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Tuesday, 22 November 1960

Mr McMAHON (Lowe) (Minister for Labour and National Service) . - Prior to the second-reading debate on this bill and also prior to the bill reaching the committee stage I made it clear to the trade union movement that not one clause of the bill was aimed either directly or indirectly at the trade union movement or at any industrial activity as such.

Mr Ward - They did not believe you.

Mr MCMAHON - They did believe me, and it was with a sense of shame that they took part in any demonstration. But I do not want to be drawn into an argument with the honorable member for East Sydney. As there had been some action of a socalled industrial kind - a demonstration which was intended to show that some sections of the trade union movement disagreed with the provisions of the bill and claimed that some of them would affect their interests - I discussed the problem with my colleague, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). After listening to his explanation, I was quite certain that whatever fears were felt by those sections of the trade union movement were .groundless for the reason that you could not succeed in a prosecution under the sections with which we are now dealing - the sections relating to treason, treachery or sabotage - unless you proved two ingredients. The. first ingredient was an act. Something had to be done. The second was that you had to show an intention to assist the enemy. When that explanation was given I felt that there were, reasonable grounds for assuming that honest men would realize that no clauses of the bill would affect the trade union movement as such.

However, as there were still some misgivings I again discussed the matter with the Attorney-General and, in his wisdom - I do not think necessarily in the interests of the trade union movement but certainly to remove any possibility of doubt - he has agreed that certain changes should be made.

I make it clear that the three new sections of the act relate to treason, treachery and sabotage, and that those sections are designed to permit a successful prosecution only where intention, as well as an act, can be proved. In other words, you can succeed only on those occasions when you can prove that a person has a real desire to help the enemy and has committed an act which, in effect, helps the enemy against this country or against a proclaimed ally of this country. The Attorney-General's proposal in relation to industrial activities is contained in proposed paragraph (e) of section 24f(1.). Sub-section f states - 24f. - (1.) Nothing in the preceding provisions of this Part makes it unlawful for a person - (e) to do anything in good faith in connexion with an industrial dispute oi an industrial matter.

Those words make explicit what previously was implicit in the relevant clause. I do not think that the amendment was necessary - in fact, I am sure that it was not necessary - but I applaud the AttorneyGeneral for removing from the mind of the genuine trade unionist any anxiety that he may have felt that genuine industrial activity or a genuine industrial matter could be affected by the operation of the proposed section. The Attorney-General has pointed out that proposed section 24f (2.) contains certain safeguarding provisions. In other words, if the act is not done in good faith the protection of the preceding sub-sections will not be given. I repeat that the Attorney-General is to be congratulated on the action that he has now taken in the interests of industrial peace because I believe that the new subsection 'genuinely guarantees that if a person acts in good faith in any genuine industrial dispute or in any industrial matter, the action that he takes does not come within the definition of treachery, of treason or of sabotage.

There are two points which I want to make before I conclude. First, I would not like it to be thought for one moment that under the guise of industrial activity, or on the claim of being involved in an industrial matter, a person could take action of a kind which meant that he was, in fact, committing treachery, treason or sabotage and, as a result of propaganda of a political kind, hope to escape the consequences of his action. That is not intended. We certainly do not intend to let the Communists or the neo-Communists gain control of the government of this country. I also want to make it abundantly clear that a person cannot hope, by means of subterfuge and by other means of that kind, to escape the penalties of the law if, in fact, under the new provisions of the law he has committed treachery, treason or sabotage.

So I make the point as I made it before: We believe that we are strengthening the law relating to the security and defence of this country. I personally believe that the Attorney-General in the first place proposed changes that were essential. I now believe that he has put explicitly into the law what was implicitly there before, and I now believe that some sections of the trade union movement should have a feeling of shame because they participated in demonstrations designed to show that this provision was directed against worthwhile trade union or industrial activity.

I conclude with one other comment. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has proposed an amendment relating to any action, in good faith, of a substantially religious or humanitarian character. I personally believe that that is quite unnecessary, and for the reason that I put in connexion with industrial activities. For a person to be convicted under this measure, he must be guilty of an intention to commit treachery, treason or sabotage. How any one could think that a humanitarian action, or an action substantially of a religious character, could be within the contemplation of the provisions of the measure relating to treachery is beyond my comprehension. Consequently, I do not think that the Government would be prepared to accept this amendment.

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