18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Fuel advise me whether it would be possible for the steamer Levenpool, which is in Port Phillip Bay at present, to be repaired in Victoria even though it is carrying 400 tons of cargo for Sydney? It is suggested in Melbourne that the Sydney cargo could be transferred to SS. Cedarpool so that Levenpool could be repaired at Mel- . bourne.
– I have already received other representations on this subject. I have been informed that Levenpool is now discharging cargo at Geelong, where it will also load general cargo for Sydney. No repairs for which the Australian Shipping Board would be responsible are needed, and it is understood that the vessel can proceed direct to Sydney after loading its cargo. As the agent is Mcllwraith McEacharn Limited, the Department of Shipping and Fuel has no jurisdiction in respect of the repairs, which will have to be carried out on the owners’ account. However, I shall have further inquiries made and will ascertain whether there is any chance of complying with the honorable senator’s request.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Fuel aware that the fishing and fish-canning industry is very important to Tasmania and that the largest consignment of canned fish to leave Australia- for Great Britain was’ despatched from Beauty Point last Saturday? In view of the Government’s intention to reserve petrol stocks for essential users during the present coal strike, will he take steps to provide 1 sufficient fuel oil and petrol to enable this essential industry to continue operations?
– I do not know what stocks of fuel would be required by the fishing industry in Tasmania, hut inquiries will.be made. I have no doubt that attempts will be made to establish that many industries are essential, and the Government and various other authorities will be obliged to determine priorities for petrol supplies.
– Oan the Minister for Shipping and Fuel inform. the Senate whether there is any truth in the report that Mr. Willard Garfield Weston, the Canadian millionaire baker, has bought out Gartrell White Limited of Sydney, Australia’s largest baking concern, for approximately £437,700 and is also securing a controlling interest in the Golden Crust Bakery in North Adelaide? If the report is true, will the Government ascertain, if possible, from the chairman of the Australian directors of the Willard Garfield Weston Company, Sir Earle Page, what steps are intended to be taken by the company to fulfil Mr. Weston’s statement that it plana to give Australia “ the best bread in the world “ ? In view of that statement by Mr. Weston, can the Government ascertain whether the places in other countries that are now served by that monopoly are being supplied with the best bread in the world and whether it is a fact that, keen though the company may be to make bread in Australia, it is even keener to make “ dough “ ? In view of this further visitation of monopoly business upon Australia, will the Government confer with the State governments concerned and do everything possible to prevent perhaps hundreds of small bakers from being put out of business by such a capitalistic organization ?
– I have seen a press report that Gartrell White Limited has been bought out by the company that the honorable senator has mentioned. I am not in a position to answer his rather lengthy inquiries offhand, but if he will give notice of the questions I shall endeavour to obtain the information that he seeks.
– On the 16th June, Senator O’Elaherty asked the following question: -
Recently when I visited the guided weapons testing range, I received a deputation of about 28 displaced persons employed there. They requested that they be given the opportunity to be taught the English language, and pointed out that facilities exist at the range for the purpose. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration give consideration to that request and make available a teacher for that purpose?
The Minister for Immigration has now supplied the following reply: -
In accordance with the Government’s policy of providing every opportunity for non-British migrants to learn the English language, the provision of a supervising instructor at the long range weapons project was approved by the Public Service Board some weeks ago. Some difficulty was experienced in obtaining the services of a suitably qualified teacher, but one has now been appointed to the position and took up duty on the 22nd June, 1949.
– On the 16th June last, Senator Sandford asked whether any plans had been put in hand to improve the accommodation at the Federal Members’ Rooms in Melbourne. The Minister for the Interior has now furnished the following information : -
It is proposed to take over the whole of the third and fourth floors in the building at present occupied by the Federal Members’ Rooms at Post Office-place. This would supply approximately twice as much room as at present provided and when converted into offices should amply afford accommodation for the additional members in Victoria. Negotiations are at present being conducted with a view to vacating the two floors referred to by arranging transfer of the present occupants, viz. the Commonwealth Audit, Commonwealth Reporting Branch and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to other accommodation.
– I direct a ques tion to you, Mr. President. Some time ago I asked whether a vehicle, such as a utility truck, could be provided for the Senate transport officer. I thought that a vehicle might have been provided by this date, but apparently nothing has been done to meet my request. When will a vehicle be provided?
– I have no recollection of the question.
– The question may have been directed to the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. In the first place I asked that a suitable vehicle be provided for the transport officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives. I was told that, although the Senate could not interefere with the House of Representatives, consideration would be given to the proposal for the provision of a
Senate vehicle. It is very difficult for the transport officers to carry out their duties unless they are provided with utility trucks.
– I shall investigate the matter.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Has the Commonwealth Bank issued any instructions or advice to private hanks, the effect of which would be to place restrictions on loans for home-building?
– The Treasurer has replied that the answer to the honorable senator’s question is “No”.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject : -
Ordered to be printed.
Reciprocity with New Zealand.
– by leave - I am sure that not only members of the Parliament, but also the public generally, will be interested to know that under regulations which have been approved to-day, and will he gazetted to-morrow, a comprehensive scheme of reciprocity with New Zealand in social services will be brought into operation in both countries on Friday next, the 1st July. The regulations give effect to the new agreement that was signed by the Prime Ministers of the two countries on the 15th April last. The agreement, in broad effect, makes Australia and1 New Zealand one country so far as social service benefits are concerned. Its consummation is another link in the chain of close and happy association between New Zealand and Australia. This association, formative through all their histories, was cemented under the name of “Anzac” at Gallipoli in the First World War. It continued strong in their common faith and partnership in the British Commonwealth of Nations and was re-inforced in the implementation of the Australia-New Zealand Agreement in 1944 during the Second1 World War, in which the men of the two countries fought side by side. The new agreement replaces a reciprocal agreement on social services that was made between the two countries in September, 1943. That agreement covered only age and invalid pensions in Australia and the corresponding benefits in New Zealand. The new agreement covers these benefits and extends also to widows’ pensions, child endowment and unemployment and sickness benefits and the corresponding New Zealand benefits which are widows’ benefits, family benefits and unemployment and sickness benefits. It is interesting to note that the new agreement stems from a conference of officials of the Governments of the United’ Kingdom and the Dominions held in London in May, 1947, at which the possibilities of reciprocity between the Dominions and with the United Kingdom were fully explored. Negotiations leading up to the present agreement were commenced early last year and were advanced’ to the stage of almost complete agreement during the visit of the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Social Services to NewZealand in September last. The agreement is regarded in both, countries as a very satisfactory product of lengthy and complicated negotiation.
I think it desirable to explain briefly the effect of the new agreement. Under the 1943 agreement, a New Zealander who came to Australia, or an Australian who went to New Zealand, could be granted an age or invalid pension in Australia or an age or invalids’ benefit in New Zealand, subject to the more restrictive conditions of the laws of the two countries, but the rate of pension in any such case could not exceed the lower of the maximum rates in force in the two countries. Under the new agreement New Zealand citizens who come to Australia for permanent residence will receive Australian social service benefits on the same basis as Australian citizens, and for this purpose their residence in New Zealand will count as residence in Australia. New Zealand will give the same concession to Australian citizens who take up permanent residence in New Zealand, with the exception that an Australian man will not be granted an age benefit until he reaches the Australian qualifying age of 65 years - the normal qualifying age for New Zealand citizens is 60 years. Persons going from Australia to New Zealand, and vice versa, for temporary residence will continue to receive, during their temporary absence, any benefits that they were receiving in their own country. The home country will continue to provide these benefits but the actual payments will be made, on an agency basis, by the country in which the person is temporarily resident, and periodical financial adjustments will be made between the two countries. I should like to compliment and thank the New Zealand Minister for Social Security, the Honorable W. E. Parry, and the chairman of the Social Security Commission and his officers, for their helpfulness and many courtesies to the Australian delegation during the currency of the negotiations, and I am pleased that we were able to reciprocate in this direction during the recent visit to this country of Mr. Parry and the chairman of the New Zealand Social Security Commission and other officers of the commission. I am sure that the personal discussions during these visits were the major factor in achieving success, and I am confident that the new scheme will prove completely satisfactory and will form a major link in the chain of ties which bind these two countries within the British Commonwealth.
We intend now to turn our attention to the matter of obtaining a similar comprehensive agreement with the United Kingdom. Negotiations are already under way. In view of the fundamental differences in the schemes of the two countries there are many difficulties to be overcome, but I am hopeful that it will very soon be possible to advance the negotiations to such a stage that the completion of a satisfactory agreement with the United Kingdom will be practicable.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
United Nations - General Assembly - Second part of Third Session, New York, AprilMay, 1949 - Report of Australian Delegation and move -
That the paper be printed.
When last I spoke to the Senate on international affairs, almost five months ago, 1 outlined the basic principles of Australia’s foreign policy and emphasized that there had been no change in these principles, all of which had been debated before and had been accorded general agreement. This is still true and I shall not take -up the time of honorable senators by recapitulating in detail what I then said. I merely remind them that the first and fundamental principle of Australia’s policy in foreign affairs is wholehearted support for the United Nations as the embodiment of the accepted present-day idea of international duty to one’s neighbour. I also remind honorable senators that vis-a-vis the United Kingdom there has been no holding back on Australia’s part from the full implications of Commonwealth membership while maximum co-operation with the United States remains an integral part of our policy. As to an area of vital significance for us - the Far East, as it used to be called - the basis of our relationships there will depend on two things : the development of independent political institutions in the countries of East and South-East Asia and improvements in their living standards. In co-operation with other members of the United Nations, Australia will continue to take a live interest in making available to them all the help, and experience, technical and otherwise that we have.
In the months since I last spoke, there has been another meeting of the United Nations Assembly - the second part of the third session. Many questions which honorable senators will no doubt have in mind will be answered by reference to the report of the Australian delegation. I am tabling a copy of this report made available by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). The index contains 24 headings and six appendices covering political and security questions, social, cultural and humanitarian problems, and administrative, budgetary and legal matters.
In tabling this document, copies of which will be made available to honorable senators, I should like to draw attention to the extension of the conciliation function of the United Nations Assembly in the period under review, to the outcome of the meeting of Foreign Ministers in Paris and to recent events in Java and China.
When I addressed the Senate in February, the international scene was overshadowed by differences between the Great Powers and there were some who gloomily believed that these differences would end in another war. This situation affected the United Nations in two ways: in the first place the United Nations was compelled to function in circumstances which had never been contemplated when the United Nations Charter was drawn up at San Francisco in 1945. In the second place, the Great Power differences tended to paralyse the executive organ of the United Nations - the Security Council, where each Great Power had the right of veto. For one thing, there has been no agreement for placing military forces at the disposal of the council. In the circumstances the Assembly has stepped in to deal with situations with which the Security Council has been unable to deal and in doing so has come to play a somewhat different role from that intended when the Charter was drafted. United Nations action in the case, for instance, of both Greece and Korea has proceeded from Assembly initiative after contemplated action through the Security Council had failed. The Assembly has also a distinguished record in its handling of the situation in Palestine, and the problem of the Italian colonies. Another recent success for the Assembly was the decision reached at the Paris meeting whereby, at United Nations instigation, the Great Powers resumed long suspended negotiations in the Council of Foreign Ministers and reached some measure of agreement over both Berlin and Austria. The Four Powers also agreed to arrange for continuing consultation, so that we may hope that the sphere of agreement will con- tinually broaden as more and more problems become soluble by the patient application of just principles. In Indonesia there is further evidence that protracted action by the United Nations is bearing fruit in the evacuation of Djojakarta, the Republican capital, the proposed restoration of the Republican Government and the scheduled round table discussions at The Hague.
Since I last spoke on international affairs, developments of far-reaching importance have occurred in China. Communist armies have advanced with little opposition from the Nationalist forces and it is hard to see how the Nationalists can prevent the Communists from extending their control still further. These events pose two problems: First, what is to be the future of the Chinese people; and, secondly, what are to be the relations of foreign nations to that large part of China in which it seems reasonable to anticipate a period of stable Communist control? Regarding the first question, we can only hope that the breach now evident in the Chinese people will be closed as. soon as possible and with a minimum of distress. As to the second, there seems reason to encourage practical working arrangements with the Chinese Communists by commerce and trade through the coastal cities ; otherwise, they- may despair of international cooperation from the west and sever all contact with the democracies.
Honorable senators will be pleased to know that beyond the political work of the United Na’tions> there proceeds the less controversial, less publicized work of the specialized agencies and related organizations of the United Nations. In the work of the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Refugee Organization, the International Children’s Emergency Fund and the Food and Agricultural Organization, practical steps are being taken to alleviate conditions which may lead to war. In all these activities, Australia has taken an active part, and as opportunity presents, is continuing to do so.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Cameron) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1946.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent tuc being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
[3.271. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short bill to amend the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1946. Its purpose is to ensure that the programmes originating in the studios of broadcasting stations and television stations shall be received in listeners’ homes by means of radio only and not by medium of wire lines. The Post and Telegraph Act has for many years contained strict limitations on the use of telegraph, including telephone, lines, and the object of the bill is to make it quite clear that these lines, which are mostly owned by the Postal Department, shall not be used for the transmission of broadcasting or television programmes to listeners’ premises.
Honorable senators may be aware that in European and some other countries considerable use has been made of wire lines for the distribution of broadcast programmes to listeners’ premises. This has been due chiefly to the extreme difficulty experienced by the administrations in those countries in making available adequate broadcasting services . on account of geographic considerations and the acute shortage of wave-lengths. In consequence, alternative methods of providing for the needs of listeners have, of necessity, been resorted to. In Australia, however, the great percentage of listeners and, in particular, those residing in metropolitan areas and other concentrated centres of population, where distribution of radio programmes by means of wire lines would have its greatest application, have available to them a multiplicity of programmes from broadcasting stations. There is, therefore, at present no justification for providing alternative means of catering for the requirements of listeners. The Government has received applications from organizations eager to embark on the establishment and operation of wire broadcasting services in this country, notwithstanding its very doubtful possibilities. This has created some uneasiness in the minds of broadcasters as well as radio manufacturers, who feel that such a service, for which no real need has been demonstrated, may have unfortunate effects on the industry generally.
The Government, in connexion with its recent exhaustive examination of broadcasting conditions in Australia, considered carefully the possible application of wire distribution. The conclusion was reached, however, that, although in some countries certain advantages were derived therefrom, the particular conditions existing in Australia made such an innovation unnecessary and one to be discouraged. In order to. remove all the doubts which this particular issue has created, and in the interests of broadcasting generally, the Government feels that the position should be clarified and to this end proposes that the Post and Telegraph Act should be amended to preclude the use of wire lines being authorized for programme distribution purposes.
If it should ever be thought necessary to introduce wire broadcasting in this country, it could be done by the Postal Department. Such a system depends to a large degree on the use of telephone lines, the acute shortage of which makes it impossible to contemplate the introduction of wire broadcasting at the present time. The Government, in any event, considers that a service of this nature is unnecessary in Australia. Any developments in this field which may be considered desirable in the future may be safely left to the Postal Department, with its immense experience in the provision of telegraph and telephone services.
I submit the bill for the consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to repeal the Commonwealth Shipping Act 1923 and to, provide for the control and management of Cockatoo Island and Schnapper Island.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill which is now before the Senate is to provide for the repeal of the Commonwealth Shipping Act 1923. That was the act under which the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was constituted, and it conferred powers upon a board appointed under its provisions to operate ships on behalf of the Commonwealth. That act has remained in force since the disbanding of the former Commonwealth line. A board has continued to function under the act, its sole function, however, being to administer Cockatoo and Schnapper Islands. With the passing of the Shipping Act 1949, it becomes necessary to repeal the Commonwealth Shipping Act, as much of that act related to powers and functions analogous to those conferred on the Australian Shipping Board provided for under the Shipping Act 1949. With its repeal some alternative means of providing for the control of Cockatoo and Schnapper Islands are necessary and in particular for the administration of the agreement contained in the schedule to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard Agreement Act 1933.
The Government has given careful consideration to the best means of administering the islands concerned. The alternatives seem to be either to set up a special board charged with the duty of administering the islands or to vest their administration in an appropriate government department. The Government considers that the second method is preferable. The bill therefore provides for the repeal of the Commonwealth Shipping Act 1923, and the vesting of the ownership of Cockatoo and Schnapper Islands in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth at the same time assumes all the rights, property, assets, obligations and liabilities of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board, including obligations and liabilities under any contract, in particular,the agreement contained in the schedule to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard Agreement Act 1933.
The effect of the bill, as I have indicated, will he that the administration of these islands will be undertaken by the appropriate Minister and the affairs of the islands will be handled by his department in the ordinary fashion. A further consequence of the bill will be that the financial transactions connected with the islands, instead of being handled by a board, will be dealt with by Parliament in the normal manner. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That Standing Order (58 be suspended up to and including Friday, the 1st July next, to enable new Business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 22nd June (vide page 1251), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill proposes to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue £21,000,000 fox the payment of war pensions. About twelve months ago an appropriation measure was passed in respect of the current financial year, and I am pleased that the amount of the appropriation contained in that measure has now been increased by approximately £2,000,000 for the next financial year. The sum required for the payment of war pensions, particularly in respect of exservicemen of World War II., will undoubtedly increase until a peak point is reached, whereas pensions for exservicemen of World War I. will steadily decrease. In the course of debate on other measures related to the treatment of ex-servicemen of both wars and their dependants, I have urged the Government to increase the present rates of war pensions, and I have based my argument upon the fact that there is a considerable disparity between the present rate of war pensions-1 -
– I rise to order. I submit that it is not competent for honorable senators to discuss the rates of war pensions in debate on an appropriation measure.
– I uphold the point of order. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) is not entitled to discuss the rates of war pensions during the passage of this measure.
