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Tuesday, 7 December 1976

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - I have given some information to the House concerning this matter. On 23 September this year I indicated that in 1974 about 20 elections were conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Office under the then legislation for union elections but that by the same time this year 39 elections had already been held and 77 were in hand, making a total of 1 16. At the end of November 1 12 elections had been completed under the new legislation conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Office and 49 were on hand, making a total of 161 elections.

These figures show plainly that a very large number of trade unions are opting to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Government's legislation to have their elections conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Office, in which case they are paid for by the Commonwealth. I believe that over time the legislation will come to have an impact on the management of trade union affairs. I think it is worth noting that a number of people have asked whether we can make arrangements to ensure that a forewarning is given of when union elections are to be held. The people who have made that request have been wanting to fight the militant extreme left groups in the trade union movement who I believe do not represent the great bulk of their constituents. Regulations are being drafted so that there will be a requirement on trade unions to place on notification with the Industrial Registrar when their elections are due.

It ought also to be noted that this legislation does not apply to trade unions only. It is legislation that applies also to all organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In that case the legislation does not involve trade unions only but it involves also employer organisations. It is quite plain that a very large number of trade unions are using this legislation and the opportunities provided by it and are liking it. It is also plain from the objections that are coming from the other side of the House in respect of this particular matter that members of the Opposition wish to deny trade unionists the opportunity for secret postal ballots in which they can vote without fear or favour without any possibility of bullying by a few union officials.

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