fortunately, we have moved from that unhappy background to the conditions that exist today. One characteristic of the preindustrial revolution days was the craftsmanship of the individual who with his own hands produced almost entirely the finished article of manufacture. With the advent of the industrial age the degree of individual craftsmanship was considerably reduced, but the craftsman still retained pride in his trade and in the quality of the article that he produced, so much so that during the latter part of the nineteenth century British workmanship was recognized throughout the world as being supreme and Great Britain was recognized as being the world’s industrial leader. However, at the close of the last century the course of the industrial process was altered. I refer to the introduction of the principle of mass production and its effect upon trade unions, andI speak as one who has had some experience in certain classes of industry. That development had a most interesting and, perhaps, disturbing effect upon the individual in industry. It produced conditions in which any man engaged in mass production ceased to be a person who produced by his own efforts any finished article but became, instead, merely a unit in the chain of production.
– A cog in the wheel.
– That is so. And it was logical and, perhaps, inevitable that as a result of that development those ‘workers lost almost completely the pride of craftsmanship that had characterized workmen of an earlier generation.I do not think that any honorable member will disagree with that analysis.
– Are there no craftsmen now in industry?
– Yes ; but whilst there are still some industries in which workers still retain something of the skill and pride of their forefathers that is not generally the case. The introduction of mass production methods wrought a very significant change in the trade unions because as those organizations grew in strength - I admit partly as a result of combating the efforts of ‘employers to exploit labour - the workers in this and in other countries were imbued with a sense of loyalty and comradeship that had not previously existed in industry. They welded themselves into groups and aimed to achieve a common purpose.
The change that occurred during the early years of the present century produced another revolutionary development in the initiation of industrial conciliation and arbitration, in which sphere Australia was years in advance of the rest of the world. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court came into being because governments in this country realized that the place of trade unions in society had altered. From groups of individuals whose main purpose was to strive to preserve minimum rights for themselves in industry trade unions developed into organized societies which became of great importance in the economic life of the community. For that reason governments in this country, for the first time in industrial history, gave to the workers a guarantee of security in respect of conditions of employment and wage rates. It is not unreasonable to say that in consequence of that development a slight, but perceptible, change was effected in the course of the trade union movement, because, having achieved its original fundamental objective of obtaining recognition of legal rights in respect of wages and conditions of employment the movement set out to achieve another objective which, although allied to its original objective, was. slightly different from it. Since then, whilst the trade unions have remained as such in the industrial field, they have exercised their industrial power to an increasingly greater degree in the political life of the community. Evidence of that change is provided by the presence of practically all members of the Opposition in this Parliament. They were elected because the Labour party emerged from the trade union movement and until fairly recent years enjoyed the unanimous support of the trade unions. Thus, as the years went by, the trade unions assumed not only a larger status, but also a slightly different and, perhaps, more .impressive role in the life of the community.
Here, I shall digress to point out two things. I refer, first, to the fact that as a general rule members of the Opposition who claim to speak in this House for the trade union movement hark back to the bad old days for their inspiration and apply the ideas that then pertained in industry to the conditions that exist today. For instance, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) referred to conditions that existed as far back as 1834. Such reasoning is not only Illogical but also entirely wrong.
– History has a habit of repeating itself.
– That is a platitude that has no application under the industrial conditions that exist in Australia to-day. On this matter I speak as one who has
– What is the name of the union of which the honorable gentleman was a member?
– My father was one of the founders of the Labour party, and was a very prominent member of a union. Unlike certain other union officials, he did not seek election to the Parliament, but remained with his fellow-workers. The leaders of some industrial organizations, wishing to retain their positions, still use the old battle cries and techniques to whip a .crowd into a state of hostility to non-Labour governments, so that they may retain their authority and positions.
A third, and even more significant, change has occurred in the trade union movement. No honorable gentleman who speaks with a knowledge of conditions in the unions will deny that as those organizations assumed a larger part in the life of the community, so did their managements become, in many ways, more remote from their members. That development has found its expression in the deplorable apathy that has been observed among the rank and file in the trade union movement. Opposition members have repeatedly referred to that matter.
– The honorable gentleman has not studied the bill.
– If Mr. Speaker will permit me to engage in exchanges across the chamber, I shall remind the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) of some of his remarks in the last parliament that impressed themselves on my memory. He stated that the danger of control of unions by Communists was due, to a degree, to the apathy of the members of those organizations. That is an alarming feature, but it is a fact.
I direct the attention of the House to an even more disturbing feature. I listened with amazement to the speech of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who is rightly regarded as probably one of the best-informed men on industrial matters and trade union affairs in Australia. As a leader, he is conscious of his responsibilities, and he speaks with a knowledge of the subject that is possessed by few men. I believe that I have made a fair general appreciation of the honorable gentleman’s ability, hi his second-reading speech, he described thi.?: bill as an attack upon the trade unions, and the trade unions only. He said that the measure was completely unnecessary, and that it would interfere with the domestic affairs of the unions. Finally, he described the bill as fascist in character. But the most significant remark that was made by the honorable gentleman was to the effect that the bill was directed against the rights, responsibilities and administration of the unions.
What are the rights of the trade unions? Few honorable gentlemen will disagree with me when I say that they have the right to represent their members, and to obtain for them the highest possible standard of living and the best conditions of labour. It is generally admitted that the m Commonwealth Arbitration Court, by and large, helps to achieve those objectives. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has dealt at length with that aspect. Yet the honorable member for Bendigo brushed aside the responsibilities of the trade unions. Is it not vital to the economy of Australia that the unions should recognize not only their rights but also their responsibilities? An industrial organization, if it has become so powerful that it has moved from the field of economics and is exercising an increasing influence upon the political life of the country, must discharge its responsibilities as well as exercise its rights. What are those responsibilities? Every one concedes that the trade union movement? is now a large and powerful factor in the life of the community. Therefore, it follows that that movement has a responsibility that is larger than its responsibility to its members. That is to say, it has a responsibility to the whole community.
One matter that has caused, and is still causing, grave concern to honorable members on both sides of the chamber is the fact that this political power, particularly in the last few years, has been exercised without regard to the responsibilities that the trade union movement as a whole has assumed, as is recognized by its reputable leaders. The report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, which was laid on the table last Tuesday, reveals that 10.6 per cent, of the total man-hours lost on the waterfront was duo to political disputes, 20.6 per cent, to political-cwm-industrial disputes, and 6S per cent, to industrial disputes only. In other words, 31.2 per cent, of those disputes was either political in character, or was influenced by politics.
– How were those figures arrived at?
– I arn stating the actual conditions as they exist. The position is most disturbing because, if an industrial organization exercises such power, then inevitably, as has happened all over the world, the economy of the country is affected, and may even be wrecked.
The honorable member for Bendigo has one thought in common with the equally honorable, but not quite so well informed, member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and the perhaps as well informed honorable member for Hindmarsh, lt relates to the difficulties of trade union administration. .1 cite with interest, and, to be perfectly frank, with some delight,
A remark by the honorable member for Parkes, who, in a manner -somewhat reminiscent of one of the prominent characters of Charles Dickens, said that this bill would lead to a waste of money through bureaucratic regulations. The honorable gentleman, washing his hands of the whole matter, proceeded to point out the evil effects of bureaucratic regulations upon administrative problems. Such remarks, when they are made by an honorable gentleman who is not without distinction in the Parliamentary Labour party, because he was recently elected to the executive of it, and, by inference, is acquainted with all the bureaucratic regulations that were promulgated by the previous Labour Government, are amazing at this juncture. He recognized the general truth, but applied it to the particular matter of trade union administration.
While I am dealing with trade union administration and the difficulties that are associated with the conduct of secret ballots and the keeping of various records, I shall examine the position from a practical standpoint.
– The principal difficulty is not that «f keeping records.
– I hope that the attitude of the honorable member for Blaxland towards this bill is a little different from that of his more excitable but less informed colleague, the honorable member for Parkes. The difficulties of administration and of keeping records depend, in the aggregate, only on the ability of the person who is in charge of that work. Any one who has a knowledge of unions will agree that a number of positions in them are filled, as occasionally happens even in this distinguished House, by persons whose sole qualifications to occupy them are a loud voice and a vigorous manner. I consider that this provision in the bill will have a good influence on the organization and administration of the unions because records, however much individuals may deplore the bureaucratic requirement to keep them, undoubtedly have their uses and can be vitally necessary in- a large business. Prom the standpoint of administration the trade unions to-day are the equivalent of large businesses. Some people speak most feelingly . on this matter, but when we get down to tin-tacks, we must admit that any person who has a knowledge of administrative problems can solve the administrative problems of unions in a comparatively short time. Those facts cannot be refuted. Admittedly, difficulties exist, but they can be overcome with goodwill, and if there is an intention to meet them. The honor- able member for Parkes, being conscious of certain weaknesses in his own armour, devoted a few minutes to an attack upon the dairy-farmers of this country. Why he did so, I frankly do not know.
– The honorable member for Parkes would not know, either.
– Probably that is so.
– Does the honorable member recall the days when the Barnardo boys used to work on dairy farms?
– Order ! I think that some of them must be here.
– My remarks are directed to the honorable member for Parkes. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, who has a knowledge of, and .speaks with authority on, trade union affairs, made some interesting statements, as he frequently does. He has the virtue, at least, of speaking the truth on occasions. It n.ay be that he speaks the truth on all occasions, but I do not know about that. He said that nobody disputes that secret ballots are right, and are necessary. I think that I am substantially repeating his words, and I hope that I am npt misrepresenting him. The honorable gentleman said that, in the few unions in which ballots are rigged, as many nonCommunist leaders as Communist leaders are engaged in the rigging. He stated that such unions are few in number. I believe that my recollection of his remarks is substantially correct. I do not wish to misquote them. His next suggestion was that no necessity exists to apply the provisions of this, bill to the unions in which secret ballots are taken iii accordance with their rules. He then said that this bill will not be effective against unions in which ballot irregularities are practised as a usual thing, because they could not be forced to obey the law. He added that, from his own knowledge, four unions that are under Communist control have already been making arrangements to elect their leaders for life in order to evade the provisions of this bill. I have referred to those statements b.y trade union leaders because they speak with, greater authority on this subject than I claim to possess. If it be true that as many non-Communists as Communists rig union ballots, that fact alone provides ample justification for this measure in view of the vital importance of the trade unions to our economic system. The honorable member also said that steps were being taken already to evade the provisions of this legislation. In that event, it will be necessary for this Parliament to amend the legislation later in the light of circumstances as they arise.
We all agree that Australia needs greater production from industry. I have heard almost impassioned speeches on this subject by some members of the Opposition. The Government and the Opposition differ about the importance of production but, generally speaking, we are agreed that production should be increased. “Various explanations of the industrial situation have been offered. Many honorable members believe that it is due to bad relationships between employers and employees. I believe that it is largely due to the fact that the worker to-day has no interest in the goods that he manufactures. To use an illustration from an industry with which I am familiar, the man who is engaged in the manufacture of steel window frames has no pride in the houses in which the frames will be installed eventually. He does not care who will own the houses or where they will be built. Because of this state of affairs, the output of goods is insufficient to satisfy the demand for them. Many workers agree that production should be increased, but the average individual probably thinks, “Why the devil should I do any more ? “ That attitude is the basic cause of our industrial and economic troubles to-day. Most Australians appreciate the seriousness of the situation but, because of the form of industrial organization that we have in Australia, they do not apply to themselves any responsibility for contributing to the effort to increase production.
– The workers should not be blamed for that.
– I agree with the honorable member. I say that all members of the community are equally responsible for that condition. The main purpose of industrial legislation of the character of this bill is to assure to labour a fair share of the wealth of the country. The Government has the responsibility of obtaining the co-operation of the workers in maintaining a high standard of living.’
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Until now the debate on this measure has hinged more upon broad principles than upon the mechanics of the legislation as it will apply to trade unions. At the risk of being too meticulous in my discussion of its mechanics, I propose to deal with the bill in a way which, I hope, will demonstrate that it will be incapable of achieving the results that the Government has in mind and will, in fact, impose upon trade unions a burden that they should not be called upon to bear.
The bill has three main purposes, only one of which I propose to discuss at length. The first purpose is to give to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the power to deal with annual and other periodical leave, sick leave and long service leave with pay. All that I have to say about that is that the more we clutter up the work of our arbitration authorities in the making of industrial awards by specifying what they may do and what they may not do, the more will we increase the difficulty that they have in assessing fair scales of wages and conditions of work for the classes of industry with which they have to deal.. It is not possible for an arbitration authority to make a new award or review an existing award equitably without making a complete review of the occupations that are involved. I am astonished that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) should include this provision in the bill on the ground of the necessity for uniformity. The task of arbitrating in relation to sick leave and other such matters should never be placed upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in this way. Such matters should be related to each industry according to the circumstances of that industry. In fact, many industries now are attempting to attract and hold labour by offering sick leave with pay. To put these matters into the common arbitration pool will be to take a retrograde step in the science of award making. They should be considered separately in the light of the conditions that apply to employees in particular in dustries. The Minister has not yet explained what he means by “ other periodical leave “. Does he think that, under the terms of the bill, the decision of the Coal Industry Tribunal to grant one day’s full pay to miners as a bonus for having worked ten days consecutively can not be brought into the category of additional leave by a High Court judgment? If so, I hold the contrary view. However the honorable gentleman has not explained his intention. Such matters should not be meddled with in the making of awards.
The second purpose of the bill is to grant additional powers to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as a superior court of record. I shall not discuss the legal aspects of this proposal because I do not profess to be fully capable of doing so, but I understand how the provision will apply in practice. According to the Minister, the Government’s intention is to give to the court power to deal with any breach or non-observance of awards and orders made by its tribunals. What will be the effect of this amendment of the arbitration law? We shall reach the stage at which the court will exercise its power of injunction on matters of which it has no knowledge. The provision, if carried into effect to the logical conclusion, will be merely an instrument for the prevention of strikes. After listening to the Minister and supporters of the Government, I am convinced that it has no other purpose. It is the sharpest dagger that has ever been levelled at the heart of our arbitration system. The Government seeks to transfer to the court all responsibility for the continuance of any strike that may occur in Australia. If the Government really wants to ban strikes, let it have the courage to introduce legislation specifically for that purpose! It should not try to achieve its end by pointing a dagger at a body that has done much to foster industrial peace. The court should never be put in such a position as is contemplated in the bill. The responsibility should be borne by the Government. The former Labour Government made no apologies for the action that it took in respect of the coal strike, notwithstanding the criticism that, was levelled at it by trade unionists.
The Communist organization in Australia has been using every means at its disposal for the last seven years to destroy our arbitration system. Now this Government proposes to hand to it the first real weapon that it has had with which to attack the system. If the court observes the terms of this legislation and place a ban on every prospective strike, the power of the Communists in the trade union movement will be given atre mendous fillip. They will go about amongst the workers saying, “ There is the arbitration court for you! This is the fascist method that it uses against you. It is a fascist organization that has been set up to crush the workers “. If the Government removes flexibility from the arbitration system, it will at the same time take away from the court the freedom that it now possesses. The responsibility for preventing strikes should rest only upon the shoulders of the govern ment of the day. If this Government believes that strikes should be banned for the benefit of the nation, it should introduce legislation to outlaw strikes. It has no right to forge this weapon to destroy an instrument for industrial peace that has been operating since 1904. I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) that the court will be placed in an intolerable position. When the bill becomes law, the Communists will foment strikes more frequently than eve” before and the court will be held responsible if those strikes continue. The result will be that we shall need more Arbitration Courtjudges than there an? days in a month. Spasmodic strikes will be organized for the purpose of undermining the confidence of the workers in the court. I urge the Government to discard the provision at this stage and leave the court free.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before I deal with the subject of secret ballots in relation to the election of trade union officials I wish to say something about the court’s authority to conduct secret ballots in respect of disputes. There has been good deal of talk on this subject without due regard having been paid to the fact That the court has always had that authority under section 72 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1950, but has never taken advantage of it. The reason why the court has not conducted secret ballots is, mainly, that if a ballot were taken and a decision given in favour of a strike the court would then be in an intolerable position. It would then have to find an answer to the problem that had arisen. I know of a union which does not indulge in strikes but which was pushed into taking a secret ballot on an Australiawide basis. That union has been registered for over 30 years and its members have only lost two days work during that time as a consequence of a union direction. During the war, in 1944, a matter of major importance to the union arose. The membership insisted on the leadership conducting a rank and file ballot on the question of a stoppage. I was amused when the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) tried to make capital out of the fact that a ballot-paper had a serial number on it. To my mind the honorable member displayed a degree of ignorance which has hardly been unsurpassed in this House.
One cannot conduct a secret ballot without the use of serial numbers. The ballot-papers must be printed by a central source and distributed on a State basis. Then they have to be sent to the branches and the men who are in charge of the Australia-wide organization have no control over the branch ballot unless the papers bear serial numbers. There is a tremendous difference between a general election of members to this House and a trade union ballot in which the ballotboxes all have to be returned to the central authority to be checked. The ballot in the union to which I have referred resulted in 7,101 votes being cast in favour of the strike and 1,214 against it. The leaders of the union conducted a second ballot in 1944 and asked its members whether in the event of a vote being carried in favour of a strike they would agree to strike action being held in abeyance until after the war. In reply to that question 5,797 members replied, “ No” and only 2,510 agreed to leave the strike until after the war. That ballot was conducted secretly on an Australiawide basis in a manner that could not have been surpassed. Because of that experience that union will never conduct another strike ballot. The union leaders were placed in the same position on that occasion as the court would be placed in if it conducted a secret ballot on a strike issue. Since 1944 the union has been jibed at and criticized by Communist leaders on the grounds that it did not have the courage to allow its members to take strike action after they had voted for it. Considerations of that kind explain why the court has never applied section 72 of the act. It would be foolish to allow the court to be placed in such a position as that.
The union to which I have referred follows the principle of the secret ballot to the limit. The relevant clause of this measure is the clumsiest that has ever been introduced into this chamber. Proposed section 70a of the bill provides that the rules of an organization–
shall make provision for -
I cannot understand the Minister bringing a provision of this description before the House having regard to the provisions of Schedule B of the act. Schedule B provides for everything that is in that amendment except a secret ballot. It provides for absent voting. This section of the bill is a repetition of a part of the principal act and is intended purely as political propaganda. Let me analyse how far this clumsy legislation has attempted to duplicate existing legislation. The Industrial Registrar is highly qualified to determine what should or should not be in the rules of a registered organization. Schedule B provides for the election of the committee of management of the organization and of its branches and all officers of the organization under a system which makes adequate provision for absent voting. Subparagraph (d) of paragraph 1 of Schedule B of the act provides for the control of committees of organizations by the members of the organizations and the control of committees of branches by the members of the branches. A trade union must function in accordance with the requirements of those provisions. Schedule B provides for the keeping of a register. A union must have an Australian committee of management and a council that is responsible to the membership of the union. Each State branch and subbranch has to be controlled in the same way. The highest officers of the union that I have mentioned form its committee of management under the act. The Registrar of the court insures that they are elected in accordance with subparagraphs (a) and (c) of paragraph 1 of Schedule B. These rules apply to every Australian trade union and the Registrar insists that they be observed. It seems to me that the Minister and his officers -did not consult the Registrar before this ‘bill was drafted. The Communistcontrolled unions have attempted ro avoid the requirements of the act concerning the committee of management but the registrar has not allowed them to do so. A committee of management can be overridden by an Australian council. In the union that I have mentioned, the Australian council is elected by a rank and file secret ballot. The State branches must have a committee of management and an overriding body of the rank and file and those bodies are elected by rank and file ballots as provided for in the act. All that the Government need have done had it not wanted to play politics was to insert two words in Schedule B of the act and those words are “ secret ballots “. Then the Registrar would have been saddled with the responsibility of seeing that the trade union drew up rules that were consistent with the principle of the secret ballot. The Registrar could then have examined the rules of each union and given full effect to the Government’s requirements without in any way interfering with the control of unions of their own affairs. The union to which I have referred is quite capable of controlling its own affairs. Members of the Government cannot get out of their minds the difference between the Registrar’s requirements and the provisions of this bill.
The Registrar insists on the appointment of a committee of management. He also insists upon the appointment of an Australian council, representative of the rank and file, with power to override the committee of management. He insists that every union must keep a register. Consequently a register of members of every union i.s available to the Registrar. The union that I have in mind keeps a register a-t its central office which is available for examination by the Registrar or his office)-. The Registrar could obtain from it, under the rules of the court, a: complete list of the addresses of members of the union in six hours. This bil! provides that the union must set up credential lists. That means that a union will have to bring its register into alphabetical order. Every member is at present represented by a number. When a member is first registered his number is allocated to him in the order in which he joins. That number applies to any papers that he may receive from the union. When a ballot of the rank and file is held a union must decide to close its books on a given day and then it gives its branch representatives a certain number of days in which to send their lists to the central returning officer. From that list the returning officer must, within a given a time, send out the ballotpapers and the ballot-box which must be returned to him. The provisions of the credential lists that are required under this bill will cost the union to which I have referred not le3.? than £1,000 a year and it will necessitate the employment of an additional staff of fifteen. In addition, the list will already bc obsolete by the time that it bas been filed with the Registrar. On Monday, for instance, I visited the office of the State branch of the organization that I have mentioned and inquired what changes had been made in the register in the month of June. That branch has 5,000 members, and the changes of addresses and other alterations of the register occasioned by resignations from the union and the enrolment of new members, totalled no fewer than 122 for June. Yet that is only a small number of alterations in comparison with the monthly alterations in the registers of other unions. Imagine ‘ the Registrar’s office obtaining at the 1st January, if it were physically possible to do so. which it is not, the most up-to-date list of the names and addresses of 5,000 members of one branch of one organization, and then receiving a rninimum of 300 changes at the end of a quarter. The office would have to deal with such large numbers of changes in respect of all trade unions. At the end of nine months the registers maintained by the Registrar would be in such a mess that nobody would be able to find out anything from them.
It is impossible to keep a register of members in the form that has been so clumsily provided for in the measure. The bill provides that the address of a union member shall be written on the butt or duplicate of the latest union receipt issued to him. Every receipt issued is the latest receipt, so why was the word “latest” included in the measure? The organization of which I have been speaking, whose members have lost only two days’ work through strike action in 30 years, has had receipts printed to cover the next three years, because it realized that that was a wise thing to do’ owing to the shortage of man-power and paper.
It will cost it at least £300 to replace its receipt books alone in order to comply with the address provision of this measure. But that is not the worst feature of the bill. When we get down to the third plane of union officials we find that they are not fully paid officers, fu the main, they are workers from the ranks who do not receive any pay other than some small commission. When this hill operates those officials will not find it convenient to continue in a job that involves their writing out the address of the member on each receipt that they issue. Another factor also comes in here. I found last Monday, when I visited the small organization that I have mentioned, that of its 5,000 members 100 were on loan to another district. Under this measure changes in relation to the addresses of those individuals would have to be made.
The result of the provision will be that the private addresses of members ‘of all registered trade unions will become freely available. The Communists have been watching and waiting for years for an opportunity to obtain a complete list of the addresses of trade unionists. Unions such as the one that I have described will not issue lists of members to unauthorized persons. As a result the Communists have not been able to obtain such lists of members to whom they could otherwise have posted Communist propaganda. But when every member’s private address is shown on the receipt books, that nefarious organization, the Communist party, will be able, over a period of two or three years, to arm itself with the name and address of every trade unionist in this country.
This is the clumsiest piece of industrial legislation that has ever come before a parliament. It will be ineffective in every way for the purposes for which it has allegedly been brought down. It will cut across the principles that govern award-making, in a way that should not be tolerated. It will place the arbitration system in the position that the Communist party has been wanting it to be placed in for years. It will be provocative to every decent trade union in this counrty. ‘ Finally, it brands this Government as being too weak-kneed to deal with the Communist menace. If it was not so week-kneed it would ban the strikes for which it blames the Communists. The bill shows up the true weakness, incapacity and lack of knowledge of the Government to deal with a situation that should be dealt with.