– -If the pension rates cannot be discussed, the debate will be confined to the actual appropriation, and it will not be .possible to refer to the manner in which the money is to be expended.
– At the secondreading stage, honorable senators may discuss a bill in a general way.
– But it is impossible to discuss a money bill in a general way unless reference can be made to the manner in which the money is to be used. In effect, discussing of pension rates is being gagged. I believe that the appropriation is insufficient to pay adequate war pensions.
– I rise to order. I take exception to the honorable senator’s statement that the debate on this measure is being gagged. There is no suggestion of gagging. The point that I raised was that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) was entirely out of order in referring to pension rates. He was voicing purely political propaganda which had no relation to the bill now under discussion.
– The Leader of the Opposition will have an opportunity to discuss pension rates when the relevant repatriation measure is before the Senate
– -The purpose of this bill is to appropriate a certain sum of money for the payment of war pensions. As the Minister for Shipping and Fuel apparently does not like the word “ gag “, I shall not use it, but under your ruling, Mr. President, I can not refer to the manner in which the appropriation provided for in this measure is to be expended.
– The position is quite clear. Pension rates are dealt with under an entirely different measure, and any remarks that the honorable senator may wish to make on that subject may be made when that measure comes before the Senate. This bill merely provides for the appropriation of £21,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The question before the Senate is whether this grant should or should not be made.
– I shall content myself by placing on record the fact that, in my opinion, the appropriation is not adequate to meet the increased pension payments that should be made.
– I rise to order. Again I submit that the Leader of the Opposition is not in order in discussing pension rates.
– Order ! I have made it plain to the Leader of the Opposition that, if he discusses pension rates, he will be out of order. However, as I have said, at the second-reading stage a bill may be discussed in a general way. The question whether the appropriation is adequate may be debated now, but references to pension rates will be out of order. A former President of this chamber, Senator the Honorable T. Givens, ruled that in a debate on a pensions appropriation measure, the administration may be discussed.
– I thank you, Mr. President. I shall obey your ruling and confine my remarks to the appropriation for which this measure provides. I contend that it is not sufficient, and should be increased to provide for greater pension payments. I shall reserve my remarks on pension rates until the appropriate legislation is before us. I have no wish to impede the passage of this bill and, at this stage I merely register my disapproval of the amount of the appropriation.
. - in reply - I regret that it was necessary for me to prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) from debating pension rates. A similar attempt to widen the scope of the discussion on this measure was made in the House of Representatives. The same problem arose in relation to measures such as this when the Labour party was in Opposition. In the House of Representatives the efforts of Opposition members to deal with pension rates were quite rightly rejected by Mr. Speaker, who gave a ruling similar to that given by the President to-day. The Leader of the Opposition will have an opportunity to deal with pension rates when other legislation is being considered. I realize that he has consistently taken an interest in this matter, and I regret the necessity to curtail his remarks on this occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 28th June (vide page 1547), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator O’Sullivan had moved, by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to make provision that all elections of officials and all decisions in relation to an industrial dispute by any registered association be determined by a secret ballot of members taken under the supervision of the Registrar of the Industrial Court”.
– This bill will not take from any individual his right to take action under common law to recover damages sought on the grounds of financial loss or injury to reputation, as a result of malpractice. Senator O’sullivan emphasized the existence of that right, but the bill will not affect it in any way. Its purpose is to establish machinery to enable individuals or groups of individuals within unions to appeal to the Arbitration Court against any interference with their ballots or malpractices in the conduct of ballots. Proposed new section 96m provides that the Industrial Registrar may conduct a union election upon the request of the union. A union need not wait for irregularities to occur.
– honorable senator think that union officials guilty of malpractices would invoke that provision?
– The matter would not be in the hands of officials. I explained last night, and probably the, honorable senator has forgotten, that any amendment of a union’s constitution, such as that which would be necessary to hand control of ballots to the Arbitration Court, must be approved by a majority of all members. Unions follow the democratic procedure of referring proposed alterations of their rules or constitutions to conferences of representatives of all members. Any union will be able to alter its constitution to provide that its ballots must be conducted by the Industrial Registrar, but there will be no compulsion. The amendment that hai been proposed by Senator O’sullivan indicates the honorable gentleman’s desire to impose compulsion upon union members. The situation that would result from the adoption of the amendment would be entirely ridiculous. Federal unions having members in all parts of Australia would be required to conduct secret ballots in order to determine the course of action to be taken in connexion with all disputes. That would be a slow, cumbersome and entirely unsatisfactory method of dealing with disputes that often can be resolved merely by local action. The amendment is not designed to improve the bill in any way. Therefore I oppose it and commend the bill to the Senate.
– This bill appears to me to represent an attempt at appeasement. The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) referred in his opening speech to the necessity for legislation to provide for the conduct of clean ballots in organizations registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and spoke of the interest of the Labour party in this desirable aim. Then the honorable gentleman presented ro the Senate a bill that seems to me to be likely to hamper the attainment of the very object for which it was allegedly designed. I shall not dwell on the subject of machinery for the holding of secret ballot because that has already been dealtwith adequately and will be discussed further in the House of Representatives. However, I direct attention to what I consider tobe a weakness in proposed new section 1 b, which states - (1.) W re an application under the last prececg section is lodged with the Industrial Registrar, he shall - (a)ifhe is satisfied -
That follows the lines of some of the laws that deal with parliamentary elections, but it is not appropriate to the purpose of this bill and does not provide a remedy for the trouble that has led to the introduction of the measure. I draw particular attention to the words - which may have affected or may affect the result of the election . . .
As I interpret that provision, unless an applicant can demonstrate that the number of irregular votes lodged in a ballot has been sufficient to affect its result, his appeal will be rejected by the Industrial Registrar and will not be submitted to the Arbitration Court.
In considering the effect of the proposed new section, I have drawn up a hypothetical case, which might well he duplicated in practice. It illustrates my point well. It assumes that 14,000 members of a union are entitled to vote at an election and that one candidate is credited with 6,400 votes and his opponent with 5,400 votes giving the first candidate a majority of 1,000. For the purpose of the illustration, I assume that 1,200 votes are ruled to be informal and that 1,000 members are excluded from the ballot on the ground that they are not financial members of the union. I also assume that certain earnest members of the union fear that the result of the election is achieved by means of malpractices, including manipulation of ballot-papers by placing extra marks on ‘them to make them informal, forgery of papers, and the rejection of votes on the ground that members are unfinancial although they are, in fact, financial. This group of members collects 100 declarations disclosing prima facie evidence of ‘impersonation, 100 declarations that valid votes are made informal by marking, a statement that when unused ballot-papers are added to the used ballot-papers there is a surplus of 100 papers, and 100 declarations that the votes of financial members have been rejected. From this hypothetical case it would seem that there would be prima facie evidence of malpractices affecting 400 votes. However, as the successful candidate has been elected by a clear majority of 1,000 votes, the invalid votes cannot affect the* final result. What would the Industrial Registrar be required to do in such an event? Would he refer the complaint of the applicant to the Arbitration Court, or would the application lapse? It appears that the proposed new section would be ineffective, even if malpracticeswere widespread, provided that they were not sufficiently numerous to affect the result of the election. I hope that the Minister will deal with this point when he speaks. He may contend that the proposed new section will not operateas I interpret it, but I am unable to discover any other reasonable interpretation.
I also draw direct attention to the difference between the proposed section that 1 have quoted and proposed new section 96G (4) which states -
The Court shall not declare an election, or any step taken in or in connexion with an election, to be void, or declare that a person was not elected, unless the Court is of opinion. that, having regard to the irregularity found, and any circumstances giving rise to a likelihood that similar irregularities may have occurred or may occur, the result of the election may have been affected, or may be affected, by irregularities.
It seems to me that the Arbitration Court will have a discretionary power and that the Registrar will not. I suggest that the Minister should give close consideration to that fact, because the restriction upon the Registrar will lead only to frustration. It means that nobody will be able to appeal effectively to the Registrar, no matter how open and how bad malpractices may be, unless he can show that they have affected, or will affect, the result of an election. That weakness would defeat the purpose of the bill. The Industrial Registrar is a highly esteemed public servant and he should be allowed to exercise reasonable discretion in referring to the Arbitration Court appeals that in his opinion are sufficiently serious to merit investigation by the court. The bill also fails to state what will happen when an appeal discloses malpractices that do not justify reference by the Industrial Registrar to the court. Many serious irregularities might be revealed, but no provision is made for dealing with them. Are such irregularities to be referred back to the union concerned to be dealt with under union rules, or does the Government contemplate the adoption of some other procedure? The Government should give a lead to the unions in connexion with the suppression of irregularities under their rules and by-laws. I understand that company law in most States of the Commonwealth provides companies with a model set of rules and articles of association described as “ Table A “. A company may adopt that table without amendment, but it is not compelled to do so. The Government should be equally helpful to the trade unions and draft a model set of rules and by-laws for their use and guidance. Adoption of those rules should not be compulsory, but they could be used as models. The chief advantage would be that unions would be equipped to deal with many problems that from time to time confront them, particularly in the conduct of ballots. I remind the Minister, alao, that there is no machinery provided in this bill for the taking of a ballot. In some unions in Queensland, the only qualification required of a person who seeks to vote at a union election is possession of an appropriate union ticket Registers of membership of those unions are not complete and records of ticket sales are not always up to date. It is essential that a primary record should be kept by a union of the names of all members eligible to vote at its elections. It would have been merely a common-sense precaution to include provision for the maintenance of such up-to-date records in this bill. Every move that will help to restore control of trade unions to rank-and-file members is desirable and worthy of the strongest support. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will see his way clear to amend the bill in order to give effect to ray suggestions. I hope also that he will reply to’ the questions that I have asked in connexion with proposed new sections 96b and 96g and their effect in relation to the hypothetical case that I have submitted.
– At this stage I shall speak to the amendment only, reserving my right of reply to a later hour. I refer first to the speech made yesterday by Senator O’sullivan. I think that I am accurate when I. say that it was the most ungenerous and illinformed speech that he has addressed to the .Senate. It was ill-informed as to the facts of the bill itself, as to the law, and as to the whole industrial field. Senator O’sullivan moved, by way of amendment that all words after “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof -
The bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to make provision that all elections of officials and all decisions in relation to an industrial dispute by any registered association be determined by a secret ballot of members taken under the supervision of the Registrar of the Industrial Court.
In short, the amendment proposes that there shall be secret ballots supervised by the industrial registrar of the court in two classes of cases, the first in relation to the election of union officials, and the second in relation to all decisions in connexion with an industrial dispute. I shall deal first with his proposal that there should be secret ballots under the supervision of the Industrial Registrar in connexion with all decisions in relation to industrial disputes. In my opinion that is wholly unnecessary, is completely impracticable, and would lead its sponsor into a complete dilemma. It is unnecessary because of the provision contained in section 72 of the principal act, which reads -
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 ie a party to the dispute be submitted to a vote of the members of the organization olof the branch thereof taken by secret ballot (with or without provision for absent voting) in accordance with directions given by the Court.
In any matter relating to an industrial dispute there exists the most complete provision for secret ballots if the court thinks it desirable to so order. I point out that that ballot has to be conducted in accordance with directions given by the court. That picks up the second point posed by the honorable senator, namely, that the ballots should be supervised by the Registrar. Section 72 of the principal act provides complete power for secret ballots supervised by the Industrial Registrar in relation to all matters connected with an industrial dispute. In connexion with my second point that the suggestion is wholly impracticable, I point out that under the Constitution the Government’s power arises when there is a dispute pending as well as when it has arisen. Normally a dispute is pending the moment that a union executive draws up a log of claims. Immediately that log is presented to the other side there is an actual industrial dispute arising. Under the proposals of the honorable senator these questions arise : Has the claim itself to go to the general body of members by secret ballot conducted or supervised by the industrial Registrar; has the question of who will represent the union, which is a decision of a matter arising out of the dispute, also to go by secret ballot to the general members of the union; it contended that every offer and counter offer, every variation of term in negotiation, every new term interposed in a course of the rapid process of conciliation and arbitration shall be referred to the members of the union for decision and interpretation by means of a secret ballot? The bill applies to both employees’ and employers’ organizations. Must a union executive, elected by the franchise of the members to act on their behalf, cease to so act and become a mere taker of secret ballots, at enormous expense, serving no other purpose than to interpose an unending delay in the process of conciliation and arbitration, and so to clutter up the whole of the arbitral and conciliatory machinery? Is that executive, elected by the members, to have no authority at all? Must every matter in relation to every dispute at every phase be referred to the members by way of a secret ballot ? All of those questions are expressly implied in the terms of the amendment that has been moved by the honorable senator. This shows how unreal is the proposal. Even conceding that the Industrial Registrar may be allowed to act on his facts, if he were to intervene and supervise - not conduct - all union ballots, I venture to say that he would require a staff equally as large as the total amalgamated executives of the unions in Australia. He would need a colossal staff. This would lead to interminable delay and would involve considerable expense. I wonder whether Senator O’sullivan has any realization of the enormous difficulty experienced in many unions in taking ballots? The Clothing Trades Union and allied unions have a membership of 80,000. The Australian “Workers Union has scores of thousands of members, its men and women members being scattered throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The Australian Workers Union has members working in shearing sheds, logging camps, and on constructional work, in addition to itinerant members moving from place to place, who are often difficult to locate. A vast amount of time and machinery would be involved to take a ballot, whether secret or of any other type. The third . point is that whoever sponsors the proposal for taking a secret ballot on all questions relating to an industrial dispute eventually reaches a very hopeless dilemma. Under the honorable senator’s proposals the moment a strike is mooted, the matter must go to a secret ballot. Let us assume - and this will be the position in many instances - that by ballot a union decides to strike. From that point onwards the strike proceeds on its way veritably with an air of sanctified legality. The position is then reached that neither the court nor the conciliation commissioner will hear the dispute or take any notice of it while one of the parties to the dispute is repudiating arbitration. There is then no machinery to handle the dispute further. Here is a comparatively legalized strike; no court Or conciliation commission is prepared to do anything about it, and the only way out of the impasse is to have another secret ballot, with all of the expense and inconvenience involved in that procedure. A typical instance showing that the present practice works very effectively was seen in the Kemira tunnel dispute last year. The Senate will remember that that was a dispute between the miners’ federation and the Australian “Workers Union. The strike had been declared effective from the Wednesday of a particular week, and by a vote of the membership of the miners’ federation it was extended to the whole of the New South Wales field. By reason of the fact that a secret ballot or any other ballot was not required, intervention by this Government was possible with the result that by 1 o’clock the following Monday the executive of the miners’ federation ordered the mien back to work the next day. All were back on the job on the Tuesday morning. If the proposal of the honorable senator were the law at that time that could not have taken place. Under his proposal it would have had to be referred to the membership, and possibly ballots would have had to be taken throughout the coal-fields in Australia, involving interminable delay, inconvenience and expense. I should like to point out that only once, according to my information and recollection, has the Federal Arbitration Court itself in the course of a dispute invoked its power under section 72 of the act to order a secret ballot. One obvious reason for the reluctance of the court to order a secret ballot when a dispute is pending, is that it sees as clearly as I have just posed, that an impasse may be reached when the union members decide to strike. From that point the court would decline to hear them again, and a further secret ballot would be required to unwind the difficulty into which all parties had got themselves. The first part of the honorable senator’s proposal was that there should be secret ballots for the election of union officials under the supervision of the Registrar. I say at once that that proposal puts a completely unnecessary imposition on the great bulk of the unions who conduct their elections cleanly, honestly, and in accordance with the rules. Everybody must concede that it is not, necessary to have laws for people who behave properly. The bill furnishes the fullest opportunity for dealing with a union which is a wrongdoer in the matter of elections. I shall deal with that aspect under three headings. First, it is open to any one member to apply to the Industrial Registrar to submit an appeal and to have an inquiry promoted. This is covered in proposed new section 96a. It is explicitly provided in the bill that a particular applicant does not have to rely on his own resources. Proposed new section 96b provides that the Industrial Registrar may grant an application and refer the matter to the court. He may take into account any relevant opinion coming to his own knowledge. As to the source of his further information, another provision in the bill enables him to approach a judge and to get an order to enter the premises of a union. The Industrial Registrar, having had an application filed with him, may enter the premises of the registered organization and inspect the ballot-papers and documents connected with the ballot. He may require them to be delivered to him, may take possession of them, and may retain possession of them. Thus, through the Industrial Registrar, there is the fullest opportunity for even one on ember of a union to have recourse to data that will establish his case. A man is not left to his own resources.
Proposed new section 96f (5) reads - The provisions of Section 39 of this Act shall apply in relation to proceedings under this Division in like manner as they apply in relation to other proceedings before the Court.
Section 39 of the principal act, which is incorporated in these proceedings, gives the fullest discretion to the court. That section provides -
In thehearing and determination of an industrial dispute -
the Court or Commissioner shall not be bound to act in a formal manner and shall not be bound by any rules of evidence but may inform its or his mind on any matter in such manner as it or he thinks just.
) The Court or Conciliation Commis sioner shall act according to equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities and legal forms.
