18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr.CHIFLEY) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow,at 10.30 a.m.
– Is the Minister for the Interior in a position to inform the Housewhether that portion of the Taroona Quarantine Station in Hobart not required by the quarantine authorities will be made available to the Kingborough Council ?
– I have already notified the authorities that the area of the Taroona Quarantine Station mentionedby the honorable member will be made available to the City Council for use as parks and reserves. It forms portion of the old quarantine station, and was made available by the Minister for Social Services. Later the Minister for Works and Housing requested that the land be made available to his department for the purpose of erecting war service homes thereon. Following representations made to me I conferred with the Minister for Works and Housing, who agreed to forgo his claim in view of the proposal to make the land available for use as parks and reserves.
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform the House whether the Spring Creek Estate, which is situated 16 miles from Warrnambool, is to be acquired for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land?
– I have recently approved of the acquisition of the Spring Creek Estate, which has an area of about 2,000 acres, for war service land settlement purposes. Altogether the Commonwealth has now approved of the acquisition of about 125 properties, totalling 750,000 acres in Victoria, for the purpose of war service land settlement.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Interior, relates to the failure of the Department of the Interior to reorganize the library services in the Northern Territory. , A qualified librarian was brought to Canberra from Perth. It was intended that he should go to the Northern Territory after a period of training in the_ Parliamentary Library. Owing to the inability of the* department to provide a house for him in Darwin, he announced his intention of returning to Western Australia. He has now been’ absorbed into the permanent library staff here and, therefore, no trained librarian is available for the Northern Territory. Will the Minister invite applications from qualified librarians who are prepared to go to Darwin and inaugurate library services there and at Alice Springs? If. one of the librarians employed by the Commonwealth National Library goes to the Northern Territory to place library services on a firm footing there once more, will the honorable gentleman arrange for transport to be made available for him there!
– Difficulties have been encountered in the establishment of a library at Darwin, where there is a shortage of houses. The Administrator of the Northern Territory has been given permission to take all steps necessary to establish a library in the territory as quickly as possible. I shall again raise the matter with him and ascertain whether’ the services of a suitable librarian can be obtained and the opening of the library expedited.
– Some weeks ago the Minister for Commerce and Agriculturestated that he had informed the United Kingdom Government of the increase of the cost of production of eggs and of the fact that, consequently, the prices arranged under the United Kingdom contract are no longer attractive to Australian poultry-farmers. Have there been any developments as the result of the Minister’s action in that respect ?
– I am not yet in a position to make any announcement regarding the representations that have been made to the United Kingdom Government with respect to the egg contract, but I hope to be able to do so within a. few days.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the International Labour Office has adopted a convention relating to s 35-hour week for miners?’ If it has done so, did the Australian delegates support the convention? In view of the right honorable gentleman’s offer of long service leave for miners, will he now, in order to secure the immediate settlement of the coal strike, arrange for the calling of meetings of district boards of management on the coal-fields, beginning with a meeting of the board of management of the northern districts, which holds the key to the position, and will the Government, at such meetings, offer, conditional upon the miners returning to work and going back to the arbitration court, first, to intervene in the proceedings on behalf of the community, as it did in the basic wage case; secondly, to convey to the court its offer to underwrite long service leave ; and thirdly, to inform the court of its commitment to the principle of a 35-hour week, providing that the miners agree to underwrite a production guarantee to be agreed upon by the Government and the miners?
– The International Labour Office has laid down certain principles regarding hours of work in various industries. I remind the honorable gentleman that the United Nations is pledged, as was the League of Nations, to the principle of the settlement of disputes, not by brute force or duress, but by conciliation and arbitration. The International Labour Office, being an organ of the United Nations, is pledged to the same principle. The Government does not propose to seek to arrange for the calling of aggregate meetings on the coalfields. That must be done under the auspices of the miners’ federation and the other bodies which are associated with that organization. They are the only - bodies that are competent to arrange for and organize such meetings. The Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales are not prepared to engage in barter regarding -this matter. An arbitration tribunal has been established, and any body associated with the coal-mining industry, including the Australian Government, can appear before that tribunal and present its case, in the same way as the Australian Government presented its views to the arbitration court in the -basic wage case and the 40-hour week case. The present dispute must be settled by arbitration. The Government is not prepared to engage in any bartering. If any conditions are to be arranged between the various parties to the dispute - the miners, the owners and the Joint Coal Board - those conditions can be submitted to the Coal Industry Tribunal. The Government does not propose to intervene.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he proposes to-day to have discussions with members of the Emergency Committee of the Australian Council of Trades Unions with relation to the coal strike ? If that be so, in the light of his statement that no backdoor compromise or arrangement will be made by the Government antecedent to the miners returning to the court, what is the precise objective of that meeting?
– All I know regarding the meeting which is to take place today is that Mr. Monk, the secretary of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, sent me a telegram asking if it would be possible for me to see him and the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions this evening. I have also received a similar request from a couple of leading unionists who are associated with the dispute, and I have agreed to see them also this evening. That is a right which I shall extend to any citizen. A few evenings ago I saw representatives of the mine owners, and I propose to see any representative persons who want to interview me on the matter. That is a privilege to which all citizens in this country are entitled. I do not know what proposals will be put to me this evening or whether the persons I am to see have any proposals to submit to me. They have not yet given any indication to me in that respect; but the answer to any proposals that they may submit will be precisely the answer that I have already given, which is that the dispute must be settled by arbitration.
– I refer to the great financial loss which is being suffered by many ex-servicemen who have been thrown out of employment as the result of the coal strike. Will the Prime Minister consider the payment of war gratuity to ex-servicemen who because of the strike are urgently in need of financial assistance but are unable to obtain such assistance from any other source?
– I shall need to examine the honorable member’s question before I can give a complete answer to it. The conditions governing the payment of war gratuity were laid down upon the recommendation of thijoint parliamentary committee which examined this matter. I do not propose to depart from the decisions made in that respect because that committee examined the matter thoroughly and without party political bias. Provision is made for the granting of re-establishment loans to exservicemen engaged in business, and the joint committee at its last meeting made a recommendation, which has been given effect to, that ex-servicemen who had already received a re-establishment loan could under certain conditions obtain an advance against their war gratuity provided such payment be approved by the War Gratuity Board. At the moment I am not disposed to consider altering that decision in any way because the conditions recommended by the committee are ample to meet any case that is likely to arise.
– Because of the heavy responsibility which is being placed upon individuals and the business community generally by the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act 1949, and in view of doubts concerning the validity of that legislation, will the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, undertake to indemnify any person or organization which has laid itself open to an action for damages by carrying out the provisions of that measure?
– The honorable member is really endeavouring to suggest that the legislation under which certain action has been taken is invalid, or may possibly be declared invalid by the High Court, and he is requesting that in such hypothetical circumstances the Government should commit itself to the payment of indemnities. The Government does not accept the view that any of the legislation which it has introduced is invalid unless it is subsequently expressly declared by the courts to be invalid, nor does it propose to offer in advance to pay indemnities to individuals who may be adversely affected.
– As the coal strike has been largely organized and directed by the Communists in the various unions involved, will the Prime Minister consider taking steps to freeze the funds of the Communist party? If not, does the right honorable gentleman propose to take any action to minimize the influence and authority of the Communists to ensure that they will not be able, in, say, six months’ time, to plunge the country into a similar state of misery as that which it is in at present.
– One aspect of this matter is now being dealt with in the courts. Therefore, 1 shall not comment on it. An act recently passed by this Parliament freezes the funds, not only of the miners’ federation, but also of any other organization, including the Communist party, which may use its resources to promote the continuation of the strike. That seems to cover the funds of the Communist party insofar as they may be diverted to promote the continuation of the present struggle. We shall deal with one issue at a time. It seems clear that part of the funds of the Communist party come from some of the organizations whose affairs are now under review.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Commonwealth Shipping Board is continuing to employ the crews of those of its ships that have been tied up because of the strike? If so, on whose instructions is that being done, and why are the men being kept on full pay at the expense of the Government when other seamen put out of work because of the strike have had to seek unemployment relief?
– I do not know of any examples of the kind mentioned by the honorable member for Barker. I had hoped, as I am sure most people did, that the striking miners would at an early date see the wisdom of accepting the advice offered to them, and of going back to the tribunal to have this dispute settled. I know that many private employers have continued to employ their staffs though there was not sufficient work to keep them fully occupied. They want to keep their staffs together so that they will beavailable as soon as the machines begin to work again. It may be that, in some instances, the Australian Shipping Board is doing what the private employershave done, although I cannot say that for certain. I shall ask the Minister forShipping and Fuel for a report, which will be furnished to the honorable member when it comes to hand.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to disclose to the House at this stage the names of the persons who will accompany him or the representative of the Government to the projected Empire conference on economic matters in London ? Can the right honorable gentleman’ give an assurance that there will be available to him or to the representative of the Government at that conference, persons who could provide expert advice regarding the likely effect on primary and secondary industries of any economic policies adopted at the conference?
– I can assure the honorable gentleman that the Government’s representative at the conference will be accompanied by officers who will he highly competent to advise upon the various matters that may arise. I cannot make a definite announcement, but I oan say that one of the persons to accompany the Government’s representative to the conference will be the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. Others will be Mr. Wright, who will deal with matters affecting exchange; Mr. Meere, the Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs, who will deal with matters affecting his department; Mr. Wheeler, the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury; and Mr. Tanage, an officer of the Department of External Affairs, on the economic side. Whatever Minister goes to the conference will naturally have to be accompanied by a secretary, and there may be one or two other individuals in the party, which. T think, will total either seven or eight. The names that I have given will, I think, be an indication that there will be sufficient expert advice available with respect to masters affecting customs and exchange and also regarding the availability or diversion of supplies. The Treasury representative will deal with the purely financial side, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank with the exchange side, and the representative of the Department of External Affairs with the general political issues. I consider that that fully covers the position and I think that the honorable member will be satisfied with the names that I have given.
– Can the Treasurer say in how many, and in what countries, there has been an official evaluation or devaluation of the currency since the ratification of the Bretton “Woods Agreement ? What has been the impact of such manipulation on the economy of those countries ? Has their experience shown that an economy, sick from the lack of reciprocal trade, can be resuscitated by resort to mere artificiality?
– A lengthy reply would be necessary if I were to cover all aspects of the important matters that the honorable member has raised. We have watched with interest the results of the devaluation or appreciation of various currencies in recent years. I believe that the devaluation of the French franc resulted in a great improvement in the economic stability of France. That is true also of the devaluation of the Italian lira. On the other hand, I am sure that certain European countries which appreciated the value of their currency now realize that they made a mistake in so doing. To determine whether devaluation or appreciation of currency is wise, one has to consider the peculiar circumstances of the country concerned. I should not like to be dogmatic on the matter. Amongst the countries that ratified the Bretton Woods Agreement, the most striking example of devaluation is France, where there was considerable argument about the introduction of what was called the “double franc “. There was similar speculation in Italy about the “ double lira “. These matters are of grave import to the world at the moment. Although considerable attention is being devoted to political, strategic and military problems the real cancer that is eating at the heart of the world is the inhibition of the free movement of goods by currency difficulties. Countries in which certain commodities are produced in excess of local requirements are unable to send those goods to the people of other nations who require them urgently. That, I consider, is one of the greatest disorders affecting the world to-day. I have made that quite clear in this House on previous occasions. I shall have a short statement prepared covering some of the matters that the honorable member has raised in his question.
– I ask the Minister for Air a question about the Australian aircrews who took part in the Berlin airlift who have recently returned to Australia after about ten months’ service overseas. Will the Minister investigate the possibility of utilizing the wide experience gained by those men, within the Royal Australian Air Force and the Department of Civil Aviation, for the purpose of giving instruction or lectures, or in some other way?
– Only a few of the members of the Air Force who participated in the Berlin airlift have so far returned to Australia. The question of when the others will return is now under consideration. When they do return we shall certainly endeavour to obtain from them the benefits of the experience that they have gained. That will apply particularly to those who were in charge of operations. We shall do so in order that their experience may be available to Australia if required. The men whom I have seen since their return have certainly gained a great deal of experience which is of value in air operations, and we hope to make use of it. I may say that we do not think that there is any likelihood that the same set of conditions will arise in Australia in which we would need to employ the same methods as were employed in the Berlin airlift. However, the matter raised by the honorable member will be examined and I shall furnish him with a reply.
– I ask the Minister for Air a question relating to payments in lieu of long service leave due to permanent members of the Royal Australian Air Force who are discharged on account of their physical condition. 1 understand that the Royal Australian
Air Force requested the Attorney-General in August of last year to give a legal ruling on this question. The ruling was furnished in February of this year. I have in mind the case of a former member who was discharged in November, 1947, who has not yet received the payments to which he is entitled. “Will the Minister have investigations made in order to expedite the settlement of the matter ?
– If the honorable member will furnish me with the name of the individual concerned and particulars of his case I shall certainly do so.
– A few weeks ago advance copies of a publication dealing with the social service facilities available in Australia were distributed to honorable members. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services say whether any considerable number of those publications has yet been distributed to the public? Has the Minister given any consideration to the suggestion that I made that one copy of the publication should be posted to every family in Australia?
– The answer to the first question asked by the honorable member is “ Yes “. A large number of copies of the pamphlet has been printed. The answer to the honorable member’s second question is also in the affirmative, although I do not know what decision has yet been reached by my colleague, the Minister for Social Services. However, I shall again discuss the matter with him.
– Some time ago I pointed out that certain English companies were purchasing butter factories on the north coast of New South Wales in order to convert them to purposes other than the manufacture of butter. I have received from the Bowraville Cooperative Society Limited, Bowraville, New South Wales, the following resolution : -
In view of the purchase by the English firm of Cow and Gate Limited of co-operative dairy societies on the North Coast with the intention of ceasing the production of butter and making baby food, wc feel that if the British Government will allow capital out of their country-
– Order ! The honorable member is aware that he is not entitled to introduce such matter in the guise of a question.
– Very well, sir. I shall re-arrange the text of my question.
– Order ! The honorable member must ask his question in such a way as will comply with the Standing Orders.
– If the British Government is prepared to allow capital to leave that country for the avowed purpose of purchasing factories that are at present manufacturing butter in order to convert them to other purposes, and thereby reduce the quantity of butter available in Australia for export to the United Kingdom, does not the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider that the time has arrived to terminate butter rationing in Australia?
– Yesterday I heard the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, who is at present visiting Australia, say that the desperate need of the British people was for sugar, fats, meat and tea. In my opinion the escape of some capital from the United Kingdom for the purchase of only two of the thousands of butter factories in this country would ‘ not justify the termination of butter rationing in this country.
– According to a report in to-day’s newspapers, the Prime Minister has announced that Cabinet has approved of recommendations by the Council of Defence to increase by £45,000,000 the allotments for the armed services for the five-year defence programme that was commenced in 1947. Of the new allocation, £41,000,000 is to meet the increased costs of the original programme, and the remaining £4,000,000 is to be expended on new defence projects, including the resumption of naval reserve training in January, 1950 and the provision of new types of bombs, pyrotechnics, rocket projectiles and small-arms ammunition for the Royal Australian Air Force. The press reports do not state whether the amount that has been allotted for the training of Army and Air Force personnel will be increased. Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Council of Defence has reported to him that all the armed services are below strength and has made recommendations for overcoming that deficiency? Before the right honorable gentleman leaves for the United Kingdom, will he make a statement to the House on these matters, and say whether he considers that our defences are satisfactory?
– The Minister for Defence will answer the question.
– The Council of Defence has considered the whole matter of the progress of our defence plans generally. The House will recollect that the Government announced a five-year defence programme, involving the expenditure of approximately £250,000,000. A review of the progress of our plans has made it clear that because of rising costs, the programmes of the service departments cannot be met by that amount of money. The main objective of the increased allocation of £45,000,000 is to meet those higher costs. The implication that has been made by the honorable member for Balaclava that all the armed services are undermanned is not correct. With the exception of one branch of the services, the numbers at the present time are actually in excess of those envisaged in the plan.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to a statement by the honorable member for Wentworth during the debate on the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Bill, the purpose of which is to freeze the funds of unions engaged in the present coal strike, that among those unions is the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia, and that that organization is one of the big Communist-controlled unions ? As the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia is not a Communist-controlled union and as all its principal office bearers are members of the Australian Labour party, will the Minister invite the honorable member for Wentworth to withdraw his groundless allegations against this union, the federal secretary of which is Mr. W. P.
Evans and the Victorian secretary of which is Mr. T. D. M. Scott? Will the Minister also invite the honorable member for Wentworth to indicate those members of the executive of this organization who, he alleges, are Communists?
-I have not read the statement to which the honorable member for Cook has referred, but it is true that all the principal office bearers of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia are members of the Australian Labour party. Most of them are known to me. Mr. Scott, who is one of the prominent leaders of that organization, recently contested a pre-selection ballot to secure endorsement as the Labour party candidate for a Commonwealth electorate, and perhaps he will stand again. Mr. Evans is also a prominent member of the Australian Labour party.
– What about Hughie Sutherland?
– He resigned long ago. I do not know any member of the executive of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia who can be said to be a member of the Communist party.
Mr.RANKIN. - I address a question to the Minister for Defence. What will be the position of members of the armed forces who will be granted a pension when they complete twenty years’ service, and, on their discharge, obtain a temporary or permanent position in the Public Service? Will any deduction be made from their salary because they will be receiving a pension ?
– I am not in a position at the moment to give the honorable member the information that he seeks, but I shall confer with the Minister for the Army and supply an answer as soon as possible.
– If, owing to the shortage of recruits for the Army, it is necessary to employ civilians as guards, will the Minister for the Army take steps to ensure that those civilians shall reach a reasonable standard of physical fitness before they are engaged?
– Recruitment to the Army is adequate for all purposes. Any civilians employed by the Army are engaged in accordance with the usual Army practice. I see no reason, therefore, to consider the honorable member’s question.
– Some time ago, advertisements appeared in the newspapers inviting applications, for many vacant positions in the Attorney-General’s Department. Can the Prime Minister say how many positions were advertised at that time, and how many of them have since been filled?
– The Public Service Board’ made a survey of the staffing needs of the Attorney-General’s Department. The staff has been hopelessly overworked, and that was particularly true of the draftsmen, and those associated with them. The board recommended that between 50 and 60 positions of various grades should’ be created. The positions were advertised, and the applications have been considered by the board. It was considered that the SolicitorGeneral would be the person most competent to express an opinion concerning the qualifications of applicants and that he should be given an opportunity to discuss the appointments with the Public Service Board. Professor Bailey returned from London last week and has now commenced, or is about to commence, consultations with the board. The appointments will be made at an early date.
– Have any appointments been made yet?
– I understand that some of the positions have been filled, but I am not able to state the precise number. I shall obtain the figure and supply it to the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs received any approaches from the Republic of the Philippines in relation to the creation of a Pacific defence pact? I draw attention to recent statements that have been made on this subject by the president of the republic. If the right honorable gentleman has not received any proposals, have any steps been initiated by the Australian Government with the Government of the Philippines or any other governments that have interests in the Pacific area for the purpose of creating such a pact? If so, what has been the nature of those steps?
– The answer to the first question is that no approach has been made to the Australian Government by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, but public statements have been made by the president of the republic and also, I think, by Ministers approving generally of the proposal for a Pacific defence pact. The only official statement on behalf of the Australian Government has been made by the Prime Minister, who has expressed his general desire to effect such an arrangement in accordance with the policy to which we have endeavoured to give effect during the last three or four years. I shall check the answer that I have given to the honorable member’s first question in order to make sure whether any formal approach has been made to the Government by the Government of ‘the Republic of the Philippines.
Debate resumed from the 5th July (vide page 1979), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bil] be now read a second time.
.^- This bill provides another example of failure of the industrial policy that the Government has tried to operate during the last few years. It represents an admission of the failure of the various methods by which the Government has endeavoured to change the old order of arbitration in order to bring about what it describes as a “ streamlining of arbitration “. Under this policy, the functions of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration have been very materially reduced. Functions that were previously exercised by that authority have been handed over either to conciliation commissioners or to special tribunals that have been appointed to deal with the problems of certain industries. It is of real importance to the people that the Government failed to give attention to these tribunals as soon as it was demonstrated, in my opinion very clearly, that many of them were not productive of good for the men, the industries with which they dealt, or the country in general. I was extraordinarily interested “to hear the claim made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in his second-reading speech that the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which will be supplanted by a board under this bill, had proved beneficial to the men, to the industry, and to the country. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is well known that the stevedoring industry constitutes a very important factor in the economy of this country. I do not know whether the House or the country realizes the great importance of sea transport- in the general transport arrangements’ of Australia. As 90 per cent, of our interstate trade is carried by sea, it is of the greatest importance that sea transport should be conducted by the most efficient methods that are possible. An examination of the history of this industry since the institution of the Stevedoring Industry Committee, which was first a war-time body, and during the operation of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which has functioned for :a period of less than two years, enables us accurately to gauge the success or failure of this Government’s industrial arbitration legislation. It is common knowledge that the rate of cargo handling has been very materially reduced since the beginning of the war. I do not think that it is an exaggeration to say that since the beginning of the war the rate has dropped by approximately 50 per cent. But what is even more serious is the fact that in spite of the efforts of the Stevedoring Industry Commission to effect improvements the rate did not improve to any measurable extent. Before the war it was generally conceded that in the course of trade a vessel spent one-third of its time in port and two-thirds of its time on the high seas. To-day the proportions are completely reversed. Vessels now spend two-thirds of their time in port and one-third in travelling to their destination and back again. This change has resulted in substantially increasing the cost of freight to commercial interests and, in the final analysis, to all of our citizens. Freight is a very important factor in all costs that come within the general economy of this country. Whatever may be done by the Government in relation to this industry, its main objective should be to reduce the cost of handling cargoes on the Australian coast. In making that statement I do not want to be misunderstood. I assure the House that I am not an advocate of low wages. I believe that every effort should be made to improve the methods by which cargoes are handled so that wages may be increased and the working people of this country may be able to enjoy greater leisure than they have hitherto been able to enjoy. For that reason I have always advocated the improvement of working conditions, the use of modern equipment and the’ provision of better amenities for workers generally. All of these things should contribute to the more efficient handling of cargoes and the improvement of the general conduct of industry throughout Australia. When we examine what was achieved by the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which is now to be thrown overboard by the Government, we must be very disappointed. It will be remembered that the Commission was clothed with very wide powers. Indeed, it had almost complete power over the industrial conditions to be observed in the stevedoring industry. It had power to take evidence and to make determinations in relation to rates of pay, hours of work and working conditions generally in the industry. It also had very wide powers to examine the position with relation to the equipment and amenities available at various ports in Australia for the people engaged in industry. The commission was empowered either to supply equipment or to make advances to the port or other authorities to obtain such equipment as was considered to be necessary. It had’ almost complete power to do whatever was thought necessary, after due examination, to make the industry more effective and to improve the conditions of the workers engaged in the industry. However, despite the improvements of amenities and equipment as a result of the activities of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, the general loading rate has remained static, and in some instances has deteriorated. The reason for that is not difficult to ascertain. In order to lessen the physical effort necessary to remove cargo from the wharf shed to the ship’s side, forked lift trucks were introduced. However, waterside workers determined that those trucks should not be allowed to function at full capacity. While they allowed the trucks to move cargo from one part of the wharf shed to another they would not allow them to move cargo from the shed to the ship’s side; it had to be manhandled across to the slings. Although that has been happening for nearly two years, the Stevedaring Industry Commission did nothing about it. It is futile to suggest that men in the industry did not realize that they were sabotaging the efficiency of the industry, or that they improved their conditions by restricting the use of equipment.
In spite of this state of affairs, a body very similar to the Stevedoring Industry Commission is to be established by this measure. The arbitration powers of the commission are to revert to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Doubtless, the judge who is now chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission will be assigned to this work. There is scant evidence of anything in this bill that will bring about improvement of the efficiency of this most important industry. The House is entitled to know the effects on the general economy of this country of the practice that has developed with the condonation of the present Government. Under legislation recently enacted the Australian Shipping Board was established. That board will have very wide powers with regard to shipping on the Australian coast. It was decreed that all new ships for the’ Australian trade should be built in Australia, under the authority of the Australian Shipping Board. The freight charges for the carriage of goods to-day are based on the costs of a number of different items, in- eluding the handling of cargo. Costs in this connexion have increased by about 300 per cent, or 400 per cent, during the past ten years.
The amount of freight that a ship oan carry in any given time is also an important aspect with relation to freight rates. As I have already mentioned, the carrying capacity of the ships has been reduced by about half. The cost of the maintenance of ships also ha3 an important bearing on the matter. The cost of a ship must be written off during the normal life of the ship. Under the new order that we are entering in Australia the cost of ships will be extremely high. Before the war a 6,000 ton freight ship would have cost amout £150,000; it now costs over £500,000. Of course, there have been changes in the general plans of ships, including very necessary improvements in crews’ quarters. These and other improvements have resulted in increased total cost. The edict has also gone forth from this Government that those ships may only be used on the coast for 25 years; so the cost must be written off during that period. Furthermore, maintenance costs have risen. Do honorable members realize what effect this will have on future freight rates? In spite of the substantial increases that have been made in freight rates, the cost of new ships has not yet come into the calculations of the ship-owners. They are still working on pre-war ships at pre-war prices. When they begin, as they must do, to purchase new vessels, depreciation, maintenance and other costs that have an effect upon freight charges will increase greatly. It is just as well that the Australian people should realize where we are going. Freight rates have already been increased by approximately 300 per cent. If the present trend continues and shipping companies must pay £500,000 instead of £150,000 for a 6,000-ton ship, which will be able to carry only half the tonnage that ships of that type previously carried in a given time, freight rates will become a real burden upon the commercial community of Australia. The Government must take a firm stand in connexion with stevedoring in this country.
As I have said, I am in favour of the improvement of conditions in the industry and the installation of modern equipment.
I do not oppose this measure, but I point out that, as far as I can see, it contains no provision to fortify the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board in any action that it may take to bring about the desirable state of affairs to which I have referred. However, the right spirit is preferable to regulations or provisions in acts of Parliament. If the board knows that it will have the support of the Australian Government in any action that it takes to achieve a more desirable state of affairs in the stevedoring industry, doubtless it will exercise the powers that are to be conferred upon it, but we all know what has happened in the past. Whenever a tribunal or board, established by this Government, has done what it has thought to be proper and its actions have been opposed by the men in the industry concerned, has the Government supported it? We need a change of front. I say without hesitation that no good purpose will be served by this new board or by our streamlined arbitration system unless there is a government in power that will support the bodies that it has established and enforce the implementation of thu acts of Parliament for which it has been responsible.
This bill closely follows the lines of a number of measures that have been passed by the Parliament recently. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board will have power to expend money, but it will also have power to borrow money without seeking the authority of the Parliament to do so. Under the provisions of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power Act, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is given permission to borrow money from the Commonwealth Bank under a guarantee from the Treasurer, and to expend that money without seeking the approval of the Parliament. Clause 42 of this bill provides that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board shall have power to borrow money on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia upon the guarantee of the Treasurer.
– That is the people’s bank.
– I am not discussing the source from which the board will borrow money. I am questioning the action of this Government in not following the tradition of British parliamentary institutions that Parliament shall have control of the national purse. Over the centuries there has been a fight to establish that principle. This Government is deliberately flouting the will of the Parliament. In my view, it is a very dangerous and wrong practice to give boards such as this power to borrow money without the authority of the Parliament. I hope that the Government will ensure that the normal procedure is followed and that the money that is needed by the board will be appropriated by the Parliament. Unless that is done, the powers of the Parliament will be whittled away to a dangerous degree.
I hope that when the new board is established it will enter upon its duties with a real desire to improve the position on the waterfront from the point of view both of the workers in the industry and the country as a whole. I hope that it will be assured by the Government that it will be supported in any action that it takes which may for the time being be unpopular with the employees, the employers and perhaps the community. I trust that the Government will stand firmly behind it, so that Australian ships may continue to provide the very efficient means of transport that they have provided over the years.