.- I rise to support this bill conscious of the fact that over the past half-hour we have listened to a very interesting speech from the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), which was directed towards the details of the bill and which ignored the reasons for the introduction of the measure and the defects that it aims to correct. The honorable member uttered many criticisms of the Government and of the Minister who introduced the measure which, I think, are not shared even by members of his own party. I wish to direct the attention of the House to the speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) when he moved the motion for the second reading of the bill and particularly to those parts of it in which he pointed out that the objects of the bill are primarily to give the trade unions an opportunity to do what they claim they want to do, which is to suppress communism in their own ranks. The Minister explained that the legislation is also intended to give the Commonwealth Arbitration Court a power which it considered it held until the High Court recently decided that it did not hold it. That power was intended to be covered in legislation that was introduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when he was AttorneyGeneral in the Chifley Government. Broadly speaking, those are the objects of the measure.
This legislation is also unique in that it was passed in this chamber during the life of the last Parliament, but, because of the double dissolution, it did not receive the endorsement of the Senate and so did not become law. But it was fully debated here, and the record of the debate appears in Hansard. It was also a prominent subject of discussion during the recent general election campaign. The vote of the people at the last general election can be considered to be a very sound justification for the Government’s reintroduction of the measure in this amended form. The Government has acted in the full knowledge that the people desire this legislation. I remind honorable members opposite that the number of votes received by Government candidates at the last general election shows that the Government had the electoral support of many trade unionists. It is not unreasonable to suppose that those unionists believe that this legislation should be passed. I again point out that this is not new legislation,, but that it has already been well discussed both in this chamber and on the hustings.. It has received the approval of the people and, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has said, it will be become the law of the land. However, we now have an opportunity to debate some fresh points that may not be very clear to honorable members opposite. For the purposes of explanation the Minister dealt with the- bill in three parts, which concerned, first, the provision for secret ballots; secondly,, provision for members of a union to request that an election be held ; and thirdly, the provision that the court may order the holding of a ballot in cases where it considers the views of the members of a union in relation to a dispute should be obtained. Those are the main points. The Government has in mind that Communists are in control of sometrade unions. It is not disputed by any one that that is the case. The Government also believes that rank and file trade unionists are anxious to have those Communists removed from office, but that under present conditions they have little chance of getting rid of them. This bill will give the rank and file an opportunity to deal with Communist officials as they wish. Honorable members opposite say that rank and file members of the unions have that opportunity now, because the rules of every union registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court: contain provisions for elections by secret ballots. Those provisions have not been very effective, or this measure would not be necessary. Do not let us hide our heads in the sand. This bill is not only necessary, but it is also desired by the rank and file trade unionists. The honorable members who are the most vocal opponents of the measure are connected in some way with the executives of trade unions, and so do not put to this House the true rank and file view.
– What rot !
– It is not rot ! We wish to make it very plain that the rank and file desire this kind of legislation.
– That is an amazing state of affairs, is it not?
– Order !
– Yes, it is an amazing state of affairs. Under present conditions rank and file trade unionists are not able to indicate to their union leaders what they require to be done, because the operations of the unions are directed from the top. That is why, when people are inclined to be critical of unionism, they ure not being critical -of trade unionists as individuals - nor should they be - but are being critical only of the officials who mislead the unions into the use of destructive tactics. The Opposition is doing a very grave disservice to the trade unionists whom they claim to represent here, by the tactics that they have adopted. That is true in the main, although not in every instance. I have never seen a greater display of greater bigotry than that exhibited in this chamber in the last few hours. I have heard honorable members opposite say time after time that the object of the Government is to destroy the trade unions. They have also said over and over again that the Government intends to take away the right to strike. They have said that we are attacking the trade unions in every way possible. I put it to honorable members opposite that to-day we have a Minister for Labour and National Service who, at the very least, is thoroughly sympathetic towards trade unionism in this country. That statement is not intended as a reflection upon previous Ministers for Labour and National Service. The present Minister has gone out of his way to try to reconcile the differences that develop between trade unionists and employers. Honorable members opposite cannot deny that.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Order ! If interjections do not cease I shall have to act.
– Yet honorable members opposite criticize the Minister and the Government, and say that all that the Government is attempting to do through this measure is to destroy trade unionism and abolish the right to strike. Honorable members opposite who say that the right to strike is the last bulwark of trade unionism are foolishly leading trade unions to believe that there is something to be achieved by strikes. When did a strike ever do any good for the people who struck? Has it ever been shown that a strike has been of real benefit to unionists? Strikes have done nothing through the years except dislocate and upset other sections of the community. Only eighteen months or two years ago one of the most disastrous coal strikes of recent times brought considerable suffering to the people of Australia. That was entirely overlooked by the miners who were engaged in the strike. The strikers received no benefit from their action, and the rest of the community suffered great harm and danger. In some cases, because of a resultant shortage of gas, it may be said that lives were lost because of the coal strike.
At present a strike of certain bus mechanics is brewing, or is about to take place, in New South Wales. A short time ago the same men went on strike because they claimed that they were entitled to certain advantages. After some weeks they agreed to their case being heard by the court. The case was considered, but they are now dissatisfied with the judgment of the court. No doubt this is a matter similar to those mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who said that unjust decisions have been made by judges. It is a disgraceful state of affairs when allegations that judicial decisions are unjust can be made by members of this Parliament against the judiciary. Are we losing all respect for the judiciary in that members of this Parliament should make allegations against judges and assert that unionists should be able to say “ We are not satisfied with the decision of the judge, it is unjust ; we shall strike “ ? If they say that and then go on strike, they will get no benefit from their action, just as the ‘bus mechanics got no benefit from their previous strike and will get no benefit from another. The last time that the mechanics went on strike a great amount of discomfort was caused to people because of the disturbance of normal travelling habits. That was all to no purpose. Is unionism to have laid at its door the accusation that it is entirely selfish and that it has no consideration for other members of the community? That is what will happen if honorable members opposite continue to speak as they have been speaking in this debate up to the present. The Opposition has put forward no just or reasonable complaint about this legislation. It has made some very vigorous statements about certain sections of the measure, but in the main, it must agree that the legislation -is sound, that its objectives are good, and that it does not envisage anything of a sectional nature at all. The arguments against it by honorable members opposite have all been of a sectional nature. They have said that its aim is to destroy the unions as well as to withdraw the right to strike, which is held to be the last bastion of the trade union movement, or some such rubbish. It was not really necessary for me to draw the attention of the House to those matters, because they were all better expressed by the Minister in his second-reading speech on the bill. In that speech the honorable gentleman said -
The trade union movement from_ modest origins has now, .and with the aid of conditions of full employment, become an immensely powerful and well organized force within the structure of the State with untold opportunities of furthering the interests of the community as a whole or, on the other hand, of limiting its influence to purely sectional interests.
That is the matter that I am trying to make clear. If trade unionism means anything in Australia, as I and every other honorable member in the House believe it does, it can best do what the Minister envisages by working for Australia as a whole and by forgetting its purely sectional interests. If that attitude is adopted the trade union movement will be well on the way towards achieving the objective for which it was so suitably brought into being. In his second-reading speech, the Minister also said -
I myself feel that the sense of responsibility to the community as a whole is progressively taking hold of union members and of the more enlightened leaders of the movement. But whichever way we look at the matter, society has a vital interest in preserving the integrity of the movement and of reconciling the interests of society as a whole with the special interests of a particular section . .
Those words are pregnant with meaning, and they describe very much better what is in my mind than I could myself. In anything of the nature of trade ‘union arrangements there are inevitably reciprocal advantages to the trade union movement and the employers. Those advantages carry reciprocal responsibilities. I do not suggest that employers have given of their best in all cases, but never let it be thought that that is any excuse for the trade union movement deciding that it will accept the advantages but will not accept the responsibilities entailed in the acceptance of the advantages. If the unions are to have an opportunity of approaching the arbitration tribunals, and if by virtue of the arbitration machinery they obtain certain benefits, then there is a collateral responsibility upon them to do those things which the tribunals believe that they should do. Therefore, if the advantage of an award is given to a union, it is expected that the union will accept the responsibility of obeying it. If an award is in existence there is no justification for saying that it is an unjust award and that therefore the union members will strike. This legislation has been designed to prevent that shirking of responsibility.
Some honorable members have introduced extraneous “matter into the debate such as saying that if this bill is tobecome law, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited should hold a secret ballot for the appointment of directors, and so on. Such statements mean nothing in this debate. The bill provides that the unions shall carry their responsibilities in return for the advantages that our arbitration system confers upon them. Let us all realize that this bill was introduced to give the rank and file of unions, through the medium of a secret ballot, an opportunity to control their own unions. Let us understand that it is intended to give the court an opportunity of dealing with certain matters by secret ballot so that disputes may be solved before a clash occurs. All that is asked in consideration for the advantages to be conferred on the unions is that they should provide certain information so that secret ballots can be held. I believe that in Queensland it is provided by act of Parliament that a register of members should be kept by unions, and that all the information required by this bill should be provided Ivy unions. The objects of the bill are very sound and there has been no genuine opposition to them. The only point actually raised against the measure by honorable members opposite is that it will be destructive to unionism. That argument is so foolish as not to be worth bothering about. Another foolish argument is that it denies the right to strike, which it does not do. Even if it did, it would do unionists a great service.
– I have listened attentively to this debate, and I believe that the Government is of the opinion that it is doing something which will bring about harmony in industry. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) said that the bill is a useful measure and that it will give miners the opportunity to go quietly away and vote. His electorate lies alongside mine and the only mines outside my electorate are in his. 1 refer to the mines around Catherine Hill Bay and Swansea. I do not know what the miners at those mines will think of him for making the statement to which I have referred. Miners have always had an opportunity to vote secretly. In fact, they had that right before I was born. They have always conducted secret ballots. One of the main troubles in the mining unions, which this bill does not cure, is that voting is noi compulsory. At the last election of executive officers for the federal council of the miners’ federation there were three candidates for the position of general president. It is well to note that the moderate section of the industry always nominates two, three or four members for each executive position, but the Communists never nominate more than one man. They do that so that this vote will not be split. The vote of moderate members is always split because of the number of aspirants for the positions. There were three candidates for the general presidency. They were Riddiford. from the Barrier; “Williams, a Communist, from Victoria; and Pembleton. from my own electorate. I point out that not one of the candidates came from Queensland, but the voting in that State alone was 684 for Riddiford. 1,219 for Williams, and 747 for Pembleton. This represented a total anti-Communist vote of 1,431 out of a total number of 2,650 votes cast. The number of men entitled to vote was over 4,000. Therefore, little more than half of those entitled to vote did actually vote.
If a provision were inserted in this bill to ensure in some way a system of compulsory voting, perhaps the bitterness among miners would not be so great. However, when considering the matter of compulsion, it is well to remember that although people can be compelled to go to the polling booths they cannot be compelled to vote, that is, if the vote is secret. Even during parliamentary elections, when voting is compulsory and people are forced to vote by the threat of a £2 fine, many people attend the polling booth, have their names struck off the roll, receive a ballot-paper, and then, in the secrecy of the polling booth, make itinformal, or tear it up, or insert a howtovote card into the ballot-box. Many people in my electorate who do not want, to vote for me, when a Liberal candidate does stand against me, make their votes informal or do as I have stated. However, since my incapacity the Government parties have- apparently believed that old Rowley has shot his bolt, and they are therefore opposing me. at elections rather consistently. However, in the same election that I am speaking about, in the Barrier district the figures were Riddiford 2,754. Williams 549, and Pembleton 151. That is a total of 3,454 votes cast in that area, which represents an anti-Communist majority vote of 2,356. Another 4,000 votes could have been recorded there. In Victoria and Tasmania, the figures were: Riddiford, 135; Williams, 472 ; Pembleton. 97. Only 704 votes were cast, although 3,000 men were entitled to vote. In the Northern District, the figures were: Riddiford, 1,004; Williams, 3,626; Pembleton. 2,795. The total number of votes cast in that district was 7,425, or a little more than a half of the total membership of 13,000. The voting in the Southern District was: Riddiford, 431; Williams, 1,094: Pembleton. 463. Only 1,988 of the 4,500 members of the Southern District exercised their right to vote. Not one-third of the membership voted in the Western District. There, Riddiford received 3RS votes, Williams 559, and Pembleton 218. Only 1,165 votes were recorded. In this election, approximately 24,000 men were entitled to vote, but only 17,386 formal votes and 519 informal votes were recorded.
If the bill provided for compulsory voting at union elections, much of my opposition to it would disappear. It is desirable to find some way of persuading or compelling moderates to vote at elections, but this legislation will do nothing in that regard. It will not secure the production of more coal. On the contrary, it will result in a reduction of output, because it will be the cause of stoppages of work. 1 have done all that I can do to keep the production of coal at a reasonable level, in the interests of the workers and in the interests of the country generally. I warn the Government that the miners will regard this measure as an interference with their right to conduct the affairs of their federation in their own way.
I do not believe that the operation of the bill will cause more men to vote at union elections. The provision empowering the Industrial Registrar to order » ballot to be taken is only a slight improvement, if it be an improvement at all, of the existing system. Under the present legislation, if a prescribed number of members of a union complain that a ballot has been conducted irregularly, the Industrial Registrar may order a new ballot to be taken. That has been done on some occasions, and the result of the new ballot has been different from that of the old one. In my electorate, the “ comrades “ are generally defeated in union elections. If they were defeated when this measure was in operation, the Registrar would be conducting secret ballots almost constantly, because all that would be required would be for a few Communists to complain that there had been an irregularity at an election at which Williams or some other “ comrade “ has been defeated. Chaos would prevail.
This morning, legislation was introduced to enable a referendum to be held on the question of whether the Commonwealth shall have power to ban the Communist party. I do not believe in banning any political party. As far as the Communists are concerned, I would rather use a gun on them than ban them. I do not believe that the majority of the working class favours the Communists. It is the apathy of the workers that has enabled Communists to obtain control of some unions. It is a great pity that the workers of this country have not taken more interest in the affairs of their union than they have done. I have not worked in any industry other than the coalmining industry, and I know what I am saying when I speak about miners. At the pit-top, scrutineers are appointed and each man is given a ballot-paper. Many men look at the paper, put it in their pocket, go down the pit, and think no more of it. They do not trouble to put it in the ballot-box. The Communist vote is a 100 per cent, vote, but a large proportion of the moderates do not take the trouble to record their votes. The result is that the Communist candidates are often elected. If a method could be devised by which all members of the miners’ federation were compelled to vote, there would be no trouble in the mining industry as far as communism is concerned. The mining community is much misunderstood. I have spent all my life among miners, as my father did before, me. Generally speaking, the miners are more religious than are men employed in other industries. They believe in Christianity, and they hate communism because it denies Christianity.
The Government hopes that, in the comparatively near future, it will be able to introduce a bill for the banning of the Communist party. As I have said, I do not believe that any political party should be banned. Before the war, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a trip overseas, in the course of which he met Adolf Hitler. When the right honorable gentleman returned to this country he paid a great tribute to Hitler in an address that he delivered to the Millions Club in Sydney. He told his audience that Hitler was a wonderful man, and explained how he had organized Germany. I point out that Hitler began by banning the Communist party and that, having done so and having had many Communists shot, he then banned trade unions in Germany. If the Government can convince me that it does not intend to make an attack upon trade unionism in this country, I shall be prepared to reconsider my views upon this bill. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) has played an active part in industrial matters. He was a member of Parliament and the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation when what I shall refer to as Wade’s coercion act was passed in New South Wales, and miners’ leaders and waterside workers’ leaders were put in gaol. The right honorable gentleman was a little too cute for his opponents and just sneaked out of it, but he opposed thai repressive legislation strongly. I should like to hear his views upon this measure, which I regard as repressive. Because it makes no provision for compulsory voting, it will get us nowhere.
– It would not be as repressive as would be the honorable gentle man’s bullets.
– I was speaking metaphorically then. There are 192 lodges of the miners’ federation throughout Australia, each of which is, in effect, a polling booth at a federation election. It is easy to ensure that elections for officers of the federation are conducted honestly and decently, but the tragedy is that so few of the miners exercise their right to vote. If this measure provided for compulsory voting in trade unions I should not object to it as strongly as I do now, but it contains nothing that will assist in that regard.
If a trade union sought and obtained deregistration, the Government could not touch it. It is certain that some unions will seek deregistration if the measure be passed. The Government does not want that to occur and neither do I, but some coal-owners do. They have urged the Government to leave the miners to them. They have said that if that be done, they will handle thu miners. If it is to be a matter of the survival of the fittest, I know who will survive. Gregory Forster wants the Government to get out of the industry and leave it to the coal-owners. If the miners’ federation sought deregistration, it would play into Gregory Forster’s hands, but that would not matter to the Communist party The Communists do not want goodwill between the miners and the owners. They want chaos to prevail.
Their objective is to cause poverty and despair, because they know that they can sell their rotten wares only when poverty and despair exist. If there is misery and poverty among the working classes, the Communists are listened to when they preach communism, but when the workers enjoy a reasonable standard of comfort and security of employment, the Communists can make no progress. How shall we get rid of them? The Government can get rid of the Communists by making provision for compulsory voting in secret ballots. Otherwise, we shall again witness spectacles of the kind thai occurred when the court, without possessing power to do so, tried to force the members of the Timber Workers Union to take a ballot and the members of that union replied by making a bonfire of the ballot-papers. The national economy depends upon the coal-mining industry. Signs are not wanting that the coalowners desire to get rid of the Coal Industry Tribunal and its subsidiary authorities. If the existence of those bodies is threatened trouble will assuredly occur in the industry. I am entirely opposed to the slogan of the coalmine owners, “ Leave the industry to the owners and let its future be decided on the principle of survival of the fittest-“. The boss will always be found to be the fittest because the worker is not able to survive attack. The miner must provide for his family and himself and he cannot do so if he is not allowed to work. I repeat that I should like to hear what the right honorable member for Bradfield has to say about this measure, because I believe that he can throw some real light on the problem that we are discussing. For many years he represented the waterside workers of this country and those workers, traditionally, have made common cause with the coal-miners. That affinity still exists. I believe that the Government is trying to do its best, but that it is illinformed about this matter. Before introducing this measure it should have taken the pains to consult with the Coal Industry Tribunal because that authority is in closer touch with the coal-mining industry than is any member of the Parliament, with the exception, perhaps, of myself. I live among coal-miners and I hope to die among them. They are great people. Whilst they can be led, they can never be driven, and if the Government attempts tinder this measure to drive them it will drive the country to destruction.
.- I had not intended to speak on this measure, but I find it impossible to resist the almost amorous pleadings of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Tames) that I should do so. I know a good deal about this business. It might fairly be said that this is a matter on which opinions differ very widely and on which the approach should be without prejudice so far as it is humanly possible to do so. I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who for many years was an official of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen. I say to him that there are unions and unions, just’as there are men a nd men. To those who know anything about the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen it would be absurd to suggest that at any time it has been influenced to the slightest degree by Communist officials. That sort of union is not the kind of game that Communists go after. There are other unions that conduct their business much in the same style as women conduct sewing circles. Everything is in order, and “ just so “. But I have not been a member of that kind of union. I am able to speak with some authority upon the manner in which the people on the waterfront used to carry on their business. I do not know how they do it now, but if a secret ballot were taken I should be surprised if the Waterside Workers Federation recorded a. majority against the proposal to institute secret ballots. Those who know the worker know that as a man he is as good as the employer. He is not better, but he is as good: and the affectation that the employers are in a different class entirely is all nonsense. They are very much like the workers. If. both were thrown into a lagoon and their clothes were taken off it would be impossible to toll one from the other. Comparatively few trade unions in this country are dominated by Communists in the sense, for instance, that the Seamen’s Union or the Waterside Workers Federation are dominated by them. That those two unions are dominated by Communists is beyond all question. There is, for instance, Mr. Elliott. I do not know him personally, but I know the history of the Waterside Workers Federation very well. Mr. Healy, who is the secretary of the federation, a position that I once held, is, of course, an avowed Communist. I judge Mr. Healy by myself. If I occupied his position to-day I should try to run the federation on lines that I thought were best for the union and for the country. E have no doubt that Mr. Healy is doing that. But the result is that strike follows strike.
The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) said that strikes do not pay. That is quite wrong. Little strikes pay, but big strikes never pay. The tip and run strike yields good dividends and keeps the men on the waterfront behind the Healys and the Elliotts. I was in one of the biggest upheavals that this country has known. It occurred in the coalmining industry. Mr. Peter Bowling who led it conceived the brilliant idea of leasing coal mines and paying those on strike out of profits that were to be derived from the Abermain and Young Wallsend mines. That strike directly affected the Waterside Workers Federation, of which I was president, because at that time all ships were coalfired and many were laid up through shortages of coal. Following that strike, the Labour party was returned to office in 1910 with an overwhelming majority in both Houses of the Parliament. I became AttorneyGeneral in the Government that was then formed and among my departmental papers I found a document that showed that the sum of £100 had been paid by one employer to find out from the miners’ federation when that strike was likely to occur. At that time the coal mine owners were selling coal c.i.f. Valparaiso at 22s. 6d. a ton. That price did not pay. John Brown controlled the. coal mines and another man, whose name has escaped me at the moment, controlled the shipping; and between them they ran the export coal business. As -a result of the strike, coal that had been sold at 22s. 6d. a ton at Valparaiso was sold in Australia, at 36s. a ton because the contract governing the price of export coal contained a clause rendering it void if a strike took place in the industry during its currency. So, instead of selling coal in South America at 22s. 6d. a ton and losing money they sold it in Australia at 36s. a ton and made a handsome profit. The strike went on and on as long as any coal available for use was left in New South Wales or, for that matter, in any other State; but the moment all the coal was gone it became no longer profitable from the viewpoint of the employers for the strike to continue. It had never been profitable for . the miners and there was much distress on the coal-fields.
I was sent from Sydney to the coalfields as a representative of the Trades and Labour Council to have a “ look-see “ in order to ascertain what was going on at the Abermain and Young Wallsend mines. I found that, although the miners had struck in opposition to the working of a second’ shift and to the use of machines, three shifts were being worked at those mines. When I inquired how much coal had been sold and what money had been received I was informed that all the coal had been sold and the miners’ representatives showed me a handful of receipts which merely acknowledged that the Commissioner for Railways had taken delivery of the coal. Thus, all that they had under Bowling’s plan to feed 15,000 miners by selling coal from these two mines was a bundle of paper receipts. In those circumstances, of course, the scheme collapsed. The strike had farreaching effects on industry generally. I liked Mr. Bowling well. He made a mistake and paid very dearly for it.
I repeat that little strikes pay, but big strikes do not pay. The honorable member for Hunter said the Government should make provision for compulsory voting in secret ballots. He indicated that if such a provision were included in this bill, he would reconsider his attitude to it. I think that compulsory voting would be a good thing. Speaking offhand, I would be in favour of it.
– Why is not the Government in favour of it?
– If it is a good thing to compel the community to vote at parliamentary elections, it is good enough to compel trade unionists to vote in the elections of their officials. I agree entirely with the honorable gentleman. The trouble in the .trade union movement arises from the fact that the individual trade unionist himself takes little interest in the affairs of his union. He does not go to meetings. In fact, he does not do anything unless compelled to do it. That is the difficulty. Men fought for manhood suffrage. They wanted an effective voice in making the laws under which they lived, yet the Parliament had to pass a bill to compel them to vote at the elections. They wanted this, and they wanted that. They wanted preference for unionists in employment. They got it. For all practical purposes the nonunionist has disappeared. But strikes and “go-slow” methods are the order of the industrial day.
It was my fortune to be associated with unions before the introduction of arbitration, when the strike was the only weapon that the worker possessed to obtain better conditions. When arbitration was introduced by Mr. Deakin, I discussed with Mr. Mick Connington, the secretary of the unions of which I was president, whether we should disband the unions, as industrial disputes would be settled by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In those circumstances there seemed to be no sense in retaining unions. But we soon realized that arbitration depended upon unionism. There would be no basis for industrial arbitration if there were no unions. It is with massed labour that the employers have to make terms. The terms and conditions are the result of negotiation, strikes, or industrial awards.
