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Tuesday, 22 November 1960

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- Of all the obnoxious provisions in this bill I should imagine that this would be the most obnoxious. It is aimed, no doubt, at the trade union movement. It will permit the use by a government of intimidatory tactics against individual trade unionists. I would imagine that this bill is drawn so loosely that there is no individual active in trade union or political affairs in this country who would not come within its scope if the Attorney-General, the Prime Minister or the Government generally wanted to pick him up.

Let us look at what this amendment proposes to do. What my two colleagues have said is perfectly true. The prosecution does not have to prove anything at all. It merely has to establish " known character as proved ". How is that done? The average person believes that it would be necessary to produce some record of police court convictions. Nothing of the kind! The Attorney-General says, " Oh, but they have to produce witnesses to give evidence in regard to known character ". When I approached him as a member of a deputation he said, " Security service reports could not be used in this type of investigation because we would not produce our security officers. We would not want to expose the source of our information." But Government officers can, by various means, secure information relating to the activities of any member of the community. They can use security reports obtained by all sorts of methods. The security service has its pimps everywhere. It has them in the universities and it has them in the trade unions. It even has them in the professional world, because we have had an illustration of doctors being employed by the security service in order to get information from their patients.

It is perfectly true that the prosecution would not produce the member of the security service who had secured the information but it could produce dummy witnesses. Information obtained by security agents by tapping people's telephones and recording their conversations will be produced in order to prove the known character of a person accused of an offence.

As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, no doubt such charges would be preferred against people in a time of national, hysteria. We have only to go back through the records to see what can happen when the people are aroused by a Government which has been playing upon their emotions. Men have been charged with offences because they answered certain questions at public meetings. One man was charged with seditious intent when he answered a question which he had been asked by a newspaper reporter. On that occasion it must have been obvious to any reasonable member of the community that the man could not have been guilty of any seditious intent. He was found guilty because the incident occurred in a period when hysteria existed about certain people and their activities. Under those conditions, the person concerned could not have been expected to be given a reasonable trial.

The Attorney-General has said, in effect, "But the magistrate, in the case of committal proceedings, and the judge, in a case which goes to a higher tribunal, not only has to decide whether the evidence is relevant and is to be admitted, but the judge has to direct the jury that the evidence must relate to the purpose for which the act was committed". But already the damage has been done. I guarantee that all that would have to be proved in most instances would be that at some stage or other the person, concerned had been a member of the Communist Party or had been a militant trade unionist.

Everybody knows that the Government sends shorthand reporters to trade union meetings. Tt sent reporters to a meeting of Commonwealth public servants, and nobody would argue that they are a militant body of trade unionists. The Government sent its shorthand writers there so that it could record in the dossiers of certain people what they had been saying. It is a well-known fact that, whenever possible, security officers attend meetings of trade unionists - if they can get in - and record what is said. Every honorable member knows that when trade unionists came into the Queen's Hall in connexion with this legislation there were literally dozens of security officers mingling with them, listening to their conversation and to the case they were putting to their parliamentary representatives. These are the methods employed by the security service.

In any community a person who is deemed to be guilty of action against the security of the country ought to be penalized. While we do not agree that all the offences named by the Government should be deemed to be in that category, there is not. a member of the- Opposition who does not believe that if any citizen commits, and is proved guilty of, an offence against the security of Australia, the severest penalty should be imposed on him. But there is a vast difference between proving a person guilty of an act and proving him guilty in accordance with his known conduct only. A militant unionist who spoke out at trade union meetings could be considered guilty because of his known conduct as a militant trade unionist.

Of course, this provision is aimed against the trade union movement! 1 do not suggest that, as soon as this legislation is passed, the Government will pick up unionists by the thousand and charge them with having committed acts of sabotage. But the Government intends to use this undemocratic legislation as a sort of deterrent to trade unionists because it wants to establish what the late Mr. Ben Chifley, the esteemed former leader of the Labour Party, declared to be " tame cat " unions - unions which will do the bidding of employers and of the Government.

I have said repeatedly in this debate when I have had the opportunity to do so, that, in my opinion, a law does not become effective merely because a government has the necessary numbers in Parliament to pass it. This Government has no mandate to pass this type of legislation. It is not prepared to submit it to the people by referendum in order to see whether the people approve of it. The Government is using its numbers to put the measure on the statute-book, but if the majority of the Australian people regard this as a completely unjust law, I believe that it will not be possible to make it effective.

In my opinion, the trade unionists have been extremely patient with the Government, not only in respect of the proposed amendments of the Crimes Act but also in respect of the vicious penalties which have been imposed on them by judges who have been appointed by the Government from its own ranks. One day a man is a Liberal senator or a Liberal member of this Parliament and the next day he is sitting on a court, passing savage penalties on the trade unionists of this country. This sort of thing cannot go on much longer.

Government supporters talk about democracy and the rights of the citizen. How can it be just to declare a person guilty of any offence solely on his known character? Let Us consider the position of any man employed on the waterfront who has been a militant trade unionist or who has had a police court conviction for any offence whatever, no matter how long ago. If his record is brought against him he is almost certain to be convicted by the court. A waterside worker could be loading defence equipment. He may not be aware of the nature of the cargo that he is engaged in loading. If one of the cases happens to fall and break that man could immediately be charged with an act of sabotage. It could be proved without difficulty that the case containing defence equipment had been broken, and that therefore he was guilty of an act of sabotage. At that stage all that would have to be proved to the court would be that he had a purpose, based on his known character, as proved, and that he had therefore a deliberate design to injure the security of this country.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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