– Several years ago, the Parliament passed an act which, for the first time, removed the stevedoring industry from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and placed it under the jurisdiction of a commission with full authority to control all stevedoring operations. I venture to say that that commission has justified its existence. It has ‘bestowed great benefits upon the workers in the industry. To-day, we are discussing a measure that is designed to repeal the act to which I have referred and to place the stevedoring industry under another form of control. The Government has been compelled to follow that course as the result of certain developments which have occurred on the waterfront. I make bold to say that had it not been for the activities of the Communist party in this industry this House would not now be discussing this measure and it would not be necessary to alter conditions in relation to the commission. The Communist party has introduced its philosophy into this industry. Entirely ignoring the needs of the industry, that party has decided that at all times its aims and policy must be implemented. That is the reason for the introduction of this measure. Whereas, formerly, the commission exercised full control in respect of all matters arising in the industry, the bill will place the arbitral side of the industry under the jurisdiction of a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court whilst a new board which will consist of three persons will handle the administrative side of it.
Before dealing with specific provisions of the measure, however, I shall reply to certain observations made by honorable members opposite. The honorable mem ber for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) cited the earnings of waterside workers in various ports in this country, and he implied that those workers were receiving abnormally high wages. I refute that statement. The workers in this industry are not receiving abnormally high wages. Their wage levels have been fixed on the basis that their work is of a casual nature. Honorable members opposite never miss an opportunity to belittle the record of the waterside workers. On previous occasions I have referred to a report upon conditions in the industry which was made by Dr. McQueen, a Sydney specialist. He said that he was shocked at the physical condition of many waterside workers resulting from the nature of their work. That report proved conclusively that the work is most arduous and that waterside workers incur physical disablements and disabilities due to the nature of their calling. Although the McQueen report has been referred to in this House on many occasions, members of the Opposition parties have never attempted to refute it.
Honorable members opposite invariably lay the blame for the slow turnround of ships at the door of the waterside workers. The fact is that the stevedoring companies have much to answer for in that respect. Responsibility for many of the delays that occur in the turn-round of ships in Australian ports cannot be attributed to the waterside workers but are due to the inefficient management of those companies. It is not unusual for gangs of workers, who are willing and waiting to work ships, to be held up because- the stevedoring companies are not able to bring the cargo to them. Much of the criticism levelled against the waterside workers in that respect cannot be justified. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) painted a picture of rising costs in the shipping industry. Increased costs in this industry are not peculiar to Australia. On the contrary, it would appear that shipping costs have been stabilized in this country to a greater degree than in other countries. I refer particularly to costs in the industry in Great Britain. During the last eighteen months Australian shipping companies, which normally placed orders for new ships overseas, have, for the first time, been able to get vessels constructed in this country. In the face of that fact, how can the honorable member for Wakefield justify his complaint about rising shipping costs in Australia? He cannot substantiate his charge. I repeat that shipbuilding costs in this country ave tending to become stabilized whereas in other countries a similar trend has not yet become apparent.
All of the improvements gained by the waterside workers since the Stevedoring Industry Commission was established two and a half years ago will be retained for them under this measure. The main amendment effected by the bill will be to set up a new board of three persons in place of the former commission which consisted of five persons, and to make the new body responsible only for the administrative side of the industry. That change is being effected as the result of action which the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation took, not on a matter involving industrial issues, but on a purely political issue. The waterside workers must accept responsibility for that policy that was forced upon them by ‘their leaders. I repeat that if the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation, who are also leaders of the Communist party, had not decided to follow the course that they pursued in relation to the Sharkey and McPhillips stoppage, the Government would not have had any need to introduce this measure. By legislative action this Government has done more during the last two years for the waterside workers than any previous government did in their interests. The Government gave those benefits to the waterside workers and we should not be discussing a measure of this kind but for the fact that the Government has been forced to introduce it because certain people were determined that their principles, loyalties and obligations begin, not with the working class and the trade unions, but with the Communist party. In those circumstances the Government has no alternative but to introduce this measure. However, I again emphasize that the waterside workers will retain all of the improvements and benefits they have gained during the last two years, as the result of the legislation which this Government has passed.
– I do not desire to speak at any length on this bill as I consider that there is no necessity to do so. But the need for the bill is very apparent when we realize that the Stevedoring Industry Commission has ceased to exist effectively. I know that many waterside workers are not happy about the repeal of the Stevedoring Industry Act, but waterside workers generally must take the responsibility for the fact that their representatives on the commission did not act as they should have acted’. To allow the waterfront industry to return to the conditions that existed before the commission was established would be to cause a state of affairs that would make the position on the waterfront more intolerable than it has ever been. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) cited some figures this morning regarding the turn-round of ships. He gave the impression that the .Stevedoring Industry Act and the Stevedoring Industry Commission were responsible for the slow turn-round of ships. The honorable member can cite figures showing a big decrease in the tonnage of cargo handled per man-hour. I shall not contest his statements in that respect because I believe that that is the position. But that position was not caused by the operation of the Stevedoring Industry Act or by the commission. The same slow handling occurs in almost all industries now. From time to time honorable members have mentioned the reduction in the rate of bricklaying. We have also heard about the reduction of output in many other industries. To contend that the Stevedoring Industry Act and the Stevedoring Industry Commission were responsible in any way for the reduction of work per man-hour on the waterfront is to make a foolish statement. Does the honorable member for Wakefield’ think for one moment that the shipping companies would continue to supply the watersiders with the amenities that were instituted by the Stevedoring Industry Commission if the Parliament does not pass this measure and the watersiders go back to the ordinary course of arbitration? .1 should also like to know from him how the shipping companies would go about providing those amenities. I say that the only way in which it is possible to have necessary amenities provided for waterside workers is to carry this legislation as it stands.
– Does the honorable: member consider that the waterside workers, in view of their behaviour, deserve such amenities?
– Any organization which allows its leaders to take it along paths that are detrimental to the interests of the organization’s members is due to receive treatment that may be unsatisfactory to it. I agree that the members of organizations must be responsible to some degree, for the actions of those whom they elect to represent them. But I should not agree that waterside workers generally should be punishedbecause of the actions of their leaders.
– They elected their leaders.
– I quite appreciate that fact. The punishment that the watersiders are now getting is that, because they allowed their leaders to act as they have acted, they have lost something that they valued - that is, the inclusion on the Stevedoring Industry Commission of two representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, who could speak on behalf of the federation and influence the chairman of the commission. The waterside workers will perhaps realize now that the abolition of the commission and the repeal of the Stevedoring Industry Act has been brought about because they permitted their leaders to allow their own political views to influence their attitude to industrial affairs. The powers to be given to the board to be appointed under this measure are practically the same as those that’ were exercised by the Stevedoring Industry Commission. The functions of the board as delineated in clause 13 are functions that I consider it is desirable should be exercised by such a body. I do not wish to reflect on any judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or on any conciliation commissioner, but both judges and commissioners are restricted ‘by the provisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Act. The present measure gives greater scope to the board to deal with the various matters that come before it than either judges or conciliation commissioners have. Clause 13, paragraph (a) provides that the functions of the board shall be -
To regulate and control the performance of stevedoring operations, insofar as those operations are performed in the course of trade and commerce with other countries or among the States or are performed in a Territory of the Commonwealth.
If there is any industry in which it is necessary for some authority to have the power of control and regulation, it is the waterfront industry. I am not speaking theoretically, as I have a very intimate knowledge of this matter. I know that before the Stevedoring Industry Commission was established the conditions under which men worked on the waterfront were very unsatisfactory indeed. Under this measure the board will have the power to prescribe the number of men that shall be registered for work in any port. It will also have the power to say that those men who have been registered for work must be prepared to be available for engagement on every day that they are required. Honorable members opposite may not appreciate just what that means. I know that in the past, when activity on the waterfront slowed down through a reduction of the number of ships to be worked, we had the difficult position of waterside workers drifting away to other industries, thereby taking away from other workers a proportion of the limited number of jobs that were available. Under this measure, as under the previous legislation, waterside workers will be able to receive appearance money, to which some honorable members opposite object. To be able to obtain competent labour at all times in an industry in which work is often very intermittent, it is necessary to give the workers the means of securing a regular income. In the past,- under the old system in which the employer picked up the men that he desired to work for him, some men were making a really good wage all the time. It is no good citing the earnings of waterside workers in various ports as an argument. I myself know that even years ago some fortunate individuals amongst them earned comparatively high wages all the time.
– Were those individuals the best workers?
– They may not have been the best workers, hut they were probably stronger physically than their comrades and in consequence were able to move greater quantities of cargo per hour. However, at least 75 per cent, of waterside workers were earning low wages, while many of the remainder received only a mere pittance. “Work was available for all when there was sufficient shipping in port, but when only a small number of vessels was loading or unloading cargo only the fastest workers received employment and the remainder had to take the “ tailings “. To-day, a tally is kept of the earnings of the members of each gang, and the gangs, which are numbered, are rostered for work so that all waterside workers receive an approximately equal share of the work. When a man registers as a waterside worker he undertakes, in return for the enjoyment of certain benefits provided by the present Government, to make himself available for waterfront work every working day. That means that he must present himself at the appointed place at a certain hour every day. If work is not available he is obviously entitled to receive payment as a kind of compensation for making his services available on the waterfront although other employment might be offering to him. That is why the payment of appearance money is justified. Other complementary legislation provides for the addition of a small amount to the charge for loading and unloading cargo in order to finance the payment of waterside workers while on annual leave. The provision of annual leave for waterside workers is something new. Years ago a man who was employed on the waterfront regarded himself as’ being tied to the job all the year round. To-day waterside workers are “receiving reasonable treatment compared with that given to other workers. In return for the assurance of continuity of employment and reasonable conditions, waterside workers must accept a responsibility to the community and they should not refrain from carrying out their part of the bargain unless they have very good reasons to do so. Frankly, I do not approve of some of the stoppages that have occurred on the waterfront. The present legislation merely proposes to’ continue the principle of the Stevedoring Industry Act. That act constituted a commission on which the employers and the employees each had two representatives, and an independent chairman presided over the commission. That principle is exactly similar to the one under which wages boards operate in South Australia. In some instances the chairmen are legally qualified persons, whilst in others they possess specialized knowledge of particular industries. In most instances the decisions reached by wages boards have been honoured by the employees concerned. However, we must realize that employees in the waterfront industry, because of many years of bitter experience and unjust treatment, have been led to believe that they can hope to improve their conditions only by adopting a militant attitude. They cannot be expected to abandon that attitude overnight, and I think that that explains the conduct of the two former representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation on the Stevedoring Industry Commission. Because they were first and foremost representatives of the waterside workers they believed that the duty that they owed to their members overrode the duty which devolved upon them as members of the commission to abide by majority decisions of the commission the making of which they had opposed. That is also the view held by most waterside workers. At the same time, I emphasize that the waterside workers of this country have obtained very considerable benefits from the Stevedoring Industry Commission.
The honorable member for Wakefield complained of the rate of turn-round of ships. I do not controvert his general statement that before the war it was generally accepted that a ship should spend two-thirds of its time at sea and only one-third in port, but I point out that in applying that maximum regard must be had to the distances which particular vessels travel between ports to load and unload cargo. For instance, I point out that in the State of South Australia, from which the honorable member comes, the steamer Minnipa, which formerly operated between Port Lincoln and Port Adelaide, used to spend only twelve hours on the short voyage out and then spend a day in port. On the return voyage it was at sea for only twelve hours, but spent two days in port. The vessel performed only two such trips a week, so that it was at sea only two days out of seven. In the past coal ships which travelled between Newcastle and Port - Adelaide spent as much time in Port Adelaide unloading coal and load ing other cargo as they did at sea. Methods of loading were slow and laborious. Coal had to be unloaded with the “ banjo “, as the shovel was termed, end the operation took a considerable t:me. However, I concede that vessels ] robs My spend a longer period in port now than hitherto, but I point out that that is not always the fault of the waterside workers. Overtime rates for waterfront work are considerably higher than ordinary rates, and for that reason many ship-owners and stevedoring companies prefer that a vessel should remain in port for a longer period than that it should be loaded or unloaded quickly because that would entail the payment of overtime rates. In the so-called good old days, a ship might have spent two-thirds of its time at sea and the remaining onethird in port, but the waterside workers then received comparatively little more for overtime or night work than they received for day work. Various reasons have been assigned for the delays in loading and unloading ships. Sometimes, the waterside workers are not prepared to work overtime, and the quantity of cargo handled per man hour is less than the quantity handled years ago. Sometimes, the shipping companies are not willing to pay the high overtime rates which apply when vessels are worked 24 hours a day, as was done in the past.
The Stevedoring Industry Commission has been instrumental in providing cafeterias, canteens and other amenities in the interests of waterside workers, and presumably those comforts will be continued by the new Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. I urge waterside workers not to oppose the new authority. The introduction of this bill has been rendered necessary by the unco-operative attitude of the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation. The rank and file feel that under this bill they will be penalized because they will not he directly represented onthe new board. However, they should realize that the Government has been compelled to abolish the Stevedoring Industry Commission because their leaders have persisted in tendering to them advice that was contrary to decisions of the commission. I support the bill, though not with much enthusiasm, because I should like the employees to be represented on the controlling authority. However, the attitude which the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation have adopted in the past makes that impossible. The two representatives of the federation on the Stevedoring Industry Commission are Communists, and they have endeavoured to apply their Communist ideology to the Australian waterfront. The Communist ideology is to cause chaos and dissatisfaction, and to destroy our present social conditions, because the Communists hope to seize that opportunity to substitute their form of rule. Years ago, the Communist preached the philosophy of dictatorship by the militant minority. They no longer do so. They have been educated to use other expressions in an endeavour to lead people to think that they have altered their views. But, in my opinion, the real philosophy of the Communists is to bring about the dictatorship of the militant minority. The conduct of the Communist leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation, when they were members of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, was evidence of that dictatorship. We have similar evidence in the coal-mining industry and other industries, where the militants, as they term themselves, although I call them disruptionists and destroyers
– Why not be honest and call them traitors?
– So far as the working class is concerned, I think that they are traitors.
– Never mind about the working class. What about the country?
– I have been talking about industry, but I have yet to learn that the interests of the people are not the interests of the country.
– That is right.
– Any person who is a traitor to the interests of the people of a country is equally a traitor to the interests of the country itself. That goes without saying. However, I must relate my remarks to the subject-matter of this bill. I have said sufficient to leave no doubt in the minds of honorable members about my opinion of the actions of what I term the militant minority, who want to disrupt industry, and, through that disruption to become the autocratic authority and ultimately govern this country in accordance with their political philosophy. That is the reason for the introduction of this bill. The Government has said to the Communist leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation, “ We will not let you use the industrial organization as a means of enforcing your political philosophy against the system which we believe is the best philosophy of this country “.
– in reply - The object of this bill is quite simple. It is to repeal the Stevedoring Industry Act 1947, and to provide for the work that has been performed by the Stevedoring Industry Commission to be carried on under somewhat different arrangements. The Stevedoring Industry Act 1947 provided for the setting up of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. That body was duly established under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Kirby. Its functions were of two kinds. First, there were functions related to industrial matters, and, secondly, functions related to administrative duties. On the administrative side, the Stevedoring Industry Commission provided, not only for amenities for employees on the waterfront, but also for certain plans to be made, and given effect for the introduction of equipment on the waterfront in order to increase the efficiency of the industry. At that time, it was realized that the appointment of the Stevedoring Industry Commission was somewhat in the nature of an experiment, because those two sets of functions were given to the one body. In most other spheres of industrial activity, industrial matters are . dealt with by the arbitration court or by special arbitration machinery, and administrative matters are generally dealt with by a body that is quite separate from the arbitration and conciliation tribunal. The action of the Government in dissolving the Stevedoring Industry Commission is a recognition that the experiment has failed. Although it has failed, one must recognize that the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which was set up under the act of 1947, did a great deal of work of tremendous benefit, not only to the employees in this industry, but also to the community at large. Because of the action of the two representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation in advising their members to act contrary to the decisions of the commission of which they themselves were members, the Government decided that it was no longer possible for the commission to continue on that basis.
This bill repeals the act of 1947, and provides for the appointment of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, which will deal entirely with administrative duties, and will not deal with arbitration matters. The Arbitration Court will deal with arbitration matters relating to the waterfront. I understand that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has asked whether Mr. Justice Kirby, who has rendered vary great service as chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission in the past, will be available in the Arbitration Court to deal with industrial matters relating to this industry. It would not be proper or competent for the Government to direct which Arbitration Court judge should deal with a particular matter; but the Government is confident that matters relating to this industry will be dealt with by Mr. Justice Kirby, and that the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court will take into consideration the great experience that Mr. Justice Kirby has had in this industry.
Another important question raised by the honorable member for Fawkner I understand, was, who was to be the chairman of the proposed board. The Government is not yet in a position to announce the name of the chairman, but since the board will deal with matters other than industrial matters, the chairman will not be Mr. Justice Kirby or any one connected with the
Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. In due course, the Government will announce the name of the chairman.
The honorable member for Reid. (Mr. Lang) said that no attempt was made in this legislation to take away from the waterside workers any of the benefits that they have received under the administration of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. I take it that the honorable member was suggesting that members of the Waterside Workers Federation should be penalized in some way because their Communist leaders have not co-operated in the commission’s efforts to make the industry more efficient. It is true that this legislation does not propose to take any of those benefits away from the waterside workers. The benefits were granted as a measure of justice, after the commission had given full consideration to conditions on the waterfront, and it would be wholly unjust for the Government to withdraw them.
– The benefits were given to the waterside workers on condition that they fulfilled their part of the bargain.
– The benefits were granted as a measure of justice. They were long overdue, and it would be totally unjust to take them away. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) and other honorable members of the Opposition had a lot to say about the slow turn-round of ships. It is true, of course, that there has been a slowing down of the rate of work on the waterfront generally; but that trend is not confined to Australia. It is in evidence all over the world. Honorable members who criticize the watersiders should ask whether they themselves in fact, work as hard as they used to do. The plain fact is that, as civilization progresses, the tendency is for people generally to expect that they will, not have to work as hard as they have done in the past.
– That does not mean that there should be stoppages.
– No, but waterside workers are important to the community. If they do not work, as hard as they have done in the past, the affect is immediately felt by the rest of the community, whereas, if the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) does not work as hard as he used to do, the community does not notice it at all.
– That problem could be overcome by employing additional men.
– That is quite true, and the Stevedoring Industry Commission took that action. Numbers of extra men have been brought into the industry. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the object of this measure is quite simple. It is to repeal the Stevedoring Industry Commission Act of 1947 which ‘set up the Stevedoring Industry Commission. That commission is to be replaced by a board which will deal with administrative matters previously handled by the commission, and industrial matters, which, under the 1947 legislation were being brought within the jurisdiction of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, are to be sent back to the Arbitration Court. That is the prime purpose of the bill. Apart from- that, its objectives in relation to the stevedoring industry are exactly the same as those of the 1947 act, namely, to bring about greater efficiency in the industry, and to provide conditions for the workers which will be better than they have enjoyed in the past.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma- progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the prevention or settlement by conciliation or arbitration of industrial disputes, extending beyond the limits of any one State, in connexion with stevedoring operations; to regulate industrial matters in connexion with, and to regulate and control the performance of, stevedoring operations in the course of trade and commerce with other countries or among the States; and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Functions of the board).
.- This is one of the principal clauses of the bill in that it defines the functions of the board that is to be appointed. In his reply to the second-reading debate, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) failed to answer the points which I raised on behalf of the Opposition, so that it has become necessary for me to mention them again in order to find out whether they have been considered by the Government. As the Minister explained, one of the purposes of the bill is to separate the administrative and judicial functions previously exercised by the Stevedoring Industry Commission. The clause describes the functions of the board as follows: -
One of the principal objections of the Opposition to this bill, as to the act of L947, is directed against the provision which gives the Waterside Workers Federation, the principal union concerned, a virtual monopoly of employment, and the right to say who shall be employed on the waterfront in any port. That is utterly obnoxious in principle, and unsatisfactory in practice. There have been occasions when the Stevedoring Industry Commission, having decided that more workers were required at a port, asked the federation to make them available, but the federation evaded its responsibility, it stalled and delayed, and finally failed to provide the labour. The provision was also unsatisfactory in that only those persons approved by the federation could be engaged. It was bad enough that the engagement of labour should depend on the capricious and arbitrary decision of a trade union official, hut the position is a great deal worse when such power is wielded by an organization dominated by the Communists, Messrs. Healy and Roach, who, because of their conduct, were held to be unfit to serve on the Stevedoring Industry Commission, and were expelled from it. We know that those men, who offended against the commission, will still have the say as to who shall be engaged to work on the waterfront at various ports. There is a simple solution to the problem. Under the law, the board will have the responsibility of providing sufficient labour at each port. It is provided that waterside’ employment committees shall be appointed, on which will be representatives of the federation, of the employers and of the Government, and those are the appropriate bodies to decide who shall be engaged for work on the waterfront. If the board decides that another 250 workers are required to service the port of Sydney, the employment committee should call for applications. It should then point out to the applicants that only members of the federation can be registered for work, and that preference in employment will be given to members of the federation. The obligation would then be on the applicants to seek admission to the union. That would be the proper course to follow, rather than to leave the selection of employees to the capricious choice of a Communistdominated union. This matter goes to the root’ of the problem of waterside employment. The Minister should inform the committee whether the Government has considered the suggestion that I have put forward, and, if so, what decision it has reached.
– I regret that I did not reply during the second-reading debate to the points raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). However, I knew that the matter would be again discussed when the bill was in committee. It is true that there is sometimes a shortage of labour on the waterfront, but that is true of other industries, also. Paragraph c of this clause places on the board the responsibility to provide at each port sufficient waterside workers for stevedoring operations. The same responsibility rested upon the commission under the act which it is now proposed’ to repeal. The commission used to call for the number of men considered necessary to bring up to full strength the labour force at a port. The Waterside Workers Federation would then send in the names of persons prepared to fill the vacancies. The port authority had the right to decide that, for reasons of character, or for other reasons, one or more of the persons on the list should not be employed on the waterfront, and to refuse the applications. That is how the system operated under the commission, and under this bill it is not proposed to alter the method then followed. It will be carried on in future by the board as it was carried on in the past by the commission.
– We say that that was unsatisfactory.
– The Opposition said that when the previous legislation was introduced, but its reasoning was not accepted by the Government then and will not be accepted by the Government now.
– We thought that, as the system had failed, the Government might now take our advice.
– It may be true that sufficient labour has not been provided on the waterfront, but that has not been because of the way in which labour has been recruited. It has been due to the general scarcity of labour.
– There ought to be more willingness to work on the waterfront.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order ! The honorable member for Fawkner was heard in silence. The Minister is entitled to similar treatment.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) is always willing when work has to be done by other people. The bill proposes to continue the procedure for the recruitment of labour on the waterfront that has been followed by the Stevedoring Industry Commission. I do not admit that the failure to obtain sufficient labour on the waterfront has been the result of that procedure. Judge Foster’s report on the stevedoring industry, which was the basis of legislation on this matter in 1947-
– Is that a separate document?
– Yes. I shall be pleased to provide the right honorable member with a copy of it. Judge Foster stated, on page 33 of the report -
I have recommended that there be only one union in this industry. At present there are three - the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia; the Wharf Lumpers of Fremantle and the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union operating at Melbourne and Sydney.
It needs no argument to suggest that the practical administration of industrial relations can most conveniently be served by the recognition of one and not several unions. This view has so often been expressed by the Court and its Registrars as to need no reference.
It was because of the opinion expressed by Judge Foster that the Government provided, in the 1947 legislation, for the recruitment of labour on the waterfront according to the procedure that has been followed by the Stevedoring Industry Commission. We propose to continue that procedure.
– There is no connexion between the judge’s recommendation and that policy.
– There is a connexion. The honorable member wants the recruitment of labour on the waterfront to be a free for all affair.
– No, not at all.
– That is what the honorable member has suggested.
– I have never suggested that.
– That is what I understood the honorable member to suggest. The procedure followed by the commission has been in line with the recommendation that was made by Judge Foster in his report to the Government. The Government does not propose to change that procedure under this bill.
Silling suspended from 12.44- to 2.15 p.m.
.- Before the suspension of the sitting the Minister (Mr. Dedman) had replied to some comments which I had made on behalf of the Opposition arising out of the discussion of clause 13. We had expressed criticism of the current arrangement under which the Waterside Workers Federation had been given a monopoly in the engagement of labour on the waterfront and was, from time to time, requested by the commission, and no doubt in future will be requested by the board to be established under this legislation, to provide additional labour at particular ports. The Minister’s reply was, in my view, entirely inadequate and unsatisfying. It evaded the real point of principle which our criticisms had raised. Therefore, it is necessary for me to say a word or two more about it. The Minister submitted as an excuse for non-compliance with the directions of the commission in the past that additional labour be provided had not been complied with that there had been a general shortage of labour throughout the Commonwealth. The implication in the honorable gentleman’s reply was that the unions would have had difficulty in obtaining additional labour for the waterfront. I do not think that many people will seriously accept that excuse. Most of us have had complaints from citizens of the Commonwealth who want to engage in this industry that they have not been able to break into it. When they have applied for admission to the union they have been told that they cannot join it. It is common knowledge that conditions on the waterfront at present, both in respect of wages and working conditions generally, are so favorable by comparison with those of other comparatively unskilled occupations, that there is a rush of applicants to join this section of industry. I do not know whether the Minister seriously believes that what he has submitted to us is the case, or whether he is merely trying to hoodwink us on this matter. I do not imagine that any one could seriously contend that in certain ports of the Commonwealth the Waterside Workers Federation has tried to recruit additional labour but that it has been unable to do so because the men have not been offering. There is a simple way .to test the reliability of the information supplied by the union, if it is upon such information that the Minister has relied for his answer. Let the Government do what the Opposition has recommended and make the waterside employment committees responsible for recruiting labour for the waterfront. After all, these committees are thoroughly representative. They represent the unions, the employers and the Government in this matter. We should then soon find out whether or not there is sufficient labour offering on the waterfront.
The second comment which the Minister made was that Judge Foster had recommended in his report on the industry that only one union should cover employees on the waterfront. We had a good deal to say on that point when the original legislation was before us in 1947. We then referred to the fact that by a thoroughly unprincipled process other unions, which were not perhaps so popular with the Labour Administration because they had been established only comparatively recently, were slowly strangled. I refer to the Permanent, and Casual Waterside Workers Union, which was established as the result of the disastrous war-time strikes, when the Government appealed for volunteers to load the ships in order to help get supplies to our troops abroad. That organization had never been acceptable to the political Labour movement or to the Waterside Workers Federation, and when the opportunity to do so arose, the Government by a singularly unprincipled process condemned that union to death by slow strangulation. We did not need the Minister to remind us of the conditions which led to the continuance of only one .union for this industry. There was no other logical connexion between what Judge Foster had to say and the policy which is now under attack here. Judge Foster did not say that the Waterside Workers Federation should have sole responsibility for the recruitment of labour on the waterfront. Indeed, I am certain that the learned judge would be astonished, if not shocked, to learn that a monopoly had been granted, to this union which was enabling it, alone, absolutely free from government supervision, to recruit labour on the waterfront. On the one hand, the Government has introduced legislation which is designed to cast on to the board the responsibility for the provision of additional labour, for seeing that that labour is efficient and for supervising it, but on the other hand, under the pressure of “Comrade” Healy and “Comrade” Roach, it says to the Waterside Workers Federation, in effect: “You shall have a monopoly in the engagement of labour. We shall put your organization in such a position that no person who is not a registered member of your organization can work on the waterfront. You are to recruit labour and supply us” with a list of the names of your members “. The Minister replied that we submitted a similar case in 1947 and that he was not impressed by our reasoning then; but I remind him that if the legislation of 1947 and the policy of this Government had brought the results it expected at that time, we would not now have this bill before us. We are considering this legislation only because the .attitude of the Government in 1947 has resulted in the failure and final breakdown of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. We are surely entitled to have more consideration paid to the views which we submit to-day than the Government was prepared to give to the views we expressed in 1947. If it had listened a little more carefully to what we said then, this bill would not have been necessary. If the Minister is not prepared to give an undertaking that the recruitment of labour shall be left in the hands of the board at least he should give an undertaking to the committee that the board, which should be able to make a fresh attack on these problems, will be able to examine this matter and express its views to the Government. If we are merely to be left where we were in 1947, we can expect from this legislation no better results than those which flowed from the earlier legislation.