The real matter that we are considering is whether secret ballots should be compulsory. I heard with interest the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) describe the measures that are taken by unions to eliminate all possibility of fraud or chicanery. I have not the slightest doubt that those conditions apply to the union with which he is connected. But I do not admit for one moment that his remarks apply to all unions. On one occasion when I was travelling on a coastal ship, a ballot was being taken for the election of officers in the Seamen’s Union of Australasia. One of the members of the union was a seaman who actually went to sea, and, consequently, he was vara avis, because most of those who run the Seamen’s Union are seamen who went to sea once but do not go to sea any more. The seaman, who had a ballotpaper in his hand, approached the representative of the union who was at the ballot-box on the ship, and asked, “How is that, Bill? Is it all right?” The representative of the union, after a brief glance at the ballot-paper, replied, “ Right “, and the ballot-paper was placed in the box. If that seaman had not done as he did,- he would not have got another ship in twelve months. That may have been an extraordinary or singular instance. .Such conditions do not apply generally in union ballots. I believe that the provision in the bill for the holding of a secret ballot cannot possibly do any harm to those unions that already provide, by their rules and regulations, for a bona fide ballot. If the ballot for ‘the election of officers is now conducted in such a way as to ensure a full and free expression of opinion by the rank and file, this bill cannot alter that position. But it may make a fundamental difference to unions in which ballots are not bona fide. I have no knowledge of the present practice, but at one time a union elected the returning officer and the scrutineers before it elected its officers. The two elections were separate. The returning officer and the scrutineers were selected in, say, March, and the candidates for the official positions in the union were elected in the following May or June. You know, if you can get the scrutineer and the returning officer, you do not need to bother very rauch about how the members vote.
– How does the right honorable gentleman know?
– I am telling Opposition members that. Some unions conduct their elections in a way that leaves no room for criticism of any kind. But there are other unions that conduct their elections in a way that is open to criticism, and I am referring to them. This Parliament is the pinnacle of democracy, and honorable members are the cream of the intellect in the community. I think, as I look at the honorable member for Hindmarsh, that we are also the cream of sartorial fashion. We are elected by secret ballot. We do not have a hand in the selection of the returning officers. The scrutineers, in the sense in which we use the term, are present in the booth at the counting of the votes. The number of instances in which irregularities, actual or suspected, occur, are very few.- On the whole, we may say that we are members of the Parliament by the grace of God, and the sublimated intelligence of the people. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If that is the procedure under which we are elected, and we are living proof that it is proper and practicable, why should the same system not apply to the election of officers to unions? What have they to lose? The suggestion that this bill will take the conduct of their affairs out of their hands is so much nonsense. It will not do anything of the kind. This bill will merely ensure that a ballot will be taken without the possibility of any hole and corner work.
I remember quite well an incident that occurred in the Trades Hall in Sydney some years ago. It became famous, or infamous, as the “ sliding panel case “. Mr. E. G. Theodore, a former Commonwealth Treasurer, was appointed by the Trades Hall to inquire into that matter. I do not know what came of his investigations, but I claim that there is nothing new in the world. Things that appear to be new turn out to be very old. Everything that is urged against this bill has been urged against every measure that has been introduced to settle disputes, other than by an appeal to brute force. I was the executive head of the Sydney branch of the wharflabourer’s’ organization for some twenty years, and I established the Waterside Workers Federation, and was the president of that body for twelve years. I invite those who are curious about these matters to examine the record of those years. It will bear examination. Strikes now occur about every ten minutes or quarter of an hour on the waterfront, although I confess that they are subdued, to some degree, at present, by the trouble in which Mr.
Healy is involved. But the strikes are occurring all the same. During the twenty years in which I was the head of the waterside workers’ organization, there were very few strikes. I shall not say how many occurred in that period, but they were few. Great benefits were obtained by the organization for its members in those years. I do not say that I could not, by using the industrial bayonet to prod the employer, have obtained for the moment a little more. What I do say is that I, with my colleagues, sat down with the employer, discussed matters with him or the arbitration tribunal, and obtained the best possible terms that I could. What is more, I kept those terms. Having made an agreement, I stood by it.
– There were always a thousand “ scabs “ outside the gates in those days.
– Order! The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) must not make such remarks.
– I stood by those agreements. But no agreement is sacrosanct now. The decision of an arbitrator or of an industrial tribunal is accepted to the extent that it showers gifts, but the moment it imposes obligations, the unions step from under. I did not believe in that practice. That was all right when we were down and had to take what the employer offered. Then we had no rights whatever, but to-day, the unionist sits on top of the world. He has been in charge of this country for years. Who is the Governor-General? A trade unionist ! Of the thirteen Prime Ministers since federation, six have been trade unionists. Why are the trade unions kicking up a row? They have done well. But they have memories of ancient wrongs which they cannot forget. Those wrongs were cruel, and burnt themselves into the very souls of the unionists in those times, and it is the memories of those old wrongs that move my friend the honorable member for Hunter to-day. The honorable member for Hunter belongs to an organization of men who have suffered greatly. There was a time, long before we came into the world, when the coal-miner counted for little or nothing. He was a serf and was tied to his mine. He dared not lift his voice or stir from his place. Well, he has changed all that. But he has not forgotten his ancient wrongs or learned to realize that he is now a free man in a free world - the equal of the employer. He cannot forget the past and he still talks as though he .were a. serf. I remind the honorable member for Hunter again that the GovernorGeneral has been a unionist and that six of our thirteen Prime Ministers have been unionists.
What we want in Australia is industrial peace, and everybody who does not shut his eyes to the facts must realize that the greatest threat to industrial peace is communism. The Communists are in the unions and the only way to get them out is to give the rank and file members a chance to express their opinions and elect their officials by secret ballots. I agree with the honorable member for Hunter that the unionist should be made to record Iris opinions. This is the age of power. All industries in Australia are dependent upon power, and power in this country cannot be obtained without coal. The coal-miner is the warden at the gates. He decides whether we shall work or whether we shall be idle, whether industries shall prosper or whether they shall fall. We must have peace in industry and, in order to have peace, we must put out the Communists. One way to accomplish that is to .conduct a ballot and find out what the rank and file unionists want to do. I am not under any illusions about rank and file members of trade unions. As I have said, if they attended to their business and rolled up at their meetings, very little of the trouble that we are having now would have happened. They take little or no notice of union affairs. One can get a good attendance at a union meeting by calling a stop-work meeting in an urban industry, but that is the only way of doing so. I am in favour of this measure. I believe in the secret ballot, and I believe in unionism. One honorable member seemed to give unionism a sort of patronizing pat, but I believe in it wholeheartedly. It is essential to the working of the arbitration system. Wc could not have arbitration unless we had unionism binding the workers together. We must have peace in industry. As we can see in Persia, peace in industry means international peace. Dislocation and strikes in industry lead to war - hot war between the nations. I am in favour of the bill and I hope that it will be accepted.
– I oppose this bill although I am in favour of secret ballots. I listened attentively to the discourse of the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), and every word that he uttered was a veiled insult to the average working man.
– He has done more for the working man than the honorable member is ever likely to do.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is just suing for a little patronage from the right honorable gentleman. The history of the right honorable member for Bradfield in his dealings with the unions is better forgotten. For twenty years while he was the leader of the waterside workers they gained nothing. When he left the federation, casual workers in the industry were receiving a rate of only ls. an hour and their working conditions were deplorable, to say the least. The right honorable gentleman talked about the rigging of ballots and said, “ I know something about that”. He ought to know something about the subject. There was one celebrated occasion when he had to take refuge in the Clarence-street police station in Sydney after the result of a ballot had been declared. He knows a lot about such matters. On that occasion, he 3aid to his colleagues, “We are elected. Go for your lives ! “
I also listened to the speech of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis), who told us something about the history of industrial labour and the love that the master had for his craftsmen in the long-distant past. I have done a little research into industrial history in Australia and I have learned, for example, that three Sydney coopers who went on strike in 1824 were tried for conspiracy and convicted. Their sentences were not recorded. Sydney journalists struck in 1829. In all trades and callings, professional as well as manual, at that time workers were faced with the competition of assigned labour.
– When was that?
– In 1824, during the early history of industrial labour in Australia, about which the honorable member for Deakin talked. This bill will take us back to the conditions of 1824, when militant workers were charged as conspirators. Charges of conspiracy will be laid against us if we incite anybody to take action in contravention of any ruling of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) is the usual squatter type, who seeks to advance the interests of the squattocracy at all times, and pleaded for permission to give the honest moderate trade unionist the right to do something that he dearly wished to do. The moderate trade unionist has the courage to raise his hand and vote openly. The honorable member wants him to sneak behind the curtain of this legislation. The Minister for Labour and National Service has gone to great pains to prepare the bill, and he has* been ably assisted by officers of his department, who, at the moment, are employed solely to snoop around trade union offices with members of the security service and pry into union records. The honorable gentleman even made arrangements three weeks ago to call for scabs on the Sydney waterfront.
Trade unionists, like men in other walks of life, are very insistent upon their right to conduct their own affairs without outside interference. Most of them have no objection to secret ballots arranged of their own free will, but they resent any attempt by the State to tell them, how to conduct their affairs.
– They need to be told by somebody.
– They will not take orders from the squatters any more. It is ironical to hear demands for State control of voluntary organizations fr.om those who have been loudest in their protests against State control of business or other organizations in which they are interested. The trade unions resent the Government’s intrusion in their affairs. They have not asked the Government to interfere. I venture to say that this bill will cause further industrial trouble. It has been introduced on the pretext that it is designed to suppress communism. That is merely a cloak to cover its true object. There is no more vigorous opponent of communism in Australia than I am. I have fought communism in the trade unions for 25 years.
– While supporters of this Government have been talking about it!
– Exactly. The Government and its supporters have embarked upon a fear and smear campaign. They are putting fear into.the middle man by telling him that war may break out and that he may lose his money, and they are smearing every worker who is inclined to be militant in demands for better conditions by saying that he is a Communist. I am happy to announce that I was a very militant trade unionist.
The excuse for this bill is that it is intended to suppress* communism in trade unions, but its real purpose is to break up the great Australian trade union movement. Every clause provides for the destruction ‘ of the movement. Provision for the conduct of secret ballots is already embodied in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Minister admitted that fact in his second-reading speech when he said that the court had the power to order a secret ballot on a strike issue when it considered that a ballot was justified by circumstances. Why does the Government want to deprive the court of its discretionary powers? The reason is that it wants the Attorney-General to be able to interfere whenever it suits its purpose for him to do so. Attention has been drawn by the press to a few instances of militant union leadership with the object of spreading the impression that union officials are eager to push rank and file members into strike action. Nothing could be further from the truth. The greatest worry of any union official is the problem of preventing strikes. I know, because I was a union official for many years. Nothing could be more unrealistic than the newspaper propaganda on this issue. The fundamental principle of the trade union movement is that all avenues of negotiation must be explored before any con sideration is given to the taking of direct action. A union executive committee will go to great lengths in order to prevent a strike. Many a night have I sat up trying to find ways and means of restraining the rank and file members of my union from taking direct action. No sane union leader likes strikes. Unions prosper while men are at work, not when they, are on strike.
Strikes deplete union funds and, when a union’s funds are depleted, it is weak and helpless. The object of this measure is to drain away the financial resources of the unions. Nobody knows that better than does the Minister, not from experience but from the information that he receives from his security snoopers. Frequently it is the rank and file which insists, at mass meetings, on taking strike action against the advice of union leaders. Most small strikes are effectively settled by union officials on the spot advising a proper course of action. Members of the Government have carried on a spiteful and malicious campaign against the trade union movement. They knew the movement is strong and that it will remain strong despite this campaign because it is essential to the economic life of this country. Do honorable members wish to reintroduce the conditions of the early days in Australia when a man received £1 a week and his keep and lived in a cowshed, or anywhere that the squatter would let him live?
The conduct of secret ballots in connexion with strike action in some unions has confirmed previous decisions by mass meetings. This happened in the Federated Locomotive Enginemen’s Union recently when a ballot was properly conducted by that union. A secret ballot that was initiated by the Government parties during the great timber workers strike in 1929 was a failure. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) was instrumental at that time in taking the power to determine hours of work from the Commonwealth Arbitration .Court and vesting it in the High Court. Mr. Justice Lukin immediately restored the 4S-hour week. Under your particular-
-Order ! The honorable member will address me, please.
– These men struck in protest against that judgment of the court and the Government forced them to hold a secret ballot. Of the 15,000 ballot-papers that were issued, 6,000 were returned. Five thousand three hundred and eighteen timber workers voted “ No “ in answer to the question whether they would return to work under the existing conditions which had been advocated the right honorable member for Bradfield, that pillar of our industrial life. In Now Zealand recently, the freezing workers union was compelled by the Government to hold a ballot. That great upholder of law and order, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, visited this country recently. He stated that he would have no strikes in his country. He would smash the red terror. This is the way in which he smashed it: Thefreezing workers union was compelled to conduct a ballot on the question of whether or not they would go on strike. The result was an overwhelming vote in favour of a strike. Did that deter Mr. Holland? The Government immediately set out to de-register the union. . These are authenticated facts, not propaganda. If that union had not conducted a ballot it would have been deregistered. It complied with the Government’s directions and held a ballot which resulted in the men expressing themselves in favour of a strike and it was deregistered just the same. The New Zealand Government took that action for one specific purpose. The taking of a ballot costs money. Every year it costs the Sydney branch of my union, the Boilermakers Union, at least £700 to conduct a secret ballot. The cost to the freezing workers in New Zealand of conducting their ballot would have been at least £700. That is one of the reasons why the Government wants the House to pass this bill which provides for the holding of secret ballots. It wants to be able to compel a trade union to conduct a ballot at any time. By doing that it could deprive a union of its lifeblood - its finances. Under such’ circumstances a proposal to hold any ballot would be unacceptable and it never will be acceptable to the trade union movement or the citizens of Australia generally.
It is very interesting to note- that the Government, while expressing concern over irregularities in the conduct of trade union affairs, has not provided for compulsory voting in this bill. It has carefully left that loop-hole so that it can strengthen the power of the Communist party in any trade union it may choose. That action has revealed the blatant hypocrisy of the Government.
– Order! Those words are unparliamentary, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw them.
– I withdraw them. If the Government had provided for compulsory voting it would have established an unanswerable case for compulsory unionism and I shudder to think of this Government suggesting such a thing, despite the love which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has expressed for the trade unions. The Minister has protested his love for the trade unions, but? underneath a cloak of communism he is silently eating away at the very foundations of the trade union movement. I can assure him that he has bitten off more than he can chew.
There are many bad features in this bill. It provides penalties for contempt of court and.it provides for government intervention in a dispute. It states that the Attorney-General may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, and in the public interest, take certain action. Aided and abetted by the press, a section of employers will only have to represent to the Government that the conduct of a union is not in the public interest and the Government will be able to intervene and have workers thrown into gaol. That has been done before and if this antiLabour, anti-trade union, and antiAustralian Government gets its way it will happen again. If trade union representatives are found guilty of contempt of court, they can be thrown into gaol. One honorable member said that he did not think that an award of any court could be unjust. The honorable member considers that judges are infallible ! How simple and naive he is ! If he had spent fifteen years in the trade union movement he would have found that there is not much infallibility in legal circles. The bill provides that the rules of an association must make provision for absent voting and for the manner in which persons may become candidates for election. Who is to decide what candidate is eligible for election to a trade union office? The Minister for Labour and National Service, through the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer)? I hate to think of the type of candidate that he would bring forward. This kind of action was taken in Germany in 1939 when the Minister for Labour, who had been appointed by Hitler, introduced a bill that was almost identical with this measure. He said that -he would decide who should run each union and who should be secretary of any of the various organizations and, of course, they all came under his control. We are not going to have a labour front in Australia with the Minister for Labour and National Service at the fountain head.
The bill states that the rules of a union shall make provision for the appointment, conduct and duties of returning officers. 1 Under the existing law all registered unions appoint their returning officers at a special meeting which is attended by members in the metropolitan area. The Minister wishes to interfere with that procedure. He wants to be able to say whom those officers shall be so that he may elect a candidate to office. I agree with the provision for the holding of a secret ballot. Most, if not all, trade union ballots are already secret. Proposed new section 70a (3.) states -
An association which is registered as an organization at the date of commencement of this section is allowed a period of three months after that date, or such longer period as the Industrial Registrar determines, within which to bring his rules into conformity with the requirements of sub-section (1.) of this section. “‘.Proposed new, section 72 states -
That bill gives great power to a minority section of any organization. The Australian Workers Union, which is a huge organization of 150,000 members, and which is financially stable, will be brought to its knees by that provision. A minority of the members of the organization will be able persistently to make applications to the court under that provision, and an anti-Labour government would be favorable to their being granted, having in view the bringing of this great organization, which is the foundation of Australian trade unionism, to its knees by denuding it of its funds. Such a government would .not care very much who was in. charge “of the union although of course. it. would, much sooner have one of its “own stooges’ in charge so that it could rule ‘the union through him.
Last but not least, we find that under the measure the register of members of a trade union is to be made available, at the office of the union, during the usual office hours, for inspection by any person authorized by the Industrial Registrar. It may be news to honorable members opposite, and to some honorable members on this side of the House, that already such little Hitlers are going round the trade union offices in Sydney snooping and prying into the membership books. They are doing that already without having had the powers contained in this measure vested in them, so we can imagine what will happen after the measure gives them those powers. The inspection of trade union books by outsiders should be resisted at all costs. 1 ask the Minister to give some consideration to the deletion of the relevant clause. Expenses incurred because of an election conducted under this proposed new section are to be borne by the organization or the branch of the organization concerned. Now, a federal organization could have six-
-Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I rise to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honorable gentleman consider that he has been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) said during his speech that after winning an election I had to run to take refuge in a police station. That statement is utterly without foundation, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The “words used by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) are not unparliamentary, and the right honorable gentleman has had an opportunity to correct the erroneous statement by means of a personal explanation.
.- After having listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) and to those of other honorable members opposite who preceded him, I think that it is not unfair to say that the attitude to this measure of a number of honorable gentlemen opposite has been neither helpful nor particularly realistic. Of course, no honorable member is privileged to preach to this House, but I suggest that, although we are on the air, honorable members have a duty .other than that of broadcasting, at a “ time like this, party propaganda of the most drivelling and mischievous sort such as we have had to listen to here over the last two days. After all, this bill must be regarded against the background of the present condition of the country and I put it to the House that the condition of Australia at this moment is far from being a happy one. We are a country of shortages, production hold-ups, rising prices and all those evils that honorable gentlemen opposite know perfectly well exist, but they will not lift one little finger to combat them or to assist the Government to do so. I remind honorable gentlemen opposite that everything that the Government proposes to do under this bill has the whole-hearted support of the people. What we are trying to do by means of the bill is to help the workers, and to improve the laws of this country, in particular in regard to arbitration and industrial matters, which honorable gentlemen opposite and the party that they represent put on the statute-book in other days, and to which they now pay at least lip service.
The object of the bill is to support the moderate workers, to put into their bands the control of their own industrial destiny that they obviously now lack. I can respect the views of certain honorable members opposite, like the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) who, as everybody in this House knows, has spent his life working among the miners and as a miners’ representative. He speaks as a worker, and he speaks with sincerity. But I am bound to point out that there are certain other honorable members opposite who have addressed themselves to this bill with -neither knowledge nor, in my view, sincerity.
I wish to pay attention for just a few minutes, because in my view he is not worth more, to the remarks of the honorable member for Watson. There was a time when the honorable member was, as it were, a source of amusement to this House, but I consider that he can no longer be regarded as such. The more we listen to him the more convinced we become that he models himself increasingly on the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) - an unfortunate choice of master. He would do well to remember that he who sups with the devil needs a long spoon - and not a wooden spoon. There are many other honorable members opposite who, like the honorable member for Watson, have revealed themselves when they have spoken in this debate. They were not themselves workers, but have spent their lives as representatives of workers, and have sat in offices with authority to act on behalf of workers. They were, as their late leader expressed it in other days, “ urgers of the workers “. They come here with a stock in trade of misrepresentation and try to cause bitterness and frustrate every effort that the Government or moderate elements within the trade unions, or the ranks of the employers might make to develop industrial co-operation and to arm the moderate elements in the unions with a little authority to combat things as they are now. The low water mark in conduct of that kind was reached when the honorable member for Watson attacked the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) by saying that that right honorable gentleman had never done anything for the workers or the trade unionists. As everybody knows, and as . the honorable member for Hunter would admit, the right honorable member for Bradfield has done probably more for the workers of this country, in peace and war, than any other living Australian has done. Before most of us in this House were born he had devoted a great part of his life, not urging on street corners that workers should go on strike or thinking up imaginary grievances and endeavouring to get a shorter and shorter working week at a higher and higher wage for less and less work, but riding round the back country fighting for the men who were really being exploited in those days, and organizing the first great trade union in Australia, the Australian Workers Union. Later he was connected with the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. When an honorable member of the calibre of the honorable member for Watson rises here and states that the right honorable member for Bradfield has never done anything for the workers in the country, all I can say is that if that honorable member were to live to be in this place for 100 years he would not do even a fraction of what has been done for this country by the right honorable gentleman. When I look around and see some honorable members of that sort opposite I am inclined to the opinion held by the poet, Alexander Pope, of certain of his contemporaries, which would lead me to describe them as being like flies in amber, neither rich nor rare, the wonder is how the devil they got there.
.- -The speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) turned on a defence of the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes). I was astonished and disappointed that one of the right honorable member for Bradfield’s best stories, which he himself has told on more than one occasion to me and to other honorable members, has been debunked to-day. I refer to the famous story of his election to office in a union which caused his pal to rush to him-
– Order ! T do not think that the stories of the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) are connected with the measure.
I ask the honorable member to return to the bill.
– I think, with all due respect-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must keep to the bill.
– This bill deals with ballots - how they have been taken, and how they should be taken. The story about the right honorable member for Bradfield is a good one, and I am sorry that it has been debunked.
Mr. Beazley interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Fremantle must not interject.
– Under the provisions of this measure, the Government proposes to amend the principal act in a very drastic way which is very strongly resented by the industrial movement of this country. The Labour party and the trade unions have never been opposed to secret ballots. I do not know of any union that does not conduct a secret ballot for the election of its officers. Such ballots are conducted by different methods, but they all are secret. To-day I read in the press of the result of a secret ballot held in Brisbane by the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, in which the Australian Labour party group of candidates was elected with an overwhelming majority. That shows that the Labour party’s method of working inside the unions and convincing the members about how their affairs should be conducted, is the most satisfactory way to control communism in trade unions. The Government said during the general election campaign, and its leaders and supporters have also said on many other occasions, that the great necessities for this country are industrial peace and increased production which together will improve the inflationary position. I believe that the Government will defeat its expressed objective of promoting industrial peace and limiting industrial unrest, if it enacts this legislation, to which many unions are strongly opposed on the ground that it will deny them the right to fight for the improvement of the conditions of their members as they have done in the past.
The unions, resent most emphatically this projected interference by the Government in their internal affairs. What the Government is seeking to do is not to co-operate with the unions but rather to act in defiance of unionism in this country. For that reason the Opposition is strongly against the bill. We believe that if there is to be industrial peace and increased production in Australia, the Government must have the goodwill of the unions. That can be obtained only by working in co-operation with them. The Labour party has gone a long way in that direction by taking an active interest in the elections of the various officers of unions. The implementation of this Government’s policy of intimidation will bring about the bad old-days o’f ‘the Master and Servant Act, and will do nothing to bring about good relations with the unions. The unions are not opposed to secret ballots, and, in fact, I know of no union in which secret ballots are not held.
At Broken Hill, in my own electorate, industrial peace is the settled state of affairs and there are better working conditions there than in any other part of Australia, perhaps better than in any part of the world. Those conditions have een won not only by the workers, but also by their wives and families, throughout many years of suffering and sacrifice. They have been won by the industrial activity .of the unions and have been keptthrough the’ good sense and good government of the unions. All the ballots in Broken Hill are secret, and, indeed, the miners union, which is the largest union in Broken Hill, has a compulsory secret ballot for the election of its officers. That was instituted by the union itself. The members of that union are fined by the union if they do not take part in the ballot. Although that union has a compulsory secret ballot for the election of its officers, it most strongly resents this attempt by the Government to take the conduct of the ballot out of its control. That is because its members believe in free unionism and the right of unionists to work out their own destinies as they have done in the past. The Go vern ment’s action is most irksome and cumbersome, and will cause discontent and unrest throughout the whole of industry.
