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Tuesday, 16 November 1976

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. A question was asked by a member of the front bench of the Opposition. The Prime Minister is replying. The front bench of the Opposition should allow the answer to be given without interjection.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - Honourable gentlemen opposite have always been opposed to secret ballots, and to secret postal ballots in particular. Just because the Government introduced legislation several months ago to make secret postal ballots mandatory for the election of elected officials there has been opposition to that concept. Even the former Minister for Labor in the Labor Government admitted that in one major union at least properly conducted ballots were not held. We have been given examples of people in the Amalgamated Metalworkers Union being elected to their positions, under the law as it applied during the previous Administration, by one or two percent of those union members entitled to vote. Under our legislation there will be an opportunity for people to vote by secret postal ballot. If the honourable member for Gellibrand is referring to legislation which allowed unionists a limited right of choice concerning the method in which some unions may conduct their elections, I can only say again that he is seeking to deny the rights of trade unionists to exert their own views and decisions through secret postal ballots. If there is to be an electoral college on a single tier basis, the members of that college must be elected through secret postal ballots. That is the basis of the legislation. That is the basis which the Opposition seeks to destroy.

If a recent report in a newspaper is correct, the Leader of the Opposition accused the present Government of union bashing in relation to the disputes that have been occurring in recent times. I should think that the Leader of the Opposition is very far removed from current opinion in Australia in that respect. At the same time, he is very far removed from the views of the Labor Premier of New South Wales who has been trying to wrestle, not irresponsibly, with a difficult industrial situation. New South Wales- the Leader of the Opposition's own State- has felt the weight of irresponsible union action as a result of defiance of industrial commissions, the Arbitration Commission and the Supreme Court. To suggest that a government which brings these matters to notice and which seeks to do something about them, is union bashing, is so far removed from the truth and current Australian thought, feeling and concern regarding these matters, that the Leader of the Opposition might well be in another world.

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