– I am wondering where the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) obtained the information on which he has based his remarks. He has said that the Permanent and Casual Waterside Workers Union was established during the war years.
– I referred to the years of World War I.
– It was established at Port Adelaide in 1928.
– I was not referring to Port Adelaide. The union, as such, was first established during World War I.
– It was not formed in Adelaide until 1928.
– Port Adelaide is not the only port in the Commonwealth.”
– The honorable member is merely talking in generalities. I am dealing with the specific case of
Port Adelaide with which I am familiar. He has complained that this bill will compel employers to engage men belonging to the Waterside Workers Federation as though there were something new about that. In 1928, before volunteer labour was employed, members of the Waterside Workers Federation enjoyed preference in employment on the waterfront. In those days employers restricted those included in the pick-up to members of the federation. Only after the members of the federation refused to work, and then after argument extending over two or three weeks, were volunteers permitted to work on the wharfs and the organization known as the Permanent and Casual Waterside Workers Union was established at Port Adelaide. The honorable member is completely wrong when he suggests that that organization was formed during the war. When there was just the ordinary arbitration control of the union the shipowners recognized the principle of preference to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. The honorable member suggests that the Government should select more employees. I point out that every union has its rules and before any man can become a member he must he accepted by the union. If the authority considers that additional men are required in the industry the practice is to advise the Waterside Workers Federation accordingly, and that union has accepted the responsibility of admitting more men. The honorable member stated that he knows that men who want to get into the industry cannot do so. The reason that they want to get into the industry is because of the good remuneration its members receive. The Waterside Workers Federation is not anxious to open its doors and take in a big number of applicants because it wants to retain for its members the opportunity to earn good wages. If the union were “ swamped “ with all of the men who wish to enter the industry the position that honorable members opposite have complained about would soon arise. Recently the Opposition objected because about £30,000 had been paid out for appearance money. If additional large numbers of men were admitted into the Waterside Workers Federation the amount of appearance money paid would increase considerably. It is necessary to maintain a proper balance between the number of men required and those registered in the industry, otherwise difficulties would occur. I emphasize that long before the waterside workers were the subject of any industrial legislation apart from the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the employers recognized the principle of preference of employment to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. At present the federation will only accept as members men of a certain age, and it requires qualifications to be possessed by the men that it admits to membership. Previously any one who was regularly proposed and accepted by the union became a member, and was entitled to be employed by the shipowners. The bulk of the waterside workers in South Australia are at Port Adelaide. The position there is that if there are not sufficient men available to meet requirements, the secretary requests other organizations to supply some of their members to assist. Such employment was not restricted to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. That was the position until recently.
– That is the position now.
– The Storemen and Packers Union in Port Adelaide also follows that practice. If the Waterside Workers Federation has 1,000 men on its books and that number is able to meet the demand generally, and to earn reasonable wages, no objection can be taken to the reluctance of the organization to increase the number of men in the industry. As I have already pointed out, the port committee now allocates the work, and directs all of the gangs to jobs in turn. At the end of the monthly or threemonthly period it tallies up the amount that each gang has earned, and an effort is then made to equalize earnings as far as possible. If additional men were brought in and workers in the industry did not receive reasonable wages difficulties would arise. This measure deserves to be supported.
– This bill is intented to regulate operations on the waterfront throughout Australia, and it has been brought in, as the Minister has told us, because of the failure of the parties to carry out the intentions, and indeed, the directions of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. My knowledge of this matter is unique in this Parliament. I have noticed that those people who know least about the industry have spoken at the greatest length about it. One of my cherished memories is that I founded the Waterside Workers Federation many years ago, and was president of the organization for about twenty years.
– Was that when the right honorable gentleman supported the policy of the Australian Labour party?
– I was general secretary of the Sydney Wharf Labourers Union. Although I was not the “ entire works “, I was an indispensable part of the machine. I want to disabuse the minds of honorable members of the idea that the present turmoil and’ unrest on tha wharfs has anything to do with preference to unionists. It has nothing whatever to do with that. Over 40 years ago I was responsible for obtaining preference for unionists on the wharfs. I am in favour of preference for unionists. Any Minister would be most foolish if he endeavoured to disturb that principle, which is the foundation upon which industry generally in this country rests. I do not propose to attempt to defend the principle, because I do not believe that it needs to be defended. I believe in it, and for me that is sufficient. What we are concerned with now is that work on the wharfs is being carried out in an unsatisfactory manner. The continuity of operations is continually being broken by vexatious and trivial disputes although that does not happen to such a marked degree in the stevedoring industry as in the coalmining industry. Many of the breaks in continuity are caused by the machinations of evilly disposed persons. When the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) spoke on conditions on the wharfs, he emphasized an outstanding fact. It is that the work is now carried on at a rate that is incompatible with modern methods and needs. The wharfs to-day, although far from satisfactory, are better adapted to the fast loading and unloading of ships than it was 30 or 40 years ago, yet I venture to say that the rate at which ships are turned round to-day compares very unfavorably with the rate that obtained 40 years ago. If honorable members have in their minds a picture of the wharfs and the work that is done on them, they will know that the procedure is to carry goods from the sheds in which they have been placed temporarily to the slings, from the slings to the deck, and from the deck to the hold. Years ago winches were less powerful than they are now and they worked at a slower rate. The flooring of the wharfs was very bad, and any swift movement on the wharfs was precluded: Now the flooring is smooth. The only trouble on the wharfs now is that they are not wide enough. There is insufficient room for lorries to go in and out quickly, and there are no turntables. In the days to which the honorable member for Wakefield has referred there was no break in the continuity of operations. There was a steady stream of trucks and men passing from the sheds to the sides of the ships. There was no waiting at the slings. Everything went on without interruption and every one did his best. Men worked then at the rate that was considered by the unions to be a fair rate. The position now is very different. Anything like swift movement is frowned upon. As honorable members know, in the coal industry there is what is called a “ darg that is, a quota that must not be exceeded. If a man exceeds it, he is regarded as a bad unionist, and something happens to him. The same position obtains on the wharfs. The tempo of operations has slowed down. Nothing but the restoration of a tempo of operations on the wharfs that is compatible with the requirements of the industry will alleviate the present position. We sell a great proportion of our products oversea.5.
Sydney and Melbourne are great ports. We want ships to spend the minimum amount of time in port and the maximum amount of time at sea, but we are rapidly approaching a time when ships will avoid Sydney or Melbourne if they can secure prompt service elsewhere. If I were asked how this has come about, I should say that the answer is quite simple. It has nothing to do with laws, and its relation to conditions on the wharfs is negligible.
What has happened is that the unions are now being run by men whose business is to cause trouble in this country and not to promote the smooth and uninterrupted processes of industry. As I have said, I established the Waterside Workers Federation and was for many years its president. The position that I occupied is now held by Mr. Healy, a Communist. His first lieutenant, Mr. Roach, is also a Communist. The Seamen’s Union is, so to speak, a blood brother of the Waterside Workers Federation, because ships have to be manned as well as loaded and unloaded. Mr. Elliott, the head of the Seamen’s Union, is a Communist, too. So it goes on. I do not say that the majority of men in the stevedoring industry are Communists, but they are certainly led by the Communists. I say that this board will fail, as the Stevedoring Industry Commission has failed, not because there is any defect in the provisions of the bill and the machinery it provides, but because those to whom the working of the legislation will be entrusted are men whose business is to make conditions in this country worse than they are so that they can goad the people on to revolution. They believe in government by force.
I am not now as closely in touch with wharf labourers as I was at one time, but I know that many improvements in their conditions, with which I entirely agree, have been effected. It is said that wharf labourers are well paid. There was a time when they were very ill paid.
Admitting that they are better paid to-day - their wages expressed in terms of money are four times greater - I still doubt if the present average weekly wage of watersiders, which is £10 9s. a week, would huy very much more than the weekly wage of £2 8s. which they received 40 years ago. A wharf labourer in Sydney 40 years ago who earned £2 8s. a week for 48 hours’ work at ordinary rates, and who would receive more than that if he worked after 5 o’clock in the evening, could buy a three-course meal for 6d. He could get soup, fish, meat and bread and butter ad lib. for that small coin. Forty years ago it was possible to buy a suit of clothes for £2 2s. and to rent a house for 8s. 6d. a week.
– But the workers then could afford to buy only one suit every five years.
– We are now dealing with conditions on the wharfs that are avowedly unsatisfactory. Why are they unsatisfactory ? Is it because the men are underpaid ? They are not ! Is it because the work is too arduous ? It is not ! The work is far easier than it was 40 years ago. The whole root of the matter is that the Communists make trouble. That is the beginning and ending of the whole business. 1 do not criticize this bill. I realize that the Government is trying to put matters back where it thinks they ought to be and where, in fact, it holds that they were until the waterside workers’ representatives on the Stevedoring Industry Commission acted as they did recently. I say that unless the Government intends to so order matters as to weed out, at all hazards, those who are now disturbing and hamstringing industry on the wharfs and elsewhere, it will fail in its objects. All that the Government has done by introducing this measure is to shuffle the pack and alter the cards, and to produce something that is exactly the same as before.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 14 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Orders of the board).
.- This clause sets out the penalties that can be enforced by the board in the event of its orders being disobeyed. In the course of the second-reading debate, I commented on the fact that, in my view, the penalties provided in this legislation will prove entirely inadequate to ensure that the very important directions that the board or the Commonwealth Arbitration Court may issue from time to time will be carried out. In practice, the penalties provided in the Stevedoring Industry Act 1947 have proved to be both unworkable and ineffective. They have not attained the objectives that they were designed to achieve. Under this clause, where an offence is committed- by a waterside worker a penalty of £5 is provided; if it is committed by some one else the penalty is £100. One might ask why, if it has been decided that penalties should be exacted for breaches of orders, there is such a small scale of penalty provided compared with those provided in the Coal Industry Act 1946, which was introduced by this Government. Section 54 of the Coal Industry Act 1946 states that any person who refuses to comply with an order is liable to a penalty, in the case of a” company, of £1,000 and, in addition, a further penalty of £100 for each day during which the offence continues; and in the case of an individual, £100 or imprisonment for six months, or both. Those are very substantial penalties, and the only criticism that one might perhaps offer is that they have never been applied. But if section 54 of that act was regarded as reasonable in legislation to deal with the coal industry, why in this present measure to deal with the waterside industry, which is vital to the commerce of the Commonwealth, is the maximum penalty to be imposed on any waterside worker who defies an order of the board to be only £5? If a sufficient number of waterside workers defy an order of the board at one time they may hold up ships with food that is vitally required in Britain, and they may upset sailing schedules not only in Australia but in other parts of the world. Yet, I repeat, they are to be fined only £5 at the most.
– The next step is very drastic.
– The Minister says that the next step is very drastic. I merely say that the financial penalty is inadequate on the face of it. I have already stated that the average earnings of waterside workers over the period from July to December last year were £10 9s. Id. for a weekly average of 35 hours. A maximum penalty of £5 is, at most, less than half a week’s average pay. If a man is fined £5 for disobeying an order of the board he need only answer a call for extra week-end labour, and work at the higher week-end rates to have as much money as he would have had had he not been fined.
– In any event the Government would give back the sum that such a man was fined, with interest, and would apologize to him.
– Fines such as this, as far as I am aware, have never been applied. There has never been a prosecution, and no fine has been levied as a result of a prosecution. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has implied by interjection that there is a very stringent penalty of suspension available to the board under clause 24 of the bill. Suspension is a severe penalty if it is rigorously applied, but in the instances where it has been applied, to the best of my knowledge, it has been suspension for only a few days. Considering the peculiar circumstances of this industry, where work is mostly intermittent, suspension for a couple of days is even less of a penalty than the monetary fine provided in the clause that we are now debating. A man who is suspended for two or three days, as I said last night, can work on the wharfs over the week-end at higher rates of pay, and average out just as much for a week as would have been the case had he not been suspended. Therefore, this sanction is not a very satisfactory one.
The other two parties in the industry apart from the board are the employers and the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. They are both very important elements in its efficient operation. The maximum penalty that may be imposed on an employer under this clause is £100, although he may be suspended in a proper case. But what about the federation? I should be interested to know what sanction exists under this legislation in the event of the federation failing to carry out its obligations. Are we to be told that it stands in the same position as an employer, or that it constitutes the “ any other case “ referred to in the clause, and will therefore be liable to a maximum penalty of £100? Such a penalty will not mean very much to a union that is prepared to withdraw thousands of pounds from its bank account to help striking coal-miners. What real authority will this board possess in relation to the one organization that may be in a position to cripple its operations, and which, on the experience of the last two years, is ‘the most likely organization to hamper or obstruct the board in the carrying out of its obligations and duties in future? As the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) pointed out last night, this provision does not change, in substance, the arrangements in this industry. Although Mr. Healy and Mr. Roach have been discharged from the service of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, they will still be eligible to come forward as advocates before the arbitration tribunal, and, presumably, they will be able to exercise their influence on the waterside employment committees. The union will be represented on those authorities, and I assume that Mr. Healy and Mr. Roach will be eligible to make their , representations to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. Consequently, there is no effective provision in this matter. I shall put the matter on a constructive plane, and suggest to the Government that there should be inserted in this bill provisions similar to those which have applied, if not in Australia, in other parts of the world, whereby in appropriate cases, an injunction can be taken out before the tribunal to restrain the organization which may be committing an offence, and if a breach of the injunction occurs, proceedings for contempt of court may be taken against the organization concerned. I hope that the Minister will consider that suggestion.
Although disputes on the waterfront will, in future, be considered by a judge, and we presume that Judge Kirby will continue to act in matters affecting this industry, I can find no reference in the hill to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board becoming a party to proceedings. The industry is to be restored to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and a judge will deal with industrial disputes affecting it. Under such an arrangement, the employer, the union or an employee in particular cases may take proceedings before the court. But where does the right exist to enable the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, which will be a most important body concerned with these matters, to institute proceedings before the court? I do not know whether the Government has considered that aspect, but, quite frankly, the board should have that right and power. It will supervise employment, and also the waterside employment committees. The bureaux at which the pick-ups take place will come within the scope of the board’s activities. If that authority is not able, in appropriate cases, to ask the court to issue directions against the union, the waterside workers or the employers, obviously the provisions of the bill will be unworkable. Those matters should be clarified’ before the bill is adopted by the committee. I hope that the Minister will be able to supply some information on the points that I have raised.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) objects to this clause, which deals with orders made by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board and the penalties that are provided under sub-clause 2 and he has expressed the opinion that the penalties are not adequate. He has stated that a fine of £5 which may be imposed upon a waterside worker is inadequate, and that he. considers that an anomaly arises because a waterside worker may he fined only £5, although the penalty that may be imposed in any other case is £100.
– In the coal industry, the penalty is much greater.
– The honorable member has already answered that argument. A waterside worker, in addition to being liable to a fine of £5 under this clause, is also liable, under clause 24, to have his registration as a waterside worker suspended or cancelled. I suggest that those two clauses make the penalty that may be inflicted on a worker as big as the penalty of £100 that may be inflicted in “ any other case “. If this legislation does not” prove workable with the penalties provided under this clause, I do not believe that the imposition of larger penalties, including fines, will make it work any better. Does the honorable member suggest that the fine that may be imposed upon an individual should be £50 or £100, and that the fine that may be imposed upon an employer should be £1,000? Does the honorable member also suggest that if the penalties were substantially bigger, the legislation would operate any better? I suggest that it would not.
– It will depend on who administers the act.
– The successful operation of this legislation will depend on a spirit of co-operation and goodwill, and the mere imposition of greater penalties than those provided in the bill will not make the legislation function any better. The honorable member has also suggested that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board should be given power to initiate proceedings. I believe that in any industrial matter, the appropriate authority to initiate proceedings is either the union or the employer. I do not consider that we should authorize the board to initiate matters before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. A matter in dispute is between the employers and the employees, and if we set up or encourage any authority to intervene between the two disputants, we shall only make the process of conciliation and arbitration more cumbersome’ than it is. For that reason, the board should not be encouraged in any way to intervene in industrial matters. That should be left to the court. Any dispute may be brought to the court by the employers or the employees.
.- Although the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has stated that the penalties which are provided in the bill are adequate to deal with the employee, everything will depend on whether the penalties are applied with sufficient severity to act as a real sanction. In the past some individuals may have committed breaches of directions that have been issued, but the real offenders against the efficiency and continuity of work on the waterfront have been the representatives of the “Waterside Workers Federation. The Government has not given an indication of any measures to deal effectively with them or to apply any penalty to them. This bill does not contain any provision that will be an answer to the condition that has developed in that respect. It is true that, in normal circumstances, proceedings before the court are initiated by either the employer or the employee, depending on the party that feels aggrieved on a particular issue, but this industry is in a special position. The normal relation of employer and employee does not exist. The Government is interposing a third party, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, and sometimes when a serious breach occurred which impedes the operations of the tribunal, the employer will have nothing to do with the matter. He will not be consulted, and he will not be a party to it. I refer in particular to breaches which occur when the pick-up takes place, such as are covered by a phrase used in the industry, “ there is a blue on “. The government authority either calls for labour, or indicates to certain gangs that they will be required for work. A dispute arises, but the employer is no party to it. The employer is not there to engage the labour, or to say what gang is to work. That is done by the government authority, and if a breach occurs, prosecutions should be instituted by that authority. The Government has stated, however, that the board shall not have power to institute prosecutions. Therefore, the whole provision becomes a farce. How can the scheme be made to work if the Government places responsibilities upon the authority which it appoints, and then denies that authority power to discharge those responsibilities?
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 to 31 - by leave - considered together.
– I find it difficult to reconcile clauses 23 and 24 with clause 52. Sub-clause 1 of clause 23 reads as follows: -
Where, after such inquiry as it thinks fit, the Board is satisfied that an employer -
is unfit to continue to be registered as an employer;
has acted in a manner whereby the proper performance of stevedoring operations has been interfered with: or
has committed an offence against this Act, the Board may cancel his registration, or may suspend his registration for such period as it thinks fit.
Clause 24 contains a similar provision, which relates to the cancellation or suspension of the registration of a waterside worker. That is quite clear, and we do not object to it. Clause 25 provides that persons aggrieved by a decision of the board may appeal to the court against the decision. We do not object to that, but clause 52 states -
An order or direction of the Board shall not be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed or called in question, or be subject to prohibition, mandamus or injunction, in any court on any account whatever.
No dictator could have drawn up a formula to give himself more absolute power. The Government should have learnt something from its failures in the past. When legislation was introduced to appoint conciliation commissioners, it was provided that there should be no appeal from their decisions. Honorable members on this side of the chamber asked what would happen if an aggrieved party refused to abide by the decision of a commissioner, but no answer was forthcoming. At the time of the engineers’ strike in Victoria a conciliation commissioner made a determination which the union would not accept. There was a stalemate, and it looked as if a national crisis would develop. Notwithstanding the Government’s brave words, and the legislation it had passed through the Parliament, it had to find some other way to settle the dispute. We have been told by Ministers in the case of the coal-miners, if men will not work, there is no way in which they can be made to work. Clause 52 of this bill specifically provides that the institutions that have been set up for the protection of the people may not be invoked. If the board says a certain thing, then justice and equity shall not apply. It may be argued that clause 52 applies only to one specific part of the bill. I reply that section 52 does not say so. It could be used by an astute barrister to nullify the effect of clauses 23 and 24. I am becoming fed up with attempts to get nearer and nearer to the totalitarian state by a succession of separate enactments which cut across the constitutional right of people to appeal to the tribunals that have been set up for their protection.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has drawn attention to what he thinks is a conflict between clauses 23 and 24 on the one hand, and clause 52 on the other. Clause 52 provides that no order or direction of the board shall be challenged or appealed against. Clauses 23 and 24 deal with the suspension of employers or employees-
– By the order of the board.
– I am not a lawyer, but I have been advised that the suspension of an employer or an employee is neither an order nor a direction of the board.
– Then I do not know what it is.
– That is what I have been told. The power to make orders and to give directions is contained in clause 16, and is tied to the board’s powers and functions under Part II. of the bill.
– Clause 52 does not say that it is tied to anything.
– That is so, but orders and directions are tied to the board’s powers and functions under Part II. of the bill. Part III. does not refer to the suspension of registration.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). The explanation given by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) is as clear as mud. He says that clause 52 applies only to clause 16 and not to clauses 23 or 24. Admittedly, clause 16 refers to “orders and directions” and clauses 23 and 24 do not mention those words; hut, if the board proposes or intends to suspend or cancel the registration of either an employer or an employee, it surely will have to issue an order or direction to enable its intention to be carried out. I may accept the Minister’s explanation that clause 52 applies only to clause 6 if he will obtain a little more information from his legal advisers and relay it to us. The Minister has admitted that he is not a lawyer; neither am I.
– Directions or orders of the board must be issued under clause 16.
– Where is that specified ?
– No reference is made to “orders” or “directions” other than in clause 16.
– I shall be satisfied if clause 52 is amended to specify that it applies only to clause 16.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 32 (Jurisdiction of court under this part to he exercised by single judge.)
.- The clauses in Part V. from clause 32 to clause 40, appear under .the heading, “ Jurisdiction of the Court “. The whole of’ Part V. represents a substantial departure from earlier legislative practice. Industrial matters arising out of the board’s operations are to be brought within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I should like to know why it has been found necessary to place in the bill at, all the clauses contained in Part V. One of the criticisms that have been advanced from this side of the chamber is that the creation of a special tribunal for a particular industry has been productive of friction, because the anomalies that have been caused from time to time by the orders of that tribunal for that industry have created disturbances in other industries. Our view is that, so far as is practicable, each industry should be under the uniform direction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. By maintaining a special part of the legislation to set out the various procedures of the court in respect of this industry, the Government is perpetuating the notion that special provisions will remain for dealing with industrial disputes among the waterside workers in the stevedoring industry. We are entitled to he given an explanation. Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) give an assurance that none of the provisions contained in the clauses in Part V. of the hill will weaken the effect of the statement made earlier on behalf of the Government that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration will deal with all industrial disputes and matters affecting the stevedoring industry? Or are we to understand from the fact that the provisions of Part V. have been inserted in the bill that the normal jurisdiction of the court will be whittled down in some way?
– The Government considers that, by inserting Part V. in the bill, it is giving effect to its decision that disputes on the waterfront shall revert to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I do not think the position would have been adequately covered unless Part V. had been incorporated in the bill.
– The court’s powers in industrial disputes in all other industries are adequately set out.
– Yes; but, as the honorable member has said, the stevedoring industry is a special industry.
– The Government has made it a special industry.
– Yes ; but it has been treated as a special industry for many years, apart from the fact that it has been made a special industry by the Government. The Government inserted those provisions in the bill because it wanted to emphasize that no longer were industrial matters on the waterfront to be dealt with by any authority other than by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 33 to 55 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 30th June (vide page 1813), 011 motion by Dr. EVATT-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– First, I direct the attention of the House to the long title of the bill that now comes up for consideration. It is -
A bill for an act to make provision for the prevention of irregularities in connexion with elections for offices in organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1948, to vest in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration additional powers for the prevention of such irregularities, and for those purposes to amend that act. 1 direct attention to the form that has been used, because, yesterday, we were told by a Minister in charge of another bill that the title of that bill had been made deliberately wide to facilitate amendment. The title of this bill has been made deliberately narrow to prevent amendment. The House will recall that a substantial period of time has elapsed since I gave notice on behalf of the Opposition of a private member’s bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That notice was given on the 18th May, and we are now into July. That notice was given, in fact, a month before the coal-miners had their celebrated meeting at which they determined in favour of a stoppage of work on the 27th June. That is a time-table that is worth having in mind. The bill of which I gave notice has not yet come before the House. Indeed, in the nature of things, it cannot come before the House. In fact, the motion for leave to introduce the bill has not yet come before the House, because it is a matter of private members’ business, and private members’ business has been set aside. It might have been possible, one would have thought, to introduce the substance of that proposal by way of a Government measure on an allied subject-matter, and that is why it is important to point out that the Government has not only got rid of my private member’s bill but has also taken very great care to see that the substance of that bill shall have no chance of .being incorporated in the measure now before the Chair, because that measure, as I have said, has a narrowly expressed title, and an amendment of the bill, in committee, to extend the scope of its provisions -in relation to secret ballots would be properly ruled out by the Chairman as being outside the scope of the bill. In order that the Government may not entirely succeed in sidetracking a great and urgent matter in favour of one of minor moment, I propose to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the hill. I therefore propose to move -
That all words after “That” be left out, with a, view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn and redrafted so as to provide for the insertion in the rules of registered organizations of provisions for the secret ballot in the election of office-bearers and also in respect of voting on proposals for stoppages of work “.
I do so because it seems to be abundantly desirable that this House should have u chance to say what it thinks on a great matter of policy to which a great deal of public attention has been drawn. It is no novelty for an honorable member sitting on this side of the House to raise this matter. In point of fact provision for a secret ballot has stood in the platform of the Liberal party of Australia for some time. It has, I think, been advocated by all members of both parties on the Opposition side of the House. I content myself merely by reading the following paragraph from the platform of my own party :-
Restoration of democratic control of their own affairs by unions by means of the secret ballot both for the election of officers and other specified industrial decisions.
– At some stage, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like you to rule whether or not the amendment is in order. I should like to submit a view to you on that point.
– I have merely indicated my intention to, move an amendment. I shall move it at the end of my speech.
– The Chair has not yet received a copy of the amendment.
– My last act prior to resuming my seat will be to move my amendment. I make no secret of the fact that the notion which I have in mind in taking this course is to give to the House an opportunity - I do not know why the Government should resist it or be anxious about it - to consider whether we should not have as part of the law of this country a provision for the holding of secret ballots on all major aspects of organizational decisions. Let me remind honorable members of the system which, within the limits of our constitutional powers, we have adopted in this country in relation to industrial arbitration. The whole Commonwealth system of conciliation and arbitration is based on the organization of employees, which is the one with which we are more familiar, and the organization of employers, on which side not anything like the same results have been achieved.
– If provision were made for a secret ballot, and at the secret ballot a union decided to strike-
– I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) not to get ahead1 of me. With his kind permission, I should like to put the matter in my own fashion. I was saying that the whole of the Commonwealth arbitration system is based on organization, and nobody who is familiar with the history of Commonwealth arbitration will doubt for one moment that that system has given immense strength and importance to the trade union movement. Indeed, the system was developed on the trade union movement. If we want to have huge claims discussed and considered, obviously the claims must be made by organizations. It is difficult to know how we could have developed the industrial arbitration system, without the development of industrial unions which could make claims and pursue them, not only in one State, hut also throughout the Commonwealth. All honorable members will at once agree that the history of Commonwealth arbitration is, in a large measure, the history of ind.ustrial organization and the history of the trade union movement in the Commonwealth.
– On a federal basis.
– Exactly. I am discussing it from that point of view. The
Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who is as well qualified to speak on this subject as is anybody in Australia, knows that the effect of the development of industrial arbitration has been to increase recruitment to the great unions, to increase their strength and to encourage in them the federal idea. As a result, a decision made by an industrial organization can no longer be regarded as being merely something which concerns its own members. An industrial organization is now so much a public utility that any major decision made by it affects the whole society. It would be fantastic for anybody to suggest that a decision to strike made by some thousands of miners in the miners’ federation concerns only the people who make the decision. On the contrary, as we have recently learned to our sorrow, such a decision concerns hundreds of thousands of other people. It concerns men, women and children all over Australia. Consequently, with the great and proper power that has been attached to registered organizations in Australia, there must also be correspondingly great responsibilities. All these thoughts, elementary and trite as they are, add up to the fact that the establishment of true industrial democracy inside great industrial organizations is vital to the welfare of Australia. I should have thought that on all of these matters we were on common ground. The next question is : How do we propose to get true industrial democracy inside the trade unions? That problem, if taken on to the general political field, is one that we attacked and dealt with satisfactorily generations ago.We said that there must be a secret ballot for parliamentary elections. Indeed, the Minister who introduced this bill has referred with proper pride to the fact that in some other parts of the world the secret ballot is occasionally referred to as an “Australian ballot”. Be that as it may, nobody will deny for one moment that without a secret ballot there can be no true political democracy in Ausralia. If that is true of politics, why is it not also true of great industrial decisions which, if they are wise, can help this country, but which if they are unwise, can wreck this country or bring it to the very edge of disaster?