I believe that the unions should be” given full power to conduct their own ballots as long as they conduct them honestly. A Labour government brought down legislation which gave to the industrial movement power to have a union ballot upset if it was proved to have been conducted in an unfair or crooked manner. That act is more acceptable to the members of the unions than are the proposals contained in this bill, because under it one or more members of a union can make representation to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and, if warranted, a ballot can be upset. I believe that the Government is burning the house in order to roast the pig; and that is strongly resented. Unionists believe that there are not only many- potential threats*-“ in this bill but also many implied threats in the regulation-making power implicit in the bill.
The record of the workers is a long one of improving economic freedom and conditions. In that matter the industrial organizations of workers have played a very important part. Throughout the history of Australia, workers and their wives and children have made great sacrifices to achieve their present industrial freedom. They do not want to be denied the right to strike for their industrial rights (>if they believe that., they have no other redress. The safety regulations in the mines of Broken Hill to protect the lives and health of the workers have been won largely because of the right to strike. In 1919 there was a. long strike at Broken Hill which was accompanied by great sacrifice on the part of the workers in that area. However, it achieved great benefits for the workers who took part in it, and many others since then have reaped the benefit of their sacrifice. Therefore, when there is no other redress the unions demand that they shall have the right to withhold their labour. In this House the representatives of the farmers have been telling us recently what they believe should be done about industrial strikes. I remind them that at present many essential commodities are being withheld from the market by primary producers because they consider that current prices are too low.
Government supporters interjecting.
-Order! The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has the floor.
– Those farmers are withholding the fruits of their labour so as to obtain a higher price, and it is a sorry state of affairs in Australia when the Government can bring in a bill which will deny the workers the same right to withhold their labour in the hope of a higher price. If this bill becomes law some unions affected by it will terminate their registrations in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and seek registration in the State courts, or even remain unregistered. That is because unions which are not registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will not be affected by this measure. This bill will give facilities to the Communist party, or any other party, to obtain the names and addresses of union members for the purpose of enabling such enemies of the unions to further their plans to get control of the organization. By forcing some unions out of the Commonwealth jurisdiction, power would be given to the Communists to take over the organizations. The only way in which unions can be guided on proper principles is by the exercise of wisdom in their management. The Labour party has played a very important part in trying to keep in control of the unions men who have true labour principles. At present there is, under an act of Parliament, a better method of obtaining the co-operation of unions by conducting ballots in a proper manner, than by the method proposed in this bill.
In 1949, a Labour government amended the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1 94S to provide that if any person who had been a member of an organization for the previous twelve months claimed that there had been an irregularity in the conduct of a ballot, he could lodge an application to the court for an inquiry. The Industrial Registrar, if satisfied that circumstances justified the inquiry could grant the application and refer the matter to the court. The judge could then authorize the Industrial Registrar to make an inspection of, and if he deemed such a course to be necessary, take possession of all material including ballot-papers, lists, &c., connected with the ballot. The court, was clothed with powers to meet ovary contingency if it found that an irregularity had occurred. The court could order a new election to be held and could order the observance of any safeguard that was not provided already in the rules of the union. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1949, which embodies those matters, has not been properly implemented by the Government. The Government does not want to carry out the provisions of that act because they operate for the benefit of the unions. The Government is more concerned with bringing down repressive legislation, the effect of which will be the very opposite of what this Parliament desires.
Under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1949, the costs of an application to the court to deal with a questioned ballot must be paid for by the Attorney-General if the court is satisfied that the application warrants it. A number of actions has been taken under that act, some successful and some unsuccessful. Grave penalties have been provided to ensure that proper ballots shall be conducted. There is a wide range of offences specified in the act. Under section 96m a penalty of a fine of £100 or imprisonment for twelve months may be imposed on a person who is responsible for interference with a ballot ordered by the court. That legislation was introduced by a Labour government only after the trade union movement had been consulted upon it and was not introduced in defiance of the wishes of the trade unions, in order to cause disruption and dissension. The trade unions agreed to the proposals embodied in that measure. What that Labour Government did was to co-operate with the industrial organizations of this country in an endeavour to achieve industrial peace and to obtain maximum production, but this Government is doing something that will cause disruption and dissension. It will sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.
Under .the existing conciliation and arbitration legislation, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court can upset what is commonly called a crooked ballot. It can also order a ballot to be taken in relation to any industrial dispute, if it considers such a course to be necessary and desirable. Little, if any, use has been made of that provision by the court, for the reason that it takes the view that if a ballot is conducted in the early stages of an industrial dispute, and the members of the trade union involved in the dispute vote in favour of striking or of remaining on strike, it is difficult to find a way out of the impasse. If a strike occurs as the result of a ballot, it is almost impossible to call it off. Honorable gentlemen on this side of the House have pointed out that on many occasions a strike has been prevented because union organizers in the union concerned have discussed the matter with the men and have pointed out to them the lack of wisdom in their proposal to stop work, and a peaceful settlement has been reached subsequently by the process of negotiation and conciliation. Many unnecessary strikes will occur if members of trade unions are asked, immediately a dispute arises, to decide at a ballot whether they shall stop work. In America, a very unsatisfactory system is in. operation. American trade unionists are required to give notice of their intention to strike, or to demand certain conditions and strike if they do not obtain them. If a dispute has not been settled at the end of the stipulated period, the men are almost compelled to carry out their threat. When I visited America in 1946 I was informed that the requirement to give notice of an intention to strike was a very bad feature of. the American approach to industrial problems because, having made a threat te strike, unions, in order to save face, had to carry out their strike if their demands were not met. This bill will be the cause of many industrial disturbances in this country.
Under the principal act, an employer or employee or the Commonwealth can report to a conciliation commissioner that an industrial dispute is either impending or existing. When the conciliation commissioner has received the report, he can inquire into the causes of the dispute and endeavour to prevent a stoppage of work. As a result of the operation of that system, many strikes have been prevented. Under this bill, however, a secret ballot may be taken at the height of a dispute, when passions are running high and when it is likely that the men involved in the dispute will vote in favour of a strike. The result will be industrial turmoil.
The Opposition opposes this measure strongly. We believe that this is repressive legislation that will deprive the workers of this country of a right that they enjoy now and for which workers have fought for generations - the right to take industrial action to improve their economic conditions when no other course is open to them. The measure makes provision for the imposition of very heavy penalties. Under existing legislation, fines of up to £10 can be imposed upon individuals and fines of up to £100 upon organizations. The penal provisions of that legislation have not been invoked very often, presumably because it has not been necessary to do so, but this bill provides for the imposition of fines ranging from £50 to £500 or sentences of imprisonment for up to twelve months. A sentence of twelve months imprisonment for disobedience of an award is a very drastic penalty. Proposed new section 7.8 (1.) states -
An officer, servant or agent, or a member of a committee, of an organization or branch of an organization, shall not, during the currency of an award -
advise, encourage, or incite a member of an organization which is bound by the award to refrain from, or prevent or hinder such a member from . . . offering for work, or working.
The drastic penalties that could be imposed upon a person who contravened that provision are designed to intimidate the trade unions, and the provision will be resisted to the last.
In this country, we have free trade unions. Under the Hitler regime, the German trade unions were oppressed, and in Russia there are only government unions. Russian workers have been denied the right to conduct the affairs of their own organizations and to take action to promote their economic and industrial welfare. Because the Labour party believes that we must have free trade unions and industrial liberty in Australia, the Opposition opposes this measure. The difference between the state of the worker under the conditions that exist to-day and under those that will exist if this hill he implemented is the difference between the state of a free man and of a slave.
.- Despite what the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has said, this bill will not deprive Australian workers of any rights that they now possess. The fact that it has been considered necessary to introduce the measure is a reflection upon the people of this country. It is to be regretted that circumstances have rendered it necessary to take this action. This is a democracy. We boast of our freedom, but it has been found necessary to introluce legislation to compel Australians to exercise their right in respect of ballots under a system that they themselves introduced.
One of our proud boasts is that Australia has been a pioneer in the field of industrial conciliation and arbitration, and that we are now in that respect the most advanced nation in the world, but more industrial upheavals occur here than in any other country. In view of that fact, can we claim, with justice, that our conciliation and arbitration system has operated successfully? Our system of secret ballots is also something of which we boast and that we want every other country to copy. But when the Government proposes that secret ballots shall be conducted in industrial organizations, honorable gentlemen opposite oppose the proposal and condemn the Government, although it has advocated something that is part and parcel of our national make-up.
The attitude of the Opposition can bt understood only if one assumes that it is the desire of the Labour party that the people whom it represents, the trade unionists, shall continue to adopt a policy of apparent militancy. In the course of this debate, honorable gentlemen opposite have spoken only of the effect that the measure will have upon trade unions, but it relates to all organizations registered with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. No reference is made anywhere in the bill to a trade union, but all that the members of the Opposition can talk about are the trade unions. This bill will apply to employers’ organizations just as much as to trade unions.
– Does the measure provide for secret ballots in employers’ organizations ?
– -Of course it does. I direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to the definition of “ organization”. If he cannot read and understand it, I am afraid that I cannot help him further. No protests against the bill have been received from organizations other than trade unions. It is not unusual for a Government charged with the task of protecting the interests of its people to introduce protective legislation. We have company laws that are designed to protect members of companies and the public. Protests against the introduction of a just law come only from people who fear its operation. That is the position. Unions that already conduct honest secret ballots have nothing to fear from the fact that under this measure legal provision is being made that they shall continue to do so. Only unions that do not conduct honest secret ballots fear this measure. Do honorable members opposite wish to protect such unions ?
Do any real grounds exist for fear of this measure ? Much has been said in this debate about the right to strike. On one occasion I was asked whether I believed in the right to strike. I replied to my questioner, “ Do you uphold armed aggression as a means of settling international disputes, or the use of force on the part of an individual to settle an argument with his neighbour?” Any one who believes in the right to strike without qualification must answer that question in the affirmative. I uphold the use of force - and a strike represents force - on the part of an individual or a section of a community only in self-defence. Only in such circumstances does an individual have the right to raise his hand belligerently. In all other circumstances he should have recourse to law.. The same principle applies in the international sphere. Australia has the right to take armed action against another nation only if that nation attacks this country and the rights and liberties of its citizens. In all other circumstances we, as a nation, must resort to international arbitration. The same principle applies in the industrial sphere. Employees have the right to resort to violent action - which a strike is - only for their self-protection. Courts have been set up to settle industrial disputes, and we have accepted that principle. That being so, is it not right that we should ensure that the decisions of those courts shall be observed? We have a moral obligation to do so. Unfortunately, some people in this country are so rottenly immoral that they refuse to observe that obligation. Consequently, we must resort to compulsion in order to ensure that they shall observe it. That is the purpose of this bill. The plain fact is that Australia, which is celebrating the Jubilee year of the foundation of federation and boasts of its advanced system of industrial conciliation and arbitration, must now apply the principle of compulsion in legislation in order to ensure that all sections of industry shall abide by the decisions of the tribunals that have been set up for the regulation of industry and the settlement of disputes. That is a sad reflection upon this country, but it is evidence that something is rotten somewhere in our community.
We know that there is a section of the community that is determined to ensure that divisions shall always exist among our people. Leaders in some organizations are determined that Australians shall remain in two camps - employees and management - and that those camps shall never come together except to do battle. Our system of conciliation and arbitration was designed to bring those camps together in order to settle their differences. Under that system opportunity is given to workers and management to confer upon their problems, and if they should not be able to agree to bring in an arbitrator who, on the evidence adduced, will give a decision which both sides sincerely agree to accept. But so long as certain people hold positions of control in industry and believe that they can continue to do so only if they appear to put up a fight in order to keep the people divided it will be necessary to apply a measure of this kind which to a degree can be said to be undemocratic because it embodies the principle of compulsion. I place the blame for those circumstances at the door of the militants in industry and of the ‘ leaders of the Australian Labour party. During this debate honorable members opposite have not produced one tittle of evidence that they are prepared to co-operate with the Government in solving this problem. Yet, at the same time, they have advocated the application of the principle of compulsion. Whilst, on the one hand they have become wrathful because the bill provides for the compulsory observation of orders and awards of the court, on the other hand they have also become wrathful because the measure does not provide for compulsory ballots. It is a case of backing a horse to come first or finish last. What inconsistency! However, so long as honorable members opposite can make a show of putting up their fists they are satisfied and, unfortunately, a section of the community will applaud them and say, “ The Australian Labour., party « a good fighter “. But in this instance we need not good fighters, but good cooperators. Every section of the community has rights and all sections must work in complete harmony if we are to get anywhere at all.
– Such as a homeconsumption price for wool.
– That proposal is all right so long as the price is not demanded from Only one section of the community. Perhaps, .the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) and his coir leagues would agree to a homeconsumption wage whereby the Australian wageearner would make a sacrifice in the interests of the national economy as a whole. The policy of the Australian Labour party is to divide the people into opposing camps and to ensure that the opponents shall always be at each other’s throats. In those circumstances the Government has no option but to introduce a measure of this kind. Whilst I deplore it, nevertheless it is justified on the ground of necessity. Only a person who is blind te existing conditions in Australia and who is lacking in responsibility to the people as a whole would deny that this measure is necessary. I am not asking honorable members opposite to like it; 1 do not like it myself; but I ask them to face up to realities. No necessity has ever arisen in Western Australia for the introduction of legislation of this kind. Leaders of trade unions in that State have held their positions for decades because they have been not militant, but moderate. The members of such unions have never had to resort to a strike to get a fair spin. Their leaders have always been prepared to meet the representatives of management at the conference table to discuss their needs and, at the same time, to recognize the viewpoint of the other fellow. Militants must be .denied the opportunity to urge members of. their organizations to break the law. I can say from firsthand experience that many trade union officials estimate their chance of reelection according to the degree of militancy that they have displayed while they have been representatives of their unions. The result is that the more militant and disruptive an individual is the better will be his chance of being elected. Is there any wonder that Communists are in control of many unions to-day when leaders who calmly and rationally advance the claims of those whom they represent are cast aside? The object of this bill is to enable the moderate trade unionists to put the affairs of their organizations on a proper footing.
– This measure will take away the right to strike.
– Apparently the honorable member was not present when I dealt with that aspect. This bill will not take away the right to strike from anybody. Does the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) suggest that the law against murder would deprive him of the freedom to murder me if .he wished to do so and were content to pay the penalty for such a crime? After this measure is passed trade unionists will still have the right to strike, but they must pay the penalty for breaking the law in that respect. Whilst the bill will stop militants like the honorable member for Hindmarsh from stirring up trouble it will not deny to a group of individuals the right to take whatever action, short of incitement of others, that they believe should be taken in the interests of their own protection. That is greatly different from what honorable members opposite would like the House and the people to believe. I regret that the Government has found it necessary to introduce this measure, which must reveal to the rest of the world a fundamental weakness in our system of industrial arbitration. Whilst I recognize that that system, is based on the principle of conciliation and excludes recourse to compulsion under the normal processes of the law, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court unfortunately is becoming more and more an ordinary court of law. In those circumstances it must be empowered as is an ordinary court, to . enforce its decisions. To reject the right of injunction which is to be given to the court under this measure would be to say that no court of law should have the power to enforce iia judgments.
– What if an award is unjust?
– That statement is utterly ridiculous. What if an appeal to the High Court of Australia is, in the opinion of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, unjust? What would he do then ? Would he go on strike against the High Court?
– The honorable member should deal with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– The attitude of the honorable gentleman is a reflection on the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Why should we have industrial tribunals if people are not prepared to place their confidence in the ability of the judges to reach just decisions? Why does the honorable member not come straight out and say, “ I stand with my comrades ‘ in the red ‘, and I do not want arbitration if the decisions of the court are unjust “ ? The honorable member cannot believe in the system of arbitration when he criticizes its operation to the degree that he wishes to see it condemned and discarded. He either believes in the court or does not believe in it. There is no half-way point in that matter. If some people are not carrying out the wishes of the moderate trade unionists and are determined to wreck this country, recourse to compulsion is the only way to circumvent them. Yet that is most regrettable in” this democratic country. I support this bill, whilst regretting the necessity that exists for it. I believe in co-operation, not compulsion. Cooperation is possible between all sections of the community, but it will not be achieved until the leaders of the Australian Labour party have a change of heart, mind and attitude.
.- I listened with great interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), and I congratulate him upon his support for the principle of the workers’ right to strike. I assure him that his definition of the right to strike is accepted by the general body of trade unionists throughout Australia. The average trade unionist does not strike for the sake of it. He strikes only as a last resort. He demands the right to strike in order to protect his living conditions against the attacks that are continually made upon them. The honorable member for Moore also suggested that co-operation was required between the Government and the Opposition, and between the Government and organized unionism. Had the honorable gentleman listened carefully to the speeches that have been delivered on this bill, he would have heard many suggestions by Opposition members regarding ways in’ which co-operation could be achieved. Yet at no stage during the preparation ,of this bill, or since its introduction in this House, has the Government shown any sign of co-operating with the Opposition or with the trade union movement. The organized trade union movement has not been consulted about it, or even asked to express an opinion about the proposed amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The attitude of the Government throughout this debate has been one of stand and deliver. It says, in effect, “ We have a majority in both chambers, and -we shall compel you to do as we say, whether or not it is reasonable “. Such an attitude is reminiscent of what happened in Europe twenty years ago. I refer to the rise of Hitler and Nazi-ism in Germany.
– Order ! I think that the honorable member should confine his remarks to Australia.
– I do not wish to digress from the subject-matter of the bill, and to be ruled out of order, Mr. Speaker, but I believe that a definite comparison exists between the actions of this Government and what happened in Germany in 1933. It will be recalled that the Nazis and the Communists banded together to kill the organized trade union movement in that country.
– Order! The remarks of the honorable gentleman are not relevant to the bill.
– I suggest that whilst the Government is allegedly attacking communism, its real object, as is revealed in this measure, is to attack the organized trade union movement, which is overwhelmingly anti-Communist. In season and out of season, the trade union movement conducts a fight against communism within the ranks of the unions, and as a political party. This legislation is designed to weaken the organized trade union movement, but will not weaken the organized Communist movement here. That is why I say that there is a sign of a line-up in Australia which is similar to that in Germany in 1933. If the Government succeeds in its efforts to smash the Australian Labour party and the organized industrial movement, the fight will then be between the reactionaries of liberalism on the one side, and communism on the other side. I shall not attempt to prophesy the result of such a struggle, but a dictatorship would emerge from either the extreme right or the extreme left.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), in his second-reading speech, said -
A mandate to destroy the influence of communism in Australia was the central feature of the Government’s case to the Australian people. The Government -has been instructed to get on with that job. This legislation constitutes one instalment of our task.
The Government may have a mandate to get on with the job of dealing with communism in our midst, and I do not take the Minister to task on that matter. But I do take him to task on the words -
This legislation constitutes one instalment of our task.
I cannot discover anywhere in the bill a provision that will assist the Government to destroy communism. The amateur theorists on the Government side, who pose as experts on arbitration and industrial unionism, claim that the provision for the election of trade union officials by secret ballot will solve all our industrial troubles. It is only because of their complete ignorance of all industrial affairs that they make such statements in this House. The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2) 1951, which incorporated a similar proposal for secret ballots, was submitted to this House a few months ago, and was “ gagged “ or guillotined through this chamber in record time. The Government knew perfectly well that the Senate could not pass it, as the Parliament was about to be dissolved. Obviously, the bill was introduced at that time as window dressing for the recent general election. I described that move as a gigantic confidence trick upon the workers of Australia, and all the speeches by Government supporters during that election campaign, and in this debate, have not caused me to change my mind. I have challenged the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Minister for Labour and National Service and Government supporters generally to name one union which is registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the rules of which do not provide for the election of its officers by a secret ballot. They have not accepted my challenge.
– What is the honorable member worrying about?
– I am concerned because the Government is putting over a gigantic confidence trick, and is deliberately misleading the people when it tells them that the inclusion in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act of a provision for the taking of secret ballots constitutes one instalment of its task to get on with the job of destroying communism. Whether or not such a provision is included in the act, the actual position regarding the election of officers of unions that are registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will not be altered in any way. I remind Government supporters that secret ballots, even if they are properly controlled, are not the sole solution of the problem that has arisen from the control by Communists of certain trade unions. If honorable members opposite had any knowledge of the industrial movement, they would realize that. I cite an example to show them the fallacy of believing, as they do. that secret ballots will be of great assistance in destroying the influence of Communists in the unions. The Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees Association in Melbourne conducts a secret ballot for the election of its officers. It is generally conceded by the members of that organization, regardless of their political views, that there is no possibility of manipulating the results. Even the Liberal party press in Melbourne has reported on many occasions that the ballot is clean. When we examine the results of those elections, we find that well-known Communists are regularly appointed to official positions in that organization. On one occasion, the majority of the officials who were elected to the executive of the association were strongly anti-Communist, yet members of the rank and file elected a prominent member of the Communist party as secretary. Therefore, the provision in the bill for the election of officers by secret ballot is definitely not a means of removing the Communists from official positions in unions.
The purpose of proposed section 13 of the act is to limit the jurisdiction of conciliation commissioners. The provision for, or the alteration of a provision for, annual or other periodical leave with pay, and sick leave with pay, must be determined by a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Does the Minister for Labour and National Service suggest to the House and to the people that the Government, by conferring such authority upon a judge of the court instead of upon a conciliation commissioner, will kill communism in the unions? Is that one instalment of the Government’s task of combating communism?
– Certainly not.
– That provision may have been included in the bill through the Government’s ignorance of industrial conditions, or it may have been inserted with deliberate intent. So far from assisting to establish peace in industry, it will stir up a considerable amount of discontent among the members of the rank and file of unions that are registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The conciliation commissioner system was introduced with the idea of streamlining arbitration and putting an end to the disputes that were caused by long delays in obtaining hearings by the court. Disagreements over sick leave, annual leave and long service leave occur with great regularity, but the conciliation commissioners have been able to deal with them very expeditiously. As the honorable member for Moore has said, the representatives of disputing parties have been able to meet around a table before a conciliation commissioner and hammer out decisions fairly quickly. This system has given general satisfaction, although no doubt the few employers who believe that the working man is made for work, work and more work and is not entitled to a holiday of any kind do not approve of it. We have had more peace in industry since conciliation commissioners were appointed than we had previously. But the power to deal with such disputes is to be handed back to the court under the terms of this bill which, according to the Minister, is going to kill communism in the unions.
Although there are more judges in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to-day than at any other time in its history, its machinery is continuously clogged with work. The 40-hour-week case and the basic wage case between them took more than three years to complete. If the unions are to be forced to wait while cases of that nature are being dealt with by the Full Court, the hearing of some of their claims may be delayed for as long as five years. Such delays would cause grave discontent even amongst the most moderate unionists. They would have just cause for discontent, and sooner or later strikes would be called and supporters of the Government would begin to clamour about alleged Communist conspiracies. Some strikes are fomented by the Communists, but many of them are due to the mounting discontent of workers on account of legitimate grievances. Unless workers can have injustices rectified by legal means within a reasonable space of time, they will resort to direct action. Delays caused many industrial disturbances before conciliation commissioners were appointed ‘but, as soon as the men realized that ‘ they could have their claims dealt with quickly, they abandoned the idea of forcing their will upon the employers by means of strikes. The Government’s proposal to make sick leave, annual leave and long service leave subject to adjudication only by the court will aggravate the dissatisfaction of unionists by causing long delays. Therefore, I am forced to the conclusion that this is a provocative act on the part of the Government designed to stir up industrial discontent.