I now refer honorable senators to proposed new section 96G (4) which was read by Senator Rankin. That extends the discretion of the court to a very wide degree. Once an irregularity is proved the court may have regard to all the circumstances which might seem to indicate that there is a likelihood - I emphasize the word “ likelihood “ - that similar irregularities may have occurred, or may occur. In short, it is left to the common sense, and the very good sense, of the court to determine whether, one fact having been established but not being sufficient in number to upset an election or affect the result of an election, it should go further and look at all the circumstances; andif the court is satisfied that there is a likelihood that similar irregularities have occurred it may make all the orders provided for under the bill. There is protection, too, in regard to the costs of the individual who goes to the Registrar. There is provision to enable those costs to be paid by the Crown. All of those provisions add up to a great deal of protection and flexibility, and a very wide discretion is vested in both the Registrar and the court. Senator Rankin drew attention to the differencebetween the wording of proposed new section 96b (1) and proposed new section 96g (4). I point out that there is a very great difference betweenthe purposes of those two provisions. Proposed new section 96b(1) reads -
Where an application under the last preceding section is lodged with the Industrial
Registrar, he shall -
if he is satisfied -
that there are reasonable grounds for an inquiry into the question whether there has been an irregularity in or in connexion with the election, which may have affected or may affect the result of the election; and
that the circumstances of the matter justify an inquiry by the Court under this Division, grant the application and refer the matter to the Court; or
if he is not so satisfied, refuse the application and inform the applicant accordingly.
The Industrial Registrar needs only to be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for inquiry. He has not to be convinced, before he remits the matter to court, that there is a clear indication that irregularities have occurred and have been of an extent likely to affect the result of an election. He has merely to determine that there are reasonable grounds for an inquiry into that matter. Then we come to the powers of the court itself. Proposed new section 96g (4) reads -
The Court shall not declare an election, or any step taken in or in connexion with an election, to be void, or declare that a person was not elected, unless the Court is of opinion that, having regard to the irregularity found,
That is one point. Secondly - and these are the important words - and any circumstances giving rise to a likelihood that similar irregularities may have occurred or may occur, the result of the election may have been affected, or may be affected, by irregularities.
That is the clearest direction to the court, backed by its powers under section 39 of the principal act, which is incorporated in this bill, to use its broad common sense in relation to the matter. No more flexibility could be given to the court in such a situation than is provided for under the bill. Again, the position of the individual private member of a union who may go to the court is buttressed. The Opposition has directed attention to the possibility that such an individual may be victimized. That is true; and precautions were taken only during the last few months to ensure that a person shall not be victimized by his unionby providing that he may, on making out a prima facie ease to the registrar, have his case conducted by the registrar at the Commonwealth’s expense. So, whichever way one looks at the bill, the freest opportunity is given to any individual member of a union to approach the court; and such an individual is helped and buttressed at every point by the powers conferred upon the registrar and the court and by provision being made for the payment of his costs. At the same time, however, I have to point to a danger which the bill provides against. It is very necessary that applications of that nature should be carefully screened by some responsible officer. There have been cases, known to the Government, in which a militant minority in some union has, in fact, deliberately engineered such irregularities so that it might produce those irregularities as evidence, not to set aside the result of an election, but for no other purposes than to discredit the officials of the union concerned. That happened in connexion with one union I have in mind, and such a practice has been repeated again and again. That screening by the registrar will ensure that an improper purpose cannot be served, and it will also ensure that vexatious and frivolous claims shall not take up the time of the court.
Under the bill, it is wide open to the court toconduct a secret ballot whenever it thinks it proper to follow such a course. That provision, which is made in paragraph d of proposed new section 96G (3), is important because it enables the court, in such circumstances, to disregard completely the rules of a union. It reads -
If the Court finds that an irregularity has occurred, the Court may, in its discretion, but subject to sub-section (4.) of this section make one or more of the following orders: -
an order directing, notwithstanding anything contained in the rules of the organization or branch the taking of such safeguards as the Court finds necessary against irregularities in, or in connexion with -
any such new election;
I emphasize the words - “ the taking of such safeguards as the Court thinks necessary “. It is clear that those safeguards that the court may interpose as necessary in its view against irregularities include secret ballots if the court thinks it neces sary to provide for them. Therefore, the Opposition’s view that the bill makes no provision for secret ballots is completely erroneous. I cannot make the position plainer. Again, I point out that under the last provision I have read the matter is taken very much further than the amendment proposed by Senator O’Sullivan will carry it. Pursuant to that provision, the court can appoint a returning officer to act as returning officer in conjunction with the returning officer, if any, under the rules of an organization, whereas the honorable senator’s amendment provides for mere supervision by the registrar. This provision goes further still; there can be actual conduct by the registrar of the new ballot in association with the union official. Therefore, the Opposition’s view on that point is completely erroneous. In those circumstances, and in the light of the arguments that I have addressed to honorable senators, the amendment is futile, and, on behalf of the Government, I reject it.
Question put: -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator O’Sullivan’s amendment), be left out.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator T. M. Nicholls.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– in reply - I express surprise and regret at a number of the utterances of Senator O’Sullivan, who spoke on this measure yesterday. His speech was ungenerous and ill-informed concerning the bill and the industrial front. Indeed, his speech consisted of a number of extraordinary general statements, none of which he made the slightest attempt to support by reasoned argument. He alleged that the measure did not contain any provision whatever for the prevention of irregularities in the conduct of the internal affairs of trade unions. That statement is completely incorrect, and I doubt very much whether the honorable senator had read the bill before he spoke. I again take the opportunity to draw his attention to proposed new sections 96a to 96n, which provide serious penalties for certain offences. Proposed new section 96n (1) makes it an offence for any person, without lawful authority or excuse, in or in connexion with an election or an office to
put or deliver a ballot paper or other paper -
– Which of those offences is not already punishable under existing law ?
– If Senator O’Sullivan will listen to me in the dignified silence which he acknowledged I had observed during his remarks I shall be good enough to inform him. I point out that the detailed provisions of the bill flatly contradict his allegation that the measure does not contain any provision for the prevention of irregularities. He has challenged me to mention any provision in the measure that is not already contained in the present civil or criminal law, and I instantly accept that challenge. I flatly contradict his statement that the bill does not contain any new provisions. Of the long list of enumerated offences in the bill, the only ones which are at present punishable at common law are forgery and violence. I concede at once that forgery and violence can be dealt with under the criminal law, but wilful damage to ballot-papers, or deliberate destruction of union ballot-papers is not provided for under the existing civil or criminal law. Whilst section 73 of the present Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act expressly prohibits certain illegal practices in the taking of ballots, that section contemplates only ballots ordered by the courts to be held in the course of industrial disputes. That section merely constitutes it an offence to offer any instruction in the taking of such a ballot, to indulge in any form of intimidation, or to make any false representation that an individual is a member of a particular industrial organization when he is not such a member. That section, which is extremely brief, does not apply to ballots for the election of officials. Furthermore, it does not mention impersonation.
Let me deal with another mis-statement of Senator O’Sullivan. He said that the courts provide a remedy for breach of the rules. I must interpose a complete contradiction of that statement. When the honorable senator mentioned courts, he obviously had in mind the ordinary civil courts, and I point out at once that the Arbitration Court enjoys only certain limited powers. Section 81 of the principal act provides that for breach of a rule a fine may be imposed. Speaking from memory, I think that the maximum fine is £50. That section is intended to apply only to unions whose officials fail to observe the rules made by the Arbitration Court. In all other jurisdictions breaches of union rules fall within the ambit of that branch of the common law that deals with the conduct of clubs. Although Senator O’Sullivan undoubtedly realizes that fact, I think that he must have overlooked the leading case, in which, incidentally, my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) was a party. That case, Cameron and Others v.Hogan. which was decided in the early thirties, concerned an alleged failure of the central executive of the Australian Labour party to grant endorsement to Hogan. After the original action had been tried an appeal was made to the High Court. After hearing lengthy argument and giving full consideration to the matter, the High Court decided that the courts have no jurisdiction to interfere in the internal affairs of a voluntary organ unless the complainant can show that there has been a breach of some right in property. Every one who knows anything of industrial law realizes that the rules of industrial organizations are expressly designed to negative the right of members to acquire property in those organizations.
SenatorO’Sullivan. - But a right to property would include the tenure of an office of profit.
– During the hearing of the case to which I have referred it was contended that a member of an organization who contested a seat in the legislature of Victoria was seeking an office of profit because the possession of a seat would constitute an opportunity for advancement. The High Court rejected that contention. It is obviously necessary that a trade union should have a rule of the nature that I have described. Imagine the position that would confront a trade union of say, 80,000 members, if all its members were to be regarded as shareholders with rights in its property. Some members might retire, others might die, and others might transfer from the industry. If every member of the organization had a financial interest in the union’s property an accounting would have to be taken on every occasion that a change of personnel of the union occurred. No trade union could possibly function under such conditions. That being so, the members of a trade union have no right in the property or funds of the union, and therefore have no right to litigate internal disputes in the civil courts of the land. Apart from the very limited provision which is contained in the present Arbitration Act, - a measure which the Government proposes to expand considerably by the passage of the bill which is now before the Senate - an aggrieved member of a trade union has no legal right of redress. As the act stands at present if he were to approach the civil courts for redress against injustice committed against him by the union, the courts would simply say to him, “Unless you can prove that some right that you have in the property of the organization has been adversely affected by an action of your executive, we will not give you a hearing. Go away and settle it yourself “. In short, the rule which governs the election of officers and the. conduct of internal affairs in the trade unions is one of “ Rafferty’s rules “. It is the rule of force, and force has been applied in these organizations down the years. I point out, therefore, to the honorable senator that the courts are not free to regulate union elections, with the single exception that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court enjoys certain limited powers under section 81 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That is why the Government has introduced this bill, which will give the most complete redress to any individualwho sees fit to question the validity of an election.
Let me refer briefly to the new remedies that are provided by the bill which did not exist previously. First of all, a member of a registered trade union is entitled to go to the court for the adjustment of any irregularity in the election of members of the executive of the union. The various orders which the court may make in such a case are set out in proposed new section 96G (3), and are as follows : -
The court may even set aside the rules of the trade union concerned. Those are all new remedies. The bill provides that all ballot-papers must be preserved for a year so that the machinery of the court may be put into motion and proofs may be sought and obtained. The right of a trade union to have the industrial registrar conduct a ballot is also a new right. Despite what Senator O’sullivan said, the various acts set out in proposed new section 96n are offences new to the law ; they were not previously covered by any statute or common law principle. In fact, they constitute an amazingly new approach to the entire problem of industrial relationships.
In the course of his remarks, Senator O’sullivan contended that the bill does not contain any provision for a secret ballot. Although I have already disposed of that contention in the remarks that I made concerning proposed new section 96g, I point out that a secret ballot may now be held in any case which the court thinks fit. I was astounded when the honorable senator referred to the bill as a sham, and stigmatized the Government’s action in introducing it as an act of cowardice. I think that upon reflection the honorable senator will realize that his criticism does not do him any credit, because it demonstrated his complete lack of understanding of the provisions of the bill. The only other explanation that can be advanced for his attitude is that he has placed a perverse interpretation upon the provisions of the measure. My own view, which is also that of the Government, is that the bill constitutes a revolutionary change in the sphere of industrial relationships. Hitherto the traditional view has been that there shall not be the slightest interference in the internal affairs of trade unions. It is to the eternal credit of the trade unions that the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which represents so many unions, should have approved of and sponsored the principles upon which the bill is based. In making that statement, I do not imply that the Australian Council of Trades Unions has approved every clause and every word in the measure. That body was not even aware of the terms of the measure when it was introduced. The point I make now is that the principle of the measure, which has their approval, is to remedy the present unsatisfactory situation under which so many malpractices have occurred. Members of the Australian Council of Trade Unions frankly and honestly confronted the present situation, and joined with the Government in supporting the principles on which the bill is based, and for that they deserve great credit.
I can understand the cause of the difficulties experienced by Senator O’sullivan, who has no understanding of the industrial front and is not familiar with the outlook of the workers because he has no sympathy with them.
– That is quite an unworthy remark.
– -If Senator O’sullivan understood the outlook of the workers, he would realize 1 very clearly that whilst we can lead them anywhere, we cannot drive them. I thought that the honorable senator would have applauded the trade union movement and the present Government for having taken steps to eliminate from the trade unions of this country a malign influence which is revolutionary, anti-democratic, antigovernment, anti-working class and pro-other countries. Whilst one may not object to the sympathy for other nations, manifested by some ill-informed malcontents, the fact remains that the motive behind that sympathy is, in essence, anti-Australian. I should have expected, and I think that the Government was entitled to expect, from the Opposition; the most warm-hearted support for a measure of this nature. At the outset of my remarks I said that Senator O’Sullivan was ungenerous to the Government, and I repeat now that he said not one word” of commendation of the bill or its aims. For that reason I expressed my surprise and regret at his remarks. Indeed, if the honorable senator is going to be consistent, he will vote against the bill when the question is put. As the honorable senator has been issuing challenges, I issue one to him : I challenge him to vote against the second reading of this bill. One of the most important needs in the trade union field to-day is for the ordinary trade unionist to realize in his own mind and heart that things are wrong; that this malign minority which is seeking to control him and which, in certain key unions, is already shaping his destiny, must be fought. The rank and file trade unionist must of his own volition, take the matter into his own hands. When he reaches that frame of mind, there will be action in this country.
It is not possible to inject that frame of mind into the trade unionist, and in any event, it is far better that he should act without any element of compulsion. When the leaven of that thought, and an appreciation of the anti-Australianism of some of his leaders to-day really seeps into the mind of the rank and file unionist it will not take him long to purge his union. My own belief is that trade unionists are becoming rapidly conscious of the need for this action, but it is essential that whatever purging is required in the unions should be initiated by the unions. It must come from a stimulus imparted by the individual trade unionist himself. The elements of compulsion that the honorable senator has in mind would not achieve that purpose. From the national point of view it would have been far better if the honorable senator had urged the trade unionists to go ahead armed with all the weapons that are proffered to them in this bill, instead of indulging in the ill-informed abuse that he directed at a measure which in my considered opinion, will do a great deal to further the welfare and security of this country.
Honorable senators on the Government side have contributed useful thoughts to the consideration of this measure by the Senate. I shall, if time permits refer to the matters raised by Senator Rankin. I have already dealt with the first two points that she mentioned. The honorable senator asked who, apart from the provisions of this bill, dealt with irregularities, I have answered that question partly in my references to section 81 of the act. That section provides that, in the event of a breach of the rules, the court may direct that the rules be obeyed. A fine of £50 may be imposed for refusal to obey such a direction. That is as far as the existing legislation carries the matter. The measure now before the Senate takes it a great deal further. It offers, as I have already said, to every individual trade unionist, buttressed in all the ways that I have indicated, an opportunity to carry his individual grievance to the Arbitration Court itself, and in proper cases, at the expense of the court. The honorable senator has made the very valuable suggestion that the model rules at the end of the Arbitration Act should be over- hauled. It is true that they are sketchy and set out only some heads of matters. I shall be happy to convey the honorable senator’s suggestion to the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). A model set of rules might he of considerable assistance. The day may well be reached in this country when a uniform set of rules will be essential. Should it be necessary in the light of experience, to proceed further with legislation of this type I can visualize unending difficulties for registrars or whoever may be charged with the responsibility of conducting elections, if union rules are sketchy, inadequate, different in important particulars and silent on important points. There is a great merit in the honorable senator’s suggestion, and I shall be pleased to bring it to the notice of the Attorney-General.
Senator Rankin also pointed out that, there was no provision for the taking of a ballot pursuant to this bill. I have dealt with that matter both in reply to the amendment moved by Senator O’sullivan, and in my present remarks. I refer the honorable senator again to proposed new section 96g (3). In that provision, and in my remarks to-day, the honorable senator will .find an answer to her query. The honorable senator also touched on a very interesting point when she said that the provision of machinery for the conducting of ballots by officials of the court or of government instrumentalities, would necessitate a most elaborate set of rules relating to the keeping of registers of union members. That is quite true. In Queensland there is already legislation dealing with that point. T am quite familiar with that legislation. It provides for the keeping of registers and the depositing of copies with the registrar. The registers must be kept up to date. All that is implicit in proposals for conducting of ballots by public authorities. A great deal of work is required but I think that in the light of experience, some of the ideas that the honorable senator has in mind, may come to fruition. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions).
– I have been seeking a definition of “member of an organization”. This bill relates to certain rights, powers, and privileges of members of organizations, t should like to have a definition of that term? Has it any special significance? [f so, why is it not included in the definitions ?
– The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides for the registration of organizations of employers and employees. The court knows only registered organizations. The one reference that I can recall in the act to “ members “ is the provision that there shall be a specified number of members before the court will register an organization. Who is or is not a member of an organization is a matter for determination by the rules of the individual organizations, and by no other means.
– I can find no definition, either in the principal act or in this measure, of a “strike” or a “lockout”. This point has been given emphasis by the Minister’s remarks in reply to the debate on my amendment. The honorable senator referred to the holding of ballots on industrial disputes. The only definitions given in the act which would cover a lock-out or a strike, is that of an “ industrial dispute “. It might facilitate reference if the terms “ strike “ and “ lockout” were defined.
– To answer the honorable senator’s point, I shall have to take him back into history. In 1928, provisions prohibiting strikes and lookouts were inserted in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act by a non-Labour government. Heavy penalties, including a fine up to £1,000, were prescribed for infringement of those provisions. However, after two years’ experience of that legislation, the Scullin Government, in 1930, repealed it. The interesting point is that the repeal was supported by the then Opposition, which was led by Sir John Latham, now Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. I believe it to be true to say that all parties recognized that provisions prohibiting lockouts or strikes were completely futile in operation. That was realized very rapidly, and, as I have said, members of the Government which had introduced those provisions in 1928 supported their removal just two years later. There is now no provision against strikes or lockouts in the Arbitration Act, and, for the reasons that I have already given in the course of my remarks to-day, the Government does not propose to reinstate them. .
.- Following Senator Finlay’s question, I ask the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) whether he can make the matter a little clearer. This bill refers to a member of an organization. But what will be the position of a member who has been expelled from his organization if he seeks the redress open to him under this measure? A person who has been expelled from an organization is no longer a member of that organization. Could he, therefore, approach the registrar in accordance with the provisions of this bill?
