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Tuesday, 22 November 1960


Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- I have always found it difficult to understand why what are regarded as industrial offences were ever included in a Crimes Act. I am quite sure thai there are very few Australians who would regard going on strike as a crime. The hypocrisy of this Government is clearly exposed when it claims that certain parts of this legislation are not aimed against the trade union movement. Although members of the Government have never accepted the proposition, I submit that the trade unionists have as much right to withhold their labour when they are dissatisfied with their conditions of employment as other persons have a right to withhold their products from the market when the ruling prices do not meet with their approval. For the life of me I cannot see why these sections that we are now dealing with are contained in a Crimes Act. They do not deal with matters purely industrial in character. The executive government has the right at any time to declare, in respect of an interstate dispute or one affecting trade with overseas countries, that a state of emergency exists, and that then the unionists participating in the dispute shall become liable to the most savage penalties because they are striking for what they regard to be right.

I just want to correct one statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). Probably the lapse of time has impaired his memory of the matter, but I can tell the committee that the 1926 British seamen's strike, out of which these provisions eventually arose, was not a Communistinspired strike at all. Mr. Have lock Wilson was then the secretary of the British Seamen's Union, and he had betrayed his membership by accepting a reduction of pay - and seamen's pay at that time was little enough. It was in sympathy with the British seamen, who were merely fighting for a living wage, that the Australian unionists made common cause with them. In my opinion the British seamen were quite justified in putting up the struggle that they did on that occasion, and the Australian unionists were equally justified in supporting them in their struggle.

In 1926 a government of a similar character to the one at present in office attempted to deport from Australia two trade union leaders. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, the matter was subsequently put before the High Court, and it was then decided that the Government had no power under the Immigation Act to deport Walsh and Johnson, the two men concerned, as prohibited immigrants, because they had lived in the country almost a life-time, and could no longer be regarded as immigrants. The Government of the day then had to get around this provision which had given some protection to trade unionists who had not been born in Australia, and it introduced these vicious provisions which gave power to the Attorney-General to have deported any person who takes part in a strike after an emergency has been declared, irrespective of whether he is a naturalized British subject, and irrespective of the period of his residence in Australia.

I am quite certain that many of the new Australians who have taken up residence in this country will be alarmed when they know that they are being treated differently from other trade unionists who were born in Australia. Even if new Australians have become naturalized British subjects, they do not have equal rights with other citizens, because they always have held over their heads the threat that should they make common cause with other unionists in a strike involving interstate or overseas trade, they become liable, on the order of the Commonwealth Attorney-General, to deportation from this country. I say that legislation which allows such discrimination should not be permitted. Industrial disputes affecting the maritime industries have had nothing to do with national security.

What will happen to the alleged protection embodied in this measure by the AttorneyGeneral, who said that unionists who act in good faith have nothing to fear under the terms of this bill? I ask the Minister whether the protection for unionists which he claims has been embodied in this measure - a protection, he says, which will enable them to take part in an industrial strike, if they act in good faith, without their liberties being endangered by this bill - will apply to the provisions of the existing act which the Opposition now wants removed. In my opinion, there is no protection at all, because anti-Labour governments declare that every strike is Communist-inspired, and is a threat to the security of the country and is aimed at sabotaging the national economy. Such governments would have no hesitation in having the necessary proclamation made in respect of any industrial disturbance that interrupted interstate or overseas trade and commerce, and every trade unionist concerned in the disturbance would be liable, if he were eighteen years of age or older, and if he continued to take part, to one year's improsonment. No Australian citizen who approaches these matters in a reasonable way could see any justification for any government possessing those powers.

I believe that of recent years the trade unions have permitted too much encroachment on their right to strike. As .a result, to-day they suffer the most savage penalties if they exercise that right. Remarkably enough, we had the latest illustration of this only yesterday, when three judges sitting as a bench of the Commonwealth Industrial Court fined the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia £500 because some of its members in Melbourne saw fit to strike when they could not get an industrial dispute satisfactorily resolved. Two of those three judges were Liberal Party members of this Parliament, and supporters of this Government in the Parliament, until quite recently - one a Senator and Minister, and one a member of this place. Do honorable members imagine for one moment that the trade unionists of Australia will tolerate very much longer a system of arbitration or of control with respect to industrial disputes when the people appointed to adjudicate in those disputes have in recent times been

Liberal Party members of this Parliament and by their speeches and actions as members of the Parliament have displayed their antagonism to the trade unionists? In my opinion, these circumstances are leading to industrial unrest in this country.

Everybody knows that the maritime unions are militant organizations. They fight to preserve the conditions which their members have won by hard struggle, and they will not be given any protection - though the Attorney-General claims they will be - if they strike for an industrial cause, even if they do so in good faith. Even though a strike has nothing to do with matters involving treachery, treason or sabotage, if the unionists are fighting to preserve their industrial conditions and their wage standards, they will be liable to prosecution and severe penalties of up to twelve months' imprisonment if they continue to participate in such a strike.

I say finally, for time will not permit me to say much more, that the trade unionists of this country must recognize that they no longer can look to the courts for protection in industrial disputes, because the Commonwealth Industrial Court has been stacked with former Liberal Party members of this Parliament who, in my opinion, have been rewarded for loyal political service to the party to which they belonged - a party which is opposed to the preservation of industrial standards in this country. Therefore, the workers now have to consider, with this vicious legislation on the statute-book, what further protective action they can take by the use of their organized industrial strength, allied with the strength of the political Labour movement. They have to resist this fascist kind of legislation. If they do not, there will be no worth-while future in this country for labour or for the ordinary citizen.







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