I am very sorry to note that Governments supporters who have taken part in the debate have kept their remarks as far from the provisions of the bill: as possible, and have merely talked airily in a general way about principles and the danger of communism. The provisions of the bill are of such importance that they require the most careful explanation. Members of the Opposition, who are well acquainted with industrial affairs, realize what those provisions imply, but Government supporters have betrayed a reluctance to discuss the issues which demonstrates that they have no intimate knowledge of the facts. Clause 7 will empower the court to take proceedings for contempt and to impose penalties of £50, £200 or £500, according to the circumstances, or imprisonment for terms up to twelve months. That clause seems to me to have been designed to stir up discontent rather than to foster industrial peace. For the benefit of Government supporters who have no knowledge of arbitration history, I point out that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, many years ago, provided for the infliction of penalties for breaches of awards or orders of the court. Those penal provisions were a source of constant trouble and annoyance to all parties and therefore they were deleted from the act in 1930 with the aproval of all political parties. It was generally agreed that they could not be enforced without disturbing industrial peace. The leader of the United Australia party at that time, the same old conservative political party as the present Liberal party under another name, agreed that the provisions were ineffective and should be abolished. But according to the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), this Government has suddenly become progressive and intends to bring our abritration law up to date. Evidently, notwithstanding his pretentions to expert acquaintance with the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, he is ignorant of the fact that provisions similar to those that are contained in clause 7 were tried and proved to be unworkable many years ago.
Why should such provisions be included in the bill? Does the Government really hope to bring about industrial peace by this means, or is the clause designed to aggravate discontent amongst trade unionists ? My opinion is that the object of the Government is to stir up trouble. The Minister for Labour and National Service said in his second-reading speech that, so long as the rules of a union provided for a secret ballot, the formulation of other rules appropriate to the particular needs of the organization would be left entirely in its hands. Trade unions are now able to make their own rules without interference, but their freedom to do so will be destroyed if this legislation becomes law. All registered unions have rules that provide for secret ballots. But this legislation will impose so many conditions and make so many demands that, if the unions attempt to carry them out faithfully, their administrative expenses will be considerably increased. It will be almost impossible for them to supply the Industrial Registrar with all the information that will be required under the terms of the bill. They are not strong financial concerns, like the employer’s organizations. Therefore, if the Government were sincere, it would agree to pay all the additional costs that will arise from the enforcement of the terms of the bill. It should be prepared to pay for the information that it demands. I prophesy that most trade unions will find themselves in financial and administrative difficulties soon after the legislation becomes effective. Many of them will have no chance of carrying out all its provisions. In that event, the penal clauses will come into operation and they will be fined, in some instances, at the rate of £10 a week.
The inevitable result will be industrial turmoil on a wide scale. Not just the few Communist-controlled unions, but the great majority of the industrial orga nizations that are not under Communist control,, will be t involved in strikes. 1 estimate that about 95 per” cent, of our unions have successfully resisted Communist infiltration over the years. They will suffer under this legislation, and many of them will be ruined financially by penalties for legal offences which they will not be able to avoid committing. Yet the Minister for Labour and National Service has said that the bill is the first instalment of the Government’s plan to defeat communism! In fact, it is the first instalment of. a plan to strengthen communism in the trade union movement, and it is a very solid first instalment. It will weaken the genuine trade unions and will cause discontent throughout the movement. As everybody who has any knowledge of communism knows, the Communist party thrives on discontent and disorder. This bill will sow the seeds from which will spring an evil harvest of communism. After studying the measure carefully,, 1 am forced to the conclusion that members of the Government have presented it to us with their tongues in their cheeks. If the Government were honest, the Minister for Labour and National Service would have said that the bill constituted the first instalment of the fight against organized industrial unions and that it had been designed for the purpose of smashing unionism and the Australian Labour party. The bill is provocative in every way, and it will not bring about industrial peace. It will open the way for a vicious attack upon the trade unions and the Australian Labour party and it will not harm the Communist party to any extent.
If there be any sincerity in the Government’s propaganda, it must withdraw the bill and introduce a genuine measure to deal with the Communist party. The Australian Labour party would willingly co-operate in any campaign to destroy communism within the trade union movement. We have been fighting the Communists for many years and we have kept them, under control in a vast majority of our industrial organizations. The fight has been clean and above board at all times. This bill will weaken the hands of the moderate trade unionist in his fight against Communism because it will cause untold trouble and discontent on which the Communist will thrive. If this Government is sincere and will put forward honest and sincere proposals to fight communism it will find the Labour party and the organized industrial movement of Australia ready to offer their co-operation. Up to the present, the Labour party has not been asked to cooperate with and assist the Government in a sincere attempt to defeat communism. Honorable members of the Opposition will continue to fight this attack and any other attack that may be made on the organized trade union movement of Australia.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 to 8 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brown) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Parliament last year passed the Communist Party Dissolution Act. It was hotly debated, and at various stages attacked, by the Opposition. Six months after the introduction of the bill, and when the bill was in the Senate for the second time, that opposition was withdrawn, so that Labour, in effect, passed the bill. The High Court was appealed to on the ground that the act was beyond the legislative powers of the Commonwealth. On this issue, the High Court ruled against the validity of the act. The judgment was not political ; it was legal. It was immensely important. It disclosed grave defects in the power of the Parliament of the Commonwealth in time of peace to protect the safety of the nation against treacherous agents acting for a foreign power; working underground; going to infinite pains to avoid a direct conflict with the ordinary law; advised by the most astute lawyers; quick to invoke the names of freedom and justice, whilst relentlessly engineering the destruction of the foundations upon which freedom and justice rest. In effect, the High Court said four things -
It will be readily agreed in this place that the Government is in a better position to judge of the dangers of war or of the existence of international emergency than any outside member of the public. It has confidential sources of information, some of which are on the highest level. It has a widespread scries of diplomatic missions in other countries. It frequently cannot say all that it knows.
It can never disclose all its sources. The judgment of the High Court therefore, no doubt with complete legal accuracy, discloses a serious defect in the power of the Commonwealth to deal with an emergency before it has developed into war or to deal with the obvious imminence of war. By the present bill we are seeking to obtain the powers to deal with Communists and communism which the Australian Parliament now lacks. If the bill passes both Houses it will then, under the Constitution, be submitted by referendum to the electors for their approval.
Before I explain the terms and effect of the proposed constitutional amendment, I want to say something about the pressing nature of the Communist menace. It is not my desire simply to re-state what has been repeatedly said in this place over the last eighteen months. But two things should be emphasized. The first is that Australian communism is not a genuine industrial movement. It seeks to use trade unions for its own purposes, and loses no opportunity of capitalizing industrial grievances, sometimes invented, but sometimes quite real. But its end purpose is not the settled order of industrial justice; it is the unsettlement of the entire system of industrial justice. It aims at chaos for two complementary purposes. The first is the weakening of the Australian social and economic structure and, above all, of our national capacity to defend ourselves and to cooperate with other nations in the defence of our common freedom. The second purpose is the forwarding of the interests of a foreign power in which Australian Communists appear to find their spiritual homes - although they undoubtedly find a physical home in Australia more profitable and comfortable.
I direct particular attention to these things because it is a part of the clever Communist propaganda to represent resistance by a government of the activities of a militant Communist who has got into some union office as an attack, not upon him, but upon his office; not an attack upon him by virtue of his activities and aims, but upon him as a trade unionist. We are, of course, no more attacking trade unionism when we attack a Communist than are the Australian
Labour Party Industrial Groups inside the unions attacking trade unionism when they seek to purge out of trade unionism a Communist union leader.
The second thing to be emphasized is that the whole danger to peace in the world to-day springs from the policies, plans, underground activities and promoted local wars of the Communists, whose imperialism is not different in character, although it is more extensive and subtle in form, from the imperialism of the Ozars. A current example of that fact is to be seen in Korea. There may be some people who are able to persuade themselves that the grim battle which is being waged by the United Nations in resistance to aggression from North Korea is simply a sort of Korean civil war. Indeed, that is more or less the accepted Communist line. Such people may be willing to believe that the intervention of Communist China is something in the nature of an accident, or arises from no deep-seated cause or plan. But nobody who has got below the surface of these things will doubt that the massive intervention of Communist China is something performed in concert with world Communist head-quarters, and that in those head-quarters there is a great deal of satisfaction at the thought that so many of the armed men of the democratic countries have been diverted to, and kept engaged in, Korea and that such grievous casualties have been inflicted upon them. In brief, Korea is a perfect example of one aspect of Communist cold-war strategy, a strategy which embraces unhesitatingly the notion of fighting, although’, at this stage it is designed to be fighting by the troops of the satellite countries only. At a time when our Australian fellow-citizens are fighting Communists and communism in Korea, and shedding their blood, it would astonish, most Australians to find that any member of this Parliament was prepared to treat Communists and communism in Australia as representing something deserving of tender treatment, of vaguely philosophic tolerance, or as, at the worst, a rather tiresome form of industrial militancy. If we are not prepared to treat our enemies as enemies when we see them, we must expect those enemies to be well on the* way to victory before the open struggle begins.
There is a somewhat earlier example of the deadly Communist technique - which is similar all over the world - in the events that occurred in Czechoslovakia. In respect of these, I venture to quote from the considered judgment of Mr. Justice Jackson, of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, in the case that was decided only a month ago, of Dennis v The United States of America, a case to which I shall make further reference a little later. I cite this judgment, not because it contains some technical exposition of the law, but because it contains, in the most succinct narrative form, the history of events in Czechoslovakia, tracing out what we all know in this place to be the universal Communist technique. Mr. Justice Jackson said -
Communist technique in the overturn of a free government was disclosed by the coup d’etat in which they seized power in Czechoslovakia. There the Communist party during its preparatory stage claimed and received protection for its freedoms of speech, press’, and assembly.
Let us note that respectable beginning. I resume the quotation -
Pretending to be but another political party, it event’ually was conceded participation in government, where it entrenched reliable members chiefly in control of police and information services. When the government faced a foreign and domestic crisis, the Communist party had established a leverage strong enough to threaten civil war. In a period of confusion the Communist plan unfolded and the underground organization came to the surface throughout the country in the form chiefly of labour “ action committees “. Communist officers of the unions took over transportation and allowed only persons with party permits to travel. ‘
Communist printers took over the newspapers and radio and put out only partyapproved versions of events. Possession was taken of telegraph and telephone systems and communications were cut off wherever directed by party heads. Communist unions took over the factories, and in the cities a partisan distribution of fond was managed by the Communist organization. A virtually bloodless abdication by the elected government admitted the Communists to .power, whereupon they instituted a reign of oppression and terror, and ruthlessly denied to all others the freedoms which had sheltered their conspiracy.
That is the end of the quotation from the judgment of Mr. Justice Jackson.
It is mere purblindness not to recognize that Communist political strikes and organized go-slow policies in Australia are just as much a part of the cold war going on in the world as the historical examples to which I have just referred. The danger is not distant, it exists here and now. On both these points I may perhaps assist honorable members by making one or two further references to the Dennis case, the full text of the judgments in which has recently reached me from the United States of America. I must apologize to honorable members if they find them tedious, but I think that it is of value to trace this matter right out. Congress had passed an act, known as the Smith Act, which penalized people advocating or teaching the duty or desirability of overthrowing the Government of the United States of America by force or violence. Several persons were convicted under this act. One of the grounds of their ultimate appeal to the Supreme Court was th’at the Smith Act violated the First Amendment to the American Constitution. The relevant words of the First Amendment are -
Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
And here was a law which said you could not teach these things or advocate them in the United States of America. Despite the width of this constitutional guarantee, the Supreme Court of the United States of America has interpreted these words so as not to leave Congress helpless in the face of what has been described as a “ clear and present danger “ - and I emphasize those words - “ of substantive evils that Congress has the right to prevent “. In such circumstances, even the sweeping words of the First Amendment yield to the judgment of the people’s representatives. This “ clear and present danger “ formula, an expression very well known in the American Supreme Court, comes from words first used by a very famous judge of unquestionable liberal outlook, the late Mr. Justice Holmes. That gentleman was one of the great lawyers, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) will agree, of the last 80 or 100 years. In the Dennis case the
Supreme Court was called upon to direct a great deal of attention to the question whether the kind of speech and writing that the act prohibited constituted a “clear and present danger “ of attempts to overthrow government by violence. The court held that in the circumstances the clear and present danger test was satisfied, and that the Smith Act did not violate the First Amendment. With immense care, the evidence in the case was examined. In the judgment of the Chief Justice, to which three other justices subscribed, attention was directed to the need for a. government to be armed with power to take all necessary steps to destroy fifth column activities, and there is a clear finding ::that the teaching -and advocacy of the Communist party constitute a “clear and present danger” to national order and security sufficiently grave to justify an act of Congress which otherwise would have been held to infringe the constitutional guarantee of free speech. Mr. Justice Frankfurter, whom the Leader of the Opposition knows probably better than I do, although I have the honour of knowing him well, whose attachment to liberty will not be questioned by any one familiar with his great work as a jurist, said this -
There is ample justification for a legislative judgment tbit u,e conspiracy now before us is a substantial threat to the national order and security.
Later he said -
The Communist party was not designed by these defendants a-s an ordinary political party. For the circumstances of its organization, its aims and methods, and the relation of the defendants to its organization and aim* we are concluded by the jury’s verdict. The jury found that the party rejects the basic premise of our political system - that change is to be brought about by non-violent constitutional process. The jury found that the party advocates the theory that there is a duty and necessity to overthrow the Government by force and violence. It found that the party entertains and promotes this view, not as a prophetic insight or as a. bit of unworldly, speculation, but as a programme for winning adherents and as a policy to be translated into action.
He further said -
Evidence was introduced in this case that the membership was organized in small units, linked by an intricate chain of command, and protected by elaborate precautions designed to prevent disclosure of individual identity. There are no reliable data tracing acts of sabotage or espionage directly to these defendants. But a Canadian royal commission appointed in 1946 to investigate espionage reported that it was “ overwhelmingly established “ that the Communist movement was the principal base within which the espionage network was recruited “. The most notorious spy in recent history (that is Fuchs) was led into the service of the Soviet Union through Communist indoctrination. Evidence supports the conclusion that members of the party seek and occupy positions of importance in political and labour organizations. Congress was not barred by the Constitution from believing that indifference to such experience would be an exercise not of freedom but of irresponsibility.
The only other citation that I desire to make is from a judgment of Mr. Justice Jackson. I hasten to assure honorable members that this will be the last citation that I shall inflict upon1 them; but I am going to make it because it describes with almost meticulous accuracy the method and plan of Communist organization in Australia or any front o communism and Communists whom w now seek power to attack. Mr. Justice Jackson said -
The Communist party, nevertheless, does not seek its strength primarily in numbers. Its-‘ aim Ls a relatively small party, whose strength is in selected, dedicated, indoctrinated, and rigidly disciplined members. From established policy it tolerates no deviation and no debate, lt seeks members that are, or may be, secreted in strategic posts in transportation, communications, industry, government, and especially in labour unions where it can compel employers to accept and retain its members. It also seeks to infiltrate and control organizations of professional and other groups. Through these placements in positions of power it seeks a leverage over society that will make up in power of coercion what it lacks in power of persuasion. The Communists have no Scruples against sabotage, terrorism, assassination, or mob disorder; but violence is not with them, as with the anarchists, an end in itself. The Communist party advocates force only when prudent and profitable. Their strategy of stealth precludes premature and uncoordinated outbursts of violence, except, of course, when the blame will be placed on shoulders other than their own. They resort to violence as to truth, not as a principle, but as an expedient. Force or violence, as they would resort to it, may never be necessary, because infiltration and deception may be enough. Force would be utilized by the Communist party not to destroy government but for it* capture. The Communist recognizes that <m established government in control of modern technology cannot be overthrown by force until it is about ready to fall of its own weight. Concerted uprising, therefore, is to await that contingency and revolution is seen, not as a sudden episode, but as the consummation of a long process.
I apologize for inflicting on the House that long citation, but it is perhaps one of the most powerful expositions of the activities of communism, as well in the United States as here or anywhere else, that I have ever seen.
Having by these observations and citations refreshed the public recollection of the nature of the problem which I say most positively must not be either wholly or partly excluded from the legislative power of this Parliament, I now turn to a brief explanation of the bill. The bill contains two major provisions which will be found in clause 2. The first of them, which is sub-section (1.) of the proposed new section 51 (a) in the Constitution, has ‘been drawn so as to give a power which though specifically directed to Communists or communism is designed to give comprehensive and adequate powers in respect of them. The words are -
The Parliament shall have power to make such laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to Communists or communism as the Parliament considers to be necessary or expedient for the defence or security of the Commonwealth or for the execution or maintenance of this Constitution, or of the laws of the Commonwealth.
Two things appear very plainly there: First, that the power sought is over Communists and communism; and secondly, that it will be for the Parliament to determine whether the law made is reasonably necessary or expedient for the defence or safety of the country. I think that it will be commonly agreed, except by Communists and their supporters, that this Parliament ought to have power to make laws with respect to Communists and communism. Indeed, honorable members opposite must inevitably, if logical, support this proposal because they advocate that all power should reside in the Australian Parliament. We advocate that at any rate this Parliament should have ample jurisdiction to deal with Communists and communism. I repeat, because it must be clearly understood, that the laws are to be such as the Parliament itself, that is this Parliament, and it3 successors, considers to be necessary or expedient for the defence or security of Australia. .
– That cuts out the High Court.
– Is the honorable member complaining?
– Then that is all right. I thought for a moment that he was. I thought for a moment that he might not be supporting the bill. I am greatly relieved to know what his attitude is. If a law passed under this power were challenged, the Government would have to satisfy the court that the law was in truth and substance a law on the subject of Communists or communism. But the words that I have just emphasized have been deliberately inserted in order to establish that, although we must satisfy the court on that point, the judgment of the relationship between that law and national defence and security, ‘ which involves a judgment on the highest secret or public political level, is to be that of this Parliament and of no outside body. The reason for this is clear and will commend itself at once to all honorable members. The Parliament and Government of this country are charged with the national defence and security. We have a supreme representative responsibility for that in this place. We, the Parliament and the Government, have means of judgment far more ample than are those that are available to other persons. Therefore, it is not reasonable to impose an enormous responsibility upon this Government and Parliament without giving to them adequate power to discharge that responsibility.
The second part of the proposed amendment refers expressly to the Communist Party Dissolution Act 1950. Without in any way limiting any other power possessed by the Parliament, it puts it beyond doubt that the Parliament is to have power to pass that act, to amend it or to repeal it, with the proviso that if the Parliament amends the act any such amendment “ is with respect to a matter dealt with by that law or with respect to some other matter with respect to which the Parliament has power to make laws “. That will give, not an unlimited but a highly related power of amendment. It can be said that the Communist Party Dissolution Act could be passed under the power to make laws with, respect to Communists and communism. That may be so. But general words always admit of an immense amount of argument. Therefore, it is desirable for the sake of speed that this matter should be put utterly beyond doubt. It is quite unusual, if not unique, to include in a constitutional amendment an express reference to an act of parliament. But we are dealing with a unique problem. Further, we are dealing with the problem, the attack upon which has been delayed for too long by the events of the last year. This Government has no desire to have the carrying into effect of the Communist Party Dissolution Act, which will be resubmitted to the Parliament if the people approve of this constitutional amendment, delayed by further litigation. Therefore, in our judgment it is essential that the future validity of that piece of legislation shall be put beyond question by the express provision made in the second part of the bill, for which we shall invite the people to vote at the referendum.
I do not propose to weary the House by re-opening all the arguments that were’ advanced by the Opposition and by others when the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was going through this Parliament. We all remember them extremely well. It is sufficient to say that the Australian people, with all those arguments before them, repeated and repeated and repeated in this House, in another place, from public platforms and over the air, have just sent us back with a majority in both Houses and with a clear mandate to deal with the Communists along the lines that we have clearly reduced to statutory form. I point out to honorable members opposite that the Communist Party Dissolution Act could not have gone onto the statute-book without their ‘ ultimate approval. If any of them are now prepared to say that they approved without approving, and that they had other good reasons for changing their opinions at the last moment, doubtless they will put us and the people in possession of those reasons. All I propose to say is that, having the clear instruction of the nation to deal with the Communist fifth column swiftly, vigorously and unrelentingly, we propose to perform that task if we are given power to perform it. Whether we are to have that power will be decided by the people when the proposed constitutional amendments come before them for their approval.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed (vide page 1076).
.- It has been said repeatedly by honorable gentleman opposite that this bill represents an attack by the Government upon the trade union movement. Nothing could be further from the truth than that. Nobody on this side of the House desires to attack the trade union movement. We have been told that 90 per cent, of the trade unions in this country are well able to manage their own .affairs, that they are fighting the Communists and that if they are left alone they can carry on that fight efficiently. There are 1,400,000 trade unionists in Australia. Rather less than 40 per cent, of them, or approximately 400,000, are members of trade unions that are controlled by Communists. In choosing trade unions to attack, the Communists have been cleverly selective. In order to be able to disrupt the economic and industrial life of a country, it is unnecessary to obtain control of every trade union in that country. For that purpose, the shearers, orchardists or dairy-farmers do not matter. All that is necessary is to obtain control of unions associated with shipping, wharfs, and inland transport, and also of one large union such as the ironworkers federation. The Communists, having done that, have the economy of this country at their, mercy. Honorable gentlemen opposite must admit that, despite the valiant efforts of many members of trade unions, the Communists have obtained control of key unions and are now in a position to strangle the commercial and economic life of the community. This bill is necessary because the people of Australia have failed to control the Communist menace.
The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) alleged that the Government has put out a smoke screen of misrepresentation. He said that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), in moving the second-reading of the bill, claimed that if it were passed there would he an end of communism in this country and that the bill was the be-all and end-all in the fight against communism. That was absolute rubbish, as the honorable member himself proved when he read, I assume rather reluctantly, the passage from the Minister’s speech in which it was stated that the bill represents only one small step forward along the path that we have to tread. To-night, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) dealt with another measure that represents another step forward.
The attitude of the Labour party is very difficult to understand. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) accused the members of the Labour party of being the real reactionaries of the present time. That was probably one of the truest statements ever made in this House. The a ttitude of the Labour party as expressed in their opposition to this bill is the attitude of the Labour party in the early years of this century. It is that they must fight the bosses and protect the right of certain people to look after their own interests and promote their own welfare in industry. Is that the aim of the leaders of the trade unions which control the industrial and commercial life of Australia? Was not the general coal strike of 1949 and the one-day stoppages ot work in the coal-fields early this year a political attack on the whole of the community? Has the Waterside Workers Federation devoted itself entirely to furthering the interests of its members, or has it attacked the welfare of the community? Have the seamen been endeavouring only to improve their working conditions by adopting the aggravating tactics of refusing to answer calls for labour and caving in when there are signs that definite action will be taken to man vessels with men who are not members of their union? Does anybody suggest that those unions were fighting for the causes for which the unions were perfectly right ro fight over twenty years ago? Their actions were purely political.
I should like some of the provisions of the bill to be re-examined , in the light of experience gained after it has been in operation for a short time, but I believe that only by the enactment of measures of this type will the people of Australia and the trade unions be enabled gradually to obtain control of key unions. I agree with the honorable member for Wills that, as in the Melbourne tramways case which he cited, the result of a secret ballot will almost certainly be the election of a Communist as the leader of a trade union, especially if he be a very efficient organizer. We shall have to wait and see how it works out, but in general terms the bill is an attack not upon the trade unions or their standards but upon communism. If in some respects it appears to be clumsy, let it be given a trial and after the lapse of a short period it can be amended in whatever way experience will best indicate.
The bill has four main objects. First, it provides that the power now possessed by conciliation commissioners to determine annual leave, sick leave and long service leave shall be exercised by the court alone. As a reason why such action should not be taken, one member of the Opposition stated that employers in the nylon industry were offering fantastic leave conditions in order to lure employees into that trade. If that statement is true it offers one of the soundest arguments in favour of this provision. Apparently, the retention of this power by conciliation commissioners would afford a means of faking awards if, at present, employers in some industries agree to accept conditions that cannot possibly be instituted in other industries in order to entice labour from less profitable industries. I repeat that that is the soundest argument in favour of confining power to determine leave conditions to the court which, incidentally, originally exercised that power.