It is very difficult indeed to know what answer there can be to the proposition that the election of officers of organizations which are registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act should be by means of a secret ballot. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) set out to say a few minutes ago, it might be argued that if the members of an organization decide to strike after a secret ballot it will be difficult to say that the strike is to be regarded as illegal or improper. I point out to the honorable gentleman that, whether we like it or not, there will be decisions in favour of strikes. Does he prefer that those decisions shall be made by a minority of the members of an organization who attend a mass meeting and who can, in an open vote, dragoon the majority of those present into remaining silent, or that they shall represent the true unfettered judgment of the persons voting? I know what the honorable gentleman’s answer would be if I gave him that choice in relation to ordinary politics. No honorable member will deny that in the days before the secret ballot people were dragooned at the polls. They were threatened or, to use a modern phrase, “ stood over “. The fact that a man was known to have voted for Jones and not for Brown might prejudice him in his employment or in all kinds of ways. Therefore our predecessors came to the conclusion that, if we were to have fair and square voting which reflected the true opinion of the people, it should be by secret ballot.
What does this bill do in relation to that problem ? I now come to what seems to me to be one of the most remarkable things that I have seen. We are members of a community that is threatened by the most tremendous industrial turmoil, and in fact we are already being engulfed by it. I believe that the majority of the Australian people believe that if there were a secret ballot this coal strike would end. Nevertheless, in the midst of the turmoil, the contribution of the members of the Government is to say, “ We are not going to establish the secret ballot as a means of voting for the election of officers of industrial organizations. We are not going to establish the secret ballot as a means of voting on proposed stoppages of work. We are going to deal with one case only, and that is where there have been irregularities”. The proposed new section 96a, which is the key to the position, provides as follows : - (].) Where a member of an organization, or a person who, within the preceding period of twelve months, has been a member of an organization, claims that there has been an irregularity in or in connexion with an election for an office in the organization, or in a branch of the organization, he may lodge an application for an inquiry by the Court into the matter.
Then provision is made for the court to conduct its inquiries. The Industrial Registrar and the court are given certain duties. When the matter has been considered by the court, the court may declare the election void, order a new election, appoint a returning officer, and take other steps of that kind. It can only do that if irregularities that have been alleged before it by an individual or individuals who belong to the organization have been found to be justified. That seems to me to be calling for something that is practically impossible. The outstanding opponents of the secret ballot in the industrial world are the Communists. Are they opposed to secret ballots because they believe that they represent the will of their members ? Of course not. If they believed that, they would have a ballot under conditions of secrecy to-morrow morning. Because they know that they do not represent the will of their members, they say, “ Do not let us have anything to do with the secret ballot “. We know that they enforce acceptance of their views by bluff, threat and stratagem. They call mass meetings at times when they know that the moderates will be unable to attend. They have a splendid knowledge of the time-table. If it does happen that a mass meeting is attended by a number of moderate and sensible people, we all know very well that the noisy and threatening minority can very frequently get its own way. When those tactics ha ve succeeded and when people have been bluffed, threatened, persuaded, bullied or whatever word we care to use, is it seriously supposed that some members of organizations will exercise the high degree of moral courage necessary to enable them to go to a court and say “ We propose to allege irregularities. We shall be marked men, but nevertheless we shall invoke the machinery of this measure”? This bill seems to me to be as puny a weapon anything conceivably could be with which to attack the big industrial problems that face us.
I do not desire to weary the House or to clutter up the record with reiteration of instances, but if honorable members desire one instance of what a secret ballot can do, let me refer to one that is relatively recent. In the second half of last year there was a dispute in Sydney known as the “ No Sunday Trams “ dispute. There arc 6,000 members of the tramwaymen’s union in Sydney. On the 24th September, the union held a mass meeting to deal with this matter. Of the 6,000 members of the organization, 230 attended the meeting. A decision not to work on Sundays was taken by 121 votes to 109. On the 28th September, four days later, a meeting of 493 men re-affirmed the decision not to work on Sundays. On that occasion the voting was 264 in favour of the stoppage and 229 against it. On the 8th October there was a secret ballot of the members, and it was decided’, by 2,278 votes to 1,499 votes, to man the trams on Sundays. That is a splendid illustration of what can happen under a secret ballot. The so-called mass meetings were unrepresentative and the decisions taken at them were minority decisions. That applies to the disastrous strike that is now proceeding. A minority of the miners voted at the aggregate meetings that were called to discuss the stoppage, although admittedly those who voted were overwhelming in favour of the stoppage.
– Will the right honorable member repeat the figures relating to the tramways dispute?
– The first meeting was attended by 230 men, and the voting was 121 in favour of the stoppage and 109 against it. At the second meeting, 493 men were present, and the decision to continue the stoppage was carried by 264 votes to 229 votes. The voting at the secret ballot was 2,278 against the stoppage and 1,499 in favour of it.
– The secret ballot was held shortly after the second meeting?
– It took place on the 8th October, ten days after the previous vote was taken.
I shall pass very briefly to another aspect of this matter. I imagined that every one who has considered this question has given a good deal of thought to the means by which provision can be made for secret ballots. I say at once that I believe, as do those associated with me, that the right way to establish the secret ballot is to incorporate it in the machinery of the organization itself.
– Would the right honorable gentlemen make it a compulsory or voluntary secret ballot?
– I would lay it down that the rules of an organization registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act must provide for the use of a secret ballot for the election of officers and for the making of major industrial decisions. I would make it compulsory that that method be employed.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that voting should be compulsory?
– It would be very difficult to devise a scheme of compulsory voting. A ballot might, of necessity, he confined to a certain group of persons affected by a proposal. I have given this matter a good deal of thought. I see difficulties in the way of providing for compulsory voting, although some ingenious mind may solve the problem ; but I maintain that the secret ballot should be an essential condition for the election of officers of an organization and the making of major industrial decisions. That could be achieved by providing the necessary machinery in the rules of the organization.
– If a compulsory secret ballot had been conducted at the first of the meetings of the tram waymen to which the right honorable gentleman has referred, it would have made no difference to the decision that was arrived at.
– That is so; but that would not have been a secret ballot in the sense in which I am using the term. This is not merely a matter of saying, “ Let us call a meeting and take a ballot of those who are present “. I am not contemplating anything of that kind. If an organization is registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it has members. It must make a return of. those members. I would provide that all of those members who are concerned in any dispute that occurs must have the right to vote by secret ballot. I have suggested that it should be done by way of amendment of the rules, and I have made that suggestion for a very good reason. It is occasionally forgotten that, under the Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration system, it is provided not only that the registered organization shall be the whole basis of the structure, but also that the organization cannot be registered unless it complies with certain conditions relating to its rules. Those conditions were originally set out in Schedule B of the act, which is no longer operative. Other conditions have since been laid down by regulations, but in substance, the two sets of conditions are the same. The schedule to which I have referred provided that an organization which applied for registration must comply with certain conditions. The first was that the affairs of the organization should be regulated by rules specifying the purposes for which it was formed, and providing for various matters in relation to the association. It went on to provide that the rules must set out the powers and duties of the committee, the method of summoning meetings, the control of the committee by members, and so on. Time after time in the history of the Commonwealth an organization has been formed and has applied for registration, but the application has been refused because its rules did not comply with the requirements of the law. In order to secure registration, the rules of the organization have had to be altered. What good, sensible reason, satisfying to the public mind, can be advanced in opposition to the proposition that there should be incorporated in the requirements relating to the rules of registered organizations a provision that before federal officers are elected or it is decided to call a strike, or, in the case of an organization of employers, to have a lock-out, a vote of the members must be taken by secret ballot? When the requirements were originally laid down, some pains were taken to provide that there should be a system of voting which made adequate provision for absent voting, hut, oddly enough, no provision was made for postal voting, unless that is included in the expression “ absent voting “, and certainly no provision was made for voting by secret ballot.
I do not propose to labour this matter. This country is at present being subjected to a very grim experience. That grim experience arises from causes that the Government itself has put clearly enough into words. Time after time the head of the Government has said, both in this House and by advertisements, “ This is a Communist led and Communist inspired strike “. I approach the problem from the same standpoint. I agree with his statement. This is a Communist inspired strike. If it is a Communist inspired strike the first thing that we have to decide is : Are the Communists numerically in the majority among the miners? I do not believe that they are. I do not think that any other member of this House believes that they are. If that is true, then the Communists have inspired this strike. They have flogged the miners into going on strike, although the great majority of the miners are not Communists.
– The Communists’ propaganda has had great success.
– That is so. I believe, as I think the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) also believes, that the effectiveness of propaganda in influencing a publicly declared vote is very much smaller than the efficacy of propaganda in influencing a silent and secret vote.
– That is right.
– If the Government desires to get the maximum vote against this strike in this Communist-controlled organization, the miners’ federation, then let it give the rank and file members of that organization the right to make a decision under circumstances in which they can vote without fear, favour or affection. There is only one way to do that, and that is by giving them the secret ballot. Really, we can solve this problem for ourselves perfectly simply. Do we believe that, if there were a secret ballot of all the members of the striking unions to-morrow, the Communists would win? The honorable member for Perth very properly says “ No “. Then why do we not give the rank and file the instrument of the secret ballot? We admit that the institution of the secret ballot would give to moderate rank and file unionists a weapon that would defeat the Communists as perhaps few other weapons could. I am a great believer, as we all are, in the basic good sense of the ordinary Australian. He has plenty of basic good sense, but he wants a chance to express that good sense clearly without incurring threats. He wants a chance to exercise his own power. I say to honorable members that our great industrial structure, in which the registered trade union has, most properly, the most prominent part, is threatened not by democracy but by the absence of democracy; not by the calm judgment of the rank and file, but by the wild counsels of fools, and worse than fools, who have got themselves into positions of leadership. So I say, let us give back to the rank and file of the trade unionists of Australia the right to control their own affairs and to make their own decisions so that good sense will be restored in Australia and we shall be able to go about our business. I move -
That all words after “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted so as to provide for the insertion in the rules of registered organizations of provisions for the secret ballot in the election of office-bearers and also in respect of voting on proposals for stoppages of work.”
– The question before the House is that the bill be now read a second time. An amendment has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. Standing Order 161 prescribes the kind of amendment that may be moved to a motion for the second reading of a bill. Standing Order 162 provides as follows : -
No other amendment may be moved to such questions except in the form of a resolution strictly relevant to the bill.
In this instance the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is outside the terms of the very specific proposals set forth in the long title of the bill. I also point out that May’s Parliamentary Practice, at page 499 of the Fourteenth
Edition, states that a second-reading amendment - must “ strictly relate to the hill which the House, by its order, has resolved upon considering
Therefore, the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is out of order.
– Before you give finality to that matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker I should like to make some remarks upon it. You have referred to Standing Order 161 which states, in part -
Amendments may be moved to such question by leaving out “ now “ and adding “ this day six months “…
By way of illustration let us suppose that the question referred to is “ That the bill be now read a second time “. That, of course, is not the only amendment that may be moved, because very many times in this House the amendment has been moved that the word “ now “ be left out and the very words I have used, “the bill be withdrawn and redrafted . . .” be inserted. That was not, I point out, so as to facilitate an amendment within the existing scope of the bill, because if that were so such an amendment could be moved in committee. We do not require a second-reading amendment to move amendments in committee that would be within the order of leave of the bill. Therefore, when an amendment has been moved to the effect that a bill be withdrawn and redrafted, it has been for the purpose of including in the scope of the bill something not already there. I have been a member of this House for many years and have heard such an amendment moved many times. This is the first time that I have heard it suggested that an honorable member may not move such an amendment unless the scope of the proposals in the amendment are within the scope of the bill as it stands. That has never been so in any previous instance within my knowledge and I point out - and this is a very important matter affecting the rights of this House - that if a secondreadingamendment is limited to the already existing order of leave, in other words, the long title of the hill, it would not be necessary to move amendments at the second-reading stage, as those ^ amendments could be moved in committee. I have just heard an honorable member interject that it would be futile to do so in such circumstances, and I agree. 1 suggest, therefore, that the amendment is entirely in order unless the point of your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that instead of saying, “the words after that ‘ “, I should have said that the bill should be read a second time> not now-
– Bat in six months.
– That is correct. 1 do not want to do that. I say that there have been very many occasions in this House on which such an amendment as I desire to move has been moved, and that this is the first time it has ever been ruled out of order.
– I do not consider that it is necessary to have further discussion on this matter. The Chair is still of the opinion that Standing Orders confirm that the title of the bill is restricted and that honorable members are entitled to move only such an amendment as is covered in Standing Orders 161 and 162. I have also quoted a reference from May’s Parliamentary Practice, at page 499, which states that second-reading amendments - “ must strictly relate to the Bill which the House, by its order, has resolved upon considering.”
The House has resolved upon consideringthe bill in the long title thereof, and I rule that the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is therefore out of order.
– Then I submit the following objection to the ruling: -
That the Ruling of the Deputy Speaker - that the proposed amendment of the Right Honorable the Leader of the Opposition to the motion for the second reading of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was outside the terms of the Bill - be disagreed with.
– The motion will appear on the notice-paper for to-morrow.
.- The bill that we aTe discussing will again amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. There have been sixteen other occasions in the history of conciliation and arbitration on which, if my memory serves me aright, amendments have been made to this most vital industrial machinery. “We on this side of the House have always supported conciliation and arbitration. In fact, a study of the platform and policy of the Australian Labour party will show that from time to time, when recommendations have been made for the improvement of the conditions of employees in industry, they have provided that the improvement should be effected1 through the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That is a clear indication of the truth to those who have charged us, from time to time, with not carrying out the policy of supporting the system of conciliation and arbitration. It is necessary for everybody concerned with this matter, whether he is an employer or an employee, to realize the value of conciliation and arbitration to our Australian way of life. There is no doubt that there is one body which, if it had its way, would destroy the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I refer to the Communist party. I take this opportunity to warn the workers of the value of the arbitration machinery that we have in Australia, because those who seek to destroy arbitration trade their wares when there is full employment, as is now the case. There may be some people engaged in industry who would say that the arbitration machinery is far too slow. But we see the real value of arbitration at a time when employment is scarce. If we were to return to the conditions of the past we should see the full value of conciliation mid arbitration. Although, as I have said, the policy of the Communists is to destroy arbitration, they have gained power in the trade unions through the apathy of trade unionists themselves. I appeal to trade unionists to realize the benefits of arbitration. The trade unionist has a part to play in his own organization just as its executive officers have. This bill is designed to prevent the irregular practices that have been followed in. some organizations. I claim that any action that has been taken to clean up irregular practices was taken by the Labour movement. At its triennial conference the Australian Labour party discussed irregular practices and appointed a committee to advise on the methods that should be adopted to abolish them. The majority, if not all, of the trade unions in my own State of South Australia are well conducted. I can give the names of organizations that have no trouble with the election of their officers, and the members of which have every confidence in those whom they have placed in the executive positions. We offer organizations the services of selected returning officers in order to assist them in conducting their ballots. As the result of the adoption of that system, the manner in which ballots have been held has been reasonably satisfactory.
The bill provides that, should any member of an organization believe that an irregularity has occurred’ in the conduct of a ballot for the election of its officers, he may challenge the election, and a judge of the Arbitration Court, upon being satisfied about the justice of the claim, may order a new election. The trade union movement has made rapid progress in the last few years, particularly during World War II., and it plays a prominent part in the life of the Australian community. We have organized labour and organized capital, and I believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said that organized labour is a bigger body than organized capital is. Whether or not that statement is an exaggeration, the truth is that it was necessary for labour to organize in order to improve the conditions of the workers. Every trade union and every trade unionist has a ‘part to play in this matter. On one occasion, I addressed a meeting of a union at a time when conditions in the industry concerned were not so pleasant as they might have been. I learnt that the employers had offered to place certain employees in permanent positions in return for the names of the persons who had addressed that meeting. That is an example of the industrial conditions that compelled labour to organize for the protection of the workers.
The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the subject of compulsory ballots. I have received a request for the introduction of compulsory unionism.
– Compulsory ballots and compulsory unionism go hand in hand.
– They would go hand in hand, but, unfortunately, this Parliament has not the power to legislate for the introduction of compulsory unionism. Speaking subject to correction, I believe that the only way in which compulsory unionism can be introduced is for industrial organizations to request the court to provide that its awards shall apply only to their members. I believe that the day is not far distant when compulsory unionism and compulsory ballots will be introduced. I have taken the opportunity to discuss with various leaders of trade unions in South Australia the provisions of this bill. Some have not objected’ to it, and claim that the only persons who are frightened of it are those whose positions may be jeopardized by it. A few have expressed doubts because they believe that the bill will affect their right to conduct a free election. However, those fears are groundless. The trade union movement as a whole welcomes this legislation. I have come to the conclusion that the time has arrived for the Government to take this action, and I am satisfied’ that a vast majority of trade unionists will welcome it. The results of referendums that have been held in the last few years have taught us that the Government cannot travel faster than the people are prepared to allow it to go. However, I believe that in the not distant future, compulsory ballots will be introduced.
– When the change of government occurs.
– The Labour party, of which I have the honour to be a member, has always advocated conciliation and arbitration.
– Why does not the Labour party uphold conciliation and arbitration ?
– On every occasion, the Labour party has upheld conciliation and arbitration. If the officers of some industrial organization, who have been responsible for some of the calamities that we have seen, have been elected through the apathy of a majority of the members of those unions, that is not the fault of the Labour party. The trade union movement is in favour of this bill. I support the measure wholeheartedly, and I firmly believe that the day is not far distant when compulsory unionism and compulsory voting for the election of officers of industrial organizations will be introduced.
.- Behind this bill, there lies an acknowledgment by the Government that, in the past, some of the ballots for the election of officers of industrial organizations have been corrupt and rigged. Had those ballots been properly conducted, there would not be any justification for this bill. Consequently, there is inherent in the measure an admission that at least a part of the trade union movement has fallen into the hands of men who have prevented the rank and file from exercising their democratic control over the organizations of which they are members. That is a most serious acknowledgment of a situation in the industrial unions in this country. Although honorable members on this side of the House have directed attention to the position for a long time, it is only now that the Labour Government has acknowledged that the problem must be tackled. The bill is designed to deal with that problem, but an examination of its provisions shows that it will produce no practical result. I shall explain my reasons for expressing that view. The testing of any ballot is to be left in the hands of an individual; and the bill does not empower the Arbitration Court, or the registrar . or any officer of that tribunal, to’ act independently when an irregularity in the ballot is suspected or when there are grounds for so suspecting.
Proposed new section 96a provides that a member of an organization, who claims that there has been an irregularity in a ballot, may make application to the Registrar of the Arbitration Court, based upon a statutory declaration of the facts. The Registrar will then consider the application and will determine, in effect, whether a prima facie case has been disclosed and whether he should refer the matter to the court. If the Registrar decides to act, the submission will be placed before a judge of a Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and the matter will then assume all the features of a long, protracted legal struggle, such as inevitably has occurred whenever a ballot has been challenged in the ordinary tribunals of New South Wales and other States. I invite honorable members to consider the situation. It requires a good deal of courage on the part of an individual unionist to challenge the ruling members of his organization because he gambles everything upon the success of his application. Even if he be successful, the penalties for his success may extend to his daily life thereafter. It requires considerable moral courage on the part of an individual unionist to challenge the result of a ballot, even if he knows that he is likely to succeed, because those whom he challenges will not let up, and will continue to persecute him until he is driven into the ground.
Another reason why it is unlikely that an individual unionist will challenge the result of a ballot is the absence of any certainty that even if his challenge succeeds he will recover his costs. He runs the risk of engaging in litigation that may ultimately impoverish him. Let us examine the position as men of the world. If a unionist becomes aware of an irregularity in a ballot, he must establish two “legs”, as it were, in making his challenge. He must show, first, that the irregularity took place, and, secondly, that it was of such a nature that it went to the root of the ballot, and that, had the ballot been conducted properly, the result would have been different. I direct attention to proposed new section 96k, which deals with costs. There is no certainty that, even if the unionist succeeds in his challenge, he will be paid the costs of the action. Proposed new section 96k reads - ( .1.) Where upon an inquiry the Court finds that an irregularity has occurred, the AttorneyGeneral may, if he considers the circumstances to justify him in so doing, authorize payment by the Commonwealth to the person who applied for the inquiry of the whole or a part of his COSts and expenses (including expenses of witnesses).
Thus, even in the extreme case where he is wholly successful, he is not guaranteed his legal costs. Therefore, the bill will accomplish nothing because, except in the rare case in which a man is prepared to put his future, and perhaps his small fortune, to the touch, no irregularity, however serious, will be challenged in the court. The only way to deal with this problem would be to give to the Registrar and his officers the same right to initiate proceedings as the bill gives to an. individual unionist. If it he true that there have been corruption and ballot-rigging, as is suggested by the terms of the bill itself, and borne out by the revelations of Mr. Sharpley, who has shown how even decent unionists were used by the Communists to rig ballots without knowing what they were doing, then the situation is certainly serious, and calls for more decisive action than is contemplated in this bill. If the Registrar had been empowered to act on information placed before him, instead of the burden being thrown on the individual who is most unlikely to take the risk involved, I should have applauded the Government for making a real attempt to deal with the problem. Very rarely will one find a unionist with the moral courage to risk his future and his fortune by challenging his union leaders. .
It is strange that the Government, having attacked this problem at all, should have dealt with it in this insufficient way. It is equally strange, having regard to what the bill provides, to note what it does not provide. The’ bill does not provide for secret ballots to elect union officials. It does not provide that the election of officers may, in certain circumstances, be challenged by the Registrar, acting on information placed before him, and it does not provide for the holding of a secret ballot of members before an organization decides upon a strike or stoppage. One would have thought that the Government would have concluded that unionists should be given the right to control their unions in the accepted, democratic way, which is through a secret ballot. I understand that it is acknowledged by the Government that the present coal strike has been brought about by the machinations of a few men against the will of a majority of the unionists concerned. I believe that to be correct, and .nearly every honorable member who supports the Government believes it. Certainly, it is the professed opinion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). Is no action to be taken by the Government when the economy of the country is brought to a standstill, not by unionists voting freely and secretly to remedy a grievance which they believe to be sufficient to justify a strike, but by a few men who, as we know, represent the ideology of a foreign power? Only recently, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Attlee, declared that industrial stoppages in Great Britain were being fomented by Communists. Exactly the same thing has been said in Australia of strikes and stoppages that have taken place here, but the Government has done nothing about them. Surely no one will contend that we should allow industry to be held up by a handful of men who happen to be in control of certain unions.
It is of some value to examine the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In recent amending legislation, several of the original provisions have been omitted, but section 72 remains, and is as follows : -
The Court may order, at any stage of the proceedings in relation to a dispute, that any matter upon which the Court thinks fit to ascertain the views of the members of an organization or of a branch of an organization which is a party to the dispute be submitted to a vote of the members of the organization or of the branch thereof taken by secret ballot (with or without provision for absent voting) in accordance with directions given by the Court.
Thus, there already exists a provision in the act for the taking of a secret ballot. If the Government believes that the provision is useless, it should say so, and take action to have it removed from the act.
– That provision refers to industrial disputes only, not to the election of officers.
– Yes, I am talking about industrial disputes. If ever there was a time when that section should be invoked, it is now. Under that provision, the Government could have acted so as to give the miners an opportunity to express by secret ballot their opinion of the strike. I have little doubt that if a secret ballot were held, a majority of the miners would favour a return to work and to industrial arbitration. Legislation should not be allowed to remain on the statute-book if it is not used when circumstances demand its use, and existing circumstances certainly demand the use of the provision I have quoted. If it be proper to provide facilities for challenging any irregularity in connexion with the rigging of ballots, is it not also proper that the provision in section 72 for the holding of secret ballots in connexion with industrial disputes should be extended to the holding of secret ballots for the election of officers? “Why is a secret ballot necessary? It is necessary in order to guard against the possibility of the intimidation of voters, something which is regarded as. of the very essence of the democratic system. It is provided under the law that, when an elector goes to vote, he shall vote secretly, and that no man or woman may know how he casts his vote. Why should not the same provision apply to the election of union officers? It is common knowledge that intimidation is practised, at least by the Communist rulers of certain industrial unions, to prevent the opinion of the majority prevailing. The trouble could be remedied by a very simple amendment to Schedule B of the act of 1947. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out, it should be provided that the rules of any organization, whether of employers or employees, registered under the act, should contain a provision for the election cf officers by means of a secret ballot which makes adequate provision for absent voting. It would be only necessary to insert the words “ by secret ballot “. I want the Government to say whether it believes that unionists should have the right to elect their officers by secret ballot. If it believes they should, why does it not introduce a simple amendment to provide for that to be dene? I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition on this bill. I say that, for the reasons I have stated, the bill will accomplish nothing, because rarely, if ever, will a member of a union challenge the election of officers. Certainly no rank-and-file member is likely to do so. It might be challenged by some unsuccessful office seeker who thought that there was room to challenge it because of an alleged irregularity, but that is not likely generally to serve the general interests of the rank and file. So, I say that this proposal will not accomplish anything. I ask the Government to postpone final consideration of the bill until to-morrow, and in the meantime to give consideration to the incorporation in it of a clause that would empower the Industrial Registrar to act cn his own initiative, if facts come before him which, in his opinion, justified the intervention of the court. ‘Such a provision would go a great distance towards accomplishment of what the Government professes to have in its mind. I sum up by saying that, for the reasons that I have stated, the bill in its present form, if enacted, will prove substantially valueless. The bill contains a provision for a ballot to be held by the Industrial Registrar. The proposed new section 96m provides - (1.) An organization or a branch of an organization may request the Industrial Registrar to conduct an election for an office in the organization or in the branch (as the case may be) with a view to ensuring that no irregularity occurs in or in connexion with the election.
In my view, ultimately it will be found that the proper way in which the elections of industrial union officials should take place is through ballots conducted by the Industrial Registrar and his officers. Proposed new section 96m provides that an organization or a branch of an organization may request the Industrial Registrar to conduct an election. Why should it riot be the general rule that the Industrial Registrar shall conduct the elections? That strikes at the heart of the problem. That procedure would prevent irregularities in ballots. If we are really concerned about giving to the rank-and-file trade unionists real control of their own industrial organizations, what is permissive in proposed new section 96m ought to be made mandatory, because, ultimately, it will be found that the election of union officials at ballots conducted by the Industrial Registrar is the correct way in which those officials should be elected. One cannot deny that in these days trade union officials, rightly or wrongly, have tremendous power in their hands. In my opinion, one should acknowledge that they have that power in their hands. But, when one does acknowledge that they possess tremendous power to give a leadership that may be for good or bad to a vast number of the employees in industry who stand behind them, one should also acknowledge that it is of first-class importance that the men who possess and exercise that power influencing the economy of the country, should be elected at ballots that are conducted by the In dustrial Registrar. My suggestions, which I hope will receive the support, if not of this Government, then of some other government, for the election of these trade union officials, who are important in the life of the community, at secret ballots conducted by the Industrial Registrar, are made in all sincerity. I have taken the opportunity afforded by the debate on this bill to make my observations in the hope that, if they do not receive legislative form during the life of this Parliament, they will at least engender discussions in the Labour caucus, out of which may emerge legislation that will give effect to some of them.
