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Tuesday, 20 September 1983
Page: 973

Mr LLOYD —What action has the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations taken with respect to statutory declarations by mail workers claiming that a New South Wales trade union official is the alleged organiser of a ring inside Sydney mail centres which deliberately misdirected union voting papers in transit? Has he initiated action to determine whether the union elections in 1979 and 1981, to which these declarations and other statements refer, were invalid? If so, what are the consequences for decisions taken and actions by those officials? Does he agree that, if proven, the vote-rigging exercise necessitated massive interference with the mail by Australia Post employees and seriously breached the integrity of the postal system?

Mr WILLIS —I am aware of allegations which have been made. Indeed, in yesterday's edition of the Melbourne Age extensive allegations were made about interference by employees of Australia Post with union ballots. There was also an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, which was somewhat more specific, a couple of days earlier. As I understand it the situation is that allegations have been made, as the honourable member said in his question. I am not sure as to the truth of those allegations. But I can say that for persons engaging in this kind of activity-if indeed it has been engaged in-severe penalties are applicable. Under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, section 171 provides for a fine of $500 or imprisonment for six months or both for being in possession of a ballot paper without lawful excuse or for impersonating another person for the purpose of voting. Under the Postal Services Act, section 92 provides a penalty of seven years imprisonment for stealing mail or taking it with a fraudulent intention. Section 93 provides a penalty of two years imprisonment for tampering with the mail. Section 86 of the Crimes Act imposes a penalty of three years imprisonment for conspiracy to commit an offence against Commonwealth law.

It is quite clear that an array of penalties is available-some of them very severe indeed-for persons who have engaged in this kind of activity. At this stage I have only had these allegations drawn to my attention. I have not personally taken any direct action in regard to them. I will certainly be having some inquiries made in regard to those matters. If any such action has been taken, if it seems that there is some truth in these allegations, I would certainly be concerned to ensure that action is taken to bring the offenders to justice.