The second object of the bill is to empower the court to enforce its orders, or awards, by injunction and contempt proceedings. Honorable members opposite would lead one to believe that this is an extraordinary proposition. The honorable member for Wills said such power was taken from the court under the amending legislation of 1930. It if obvious that he has not read the relevant measure, because these powers have always been inherent in the court. The position is that in respect of the legislation that was introduced by the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when he was Attorney-General in the Chifley Government, the High Court held that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had power to punish by injunction and by contempt proceedings only offences against the act but not against awards made under the act, whereas it had always been assumed that offences against awards were offences against the act and it was always thought that determinations of conciliation commissioners were virtually determinations of the court itself. The penalties that are provided for by the bill in respect of such offences are not unusually severe. They have been provided because hitherto, in the absence of specific penalties, it has naturally been assumed that unlimited penalties could be prescribed.
The next object of the bill is to provide for secret ballots. The purpose of the Government is to ensure that clean ballots shall be held in the election of officials of organizations registered with the court. Any one who has sensed the reaction of the public to reports of faked ballots that have been published in the press from time to time will recognize that there is strong support for this provision. I regret that the bill does not provide for compulsory voting in secret ballots. Much has been said on this point and I do not propose to labour, it. No doubt, the Government will be guided in this matter by its experience in the future. It should be possible for members of a trade union who believe that a ballot has been faked, or will be conducted crookedly, to apply to the court to conduct a proper ballot. The 1947 act provided that in instances in which it could be shown that a ballot had been conducted crookedly the court could order a new ballot to be taken, but under this measure the court is to be given the additional power to conduct a ballot if it be shown that reasonable grounds exist for the belief that a ballot that is about to be taken will be conducted crookedly. I admit that the provisions of the bill with respect to the keeping of records by trade unions will involve serious mechanical difficulties. I suggest to the Minister for Labour and National Service that at the committee stage he might have a look at those provisions. I do not believe that it will be possible for large trade unions with members throughout Australia to keep their records up to date on the basis of three-monthly periods. Under company law every company in Australia is required to keep an up-to-date register of shareholders but such records are kept on an annual basis.
Under the bill the court will be given power to deal with incitement to disobey its orders, or awards, but the provision in this respect is almost identical with that enacted in the amending legislation that was passed by the Scullin Government in August, 1930. The relevant clause reads -
Section 78 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “78. - (1.) An officer, servant or agent, or a member of a committee, of an organization or branch of an organization shall not, during the currency of an award -
The maximum penalty prescribed in the 1930 act for offences against that provision was a fine of £20. It is significant that the main objection that the Opposition has voiced to this measure is in respect of a provision that has been taken practically word for word from an act that was passed by a Labour government. I do not believe that the Opposition is sincere in this instance. Clearly, honorable members opposite ignore the enormous monopolistic power that is now wielded by combined unions. It is reminiscent of the days when unions fought small employers or groups of employers, but at present the unions are wielding their power to the detriment of the community as a whole.
– I approach this measure with apprehension particularly after hearing the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) express doubts about the sincerity of the Opposition’s objections to it. 1. am at a loss to know how the Opposition can convince him of its sincerity. However, I have no doubt that if the trade unions were given an opportunity to express their view about the measure they would turn it down by an overwhelming majority. There may be some trade unionists who at the last general election voted for candidates of the Government parties who, probably, would vote in favour of the measure. Under this bill the Government is attempting to interfere with the longestablished and hard-won rights of trade unionists. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) stated the case against the bill clearly and temperately, whereas it i’s difficult to understand some of the arguments that have been advanced by supporters of the Government. Apparently, they do not know much about the subject. I believe that the Government never intended to frame this measure in a manner that would be acceptable to the trade unions. On the contrary, it has taken advantage of its temporary occupancy of office to do something which non-Labour parties completely failed to do in the past. Apparently, those parties have learned the lesson that when they attempt to do something of this kind and they are turned down by the people they must proceed by other methods. I cast no reflection upon their capacity as tacticians but I strongly disagree with these subtle methods. At the last general election they were supported by wholesale press propaganda and official government propaganda in misleading the people to believe that they would do something to restore the value of wages. After the Government had alleged that the Labour majority in the Senate had frustrated its attempt in the previous Parliament to restore the purchasing power of the £1 the people accepted its promise that it would endeavour to arrest inflation. The unionists have learned over the years that increases of wages do not solve the problem of the cost of living when other sections of the community are not restricted in increasing the prices of goods and services. Prices are continually rising. I do not believe that the Government wishes to arrest inflation but, on the contrary, merely wishes to weaken the power of the trade unions, which they have exercised with some success over the years, so that they will not be able to carry on their fight. After all, supporters of the present Government are the lineal party descendants of a government that tried to abolish our system of conciliation and arbitration. That cannot be denied. Indeed, some honorable members opposite were supporters of that previous Government. Now, twenty years later, honorable members opposite want to accomplish by subtle means what their predecessors failed to achieve. Of course, they claim to have a mandate to introduce this measure. That is not correct. The people gave to the Government parties a mandate to restore the purchasing power of wages, and they are not even attempting to do it. I have carefully read the second-reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). I am reluctant to attribute unworthy motives to Ministers who introduce bills of this kind, ‘ but I have difficulty in refraining from doing so on this occasion. When I refer to unions, I speak of the great majority of industrial organizations. I do not deny that one or two of them are controlled by Communists, but the stage has been reached when a man who has radical thoughts, or advanced ideas, is described as “ one of the Reds “. That expression is intended to convey that, if his ideas are a departure from the orthodox, he must be branded as a “ Red “, or as having Communist tendencies.
Trade unionism had a big fight before it was able to establish itself firmly. Government supporters say that everybody now believes in trade unionism and in conciliation and arbitration. Some members of the Opposition such as myself, have been associated with trade unions for a long period, not only as officials but also as workers. For at least seventeen years before I occupied a paid office in the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen. I worked on the footplate and in an honorary capacity for my union. I know perfectly well that unionists consider that they are compelled, under the present social and industrial system, to have a strong organization to fight for their rights. The Government claims that the purpose of this bill is to destroy the influence of the Communists within the trade union movement. yet no attempt has been made to deal with predatory employers, who will be able to do as they please. The bill will abolish the right to strike, the justice of which has been recognized throughout the world. It does not propose to deprive an employer of the right to withhold goods from the market in expectation of an increase of price. Yet that often occurs, it is happening to-day. I venture to suggest, although the matter may not be quite relevant to this bill, that the storehouses of the sugar industry are filled with sugar in expectation of an increase of price. The trade union movement is bound to fight for a condition of affairs in which the unions can remain effective to protect the interests of their members. The very object of forming a trade union is to protect and foster the interests of its members and to submit claims on their behalf for better wages and improved conditions to the various industrial tribunals. The workers accept arbitration, and most of them abide by it. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) suggested that some unions are like a sewing circle, but I assure him that they know that they have great responsibilities. I am a life member of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen. If that organization calls a stoppage at any time, the transport system of the. country is vitally affected. But it seldom exercises the right to strike. We cannot even contemplate a bill, the objective of which is to deprive the workers of their right to strike. This legislation plays right into the hands of the employing class.
The honorable member for Bendigo, who stated the Opposition’s case definitely but temperately, said that the trade union movement as a whole dreads the passing of this bill. I urge the Government to adjourn the debate on the measure and to examine carefully the views that have been expressed by responsible members of the Opposition about its provisions. I regard honorable members opposite who have participated in this debate as mere echoes of the wishes of the Government. It is probable that they were informed of the provisions of the bill before it was introduced, yet they describe us collectively as a political machine that is controlled by an outside organization. This measure is not a workers’ bill, but an employers’ bill. The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) has informed the House that there are in Australia approximately 1,500,000 trade unionists, who, with their families and relatives, constitute a large section of the voting population. It must be admitted that some of those trade unionists decided to give this Government an opportunity to remain in office for a further period for the reasons that I have already advanced. But those 1,500,000 trade unionists, who, with their relatives, would constitute a voting force of between 2,000,000 and 2,500,000 persons, would not dream of accepting this bill in its present form. The Government, having heard the opinions of Opposition members about this measure, has a plain duty to reexamine it.
– A general election has just been fought on this issue.
– I believe that the recent general election was fought upon an even more prominent issue. The people hoped that the Government would honour its promise to arrest inflation and put value back into the £1. They were deluded into voting for the Government by the activities of an immense propaganda machine-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to bring his remarks somewhere within reach of the bill.
– I thought that I could refer to the election issues that were mentioned by the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon), and they were-
-Order ! Interjections are always disorderly.
– I am glad to hear that, and I hope that I shall not be interrupted by further interjections. Issues that were even more prominent in the minds of the people than the provisions of this bill entered into the general elections in 1949 and 1951. Perhaps I may make that point, Mr. Speaker, without infringing your ruling, which I respect. The people believed that the Government would be able to destroy the influence of the Communists in the trade union movement, but they did not suspect that it would introduce this oppressive bill. A member of an organization who goes on strike will be liable to a fine of £50, an official of a union who advises members to go on strike will be liable to a fine of £200 no matter how earnestly he believes that that is the only effective course to take, and an organization that is involved in a strike will be liable to a fine of £500.
Unions will be compelled to keep, at their own expense, comprehensive records of their membership. The Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen has a membership of approximately 14,000, and that number is not large compared with the membership of certain other industrial organizations, but it represents approximately 99 per cent, of the persons who are engaged in that calling. I know that whenever there was talk of a stoppage, the views of the members were ascertained. That is a costly process, being at least ls. a head.; The contribution that is payable by a member is about 40s. per annum.
Some Government supporters have referred to the secretaries of trade unions as overpaid individuals who are not very familiar with the industries represented by the respective organizations. I have considered that statement for some time, and I find it difficult to recall the name of even one man in a prominent position in a trade union who has not been employed directly in the particular industry for some time. Members of trade unions always seek men who are thoroughly conversant with all the conditions of their respective industries to represent them before industrial tribunals and their employers, and, if necessary, to interview members of the Parliament from time to time about legislation. Such a sneer at trade union officials who are doing such valuable work in the community is most unworthy. To my knowledge there is no official who may be regarded as battening on a trade union. I assure Government supporters that trade union officials are by no means overpaid, and that they do not restrict themselves to set hours of work when the interests of their members require attention.
Under certain conditions the Industrial Registrar may order an election of trade union officials by secret ballot. The Minister for Labour and National Senvice has explained that position as follows : -
Regulations will be promulgated fixing thu number or proportion of the members of an organization who can apply to the Industrial Registrar. We have in mind, for elections to a central body, 1,000 members or 10 per cent.. of the membership, and for branch elections 500 members, or 20 per cent., whichever is the less in each case.
It would not be difficult for any person, such as a Communist within its ranks, who wished to embarrass a union in any way, to cause a situation in which an application could be successfully made to the Industrial Registrar to order a new election. An election of officials of a branch of a union would not be particularly costly, but an election of officials at the head office could be most expensive. I am not sure whether the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who is now occupying the position that I held without interruption for nineteen -years in the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, has explained the system of election that is followed by that organization. I defy any Government supporter to cavil at it. The Waterside Workers Federation, when an election is held to fill a position in the Victorian branch, conduct? the poll in a way thwould satisfy even the most sceptical supporters of the Government. It obtains from the electoral authorities such equipment as ballot-boxes and cubicles, in which members can record their votes. On many occasions, the results of elections have not been satisfactory to the general public, but that is only direct and complete evidence of the fact that the members of the organization concerned were dissatisfied with the award under which they were working and desired to alter it.
Under this bill, unionists will not !>< permitted, regardless of the circumstances, to dispute an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. An officer of a union, even if he considers that the award is unfair, will not be able to advise his members to stop work without running the risk of incurring a heavy penalty. A trade union that is required by the Industrial Registrar to conduct several elections by secret ballot may be left in a seriously weakened condition financially, and will not wish to retain its registration with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. We have fought foi the right of Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration. Many branches or divisions of organizations which, at first, did not seek registration with the court, subsequently recognized the advantages of it. The Government does not appear, to have studied the possible effect of the imposition of this legislation upon the trade unions.
Government supporters who are sufficiently fair minded to examine this matter from the stand-point of what is ‘best in the interests of the people generally, realize that the bill must have serious effects. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) expressed some concern about the expenditure that industrial organizations will be compelled to incur under this legislation. They are operating on a very narrow margin, as it were, and they will not be in a position to present quarterly returns. I ask honorable members to imagine the volume of work that will be involved in collecting the names and addresses of members of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen. They are employed in a transport industry, and are liable to be transferred from place to place in Australia. The union will be compelled, under the threat of a fine, to keep its records of the names and addresses of those men up to date. The staff who are employed in the federal office of that organization at the present time probably consists of the general secretary and a typist. On occasions, they may receive assistance from the officers of the States. However, the central staff will probably have to be increased threefold if the records are to be kept up to date. The additional costs for that alone would amount to £700, or perhaps even £1,000, a year. Yet the Government wants to impose that burden on the union merely for the purposes of this bill. Considerable danger lies in the fact that registers of union members and their private addresses will be available for inspection by any person who is authorized by the Industrial Registrar. The Communists, whom the Government allegedly is seeking to suppress, will be able to obtain those addresses. No doubt they have been trying to get them for many years. Then unionists will be inundated with the sort of Communist propaganda that is likely to influence anybody who is indifferent to union politics. I do not know whether the Minister has considered this possibility, but I urge him to give very serious attention to it. He has said that the enactment of this bill will enable the unions to deal with the Communists, but the truth is that it will give the Communists the chance to disseminate their propaganda where it will do the most harm. Therefore, there must be some radical fault -in the measure.
I reject entirely the announced purpose of the bill. Honesty compels me to say, somewhat against my personal inclinations, that I believe that the real intention of the Government is to attain in the name of the law an objective for which the anti-Labour parties failed to obtain the approval of the people when they tried to abolish the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act twenty years ago. Can supporters of the Government wonder that we view the measure with suspicion ? Any act that makes conciliation and arbitration more expensive and more difficult than it has been hitherto is bound to have an adverse effect on the interests of the unions. The final result will be that unionists -will abandon the Commonwealth “Arbitration Court and return to the* jurisdiction of State courts.’ Union leaders have been trying to persuade their organizations for years to bring their claims to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court with the object of establishing standard sets of hours, rates of pay and working conditions. It would not be possible to bring about complete standardization, of course. In fact, complete uniformity would not be desirable, owing to varying conditions in different States and industries. However, it is highly desirable to have standardization in relation to the main princples of hours, wages and conditions of employment. At present, for example, locomotive crews in New South Wales who drive trains to Albury are paid a few shillings more each week than is paid to men who do similar work in Victoria. We have striven for many years to eliminate such anomalies.
I fear that the organization of which I am a member will be driven away from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court because of the costs that will be heaped upon it as the result of the enactment of this bill and will return to the old system of dealing, in individual branches, with the State courts. The Western Australian branch of the organization makes all its applications to the arbitration court of that State at present because its members feel that it is able to reach agreement on matters in dispute more easily and satisfactorily by those means than by dealing with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Members of the union in Western Australia have been obliged to go on strike at various times, but I remind honorable members that strikes are not always organized merely for the purpose of obtaining wage increases. Those men in Western Australia struck so that they would not be forced to run unnecessary risks on Garrett locomotives. Two men operating a Garrett engine were asphyxiated in a tunnel. Eventually, after long arguments with the railways commissioners, they succeeded in having a ban placed on the use of such locomotives over sections of track that passed through tunnels. I have mentioned this episode in order to show that, if men lose the right to strike against unfair and dangerous conditions of work or for any other reason, they will be placed at the mercy of their employers. We all know “ how merciful many employers would be if they had a free hand ! I repeat that unionists are not eager to get away from arbitration and that they are anxious to prevent Communists from obtaining control of their organizations. Most of our important trade unions have succeeded in defeating the Communists up to the present time.
The fact that a few unionists may have become lax because they gained satisfactory wages and conditions of employment as a result of the prosperity that was fostered by the Labour Administration prior to 1950 does not excuse the introduction of a bill which has for its objective a return to the old conditions under which the employer was the unchallenged boss and could do almost as he wished. The subject-matter of this bill could be debated between representatives of the trade union movement, the employers and the Government with advantage to everybody. I suggest that this course be adopted, although I have no specific authority to do so, because I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service has no evil intentions personally and is eager to achieve the best possible results. He ought to withdraw the bill and provide an opportunity for the Government to obtain the views of both the unionists and the employers. The Government must follow that course of action if it honestly wishes to establish peace in industry. Otherwise, it will go down in history as an oppressive tory government that re-established conditions against which the unionists had fought for years. Surely the Government and its supporters do not want to turn the clock back ! There must be some sincerity in their claims that they want to improve industrial relationships and increase production. Anybody who reads the latest literature on the subject of industrial production in other countries, particularly the United States of America and Canada, must be aware that low production rates are not the fault of the workers alone. Equal blame should be laid upon employers who have failed to introduce modern machinery in their factories and adopt the latest methods of production.
I should like the Government to believe that men like myself, who have had vast experience of trade unionism over a long period of years and who know what the unionists want, are just as eager to increase production as is anybody else in the community. Employers in Australia are largely responsible for the inadequacy of industrial output to-day. At the wharfs in Melbourne, some employers are allowing goods to remain in the sheds because they do not want to have the trouble and expense of moving consignments twice, first to their warehouses and later to their customers. They have the goods moved direct from the wharfs to the ultimate places of delivery, but they probably charge their clients for the cost of removal to warehouses and storage. That practice may not be general, but I believe that it has been adopted by some employers. Therefore, supporters of the Government commit an injustice when they blame the workers for all the failings of industry. The coal-miners are subjected to severe criticism. But the miners have good reason to suspect their employers. One has only to study the books on. coal-mining which are available in the Parliamentary Library in order to understand the reason for the recalcitrance of mine workers. More attention must be paid to the opinions of the trade unions, which, generally speaking, are not unreasonable. I repeat that, if the Government passes the bill in its present form, it will go down in history as an oppressive government that was bent on destroying the trade unions.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) is a man of great standing in the trade union movement, and therefore his views merit our careful attention. But he. is no greater in stature in union circles than are certain other honorable gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. I have listened carefully to the speeches that have been made by members of. the Opposition during this debate. Had this bill been planned deliberately for the destruction of trade unionism, as has been claimed, I should have expected to meet fierce resistance from those leaders of the trade union movement who sit in Opposition. But this is not a real fight that we are witnessing. These honorable gentlemen have no heart in their attack upon the bill. I have not observed any of that fiery zeal and singleness of mind and purpose that have been such a notorious feature of the conduct of members of the Labour party in the past when they have sincerely disagreed with any measure that has been introduced by this Government. Honorable members opposite have said that, if this bill were sub- mitted to the trade unions for .their approval, it. would be rejected out of hand. That is mere wishful thinking. Is it not a fact that the Government’s policy in relation to secret ballots was one of the hotly contested issues during the recent general election campaign, and is it not also a fact that the people returned the Government to power so that it could put its policy into effect? The people realize that the only way to preserve the security of industrial trade unionism is to enact a measure of this kind, and honorable members opposite agree with them in their hearts.
This bill will enable industrial trade unionism to re-assert itself and divest itself entirely of political trade unionism which at present is rampant in Australia. For the sake of removing any doubts, I shall endeavour to prove that it will preserve the security and stability of industrial trade unionism, which is in grave danger of being split. Honorable members are aware that there is such an organization as the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which is supported by approximately 50,000,000 unionists in the free countries of the world. They also know that the Australian Workers Union has applied for affiliation with this international body. The Australian Council of Trades Unions embraces within its organization a number of unions which are closely affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions, a Cominform body which has been denounced by all moderate trade union organizations in Great Britain and the United .States of America. If the Australian Workers Union- becomes affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the more moderate bodies within the framework of the Australian Council of ‘ Trades Unions will automatically transfer their affiliation to the Australian Workers Union, with the result that the Australian Council of Trades Unions will cease to exist as an organization of trade unions. Therefore, it is up to the Australian Council of Trades Unions to ensure that satellite unions which are affiliated with the World Federation of . Trade Unions shall divest themselves of that association. It must. do so if the industrial trade union movement is to be made secure. Let us consider the organizations in Australia that are affiliated with the Communistcontrolled World Federation of Trade Unions. They are the miners’ federation, the Waterside Workers Federation, the Seamen’s Union, and the Federated Ironworkers Association. Those four great militant trade unions under Communist leadership have applied a complete stranglehold to the major industries of Australia. The Government has introduced this bill in order to purge industrial trade unionism of this cancerous growth that is gnawing at its vitals.
In January last, Mr. Deakin, who is general secretary of the General Transport Workers Union in the United Kingdom, stated that a direction had been given by the Cominform to its affiliated unions in all capitalist countries to sabotage industries that were closely associated with defence. What happened? Ernie Thornton, who is at present protecting his hide as a liaison officer in China, gave directions to affiliated unions in Australia. Then there were one-day-a-week strikes on the coalfields, seamen refused to man vessels in the steel and coal ports, the Waterside Workers Federation imposed an overtime ban and in heavy industries, particularly at Port Kembla, a ban was placed on overtime by the Federated Ironworkers Association. Those moves upset industrial planning in Australia in a way of which honorable members of the Opposition are well aware. That is the reason why honorable members opposite, when speaking in their trade unions, support the principle of the secret ballot. Yet now that the Government has decided to take some action it has found itself opposed by honorable members of the Opposition who have shown by their failure to make a real fight on this occasion that they have bent to an executive .decision. That is why there is no fight in the Opposition on this occasion. If the bill threatened the vitals of trade unionism I should have expected to see honorable members opposite fighting against it. But they know that what has been said by honorable members on’ this side of the House is correct and, therefore, they are able to fight only half-heartedly. This year approximately -1,000,000 tons of steel has been produced by an Australian industry that was formerly our pride. This represents approximately 60 per cent, of our total capacity. Because of a lack of coking coal Australia is purchasing steel overseas at from three to four times the normal price in this country. How does that affect defence production and industrial development? Ships have been held up in coal and steel ports for 70 days because seamen could not be found to man them. Honorable members know what has happened on the wharfs in respect of the failure to accomplish a turn-round of ships at the rate needed to bring goods from the United Kingdom to Australia and to take our foodstuffs back to that country.
Honorable members of the Opposition have put up a half-hearted fight with regard to this matter. I have been completely disgusted by the spectacle of honorable members being so completely crushed by their own executive as to deny the allegations that they have made in this House from time to time. I felt so concerned that I decided to examine my files and to peruse Hansard in order to ascertain what attitude had been adopted by honorable members opposite relative to the matter of secret ballots. After reading what honorable members opposite had said on other occasions, I should be failing completely in my duty if I did not suggest to them that they should vote for this measure. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) was reported in the Melbourne Age of the 10th April last as having addressed an election meeting at Footscray. In reply to honorable members who have said that the people did not give the Government a mandate to introduce this bill, I say that not only did the Government receive such a mandate, but it is possible that the honorable member for Gellibrand also was returned with a mandate to support a measure of this kind.
– What a twirp you are !
-Order ! The honorable member for Gellibrand will withdraw that remark. I am not going to permit it.
– I withdraw the “ twirp “.
– This is what the honorable member is reported to have said - l am in favour of the Menzies legislation for secret ballots in unions. I will do all I can to convert other members of the Labour party to that viewpoint. [ hope that the honorable member has sought to convert honorable members of the Opposition to that viewpoint. In view of the half-hearted way in which honorable members opposite have acted during this debate, it seems that his conversion of them has gathered some way. The honorable member continued -
I would like to see the legislation introduced by the Labour party instead of the Liberals and would he in favour of limiting it to Communist controlled unions for obvious reasons.
I commend the honorable member for that statement. If he was sincere when he made it he should vote for this legislation. But the honorable member knows that his executive would deal with him if he did so and he has to eat his words.
The honorable, member for Gellibrand is not the only one who has been indulging in these little off-stage whispers to his constituents. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) went a little further than the honorable member for Gellibrand. He decided to write a special article for the Sydney Sun. The Sydney Sun is not published in Melbourne and so the honorable member considered that he was quite safe in doing that. A part of the honorable member’s article which was published in the Sun during August, 1950, read - _ The trend of events has made the opposition to Government supervision of union elections more and more unreal, but in the face of present day conditions and with the fierce tempo of the red attack the need for democratic trade union elections conducted by independant government appointed returning officers has become increasingly urgent and has removed any justification for opposition to such legislation. To-day the rank and file which is the most strongly opposed to any such government supervision is becoming increasingly impatient with opposition to such measures.