– That matter would arise in two ways. If the honorable senator is referring to the rights of a member under the provisions of the act relating to union elections, I point out that such a member is amply covered by proposed new section 96a, because the power to apply to the registrar is given not only to a member but also to a person who, within the preceding period of twelve months, has been a member of an organization. Plainly, therefore, for the purpose of union elections, a man who had been expelled, perhaps because he is on the point of making an exposure, could take advantage of the provisions of this measure. We recognized that point in drafting the bill. It was obvious that a man who intended to disclose malpractices in his union might be expelled from that union before he could do so.
– Supposing a man wanted to make a disclosure that had nothing to do with an election?
– He would have a limited remedy under section 81 of the act, which provides - (1.) The Court may, upon complaint by any member of an organization and after giving any person against whom an. order is sought an opportunity of being heard, make an order giving directions for the performance or observance of any of the rules of an organization by any person who is under an obligation to perform or observe those rules.
Admittedly, we get back to the same position there. A complaint has to be made by a member. That matter may require consideration.
– I leave it to the Minister.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 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.
– Again I raise the question of membership. I do not want to have any doubt in my mind about the power that will actually reside in a member of an organization under this bill to lodge a complaint with the Industrial Registrar. The proposed new section 96a provides that “ a member of an organization or a person who, within the preceding period of twelve months has been a member of an organization”, may lodge an application for an inquiry by the court into an alleged irregularity. What authority will be held by an unfinancial member of an organization under that provision? Whilst the rules of his organization may preclude him from voting at a ballot because he is unfinancial, will the bill preclude him from bringing before the Industrial Registrar some anomaly known to him that could affect the result of an election? Will he have the same rights and privileges in this respect as a financial member ?
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Minister for Health and Minister for no distinction between a financial member of a trade union and an unfinancial member. The matter, as I have indicated, will be determined by the rules of the particular organization. I know that the rules of many unions provide that, if a man falls into arrears with his subscriptions for the specific period, he shall be deemed to be unfinancial. Certain penalties ensue from that condition. He is debarred from voting and denied certain other privileges, but his membership is not automatically cancelled. The provisions vary from union to union. However, a man remains a member of a union until he resigns, dies, or is expelled. In answer to the honorable senator’s inquiry, I say that there is no doubt that, as long as a person is a member of an organization according to the rules of that organization, even if he is an unfinancial member, the redress available under proposed section 96a will be available to him.
– Proposed section 96b provides that the Industrial Registrar may grant or refuse to grant an application for an inquiry by the Arbitration Court into an alleged irregularity. Will an applicant have the right of appeal if, in his opinion, the Registrar has not treated the matter fairly, but has decided that the application is trivial and has rejected it?
[5.9]. - That matter is dealt with in proposed section 96b (6), which states definitely that an act or decision of the Industrial Registrar shall not be subject to an appeal to the court. The bill intends that decisions of the registrar shall be final.
.- The proposed section 96a refers to applications for inquiry by the. Arbitration Court into irregularities in connexion with trade union elections. Complaints by union members about the conduct of the affairs of their organizations often relate to other matters. For instance, a man was expelled from his union because he accepted a resolution to which objection was taken when he was chairman of a union meeting. Members are sometimes expelled or fined on such grounds. Would such a person be able to secure redress under this bill for wrongful expulsion ?
– The short answer to that inquiry is “ No “. The title of the bill plainly relates solely to “ the prevention of irregularities in connexion with elections for offices in organizations . . .”. It is not intended to deal with cases of victimization such as that mentioned by the honorable senator. A man who had been wrongfully expelled from a union could still claim to be a member. Section 81 of the principal act provides that the Arbitration Court mav give certain directions upon complaint by a member of an organization. A wrongfully expelled member could take advantage of that provision. I have indicated to Senator Aylett that it may be desirable to widen the terms of section 81 in order to ensure that it will cover any cases of the type that Senator Katz has mentioned. I shall refer that matter to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) when other portions of the act are under review. The bill that we are now discussing deals solely with the election of union officials and is not intended to cover other matters.
– I refer to the discretion of the Industrial Registrar and the basis upon which he shall proceed. As the Minister bas pointed out, section 39 of the principal act lays down the procedure to be adopted and followed by the Arbitration Court and conciliation commissioners. In some acts, the definition of “ court “ sometimes includes “ Registrar “. The definition of “ court “ in this instance does not cover the Industrial Registrar, and the bill gives no indication of the rules of procedure by which the Registrar shall be bound in adjudicating upon complaints made to him under proposed new section 96a. It appears that he will exercise a judicial function and duty, but will he be bound by ordinary rules of legal procedure? Will he have the freedom and discretion conferred upon judges and conciliation commissioners by section 39 of the principal act?
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Minister for Health and Minister for
Social Services) [5.13]. - The answer is to be found in the following provision of proposed section 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.
The important words are - but he may nevertheless take into account any relevant information coming to his knowledge.
will not bring him under the provisions of section 39 of the principal act.
– No. I have not suggested that it would do so. However, that provision makes it very plain that he will not be bound by the rules of evidence. If he were to be bound by the rules of evidence, he could take notice only of matters that were properly presented before him on affidavit by the parties. Under the proposed new section, he will be able to go beyond even the matters that are alleged in the application. Furthermore, he may act upon any information that he may glean. The proposed new section will also enable the court to authorize him to enter union premises and do all kinds of things. He may acquire a great deal of information from the pursuit of his own inquiries, in which he may enter union premises, and take possession of books and examine them. In determining whether he will remit a matter to the court for inquiry, he will be entitled to act on knowledge gained by him in pursuing his inquiries.
– Seeing that the Industrial Registrar will exercise a judicial function in that particular instance, and seeing that there will be no appeal from the decision that he may make, would it not be wise to give to him the same powers as are conferred upon conciliation commissioners and judges under section 39 of the principal act? He will deal with precisely the matters that are contemplated to be dealt with eventually by the judges on his recommendation.
– I do not agree that the registrar will be acting in a judicial capacity when acting in that way. He will do nothing more than determine whether a particular matter shall go to the court or not.
– He must be satisfied, though.
– I agree, but that will be purely a matter for him individually and, I suggest, will not be a judicial function. I have pointed out the need for filtering of these matters before they reach the court. A great deal of adverse publicity could be given to a union upon evidence that had been manufactured for the sole purpose of discrediting certain union officials. I assume that the honorable senator agrees that it is wise to provide against that.
– I do.
– A vast amount of discretion will be vested in the registrar. In addition to investigating matters that are laid before him, he may inform his mind in any way that he wishes. He will not dispose of the matter that is before him simply by saying “ yea “ or “ nay “.
– It could be “nay”.
– He will simply determine the question : “ Will I refer this matter to the court, or will I not? “
– If he should say “ Nay “, there will be no appeal.
– That is true. That provision has been designed very deliberately. It is a matter of policy with the Government to let that position stand.
– Would it be possible to re-open a case if fresh evidence were provided? Supposing that the Registrar should decide that a complaint should not go to the court on the evidence before him but that sufficient evidence to convince him otherwise were to be obtained afterwards, would he be bound in duty to take notice of the fresh evidence on a further appeal to him?
.- The answer to that is plainly “ Yes “. There will be no limit to the number of applications that an individual may make. If fresh evidence were available, it would be quite competent for the same applicant to go to the Registrar and present it to him. I add to that one comment, though it is not a qualification. Proposed new section 96a (2) provides that an application must be lodged with the Industrial Registrar before the completion of the election or within such time after the completion of the election as is fixed by or under the regulations. It is contemplated that, when experience is gained, it may be determined by regulation that action must be taken within three months, or six months, of the completion of an election. It is essential that union officials should not be liable to be thrown out of office throughout their whole tenure of office. It is reasonable to assume that some time limit will be fixed. Accordingly, my answer to Senator Aylett is that, although a man may return again and again to the Registrar if he obtains fresh evidence and the Registrar will be obliged to act upon that evidence, some time limit within which a man must act may be prescribed by regulation.
– I now ask the Minister whether, under proposed new section 96a, any member who has a “ grouse “ against the conduct of any ballot in a trade union can invoke the machinery of the Industrial Registrar merely by notifying him that, to the best of his knowledge and belief, the ballot has not been conducted strictly in accordance with the rules of his organization ?
– He can. Of course the matter is not just a simple one of a man or a union making application to the Industrial Registrar. The application must be in writing, must be lodged within a prescribed time, must name the election, and specify and verify the irregularity by statutory declaration. That is a safeguard so that unions will not be involved improperly, and so that there shall be no adverse publicity. That is one reason why this type of application is being screened in the first place. People who desire to discredit the union officials could very easily make application after application, not bona fide, but merely to discredit the union officials in the eyes of its members. For that reason the Industrial Registrar will exercise a very strict supervision over these matters. He is a person of experience and high responsibility, and a man who, I suggest, knows li is way around the industrial front better than do most honorable senators. He knows the local politics and, within his discretion, should be entitled to use mattei-s that come to his knowledge outside the application. From my own limited experience during the time that 1. acted as Attorney-General during the absence of Dr. Evatt abroad I should say that the Industrial Registrar is a very well informed person.
– Did I understand the Minister to say that to the best of his knowledge and belief the unions themselves had approved of the Industrial Registrar having that right?
– I repeat that the general principle is that there should be a screening of applications through the Industrial Registrar, and that there should be protection against irregularities or malpractices in connexion with the conduct of union ballots. That has been approved by the Federal Council of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I do not put it any higher or any lower than that. That i? what I said earlier this afternoon. I am not attempting to commit the Australian Council of Trades Unions to all of the details of this bill. That body approved the general principle that provisions against malpractices and irregularities should be made. That body was not consulted about details of the hill.
Senator COOKE (Western Australia) “5.23]. - “Industrial Registrar” is used as a term. I assume that there are deputy industrial registrars in the States, and that a statement made to a deputy industrial registrar would be sufficient. Presumably it would not be necessary for a member of a union to wake a special trip to Melbourne to lodge an application with the Industrial Registrar?
– That is a point on which I have not resolved my mind. However, in section 4 of the principal act “ Industrial Registrar “ is defined as meaning the Industrial Registrar or a deputy industrial registrar appointed under the act. It may be a matter for consideration whether power of this nature should be vested in a deputy industrial registrar. Off-hand I should say that that power should be exercised by a deputy industrial registrar. However, I should like to ponder the desirability of a deputy industrial registrar being vested with such power before committing myself. I realize the abuse of this process that may be exercised, and I am particularly concerned that abuse of this procedure should not toe permitted. Although I do not cast any reflection on the deputy industrial registrars I submit that whoever exercises this power will have to act with a. very high degree of responsibility.
.- Proposed new section 96a (4) provides for a penalty of £100 or imprisonment for twelve months, or both. Authority for such a measure is derived from the Constitution, which provides that laws may be made for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the boundaries of any one State. ‘ I have in mind a decision that was given by Mr. Justice Piper, a former Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court. Apparently nobody took any notice of that decision, and the matter was subsequently referred to the High Court of Australia.
– Was that an appeal from his decision?
– An appeal was lodged against his decision to the High Court of Australia, but the decision of Mr. Justice Piper was upheld. Apparently no action could be taken against those who had defied his decision although that decision was upheld on every point.
– Although I am not familiar with the facts that the honorable senator has recited, there is no doubt about the constitutional power for the Parliament to enact legislation of this nature. The main head of power is the power to make laws with relation to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention of industrial disputes extending beyond the borders of any one State. There is a second’ head of power to do anything incidental to the exercise of any other power. It is pursuant to the power that is incidental to conciliation and arbitration that the whole structure of legislation dealing with the .behaviour of registered associations of employees or employers, provision as to their rights, obligations on them to follow certain procedures and to obey orders of courts, is established. Time and time again there have been prosecutions in the Arbitration Court, and the penalties have been recovered’ when convictions have been upheld on appeal. I have not the faintest doubt that this type of legislation is incidental to the establishment of registered organizations, and of conciliation and arbitration, and that legislation of the type that we are now proposing to enact, providing for penalties for malpractices and irregularities, is constitutional. It is considered that there is no doubt about the power to provide penalties. The penalties provided are substantial, being a fine of £100 or imprisonment for twelve months, or both. Of course, it is not incumbent on a court to impose penalties of that severity, they are merely maximums, and the court may impose less severe fines or terms of imprisonment.
– Proposed new section 96m provides in part as follows: - (4;) Where the Industrial Registrar is conducting, or has conducted, an election, the provisions of this Division relating to inquiries shall not apply to the election. (5.) 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 under this section.
I should like the Minister to explain how the provisions of these paragraphs line up with the definition of “ irregularity “.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Minister for Health and Minister for proposes to confer upon unions the right, but not an obligation, to approach the Industrial Registrar to have their elections conducted by him. The key to the difficulty mentioned by Senator Finlay lies in proposed new section 96b (2), which reads -
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.
In short, if a union comes to the Industrial Registrar and says, in effect, “We would like you to conduct the ballot in this instance “, once that request is made he is free to discard their particular rules if he thinks that it would be better to do that rather than to risk some irregularity. He is given the power to set aside the rules of that union for the purpose of the election. Sub-section 5 of proposed new section 96m merely provides that where an Industrial Registrar, pursuant to the power actually conferred upon him by the union, sets aside certain rules, the mere fact that those rules have not been observed is not a ground for any, member to go to the court, because it is provided that an election shall not be invalidated by reason of a breach of the rules by the Industrial Registrar.
– Does not that offset the definition of “ irregularity “ ?
– It is not intended to have direct connexion with the irregularities. It is a provision whereby the union or organization itself, by its own voluntary act, in effect, goes to the Industrial Registrar and says, “ Will you please handle this election ? “
– Because of irregularities ?
– No. It may he that a union which always conducts its ballots honestly fears that some malpractice may arise, or it may have no other desire than to obviate the costs of the election. That aspect may appeal to some of the smaller unions. This measure provides the machinery. In order to .remove any possibility even of a suggestion that there is any malpractice in the conduct of an election, any union may, in effect, go to the industrial registrar and say, “Will you please take charge of our election for us ? “ If they do that the Industrial Registrar is not to be put in the position of having blindly to follow the rules of the organization. The provision of proposed new section 96m (5) will enable him to say to the union, “If you want me to do that I want to be free to set aside your rules and to institute my own method to see that no irregularity takes place “. If a trade union does not choose to accept those conditions it may decide to conduct its own elections. However, the choice rests with the union. The purpose of the proposed new sub-section is to enable the Registrar, if he thinks fit, to set aside any particular rules of the organization or branch concerned if, in his opinion, they may prejudice the conduct of the election. When an organization, or branch of an organization, has voluntarily requested the Industrial Registrar to conduct an election for an office in the organization or in the branch, no member of that organization may complain if the Registrar, in the exercise of his discretion, disregards any rule of the organization concerning the conduct of elections. Is that clear to the honorable senator ?
– Yes. However, the matter which perturbed me was that rules which regulate the election of union officers are included in the rules of industrial organizations, and before those bodies can obtain registration with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, their rules must comply with certain standards. Would it not be far better if the Industrial Registrar instituted uniform rules for the election of officers in all industrial organizations? As the bill stands, the proposed new subsection will give the Registrar complete discretion to disregard the rules of a particular organization. Why cannot a provision be inserted in this measure to ensure that all elections of industrial officials shall be carried out under uniform conditions? If that were done, there would be no need to include an indemnifying provision as in the proposed new sub-section.
– Are any limitations proposed to be placed on the manner in which ballots shall be conducted by the Industrial Registrar or his nominee? Whilst it would be desirable for the court to have a uniform procedure for the conduct of ballots, it should not be necessary to set aside the established rules of trade unions in order to conduct a proper ballot. The rules concerning the conduct of ballots vary considerably in different unions, depending upon a number of factors, including the remoteness or otherwise of their members from one another. In some unions the practice is to hand out to members ballot-papers which have been initialled by the returning officer whilst in others the rules provide that ballot-papers must be sent out and returned by post. I think that it is essential that the rules under which the Registrar shall be entitled to conduct a ballot should be clearly set out so that the court will not require to disregard the rules of any particular industrial organization, which are, after all, purely a matter of concern to the members of that particular union. I should like to be assured that ballots conducted by the Industrial Registrar will be conducted on the fairest lines possible, while reserving to unions the right to have such ballots conducted in accordance with their rules. As the proposed new sub-section now reads, I fear that the powers which will be conferred upon the Industrial Registrar are far too wide.
– I acknowledge the fact that considerable variety exists in the rules of trade unions concerning the conduct of elections. When dealing with a similar matter mentioned by Senator Rankin, I demonstrated that Schedule B to the present act sets out only the conditions which must be complied with by associations which apply for registration as organizations within the meaning of the act. Provided that a trade union apparently complies with the requirements of that schedule, it is immaterial whether its rules fulfil its terms adequately or completely. Section 80 of the principal act empowers the court to set aside any rule that is tyrannical, oppressive, unreasonable or contrary to law or to an order or award. If a model set of rules for trade unions were included in the present bill, we should undoubtedly obtain completeness, fairness and uniformity of rules for elections, all of which are highly desirable. The mere fact that the existing law requires copies of unions’ rules to be lodged with the Industrial Registrar, is no assurance of their adequacy, completeness or fairness.
– But the rules must first be approved by the Industrial Registrar.
– Under this bill, the only obligation that will be cast upon the Registrar is to ensure that the rules of an industrial organization contain some provision to cover the matters set out specifically in the measure. The schedule to the present act requires that -
The affairs of the association shall be regulated by rules specifying the purposes for which it is formed, and providing for the following matters in relation to the association: -
The powers and duties of the commit tce and nf officers;
So long as an association nominally delegates some duties, no matter how unimportant, to a committee, it has complied with that requirement of the act. One organization may have the most complete division of functions amongst its committeemen, whilst in another all effective power may be concentrated in the hands of one or two individuals. When the principal act was drafted, power was taken for organizations to approach the court if any action of its executive was considered to be tyrannical or oppressive. Section 80 of the principal act provides -
The Court may, upon its own motion, and upon application made under this section, disallow any rule of an organization . . .
