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Wednesday, 1 May 1957

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- There are a couple of matters to which I desire to refer, if time will permit. But before doing so, I want to correct the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston), who has suddenly shown concern for the trade union movement of this country. I want to inform the honorable member for Phillip and any other honorable member who has a false impression on this subject that the legislation passed by both the Chifley Government and this Government does not give a secret ballot to every trade unionist. As a matter of fact, a number of trade unions have officers who are appointed for life or for other long periods of time. They do not have regular elections of officers. During the term of office of the Chifley Government some people who suggested that there had been malpractices desired what they termed " clean ballots ". The Labour party, believing in clean ballots, immediately set out to amend the legislation and provide machinery whereby malpractices could be corrected. Under the Chifley Government legislation any trade unionist in this country who had evidence of malpractice could take it to the Industrial Registrar, who would conduct a preliminary examination. If the Registrar deemed that the matter required further investigation it was then submitted to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for determination. If the court were satisfied that there had been malpractice a ballot was ordered.

This anti-Labour Government, wanting to disorganize the trade union movement and place control of the unions in the hands of a minority, decided that this was not enough, so it provided by legislation that any small minority in a union, without producing any evidence of existing malpractice, could request a secret ballot. As the figures cited by the honorable member for Phillip indicate, the request was granted in practically every instance. This largely disorganized the work of the trade unions and put many of them to considerable expense.

I suggest to the champion of clean ballots from Phillip that the very Cabinet that governs the affairs of this country is not chosen by ballot. It is nominated by the Prime Minister. If the theory that those who are to be governed either in a trade union or a country should determine by secret ballot who is to control their affairs is so valuable, what is wrong with the Cabinet of the country being elected by some form of secret ballot? Cannot the Government trust its caucus? In the Labour party we have a ballot. When Labour is in office every member of the parliamentary party has a say as to who shall occupy a position in the Cabinet. That is not so in the present Government. If a Government supporter gets offside with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) he has no chance of making the Cabinet. This explains how the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) got preferment. He has always been found hanging at the coat tails of the Prime Minister, doing what the Prime Minister wants him to do. and being his office boy so that some day he may succeed him in the senior post.

The honorable member for Phillip mentioned the ballot which ended Communist control of the Ironworkers Union. That was conducted under the Chifley Government legislation, not under the legislation introduced by this Government. The honorable member for Phillip said that the Brisbane Labour conference had declared that all court-controlled ballots were to go. That is just another instance of misrepresentation of what Labour thinks. The Brisbane Labour conference did nothing of the kind. It decided to repeal the iniquitous antiLabour legislation passed by this Government and to revert to the practice that prevailed under the Chifley Labour Government of providing facilities for the correction of malpractices where it was proved that they existed. That is the attitude of the Labour party. We are subjected periodically to these attacks upon the trade unions. I do not know the background of the honorable member for Phillip, but I should imagine that all his knowledge of the trade union movement in this country has been obtained from the journal of which he is evidently a close reader and which the anti-Labour members of this House freely quote when they want to establish a case - none other than the " Tribune ", the official organ of the Australian Communist party. Therefore, 1 suggest to anybody who wants to be fair about this matter that there is no evidence that the Labour party wants anything other than clean ballots. Why do not the Government parties argue for secret ballots at company meetings and at the meetings of the various lodges in this country? Why select the trade unions for special attention? Are the trade unionists a body of dishonest men? No! They are the men who have built up the industries of this country and made the nation what it is. If there is something sacred about this secret ballot process, let us extend it to all organizations in the community and not select only the trade unions for it.

In the minutes that remain to me, I want to return to the Minister for Labour and National Service. The honorable member for Swan was attacked on a number of occasions in this chamber because it was said that he was deliberately, knowing his statement to be incorrect, attacking the methods employed by the Minister for Labour and National Service, and claiming that they were distorting the actual unemployment situation. In order to clear the matter up, because we have always argued-

Mr Chaney - I rise to order. The honorable -member for Swan at no time during this sessional period of the Parliament has been implicated in any way in the manner referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney.

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