That is a very pertinent observation and I suggest that honorable members opposite should ‘ take stock of ‘ themselves.
They cannot make statements of that nature and then refuse to accept responsibility for them. There is such a thing as sincerity and honorable members should say only those things that they sincerely believe in and propose to carry out. The honorable member also wrote in his article -
Every attempt that they, the rank and file of trade unions, make to free unions from the red tyranny fails because the reds control the electoral machinery.
I have listened to honorable members opposite state that the existing electoral machinery in trade unions is quite good and that there is nothing to worry about. One honorable member said that secret-ballots were held in most trade unions. But the honorable member for Yarra said that the “ reds “ controlled the electoral machinery. He wrote -
They have now learned the’ bitter lesson that while the reds control the ballot-box the rank and file unionist has as much chance of making his will felt in policy and in the election of office ben re rs as -the worker has in selecting the commissar who tyrannises over him in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, or any of the other countries behind the Iron Curtain.
I believe that the honorable member sincerely seeks to preserve the structure of trade unionism. If honorable members opposite believe in industrial trade unionism they should speak in similar terms but if they want to have a foot in both camps and are being driven so far to the left that they must adopt leftist measures I accept the observations that have been made by them to-day. Honorable members know that those who have the interests of industrial trade unionism at heart are sincere, but when they come into this House they seem to leave their principles behind them. The honorable member for Yarra wrote -
Certainty that a ballot has been rigged is far from the proof that the court requires before it will upset a ballot.
That may answer some of the observations that have been made by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Yarra continued -
Even if ballot-riggers make mistakes and evidence of their rigging is forthcoming, the average worker has not the necessary finance to embark on litigation that experience has’ proved to be most costly and which, if he fails, will have to be met from his own pocket.
The observations that have been made by honorable members opposite can well be answered out of the mouth of one of their colleagues. It is futile for them to allege that this machinery has been designed to destroy industrial trade unionism. Of course it has not. It has been designed to preserve industrial trade unionism. Honorable members know full well that if one can take control of those bodies that are affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions, the great Australian Council of Trade Unions will survive; but if control of those unions is not removed from the hands of Communists, the moderate elements will affiliate with the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Council of Trade Unions will gradually cease to exist. Therefore it is necessary to eliminate the unions that are affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions and honorable members should support this bill and help to save the trade union movement.
The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) was president of the Victorian Branch of the Clerks Union. In an issue of Labour Call, published during August, 195Q, he is reported to have said -
If a properly conducted ballot were held for executive positions in the New South Wales Branch of the Clerks Union, Australian Labour party group candidates would be returned with overwhelming majorities.
Therein is another indication that all is not well within the industrial trade unions and that ballot rigging is going on. If a proper ballot could be held it would serve to oust the “ reds “. The honorable, member for Burke made that perfectly clear when he made his statement. During a debate on the conciliation and arbitration legislation in March, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) said -
I believe 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 bc obtained.
That indicates that the honorable member is completely out of step with a number of his colleagues, as are the honorable member for Yarra, the honorable member for Burke, and the honorable member for Gellibrand. This is what he said that is quite correct. This is what he said ultimately, according to Hansard of the 15th March, 1951, at page 641-
An old saying of the Communists is, “Give us the returning officers and you can have the others “.
– That is true, too.
– I can assure honorable members that my attempt at conversion seems to be much more effective than that of the honorable member for Gellibrand, because at least I have a number of honorable members opposite agreeing with me and with what the honorable member for Shortland said. Of course, there is no question that this bill is designed for that very purpose. If honorable members opposite are in agreement with that purpose then I believe they should support the measure and not indulge in the tactics that they have adopted. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) also came into the arena, and, of course, he is nothing if not forthright. He believes in what he says, or, at least, I think he does. I shall certainly think so even more if I find him supporting this measure. He has not spoken against it, therefore I take it that he -is in favour of it. According to Hansard of the 15th March, 1951, at page 615, the honorable gentleman said during the debate on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill -
Personally I have no objection to secret ballots. I think that they are quite all right.
Then there is another thing that gives me cause for some suspicion, because I am in some doubt now about whether my own observation’s are correct. I find that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) also came into the arena, which is the very thing that has made me suspicious about whether my observations are correct or otherwise. He said during1 the same debate last March, according to Hansard of the 15th March, at page 609 -
I have no objection to secret ballots if they are properly conducted.
This bill aims to ensure that secret ballots in trade unions shall be con-: ducted .properly, and the Government states that if it is passed there will be a properly conducted series of trade union ballots. Of course honorable members know that, after we had made an election issue of this matter at the last general election, we should not have been returned to office unless we had convinced a very great percentage of moderate trade unionists that what we proposed was right. Honorable members opposite know that contention- to be correct. The fact is that the moderate trade unionists are completely fed up with the milkandwater attitude that the leaders of trade unions have adopted towards the Communist menace within the trade union movement. I know something about the matter because at the International Labour Office in Geneva I saw the leaders of the great British trade union movement and heard them say exactly the same tiling as honorable members opposite say, which is, “Leave it to us and we shall clean up the trade unions “. Obviously they were not doing the job property. There is only one way in which to clean up the trade unions properly, and that is the way in which we propose to do it by this measure. As the Prime Minister has said, when you have to act against * a ruthless foe you have to adopt methods as ruthless as theirs. Are we not up against a ruthless foe? Honorable members opposite who have had experience in trade unions know how ruthless a foe the Communists can be, with their bashings and intimidations, and in the carrying out of the methods that they adopt in trade union affairs. constitution of the Australian Workers Union because any one who has any knowledge of union rules knows that members of other organizations could not join the Australian Workers Union by reason of the fact that its constitution does not provide a coverage for the callings of Mr. SPEAKER-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr: Eric J. Harrison), has shown us by his contribution to this de-, bate to-night that he completely lacks any understanding of the trade union movement. He has told us that if certain trade unions do not clean out the Communists from their ranks the ordinary members of such unions will leave them and, in fact, leave the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and join the Australian Workers Union. He has shown by that statement his lack of knowledge of the other trade unionists. That means that members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, or the Australian Railways Union, or of any other craft organization cannot join the Australian Workers Union. Therefore there is no substance in his statement that if communism were not cleaned out of certain unions their members would leave them and join the Australian Workers Union.
Early in his speech, the honorable gentleman indicated his disagreement with the statement of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), that the trade unions would not endorse this legislation if a ballot of their members was taken. I say now that the trade unions will oppose this legislation in every way. We recall the actions of the Vice-President of the Executive Council in 1932, when he set out to form the New Guard at a time when a Labour government in New South Wales was battling to retain the standard of living for the workers of that State. He set out to establish a fascist or police State while thousands of people were out of work and were hungry, although they were offering for work. He wanted then to force the great trade union movement of this country into submission to the dictates of the employers. Had he had his way, the coal-miners would now be eating grass. He was one of those responsible in those years for the defeat of a Labour government in New South Wales. Yet, to-night, he has come into this House and told us what the Communist menace is doing to Australia. I say that it is not doing the country any more harm than the fascists of 1932 would have done to it had they had their way.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has stated that this bill preserves the rights of the ordinary trade unionists to take a greater part in the contol of their own affairs. I say that it does not give one thing to the trade union movement, but that on the contrary it takes away from trade unionists their liberty to conduct the administration of their own unions in the way that they desire. When the bill was introduced, I intended to refrain from saying anything during the debate on it, because
I had already spoken last March on a bill to provide for secret ballots in the trade unions. But, when I examined this bill, I found that it goes much further than I had expected it to go towards an attempt to destroy the great trade union movement. I do not know whether the Minister brought it down to try to restrain the great trade union movement, or in ignorance of the present provisions governing trade unions. I should like to believe that he brought it down in ignorance, because it has been admitted by many honorable members on the Government side that the arbitration legislation already contains provisions for secret ballots in trade unions. That being so, I cannot understand the necessity for including in this legislation a provision for the holding of secret ballots.
Most of the features of the bill on which the Government has based its arguments are already contained in the existing legislation. Not one Government supporter, including the Minister himself, has yet told the House in what way the Government will be able to compel the members of trade unions to vote in secret ballots. Trade unions such as the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Australian Workers Union, the Australian Railways Union, and many of the great craft unions that have members spread throughout the length and breadth of the country, would be unable to have their members take part in a secret ballot of any kind unless it were made compulsory. Yet, the Government has refrained from making the ballot compulsory, and has adduced no arguments to show that non-compulsory secret ballots, for which the rules of all trade unions registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court now provide, have proved satisfactory. I believe that if the Government were sincere in connexion with this measure, and really desired to root out the Communists from leading positions in the trade union movement, it would have included a provision in the measure which would have made voting in secret ballots mandatory. Sub-section (2.) of proposed new section 70a reads as follows : -
Without prejudice to the operation of section eighty of this Act, the rules of an association applying for registration, or of an organization, relating to any such election may provide for compulsory voting.
Why does the sub-section say that the rules of an association “may” provide for compulsory voting? Why has the Government not made the holding of a vote absolutely mandatory? The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has told the House that only about 60 per cent. of the members of the miners’ federation record votes in the annual election of officers of that union. Such a state of affairs results from the apathy of the majority of the working class, who regard trade unions as a means of improving their conditions of employment and providing them with more security of employment, and think that that is where their job finishes. Yet the Government, although it knows of the impossibility of gaining a full vote in some ballots under the present arbitration machinery, has deliberately refrained from including a provision in the bill whereby secret ballots will be compulsory.
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
.- I first desire to mention proposed new section 70a, which makes provision for the manner in which ballots shall be taken within trade unions. One notices that the section makes provision for absent voting.
– Order ! There is too much noise in the chamber. The honorable member for Dalley can hardly be heard.
– It is noticeable that provision is made in proposed new section 70a for absent voting. It is also noticeable that absent voting is not compulsory. It is difficult to understand how the present system of voting within trade unions can be altered in order to overcome what the Government says is a small minority that is controlling the trade union movement, unless some provision is made for compulsory voting. The bill also prescribes the way in which ballots are to be conducted in unions. I shall not give the details because time will not permit me to do so; but as far as I know, the rules of every trade union in Australia already make provision for the methods prescribed in the bill for conducting ballots. I have no personal knowledge of any union whose rules do not make such a provision.
Paragraph (&) of proposed new. section 72 is rather intriguing. It reads, inter alia -
It is pertinent to ask what class of members is envisaged in that part of the bill. One would think that if they all were unionists they all would be treated in a common fashion as unionists. But under this provision, if the court thinks that the views of a section of the members of an organization ought to be ascertained by means of a ballot, then the court may so order. I am reminded of the statement of an American judge, which was quoted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) this evening, that the Communists cannot capture an organization until it is ready to fall of its own weight. The best way to make a’ trade union that is not controlled by Communists ready to fall of its own weight is to put into the hands of a small section of its members power to demand that a secret ballot shall be conducted to decide any and every conceivable question. The Australian Workers Union has approximately 170,000 members in branches throughout Australia. Under this bill, if an unspecified number of the members of that union demanded, repeatedly that secret ballots be taken, the union would be put to the expense of repeatedly conducing plebiscites of its members upon matters that perhaps affected only a small minority of the members. I understand that the requisite number will be approximately 10 per cent, of the total membership of an organization.
– I gave the figures in my second-reading speech.
– Am I correct in saying that 10 per cent, of the members of a union will be able to demand that a ballot be conducted?
– One thousand members, or 10 per cent, of the total membership of a Union. whichever is the less.
– Apparently 10 per cent, of the members of a. trade union are to be given power to keep their union in a state of turmoil and to put it to great expense. If that is not playing into the hands of the Communists, I do not know what is.
– I can tell the honorable member what is.
– I am not particularly concerned to know the views of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). I am expressing my own views at the moment. If the Government places in the hands of 10 per cent, of the members of a trade union power to put the union to the expense of conducting a ballot, which, if it were conducted by post, would be a very costly procedure, it will play into the hands of the Communists, because the organization will soon be ready to fall of its .own weight. Under this, bill, a small minority of the members of a trade union could ultimately break it. It has been shown repeatedly that if the Communists cannot obtain control of a union they will try to break it, in the hope that, from the ashes, they will be able to build a Communist organization. A small minority of the members of the Australian Workers Union or the members of a small branch, could repeatedly put that union to the expense of conducting postal ballots of 170,000 members, in order to determine issues that probably had been already decided in the minds of the majority of the members. No union could stand that drain upon its resources. A small number of members could keep a union in a state of turmoil by demanding that ballots be taken upon abstract questions that were important only to those who desired to disrupt the union.
Let us assume that the question to be decided at a ballot demanded by the* requisite number of members is whether a strike shall take place. By means of this bill, the Government is giving legal sanction to a process by which the majority of the members of a union who take the trouble to vote, which is not necessarily the majority of the members of the union, can decide in favour of a strike. If that occurs, what will be the attitude of the Government?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– So much nonsense has been uttered by honorable gentlemen opposite in the course of the secondreading debate that it is quite clear that the purposes of this bill, and, indeed, a good deal of its detail, have been completely misunderstood by them. Therefore, it is desirable that I should attempt to clarify some matters at an early stage in the committee proceedings. I am certain that honorable gentlemen on this side of the House and any members of the public who have listened to the debate must be appalled by the barrenness of the contribution that has been made by the members of the Opposition.
This measure deals with matters of great importance and wide public interest. It is fair to claim that approximately 85 per cent, of the unionists of this country want effective secret ballots in relation to trade union affairs. I believe that they want this bill to be passed. But honorable members opposite have delved into the past and talked in terms of 1824 and of the turn of the century. They have flatly refused realistically to face the issues involved, or to say to the Government that they believe its purpose to be a good one but that some clauses of the bill could he improved by making certain amendments. They have failed to make any constructive contribution to the debate. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who was put up to state, the Opposition’s case-
– I rise to order. I submit that the Minister is entitled to reply only to points raised in the committee and that he should not deal with what was said during the second-reading debate.
– I propose to confine my remarks at this stage to the provisions of the bill that relate to secret ballots.
– The Minister may deal with any matters that are relevant te the bill.
– I do not object to the Minister replying to what I have said in committee, but I submit that he is not entitled now to attempt to refute something that was said in the House.
– The committee has no knowledge of what occurred in the House.
– It is an extraordinary proposition that I should confine my remarks to what has been said by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). I do not propose to do that. I shall deal with the aspect of the bill in which I believe the committee to be directly interested and in respect of which, there is, as the second-reading debate disclosed, a great deal of confusion.
It is obvious that the honorable member for Dalley does not realize what the provisions relating to secret ballots are designed to achieve. They state that the rules of a trade union shall provide for ballots to be secret. Honorable gentlemen opposite say that most trade unions already conduct secret ballots. If that be so, there is nothing in this bill to cause them any anxiety in that respect. The bill states also that if a prescribed number of trade union members, which will probably be 10 per cent, of the total membership or 1,000 members, whichever is the less, or, in the case of a branch, 500 members or 20 per cent, of the total membership of the branch, whichever is the less, request the Industrial Registrar to conduct an election for office-bearers in the organization, the Industrial Registrar shall conduct the election. That will be the only stage at which a small minority of the members of a union will come into the picture. They will have no right to demand a ballot in relation to a strike. That will be a matter for decision by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– The Minister does not know his own bill.
– The charge made against the Government by the Opposition is that those provisions represent an attempt to smash the trade union movement. What humbug and nonsense that is! As the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) pointed out, effective secret ballots in trade unions are wanted, not only by honorable members on this side of the House, but also by many honorable gentlemen opposite. I shall refer to the second-reading debate at this stage only to emphasize a point. That debate was notable, not so much for those honorable gentlemen opposite who took part in it as for those who refrained from doing so. I have in mind the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean), the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and other honorable members who represent Victorian electorates and who have made no secret of where they stand in relation to effective secret ballots. It was significant, that they remained silent. They know, as we do, that in the trade union movement there is a widespread belief that all has not been well with the conduct of ballots for the election of officials. They know that far too infrequently have the rank and file members of the unions been given an opportunity to decide for themselves whether they shall strike. They know that the majority of the unionists want to determine their own destinies in future, lt has been alleged that the object of the bill is to smash the unions. What utter nonsense! To-day, there are 1,500,000 members of trade unions and with their dependants they represent, approximately, two-thirds of the number of voters at general elections. Would the Government, which must depend for its continuance in office upon the support of the people, which means that of hundreds, of thousands of trade unionists, deliberately follow a course of action that was designed to smash the institutions to which trade unionists look to safeguard their standard of wages and conditions of employment? What utter nonsense ! Nothing could be further from the Government’s mind. But after eight years of Labour rule in this country, the trade union movement had sunk to a record low in the eyes of the public because honorable members opposite, when they were in office, refused in their dealings with the movement to distinguish between loyal, moderate unionists and those who were furthering the political objectives of the Communist party.
Since the present Government assumed office it has in its dealings with the trade unionists given sympathy and encouragement to those inside the movement who are loyal and patriotic Australians and who have the interests of their fellow unionists at heart and, at the same time, it has set out to fight those who are using the rank and file of trade unionists as tools for Communist purposes. I do not claim that this measure is a complete answer to the problem or even that it is the most effective means that can be provided ; but the Government has in the time that has been available and with the powers that are immediately available to it, provided under this measure a very useful weapon in the fight against communism.’ This measure is not merely a weapon for the Government. I do not believe that the Government itself will be able to do very much under it because it provides powers that will be exercisable not by the Government but by the trade unionists themselves. If a significant proportion of members of a trade union wants a ballot to be conducted by the Industrial Registrar that will be done and the measure will give to the court power to order a ballot when a dispute or a strike is about to occur. I remind honorable members that, the court is not without some experience and responsibility in these matters. It recognizes just as do honorable members opposite that it will not be advisable, or practicable, to take a ballot on every issue that may crop up and that some issues will arise that will not be suitable for such action. But any honorable member who has any knowledge of these matters will know that occasions will arise from time to time when it will be very useful and helpful for the court to be able to say to the rank and file membership of trade unions, “ We want you by trie process of a secret ballot to decide where you stand individually on this particular issue “. “Those are the real purposes of the bill. We want to give to the rank and file of trade unionists an opportunity to put their own house in order. We are under no illusion about the fight that is going on against communism within the trade unions. We know that if communism is to be defeated it will be defeated in the long run by the trade unionists themselves. They will do so largely as a result of the story that the Government has been able to put before the people, the facts that it has been able to present, the clear analysis that it has been able to make of what lies behind so much strike action, that day by day certain persons are taking matters into their own hands. Only this week in Brisbane an election that was held in one trade union proved to be a rebuff to Communist officials. I am hopeful that as a result of the cooperation that the Government is freely extending to moderate trade unionists in order to strengthen their hands and by the support that it is giving to industrial tribunals, we shall in time overcome this evil inside the trade union movement which has so seriously impoverished industry in this country. Yet honorable members opposite have attacked the motives of the Government in taking such action. I can only say that in due course we shall be judged on our actions and on our relationship with the trade union movement. If we have to face the people of Australia, of whom trade unionists and their dependants represent two-thirds of the electorate voting strength, we shall face them with confidence. We shall be assured of their widespread support because we know that our motives are genuine and that we have made an honest attempt to strengthen the hands of moderate trade unionists. In that, respect we shall have done a good deal; indeed, I hope sufficient to achieve complete success in destroying the pernicious influence that Communists have been able to wield over key trade unions in this country.
.- It is interesting to learn from the Minister (or Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) that this measure gives expression to the views of a large percentage of the trade union movement. I suggest that the only bodies that can speak with authority on behalf of the movement and can give expression to the policy that it lays down in a democratic way are the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Australian Workers Union. Those two bodies represent more than three-quarters of the members of trade unions. The Minister says airily that hundreds of thousands of trade unionists support this measure, but both those bodies have expressed clear and definite opposition to the proposals contained in the bill. The voice of organized labour has spoken against it. It is idle for the Minister to say that the object of the bill is not to smash the trade union movement. I have no doubt that those responsible for the introduction of the measure believed that they were doing something to help members of trade unions who claimed that certain things in the movement were not right. When the Minister said that the bill gives additional power to trade unionists and greater control over their organizations, he omitted to mention the very important thing against which the trade union movement is endeavouring to express its opposition. This bill will confer greater powers on the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It provides for the imposition of harsher penalties on trade unions, and it will make possible the smashing of strikes. It provides that the workers who are engaged in a strike may be fined £50 or £200, or be sent to prison for twelve months. When the measure is considered and analysed, it is found that the majority of its provisions confer additional powers on the court and that those powers may be used against the trade union movement, even when that movement engages in a legitimate industrial struggle. The measure will increase materially the penalties that have been laid down for non-compliance with decisions of the court.
– Why not?
– The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has always expressed opposition to the trade union movement. The fact that he asks why should not trade unionists be prosecuted and sent to prison indicates the true motive of this legislation. I suggest that this is an attempt on the part of the Government to impose penalties, which I regard as vicious, on those who have organized a movement which is being used for the express purpose of improving the conditions of the workers of this country. The penalties prescribed for noncompliance with the provisions that relate to the keeping of records have been increased five-fold. Where, previously, noncompliance carried with it a penalty of £2 for each week of default, it now carries a penalty of £10 a week. An organization which failed to furnish returns could well find itself facing cumulative fines of £40.
As has been stated on more than one occasion, trade unions to-day hold secret ballots for the election of officers. Every organization that is registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act does so. To suggest, as the Minister for Labour and National Service has suggested, that the trade unions are the tools of the Communist party, is to make a sweeping assertion. It is absurd to say that of the 132 organizations registered under the act a majority is controlled by the Communist party. That is not correct. It has been suggested that the introduction of secret ballots would purge the trade union movement of Communist control, but as I pointed out yesterday, in the very organizations about which the Government is so concerned, the control of ballots that affect the interests of members has reached the state of perfection. The introduction of this legislation will not improve that control. No ballots could be more closely supervised than are those conducted by the coal-miners’ organizations. The suggestion has been made to-night that the absence of secret ballots is responsible for coal not coming forward from the mines, ships not having been turned round fast enough in Australian ports, and unions having failed to make men available for the manning of ships. It _ is suggested that the cure for everything from alpha to omega is to introduce legislation to provide for the holding of secret ballots. Yet this legislation is aimed against unions which have conducted secret ballots for years past and which have given to their members much more information concerning the results of such ballots than have unions that are not under Communist control. I resent the wholesale condemnation of the trade union movement and particularly do I resent the statement that the movement is the tool of the Communist party. It is nothing of the kind. Would any honorable member say that the Australian Workers Union, which has a membership of more than 130,000, is controlled by the Communist party? Is it contended that that union does not permit its members to elect their office bearers by means of secret ballots? One could reel off the names of a number of powerful organizations in which secret ballots have been conducted for many years and which have never been controlled by the Communist party, nor are likely to be so controlled.
I wish to stress the point made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) concerning the provision contained in this measure that a request may be made to the Industrial Registrar that an election for an office in an organization or branch be conducted in accordance with that provision. I contend that an opportunity will thus be given to the Communists to use to the full a law supposed to have been enacted for the purpose of hampering communism. It will permit the Communists to do their best to disturb such organizations by means of whispering campaigns against the officers concerned. It will also assist in dissipating the funds of the unions because they will be required to pay the cost of having their ballots conducted under the supervision of the Industrial Registrar. I am endeavouring to indicate to honorable members that those of us who have had experience of the trade union movement and who, for the last twenty years, have had to fight the Communist party and fight it hard, know how that party works.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.– Clause 9 of the bill provides for the holding of secret ballots and seeks to remove irregularities as far as it is possible to do so. It is one of the principle provisions, of the bill, and the Opposition has adopted the attitude that it is designed to smash the trade unions.
– That will be the effect of it.
– Yet we have been told from time to time that the system of trade union ballots for the election of officers is based on the most fundamental democratic principles.
– Those principles are in operation to-day.
– I shall endeavour to show that they do not exist. As all honorable members know, the first requirement of a democracy is that there shall be a system of voting which will reflect the true opinion of those who are entitled to vote and that there shall be no coercion. That principle has been recognized in the political field. It is appreciated that the only vote worth having is that which, is taken by means of a secret ballot. Yet in the industrial field that principle has been forsaken. This clause establishes the principle of secret ballots, whether they be for the election of officers or for the purpose of making important decisions.