Unions were therefore free to do almost as they liked in the election of officers, provided that they complied nominally with the conditions of the present act.
– Does not the Arbitration Court lay down a method by which ballots are to be conducted in order to ensure, as far as is possible, that all members shall be able to exercise the right to vote?
– If circumstances arose which justified the court in ordering a new election, the court could, under this provision, set aside the election conducted by the union and prescribe complete rules for the new election. However, the point that is worrying Senator Finlay arises, I suggest, from a misunderstanding of the measure. If we can, for a moment, forget the word “ irregularities “-
– The word “ irregularities “ is mentioned twice in proposed new section 96m.
– The purpose of that section is not to remedy an irregularity that has already occurred, but to prevent, as far as is possible, the occurence of irregularities.
– Sub-section 1 of the proposed section reads -
An organization or a branch of an organization may request the Industrial Registrar toconduct an election . . . with a view to ensuring that no irregularity occurs in . . . the election.
– That is so. That sub-section will authorize the Industrial Registrar to conduct an election for an office when requested to do so by an industrial organization. However, the point is that when an organization has requested the Industrial Registrar to conduct an election on its behalf, it will not then be open to the organization or its members to complain that in the conduct of that election the Registrar has ignored certain rules of the union. I emphasize that no industrial organization will be compelled to avail itself of that provision for the conduct of a ballot by the Registrar, although I hope that many unions will do so. I expect that some may desire the Registrar to conduct their elections in order to save expense, because they will be conducted free of charge, whilst other unions may do so from a genuine desire to make the conduct of their ballots completely unimpeachable. Those unions that are actuated by the latter motive “will proclaim, in effect, “ We wash our hands in public; we hand over to a public official the right to conduct this ballot and ask the Commonwealth to hear the expense of his doing so “.
– Can any individual member of a union approach the Registrar with a request that he conduct an election for his union?
– Order! I direct the attention of all honorable senators to the standing order which requires them to be upstanding when they address the Chair.
– If the honorable senator will refer to proposed new section 96m, lie will see that the right to approach the Industrial Registrar with it request that he should conduct an election is restricted to an organization or a branch of an organization, and is not vested in any individual or group of individuals.
– The organization could a’Ct through its executive.
– That is so. Proposed new section 96m (1) reads -
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.
I emphasize that the making of the request to the Registrar would be a purely voluntary act on the part of the organization concerned; but having done so, the organization must be prepared to submit to the Registrar’s directions, even if they conflict with its rules. That is the reason why sub-section 5 has been included.
– That is the whole point. The Minister has already stated that the act should not be applied to a trade union unless the executive of that organization shall choose to bring the union within the provisions of the act.
– My remark was limited to proposed new section 96m.
– Apparently any member of an organization who may feel aggrieved at the manner in which a ballot has been conducted by his organization may immediately approach’ the Indus trial Registrar with a request that the ballot be set aside.
– “Where a ballot is conducted by the Industrial Registrar, it cannot be impeached. However, in the case of a ballot that is conducted by a union, an approach may be made to the Registrar, subject to the limitations contained in the proposed new sub-section. To simplify the matter, the position is that when a. ballot is conducted by the Industrial Registrar, any action which he may take to set aside the rules of the union concerned cannot be impeached.
– The explanation of proposed new section 96m which the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) has given does not dispose of the fact that a union may apply to the Registrar to conduct a ballot because it wants to ensure that no irregularity shall take place. I take it that the rules of the organization would be placed before the Registrar. However, a union official would have to conduct such a ballot according to the union’s rules whereas the Registrar would not be obliged to do so. He could disregard the union’s rules if he deemed it proper to do so in order to prevent the irregularity which prompted the union’s officers, or members, to request him to conduct the ballot. Proposed new section 96m (5) empowers the Registrar to ignore the rules of the organization in arranging the ballot. I put this case to the Minister : Supposing that the rules of a union prescribed that a financial member shall be a member who does not owe three months’ prescription. In the ordinary course, any person whose subscription was in arrears for that period would not be entitled to vote at a ballot conducted by the organization. Under this provision would the Registrar be able to say “I do not think that the rule is quite fair. This man owes only three months’ subscription and you have not allowed him to vote. I think that he should be allowed to vote unless he owes six months’ subscription “ ? Apparently, the Registrar could follow that course-
– Proposed new section 96m (5) reads -
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 under this section.
I submit that the Registrar should adhere to the union’s rules and take the ballot under those rules. There should not be any departure from the rules when the Registrar conducts a ballot at the request of an organization. I do not think that he should have any power at all to depart from the rules of the union for the purpose of conducting a ballot. The proposed sub-section which I have just read means that the Registrar can give any instruction he desires, and disregarding the union’s rules, give a direction, for instance, along the lines 1 have indicated with respect to the definition of financial members.
– As Senator O’Flaherty did not read sub-section 2 of proposed new section 96m I shall do so. It is as follows: -
Upon the making of such a request, the Industrial Registrar may, if he considers that it is practicable for him to do so, conduct the election, and may, not withstanding anything contained in the rules of the organization or branch, take such action and give such directions as he considers necessary with a view to ensuring that no irregularities occur in or in connexion with the election.
The Registrar is given power to give directions or set aside rules only insofar as it is necessary, in his view, to do so in order to ensure that no irregularities shall occur. Plainly that means, first, that he cannot set aside a rule relating to qualification for membership. He could not do what Senator O’Flaherty suggested might be done, that is, alter a rule that prescribes that a person shall be deemed to be unfinancial and not entitled to vote if his subscription be three months in arrears. He could not alter a rule of that nature. He could set aside only such rules and give such directions as would be necessary to ensure that no irregularities would occur. The rule which the honorable senator has mentioned is the kind of rule which the Registrar would not be able to alter. The honorable senator need have no misgivings on that point. Secondly, no union can claim that any injustice, or hardship, is being ‘placed upon it in this matter, because the Registrar will not conduct a ballot unless he is requested to do so. The union’s action in the matter is purely voluntary. The measure sets up machinery whereby the Registrar may be requested to conduct a ballot and the union is at liberty to make use of that machinery should it desire to do so.
– The Minister stated that in respect of any election that may be conducted by the Industrial Registrar the union concerned would not be involved in any expense. I should like to know where that provision is made in the bill.
– That provision is completely implicit in the proposed new section to give the Registrar power to conduct a ballot. The bill contains no specific provision to that effect because none is necessary. It is clearly the position that a ballot conducted in the circumstances prescribed will be conducted at the Commonwealth’s expense.
.- Proposed new section 96m (5) reads -
An election shall not be invalidated by any breach of the rules of the organization or branch involved in any act, or in compliance with any direction of the Industrial Registrar under this section.
Will not the effect of that provision be to validate something that is invalid? It distinctly empowers the Registrar to ignore entirely the rules of an organization. The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) was impressed with the suggestion that, perhaps, rules governing union ballots could be made uniform. That would be utterly impossible because each organization covers an entirely different set of workers. Provisions that might meet the needs of one section of an industry would not meet those of another section of the same industry-
– And they might not meet the needs of all sections of a particular union.
– That is so. Proposed new section 96m (1) reads -
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.
That provision involves the dual exercise of authority by a branch upon the one hand and by the governing body of the organization as a whole on the other hand. For instance, a branch which is part of a federation might want the court to intervene to conduct its branch election, but, at the same time, the governing body of the federation might contend that such action is totally opposed to its policy. “What would be the position in the event of a conflict of that kind occurring between two authorities in the one organization? This whole proposal is rather novel in the sense that this is the first attempt that has been made in this country to provide safeguards in the interests of members of industrial organisations in respect of ballots within such organizations.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– There is another point on which I should like an assurance. Supposing a branch of a federated union applies to the Registrar to conduct a ballot, and the controlling body of the union, which would be the federal council, objects to a ballot being held, could the Registrar supersede the controlling body of the union, and hold the ballot on behalf of the branch? If so, could he then issue directions that would supersede the rules of the union? I should like to be quite sure on that point. In federated unions, the usual practice is for a ballot to be taken in the various States. Sometimes a postal ballot is held, sometimes there is a secret ballot, and sometimes a ballot is held among elected delegates within a State, who, in turn, elect the representatives of that State on the federal council. Finally, the councillors elect the officers of the union. I should like to know whether the Registrar could supersede the rules of that union and take a ballot, and again supersede the rules in taking the ballot.
– The question raised by Senator O’Flaherty is similar to that raised by Senator Katz. I agree that there is a great deal of variety in the rules of registered organizations. In some unions, the Australia-wide membership is responsible for the election of officers. In others, the election of federal officers takes place in the manner indicated by Senator O’Flaherty. If we refer to the proposed new section under consideration, we find that an organization or a branch of an organization, may proffer a request to the Industrial Registrar. When this bill becomes law, that will be a statutory right conferred on both the organization as a whole, and on a branch of it. To give a specific answer to the honorable senator, I should say that a branch of an organization will be given a statutory right under this measure to apply to the Industrial Registrar to conduct an election, regardless of the directions or rules of the federal council of the organization. No rules of a private organization can set aside a statutory right such as that to be conferred by this measure. Therefore, there will be specific authority for a branch of an organization, regardless of the directions of the federal body, and regardless of anything contained in the union rules, to go to the Registrar and ask him to conduct any election that is within the competence of the branch. Once the Registrar accepts the obligation to conduct a ballot, he must do so. However, honorable senators will notice that the proposed new section provides that if the Registrar considers that it is practicable for him to conduct an election he “ may “ do so. It is not mandatory on him to conduct an election, and before he would decide to do so on request from a branch, I have no doubt that he would have regard to the federal rules binding the whole organization and to the wishes of the federal body. Those factors would be present in his mind when he decided whether he should conduct a ballot. However, there is no question at all that the terms of this clause confer a statutory right on a branch to have any election within its ambit conducted by the Industrial Registrar. Equally, there is no doubt that if the registrar assumes the responsibility of conducting such an election) he may, notwithstanding anything contained in the rules of the organization or of the branch, take such action and give such directions as he considers necessary to ensure that no irregularities shall occur. So, the answer to the two questions posed by the honorable senator are briefly “ Yes “. A branch, in defiance of its federal body, could make an application. The Registrar may, but not necessarily will, conduct an election. In the process of conducting it, he may disregard union rules and give directions that run counter to the provisions of union rules; but the important consideration is that this is not something that is being foisted on the unions. The bill merely sets up machinery, and any organization or branch may avail itself of that machinery if it wishes. There is not the slightest obligation on an organization or branch to do so; but if it does decide in the free exercise of its own -judgment, to utilize the machinery, it must do so under the conditions laid down.
– I wish now to put a question following on the inquiry that I made earlier to-night. In submitting this proposition, I may state that the circumstances that I shall outline actually arose in an organization during the last eight or nine months. Supposing, for instance, the federal body of a union requested the Registrar to take a ballot for the election of officers in the State of Victoria, but the Victorian branch objected to that course; what would be the position?
– I congratulate honorable senators on the fertility of their minds. The situation to which Senator Katz has referred might well arise. My quick judgment on the matter is this, that the Registrar, having regard to the conflict between the federal authority and the Victorian branch, would, in his wisdom, decide not to intervene. Both the branch rules and the federal rules are the rules of the whole organization. That was specifically held, as honorable senators may remember, in a case involving the Federated Clerks Union heard in Victoria within the last two or three years. An application was made by the Victorian branch to the court concerning certain activities of the federal council. The court held quite clearly that the branch rules were as much a part of the rules of the organization, as were the federal rules. In the situation that Senator Katz has mentioned, everything would depend on the exact wording of the rules. If the rules were properly drawn, and there was a concurrent jurisdiction vested in both the branch and the federal body, their should be provision in the rules to determine the difference between the two sets of rules. I should expect that determination to favour the federal body. My own experience of union rules leads me to believe that in the event of internal conflict on a point like that the federal rules would prevail. However, it is impossible for me to be dogmatic on that point without reference to the exact rules in question. They vary from union to union and case to case, but I should reasonably expect the federal rules to prevail over branch rules, and, in any event, in a situation such as that mentioned by the honorable senator, it would be most unwise for the Registrar to intervene in the Victorian branch’s affairs in defiance of the wishes of the federal council unless he had very strong reasons for doing so.
– But he could.
– I have already conceded that. This bill confers a statutory right on both the federal body and on the branch. These are not dependent rights : they are completely severable and independent rights. I realize that honorable senators have some feeling of uneasiness on this matter and I suggest that there are two safeguards. Any activity pursuant to these provisions must arise by the voluntary action of a federal body or of a branch. Even when that action has been taken, the Registrar will not be bound to obey the request of the organization or branch. He will have regard to all the factors of the situation. Here is machinery of which a branch or organization may avail itself if it wishes, but there is no obligation on any organization or branch to have recourse to this machinery. It is designed to help a number of small unions which will greatly appreciate that help. It is designed as a lead to unions that wish to put beyond doubt any question about the cleanliness of their ballots. I regard this as a beneficent clause which confers :i right without imposing any obligation on a union or a branch to take advantage of it. It is merely an offer. If a branch or an organization decides to accept that offer it may do so, subject to conditions under which the offer is made. Honorable senators need have no misgiving. I realize that the three honorable senators who are pressing me have all had vast experience in the industrial field. They realize that the principle contained in this clause is new; but I remind them that the genesis of this clause was in the mind of one who also has had vas experience in the industrial field. I frankly do not share the timidity with which some honorable senators seem to approach this measure. I have endeavoured to remove whatever fears are in their minds. If I have not succeeded, the fault lies with me and not with the legislation now before the Senate.
– It is not only timidity but also a desire for information that prompts honorable senators to make exhaustive inquiries about the purport of this provision. We want to place the matter beyond all doubt before we are called upon to approve the proposals now before the committee. We want to be sure that the bill will not take away anything that the workers in industry enjoy to-day, but on the contrary, will add to their rights. Dealing, with proposed new section 96m, the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) said that a union could make an application to the Industrial Registrar to conduct a ballot, whether irregularities were suspected or not, I should like to be quite clear on that point. Is it correct that under proposed new section 96m, any union or branch of a union may ask the Industrial Registrar to conduct a ballot? It will not need to establish to the satisfaction of the Registrar that there has been corruption. It need only establish that there might he corruption.
– Not even that.
– The Registrar could then conduct the ballot. Apart from that, the Registrar would be involved only upon the application of a member of an organization.
– Upon the application of the organization.
– No, upon the application of a member.
– That is correct.
– The fact is that unions will have the right to ask the Registrar to conduct ballots, whether there has been PTy irregularity or not, but, if irregularities are alleged, the Registrar can be approached on the complaint of an individual member.
– That is correct.
– Any member or group of members will be able to have an investigation made into the conduct of a ballot simply by making the necessary declaration before the Industrial Registrar. I believe that the Minister will confirm that.
– Senator Finlay has stated the position quite accurately. Proposed section 96m will merely confer a right which a union or any branch of a union may exercise if it wishes to do so. Organizations will be able to exercise that right so that there may be no question that any particular ballot that is referred to the Registrar and conducted by him is free of all blemish. It is not necessary that an irregularity be suspected, contemplated or feared. Proposed section 96m merely means that, in order to place a ballot beyond the possibility of any suggestion that irregularities are involved or might -be involved, a union or any of ite branches may exercise the right conferred by the provision. Apart from that, requests for the conduct of ballots by the Arbitration Court will reach the Registrar only upon the application of a member or members, upon whom will rest the obligation to establish a prima facie case of actual irregularity. That application will be referred to the court if the Registrar believes that a prima facie case has been made out. It will then rest with the court to determine whether a new election should take place. If the court decides to order a new election, it may provide all necessary safeguards notwithstanding anything contained in the rules of the organization. It may prescribe that a secret ballot be conducted even if the union rules do not provide for a secret ballot. I have elaborated slightly upon what Senator Finlay has said, but I am in complete accord with his broad statement of the position.
– I refer to proposed new section 96g (3). The provisions of paragraphs a, b and c are probably already available at common law, but paragraph d, which provides that the Arbitration Court may order safeguards to be applied to a new election notwithstanding anything contained in the rules of the organization concerned, justifies completely the tenor of the amendment that I moved previously.
– The amendment has been disposed of.
– I merely refer back to it. Paragraph d emphasizes, if any emphasis be necessary, the desirability of providing for a secret ballot. It provides that, after malpractice has been established and proven, the Arbitration Court may order a new election with such provisos as in its wisdom it deems fit. Obviously, that provides for the holding of a secret ballot under the control of the Industrial Registrar. That is apparent from the words - . . for the purposes of any such order, an order appointing and authorizing a person to act as a returning officer in conjunction with the returning officer (if any) acting under the rules of the organization or branch in connexion with the election, and to exercise such powers as the court directs.
Paragraph e also provides that the court may make -
An order incidental or supplementary to any order under this section.
There is no question that, in the event of the existing system of voting being proved to be susceptible of permitting malpractices to be perpetrated, the court may order a secret ballot to be- conducted as a remedy and as an assurance that there shall be no repetition of malpractice. I should like to read that provision of proposed section 96g in conjunction with proposed section 96m, which provides that an organization or a branch of an organization may request the Industrial Registrar to conduct an election. It ls implicit in proposed section 96m that a secret ballot may be conducted under the direction of the Industrial Registrar. However, there is no indication of the means by which an organization may approach the Registrar to conduct an election. Will the request be made by the secretary, the treasurer or the executive? May it be made by any stipulated percentage of the members of the organization? As I see it, the whole purpose of the bill is to protect the rank-and-file members against an unscrupulous executive that remains in office regardless of the wishes of the majority of the rankandfile members.