– I desire- to voice the disappointment of the Australian Country party at the ineffectiveness of the legislation that is before the House. That legislation should be assessed in the light of existing circumstances. The circumstances in which Australia finds itself to-day are most important and urgent. We are insistent that the management of the affairs of the trade unions of Australia shall be restored to the control of the rank and file of those organizations. This legislation is totally inadequate to bring that about. It is out of all proportion to the national needs. It is not legislation of the sort that should emanate from the Australian Parliament. It is obvious, of course, that the Government has been awakened to its responsibilities by recent disclosures of discontent among the rank and file trade unionists with the usurption of their control by their own officials. The process has been gradual but continuous, and it has been most effective. As an alleged counter move, the Government has produced for our consideration this bill, which it considers will be sufficient to achieve its aims in the control of the election of trade union officials. But, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, and his contentions have been ably supported by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), it will prove totally inadequate to carry out its intended purpose. Instead of producing a bill for the establishment of the best possible machine to enable the rank and file trade unionist to have his union affairs honestly and properly controlled, the Government has produced one that, in my opinion, will, if it be enacted, place every possible obstacle in the way of effective and expeditious determination of a trade unionist’s dissatisfaction with the conduct of the affairs of his union. As the honorable member for Warringah has said, the responsibility for making applications to the Industrial Registrar of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration about any irregularity in ballots for the election of the officials of trade unions will rest entirely on individual trade unionists who consider that they have been harmed or otherwise adversely affected by such irregularity. The trade unionist who makes an approach to the Industrial Registrar for a fresh ballot on the ground of irregularities in the conduct of the first ballot is likely, as was pointed out by the honorable member forWarringah, to be involved in great cost, regardless of the outcome of the case that he presents. Like the Liberal party, the Australian Country party has for years had a definite policy on the control of trade unions and the desirability of improving the relationship between employees and employers. We have written into our policy that conciliation shall precede arbitration. Our policy is set out hereunder -
Encouragement of good relations between employer and employee by -
Creation of machinery to ensure that all trade union elections shall be determined by secret ballot under the control of the Industrial Registrar.
That is not a new-found policy. It has been in our platform for many years. We have for a very long time been greatly concerned about the need for the rank and file unionists to have the final determination of the manner in which the affairs of their unions shall be con ducted. We have always recognized the need for the democratic control of trade unions. We realize that the trade union is an integral part of our industrial wellbeing and that, consequently, the rank and file trade unionists should be protected to the greatest possible degree in order that Australian industry and those employed in it may successfully ward off the cancerous growth of communism. We all must realize that the industrial strength of Australia is being sapped by the Communists, not merely as a part of their internal policy in Australia,but also, and more particularly, as a part of the attempted realization of the ambitions of the Kremlin in Moscow. All means of confounding the Communists in our midst in their efforts to wreck the Australian trade unions and Australian industry itself, must be applied. One means lies in the adaption of the suggestions of the honorable member for Warringah for the conduct of all ballots for the election of the officials of trade unions by the Industrial Registrar of the Arbitration Court. I marvel at the silence of members of the Government on the fundamental need to ensure the preservation of democratic methods in. the election of trade union officials and in the conduct of trade union affairs. It betrays a strange reluctance to support the decent trade unionists who desire to protect their rights against the insidious attacks that are being made upon them by their Moscow-inspired leaders. The Government has ample precedent to guide it if it wishes to ensure the protection of the decent trade unionist’s rights. I direct its attention to the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1932 that was passed by the Labour-controlled Parliament of Queensland in 1932 and is still on the Queensland statute-book. Section 51 of that act prohibits strikes and lockouts. Its terms are as follows : -
Prohibition of strikes or lock-outs. (1) No person shall take part in, or do or be concerned or instigate to or aid in doing, any matter or thing in the nature of a strike or lock-out unless or until a strike or lock-out has been authorized by the industrial union or employers in the calling concerned.
A strike shall not be deemed to have been authorized until all the members of the industrial union who are engaged in the calling and in the district affected have had an opportunity of participating in a secret ballot taken .at n genera! meeting duly constituted in accordance with the rules of the union, and a. majority have voted in favour of such strike :
Provided that, where it is inconvenient for members of the union to attend at a general meeting, the decision of the members may be taken by means of a secret poll of the whole of those affected; the pool may be taken by postal ballot or otherwise; or a series of meetings may be held and ballots taken thereat, and in that case the result of the aggregate vote shall be taken ito be the decision:
Provided further that, in any calling where no industrial union exists, no strike shall be authorized and in no case shall any lock-out bc authorized unless and until the registrar has, in manner prescribed by Rules of Court, taken a secret ballot amongst the employees or employers, as the case requires, in the calling concerned, and such ballot has resulted in favour of such strike or lock-out:
Provided further, that no strike or lock-out shall be deemed to have been authorized unless or until the result of the secret ballot or voting thereon of the persons concerned, together with the details of the voting have been communicated to the registrar:
Provided further, that any question as to whether any strike is an authorized strike or any lock-out is an authorized lock-out shall be heard and determined by the Court.
A strike shall not be deemed to have been authorized until all the members of the industrial union who are engaged in the calling and in the district affected have had an opportunity of participating in a secret ballot taken at a general meeting duly constituted in accordance with the rules of the union, and a majority have voted in favour of such strike.
Provided that, where it is inconvenient for members of the union to attend at a general meeting, the decision of the members may be taken by means of a secret poll of the whole of those affected; the poll may be taken by postal ballot or otherwise; or a series of meetings may be held and ballots taken thereat, and in that case the result of the aggregate vote shall be taken to be the decision.
Any person who commits an offence against this section shall be liable to a penalty, in the case of an employer or industrial union, not exceeding one hundred pounds, and in other cases not exceeding ten pounds.
Thus, since 1932, provision has existed in the Queensland act, prescribing the conditions under which secret ballots must be held in connexion with proposals involving a strike or a stoppage of work. This bill is absolutely silent on that point. It merely provides the means whereby a member of an organization who believes that there has been an irregularity in the conduct of an election for an office in the organization may take steps to have the matter inquired into by the court. In no circumstances could anybody assert that the provisions of this bill are sufficient to rectify the disastrous economic conditions that exist in Australia to-day as the result of the dislocation of industry which has been brought about by a few irresponsible union leaders. It is incumbent on the Government to introduce a measure outlining the basic principles upon which compulsory secret ballots shall be held in relation to any proposal for a strike, lockout, or stoppage of work, which may result in industrial dislocation. This measure should have contained a provision giving to rank and file members of a trade union an opportunity to vote in a secret ballot for the election of their executive and management bodies. Not only has no such provision been inserted in the bill but the Government has also indicated that it will not agree to amend the bill by the insertion of such a provision. For the reasons that I have stated the measure is totally inadequate to meet the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.
.- As has been pointed out, power is already given by section 72 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act for the holding of secret ballots. This bill merely provides for an extension of that provision. It makes provision for an inquiry to be held into ballots which have been claimed to be irregular. It provides for the holding of an inquiry, and for the issue of an order directing that a new election shall be held should thu court find that an irregularity has occurred. It also prescribes the action to be taken where offences have been found to have occurred in connexion with such elections. Some of us believe in the freedom of voluntary organizations and associations. We prefer that they be left “to work out their own salvation rather than be forced in a particular direction, even though they may make mistakes and even though, through the slow process of education, we take a long time to achieve the perfect society. In an authoritarian society elections are conducted by the State. In a democratic society elections are conducted by the members of organizations in accordance with their rules. Some of us prefer the democratic way of doing things. This bill overrides the principles of - democracy, not only by interfering with union affairs, but also by nullifying the rules of industrial organizations and unions. It provides that any member of an organization, or a person who, within the preceding period of twelve months, has been a member of an organization, may claim that there has been an irregularity in connexion with an election for an office in the organization, and may lodge an application for an inquiry by the court. That provision will enable a person who has been suspended from an organization for any reason to retaliate against those responsible for his suspension by seeking an inquiry into the affairs of the organization. The bill is concerned with trade union ballots. I have been assured that, for the most part, trade union ballots are well conducted and that those who are responsible for them closely follow the rules laid down by their organizations. We all know, however, that in some cases irregular practices are indulged in and have .been indulged in for many years. That statement is true of ballots other than those taken by industrial organizations. This bill was introduced because of the publicity which has been given to irregularities that have occurred in connexion with trade union ballots. Lest it be thought that the evil which we denounce is found only within the trade union movement, I remind the House that irregularities have occurred only too often in the pre-selection ballots of all political parties. Irregularities have, I think, also been known to take place in connexion with municipal, State and federal elections. People who look for public honours and set a false value on them are not much concerned about serv-. ing the State and good judgment and honest practice often receive scant consideration by them. Those who cast aspersions on unionists for the manner in which they conduct their ballots might do well to recall some of the irregularities that have occurred in the ballots conducted by the political party which they support. I do not say that nothing ever goes wrong in union ballots. I have no doubt that irregularities do occur in them; but I think that there is a good deal of hypocrisy in the talk indulged in about them. Through the trade unions in this country the workers have been helped and constantly protected. None of us can overlook the excellent work which has been done by the trade union movement.
I wish to ask some questions relating to the procedure that is to be followed when a special ballot is taken under this legislation. I am not quite clear about the method that is to be used for determining who shall be eligible to vote in such ballots. It has been said that when a strike was held in a meatworks in Queensland about two years ago the Hanlon Government conducted a secret ballot and that thousands more ballot-papers were issued than there were members of the union concerned or persons employed in the industry at that time. When the union inquired into the matter later it found that the names of persons to whom ballotpapers had been issued had been supplied to the Government by companies operating the meatworks. I want to know whether such a thing actually happened and if it did, whether a similar thing could happen again under this legislation. I have been informed that at meatworks in Melbourne, normally employing from 1,000 to 1,200 persons, no fewer than 12,000 workers may be employed in the works during the course of a year. In a compulsory secret ballot conducted “ notwithstanding anything contained in the rules of the union “ would the 12,000 who passed through those works in one year receive ballot-papers, or would the issue of ballot-papers be restricted to the 800 or 900 unionists who were actually engaged? These questions should be clearly answered. Are lists of financial members of industrial organizations supplied to the Arbitration Court every year in accordance with the requirements of the act? I am doubtful whether proper up-to-date lists are supplied. If they are not, how does the Government propose to conduct these ballots? All through this bill there are provisions which override union rules. Proposed new section 96l (5.) provides that an election shall not be invalidated by reason of any breach of the rules of the organization or branch involved in any act, or in compliance with any direction, of the Industrial Registrar made under the provisions of that section. That is a serious and dangerous provision. The unions have been developed over the years, and their rules represent the combined contributions of thousands of members who have been valuable workers in the industries concerned.
.- The economy of Australia has been weakened and seriously endangered by everrecurring strikes and hold-ups. Throughout the war and since there has been interminable industrial trouble in this country. We are scarcely ever without industrial trouble of one kind or another. Honorable members opposite speak glibly of full employment at a time when tens of thousands of men are out of employment because of industrial trouble in one industry or another. The people of this country and honorable members on this side of the House have waited hopefully for the Government to devise means by which democratic control of trade unions can be restored to their members. Nobody can be satisfied with this futile bill. There is nothing in it which will lead good unionists in the coal-mining industry to hope that the Government will fortify them in their desire to get back to work. There is no provision which will do anything to solve the industrial troubles that beset us. The bill is a sham and a delusion. As it is totally inadequate to meet the circumstances that exist in industry to-day it will serve no good purpose. It will not even bluff the people who have been looking forward to a lead from the Government in the settlement of industrial trouble. Although the debate on this measure has been in progress for some time, only one member of the Government has seen fit to .give it even unenthusiastic support. As a rule industrial legislation is discussed in this House in a tense atmosphere, with frequent interjections by Government members. To-day, however, not one Government supporter has evinced an interest in this measure. Honorable members opposite realize that the bill is a useless sham and that the industrialists of this country who have looked to the Government to give a lead in this matter will be disappointed at such a feeble attempt to tackle the problem. This futile bill will sound the death-knell of the Government at the forthcoming general election. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) has said’ that in the past ballots have been fairly good. What does that mean?
– I was speaking of South Australia.
– I suppose the honorable gentleman meant that, like the curate’s egg, they were good in parts. Has he no knowledge of the ballotrigging that is taking place throughout Australia? Has he not read the disclosures that appeared’ in the press recently, supported by letters from persons throughout the Commonwealth, of how trade union ballots are rigged? Ballotrigging is part and parcel of the tactics that have been adopted by the Communists to gain control of trade unions. I expected that the Government would introduce legislation to restore to the rank-and-file members of trade unions democratic control of their organizations, but this measure will operate only when it has been proved up to the hilt that there has been an irregularity in connexion with an election for an office in an organization and, in addition, that the irregularity has seriously affected the result of the election. It contains no provision for the prevention of irregularities.
– I challenge the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) to point to such a provision. It is useless for the honorable gentleman merely to say, “ Oh ! “ He must support his contention. Is there any honorable gentleman opposite who regards this measure as being worth anything at all? No action can be taken under it until irregularities have been proved. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has claimed that it is designed to prevent irregularities in connexion with the election of officers of organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and to invest the Arbitration Court with additional power to prevent such irregularities. I ask the honorable gentleman, when he replies, to specify any provision in the bill that will have that effect. The provisions relating to the orders that the court may make, weak as they ave, cannot operate until irregularities affecting the result of a ballot have been proved to have taken place. In clause 4 an irregularity is defined as follows: -
Irregularity, in relation to an election for an office, includes a breach of the rules of an organization or of a branch of an organization, and any act, omission or other means whereby the full and free recording of votes by all persons entitled to record votes, and by no other persons, or a correct ascertainment or declaration of the results of the voting is, or is attempted to be, prevented or hindered.
Agreement between employees and employers in industry is essential, and agreements that are arrived at must be honoured by both sides. Both parties are under an obligation to ensure that members of their organizations shall carry out the terms of such agreements. If there is to be industrial peace in Australia, it is essential that industrial agreements and awards of the Arbitration Court shall be observed by all parties to them for the period during which it has been agreed that they shall remain in force. They should not be subject to alteration during that time. I believe that arbitration has come to stay. It was introduced in the federal sphere in 1904, and the system has been altered and improved over the years. Without arbitration there would be chaos. Employers and employees, individually and collectively, are concerned with its success. The nation will not become prosperous until the principle of fair play by both sides is accepted and agreement is reached to abide by the decisions of the Arbitration Court or arbitration tribunals. In order to ensure that trade unions shall be democratically controlled it is essential to have secret ballots for the election of officers and the decisions of major industrial issues, because those decisions may have a profound effect upon the life of the community as a whole, but this bill will not achieve those desirable objectives. It will not begin to operate until it has been proved that irregularities affecting the result of a ballot have occurred. The present trouble in the coal-fields is due to the fact that the miners’ leaders are proved Communists, and that the miners’ union is Communist-controlled and Communistdriven. The majority of the members of the mining unions are not. Communists. I am privileged to represent approximately 60 per cent, of the coal-miners of Queensland. I know these men intimately. I went to school with them, I have competed against them in sports and I have known them over the years. Only a very limited number of them are Communists. A great number of them are working now, in defiance of the instructions of the Communists who control their unions. If the Arbitration Court had power to order that a secret ballot be taken of the coal-miners in relation to the present dispute, I am sure that the decision would be overwhelmingly in favour of a return to work. The Government and its supporters are keeping the miners on strike because they are too cowardly to introduce legislation providing for a secret ballot. Honorable gentlemen opposite do not wish to revert to the conditions which obtained when members of the Parliament were not elected by secret ballot. They realize the iniquitous practices that were adopted in those days. Although they are prepared to be elected to the Parliament by secret ballot, they are not prepared to give trade unionists the right to elect the officers of their organizations by the same method. Indeed, they are afraid to do so.
This bill will accomplish nothing. It is a snare and a delusion. It is a disappointment to the people who looked to the Government to take some action to restore the control of trade unions to the rank and file so that they would have an opportunity to deal with the persons who are misleading the trade union movement to-day. Before the court can order a secret ballot, certain conditions must be complied with. The complainant must be a member of the organization concerned, and have been a member of it for over twelve months. He must claim that there has been an irregularity in or in connexion with an election for an office in the organization, or in a branch of it. Then he must lodge an application in writing, in accordance with the prescribed form, with the Industrial Registrar before the completion of the election or within a specified time afterwards. He must specify the election in respect of which the application is made and the nature of the irregularity that he claims has occurred. He must state the facts relied on in support of his application, which must be accompanied by a statutory declaration that the facts stated in it are, to the best of his knowledge and belief, true. The Industrial Registrar must do a whole series of things. He must be satisfied that there is reasonable ground for an inquiry into whether there has been an irregularity in or in connexion with the election and that the circumstances of the matter justify an inquiry by the court. If he is so satisfied, he may grant the application and refer the matter to the court. Then a judge may authorize him to inspect ballot-papers or other documents, and, for that purpose, to enter offices. The rigmarole that will have to be gone through before a secret ballot can be ordered is detailed on three or four pages of the measure. It is quite clear that the Government does not intend to assist the rank and file of the Australian trade union movement to obtain control of their organizations. These proposals are futile and unfair to those who wish to restore peace and harmony to industry in this country and who desire the standard of living of the workers to be improved instead of being depressed by industrial stoppages. This legislation is unworthy of the Government in the present crisis.
.- I notice that although four or five members on this side of the House have risen to speak on this measure, a corresponding number of members on the Government side has not risen. I wonder whether that is because they are so enthusiastically in favour of the measure that they do not think that anything can be said about it, or whether it is because they think that the less they say about it the less will they get into trouble with the trade union movement. It is quite obvious that in this matter the Government has been very much the reluctant dragon. It is also quite obvious that, notwithstanding the fact that there is throughout Australia a very strong and growing body of public opinion in favour of secret ballots in connexion with industrial matters, the Government has approached the matter of secret ballots very reluctantly, very tardily, and very inadequately. My thesis is that the Government, in this legislation, has gone only one-tenth of the distance that it should have gone. First, it has not gone far enough in the provision it has made in relation to the election of officers in the bill. Secondly, it has not made any provision that those elections shall be, in any case, by secret ballot for even where it provides for a ballot it does not insist upon secrecy. And thirdly, the bill makes no provision whatever for secret ballots in respect of strikes or lockouts.
I want to say at the outset that it would not be honest to say to this Parliament, or to the public, that the secret ballot is a complete answer to all our industrial ills. It is not! It may sometimes occur in connexion with large bodies of men, that feeling will be whipped up through the operation of what the psychologists call the “herd complex” and will be so played upon that men will decide upon a course of action irrespective of its merits or demerits. Industrial stoppages may sometimes occur, and no doubt have occurred in the past, notwithstanding their merits or any obstacle that may be placed in the way of their occurring. So do not let us pretend that the secret ballot in industry will solve all our industrial ills. It Will not do that, but it will go a long way towards enabling moderate and steady counsels to prevail in the end, by interposing between agitation and action a period of thought and deliberation - in other words, by permitting what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has called the ordinary fair common sense of the average citizen to have full play. It is because we believe that a secret ballot would give the ordinary man, who is a fairly reasonable individual, a chance to decide for himself what is the fairest course to adopt that we desire it to be instituted. The great virtue of the secret ballot in connexion with industrial matters is that it will keep the Communists out of industry, or at least give us a chance to get them out, whereas to-day we find that the Communists have taken advantage of the loose system of elections that prevails in the trade unions and has dug themselves into industry. There are Communists and agitators in all the key unions. Some such persons may not call themselves Communists, but they are people of that ilk, colour and line of thought. They have got themselves into positions of domination and control. I do not assert that if we tightened up the loose electoral system, of the unions it would not be possible for the Communists to get control of a union, but it would give them a much harder row to hoe. I repeat, therefore, that the introduction of measures that would put a brake upon the impetuosity of men who wish to strike because of some real or imagined injustice, and that would also give deliberation, thought and reason a chance, is desirable. Those are good reasons for introducing the secret ballot, but by far the most important reason is that it would make it more and more difficult for the agitator, the nuisance and the subverter to get control of trade union activities. Let us deal first of all with matters that the bill purports to deal with, such as the election of officebearers. The bill is quite inadequate in the respect that, before any election can be challenged, somebody must give information to the Industrial Registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I regard that provision as unsatisfactory, because the Industrial Registrar should be able to act on his own motion. Honorable members can probably recall cases within their own experience in which there have been irregularities, but where people concerned have been extremely reluctant to come forward and disclose them. Honorable members on both sides of the House have heard of cases of intimidation. Some of these cases were no doubt exaggerated, but others were all too true. I heard of a case recently in connexion with the Federated Ironworkers Association, concerning an employee at a factory who took it upon himself to put out a fire that he saw blazing on the factory premises. He was threatened, and, I believe, actually ill:treated. because he had dared to take upon himself the responsibility of putting out the boss’s fire. One honorable member opposite laughs at that. If that incident was not tragic, it would be funny. So extraordinary is the mentality of men in the mass that they would threaten a man who was doing so simple and automatic an action as putting out a dangerous fire. Reported in the press some time ago was a case in Newcastle where a member of a trade union stated publicly that he was opposed’ to a certain stoppage of work. He was about 60 years of age, and he had the courage to say that he opposed the union’s projected action. Later on the same day he was found lying on the roadside with a fractured skull and concussion, having been assaulted by some of his so-called’ mates who apparently took the opposite view to his. Fortunately, he recovered. Those are cases that have come to our notice, and I suppose that every one of us could give other illustrations of the same sort. Everybody knows that when men meet In the mass they are driven by motives, impulses and considerations that do not move them when they act as individuals. We know that there have been tragic instances of the intimidation of men who have dared to stand out against the majority. It is precisely such things that we wish to guard against.
– Such things happen in the Liberal party.
– It should not lie only in the hands of a member of an organization to go along to the Industrial Registrar, publicly, as he must do under this bill, and make a written statement giving information about an irregularity to the Industrial Registrar. Such a procedure would expose a man to threats. It would put a strain upon his sense of justice and fair play and his desire to do the right thing. It should be possible for the Industrial Registrar, when he is of the opinion that irregularities have occurred in ballots, to act upon his own motion to bring the matter before the court. I have no doubt that in due course an amendment along these lines will be proposed at the committee stage.
– How would the Industrial Registrar know about an irregularity?
– If the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), who has ju3t interjected, will study the proposed section 96a he will see that applications by persons for inquiries must be made to the Industrial Registrar in writing and publicly. In the proposed section 96b he will see that the Industrial Registrar may act upon the information given to him by such a person, and not otherwise. We on this side of the House will propose that there shall be added the provision that the Industrial Registrar, when he is of the opinion that irregularities have occurred, may, of his own motion, place the matter before the court. The honorable member for Herbert has asked how the Industrial Registrar would know about an irregularity. He might know about an irregularity just as people know about things in the ordinary course of events, that is, because information has come to him. Honorable members opposite may ask whether the information should not come to him publicly and be open to criticism, and may say that everybody should know where it came from. I say “ No “, because that is only the initiating process and not the end of the matter. All that would happen would be that the Industrial Registrar, from information given to him privately or from his own observations, would start the ball rolling. That would not be the end of the matter because, as the honorable member will see by reading the bill, the matter would then go to the court. I would not be a party to a proposal that all this machinery should go into operation, from first to last, upon a mere secret hearsay. That is not in accordance with my temperament at all. The Industrial Registrar should be able to exercise a power to initiate action on his own motion if he obtains some private information. If that right of making inquiries and initiating proceedings, is not given to the Industrial Registrar, it is possible that information may never be laid by any one, because men may be afraid to come forward with it.
– The information that the Industrial Registrar received privately might not be correct. He might be misled.
– That is so, but there are plenty of safeguards. The Industrial Registrar is an officer of the court, and such registrars as I have met are capable and open-minded officers, and would satisfy themselves about whether information was proper information upon which to act or not. The point that I am making is that it should not be left to an individual to come forward and make a public statement, because he would thereby expose himself to intimidation and would therefore be reluctant to take any action at all.
– The Industrial Registrar would need a big staff to obtain information for himself.
– The Industrial Registrar is not empowered to do these things. Only information that is brought to his notice under the proposed section 96a can be acted upon.
Under proposed section 96m it is provided that the Industrial Registrar may conduct elections upon request. If an organization or a branch of an organization requests the Industrial Registrar to conduct an election so as to ensure that no irregularity may occur, he may do so. A union may anticipate trouble, and, in order to avoid it request the Registrar to conduct the election. My objection to proposed new section 96m is that it does not provide for a secret ballot, but refers merely to an election. The measure of protection that is so essential in this matter can be afforded only by a secret ballot that will ensure that the members of the organization concerned may vote according to their wish and not according to the wishes of some other persons.
– Can the honorable member cite an instance of an election for officers of a union that has not been conducted by secret ballot?
– Some peculiar things occur in connexion with the election of officials of unions. We hear of such happenings. I refuse to believe that persons of the calibre of Healy and Roach would hold key positions in an important union if- proper pro-vision had been made for a secret ballot. Naturally I have heard of secret ballots, and I have also heard of ballot boxes with sliding panels. Honorable members have read the revelations that were made by Mr. Sharpley, the exCommunist, in which he explained how even secret ballots were “ rigged “. If we are to protect the members of industrial organizations so that they may vote according to their wish and conscience and not through fear, we must go the whole way, and make the code complete. Proposed new section 96m does not go far enough. It should be mandatory upon the Industrial Registrar of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to conduct a secret ballot for the election of union officials.
One of the difficulties that confronts us at the present time is that the Communists have their representatives in the saddle in many unions. They have succeeded in doing so only because of loose methods of electing officers. If we tighten up the method of election, the Communists will have difficulty in securing the return of their nominees in future. All human beings are misguided from time to time on a variety of subjects, but the average trade unionist, like people in other sections of the community, if given a reasonable chance, will do the right thing. Everybody does not do the right, thing all the time. That would not be in accord with human nature. I believe that, in the long run, elections work put rightly in expressing the will of the voters. We, as individuals, may not always like the result of an election, but taking the results over a period of years, I believe that the common sense of the people does, in the end, prevail. Because members of the Opposition hold that opinion, they consider that the principle of the secret ballot, as adopted in parliamentary elections, should prevail in industrial matters.
– Only in industrial matters ?
– We are discussing industrial matters only at the present time. If I were to attempt to speak on any subject that was not an industrial matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker might very well rule that my remarks were not relevant to this bill.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker is not listening at the moment.
– I am not so sure about that. My third criticism of the bill is that it completely omits to deal with the burning topic of to-day, a matter that is touched upon in the principal act. I refer to the holding of a secret ballot in relation to an industrial stoppage or lockout. As previous speakers have already stated, section 72 of the principal act provides that the court may, at any stage of the proceedings in .relation to a dispute, order that the views of the members of the organization involved may be ascertained by secret ballot. That is a general provision. Unfortunately, it applies only to disputes that have arisen, and, still more unfortunately, this Government has not bothered to invoke it. There may be good reasons why the Government has not done so, but I am not aware of them. Section 72 has been the law for a long time, but it is inadequate, because it tends to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. We require a provision to prevent the horse from bolting. I said at the beginning of my remarks, which I am trying to make in a reasonable and moderate way, that we cannot, by this kind of legislation, provide for every case; but it will give us a chance to reduce stoppages to a minimum, and will provide an opportunity for reason and common sense to prevail. If this bill had provided, as it should provide, that no strike or lockout should take place until the views of the members of the organization concerned had been ascertained, and if stoppages in defiance of that provision had been treated as breaches of the industrial law and punishable accordingly, the reasonable and moderate unionist would have had an opportunity to express his honest opinion. The classic case, that occurred to the mind of the Leader of the Opposition, of the tramway employees in Sydney last year, illustrates my meaning. It is not beyond doubt, perhaps, but it is a fair bet, that if a secret ballot had been properly conducted to ascertain the views of the coalminers before the present strike occurred, the rank and file would have voted’ against the stoppage. Most honorable members hold that view. Had there been legislation that made the holding of a secret ballot mandatory, the coal-miners would have been able to vote freely on the issue, and I believe that the result of the ballot would not have to plunge us into the throes of this appalling stoppage.
– The honorable member is on the wrong track. The real issue was not properly submitted to the coalminers.
– That also is probably true, but I go so far as to say that, if both sides of the issue had been submitted fairly to the men and they had signified their views by a show of hands, the majority would still have been in favour of a strike. Considerations of solidarity, and, in addition, fear, of intimidation and a. dozen other things, would have influenced that result. But let us suppose, for the purpose of this argument, that a secret ballot, similar to that associated with h parliamentary election, had been taken. I believe that, in such circumstances, flip majority of the men would not have voted in favour of the stoppage. That remark brings me to another point. How can we introduce the secret, ballot? Previous speakers have cited several acts of the Parliament to illustrate how the problem may be solved. For a long time, I thought, and I had some experience in industrial matters in New South Wales .years ago, that it was possible for the court to provide for the holding of a secret ballot before a strike or a lockout.