It is understandable that a feeling should exist amongst trade unionists that they should be the masters of their union affairs.” Unionists have frequently spoken to me to that effect, and they have informed me that they do not desire interference by outside organizations. That is why I suggest they will welcome this measure, and particularly clause 9, which will permit them again to become the masters of their unions, because it will enable them to vote as they wish.
– They have that right now. What is the honorable member worrying about?
– I shall endeavour to prove to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr.. Rosevear) at a later stage of my remarks that they all do not enjoy that right. On the contrary, some unionists are afraid to record their votes as they would wish to do. Their fear will be removed by the enactment of this legislation. This bill will not interfere with but will strengthen the right of unionists to exercise proper authority over matters that particularly concern them and are vital not only .to themselves but to the rest of the community. I was amazed to hear the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and the honorable member for Dalley say that the rules of all the trade unions provide for secret ballots. We do not doubt the accuracy of that statement, but we contend that few unions ‘use that provision.
– Tell me one union that does not .use.it?
– I shall do so. The honorable gentleman said a few minutes ago that the voices of all industrial organizations ‘ have spoken against this bill. I remind him that individual members of those organizations have not been consulted. Their voices are completely different from those of the union officers. I have before me a ballot-paper that was sent to me by a constituent who is glad that this bill has been introduced, and that provision is made in it for the election of trade union officials by secret ballot, under such conditions as will allow an individual member to register his vote without fear that the returning officer and other members of the union will know how he has cast it. This ballot-paper was issued by the Hospital Employees Federation of Australia which is not one of the militant unions, and about which we do not hear very much. The ballot-paper has a serial number at the top. The member to whom it was sent was expected t«> put it in an envelope, which was to be opened by the returning officer. That official could have told, in a few moments, from the serial number, who had cast the vote. Can that be regarded as the kind of clean ballot of which the honorable member for Bendigo has spoken?
The matter does not end at that point. On the back of the ballot-paper is printed the words “ Memos to Voters “, under which is a statement from a candidate for election, whose name, amongst others, appears on the ballot-paper. He thus had the privilege of issuing a special message to, and of having the last word with, the voter.
-Was that made with a rubber .stamp ?
– No ; it was printed, as was the rest of the ballot-paper. The document reads -
From candidate J. Cornell.
In seeking election to the executive and as the Federal delegate, I do so with the object of carrying out, through the accepted means of arbitration ,and conciliation, the furtherance of the aims and objectives of the federation. Furthermore, T believe that the only way to achieve those things is for the .executive to carry out the members’ wishes of policy which they propound from time to time, at the -same time not losing sight of the fact that we do not lose any of those gains which the union has made.
That statement was the last word from one of the candidates for election. His name was printed on the ‘ballot-paper.
– The honorable gentleman agrees with those sentiments?
– Admittedly ; but whywas that candidate selected to have the last word with the voter as he handled the ballot-paper? He might have expressed completely different views. That is a sample of fair average quality to show what can be done with rigging ballots and ballot-papers.
– How many samples has the honorable member ?
– I cannot deal with that matter at greater length, because my time has almost expired. I participated in this debate merely to give the committee an opportunity to see the value of the views of Opposition members, who seek to influence our opinions by saying that all trade union ballots are secret and clean. The instance that I have cited will help to dispose of that claim. The Government’s case for the secret ballot is unanswerable. This measure provides safeguards for the very foundation of democracy, which is a system of voting that will reflect the will of the voters.
– I appeal to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), even at this late hour, to give sympathetic consideration to the position of the trade unions that are playing the game. If the Government wishes to do no more than to make provision for the taking of secret ballots, it can achieve that object by inserting the necessary words in Schedule B ofthe principal act. I also urge him to re-examine proposed section 70a, as it relates to the duties of those who conduct secret ballots. He should trust union officials who have a thorough knowledge of ballot procedure. The honorable gentleman admitted that this bill had been somewhat hurriedly drafted.
– I did not say that.
– The Minister said that it was the best that he could do in the time at his disposal.
– I said that it was the best that we could do with the powers at present available to the Government.
– If proper consideration has been given to this bill–
– This bill, in substance, was dealt with by the House before the double dissolution a few months ago.
– I ask the Minister to reconsider this measure with the object of giving relief to unions that are playing the game. Provision for the secret ballot may be inserted in Schedule B of the principal act, where provision is made for absent voting. The Industrial Registrar can be trusted to perform his functions in respect of secret ballots as he has done in respect of absent voting. Schedule B reads as follows: -
Conditions to be complied with by Associa tions applying fob Registration as Organizations and by Organizations.
The affairs of the association shall be regulated by rules specifying the purposes for which it is formed, and providing for the following matters in relation to the association : -
The Industrial Registrar is required to ensure that the rules of an industrial organization provide for the election of officials. He cannot reach a decision unless there is a returning officer. Schedule B also provides for a register of members. The Minister has referred to the number of unions that are involved in this matter. If the kind of paper that I hold in my hand is used for the typewritten lists that will have to be presented at the end of the year, all the documents sent to the Industrial Registrar will weigh one-quarter of a ton, and the stack will be at least 31 feet high. That volume will be increased by at least one-quarter as the result of the turnover of employees in industry. Whenever a man leaves one job and starts in another job, two alterations will be made in the registers of unions. The Minister should bear that point in mind. This bill will establish an unworkable machine. It should provide that unions shall keep the registers of names and addresses of their members in such a way that the Industrial Registrar will be able to collect them whenever he wishes to do so. Such a provision would give some relief to the unions that are playing the game. The unions cannot obtain sufficient staff to keep the records that they will be required to compile under this legislation. I am not attempting to tell the officers of the Minister how they should do their job ; I am merely suggesting means by which the bill can be improved. We do not oppose the secret ballot. Let the Government include provision for secret ballots where it should be included. Schedule B now provides for absent voting. “ Provision for the conduct of secret ballots could also be included in that schedule. The Registrar should be clothed with authority to prescribe the type of register to be compiled. If that were done great relief would be afforded to those trade unions that are playing the game. The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) displayed a ballot-paper the like of which I have never seen in all my experience in the trade union movement. I am sure that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) during the whole of his long experience in industrial matters has never known of an instance in which a ballotpaper has been used in that way. I appeal to the Minister to give way on these two points. Let him provide in Schedule B for the conduct of secret ballot, but let the registrar be permitted to determine the type of register the unions must keep in their central offices.
.- It has been interesting to listen to the efforts of the Opposition to frustrate the Government and to convince the people that this bill is designed in some way to injure the trade unions. All the big guns of the Opposition have been used in an attempt to convince the people that the measure constitutes an attack on trade unionism. The purpose of the bill is quite the opposite. It is designed to enable rank and file trade unionists to regain some measure of control of the organizations to which they belong. In addition, it is designed to strengthen the existing legislation, much of which was placed on the statute-book by Labour governments, in such a way as to prevent its provisions from being side-stepped by the dictators of certain unions. As we all know, some unions are rigidly controlled by dictators. Finally, the purpose of the bill is to endeavour to increase production, an objective for which every member of the Labour party should strive. Only by increasing production can prices and costs be effectively reduced. The honorable member for Bendigo said a little while ago that all the trade unions opposed the bill. Obviously no secret ballot has been taken to ascertain whether or not they oppose it. It would certainly not be opposed by the rank and file trade unionists who, as far as I am aware have not yet been asked to express their opinion upon it. We know, and to their sorrow so also do the members of the Opposition, that the majority of decent trade unionists will welcome it.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has expressed a fear that the compilation of registers of members in the form proposed will impose a great strain on trade unions. Are we to understand from his appeal for some relaxation of the provision relating to the’ registers that they are not now well kept? Any legislation that will improve ‘ the registers by making them more accurate is all to the good, even though it may involve additional work on the executive officers of the trade unions. It is not unreasonable to expect that unions which gain great benefits from our industrial legislation should have clean rolls on which the election of their officers are based. This bill will be opposed, but who will oppose it? It will be opposed, in the first place, by the Communists. The honorable member for Bendigo has said that this bill plays into the hands of the Communists. If that is so, why then is it .so violently opposed by them?
– Who has said that it is violently opposed by the Communists?
– The honorable member for Bendigo has said that it plays into the hand of the Communists.
– I said that clause 14 does so.
– “We know from the debates that took place last year when this proposal was first placed before the House that it was violently opposed by Communists all over Australia. Undoubtedly this . bill will be opposed by militants in the trade union movement who wish to retain the control over the unions that they have exercised in the past. It will undoubtedly be opposed by certain trade union officials who are afraid that they will loose their jobs when rank and file members of the unions are given an opportunity freely to express their views in secret ballots. It will also be opposed by members of the Parliament who will lose certain financial and electoral support when unionists ave given the right freely to express their opinions on trade union matters. But it will be approved by the great bulk of the unionists throughout the length and breadth of this country because it will give them an opportunity to control the affairs of the unions to which they belong. What has raised all this storm of protest on the part of honorable members opposite? The bill extends and clarifies the powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to deal with- sick pay and longservice leave. At present the court is restricted by certain limitations in that regard and many people wonder whether it was a wise move to place in the hands of conciliation commissioners such wide powers as they now exercise. They believe that it has in some respects weakened the efficiency of the court. When the legislation providing for the appointment of conciliation commissioners was introduced into the ParKa? ment by the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) it was represented to be the cure for all the industrial disturbances that had been disrupting industry. Unfortunately it did not. live up to the expectations of honorable members opposite because since the conciliation commissioners have been functioning industrial disturbances have occurred on an increasing scale. It is appropriate, therefore, that the powers of the court should be extended and strengthened. The bill will also strengthen the power of the court to insist upon the observance of its orders.
Recently I spent about nine months investigating the affairs of certain unions. Listening to the debate to-night, I was amazed that so many honorable members opposite should seek to place the unions above the” law of the country. They are so saturated with the idea that union law is the be-all and end-all of everything that they cannot see why the law of the country should supersede the law of a union. After all, great liberty is given to unions. Although I agree that they should be given certain rights I do not think that they should be permitted to take the attitude that they are above the law. Why should, they not obey the law ? I see no reason why the arbitration law should not be strengthened so as to ensure that individuals who deliberately disobey it shall be treated as other lawbreakers are treated. The bill provides for the establishment of machinery for the registration of union members for the purposes of secret ballots. This will be very helpful to unionists, and I believe and sincerely hope that it will put an end to the intimidation and coercion that are rampant in the trade union movement. Who denies that there has been rampant intimidation-
– I do.
– The honorable member knows very well that intimidation has been practised to the point of physical violence in certain unions. Many union members are afraid to disclose their opinions for that reason. All decent persons in Australia welcome- the opportunity to alter-
– Order ! The honorable, member’s time has expired.
, - At this stage I wish to move an amendment to clause 9, which is as follows : -
After section seventy of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “70a. - (1.) In addition- to the conditions referred to in sub-section (2.) of the last preceding section, the conditions to be complied with by associations applying for registration ns organizations, and, subject to this section, by organizations, include a condition that the rules of the association or organization relating to an election for an office in the association or organization or in a branch of the association or organization (being an office specified in paragraph (a) (aa) or (b) of the definition of ‘ Office ‘ in section four of this Act) -
I move -
That the following new sub-section be inserted: - “‘(6.) A reference in this section to the rules of an organization shall be read as including a reference to the rules of a branch of the organization.’.”.
The amendment requires no explanation.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) spoke of the practical difficulties of keeping a register of members of a trade union. I remind him that the Queensland Government has amended the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act of that State to provide for the keeping of detailed registers of that character.
– The Minister should send his officers to Queensland to examine the records of the unions. Had he done so, he would have scrapped the amendment instead of submitting it to the committee.
– Officers of my department visited Queensland as recently as last month. In a letter dated the 13th June, 1951, one of the senior officers of the department reported that the majority of unions registered with the Queensland court had carried out their obligations under the act by supplying full lists of their members to the registrar.
– Are the returns submitted quarterly?
– I believe so. At any rate the unions must maintain such records under the terms of a law that was introduced by the Queensland Labour Government. We do not propose to ask the unions to do any more than Queensland unions are required to do.
Amendment agreed to.
. -One important submission should be made at this stage, and I shall make it especially for the edification of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison). Labour has always made a positive approach to industrial problems. It was the Chifley Government which established a significant precedent in the arbitration history of Australia by affording to trade unions and aggrieved groups of unionists the right of access to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in order that they might prove, if they could, that malpractices had occurred in the conduct of ballots. One would think, after listening to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that he above all was fortified with industrial knowledge and experience and had a complete appreciation of the outlook of rank and file unionists. In a pedantic, unctuous, cocky, preposterous style, following his return from his wanderings abroad, he lectured the great Australian Labour party on its deficiencies. He mentioned the obvious fact that I and other members of the Opposition, having a proper appreciation of what has been done in the past by our own party, have some vision for the future and hope and trust that any further industrial developments will come from within the framework of the Australian Labour party. From the facts that have been recited by experienced trade union leaders on this side of the chamber, it is obvious that this excursion was an intrusion by the honorable gentleman into a field that is entirely unfamiliar to him.
– I am not concerned with the ramblings of the VicePresident of the Executive Council. The honorable member should discuss the bill.
– Surely I am entitled at this stage to discuss a matter that is obviously relevant to the bill. The impact of legislation that was sponsored by a Labour government, which consisted of men who had been fortified by years of experience in dealing with those who count most in the community - the unionists-
– Order ! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the bill.
– But the impact of any measure that is sponsored by the Vice-President of the Executive Council can arouse only-
– Order !
– The Opposition objects to obvious absurdities in the bill and we are entitled to point out practical difficulties in the way of its enforcement, of which the Minister and bis colleagues seem to be profoundly ignorant. Our knowledge has been gained in the hard school of experience. There should be no doubt about the sincere desire of the Labour party to ensure the conduct of clean and ethical ballots in trade unions. The Government and its supporters would lump us all together, but the record of such members of the Opposition as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) rebuts the charges that have been made against us. The extremism of thought which has been made evident on the Government side of the chamber has done more to ensure distrust of any legislation that is introduced by the Government that has any other factor of which I am aware. One’s attitude to bills is conditioned by one’s appreciation of the source from which they emanate. The Australian unionist to-day would prefer his union affairs to be handled by his own people in his own way. Industrial matters should not be handled by tyros. They should be handled delicately. Legislation of the character of this bill has a definite and continuous impact on the minds and the outlook of Australian unionists. I am sure that the intelligent members of the Government who have had some experience of this problem, such as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), realize that brute force and intimidation will not achieve the results hoped for. They must understand that it is far better to convince rank and file members that there is a job to be done, and thus enlist their co-operation.
.- The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) drew attention to the fact that the Chifley Government introduced an amendment to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act which provided that a trade union could approach the court with a request that it declare null and void a ballot held by a union. I am glad that the honorable member drew attention to that provision, because his action served to remind us of its inadequacy. I understand that it has been only once availed of, and it then proved expensive and ineffective. The present measure provides that a sizable element in any trade union which believes that a ballot has been rigged may have another ballot conducted by the Registrar at no expense to itself.
If I rightly understood the honorable member for Gellibrand he argued that he would have voted for the proposed amendments if they. had been introduced by a Labour government, but will not vote for them now because they have been introduced by a Liberal government. That seems to typify the general attitude of the Opposition to all proposals for reform. They will not support any proposal for reform which they did not think up themselves.
In this debate, the arguments of the Opposition have been distinguished by their triviality. Honorable members opposite have combed through the bill for small defects, and have concentrated discussion on them in an effort to distract attention from the real purpose of the bill, which commends itself to all thinking unionists. I have in mind particularly the extraordinary argument advanced by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). He was supported by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who interjected from the table that clause 14 of the bill would play into the hands of the Communists. I fail to understand how a measure which has been designed specifically to give the moderate elements in Communist-controlled unions the right to ensure that union ballots are no longer improperly conducted can play into the hands of the Communists. The honorable member for Dalley argued that a Communist minority, by continually approaching the court with requests for fresh ballots, could eventually ruin a trade union.
– That is right.
– Let me remind honorable members that clause 14 relates only to elections of trade union officials, most of which are held annually. Some take place only every three years, so that there does not seem to be much justification for the fear that a Communist minority could drain the funds of a union by demanding frequent union ballots.
– .Some trade union officials are appointed permanently.
– If that be so, then it is even less likely that a union could be financially embarrassed by repeated demands for ballots in connexion with the appointment of such officials. The bill also provides that ballots may be held to decide certain specific questions, but such ballots cannot be initiated by any section within a union. They can be held only at the direction of the court. That seems to dispose of the objections of honorable members opposite.
The Opposition ha3 spent a lot of time advancing trivial reasons in support of their contention that this legislation will be ineffective. If some of the machinery provisions should prove in practice to be ineffective or onerous, by all means let us hear about it, and have them amended, but let us devote our attention now to the real purpose of the bill, which is to ensure to trade unionists the control of their own unions. That was what the Government promised during the last election campaign, and that promise was enthusiastically received by the people. Honorable members on both sides of the committee know that one of the most important factors in the victory of the Government in the last election was the support of moderate trade unionists. That is the element which many honorable members opposite claim to represent, but I-say now, as I said last night, that too many honorable members opposite represent not the trade unionists, but the entrenched trade union officials. They are the men who -have a vested interest in the preservation of the system under which officials are elected at the present time. It is they who stand to suffer should this bill become law, and it is not surprising, therefore, that violent objection should be raised to the bill by the Opposition which consists largely of advocates for entrenched trade union officials.
We are well aware that most trade unions elect their officials by secret ballot, and that the ballots arc conducted fairly. Those unions will have no complaint about this bill, because it will make no difference to them. In the future, as in the past, they will be able to conduct their elections according to their rules. The unions that will be affected are those which at present are controlled by militant Communist minorities, and in them control will revert to rank and file members.
Earlier this evening, the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) drew attention to the fact that, in due course, this legislation would have the effect of stimulating production because it would break Communist control of key industries.
– Order! The time of the honorable member has expired.
Mr.ROSEVEAR (Dalley) [11.30].- The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) dealt with one argument that I used and absolutely distorted what I said. Proposed new section 75 of the bill to which I referred was very judiciously ignored by the honorable member. That proposed section provides -
That is the provision to which I referred particularly. The honorable member inferred that I dealt particularly with the provision which refers to the election of officers and he very studiously avoided discussing clause 10, the practical effect of which would be to enable a minority in an organization to create confusion and cause expense to the organization. Perhaps, as a prospective Minister, the honorable member for Evans might be able to answer a question which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has not answered. This Government is supposed to be pledged to support arbitration, and yet it has included a provision in the bill which will give a section of an organization the right to bring before the court a matter which may cause an industrial upheaval. I ask the prospective Minister whether he agrees that one effect of this bill will be to enable militant minorities in organizations which are pledged to the principle of arbitration to request the court to hold a ballot on the question whether the union should strike. Will the Minister for Labour and National Service state the Government’s attitude to this subject? If a ballot is held and the majority vote is in favour of a strike will the Government endorse that strike? Everybody knows my attitude to the Communist party. It has been exemplified on more than one occasion in my political career. The Government has alleged that it desires to circumvent the machinations of the Communist party within the trade union movement and yet, in this bill, it proposes to give to militant minorities the right, with the sanction of the court, to demand a ballot on the question whether there should be a strike by a union which is pledged to arbitration. If that provision has not been included in the bill for the purpose of giving the court the right to take notice of a minority what is it in the bill for? The Government has proposed that a minority of 10 per cent. of an organization should be entitled to approach the court with a view to having a ballot held on the question of a strike.
Government Supporters. - No.
– If you say “No” you do not know what the bill means. The Government party is like a team of dumb driven cattle. There is not the slightest doubt that you–
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– The only reason I am addressing members on the Government side is that they’ are interjecting, Mr. Chairman, and you are not doing so. This bill will put a useful instrument into the hands of the well-organized militant minorities in the trade union movement. It will make it possible for a minority to have a ballot held on an industrial dispute. What will the Government do if the vote is in favour of a strike ? I have read this bill, but many honorable members opposite have not done so and they have no idea what is in it.
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill, as amended, be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) - by leave- put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Interior- C. T. P. Carter.
Repatriation - R. Fruchtmann.
Shipping and Transport- G. N. Forbes.
The following answer to a question was circulated: -
When a contract for imported prefabricated houses is let, and its terms include foreign labour to erect them, is an extensive security check made of the workmen who are brought to Australia? Under what terms, or time conditions, is the entry of foreign workers in the foregoing category permitted?
In my reply, I indicated that I would ascertain precise details of the position for the honorable member and I now wish to furnish the following information : -
A simplified procedure has been established by my Department of Immigration for the admission, outside the provisions of existing assisted passage migration schemes, of groups of foreign workers to Australia for employment on projects of national importance. These projects include contracts let by State Housing Commissions for the supply and erection of prefabricated houses, with a condition of the contract being that labour to be used must be introduced from overseas. Other instrumentalities introducing groups of foreign workers under this procedure, which is known as the “ special projects “ procedure, include the Tasmanian Hydro-electric Commission, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, the Commonwealth Railways and some State Government Transport Departments.
Briefly, the procedure provides for full details of the proposal to be submitted by the applicant organization to my Department of Immigration. These details include the number of workers required, their nationality, marital status and occupational categories. Details of the accommodation to be provided by the organization are also required and a guarantee that the organization will be responsible for the maintenance of its selected workers for a period of at least twelve months after their arrival in Australia. The organization is also required to furnish an assurance that suitable steps will be taken to ensure that workers selected as tradesmen will be acceptable as such to the relevant trade unions in Australia. Information as to the manner in which the applicant organization proposes to carry out initial selection, particularly from the aspect of trade qualifications, whether by an overseas affiliate or representatives sent overseas specifically for the purpose, is also required and an assurance that selection will be confined to workers who propose to settle permanently in Australia.
Unless accommodation is immediately available for married couples or family groups, approval of the proposal is subject to selection being confined to Bingie men, although married mcn may ‘ be selected to precede their families where the applicant organization has furnished satisfactory evidence that steps will be taken to provide family accommodation at an earl; date after the breadwinner’s arrival in Australia. Some contracts let for the supply and erection of prefabricated houses provide for a proportionate allocation of houses to those workers engaged in their erection. In this event, the breadwinner is at the time of selection made fully aware of the likely period of separation and of the conditions under which his family will subsequently join him in Australia.
The applicant organization is also required to indicate that it is aware that full costs of passages will need to be borne by the selected workers or the organization on their behalf, lt is usual for the selected worker to enter into agreement with the organization on an employer-employee basis as to -terms and conditions of employment and, in the event of the organization advancing the cost of the migrant worker’s passage to Australia, the agreement usually embodies the rate of repayment by the worker of the fares so advanced by the organization. The organization is required to furnish a copy of this agreement for examination and care is taken that the rate of repayment is such that a reasonable standard of living will not be denied the worker.
If the proposal submitted by the applicant organization is considered to “be satisfactory, it is approved and advice of the approval transmitted to my department’s overseas repre-, sentative in the country where selection is intended,’ with the request that formal advice nf the proposed selection be conveyed to. the appropriate local government authorities.
Initial selection of suitable workers is the responsibility of the applicant organization, but in each case final selection on the grounds of health, character, security and general suitability for settlement rests with my department’s representative, who has the full security organization and other’ facilities available to ensure that only those workers who satisfactorily meet our high standard of ‘selection criteria are finally approved for admission into Australia.
If the selected workers are of ex-enemy nationality, they are admitted under suitably endorsed certificates of exemption valid for a period of two years, during which period they must engage in the occupation for which they were selected, and at the end of .which time they may, if they have proved to be satisfactory settlers, make application for ‘permanent residence.
Whilst the arrangement of and payment for passages under this procedure is the responsibility of the applicant organization or the workers themselves, assistance is afforded; where possible by my department’s overseas representative, whilst in addition at the present time the International Refugee Organization is also.. making available its transport facilities for the carriage of “ special project “ workers.
The honorable member will be interested ‘to know that the types of migrant workers introduced under the “ special projects “ procedure have almost without exception been entirely satisfactory and have proved to be excellent and industrious workers.
House adjourned at 11.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 July 1951, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19510705_reps_20_213/>.