– An unscrupulous executive would not go to the Registrar.
– That is precisely the point that I make. In the event of members suspecting that a ballot has not provided a true reflection of the wishes of members, it would be most unlikely that an executive installed or kept in power as the result of malpractice would itself approach the Industrial Registrar to ask for a secret ballot. The Government may be disposed to consider amending proposed section 96m to provide that a secret ballot may be conducted under the direction of the Registrar upon the application of fifteen, ten or some reasonablepercentage of the members of an organization - not an idle, rebellious or discontented section - somewhat in the mannerin which articles of association of companies provide for the calling of general meetings of shareholders. It has been suggested that the secret ballots that have so far been held have not always been entirely satisfactory. Under section 91 of the principal act, although it is obligatory for unions to keep lists of the names and addresses of their members in their offices, they are expressly exempted from filing those records with the Industrial Registrar. Therefore, I suggest that, if” there has been any lack of satisfaction in the past about secret ballots, it has arisen because they have not been in fact representative secret ballots. The people who have been permitted to vote have been only those who have been approved by the oligarchy in charge of the organization concerned, which has been the only authority in possession of the record of the names and addresses of members. If section 91 of the principal act were further amended to make it obligatory upon unions to file with the Industrial Registrar the names and postal addresses of all members of trade unions, it would be possible to hold effectual secret ballots. The Registrar must be in a position to know authoritatively and with some sense of authenticity that the people who are entitled to vote are in fact given the opportunity to vote and that the decision has not been left entirely to the whim and caprice of persons whose conduct of a union’s affairs is under challenge. I suggest that the Minister consider my suggestions. I am convinced that no organization that is under suspicion of malpractice at the hands of its executive is ever likely to approach the Industrial Registrar to ask for an inquisition into its own malpractices.
– The members have the right to do so.
– No. That is my point.
– I congratulate Senator O’sullivan upon the progress that he has made during the course of this debate. To-night he has pointed out to me two provisions of the bill pursuant to which a secret ballot may be ordered. Yesterday he claimed that the measure contained no provision for the conduct of a secret ballot. The honorable senator asked how an organization would approach the Industrial Registrar to ask him to conduct an election pursuant to proposed section 96m. When this measure is incorporated in the principal act, it will fit into the full pattern of the law. Section 124 of the act contains a regulationmaking power that enables the Governor-General to prescribe all matters that are necessary or convenient to be prescribed. Therefore the machinery for the approach to the Industrial Registrar will be determined by a regulation. The honorable senator suggested that the machinery that will be established by proposed section 96m should be capable of being set in motion at the instance of a percentage of the members of a union. I do not favour that suggestion. I ask the honorable senator to bear in mind that, if an irregularity is alleged, one member only - not even a percentage of members - will be able to invoke the aid of the registrar and the court.
– But that is not provided in proposed section 96m.
– No. That proposed section will merely establish machinery to which unions may have recourse quite voluntarily. There is no element of compulsion about it, and no thought of any irregularity. It is merely to prevent any suggestion that an irregularity might occur. As an example, there may be contention within a union as to who should be the returning officer The voting may be very close and feeling may run high. The union may decide that the disagreement in relation to that office only contains the seeds of disruption. In such circumstances it may refer that particular election to the Industrial Registrar. The executive of the union should be free to determine that matter. I do not think that anything less than the full effective strength of the organization should have the right to decide whether the provision should be invoked or not. If the honorable senator’s suggestion were adopted, an absolute minority consisting of perhaps 5, 10, 15 or 20 per cent, of the members would have the effective voice in relation to this matter.
– They could only request the Registrar to conduct the election. He would not be bound to comply with their request.
– That is so; but the proposed new section is intended as an encouragement to the unions to come into the field of secret ballots. It will give the Industrial Registrar an opportunity to develop experience establishing his staff and machinery if there is ready recourse to this particular provision, and it may well be that there will be a very large extension of applications before very long. It is not proper to provide for a minority to swing the whole organization. That should be left to the controlling body of the organization. I agree with what the honorable senator has said with relation to section 71 of the act, which requires the organization to keep certain records with relation to members and accounts. But that section proceeds to require the union to file with the court all of those documents, except the list of members. It would be a very good safeguard in the event of applications for ballots to be conducted by the Industrial Registrar for him to have readily available an independent record, kept up to date from time to time.
– Similar to the provision with relation to the members of a company?
– Yes. He could check with the latest changes in the union books prior to the ballot. The honorable senator can be completely assured’ that secret ballots and whatever other precautions are required will be determined by the court itself. One of the first things that a court would direct, and that an industrial registrar would attend to if appointed as a returning officer, would be to check the list of members eligible to vote. This bill is aimed1 at ensuring that only those persons who are strictly eligible to vote shall get a full and free vote, and that no other persons shall be allowed to vote. If the matter goes to an order of the court and the court determines safeguards and appoints a returning officer to act in conjunction with the union’s returning officer, if any, the fundamental thing that the court’s returning officer will attend to will be to check the roll. That would be the starting point with him when he is appointed. That may take some time, because there are vast difficulties associated with the matter. Ultimately, if this practice is to extend, and if this type of legislation is to he further expanded, it would be incumbent for the law to provide that on payment of any fee to a union there shall be recorded’ both the name and address of the person from whom the money was received, and perhaps both his permanent and itinerant address if he is working away from home. That information could also be recorded on the butt of the receipt or docket issued. We have not quite reached that stageThis is a pioneering measure. It is not intended to deal with the whole body of” trade union elections, because there isnot the slightest necessity to interferewith those unions that conduct themselvesproperly.
– Apparently thiswould be required on few occasions only ?’
– I would not beprepared to say that. The role of prophet is rather risky. I would be disposed tosay that it would be required on relatively few occasions, having regard to the number of unions. I would be prepared toso commit myself. I think that it would be a complete slander to trade union executives to say that any great n.umberof them misbehave in the matter of theirelections; mostly their elections are conducted with propriety and honesty. One may reasonably assume that malpractices are confined to a relatively small number of unions. It may,be that they are powerful and very important unions, and onesthat have a very large membership. It may be that there will be practical difficulties in seeing that all the necessary safeguards are established and observed.. But I would agree with the proposition that the machinery of the court will beinvoked in relatively few cases following - upon irregularities.
– I conclude from proposed new section 96m (5) and the Minister’s remarks that if a union approaches the Registrar and asks him to conduct a ballot, he can supersede the rules of the union ?
– That is so.
– He can give an order, not in conformity with therules of the union, that must be carried out?
– That is so.
– After separating the Minister’s blarney from hislogic, I consider that he ought to reconsider the proposed new section 96m (5). If he is not prepared to withdraw that provision, he should so amend it that when a union approaches the Industrial Registrar and asks him toconduct a ballot, that ballot shall be- conducted in accordance with the rules of the union. There should be no departure in any way from those rules. I point out that if the Industrial Registrar found that the rules of the union did not conform with his views of what union rules for that purpose should be, he could recommend to the union that it should alter its rules. However, so long as those rules exist, I consider that he should conduct the ballot in accordance with thom. I have no quarrel so far as the other provisions are concerned. The idea behind’ the procedure was to give the unions an opportunity to approach the Industrial Registrar to conduct a ballot for them. That ballot may be in connexion with the appointment of officers of the union, or for the election of a federal councillor. The intention was that that ballot should be conducted in accordance with the union rules, and there was to be no interference with the rules. The provision that a person shall make an affidavit to the Registrar in connexion with something that has occurred during the course of an election, taken in accordance with the union rules, is an entirely different thing. Although the Minister has endeavoured to impress the Senate that there is no compulsion about this matter, I point out that there is a degree of compulsion. After a union has approached the Industrial Registrar to conduct a ballot, this measure provides that he may either use the union rules or reject them. I do not think that that was ever intended, and I ask the Minister to withdraw this provision. If he is not prepared to do that, I ask that, after consultations with the appropriate bodies, he alter the provision so that when a union requests the Industrial Registrar to conduct a ballot, that ballot shall be conducted in accordance with the rules of the union.
– Separating the remarks of the honorable senator directed to the provision from ‘his irrelevant, remarks, I should say that he has correctly interpreted the provision. However, I pose this position to him : 1 have already explained that so long as thorn is any kind of compliance with the heads set out in Schedule E to the principal act, that is sufficient compliance. Those rules may be most inadequate; in many instances they are completely unfair. Surely the honorable senator, in view of his industrial background, realizes that many union rules are completely inadequate, out of date, and impossible of interpretation. In many instances . they do not even make sense. One may well imagine the attitude of an Industrial Registrar who, on being requested to conduct a ballot, is presented with a set of rules that is completely inadequate and unintelligible. It may be that the rules do not go far enough, or he may consider that a deviation from the rules is desirable. If he is not free to do those things, he will exercise his right to decline to handle the ballot. In that event the object of the union that a completely independent person should conduct the ballot would be defeated. As I have said before, the Industrial Registrar is a responsible officer. He knows perfectly well that unions do not like their rules being departed from. In my opinion he would be very averse to departing from the union rules if they were adequate, fair and intelligent. He would not depart from them lightly or without very good reason. I consider that if that power is removed from this provision the effect would be to nullify the provision. I consider that if any union is prepared to ask the Industrial Registrar to conduct a ballot for it, the members of the union would be quite confident that he would do the right thing. If, in the circumstances that I have outlined, he is allowed to deviate in that way sub-section 5 of proposed new section 96m is completely necessary to prevent a defeated candidate or a recalcitrant person dashing off to the court and saying that the election had not been conducted in strict accordance with the rules, because the Industrial Registrar had altered them in places, or because he gave this or that direction. This sub-section is designed to cover that position, so that changes effected by the industrial Registrar in those circumstances would not form the basis of an application to the court, based on an irregularity, and set in force all of the rest of the machinery that we have been discussing.
– The Minister’s diagnosis is entirely wrong. I have undergone no change at all. When dealing with this matter previously I said that although there was a lack of preventive medicine, there was no lack of remedial medicine. That position still obtains. The Minister emphasized the necessity of filing with the Industrial Registrar a current list of names and addresses of members of the union. If a secret ballot were to be held under the aegis of the Industrial Registrar, it would be far too late for him to say to the members or executive of the union, “ Give me a list of the names and addresses of your members”, because that would be after a dispute, bad feeling, or malpractice had been suspected. The Industrial Registrar would be entirely in the hands of the people whose conduct is being challenged. He would have to accept whatever list was given to him. Persons who are guilty of malpractices as defined under the bill would be capable of supplying “phoney”, or hand-picked, lists of the members of their organizations. The Registrar should be supplied with lists kept up to date from day to day when everything in the garden is lovely and no ill feeling exists against an organization’s executive officers and no suggestion of malpractice is being made against them. Would it not be better to ensure that such lists be kept up to date with the Industrial Registrar and that ballots be taken on the basis of lists registered with him and not on the basis of lists kept by the union unless the latter lists corresponded with those filed with the Registrar? Unless that is done there is every possibility of a. further malpractice being perpetrated in any election that may be conducted by the Registrar.
– I disagree with the remarks made by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) regarding the power of the Registrar to disregard the rules of an organization, should he see fit to do so, when conducting a ballot. This is not so much a matter of the rules of an organization, being contradictory, as it is a question of interpreting them. If it were provided that the Registrar shall interpret the rules of an organization and that he shall conduct the ballot according to his interpretation of existing rules, I should have no quarrel with the bill as drafted. But the bill goes further than that. It empowers the Registrar to give any direction he deems fit, whether or not it be in accordance with the rules of the organization. Under proposed new section 96m (5) the Registrar is given power which validates the irregularity of going outside the rules-. I submit that it is entirely wrong to give to the Registrar power other than to interpret the rules. He should then be obliged to observe the rule’s as he has interpreted them. I do not agree with the Minister’s contention that because some contradictions may arise with respect to the rules of an organization the Registrar should have the right to ignore them entirely. All trade unions are registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and each organization must submit its rules to the Registrar for approval. I know of instances in which the Registrar has refused to register certain rules, or portions of rules, and the unions concerned have been obliged to amend them accordingly. I believe that the provision should be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide that the Registrar shall interpret the rules of an organization, and shall conduct the ballot within the rules subject to his interpretation of them. I do not know of any organization which has not prescribed rules for the election of its officers. The Registrar should be required only to interpret the rules of an organization and to adhere to the rules as he interprets them when conducting the ballot. He should not be allowed to ignore the rules of an organization for the purpose of conducting a ballot. -Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services) [8.49] .-Whilst I indicated in reply to Senator O’sullivan, that, ultimately, some arrangement might be made whereby lists of members of organizations shall be kept up to date at all times and lodged with the Court,
I do not see the need to impose that obligation upon every organization to-day in order to meet the case of certain unions. That would be a terrific burden to place upon organizations which could not be justifiably accused of malpractices.
In reply to Senator O’Flaherty, my own view about the position to which he has referred is that the mere fact that the bill confers upon the Registrar power to deviate from the rules of an organization in particular circumstances will, in effect, offer a better and wider opportunity to unions which seek the aid of the Registrar. All that I can do is to repeat what I feel at this stage I have said far too often. The Registrar will not” act arbitrarily. It is completely certain that he will have full regard to the rules of a union wherever possible and will depart from them only when such a course is clearly necessary, for instance, in a case of obscurity or inadequacy, or, perhaps, a case of unfairness. I believe that deletion of the provision giving power to the Registrar, on application by an organization, to make a variation of its rules will completely destroy legislation that is designed to be of benefit to the unions generally.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 28th June (vide page 1520), on motion by Senator Armstrong -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure relates ‘to the construction and operation of works for the generation of hydroelectric power in the Snowy Mountains area. At the outset, I compliment the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) upon the manner in which he has presented this scheme to the Parliament. I thank him for the information and data that he has supplied to honorable senators generally. He must have gone to a great deal of trouble to supply so much information dealing not only with the importance hut also with the details of this scheme. Although the scheme will he of greatest benefit to the States of New South Wales and Victoria, in respect of both the generation of power and the use of the overflow waters which will be used for irrigation purposes, the measure is of vital importance to the States as a whole. Any benefit of such magnitude that is conferred upon industry in one, or two, States will benefit Australian industry and enterprise generally. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKenna) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The title of the bill is-
A bill for an act to prohibit, during the period of national emergency caused by the present general strike in the coal-mining industry, the contribution, receipt or use of funds by organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1948 for the purpose of assisting or encouraging the continuance of that strike and for other purposes.
The preamble sets out the reasons which have actuated the Government in introducing the measure. The preamble is of particular importance to honorable senators because they have not had a previous opportunity to consider the measure. The bill was introduced into the House of Representatives only to-day, and its passage is pressed by the Government because of the emergency with which it is designed to deal. The preamble is as follows : -
Whereas there arose out of certain demands by organizations of employees in the coalmining industry certain industrial disputes existing in the State of New South Wales and extending beyond the limits of that State:
And whereas, in order to enforce compliance with those demands, and in contravention of the principles of conciliation and arbitration for which provision is made in the Constitution and in the laws of the Commonwealth, a general strike in the coal-mining industry was decided upon on the sixteenth day of June, and commenced on the twenty-seventh day of June, One thousand nine hundred and fortynine:
And whereas that strike is prejudicing or interfering with the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community and has caused :i grave national emergency :
And whereas it is desirable that the disputes referred to in this preamble should be settled by means of conciliation or arbitration by the tribunals established by law for the i,u, pose
And whereas it is desirable that measures should be taken to make unlawful the contribution, receipt or use of funds by organizations for the purpose of assisting or encouraging the continuance of that strike:
Clauses 1 and 2 of the measure are purely formal and set out its short title and the time from which it shall commence to operate. Clause 3 defines various terms employed in the hill, and clause 4 prohibits the making of (payments by organizations which are participating in the strike for the purpose of encouraging the continuance of the strike. Clause 5 prohibits participating organizations from receiving payments or benefits from other bodies. The next clause prohibits non-participating organizations from making payments to industrial organizations involved in the strike. Clause 7 is of some importance. The Government realizes that payments may require to be made from union funds to people in areas which are experiencing particular distress. On a strict interpretation of the other provisions of the bill the payers might otherwise’ require that any such payments shall be deemed to encourage the continuance of the strike. Clause 7 therefore provides that where a prescribed authority is satisfied that a payment is not intended to prolong the strike the authority may authorize the payment to be made. Clause 8 deals with payments in furtherance of the strike which may have been made in the interval which elapsed between the 16th June, when the strike was decided upon, and the 27th June, when it actually commenced.
The clause provides that any payment so made shall be deemed to be an irregular payment, and the receiver may be required to return it to the payer. The next clause empowers the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to issue such orders for injunction as it thinks necessary to enforce the provisions of the bill, and provides that the jurisdiction of the court may be exercised by a single judge. Clause 10 provides that the registrar, or a person authorized by him, may inspect any books, documents or other papers of an organization concerned in the strike. For the purpose of making any such inspection he may enter any premises of the organization, and may require any person to produce or deliver to him any such books, documents or papers, and he may retain possession of those documents. The registrar or his nominee is also authorized to require any person to furnish to him such information as he may specify. Any breach of this clause will entail a penalty of £100 or imprisonment for six months, or both. Because an organization may legally act only through its appointed officers the measure provides that its executive officers shall be liable for any breach of the act committed by the organization, unless an official charged can prove that the offence was committed without his knowledge or that he used all due diligence to prevent its commission. Clause 12 provides for an averment of payments made in furtherance of the strike to be accepted as prima facie evidence of intention to contravene the provisions of the act. The bill also empowers the Governor-General to make regulations to implement the act and to impose penalties for offences against its provisions. Because the bill has been drafted to meet an emergency which we all hope will be shortlived, the last clause empowers the Governor-General to repeal the act by proclamation as soon as the emergency is ended.