– Order! The honorable member is making a long speech on a subject that is not quite relevant to the bill. The Chair has allowed’ some degree of deviation, but it must insist that any departures from the strict subject-matter of the debate shall be of a nature of only a reasonable reference.
– I undertake not to make a long reference to the matter.
– Order ! The honorable member has already been on the. subject for a considerable time.
– It seems to me to have been brief. The Leader of the Opposition and other speakers have already discussed the particular matter to which I desire to refer. I do not propose to labour it, and I consider, with respect to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I am entitled to cite an illustration of what I mean in relation to the matter that has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Order ! The amendment that the Leader of the Opposition submitted has been ruled out of order.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) also referred to the subject, and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) cited an act of the Queensland Parliament as an illustration. I merely desire to point out that there is legislation in New South Wales that provides for the court to take such ballots in all cases, and that if the ballot is not so taken, the strike shall be illegal. For a long time, I considered that that legislation was effective. To-day, I am not so pure that it is the best solution of the problem. My view has so changed that it is now in conformity with the view that has been expressed by the Leader of the’ Opposition, namely, that thu, most effective way in which to introduce and enforce the secret ballot is through the rules of an industrial organization itself. For the benefit of a. few honorable members who did not hear my earlier remarks, I repeat that we cannot obtain perfection in matters of this kind. There will always be the odd industrial stoppage, and it is idle to pretend that a provision for taking secret ballots, no matter how elaborate the machinery may he, will cure all the industrial ills.
– That is the most effective point that the honorable member has made.
– I have repeated it three times.
– Order ! If the honorable member repeats it again, the Chair will rule him out of order.
– In making the statement for the third time, I was merely trying to meet the lack of receptivity among certain honorable members opposite. However, most of us agree that it is desirable that the views of members of an industrial organization shall be taken before a stoppage occurs. How can we give effect to that opinion?
– How does the honorable member propose to relate his remarks to the bill?
– I am referring to the bill at this moment.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the bill. The Chair has been lenient with the honorable member.
– The bill makes provision for the prevention of irregularities in connexion with elections of officers in organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and I was about to refer to cases in which ballots are required by industrial law. That statement relates to the bill as well as to the holding of ballots before a strike and I make only a passing reference to that matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, the most effective means for ensuring that a ballot shall be taken before an organization decides to strike is through the rules of the organization itself. I do not desire to elaborate that point. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that the by-laws of every organization that is registered with the Arbitration Court shall be submitted to the Industrial Registrar. Speaking directly to the bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I submit that clauses providing for the election of office bearers by secret ballot could easily be drafted. So, also, could clauses relating to secret ballots before strikes. Indeed, the by-laws and regulations of most trade unions are built around a common form. It is simple to draft provisions relating to the election of office bearers by secret ballot, and for taking a secret ballot before an organization engages in a stoppage. Then, when an organization desired to secure registration with the Arbitration Court, it should be obliged to include those provisions in its by-laws. From those provisions would flow certain consequences. If it were discovered that an organization or its office bearers were not obeying the by-laws, a court could immediately take cognizance of the fact. If the rules were in existence, the average trade unionist, like the members of any other section of the community, would obey them. What the militant trade unionist is doing at the present time is taking advantage of a position that is not covered by any rules. That loose state of affairs should be corrected. If we set down an intelligent and fairly tight code of provisions that must be obeyed, we shall find that, in most instances, they will be observed. From my own limited experience, and from what I have been told, I. believe that, in the vast majority of instances, an existing rule would be obeyed. The Communists have taken advantage of the absence of rules. Under the pressure of public opinion, the Government has reluctantly taken action; but the bill does not go far enough, in that there is no provision in it for the holding of secret ballots for the election of union officers, and no provision authorizing the Registrar to inform his own mind without having the story told to him by a victimized member of a union. Finally, the bill contains no provision in regard to the most important matter of all, namely, the taking of secret ballots in connexion with industrial stoppages.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has just delivered an address in the course of which he revealed his ignorance of the problems associated with the Trade Union movement and offered no practical suggestion for solving those problems. In recent months, we have had to listen to speeches from the honorable member touching upon most parts of Australia, from Darwin to Bankstown.
In them, he has revealed such ignorance that honorable members acquainted with the areas under discussion have had to take him to task. The honorable member should try to understand the attitude of trade unionists to these problems, and also something of the way in which trade unions function. Then he might be able to offer practical suggestions instead of idle criticism. Members of the Opposition complain of malpractices in connexion with the administration of union affairs, but when they were in power they did nothing to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act so as to put an end to those malpractices. Indeed, at one time, they tried to do what the Communists are now attempting, namely, to destroy the system of conciliation and arbitration. When they had the opportunity, they never introduced legislation io ensure clean union ballots. They never did even as much as this Government has done to ensure the proper conduct of union affairs.
– In Victoria, where the parties composing the Opposition in this House have been longest in power, there is not even provision for the registration of trade unions.
– In Victoria, they are registered under the Commonwealth. Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– This bill goes a long way towards ensuring that union ballots shall be clean, and towards assisting those in the unions who are fighting the Communists tooth and nail, although it does not, perhaps, do everything that might be desired. I propose to quote the views expressed by a well-known member of the Liberal party, Mr. Frank Browne, who produces a weekly publication called Things I Hear. At one time he was the Liberal opponent of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and at other times he stood for election, to the State Parliament for the constituency of Bondi.
Silting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was dealing with some observations made by the honorable member for Parramatta on the bill, which, amongst other things, is designed to prevent irregularities in trade union ballots and to prevent what might frankly be called “ ballot rigging “. I consider that the major political parties in Australia, which desire, above all other sections of the community, to ensure the introduction of clean ballots in trade unions, should see that their own houses are in order and that the ballots for the selection of their candidates for election to this Parliament and other parliaments in Australia shall be as clean as they desire the ballots of trade unions to be. In that regard, 1 have in mind, particularly in view of statements made by the honorable member for Parramatta and other honorable gentlemen opposite, the statements of a man in New South Wales named Frank Browne, who claims to hold membership of the Liberal party and to have advanced so far in its favour as to have been selected by it to contest State and Federal seats on two or three occasions, though, so far, he has not gained a seat. In. his publication Things I Hear, on the 3rd May, 1949, he gives extensive space to the rigging of ballots conducted by trade unions, and his own. party, the Liberal party. He headed his article on page 3, “ Just. Amateurs “, and said -
Tha allegations of ex-Comrade Cecil Sharply, concerning ballot rigging would have shocked us, but for two things. Firstly, no Union election has been conducted without some skullduggery like this since Billy Hughes started the Waterside Workers’ Federation, and everybody knows it.
He went on to say -
The second thing that leads us to the conclusion that the Comrades are mugs at this sort of thing, is that we have had the privilege of watching the Spooner-Dargan, New South Wales Liberal executive in action.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My point of order arises out of the observations of the honorable member for Martin about what is alleged to have been written by a man named Frank Browne about some selections of candidates that have been made by the Liberal party and about ballot rigging. This is a bill for an act to mako provision for the prevention of irregularities in connexion with elections of officers in organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. My submission is that the irregularities alleged by Mr. Browne were not concerned with elections of officers in organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and that the references to and comments on those alleged irregularities by the honorable member for Martin are completely irrelevant to the bill, either directly or indirectly.
– -The honorable member for Martin is entitled to quote parallel cases in order to demonstrate how trade union ballots should or should not be conducted. I direct the attention of the honorable member for Parramatta to the fact that on more that one occasion I ruled that his own remarks were quite relevant to the bill. I told him, at the same time, that he was being given a great privilege. I shall listen carefully to what the honorable member for Martin says, and, if his remarks have relevance to the bill I shall allow them to be made.
– Continuing, Mr. Browne said -
It is our considered opinion that Billy Spooner and Co., could play the Comrades on a very big break, when it comes to conducting ballots.
The Spooner Boys began holding parliamentary elections very early in the piece. The first ballot which elected Spooner was so irregular that the Returning Officer refused to sign n certificate.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– I have already ruled on the honorable member’s point of order.
– But this is a new point of order.
– But it is on the same matter.
– No ; it is on a new matter. You indicated that you would hear enough of the matter to which the honorable member for Martin was referring to enable you to determine whether the matter was relevant to the bill, which relates to irregularities in the conduct of elections for union offices. I submit that von have heard enough of the matter to realize that the allegations that have been made by some one else on some other issue have nothing whatever to do with the bill.
– If honorable members desire me to give a strict ruling on the matter before the Chair-
– We do.
– Then, the honorable member should have taken that point of order before he himself spoke. I am prepared to hear sufficient of the remarks of the honorable member for Martin to determine their relevance. The honorable member for Martin is entitled to refer to parallel matters in debating the conduct of the union ballots. If his remarks seem to be not relevant to the bill, I shall ask him to relate them to the bill or confine himself strictly to it.
– I was endeavouring to point out that the people who advocate clean union ballots and the prevention of ballot-rigging should see that their own houses are in order. I was directing the attention of the House to an article by a member of the Liberal party in the person of Mr. Browne, in which it was stated -
The first ballot which elected Spooner was so irregular that the Returning Officer refused to sign a certificate. That set the pace, and since then, they have all been run according to- the laws laid down by the late Mr. Rafferty.
The hoys are conducting a ballot at the moment, which will show what we mean. This farce is for the election of seven people to the New South Wales Senate Selection Committee.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This debate is supposed to have some reference to the bill. The bill relates to the election of officers of organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Anything said by any one about a Senate selection committee has no reference to elections of officers of organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Any parallel cases that the honorable member for Martin desires to submit, in accordance with your ruling, must relate to the election of officers of unions registered under that act. I submit, therefore, that the observations of the honorable member for Martin are entirely beyond the scope of the bill, and I ask you to rule accordingly.
– There is some substance in the point raised by the honorable member for Moreton. The bill relates to ballots for the election of union officers. Honorable members are entitled to refer to parallel ballots in order to show how union ballots should be conducted. The remarks of the honorable member have been somewhat along those lines and I have allowed them to be made. There has been a wide debate on the hill, but if honorable members desire a tighter ruling from the Chair, I shall give it.
– I shall try to keep within your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I desire to show the kind of ballot-rigging that we seek to avoid. I desire to make these quotations at length, because I must go into detail in order to establish my point. Other honorable members have been given the widest scope. They went into the matter of secret ballots.
– I ask the honorable member not to proceed far along those lines and to confine his remarks to the bill.
– With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall proceed to quote Mr. Browne’s remarks. He went on to say -
The ballot-papers sent out for this election are merely roneoed forms. They are not numbered. Nobody knows how many have been printed. Then, the secrecy of the ballot is a farce. The voter is expected to fill in the paper, then enclose it in an envelope, on which lie or she signs their name. So that all the executive members have to do to find out who is for, or agin ‘em, is compare the votes with thu envelopes.
Finally, the ballot-papers carries no signature of a duly appointed returning officer. They were sent out piecemeal by the secretary of the party. Days after the ballot-papers had gone out, the State Council had a meeting, and appointed a returning officer.
Finally, the returning officer, is a paid employee of the party, dependent for his livelihood on an executive headed by Billy Spooner, who is a candidate for one of the Senate possies.
– I desire to take a further point of order. This has nothing to do with unions registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The election of the officers of unions is all we are debating and all that we should be allowed to debate.
– What the honorable member for Martin is placing before the House has, I am afraid, no direct reference to the bill.
– I regret that when I am dealing with a matter of overwhelming importance to the people of Australia, honorable members opposite should take points of order. I am endeavouring to elaborate the fact that we need to avoid, in trade union ballots, ballots of the type by which members of the Liberal party gain membership of this Parliament and other parliaments.
– I think the honorable member should proceed along other lines.
– With your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to finish the point I was making. Mr. Browne went on to state -
People who sit meekly by and see an election conducted in a way that has never been tolerated in any union-
– Order ! The honorable member for Martin is not entitled to proceed along those lines.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In the course of this debate, we have heard long quotations about ballot-rigging in trade unions that are not registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and about disclosures by Mr. Cecil Sharpley. I assume that since the purpose of the bill is to prevent ballot-rigging, the honorable member for Martin may speak about ballot-rigging and then demonstrate how this bill may avoid ballot-rigging.
– The honorable member for Fremantle has stated in general terms the lines of my ruling. The honorable member for Martin is entitled to give parallel cases in demonstrating what should be done about the conduct of union ballots. He is entitled to make general references to ballot-rigging in other spheres, but he is not entitled to discuss such matters in detail. The matter to which he is now referring has no reference to the bill.
– I wish to give an illustration of the type of ballot-rigging that must be avoided in union ballots. I refer to ballot-papers of the type that must not lie used in the trade union ballots. I hope that this measure and the regulations made thereunder will empower the Industrial Registrar or a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to deal with cases like those I have illustrated in order to prevent ballot-rigging in trade union ballots.
In some instances ballot-papers have been 3ent out in roneo-ed form. They are not numbered, and accordingly no check can be imposed on the number issued, or on the manner in which they are used. In such circumstances how can such ballots be described as secret? In some ballots the elector was called upon to fill in the paper and enclose it in an envelope on which he signed his or her name. How can such ballots be regarded as secret? An inquisitive person has merely to examine the ballot-paper and look at the name of the voter on the envelope in order to ascertain how the person had voted. Ballots of that type are not wanted by the trade unions. I have dealt with ballots conducted by the Liberal party merely to illustrate the sort of ballot we do not want in the trade unions. In that instance the ballot-paper did not carry the signature of a duly appointed returning officer. The ballot-papers were sent out piecemeal by the secretary of the organization and days after they had been despatched, a returning officer was appointed. That election should have been declared void because the returning officer was a paid employee of the organization who depended for his livelihood on his association with it. Returning officers should be completely divorced from the organization whose ballots they are to supervise. The returning officer concerned happened to be Mr. Spooner. Political parties are, of course, at liberty to conduct ballots in that way if they so choose ; but they must realize that such a practice lays itself open to very great abuse. If they follow that practice, knowing the abuses which are likely to occur, that is their business. Are those who sit meekly by and allow elections to be conducted by a method not resorted to even in the Communistdominated trade unions, entitled to talk about secret ballots ? I regret that honorable members opposite by their constant interruptions to my speech have shown that they condone ballots of that type. Evidently, they wish to see a similar system adopted by the unions of this country. It is extremely fortunate that Mr. Browne published these facts relating to the methods adopted by the Liberal party. Honorable members apposite who know that these malpractices occur in their own party are using every means in their power to stifle honorable members who endeavour to expose them.
The subject of compulsory trade union ballots has been raised during this debate. Much may perhaps be said in favour of compulsory ballots but I point out that that system has yet to be tried in the unions in order to prove whether or not it would be successful. What penalty would honorable members opposite prescribe for those who did not record a vote in a compulsory ballot? If an organization decided that its members were to be subjected to penalties for failing to vote in ballots conducted by it, many people would refuse to join it. I consider that it would be unfair to penalize a member of a union for not having voted and at the same time allow a person who refused to join a union to go scot-free. Are honorable members opposite prepared to come out into the open and, in conformity with their opinions on compulsory secret ballots for trade unions, advocate also the principle of compulsory trade unionism ? If penalties are to be imposed on persons for having failed to vote at a ballot held by an organization, the trade unions will have to be made responsible for furnishing the information upon which the penalty is based. That can only be done effectively if the principle of compulsory trade unionism is introduced throughout, the community. This bill does not provide for such a system. Perhaps it may be nut into effect at some future time. I trust that when consideration is being given to these proposals the other aspects which I have mentioned will also be kept in mind by the Government. I hope that this bill will play an important part in assisting those unionists who are endeavouring to develop real Australian control of our trade union movement. The provisions of this bill will give to individual members of organizations the right to approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court if they believe that the affairs of their organization have not been properly conducted. That will go a long way towards stopping malpractice in the conduct of trade union affairs. The bill has the endorsement of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and of trade unionists generally. It has been long-awaited by good unionists, who have been endeavouring to wrest control of their unions from the Communists and from other ‘people who do not believe as we do. Whilst the provisions of the measure do not go as far as some people would like them to go, they at least constitute a forward step towards the improvement of our arbitration machinery, and if they are properly taken advantage of they will help to bring untold benefits to the trade union movement generally, and to the people of Australia as a whole. They will enable the trade unions to be controlled in future by those who hold the point of view of the Australian Labour party rather than that of the Communists. I commend the bill to the House. I express my regret that honorable members opposite have so constantly interrupted me when I have sought to refer to the malpractices that have occurred in one of the major political organizations of this country. I trust that this legislation will prevent such malpractices from being perpetrated’ in our trade unions.
.- The House is dealing with a measure to provide for the prevention of irregularities in connexion with elections for the appointment of officers in organizations which are registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) has spent some time dilly-dallying in an attempt to convince the people that the Liberal party is an organization which is registered in the court. There was no analogy between his remarks about that organization and the matter with which this hill deals.
– Are his allegations true? That is the point.
– I do not know, and I do not care. That is the business of the Liberal party which can do what it likes.
– Order ! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– The honorable member for Martin used up a considerable amount of his available time in reading an extract from a statement issued by a gentleman in .Sydney who has expressed his views about what has gone on inside an organization of which he was a member. It is apparent that at one time or another the Mr. Browne to whom the honorable member referred had been refused endorsement by the Liberal party and has now become a disgruntled member of that party, and in consequence has deserved the same title as has been given to Mr. Sharpley by those with whom he was formerly associated. I have heard honorable memhers opposite say some very nasty things to others who at one time belonged to the Australian Labour party and were wise enough to see the light. No credit is due to the honorable member for Martin for the extracts which he has read from the statement .published .by Mr. Browne.
This measure is designed to prevent irregular;ties in the election of office bearers in industrial organizations. It is obvious that the intention of the Government in introducing it is to cope with the advancing control by the Communist party of certain sections of the trade union movement. This measure, however, merely tinkers at that problem. If the Government had shown any real intention to place obstacles in the way of the success of the Communist menace it would have gone much further. Honorable members opposite know very well that few unionists would have the courage to report to the Industrial Registrar irregularities that take place in elections conducted by industrial organizations. The Labour movement is renowned for handing out ready justice to unionists who have the courage to attack its political and industrial machine. If a member of an organization had good grounds for reporting an irregularity in the conduct of an election within his organization, he would hesitate to do so because he would know that his action would endanger his future in his calling. It has :been admitted by honorable members opposite that some industrial organizations have conducted ballots for the election of officers in a dishonest fashion. Everybody is aware that that has happened. We know also that whilst the ballots conducted by a trade union are secret they are not compulsory ballots and that, in fact, very few workers participate in them because of the apathy of the average unionist towards the activities of his organization. We are well aware that meetings of trade unions are generally poorly attended. I recall that in the days when the organization known as the Industrial Workers of the World was seeking to gain a foothold in this country, a prominent Minister in this Government spoke on its behalf at the Esplanade at Perth and for so doing earned a name which has stuck to him ever since. The same Minister, working against the production drive initiated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), once told the workers that if they worked too hard they would eventually work themselves out of a job. As a rule a law abiding unionist has not the courage to oppose propositions put forward by his leader and to thereby risk being called a “ rat “ or a “ mug “. Most unionists who have families to care for take the narrow view and decide to stay home. I have known many very good unionists who have refrained from going to union meetings for that, reason, although they have had a full knowledge that their- interests might be at stake. Every honorable member who has been engaged in industry and has at some time been a registered trade unionist knows that these things have been going on for years. The Government must take drastic measures to cure the drastic industrial ills that beset us. ft should have the courage and determination to introduce legislation which will make all union ballots both compulsory and secret. It should ensure that no major decision, shall be made by any union without the hacking of an affirmative vote recorded in a secret ballot. It is of no use merely toying with this matter. The Government should be big enough to tackle these problems. If it were courageous enough to introduce appropriate legislation to deal with this problem it would earn the respect not only of trade unionists but also of the people as a whole. Trade unionists see, Communist control of their unions growing every day and they expect the Government to do something to curb it. This measure, like another measure which was dealt with last week, may bc described as merely a piece of pious humhug designed to fool the people into believing that this Government is taking action to prevent the growth of communism in Australia.
– What does the honorable member know about communism ?
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) should know all about the growth of communism in the trade union movement because he is a member of an organization which has most valiantly endeavoured to fight the menace of communism. I notice in the House a Minister who for 25 years has been in a similar position to that of the honorable member for Herbert. He has fought this menace over the years. The Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia has done much to get rid of the Communists in its ranks. What, in the name of Peter, is the use of the engine driver and fireman getting rid of this menace when, at the other end of the train, another union has packed the guard’s van with Communists who can apply the Westinghouse brake and stop the train? The Government must face up to this problem and do the job properly by helping the organizations that wish to rid themselves of the Communist menace to achieve that desirable end. Everybody who has studied these matters knows that the Amalgamated Engineering Union, which was at one time called the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, is to-day being white-anted by the Communists. The Federated Ironworkers Association, the Seamen’s Union and the Waterside Workers Federation are already controlled by Communists.
– What would the honorable gentleman do if a Communist, were elected as a union official after a compulsory secret ballot?
– We should have to accept that decision. I do not say that the introduction of compulsory secret ballots would rid the trade union movement of all Communists, but it would at least give unionists an opportunity to remove them. In order to give them that opportunity, the Government should introduce a. measure far wider than this one.
A few moments ago I said that the apathy of the trade unionists is the cause of the present conditions. Unfortunately, that apathy is allowing this menace to destroy the unions, and, further than that, to destroy this country. “We know that the Communists are planning to obtain control of Australia by, as they term it, a bloodless revolution. If they arc successful, that will be the end of the trade unions in this country for all time. Nevertheless, the unionists are apparently not prepared to face up to the problem. Men pass through several stages. When they are eighteen to 25 years of age, they want to fight the world. When they are between 25 and 30 years old they think before they strike with their fists. After they have reached the age of 35 or 40 years they want a quiet life. They wish to come home from work, put their feet into slippers and sit in a comfortable chair in front of the fire. They do not wish to be troubled with the insidious process of infiltration that may be occurring in their unions.
This bill will confer upon members of trade unions the right to report any irregularity in connexion with the election of officers of a union, but the ordinary unionist is not in a position to know what is going on inside his union. Most of the irregularities are planned inside the unions, and the rank and file do not have an opportunity to know what is occurring.
– Every candidate can have a scrutineer.
– I agree that that is so. If a candidate reports alleged irregularities in connexion with an election, he has no guarantee that his costs will be refunded to him. The measure provides only that the Attorney-General may advise the Government to pay them. Honorable gentlemen opposite know that anybody who stands up to fight the Communists is called all kinds of horrible names and that afterwards his life is not worth living. He is hounded from one job to another. This menace is now too big for the unions. It must be fought by the Government. We are now in the midst of a strike on the coal-fields that is paralysing industry in Australia. In an open vote, one-third of the coal- miners voted in favour of the stoppage. That means that the 7,500 miners who voted in favour of the strike have thrown hundreds of thousands of men out of employment. The miners in Collie, in Western Australia, voted against the strike. A couple of years ago they were induced to join the miners’ federation in the belief that they would obtain some benefit from doing so, but when they went on strike because of the bad rope that was going to be used in the mines the people over here did not come out on strike to support them. They let them stew in their own juice, Unfortunately, the miners in Collie have now joined the strike because the miners’ federation sent an official from the east to instruct them to do so. The rank and file of the miners’ federation have not been given an opportunity to express their view in a fair manner.
Conditions in Perth now are worse than those that obtain in any other city in Australia. There is not one light burning in the homes of Perth. People are all right in Sydney, because they are allowed to have two lamps in each home, provided that they do not exceed 150 watts. There are lights in Sydney and Melbourne, but there are none in Perth. Old people are without light as a result of this strike. There is only one way in which to prevent unjustified stoppages and that is, by compulsory secret ballots. We all know that some unions have secret ballots, but they are not compulsory.
– The Collie miners voted against the strike by 828 votes to 76 votes, but they are out on strike. The honorable gentleman said that they did not have an opportunity to express their opinions.
– They decided to strike because they are mem bers of the miners’ federation. They do not want, to use a Labour party expression, to “ rat “ on the organization to which they belong.
The other day I was supplied with statistics which show that, in 1939, 416 industrial disputes occurred in Australia, involving 459,000 working hours. In 1941, the number of disputes increased to 567. In 1943, the number was 785; in 1944, 941; in 1945, 945; in 1946, 869; and in 1947, 982. In 1948, there were 1,133 stoppages, involving a total of 1,655,000 working hours. There is a reasonable chance of reducing the number of lost working hours by at least 50 per cent, by providing that stoppages shall take place only after a compulsory secret ballot of unionists had been held. Since I have been a member of this Parliament, whenever the opportunity has offered I have said that I am a firm believer in compulsory secret ballots in relation to every major activity of a trade union. I did not entertain that belief years ago, but, having regard to what is now happening in this country as a result of the apathy of unions, I have cast aside what I thought then. This menace has grown very large, and we must endeavour to subdue it. We know the reason for its growth. Desperate ills require desperate remedies. The statistics relating to industrial stoppages to which I have just referred reveal the extent of the increase of Communist control of trade unions since 1939. Men are called out on strike for stupid reasons. I will not say that the majority of them are prepared to strike for those reasons, because I do not believe it, but. they are forced to strike. The machine is so efficient that if they do not obey the instructions that are given to them their lives are not worth living. I say plainly that some stoppages cannot be attributed entirely to unionists. Some employers are blameworthy. I know very well that there are unscrupulous employers. If employers band themselves together into industrial organizations, before they can be permitted to engage in lock-outs - I have not heard of one occurring for a long time - they, too, should have to conduct secret ballots of the members of their organizations.
If the Government will not do anything to combat the Communist menace, it is up to the employers themselves to do something. They have experts to advise them. If they were prepared to have some of their employees on boards of management it is probable that many stoppages would be averted, although the Communist crowd that has gained control of some, unions would warn unionists to be careful of the nigger in the wood- pile. That kind of propaganda could be combated by the employers who will have to set a propaganda machine of of their own in motion in order to get information into the homes, where the womenfolk are, if we are to continue to have in this country a Government that has not sufficient backbone to introduce legislation making secret ballots compulsory.
I have for some time been a believer in secret ballots in relation to trade union affairs. I have a greater belief in them now because of what has happened since the cessation of hostilities. Since the war ended industry has been held up on innumerable occasions by the actions of a few Communists who, to our sorrow, have gained control of some trade unions. The Government must deal with this problem. Measures such as this are useless. They only go half as far as they should go. 1 prophesy’ that during the next three years we shall not hear of one complaint regarding irregularities in ballots for the election of officers of trade unions. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) that the legislation should go further and provide that if the Industrial Registrar, who is, after all, not devoid of intelligence, has reason to suspect that irregularities in ballots have occurred he shall be permitted to initiate inquiries, without waiting for some one to make a complaint in writing to him. It should be provided further that if he finds that his suspicions are well founded he may submit the matter to higher authority so that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court may deal with it. The terms of this measure are two restrictive. If we are to have peace in industry, we must provide for secret ballots in relation to all major union activities. We can deal with the employers later. I do not say that the employers are not blameworthy at times. There are many of them who are probably more unscrupulous than are the Communists, but they can be dealt with in another way. It is the duty of the Government quickly to introduce legislation to provide for compulsory secret ballots in relation to all major trade union activities, including the election of officers and decisions whether or not to strike. If, following a decision reached by a secret ballot, a union decides to strike on a certain date, that will be an indication to the powers that be that there is something radically wrong and that it would be advisable to make investigations in order, if possible, to avert the stoppage.
