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Wednesday, 29 June 1949

Mr FADDEN (Darling Downs) (Leader of the Australian Country party) . - I unequivocally associate the Australian Country party with the sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies'). The need for immediate implementation of the provisions of this bill is indisputable. The hill contains provisions that are indispensable if the challenge of the Communist controllers of the coal-mining industry to constitutional authority is to be met. The issue is whether constitutional authority shall prevail or the law of the jungle shall supplant it. The freezing of the funds of the unions is the least measure that the people of Australia could expect from a government charged with the responsibility of preserving law and order. It is not difficult for the Australian Country party wholeheartedly to associate itself with the contents of the bill, because, in and out of season, it has stood foursquare in support of the principle that conciliation and arbitration must be used in the settlement of industrial unrest. In opening the campaign of the Australian Country party at the general election of 1946, I clearly stated our party's policy in the following terms : -

We propose also that all strikes and lock-outs occurring in the course of industrial disputes for which some competent tribunal exists, or against a decision of the competent tribunal, shall be declared illegal; that there shall be prosecutions and a resolute enforcement of penalties against strikes or lock-outs, and that the funds of any organization of employees or employers guilty of an illegal strike or lockout shall be controlled by the Arbitration Court.

I am astonished that the Government has left unheeded for so long the basic need to place on the statute-book a law, like that proposed in this bill, that could be quickly enforced to deal with circumstances like those of to-day. As the Leader of the Opposition so aptly said', obviously conciliation and arbitration cannot run in double harness with the right to strike. But I remind the House and the country that the Government, through the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), has upheld in no uncertain way the right to strike and has thereby tacitly supported the Communists and discouraged those people who stand for the maintenance of constitutional authority via conciliation and arbitration. We accept this as an emergent and indispensable prerequisite to the correct and appropriate handling of this strike. But we do not accept it as the only method by which the Government could handle this industrial disruption and the lawlessness that arises from it. On behalf of my party, I give the Government an assurance that we recognize that the industrial situation in Australia to-day transcends everything else, and, consequently, we shall assist the Government to the greatest possible extent in connexion with any definite and resolute plan that it may bring forward for our consideration, so as to ensure that this country shall not further be held up to ransom by a minority of disrupters who, unfortunately, wield such influence and can bring such intimidation to bear that otherwise right thinking and responsible trade unionists follow blindly behind them. But the lead must be given by the Government, and it must be given very quickly and very definitely. The Government cannot give that lead while it continues to take the ridiculous attitude that the right to strike can go hand in hand with conciliation and arbitration as established by the laws of the country.

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