The circumstances which have necessitated the presentation of this legislation are unusual and stem from a log of claims filed by the miners’ federation and allied unions on the 19th April last. Although four claims were made originally we are now concerned only with three of them. Those three claims were for a 35-hour week, an extra 30s. a week wages, and for long-service leave for employees subject to certain conditions. Conciliatory conferences were held between the miners’ federation and the coal-owners in various States between the 19th April and the 13th May. However, the unions concerned called a stop-work meeting on the 2nd June, to demand that all their claims, including the three to -which I have referred, should be granted. It was decided, however, to defer that meeting until the 16th June. In the meantime certain proceedings took place before the Coal Industry Tribunal, and on the 9th June the tribunal announced that it was prepared to make a draft award in respect of the federation’s claim for long-service leave for its members, and would do so on the 14th June, only five days later. Hearing of the claim for reduction of working hours to 35 a week had proceeded, but had been adjourned at the request of the unions which had lodged the claim. I emphasize that the tribunal was prepared to conclude the hearing of the union’s case in support of its claim, and undertook to do so. The fact that no determination was made was not the fault of the tribunal, of the coal owners or of the Government, but of the mining unions concerned, which did not pursue it, but sought an adjournment. However, before the tribunal could deliver its draft award in the application for long service leave, the coal owners applied to the tribunal for an order to prohibit the holding of a stop-work meeting on the 16th June. The tribunal made that order, and it was subsequently disobeyed by the unions concerned. As soon as the mining unions announced their intention to hold a stop-work meeting in defiance of the tribunal’s order, the tribunal decided to postpone the making of the award in the claim for long service leave. Aggregate meetings of miners were held on the coal-fields on the 16th June, when a considerable majority of those who voted decided in favour of a strike. I pause here to point out that of a total membership of approximately 23,000 miners, only 8,000 took the trouble to record a vote. That is an extraordinary situation, having regard to the importance of the decision made by the miners, who must have realized the effects which their decision would have, not only upon the welfare of themselves and their families, but upon the entire community. In accordance with that decision a general strike commenced in the industry yesterday, despite the very best efforts of the Government, the Joint Coal Board and the Coal Industry Tribunal, to avert a strike. It is scarcely necessary for me to point out that the strike has had the gravest effect upon our economy and upon the well being and convenience of the entire community.
The measure which is now before the Senate has been introduced because of the attitude and action of the unions concerned, which I .can only describe as wholly unjustified, entirely unprecedented, and calculated to strike a most serious blow at the entire economy of this country. The circumstances in which the strike has occurred must be viewed against the background of a statement made by the leader of thiminers federation a month ago. I have with me a newspaper report of that statement, which, incidentally, has never been contradicted, so far as I am aware, by the individual who made it. That statement was as follows: -
Only a few months ago the Central Council of miners’ federation declared: “This council places on record again that the federation never has and never will accept arbitration as the desirable method of settling industrial disputes. We point out that thu whole history of the Arbitration Courts in Australia reveals their role is to keep down living standards as low as possible and that their decisions are always influenced directly or indirectly by industrial strength and political pressure. . . . Slavish adherence to the Arbitration Courts would lead to a serious weakening of the unions, since they would depend upon the decisions of judges instead of their own organizations “.
That statement, which was made by the leader of the body which is primarily responsible for the strike, makes it perfectly plain that although his organization is purporting to use the machinery set up by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it is, in fact, throwing an insult in the face of the Coal Industry Tribunal. It has deliberately rejected law and order in favour of the law of the jungle, and prefers to employ power politics to settle its disputes with the employers concerned. That is the background against which the strike must be viewed. It must also be borne in mind that the processes of arbitration have not been availed of by the unions, although those processes have been available at all times. I cannot emphasize too strongly that although the Coal Industry Tribunal announced its willingness to make a draft award in respect of one of the most important claims lodged by the unions, the representatives of those bodies preferred to disregard the goodwill of the tribunal, and did not even trouble to complete the hearing of their claim. I repeat that the hearing of that claim was adjourned, not at the request of the coal-owners, of the Joint Coal Board or of the Government, but merely to suit the convenience of the unions concerned. The unions’ action constitutes a complete repudiation of the processes of conciliation and arbitration which were available to the unions, but were not pursued by them. Instead, the miners made the unfortunate decision to go on strike.
It is essential that the governments concerned take prompt action to deal with conduct which constitutes an assault - as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has described it elsewhere, a “ brutal “ assault - upon arbitration, upon Federal and State governments and upon the community at large. It is most unpleasant for any Administration to have to introduce legislation of this kind, which is designed to “ freeze “ the funds of the unions participating in a strike. The strike should never have occurred, and it would not ha%re taken place but for the activity of the Communist element in certain of the unions concerned. That element has, I regret to say, misled the members of the unions concerned into believing that they are embarking on a battle in defence of an important industrial principle. The only important industrial principle involved is that industrial disputes must be settled by conciliation or arbitration. In the course of a joint statement made by the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales, the two governments concerned have stressed their adherence to the principle of conciliation and arbitration, and the Government’s representatives have repeated in the House of Representativestoday that, come what may, it will insist upon this dispute being resolved ultimately by the appropriate industrial tribunal. The official who will ultimately settle the matter, whether he does so in his capacity as Chairman of the Coal Reference Board, or as the Coal Industry Tribunal, will be Mr. Gallagher. I deplore the fact that the passage of thislegislation may impose hardship upon miners, their associates and their families. That is particularly unfortunate; but. after all, the miners, who have taken the lead given to them by their federal council on a completely false issue must be prepared to accept the consequences of their action. All the coal-miners, including the majority of the 8,000 who voted’ in favour of a strike, as well as the 15,000 who had not a sufficient sense of responsibility to vote on an issue which meant so much to themselves and to the community, must bear the responsibility for the decision reached by their organization. They are not excused, even if they did not understand the merits of the dispute, and they must accept their share of responsibility. Unpleasant though it may be, the Government realizes that this action by the coal-miners, striking at the very vitals .of our economy, denying the community transport, power, heat and light, and” preventing adequate provision being made for the sick, is a brutal and violent assault upon law and order, and upon constitutional government. This type of attack must be met with courage and strength. “Under the Commonwealth’s limited power over conciliation and arbitration, this measure represents probably the one nearly effective step that the Parliament can take, and the Government has decided to take it promptly. It is important tonote that the House of Representatives regarded this measure as being so urgent that it has already passed the bill through all its stages. With the concurrence of the Opposition in this chamber, it will be passed by the Senate to-night. It issurely not necessary for me to stress the urgency of the bill. From the moment notice of t! is measure was given in the House of Representatives yesterday, many things could have happened, and’ it is essential that the Government should move quickly. Whilst I deplore the ill effects that the passage of this measure may have on the miners and their families, I am far more concerned about Ihe people in this community who are in a far worse position than are the miners. The miners apparently have sufficient coal to meet their requirements, even if the
Beige be long. Other members of the community, however, are suffering grave inconvenience and hardship in inclement weather. There are no reserves of coal. Transport services, day and night, are totally inadequate. When I weigh the inconvenience that is being caused to “miners and their families against the grave ills and hardships that are being inflicted on the rest of the community; when I think of the vast numbers of innocent workers who have been thrown recklessly -and almost without warning out of employment for an indefinite period, I have no hesitation in saying that the Government has made the right decision in -determining that its sympathy and support shall be on the side of law and -order and of the vast majority of members of the community who have %een made the subjects of this totally unjustifiable, wholly unwarranted and thoroughly brutal attack. One might talk at considerable length in this strain, but it is important that this measure he passed through the Parliament as quickly as possible. On behalf of the Government, I regret that more adequate notice of the bill could not be given to the Senate. Unfortunately, there was not sufficient time to .prepare a second reading speech setting out the principles of the hill for the guidance of honorable senators. However, I submit to the Opposition that rapid action is called for and I ask for co-operation in ensuring that the bill shall pass through all its stages to-night.
– It is not the intention of the Opposition to impede the passage of the bill, but it is most unfortunate that we have not been given time to examine the measure. After all, members of the Opposition are only three in number, and they have to be in constant attendance in this chamber. Already to-day we have been called upon to deal with other important legislation. We have had no opportunity to give consideration to this bill.
– Nor have we.
– There are 33 Government members in this chamber, and the honorable senator should be ashamed to make such a remark.
– We have not had time to consider the bill.
– The honorable senator has only himself to blame because he has been out of the chamber for long enough during the day. Opposition members must be in constant attendance. I object to the haste with which this measure is being rushed through the Senate. Members of the House of Representatives had the luncheon adjournment at least in which to examine the bill because the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) made his second reading speech this morning. I listened most attentively to the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) give a resume of the events that have led up to this lamentable strike. Most honorable senators were aware of the negotiations that have been taking place, and of their failure. We know too of the widespread distress that the strike has caused throughout the community. I remind, the Minister however, that industrial unrest on the coal-fields is not of recent origin. There has been a succession of disputes in the coal industry since the war ended. The Commonwealth Government has some responsibility in that connexion because it is in partnership with the Government of New South Wales in the Joint Coal Board. By setting up that authority, the two Governments have accepted some responsibility for ensuring the production of coal, yet strikes have been frequent. Surely it was not necessary to wait until a crisis occurred to introduce legislation for the settlement of outstanding differences in the coal industry. Such action has been constantly advocated by Opposition members, and had their advice been followed, probably the present state of affairs would never have arisen. I have no doubt that the freezing of union funds will shorten the strike, but I repeat that the Government should not have waited until the 11th hour to intervene. The damage has already been done. Whilst I am willing, on behalf of the Opposition to promise that the measure will have a speedy passage, I point out that, according to the Minister’s second reading speech, the freezing of union funds is to date from the 16th June. It would appear that even if the bill were not passed until to-morrow or Friday, its effect would be the same. 1 believe therefore that the urgency of the measure has been somewhat overstressed by the Government. The bill has been before the Senate for only about 20 minutes, and the Minister wants us to rush it through. Again I remind the Senate that Opposition senators number only three. However, we are prepared to do all we can to meet the Government’s request for a speedy passage of the measure.
– I support the bill but I believe that at this stage, I should express on behalf of members of the Labour party who are not members of the Ministry, our regret that such a measure should be necessary. The fact that a Labour Government has been compelled to introduce a bill of this kind, illustrates the urgency of the present position. I have the utmost regard for the work of the miners. I have been to the coalfields and have seen the conditions under which they work. Quite frankly, I should not like to see a brother of mine working under similar conditions. I realize, however, that the Government has a duty not merely to one section of the community, hut to the community as a whole, which has elected it to office. What a crisis such as this can mean to members of the community was brought home to me quite recently when my own father was dangerously ill. Owing to a power failure - not caused by a coal shortage but “by a mechanical breakdown - he came very close to death’s door and only skilful nursing and splendid medical attention pulled him through. I appreciate therefore the suffering of people whose relatives are in hospitals where essential services cannot be maintained. In Sydney on Monday and yesterday I saw the efforts that are being made by housewives to buy the necessary commodities in this time of emergency, caused not by genuine grievances on the part of the coal-miners, but solely by an attempt togain some political advantage. The Government has given a great deal of thought to the situation. It is most distasteful for a Labour Government tohave to introduce legislation of this kind, but the Government has a duty to those members of the community who are suffering in the present crisis. A great deal has been said outside this Parliament about the hardships that will be brought upon the miners and their wives and children by this legislation, but those hardships will be the result of the action of the 23,000 men who are on strike. In Western Australia, many of the conditions for which the miners claim to be agitating are already in force, and, although the majority of the members of the miners’ federation in that State opposed the strike, their leaders brought them out in sympathy with the men in the eastern States, who are agitating for the introduction of a 35-hour week in the coal industry. We realize that this measure will bring hardship to the wives and children of miners, but the fact is that the action of the miners is bringing far greater hardships not only upon the half-million men in New South Wales who will be thrown out of work by the end of this week, but also upon their dependants and upon workers and their families in other States who are rendered inactive by the lack of coal. In Western Australia, coal cannot be kept for longer than a fortnight because it is wet coal. Already severe restrictions have had to be imposed there. Since last night, the use of electricity and gas has been forbidden except for cooking purposes for two periods daily. It will be very difficult for the housewives to keep things going at home and for the workers to get things going in industry after the strike ends. Although the Government regrets very much the necessity for this legislation, it realizes that it has a duty, not to only one section of the community, but to every section of the community, and especially to those who have been hardest hit by the effects of the strike, which, as the Minister has said, was totally unjustified because negotiations were in progress when work was stopped. Although I have been a great champion of the miners and their rights in the past and would bitterly regret any action that jeopardized the living conditions of any group of citizens, at the same time I realize that we must seek to do the greatest good for the greatest number. This legislation must be enacted because one section of the community must not be permitted to hold the rest of the community to ransom. There has always been unrest on the coal-fields, where I have seen conditions under which few men would like to work. Those conditions were the legacy from centuries of mismanagement and unfairness, and the Government has been doing its utmost to remove them. It has done more to improve working conditions in the mines throughout Australia than any other Government has done, and the miners have shown base ingratitude and sheer idiocy by going on strike at a time when the Joint Coal Board, which was established so that they might get better conditions, was considering their claims. Although we deplore the necessity for the legislation, we support it because it is in the best interests of the community that it be brought into force. We must not give way to this anarchy and tolerate the acts of sabotage of those who seek to bring about the downfall of this Government and other Labour governments in Australia by forcing misery upon the entire population.
– Much as I regret the necessity for this measure, I support it. The necessity, unfortunately, arises largely from the failure of the Government over the months and the years in which it has been in office to stand up to the challenge that has been thrown out from time to time against constituted authority. Had there been less appeasement of lawbreakers and less submission to anarchy, the state of affairs that we are facing at present would not have occurred. The Government was given a clear warning on the 16th June that a general strike was to be called. It had ample time, even between that date and now, to exercise the powers that it already ‘possesses under the Crimes Act and the Coal Industry Act, A state of emergency could well have been proclaimed. Are we not actually now facing a state of emer gency? Is not the country being held to ransom by law-breakers? We should not have been brought to this very sorry pass had the law-breakers been told by the Government that constituted authority must be obeyed. If a law is a bad law, the Government should alter it. But, while any law is on our Statute Book, it should and must be obeyed unless the Government in power is prepared to be recreant to its duty as a government. The Government has introduced this bill belatedly, but nevertheless it is a pleasure to realize that at last it is fighting, although in a retreating rear-guard action, against the law-breakers. Had it fought for the people instead of against the people in the earlier years of its occupancy of office, this sorry state of affairs would not have arisen. Now that it has come to the realization that there is an element in the community that disregards the rights of the people, holds none of the respect that is due to constituted authority, and apparently has sufficient power and influence over industry to hold the whole nation to ransom, starving women and children and throwing hundreds of thousands of citizens out of employment, it may be compelled to give some further consideration to the question whether the system of conciliation and arbitration that is accepted by and acceptable to the entire law-abiding community can co-exist with industrial lawlessness. An anarchial mob lias thrown the country into disorder because, on the eve of having its claims determined by an arbitration authority, it declared, “Unless we are given an assurance that we shall get all that we have asked for, we shall hold the country to ransom, and defy the Government and the people.” The Government had better consider whether it favours the system of conciliation and arbitration in industrial affairs, or prefers to allow the law of the jungle to become supreme. The two laws, the just and the unjust, cannot co-exist. However, the Government is to be commended for its belated realization that it is charged with the responsibility for preserving peace, order and good government, that it is not a sectional government, but is the Government of the Australian people and owes a very onerous duty to those people.
For too long has it pandered to lawbreaking sections of the community and been unmindful of its obligations to the unfortunate citizens who constitute a majority of the people of Australia. I hope that this measure indicates that at last the Government has awakened fully to its responsibility as the trustee of constituted authority and will discharge its duty to ensure that constituted authority shall be obeyed.
– I support the bill. First, I point out that the lives of coal-miners for many years have not been happy. I speak from experience. I do not have to be told of the facts. The coal-miners had a hard, long fight against the mine-owners to get any measure of justice. They fought strenuously for conciliation and arbitration. It was not unusual at one time for the mine-owners to provoke a conflict with their employees when they held large stocks of coal at grass and put the men out of work for two or three months at a time. Consequently, bitterness arose in the minds of the miners against the owners. That bitterness has remained. A small minority group, realizing this, has taken full adantage of it. I say that the miners have been led by a small minority for many years, sometimes wisely, but on this occasion unwisely. Senator O’Sullivan said that the Government had failed to do anything to promote peace in industry. The truth is that this Government has done more to try to bring peace to the coal industry than was done by all previous governments in the history of federation. It established a coal tribunal to conciliate and arbitrate in disputes. It improved the amenities of the coal-miners and did everything that was humanly possible to satisfy their demands. But the strike on the coal-fields to-day is not directed against the conditions of the miners. It is a strike against conciliation and arbitration. Some years ago, a government talked of abandoning conciliation and arbitration in industry, and it was overwhelmingly defeated at the succeeding general election. The- miners and the people of Australia believe in conciliation and arbitration. This Government has done everything possible to improve and maintain that system. The miners are not striking for better conditions, for a shorter working week or for increased wages. They are striking against thelaw of the country, which provides a system of conciliation and arbitration for which the workers have fought for many years. I speak from experience of theworkers’ struggles. I was involved in. more than one dispute in which Sir Robert Gibson was called upon to arbitrate and I saw more than one settlement reached under his guidance. As Senator Tangney has pointed out, in the present state of emergency, the Government has a responsibility to the whole of the people of Australia.
– It is about timethat it realized that fact.