– Honorable members opposite have chided Government supporters for not speaking in this debate. Much of what has been said by members of the Opposition is not relevant to this bill, which is designed to achieve a definite objective, which is, to ensure that if a member of a trade union complains that improper methods have been used in the ballot for the election of officers of the organization an inquiry into the complaint may be made by a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and that if the judge be satisfied of the truth of the complaint, another ballot shall be conducted. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has claimed that there is no provision in this bill for the prevention of irregularities in union elections. An irregularity in a union election is a wrongful practice such as interfering with ballot-papers, preventing people who are entitled to vote from obtaining a ballot-paper, or unduly influencing voters by threats. The honorable member for Moreton has challenged the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to specify any clause of the bill that will prevent irregularities from occurring. I direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to the proposed new section 96n (1), which states -
A person shall not, without lawful authority or excuse, in or in connexion with an election for an office -
put or deliver a ballot-paper or other paper -
One of the important points in statements made by Mr. Sharpley in Melbourne was that in a certain union ballot Communists went to returning officers, got hold of ballot-papers and altered the markings on them. The honorable member for Moreton has asked whether there is anything in the bill to stop such irregularities, which really mean crooked ballots. Such provisions are in the legislation. If a man commits any of the actions mentioned or other actions which involve intimidation he is liable to a penalty of £100 or imprisonment for twelve months. “When an honorable member rises in this chamber and throws out a challenge that there is nothing in the measure to prevent wrong practices, notwithstanding the provisions for preventing such practices are clearly set out in the bill, he has either not taken the trouble to read the bill or he is deliberately making a statement that he knows to be incorrect. The honorable member for Moreton should apologize to the Minister and to the House for making such a wrong statement.
I shall now turn to the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). He spoke about the taking of a secret ballot in connexion with strikes. I shall deal with that matter just by the way, as I do not wish to stray too far from the bill. The right honorable gentleman spoke about having a clause inserted into the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to make it compulsory for every union to provide for a secret ballot in its rules. The words “ secret ballot “ can have a very wide interpretation. What is a secret ballot? At the present time some of the union ballots that have been commented upon by Mr. Sharpley were understood to be secret ballots. Ballot papers were distributed to their members, although I do not know’ whether they were sent to them through the post or were delivered to them by union delegates. The Australian Railways Union, in particular, provided a ballot-box for its members to place their ballot-papers in. If a union makes provision in its rules for all its members to be supplied with a ballot-paper and it provides a ballot-box into which the ballot-paper should be put, that would be regarded as a secret ballot. Yet in the case of the Australian Railways Union that I have mentioned, Sharpley said that the ballot was not carried out properly.
– Who was the returning officer ?
– If the honorable member had any knowledge of a big organization and the taking of a ballot he would appreciate just how difficult it is to give every member the right to vote and to have only one returning officer. En practice there is one returning officer in charge, but there are also deputy returning officers. It may be said that it is a simple thing to post ballot-papers to the members of a union. A little over three years ago I happened to be the returning officer for a number of unions and had to send out a big number of ballot-papers. I had a. list of the names and addresses of the members of each union and the addresses were supplied by the members themselves. All that was in accordance with the system suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. I sent out about 38,000 ballot-papers. Of that number, between 2,000 and 3,000 ballotpapers were returned through the dead letter office because the members had moved from the addresses that they had supplied to their union. One man came to me and said that his father was in a certain union, but had not received his ballot-paper. I looked up the list of addresses and showed him the address on the list, and he said that his father had moved from that address nine months before. But the father had not troubled to inform his union of his change of address. That is not an odd case. When one comes into contact with thousands of such cases one appreciates the difficulties that a returning officer faces. All that members of the unions had to do was mark their ballot-papers, put them in a plain envelope, put the plain envelope in another envelope and send it post free to the returning officer. That procedure is as secret as it is possible to achieve, and in fact is more secret than the system used for parliamentary elections.
Honorable members opposite talk about the rank-and-file members of unions. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) said that only one-third of the rank-and-file members of the miners’ federation voted in connexion with the present strike. I have to inform the House that in the election that I have mentioned, I received only 8,000 out of about 35,000 ballot-papers delivered. That 35,000 does not include those that were posted out and then returned through the dead letter office. Only 8,000 members, or about 22 per cent, of those to whom ballot-papers were delivered, took the trouble to mark the ballot-papers and post them, with no charge to themselves. When the honorable member for Swan speaks about a secret ballot for the whole of the rank and file so that they will have the opportunity to elect their officers, it is obvious that he is not aware of the difficulties involved.
– Is the honorable member opposed to a secret ballot in connexion with industrial matters?
– Secret ballots are conducted by unions under present conditions. The instance to which I have referred was an effort to hold a secret ballot. I have been very closely associated with ballots for many years, and we have been endeavouring over these years to put some system into operation whereby we could ensure that the ballot was not abused and at the same time would give the best return from the members. Some of the best returns that we have received have been obtained by the system under which members went of their own volition on a particular day to vote, without any effort having been made to send ballot-papers to them. We have endeavoured to give the rank and file the right to lodge their vote. Take an organization like the Transport Workers Union with which I have been connected. In my own State of South Australia Ave found that to obtain a full vote from transport workers, most of whom are driving teams or motor lorries and are working all sorts of hours, and therefore find it very difficult to go to a place to obtain a ballot-paper so that they can have a chance to vote, it is necessary to have quite a big number of deputy returning officers and ballot-boxes scattered all over the countryside. It is not so simple as honorable members may think to get a big percentage of voters under such circumstances. The honorable member for Swan advocated compulsory voting-
– Compulsory secrecy.
– And compulsory voting.
– No ! They are two different things.
– I took the honorable member to mean compulsory voting. To have a compulsory secret vote an organization must have a rule in its book to provide for such a compulsory secret ballot. That is the only method f know of by which it could be done. The organizations that I have mentioned have a provision that they must l.i ave a secret ballot. Some of them have ballot-boxes at their offices. I am not familiar with the miners’ federation, but I shall refer to the “Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. There is no body of men working in any industry whose members have a greater chance of voting in a ballot without going to any (rouble than have the members of that union. Waterside workers in all parts of the Commonwealth have “ pick-up “ places and if a ballot is open for a week, as most of that union’s ballots are, there will be at least one day in that week when each man will go to the picking-up place to seek employment and is therefore able to vote whilst there.
– They will go to get their appearance money.
– They will go to the picking-up place to seek employment. They will be able to obtain a ballot-paper there and place it in the ballot-box provided. Could there be anything more simple than that?
– Such a procedure was not carried out by the miners.
– The honorable member is referring to the present strike. 1”, on the other hand, am dealing with this bill, which refers entirely to the election of officers of certain organizations.
– Does the honorable member agree that there should be a secret ballot for the election of officers.
– I agree with a secret ballot.
– Then what is wrong with putting a provision to that effect in the bill?
– I have no objection to that. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that the only way to have a secret ballot is to make it compulsory through the union’s rules.
– That is one way.
– I belong to the Transport Workers Union, which is a very big organization. It is a federal body, and it is registered with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. However, the position is not so simple as honorable members opposite appear to believe it to be. The .Queensland branch of my organization has not approached the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for an award. It works under an award of the Queensland Industrial Court. The South Australian and Victorian branches are bound by the rules and awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. For many years, the New South Wales branch operated under an award that had been made by the State Industrial Commission. I do not know whether that position still obtains. Honorable members opposite speak of a secret ballot for the election of the officers of that organization as if it were a simple matter. Let us be clear. Do they mean the election of the officials of each State branch, or of the federal president and secretary? As honorable members opposite appear to be somewhat confused about the matter, I shall explain the position. A State branch conducts a ballot for the election of its president, secretary and treasurer. At the same ballot, the members of the State branch elect two delegates to the federal council. That body consists of two delegates from each State, and as far as I am aware, they elect the federal president and secretary by secret ballot. Any move to allow all the members of the organization to elect the federal president and secretary would involve an alteration of the rules of the union.
– At the present time, we are concerned only with organizations that are registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has not followed my remarks. I am speaking of a federal body that is registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Honorable members opposite have referred specifically to the federal secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– Yes, all our remarks have related to a federal body.
– To clarify the issue, I shall cite the Port Adelaide branch of the Waterside Workers Federation as an illustration. The president and secretary of that body are members of the Australian Labour party, but the treasurer is a Communist. The honorable member for Parramatta would be surprised at the large percentage of members of that branch who vote at the election of those officials. The members of the branch who elect the president and secretary also elect the treasurer. Honorable members opposite have claimed, during this debate, that Communists are elected to key positions in industrial organizations because of the apathy of the moderate members of those unions. How do they explain that the men who for years have elected members of the Australian labour party as president and secretary, elect a Communist as treasurer? The illustration which I have given contradicts the view that is generally held by honorable memhers opposite that Communists are elected to official positions in unions by rigging i he ballot, or by the apathy of the majority of the rank and file. The truth is that a unionist will vote for the candidate who, he thinks, will get the best results for the members of the organization. I am unable to reach any other conclusion, because from time to time some fine men have nominated for the position of treasurer of the Port Adelaide Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation. The case which I have cited is not a. supposititious one.
Honorable members opposite are insisting that the members of an organization should be given an opportunity to express their views by secret ballot before the executive orders a strike. Again, the position is not. so simple as some honorable gentlemen appear to think. A State branch of a federal organization, which is working under a State award, will not strike against a determination by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Do honorable members opposite claim that if a secret ballot were ordered, the voting should be under the supervision of the Industrial Registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, or the State industrial tribunal ? Suppose the union officials, who have been elected by secret -ballot, recommend a. strike against the award of the State industrial tribunal? Would the Commonwealth Arbitration Court be justified in intervening?
– If State branches of a. union are working under State awards, they must be registered with the State industrial tribunals.
– They might be registered with the State industrial tribunate as well as with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I emphasize that the organization that I am thinking of is a federal body, of which each State branch elects its delegates to the federal council. When a claim is to be submitted to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the log is prepared and presented by the federal secretary of the organization. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) understands the position, and realizes that it is not, so simple as some honorable members opposite would have us believe. I know that the Minister is not completely satisfied with some of the provisions of this bill. Like myself, he has been a member of a. trade union which has always prided itself upon having the right to determine its own policy. Members of the Opposition do not miss an opportunity to proclaim that the primary producer should control the marketing of his produce.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– The Minister for Labour and National Service and I argue that each member of a union should have an equal voice in determining the policy of and control of the organization to which he belongs. The members should be completely free to elect the officers of their union. Indeed, they would object to any suggestion that those officials should be appointed by the Minister or by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Members of the Opposition cannot have it both ways.
– We shall be satisfied if every member of an organization is given the right to vote for the officials of the union at a secret ballot.
– How would the secret ballot be conducted? I expect that the Leader of the Opposition would reply that the rules of the organization should provide for the taking of a secret ballot. I have been receiving many letters from persons in my electorate who complain about the infiltration of Communists in the unions, and their influence upon the unions themselves. Nearly all those letters arc ^identically worded. The first point that they invariably make is that this Parliament should pass legislation to introduce compulsory unionism. My reply is that this Parliament has not the constitutional power to do so. That power resides with the States. I do not know whether honorable members opposite consider that the States should enact legislation to introduce compulsory unionism.
– Such legislation habeen enacted in Queensland.
– It was not enacted by a Labour government. In States where a Labour government is in office, the legislative councils would prevent the passage of such legislation.
The second point that is made in the correspondence that I have been receiving is in relation to the introduction of compulsory voting for the election of union officials. I need only mention the difficulty of collecting ballot-papers from members of an organization if no provision is made for postal and absentee votes. When I was examining figures relating to votes cast in South Australia at the last federal election, I noticed that half of the electors at Cockburn had apparently not recorded their votes. The explanation was not difficult to discover. Many of the electors were railway employees, and as they were absent from the town on polling day, they exercised absentee or postal votes. That position arises in any town where many men are employed in the transport services, and it could not be avoided in a compulsory ballot for the election of union officials. The Leader of the Opposition has admitted that the introduction of compulsory voting would be attended by many difficulties.
– Good Labour supporters vote regardless of where they are on polling day. Why cannot railwaymen vote ?
– The railway employees receive their ballot-papers, and they may vote if they so desire. Mr. Sharpley has mentioned that a ballotbox has been carried in the van of a train, and votes are collected en route.
– Does the honorable member realize that section 56 of the principal act virtually provides for compulsory unionism in the Commonwealth sphere?
– Regardless of that provision, compulsory unionism is not the law of the land. Some union leaders have the greatest difficulty in inducing men to join their organizations. This morning, honorable members opposite complained that a man could not obtain employment on the waterfront until he had joined the Waterside Workers Federation.
– Does the honorable member believe in that principle?
– I believe that a man who receives the benefits of an award that has been obtained by an organization should be prepared to join that union and pay his dues. I make no bones about my attitude on that matter. The law does not provide that a doctor or a lawyer must belong to the respective ‘associations that cover their professions, but medical and legal practitioners who do not join those bodies do not get very far. I. guarantee that the percentage of nonunionists who are working in industries covered by awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is greater than the percentage of doctors and lawyers who arc not members of the associations that cover those two professions. Does the honorable .member for Parramatta- consider that doctors and lawyers should be compelled to belong to their respective organizations ?
– Hundreds of doctors and lawyers are not members of their respective organizations.
-Order! The Chair has been very tolerant, and does not seek to prevent interjections, but the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) have been consistently interjecting.
– Personally, I do not mind interjections. I rather enjoy them. If honorable members opposite desire that the elections for positions in unions shall be conducted properly, they must support this bill. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), who has made an interjection, does not know the views of unionists about some ballots as well as I know them. They feel that undue influence has been exerted in certain union elections. No organization which is careful to see that ballots are kept clean has any reason to worry about this measure. Unionists believe that it is they who should have the right to say whether or not they are dissatisfied with a ballot. The man who grows wheat is the one who has a right to complain if he thinks that the proper thing has not been done with the wheat. Honorable members opposite have said that a unionist lodging a complaint with the Registrar might he victimized, but I am sure the Registrar would see that he was protected. On the general question, however, unionists themselves can be relied upon to take action under this provision should occasion arise. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) referred to the intimidation that had been practised, before the introduction of the secret ballot, to compel people to vote for this political candidate or that one. I admit that similar intimidation has sometimes been practised in unions. However, no one can properly object to ordinary canvassing for support at union elections. A candidate for election as a union official has the same right to seek support from members of the union as have Liberal party candidates in a parliamentary election to solicit the support of the electors.
However, if anything crooked goes on: and if there is an attempt to manipulate ballot-papers or to prevent members from receiving ballot-papers, action can be taken under this legislation. The mere existence of the act will tend to prevent people from attempting to do anything irregular. In bringing down this bill, the Government has made an honest attempt to meet the wishes of unionists. The Australian Council of Trades Unions is authorized to speak for the unions as a whole. It has endorsed this legislation, and I do not think that the Opposition would say that the Australian Council of Trades Unions would condone illegal practices in the holding of union ballots. Some sincere unionists believe that the bill goes too far. They do not think that the Registrar should be empowered to inquire into the doings of unions. Those who are of that opinion do not approve of wrong practices, but they believe that the unions themselves could prevent wrong-doing. However, the Australian Council of Trades Unions, has approved of the bill, including the provision that after due inquiry the court may order the taking of a new ballot should it believe that to be necessary, and that it should appoint some one to act with the returning officer of the union concerned in the taking of the ballot. That represents a big step forward in the elimination of wrong practices. I hope that honorable members, in discussing the bill, will not use it as an opportunity to talk of matters outside the scope of the bill.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) can always be trusted by his party to go in to hat when the wicket is sticky. He told us about various union ballots in which hundreds of ballot-papers were returned because the union members could not be found. That amounts to a confession that the unions are not capable of conducting ballots properly. In many instances, the direction of union ballots has been taken over by wicked men. This bill would have the blessing of the Opposition if it represented an honest attempt to deal with the problem, but it does not do so. The honorable member for Hindmarsh voiced
Iiib simple belief in compulsory unionism, lie and his colleagues do not, of course, believe in compulsory military training. Given compulsory unionism, he says, an industrial paradise would be achieved. Is it any wonder that people do not want compulsory unionism when they see the kind of men who have captured control of the unions, and have thereby placed themselves in a position to control the lives and fortunes of thousands of unionists and their families? This bill provides that a member of a union may protest against a ballot, after it has been taken, if he believes that it -was irregular, and his objection will be heard. Of course, the hill is merely a pretence. The rising tide of public indignation has forced the Government to do something and so the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) turned to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and said : “ Bert, we have got to do something. We must make a show. But you know my motto - we must not crucify the workers “. Then the Attorney-General, with that technique which is so well known at the United Nations, drafted this bill, which is a mere time-wasting measure, full of sound and fury, satisfying nothing. After it is passed, things will go on just as before. Healy, Roach and other Communists, whom we have sometimes seen sitting in the galleries in this chamber telling the Government what they want, will continue to direct the policy of the unions. This bill is an example of shadow-sparring by the Government in an effort to make decent unionists think that something worthwhile is being done. The vital provision of the hill is> in proposed, new section 96A (1), which reads as follows: -
Where n member of au organization, or a perron who. within the preceding period of twelve months, has been a member of an organization, claims that there has been an irregularity in or in connexion with an election for an office in the organization, or in a branch of the organization, he may lodge an application for an inquiry by the Court into the matter.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh spoke about ballots of railway workers. The Melbourne newspapers recently published the story of an Australian Bailways Union ballot in which Mr. J. J. Brown, a notorious Communist, who is secretary of that union, took the ballot1 boxes away, and kept them for days before they were handed over to the returning officer. Originally, the function of trade unions was to make men better artisans, and to bring them together in order to achieve progress and efficiency. Now, in the hands of men who owe no fealty to Australia, they have become political instruments that are used to further the interests of a. foreign country. Such well-known Communists as Dixon, Thornton and Lockwood are now in Moscow and no doubt iri ve their orders from the other side of the world, and they are obeyed in Australia. We cannot but give credence to the ex-Communist Sharpley, who has told how he, himself, helped to rig union ballots. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) laughs. No one knows more about such things than be does. I should like him to be called before the royal commission in Victoria, which is inquiring into the activities of Communists. The evidence already given before that commission shows that the Government should do something more than is contemplated in this bill. The munition workers had their own industrial organization, and fought for a long time against .the proposal that they should be incorporated in the ironworkers’ union. However, because their secretary, who was a good Labour man, and no Communist, opposed the policies of the ironworkers’ union, Mr. Thornton said that his organization would have to be swallowed up, and that was eventually done. It is of no use for the Prime Minister to say that he does not read the newspapers. His officers, I am sure, tell him was is going on. Through evidence given before the royal commission in Victoria, many of the under-cover Communists will be exposed for what they are.
This bill is worthless, and will not prevent intimidation. Everybody knows how the Communists work. They join trade unions in order to wreck them. They get themselves elected to executive positions, and then, at union meetings, if they see that there are not enough of their supporters present to carry the resolutions they want carried they put forward a fake agenda for consideration, and await a more favorable opportunity to present iiic business that is their real concern. That is what happened in the ironworkers’ union. That is how Healy, the de facto Minister for External Affairs in Australia, exercises such power over the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. That socialism and communism are fruit of the one tree is shown by the fact that the Government is afraid of these men and will not take any real action against them, ls it not obvious that the Government is afraid to antagonize them when we hear such statements as the one that was made to me last week by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) when. I asked him a question about a member of the Trades Hall Council in Melbourne. The Minister said, “ That man is not a. member of the Labour party “. How can a member of the Trades Hall Council not be a member of the Labour party or a member of a trade union? The trade unions decide the destiny of Labour members of Parliament. Therefore, the Government does not dare to antagonize trade union leaders who are the profiteers of disaster and to whom strikes bring fame and notoriety. It is afraid of the industrial middlemen who batten on decent trade unionists and who, in fact, are defended by bills of this kind. The Government should haveaccepted the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition. He gave notice of a. private member’s bill to deal with union ballots. I remind the House that some of the landmarks in legislative history a.re the abolition of slavery, which stemmed from a private bill introduced in the House of Commons by Wilberforce, and the provision to ensure the safety of ships at sea by preventing overloading of ships, which came from a private member’s bill introduced in the House of Commons by Mr. Samuel Plimsoll, whose name is commemorated in the “ Plimsoll line “ on ships.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable member’s remarks may be interesting, but they have no relation to the bill.
– The Leader of the Opposition, who is an ex-Prime Minister, gave notice of a bill that, if passed into law. would do all that this hill seeks to do, and more, to ensure that decent trade unionists would not be trodden upon by the Communists who have infiltrated their unions. It is a pity that the Government is afraid to do what we should do had we the power to do it. We would ensure the holding of secret union ballots. It is also a pity that the Government is making this pretence at protecting the unionists. If union ballots were compulsory and secret and were conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Office, the decent unionists would come into their own again and justice would be done. It is only fair and democratic that union officials should be elected on terms like those on which we are elected to the Parliament. A bill that the Opposition would be glad to support is one that would emancipate the trade unionists and restore the freedom to work that is denied to so many of them to-day.
.- T desire to make a few comments on this bill and its circumstances. Honorable members on the Government side of the House, particularly the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson), have very lengthily proclaimed their belief that, the trade unions should be free to conduct their own affairs as they think best. I do not think any one would argue very lengthily about that contention, but it is a cardinal principle of democracy that one may exercise one’s freedom only to a point short of that at which one’s actions interfere with the freedom of other people. At that point the law must intervene. That is all that we are asking for. -No one will deny that Australia, is facing a serious position which has has been brought about, by the unrepresentative and un-elected insignificant minority of the miners’ federation which has arrogated to itself the right to dislocate the whole social and industrial system of Australia. Rather than try to make any political gain out of the position, we, as a Parliament, should bc using all the talents that we may possess to try to get the country out of its trouble. We are not trying very hard to do so. We are adopting the position that if we make a bold face and introduce measures of this kind, which .mean- nothing, the situation will ultimately right itself. Proposed new section 96m (1.) provides -
An organization or a branch of an organization may request the Industrial Registrar to conduct an election for an office in the organization or in the branch (as the case may be) with a view to ensuring that no irregularity occurs in or in connexion with the election.
None will deny , that we are facing the prospect of industrial chaos in Australia such as has never hitherto been considered which will bring in its train suffering to all sections of the community. This will involve the innocent, the sick, and the halt, the lame and the blind, equally with the guilty men. It will all be due to a decision by a small section of the miners5 federation. The power to dislocate industry and the smooth working of the social system should not be allowed to rest in a small category of individuals who have not been elected by the people. We are allowing that power to rest with them. That is the core of the protest of the Opposition against the measure. The measure would not have seen the light of day had it not, been for the industrial chaos that confronts us because that power has been exercised. Had the chaos been brought about by a 100 per cent, vote in its favour by men with a callous disregard for the rights of other people in the community the law should have taken its course, but had there been a. 100 per cent, vote in favour of the present strike or even a substantial- majority in favour of it, the case would have required investigation, because I have sufficient belief in the intelligence of the majority of trade unionists to know that they would not vote their country into chaos without good grounds for doing so. In such an event, I would favour a searching investigation into the reasons for the advocacy of the strike. It is because we do not believe, that the majority of the members of the mining unions favour the strike that has produced this chaos that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) desired to move his amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill. The bill of which he gave notice some time ago was designed to prevent industrial chaos such as we are now facing without the members of the union concerned having had the right to say whether a strike which could cause such chaos should be declared or not. The remarks of a man, who is claimed to be a typical miner, fortify us in the belief that the majority of the miners do not favour the continuance of the strike. I propose to quote a few pithy remarks that he made in the course of an interview, because they are worth recording. He said -
Now we’re in the strike, we’re in, and we’ll fight; but we wish it had never started.
He went on to say, supporting the view of the Opposition -
If they took a vote now, I know that most of the boys would vote to go back.
We can’t win this strike. But if we did, it would be worse for us in the long run. Then the country would be under rafferty rules.
We can see quite clearly that the majority of the decent Australian trade unionists are not in favour of the chaos and misery that lias been created by the actions of the Communist element of the miners’ federation. What follows is most significant from the point of view of the Government. He said -
You can’t blame the Communists for it; we all voted for it all right.
But when we voted, there was a week to go, and I tell you, every man I know, except for the Reds and the no-hopers, thought it would he settled before Monday.
On Sunday night there was not a radio in the town that wasn’t on.
Every one was listening for the word that the strike would be off.
Those of us that think about things knew this strike would put the country in chaos. We’re not animals with no brains’, like some people think.
We voted the strike hoping that we would Muff the Government and the Coal Board into backing down.
But the Government did not run true to form. It took dynamic action, to the consternation of the unionists. They regret that the strike took place, and they have said that if they had the opportunity tomorrow they would vote to end the strike. What would be simpler than for the Government, as the custodian of the rights of the people of Australia, to order a ballot of all the strikers, and settle the strike to-morrow, without letting it run on and without freezing union funds. T approve of freezing the union funds, hut it antagonizes the unionists, and they will fight to the bitter end. A simple way to end the strike would be to order a ballot of the strikers. This bill is a piece of camouflage. It is a mere shadow of the dynamic bill that the Leader of the Opposition has sought to have passed into law. It is history that the Leader of the Opposition was not permitted to introduce his bill for the one reason that it would have put the Government on the spot. Labour supporters would have had to vote “ Yes “ or “ No “ on a bill that came from the Opposition. They would have been obliged to vote “ No “ because of the source of the bill, notwithstanding that the bill represents something that the country is clamouring for. Consequently, it introduced into the Senate this poor thing which is intended to delude the people of Australia, hut which will not do so for a minute. I deplore the fact that we are .fiddling while Rome is burning. We should be exercising all our talents in bringing to an end the industrial trouble that threatens the very soul of the country and that will do untold damage if it is allowed .to go on for a month or two months. It is valiant to say, “ We will not give in “, hut is it not better to bring the strike to an end by negotiation, which will result in amicable relations when the trouble is over, than to bring an end to the strike by force, which will create lasting bitterness even among men who, in their hearts, would like the strike to end? The bill does not contain much about which one can talk, although the honorable member for Hindmarsh talked verbosely and often airily about it. The hill can accomplish nothing unless some unionist jeopardizes his future, and risks victimization, by alleging sharp practices in his union’s ballots. Very few men would do that. So the bill is not worth the paper it is printed on. The only other important provision is that contained in proposed new section 96m, which provides for the Industrial Registrar to conduct an election for an office at the request of the union or a branch of the union. Every one knows that the hill is a piece of camouflage that has been brought down to take the place of the bill that the Leader of the Opposition has sought to introduce. Every one knows, too, that it does not deal with the subject at all. It gives the Government a simple way out. It is an attempt to deceive the people into thinking that the Government is doing something on their behalf, whereas it is doing nothing. I urge the Government, through the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), to take a proper way out. The Government knows that if a ballot were taken of the members of the miners’ federation the coal strike would be declared off to-morrow and that there would be some hope for the future of the people of this country who are now suffering so much and who are threatened with even greater sufferings in the future. I appeal to the Government to order such a ballot to be taken and thus show that it has at heart the welfare of the people generally. Let it settle the strike in that manner and then we can set about passing legislation which will prevent such strikes from occurring in the future. We desire that provision be made in the bill for the holding of compulsory secret ballots before a major strike may take place in any industry. That request is only fair. I do not think that any member of this House condones this major strike in a key industry which has had the effect of throwing millions of people out of employment and may force them into a state of misery and degradation. I appeal to the Government to do something real instead of merely making a by-play by introducing legislation such as this which is not worth the paper on which it is printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Part VI. of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following Division: - ” Division 3. - Disputed Elections in Organizations. 96b.- (2.) The Industrial Registrar may exercise his powers under the last preceding sub-section upon the basis of the matters stated in the application, but he may nevertheless take into account any relevant information coming to his knowledge.
.- During my second-reading speech, I fore.shadowed an amendment the effect of which would be to enable the Industrial Registrar-, of his own motion, to initiate a reference to the court for the purpose of inquiring whether an irregularity had taken place. I do not propose to repeat what I said in my second-reading speech. I move -
That the following words be added to pro posed new section 9Cb (2.) : - “and may of his own motion and without any need for an application under the last preceding section, refer to the Court for inquiry any matter in which he la of the opinion an irregularity may have taken place.”
As I indicated during my secondreading speech, I do not think that the bill, as it is at present drawn, will accomplish the purpose which the Government has in mind. I believe that power should be given to the Industrial Registrar to initiate an inquiry if he thinks fit.
– Will the honorable member elaborate his point a little?
– Yes. During my second-reading speech, I drew attention to the fact that under the provisions of proposed new section 96a, the burden of obtaining an inquiry rests upon a member of an organization. For reasons which I then developed, and which I do not want to repeat now, it seems to me that this provision will not confer any real benefit on the average rank and file member of a union. It is unlikely that an average unionist would be prepared to take the risks of challenging an election. Even if he won, the hostility which he would create by his action might be used against him later. Again, there is no certainty in the other provisions of the legislation that he would not have to bear some part of the costs that he incurred in challenging the election. Therefore, the only person who is likely to challenge an election is an individual who has been an unsuccessful candidate for election to an office in an organization. The provision, as it is now drafted, is unlikely to serve the purposes desired by the Government. A provision should be inserted in the bill to enable the Industrial Registrar, on his own motion, to initiate an inquiry if information that comes before him justifies him in so doing. An amendment such as I have moved should be sufficient to enable the Registrar to commence such proceedings. If a prima facie case is submitted to him, no matter from what source it may come, he should have the power, if he thinks fit, to refer the matter to the court for inquiry. For reasons which I developed in my second-reading speech, I believe that it is unlikely that the average rank and file member of a union, even if he were aware that an irregularity had taken place, would challenge it because by so doing he would become the moving party and would become involved in a suit or trial which might last for a long time. There is no certainty that even if he were successful, he would be able to recover the whole of his costs. Proposed new section 96k reads as follows: - (1.) Where upon an inquiry the Court finds that an irregularity has occurred, the Attorney-General may, if he considers the circumstances to justify him in so doing, authorize payment by the Commonwealth to the person who applied for the inquiry of the whole or a part of his costs and expenses (including expenses of witnesses).
In short, there is no guarantee whatever that if the person who applies for the inquiry is successful, the whole of his costs will be recouped to him. If the legislation contains limitations on the efficacy of the right which is given by proposed new section 96a, it seems to be only fair that the Industrial Registrar should have the power to initiate an inquiry by the court, if he thinks fit. If my amendment is accepted the Industrial Registrar will be able to exercise such a power.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has referred to the special provision relating to the payment of costs, which, I think, i.° the substantial answer to his proposal from the Government’s point of view. The policy sought to be embodied in this clause is that a person who is a member of an organization, or a person who is not a member but who has been a member during the preceding period of twelve months, may direct the notice of the Industrial Registrar to any irregularities. It is perfectly true that risks would be involved in such a proceeding, but the risks relating to costs are met by the provisions of proposed new section 96k. Even if the person who initiated the proceedings lost his case, or if his aase were proved to he unfounded, his costs could be paid by the Commonwealth. The rule relating to costs in this instance is almost the complete reverse of that which is usually applied. The honorable member for Warringah has already read proposed new section 96k (1). Proposed sub-section 2 reads -
Where, upon an inquiry, the Court does not find that any irregularity has occurred, but certifies that the person who applied for the inquiry acted reasonably in so applying, the Attorney-General may authorize . .payment by the Commonwealth to that person of the whole or a part of his costs and expenses (including expenses of witnesses).
Proposed sub-section 3 reads -
Where the Attorney-General is satisfied that, having regard to the findings of the Court upon an inquiry, it is not just that a person (not being the person who applied for the inquiry) should be required to bear, or to bear in full, any expenses (including expenses of witnesses) incurred by him in connexion with the inquiry, the Attorney-General may authorize payment by the Commonwealth of the whole or part of all those expenses.
I regard those provisions as being very reasonable.
– I do not question that.
– As long as a person who applies for an inquiry has acted reasonably, even though there be no basic justice for his complaint of irregularity, he may be exempted from all costs, and in addition, he may receive his own costs. In other words, he may be immune from any of the ordinary consequences of losing the case. I admit that the scheme is to some degree experimental; hut I ask the committee not to accept the proposed amendment. After all, the proper person to complain is a member of an organization or, within the limits prescribed, an ex-member of it. If such a person makes his complaint to the Registrar, the Registrar will be empowered by the provisions of this clause to take into account all relevant information that is furnished to him.
– “But he does not become a party in the inquiry.
– I appreciate the honorable member’s suggestion. I ask the committee, however, to accept the bill in its present form as an experiment.
.- I do not think that the explanation made by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) fully meets the objection which I have made. It is true that the provisions of proposed new section 96k are fair in the sense that they provide that a person who is unsuccessful in instituting an inquiry by the court may, if the AttorneyGeneral thinks fit, recover the whole or a part of the expenses which he has incurred. The point which I have made is that the average unionist is most unlikely to engage in litigation if he realizes that there is some uncertainty about the outcome of his action, as indeed there is in all litigation. First, he may or may not win the case. Secondly, he engages in proceedings which may or may not be lengthy. The question of irregularity is of its very nature likely to involve prolonged litigation. The point which I make is that this hill, which is supposed to protect the average unionist, offers no protection to 99.99 per cent, of the unionists. Even with the protection afforded by the provisions of proposed new section 96k the great majority of unionists would not risk engaging in litigation of this kind. The only person who would be likely to do so would be a defeated candidate. Even if I am wrong in that view it seems to me in any event that there should be some provision in the hill to enable the Registrar to act when a person who is entitled to act does not desire to commence proceedings. I should think that the average man would be very reluctant to commence legal proceedings, and, speaking with some experience, I say that his reluctance would be fairly well founded. In my judgment, the bill will not confer any real right upon trade unionists because of the practical limitations that are imposed upon litigation of this kind. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that intimidation has been practised against trade unionists who have commenced proceedings against organizations, even though they may have been successful. Recently, a Mr. Freeman successfully challenged certain action that had been taken against him by the Wateraide Workers Federation; but he did not win in the end, because finally the federation was able to deal with him in another way. It would not help much if a trade unionist who wished to proceed against hia organization was protected to the extent of being guaranteed the payment of his costs, because a limitation would be imposed by the fear of what might happen to him, even if his action were successful. Provision should be made for the Industrial Registrar, whose task is to see that justice is meted’ out, to take action if facts are brought to his knowledge which, in hia opinion, justify intervention by the court. Proposed new section 96b (2) provides that the Registrar may take into account any relevant information which comes to his knowledge. If facts are placed before him or brought to his knowledge which lead him to suppose that an irregularity has occurred, and if nobody else is game enough to move in the matter, why should not he be given authority to move, if he thinks fit to do so?
– We all are impressed by the case that has been made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), but I think that the honorable gentleman has forgotten an important act. We must not assume that the trade union movement is one that requires spoon-feeding. In Australia to-day there are 2,300,000 persons over the age of twenty years who are engaged in industry, of whom 1,400,000, or 65 per cent., are trade unionists. There are 161 unions registered with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Only three or four of those unions have ever had complaints made against them. The great majority of the 1,400,000 Australian trade unionists would resent any suggestion that an outside body should be empowered to interfere in the domestic affairs of their industrial organizations. It is only because of recent occurrences in one or two unions that they have agreed to this measure.
– They have agreed to it?
– They have agreed to it. Although I appreciate the honest and fair way in which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) usually presents his arguments, I must point out that he was incorrect in suggesting that this measure was brought down at the last moment because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) had given notice of his intention to move for leave to introduce a .private member’s bill. We negotiated with the leaders of the trade unions for at least three months to get their permission to introduce this measure. I do not use the word “permission” in the sense that the Government has not the courage to take action of its own accord. I mean that we negotiated with them in order to get them to agree voluntarily that some amendment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act should be made in order to safeguard the members of one or two unions against malpractices. The honorable member for Warringah has asked why the Industrial Registrar should not be authorized to initiate proceedings if he receives information of irregularities through subterranean channels. Why should it be necessary to act in such a round-about and secret way? I think that we should always be getting into trouble if we allowed a person outside the trade union movement to* receive information through secret channels and to initiate action against the wishes of the movement. The honest way in which to approach this matter is to say to the trade unions that we propose to amend the law so that if a number of unionists consider that something wrong has occurred they may approach the Industrial Registrar, who, if a prima facie case is made out, may initiate proceedings. It is not proposed that the unionist should initiate them.
– The Minister is wrong in saying that.
– The bill provides that if a trade unionist considers that the officers of a union have permitted irregularities in the conduct of an election that have affected the result of the election, he may approach the Industrial Registrar and inform him of what has occurred, and that if the Industrial Registrar is satisfied that there is some force in the complaint, he may inform the judge that he is satisfied that sufficient evidence has been produced to warrant an inquiry being held.
– That is true, but the Industrial Registrar is not the applicant. It is the unionist who must complain.
– The Registrar must satisfy himself that there is reasonable ground for an inquiry before he allows the application to proceed.
– The inquiry must be conducted by the judge. There is a guarantee that after the judge has agreed that the complaint is sufficiently substantial to warrant an inquiry, the Attorney-General will meet the costs of the complainant even if he loses the case.
As a trade unionist, I should feel that an indignity was being done to my organization if an outside body were given the right to interfere in its domestic affairs. As I have said, 161 trade unions are registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I know that the members of those organizations would resent any such interference by outside bodies. They have always resented it. It has taken us three months to reach the present position. The central body of the trade union movement had to ascertain the view of the majority of the 1,400,000 trade unionists in this country before it could agree with the Government that something should be done when action wa3 sought by union members. It was the wish of the unions that this measure should be introduced, but they would resent the idea of any government, court or outside authority being empowered to interfere in their domestic affairs. We say that that should not be allowed. I should vote against such a proposal and stir up propaganda against it, because I think it would be unjust and an indignity to the trade union movement, but I agree that the Industrial Registrar and the judges of the court should have power to conduct an inquiry when a complaint has been made to them by a member of a registered organization.
We must not overlook the fact that the 161 unions which are registered in the court have had their rules approved by the court and registered with it. They cannot amend the rules unless the court approves of the amendment. In the debate on this bill honorable members opposite have, to some degree, side-tracked the real issue. The reason for that is the present industrial atmosphere. Honorable members opposite have been carried away by the magnitude of the present strike. They have linked the coal strike with this measure, but it has nothing to do with it. There is already power under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act for the court to order a compulsory ballot in the case of a dispute. I do not know whether the Joint Coal Board is empowered to do that. If it is, it has not exercised the power. Neither has the court done so, although the power is there for it to exercise if it so desires.
– Has the Joint Coal Board power of that kind?
– I do not know whether it has or not. An organization would have to be working under an award of the court and be registered with_ the court before that power could be exercised. Apart from the coal industry-
– Order! The Minister must relate his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– This bill has nothing to do with industrial disputes., lt is concerned only with the election of officers of trade unions. I shall vote against the amendment, not because I do not think that it has some merit, but because 97 per cent, or 98 per cent, of the trade unionists in Australia would resent it. They do not want a provision of that kind to be made. They have never asked for it. I stake my reputation that within the next twelve months not more than one case will come before the court under this measure.
– I do not think that any cases will come before the court, but my reason for saying that is different from the reason that the Minister has in mind.
– Only a few unions have had complaints of the kind referred to in this measure made against them. I shall vote against the amendment because, in my opinion, it is not necessary. The bill in its present form will be sufficient to deal with any situation that may arise.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has submitted, a good amendment. I have been very interested in the arguments against it that have been advanced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). If the real answer is, “ This bill as it stands is the best that we could get out of the Australian Council of Trades Unions “, I understand that perfectly. It may not be a logical answer, but it is a powerful political reason. But the Minister went beyond that and indicated that he thought that it would be inconsistent with the dignity of organizations registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court if an official of the court could, through what the honorable gentleman has described as subterranean channels, obtain some information and invoke the jurisdiction of the court. I remind the Minister, who is extremely familiar with the legislation, that it has always been realized that proceedings before the court are not merely matters of litigation between individuals, but that there is a public interest in the proceedings, in the conduct of industrial organizations, in the rules of such organizations and in the integrity of their ballots. All those are matters of public interest. I remind the Minister that, because the law has always recognized that fact, it has provided in many instances that the court may act of its own motion and that it does not need to be prompted by a party coming before it. I propose to select from the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as now consolidated, three sections at random. Section 34 provides that the court or a conciliation commissioner may exercise any of its or his powers, duties or functions under the act of its or his own motion, or on the application of any party to an industrial dispute or of any organization or persons hound by an order or award. The court may exercise any of its powers of its own motion, and so may a conciliation commissioner. Section 72 provides, omitting the immaterial words, that the court may order at any stage of the proceedings in relation to a dispute that any matter upon which it thinks fit to ascertain the views of the members of an organization may be submitted to a vote of the members of the organization or of a branch of it taken by secret ballot. There is power in the court, at any stage of the proceedings in relation to disputes, to order a secret ballot of its own motion. It may cometo the conclusion that the strike or dispute does not represent the will of the members of the union. But it does not have to be informed by some member of the union who beards the lion by coming to the court and saying that a certain vote does not represent the views of the members of the union. On the contrary the court, having heard the matter in whatever way may seem good to it, may of its own motion direct a secret ballot to be held. If the Minister will look at section 80 of the act he will find that there is another power which cuts right into the structure of the organization, because under that section the court may, upon its own motion, or upon application under the section, disallow any rule of an organization that, in the opinion of the court, is contrary to law or is tyrannical, and so on. So we have a system here under which the court can of its own motion exercise powers first, in relation to settling a dispute by making orders; secondly, in relation to directing a secret ballot; and thirdly, in relation to the rules of the organization itself. This bill has taken up the problem of the ballot. It says that there may ‘be irregularities. The honorable member for Warringah has pointed out quite rightly, and I made a glancing reference to it myself in the course of my second-reading speech, that there may be irregularities. The whole idea of irregularities such as are mentioned in the bill may be in the air. If that is so, the Industrial Registrar, who :s a most responsible official of the court, and who has many powers, as the Minister knows, in relation to rules and otherwise, should be able to say, “I do not intend to wait for some dissident member of the organization to come along with a complaint. He might shrug his shoulders and say, ‘Why should I buy into litigation?’ “. In these circumstances, as the honorable member for Warringah has said, the Registrar should be given the power to say “ I do not care whether someone is prepared to take this on. I am satisfied that there is a matter here that ought to be investigated “. He could then report accordingly and the matter could be investigated. If the rumour turns out to be right, the irregularity can be corrected. It would not be corrected if the Registrar did not move of his own motion. That is the point that was submitted by the honorable member for Warringah. I must confess that I have heard no statement from any Minister that provides an answer to it.
– The amendment to the proposed section 96b that has been moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and supported by the Leader of t&e Opposition (Mr. Menzies) should be read in conjunction with the very drastic powers that are given to the Industrial Registrar in the provisions of this proposed section as it already stands. Honorable members will notice how the whole character of the measure would be changed if the amendment were adopted. It is quite possible that we may come to the point of having to accept a proposal similar to that of the honorable member for Warringah, but I do not think that it is desirable to include it in this legislation in the first instance, and I propose to say why. Proposed new section 96b (3) (a) gives the Industrial Registrar the power to- inspect any ballot-papers, envelopes, lists or other documents which have been used in connexion with or are relevant to the election; and paragraph (6) states that he may - for the purpose of any such inspection, enter, with such assistance as he considers necessary, any premises used or occupied by the organization or a branch of the organization in which he believes any such ballot-papers, envelopes lists or documents to be;
The words “ such assistance as he considers necessary” mean, in effect, the police force.
– That is only after a judge-
– I know what the honorable member’s amendment is, and I desire to read it in conjunction with this proposed new section as it stands. Provided that a member of the union has complained to the
Industrial Registrar he may enter union premises with such assistance as he deems necessary, which means, with the police, to scrutinize all the documents therein that might relate to an election. What is more, under proposed new subsection 96b (6), the act or decision of the Registrar shall not be subject to appeal to the court. If the Registrar moved on his own initiative, he might, without any one knowing that the action was to take place, forcibly enter the union premises, seize its books and documents and satisfy himself that no irregularity had taken place. Consider the implications of such an action from the point of view of obtaining the support of trade unions for arbitration. If a member of, say, a Communistdominated union, which is the instance that we all have in mind and we might as well admit it, in which the Communist leadership holds its position by the sort of irregularities that Sharpley has revealed, complains to the Industrial Registrar about an irregularity, the Communists, in trying to obtain the support of the rank and file of the union when their actions were queried, have to try to refute the charges made by the member. I honestly believe that we have been exaggerating the supineness of trade unionists because if there is one outstanding characteristic of the Communist-dominated unions it has been the growth within them of Australian Labour party industrial groups. Most of us have been receiving correspondence from Australian Labour party industrial groups in the Federated Ironworkers Association that are trying to undermine the union’s general secretary, Mr. Thornton. I have no doubt that those groups will not hesitate to use the machinery provided by this measure when the opportunity is given to them to do so. But the point is that if the Industrial Registrar enters with police assistance at the request of a unionist-
– Only after an order by a judge-
– Who has made complaints and established, prima facie, that there are irregularities, the Communists will be in a bad position. I submit that if a drastic action like a search is to be taken a judge is the best man to give the necessary authority. I do not think that every trivial rumour should be the object of action by the Industrial Registrar in forcibly entering premises on his own initiative. The point is that if the machinery of this very drastic legislation is set in motion by a trade unionist it will be very difficult for the Communist leadership of the kind of union that we all have in mind to misrepresent the situation to the workers as being an unwarranted attack on the union, whereas if the action were taken by the Industrial Registrar himself it would play into the hands of the Communists by giving them material for lying propaganda. There have been unions in Western Australia whose officials have had extremely bad personal relations with certain judges of the Arbitration Court. Much as I have myself disliked some of the union secretaries to whom I refer, I have had no respect for the manner in which they have been dealt with in the courts by a certain judge. The point is that under this legislation, if a judge on his own initiative without any complaint coming from within the union, were to order police action in conjunction with the Industrial Registrar, it would appear to be in the nature of an attack and could be misrepresented to the rank and file of the union by the Communist leadership. But by this legislation we are inviting the members of the unions to be responsible and to clean up the position themselves if there is an irregularity, and we are also giving them the means to do it. When the unionists themselves have started the ball rolling a Communist leader will be in an extremely difficult position. He cannot advance a political argument against the right of a member of his own union to query his actions nearly so effectively as he can make political capital out of what he would represent as police persecution. I can see that if the industrial situation gets any worse than it is now legislation might have to be considered along the lines suggested by the honorable member for Warringah. But I do feel that, in the first instance, this legislation, which throws the responsibility upon the trade unionists and even gives them the legal support that is necessary, is politically and tactically sounder than the line proposed by the honorable member for Warringah.
, - I desire to answer the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). We appreciate his frankness in indicating that, in his view, we’ may have to consider an amendment to the law such as that proposed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) ; but in opposing such a proposal at this juncture he hae drawn our attention to the proposed new section 96b and has given us an argument based upon, as he says, the fact that the Industrial Registrar under that proposed section will have drastic powers to enter premises to make an inspection, and for such purposes to enlist aid and to do a number of other things. What the honorable member has overlooked in his argument and the extension that he made to it is that the Industrial Registrar cannot do that except with the authority of a judge. If the honorable member will look at proposed new section 96n (3) he will see that it roads, in part -
At any time after the lodging with the Industrial Registrar of an application for an inquiry in connexion with an election, a judge may authorize the Industrial Registrar to do certain things. The Industrial Registrar may not do them except with the authority of a judge. In the light of that, I consider that the basis vanishes from the argument that the honorable member has advanced. I can see no reason why the fact that a judge may authorize the Registrar to enter premises and do certain things should be a reason against granting the Registrar the power to initiate proceedings, apart from any information that might come to him from a trade unionist, when he thinks that circumstances justify him in taking action. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) was very frank. He said that 99 per cent, of the trade unionists would resent the amendment now before us. That statement was rightly interpreted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The Minister said that if this is the best that the Government can get out of the trade union movement it would be dangerous to take any more. It has been pointed out that under other parts of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act the Registrar of the Court has power of his own motion to initiate allsorts of proceedings. Therefore, I cannot accept the suggestion that there could be any justifiable resentment regarding interference. It must come to the question whether this country is being run by the Government or the trade union movement? I hesitate to accept the suggestion of the Minister that his Government is run by outside organizations.
– I meant that the trade unions run their own business.
– They are running their own business in one sense; but their business becomes the country’s business when industrial disputes are threatened, and when irregularities arise that might cause a rent in the industrial fabric by producing a stoppage.
– We are supposed to be here to run the country’s business.
– What has been overlooked by members of the Labour party is that laws are passed by this Parliament not necessarily for the purpose of being acted upon in every case. They are not passed to deal with 90 per cent of the law abiding people but with the other 10 per cent whose actions make the laws necessary. I rest my support for this amendment chiefly upon the ground advanced by several members, including the honorable member for Warringah, that intimidation will occur if the bill is passed as it stands. I do not think that it ought to be left entirely to a member of a trade union to initiate proceedings and so, in effect, make himself a litigant, and expose himself to the various “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune “ that tend to overtake litigants, and, at the same time to subject himself to intimidation fromhis fellow unionists. We all know that a man who had the courage to tell the Registrar of some irregularity that he thinks has taken place would be regarded by many of his mates as an informer. Cases will arise in which that obligation should be removed from him. When information comes to the Industrial Registrar in various ways, as it may well do, that official should be entitled to institute proceedings. We have had experience of some glaring cases of injustice, corruption and irregularity. In such cases, no member of the organization concerned is game to inform the Registrar. Are such cases not to be investigated? The independent official of the court should be empowered’ to initiate proceedings. Several safeguards are provided to protect the organization concerned from an action which may prove to be wrong or misguided. I can see no real objection, in principle or practice, to empowering the Industrial Registrar to initiate proceedings in the odd case.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Mr. Spender’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. T. N. Sheehy.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reportedwithout amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 30th June (vide page 1811) on motion by Mr. Dedman.
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a short bill of a formal character, and the Minister for Post-warReconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has explained that it is designed to simplify procedure which at present requires the gazettal of forms for the collection of statistics, and to make completely watertight the existing provisions requiring the observance of secrecy about the contents of individual returns furnished to the Statistician for purposes of census and statistics. I have examined the bill, and I believe that it carries out the purposes which the Minister has indicated. Therefore, the Opposition will support it. However,.I feel that some reference should be made to the fact that the Statistician has found it necessary to suggest to the Government the advisability of introducing this legislation. I make that reference to the Statistician advisedly, but it is clear that that official has asked the Government to submit this bill to the Parliament because of difficulties which he and his officers have experienced in the collection of statistics following the reluctance of many people throughout Australia to give information which, they think, may be used at some time or other either improperly or to their disadvantage.
As the Minister has explained in his second reading speech, the principal act does not make it mandatory upon the Statistician to observe secrecy in these matters, and proposed new section 24 is necessary to make it perfectly clear that the act will give an absolute guarantee that all information collected for statistical purposes will be used for those purposes only, and will not be divulged for any other purposes. The Minister has stated that that principle could have been impaired by regulation and possibly by direction of the Minister under section 20. The purpose of the amendment is to remove from the Minister or the Government power to compel the Statistician to divulge information that has been given to him in confidence and for the statistical’ purposes of his department. I know, and I am certain that other honorable members are aware, that people are reluctant to give information about some matters, because they fear that that information will leak out, to their disadvantage. Perhaps it is inevitable that such a feeling should have developed during the war, when the Commonwealth Public Service was augmented abnormally by temporary employees who had not been trained in the methods of the service, or brought up in its traditions. Undoubtedly, during that period, there were leakages of information, and some abuses of information which had been providedcon- fidentially.
I do not propose to discuss the matter in detail, and I shall make only passing reference to it, but I believe that that atmosphere of suspicion, which has made people reluctant to convey information to the Government, is due, in part at any rate, to the actions of Ministers at various times in disclosing in this Parliament information which was believed to be confidential. Indeed, many private members have felt a sense of grievance because information that they have conveyed to a Minister on what they considered a confidential footing has been publicly disclosed either in the Parliament or elsewhere. Such disclosures have caused suspicion to develop in the minds of the general public that what is promised to be treated confidentially may ultimately be divulged. Secrecy provisions applied to information that was required by the Prices Branch, but leakages occurred, and those engaged in industry feared that information which they might supply for one purpose, might be used against them for another purpose. There was another fear that temporary employees in the Commonwealth Public Service, on returning later to private industry, might take with them information of a confidential character, and use it for purposes detrimental to those who bad supplied it. Consequently, the Statistician has encountered opposition in various places to his requests, and he has considered it necessary to make it abundantly clear to the people of the Commonwealth generally, and to those from whom he requests information, that that information will be treated as completely confidential and that not even a direction by the Minister will extract it from him. Nor can that information be taken from him under a departmental regulation. I commend the Government for having the good sense to see the wisdom of the Statistician’s recommendation, and to incorporate it in this legislation.
The other comment that I want to make is that all members of the Parliament, and many members of the public, derive great assistance from the statistics supplied officially by the Bureau of Census and Statistics, which enjoys the well merited respect of the community. We rely on information supplied by the bureau for purposes of debate. Those engaged in industry and commerce rely on information from the bureau in order to plan trade ventures. The information is used freely by the reprpsentatives of other governments, and by persons in other parts of the world in their dealings with us. Therefore, it is important, not only that the information should be accurate and as complete as possible, but also that it should be up to date. The Commonwealth Year-Book, which is a mine of information, is many years behind current events because of printing delays. The latest available issue of the book is that for 1944-45. I do not think that the delay is in the Bureau of Census and Statistics, because the bureau can always supply us with information very much more recent than that which is published in the latest availableYear-Book. We are able to get from the bureau information about commercial and industrial matters not more than a few months old. Therefore, I do not think the fault lies with the bureau. If the fault is there, I hope that the Government will see that the bureau is properly staffed, so that the information may be made more readily available. However, as I have said, the difficulty appears to be in the Government Printing Office. The mass of publications that now pour forth from the government printery has caused delays in the issuing of the Commonwealth YearBook. Whatever justification there may be for the other publications, and we shall not go into that now, I do not think that any one will challenge my claim that few publications are more important to the members of the Parliament and to the public than the Commonwealth Year-Book. I hope that the Government will take this matter up with the Bureau of Census and Statistics, and with the Government Printer. We are entitled to have the book put before us within a year, at most, of the time in respect of which the information has been collected. There can be no justification for its publication being delayed for several years. I hope that the Government will regard my observations as constructive, and will consider them.
– I shall do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Genocide Convention Bill 1949.
Whaling Industry Bill 1949.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Harden, New South Wales.
Victoria Park, Western Australia.
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administra tion Act - Ordinance - 1949 - No. 5 - Public Service.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Royal Australian Navy: Conditions or Former Royal Navy Personnel Medical Officers
– On the 14th June, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) asked the following questions: -
I address a question to the Minister for the Navy relating to Royal Navy personnel who have been enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy -
I now inform the honorable member as follows: -
– On the 14th June. the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked the following question : -
At the end of hostilities some medical officers who enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy for the duration of the war were .retained against their will on the pretext that the war waa not over. Will the Minister for the Navy inform me whether any such men are still serving in the Royal Australian Navy, and if so, when it is proposed to release them?
The position, as at the 16th June 1949, was as follows : -
Eight reservists still serving of whom four are undergoing 90 days’ pre-discharge refresher course;, and four are still serving. Of the four still serving - one has volunteered to defer demobilization; one will commence predischarge refresher course on the 1st August) and two have no reliefs yet in Bight. (In this regard two applicants in the United Kingdom have been accepted but entry cannot be effected until release is approved by a Central Medical Committee.)
Apples and Pears.
– On the 29th June, I undertook to furnish the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) with, information concerning the prohibition of the exportation of apples and pears from Western Australia. I now desire to inform the honorable member that in Western Australia, in which State this season’s apple and pear crop is being marketed under a State acquisition scheme, the State Minister for Agriculture sought the assistance of the Commonwealth in the supervision of overseas exports to ensure the orderly marketing of the crop. In response to this request, action has been taken to prohibit the export of apples and pears from Western Australia except with the approval of tfes Department of Commerce and Agriculture. This is a temporary arrangement to meet particular circumstances in Western Australia and similar action in other States is not contemplated.
Was and Service Pensions. ifr. Harbison asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
I have received a copy of the pamphlet -mentioned but I am unable to identify the -sender. I am able authoritatively to state that “the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia entirely dissociates itself from the (production and distribution of the document.
House adjourned at 10.51 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 July 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490706_reps_18_203/>.