– It has alway* realized its responsibilities and has doneits utmost to discharge them. It is the only government that has seriously tried to maintain peace in industry. Senator O’Sullivan has such a short memory that he seems to have forgotten the timewhen the leader of the party to which he’ belongs went to the coal-fields during the war, when every miner in Australia was on strike. What did he achieve?’ Nothing! Did he introduce a bill of this nature? Of course not. Did heestablish a tribunal to try to settle disputes ? Of course not. He did absolutely nothing.
– He only talked.
– As Senator O’Sullivan has talked to-night! According to him, the Government is wrong when it is inactive and wrong when it takes action.
Hundreds of thousands of women and children, apart from the families of the striking miners, are suffering untold harmtoday and will suffer considerably more harm before this trouble is settled. The sick and the infirm are unable to obtain hospital accommodation. The hospitals cannot admit them because there is nocoal to provide light or warmth and because even essential foods are difficult to obtain. That is the situation that faces us to-day. If the strike were intended to gain better wages and conditions for the rank and file coal-miners, I do not think that the members of the Labour party would consider even for a moment the introduction of a bill of this nature. But it is a strike against the system on which the industrial life of this country has been based for the past quarter of a century. The miners want to destroy that system, but they can offer nothing to replace it. As the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) has said, they want to revert to the law of the jungle. If we did not have conciliation and arbitration, and it was left to a fight between the mine-owners and the miners there would be chaos within a short time, and we would never secure peace. When it was left to the owners and the employees, the issue was decided in favour of the section which had the biggest purse and could stand up the longest. That is the reason for the present bitterness of the miners. At present a certain clement has control of the miners. There are 23,000 miners, who are controlled by a few very able people who constitute their executive. I regret that they do not use their ability for the betterment of the miners instead of towards their downfall. If they desire to wipe out conciliation and arbitration they have an uphill fight in front of them. Senator O’Sullivan has said that the Government was warned that this trouble was coming. However, in the absence of definite proof that a man has committed a breach of the law, action cannot be taken against him. There are certain laws of the country that everybody must abide by. Although people may go close to the brink that would constitute a breach of the law, when they get to the brink they stop. That is what the leaders have been doing. Until such times as they walk over the brink they are within the law of this country. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) said that the Government had done nothing. But did he previously suggest anything to prevent the trouble?
– The Opposition warned the Government week after week.
– But the Opposition did not suggest anything constructive. Not a single proposition of which notice could have been taken to. prevent the present state of affairs came from the Opposition. All that honorable senators opposite did was to give lip-service to what should be done.
– We offered sound advice that was not accepted.
– In view of the provisions of the Constitution, what could the Government have done?
– It could have enforced the law.
– One man is awaiting sentence now, and another was sentenced for breaking the law.
– That was only a few months ago.
– This measure has been introduced because the law does not go far enough. It has been done to try to shorten the stoppage that has taken place. The honorable senator asks why the Government did not do something. When referendums were put to the people he played a leading part in opposing them. Had those referendums been successful this Government would have had full power to check the drift to the present situation.
– The Government did not exercise the power that it already had.
– The honorable senator knows that under the Constitution the Government could act only so far as conciliation and arbitration permitted. It is most regrettable that we have been compelled to bring in a bill of this nature in the interests of the community. The Australian Labour party was practically founded on the system of arbitration. Furthermore, on the one occasion that the party honorable senators opposite support spoke of abandoning that system, it was overwhelmingly defeated. That party then changed its attitude and said that it supported conciliation and arbitration. This strike is an attempt to overthrow conciliation and arbitration, and the Government must take whatever means are at its disposal to preserve that system. If that system is lost the employees of every industrial union in Australia who are working under that system will be affected. If the miners defeat the Government on this issue they will “ throw overboard “ every industrialist in Australia. If it were a fight for better wages and conditions whydid they withdraw their claims when they were in the process of being heard by the court? They asked for an adjournment of one application, and withdrew another. Surely that shows their opposition to conciliation and arbitration. The men leading the coalminers are not in accord with the Australian policy and Australian customs. They support the law of the jungle and the survival of the fittest, where rule is maintained by the use of the gun.
– Has the honorable senator only just found that out?
– I have made that statement more than once in this chamber. Unfortunately when the Leader of the Opposition was a supporter of a previous government he did not realize the significance of it. This Government is now placed in the position of having to stand by an Australian custom which lias proved very successful over a large number of years, or seeing that custom and the law of conciliation and arbitration overthrown. This legislation is only for the duration of the current dispute. Once the coal-miners surrender - as they must - this measure shall be deemed to have been repealed. As has been emphasized throughout Australia, this legislation will apply only to the present strike. In the interests of the people of Australia, and of the economy of this country, I support the measure.
1 9.54] . - I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) was not more fully informed in regard to the bill before the chamber. During the morning I told him that the Government desired to treat this measure as a very urgent one. I remind him that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who dealt with this bill in another place, walked out of the party meeting at 10.30 a.m. to-day, went straight into the House of Representatives and, without preparation of a second-reading speech, spoke on this hill. To try to assist the Leader of the Opposition I arranged for the Ilansard report of the proceedings in that chamber, and notes to be handed to the honorable senator, so that he would be better informed on this measure than are most honorable senators in this chamber. As it is a measure that the Opposition does not want to oppose, honorable senators opposite have not needed any ammunition for debate.
– I thought that the Government wanted to put it through urgently. Why is the Minister now wasting time?
– I like to clear up all points in passing. I shall trace the history of this dispute. In April last a log of claims was served on the mine-owners, the Joint Coal Board, the Coal Industry Tribunal, and the State and Commonwealth Governments. I also received one. The unions claimed long service leave, a 35-hour week, and a 30s. a week wage increase. During May, at the request of the miners’ federation, conferences were arranged, and one took place on the 19th May. It was abortive. No decision was reached because the miners’ representatives, who are members of the Communist party, were adamant that their claims should be agreed to in principle, practically on the conditions that they determined themselves. A further conference on the 24th May was also futile. On the 30th May another conference took place. Every opportunity was given to try to settle the matter by conciliation. On the 1st May the Communist-controlled miners’ federation booked the Sydney Town Hall for a -meeting to take place on the 16th June. I should like honorable senators to note particularly that that date was only nineteen days before the first conference took place. That show* that this strike was deliberately planned by the Communist party. They asked me to preside over that conference, hut I refused. Mr. Cameron, Chairman of the Joint Coal Board, presided. That indicates the determined plan that was laid by the Communist party. It was determined that, at all costs, there would be nosettlement of this dispute.
– When the Opposition warned the Government along those lines, honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber claimed that we had a Communist complex.
– It is a very significant fact that the Coal Industry Tribunal, which concluded the hearing of this claim on the 9th June, stated that it would announce a draft award on the 14th June. The following day, Mr. Icl ria Williams, a member of the Communist party, announced on behalf of the miners’ federation that unless these claims were settled by a certain date there would he stop-work meetings, followed by u general strike. Mr. Gallagher, Chairman of the Coal Industry Tribunal, immediately declared that while the threat of a strike was present no award would be given, with the result that stop-work meetings were held, followed by the decision to strike. I am informed that at the aggregate meetings held at all mining centres in the northern, southern and western districts, the leaders told the rank and file that there would not bc any strike. Obviously, the leaders decided to hold the stop-work meetings in an endeavour to take to themselves the credit for winning the men’s claims by direct action and also to damage Labour’s policy of conciliation and arbitration.
I do not intend to delay the passage of the bill. I appreciate the assistance that has been proffered by the Opposi-1 ion. However, Senator O’Sullivan claimed that the present Government for many years had failed to stand up to the challenge to its authority. In what way did the Menzies Government stand up to the challenge to its authority during the war years when this nation was fighting for its very existence? When that government was in office, 10,000 men on a northern coal-field in New South Wales were on strike for ten weeks. What did that government do on that occasion? The then Prime Minister, merely went to those coal-fields and pleaded with the men to go back to work; but his government took no action to end that strike. It lacked the courage to take action of the kind that this Government is taking to-night. I regret that this action is necessary. However, the Government has a responsibility to protect the interests of the people. If the Opposition parties believe that they are as capable as they boast of handling problems of this kind, it is a pity that non-Labour governments during the war did not give an example of their capacity to end strikes and to deal with an element in the community which has not the interests of the nation at heart.
When Senator O’Sullivan referred to law-breakers, I presumed he had in mind the Communist party. If that be so, I remind him that there were never so many law-breakers in this country as there were during the regime of non-Labour governments in the depression that occurred between the two world wars when hundreds of thousands of people in this country were unemployed. Those governments wore responsible for the conditions which gave rise to the Communist party in Australia. To-day, the Communists realize that so long as the Government maintains full employment and the people continue to enjoy the prosperity they have enjoyed under the present Government, communism will be given no opportunity to thrive in ‘this country. While there have been shortages of coal it must be recognized that the consumption of coal in Australia has increased to a very great degree in recent years. However, the only people who can get coal are the miners, and I regret that they are being led as they are being led at present. I sincerely trust that when this measure becomes law and when the miners accept the advice which the Government has given to them the suffering, hardship and inconvenience that are now being endured by so many people in every State will not be forgotten. I also trust that those engaged in the coalmining industry who are able to obtain at least some supplies of coal and, therefore, are not subject to such severe hardships as other sections of the community suffer, will remember the sacrifices endured by people who are at present not so fortunately placed as they are.
– After listening to the impassioned speech made by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley). I do not intend to delay the passage of the bill unnecessarily. However, I am impelled to reply to some of the statements made by Senator O’Sullivan. They were the most partisan and vitriolic statements that I have ever heard; and they must be all the more deplored because they were made by a public man at a time like the present. The affable and genial Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) has been a member of the Parliament for the last 25 years. When he has finished genuflecting in the mirror of the past, I trust that he will give a moment’s consideration to what the Minister has just said with respect to the record of non-Labour governments. If he does so, he will agree that during the regime of such governments industrial disputes occurred throughout the length and breadth of this country over issues similar to that which has caused the present emergency. He can take cold comfort in the fact that on not one single occasion was the Menzies Government able to deal effectively with industrial unrest. Having been a member of the Parliament for so long he should be the last to condemn any government for failure to protect the interests of the people in such circumstances. I have no doubt that the action of the Labour Government in introducing legislation of this kind has really given pleasure to the Opposition parties.
– That is untrue; both my leader and I said that we regretted the necessity for the introduction of this measure.
– On several occasions since I have been a member of the Senate, Senator O’Sullivan has displayed extreme partisanship. I do not know of one occasion on which the honorable senator has supported any measure introduced by the present Government with the object of promoting the welfare of the overwhelming majority of the people of this country. He contended that the Government should have anticipated the present trouble and should have acted accordingly. In effect, he said that the Government should gaol, or deport, those responsible for the present trouble. Yet, he would have us believe that he stands for the Australian way of life and for the observance of true Christian principles in industrial relations. I sincerely trust that this, the darkest hour in our industrial history, will be the last occasion on which he will display such extreme partisanship as he displayed to-night. I trust that the need for this legislation will not exist for long. I regret that for the second time during my life I have seen a Labour Government, in the interests of the people as a whole, forced to introduce legislation of this kind. My regret is the greater because members of the Opposition parties have advocated the application of extreme measures which are tolerated only in countries that have not the least claim to be regarded as democratic. I again remind them, in spite of their bravado to-night, that non-Labour governments in the past were unable to deal effectively with industrial unrest and failed completely to protect the interests of the majority of the people in circumstances similar to those which exist at present.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 - (2.) For the purposes of this Act, any money paid or received by a branch of an organization shall be deemed to have been paid or received by the organization.
– I move -
That sub-clause ( 2. ) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following subclause : - “ (2.) For the purposes of this Act, a payment or receipt, or a promise to make a payment, by a branch of an organization shall be deemed to be a payment or receipt, or a promise to make a payment, by that organization.”.
The amendment effects verbal alterations to bring the language of the subclause into conformity with that of other parts of the bill; and it also extends the operation of the sub-clause to promises of payments as well as to actual payments.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Subject to this Act, any of the following organizations or persons, that is to say - shall not receive a payment, or accept a benefit, from any person for the purpose of assisting or encouraging, directly or indirectly, the continuance of the strike.
– I move -
That the words “ , or accept a benefit,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ or benefit “.
The amendment effects a purely verbal alteration so that the clause will refer to the receipt of benefits instead of to the acceptance of benefits.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 - (1.) Where the Court is satisfied, upon the application of the Registrar, that at any time on or after the sixteenth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine, and before the commencement of this Act, money has been received or paid, and the receipt or payment of that money would, if this Act have been in force at the time when the money was received or paid, have been an offence against section five or six of this Act, the Court may order the repayment of that money by the person to whom, or the organization to which, the money was paid to the person from whom, or the organization from which, it was received.
– I move -
That sub-clause (1.) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following subclause: - “ (1.) Where the Court is satisfied, upon the application of the Registrar -
that, at any time on or after the sixteenth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine, and before the commencement of this Act, money has been received or paid, and the receipt or payment of that money would, if this Act had been in force at the time when the money was received or paid, have been in contravention of section five or six of this Act; or
that, at any time after the commencement of this Act, money has been received or paid in contravention of either of those sections, the Court may order the repayment of that money by the person to whom, or the organization to which, the money was paid to the person from whom, or the organization from which, it was received.”.
In its present form sub-clause 1 authorizes the Arbitration Court to order the repayment of certain moneys paid after the date of the stopwork meeting and before the commencement of the Act, that is to say, between the 16th June and the date on which the Act will be proclaimed. The amendment extends the sub-clause to embrace similar payments made after the commencement of the act.
– hurriedly at the report of the speech made by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) when he introduced this measure in the House of Representatives, and I noticed that he suggested that the operation of the clause would cover the withdrawal by a union of funds from its bank account if any such withdrawal was made after the 16th June. It seems only reasonable to assume that when the unions concerned learned that their funds were likely to be frozen, they took immediate steps to deplete the balances in their bank accounts and to prevent the authorities from getting control of their funds. Can the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) inform me whether any steps have been taken by the Government to defeat that possibility? I notice that Clause 10 (1) (/) requires persons to furnish to the Industrial Registrar such information as he may require for the purpose of implementing the provision of the Act, but I do not know whether it is intended to invoke that provision to recover moneys which one of the trade unions concerned may have withdrawn from its own bank account. I should be glad if the Minister would enlighten me on the matters that I have mentioned.
– I must confess that because of the extremely short time which I have had to study the measure, I am in a state of doubt similar to that of Senator O’Sullivan. However, I think that the honorable senator may have supplied the answer to his own inquiry, when he mentioned that the hill contains provision for the Registrar to require any person to furnish information to him. In turn, I point out to the honorable senator that clause 9 provides that the court shall have complete power to make such orders for injunctions as it thinks necessary to ensure compliance with the provisions of the act, and the preamble to the bill sets out very clearly the purpose of the act.
– Clause 8 does not appear to prohibit the withdrawal of funds by any of the trade unions concerned from its bank account, because I do not think that the term “ receipt “ could be construed to include a payment made by a union into its liquid funds by withdrawing money from its bank account.
– The actual words employed in sub-clause 1, are “ money . . . received or paid, . . . “
– Does the Minister suggest that the withdrawal of funds from a bank account would be interpreted as a “ receipt “ of funds by the union concerned?
– I should think so. Clause 4 contains a general prohibition against making any payments “ for the purpose of assisting or encouraging, directly or indirectly the continuance of the strike “. That prohibition would attach to the funds of the union, irrespective of whether the union had lodged its funds with a bank or had them in hand. I emphasize that that clause imposes a complete prohibition on the operation of a union’s funds for the continuance of the strike. Clause 8 deals with transactions that may occur between the 16th June and the date on which the act is proclaimed.
– I do not wish to appear obstructive, but I am not satisfied that the clause goes far enough. It appears to contain the only power under which the constituted authority could act to freeze the funds of the unions concerned. Other provisions deal with the receipt of contributions from nonparticipating organizations, whereas clause8 deals specifically with the pay ment of moneys in contravention of clauses 5 and 6. The point that I particularly desire to make is that neither the clause nor the remainder of the bill appears to contain any protection for a bank which failed to honour a cheque drawn by one of the participating unions. Some protection is obviously necessary, otherwise banks concerned would be liable to the unions whose cheques they dishonoured. If the Government really intends to freeze the funds of the unions concerned, some statutory protection must be given to the banks which decline to honour their cheques.
– I agree with Senator O’Sullivan that in the absence of special statutory authority, a bank which dishonoured a cheque drawn by one ofthe participating organizations might beplaced in a very difficult position. However, I do not think that there is any need for the banks to be placed in that position, and, in any event, quite enough people are already involved in the dispute. I think that clause 5 completely prohibits the withdrawal of funds by any of the unions concerned to defeat the provisions of the act. That clause provides that a participating organization “shall not receive a payment, or accept a benefit, from any person for the purpose of assisting or encouraging, directly or indirectly, the continuance of the strike.” That is a complete prohibition against a participating trade union drawing money from its bank account to encourage the continuance of the strike.
– Does not the Minister consider that that clause is intended to deal principally with the receipts of funds from a third party?
– No. The clause provides that a participating organization “shall not receive a payment, or accept a benefit,” for the purpose of encouraging the continuance of the strike. I point out that the term “ benefit “ may have an even wider application than the term “ payment “.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 14 agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determi nations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1949-
No. 42 - Peace Officer Guard Association.
No. 45 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
No. 46 - Commonwealth Legal Professional Officers’ Association.
No. 47 - Transport Workers’ Union of Australia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments Department -
Army- J. B. S. Waugh.
Defence - M. B. Lynch.
Stevedoring Industry Act - Stevedoring In dustry Commission - Financial Accounts for period ended 30th June, 1948, together with Auditor-General’s report thereon.
Senate adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1949/19490629_senate_18_203/>.