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Wednesday, 6 July 1949

Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (Leader of the Opposition) . - First, I direct the attention of the House to the long title of the bill that now comes up for consideration. It is -

A bill for an act to make provision for the prevention of irregularities in connexion with elections for offices in organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1948, to vest in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration additional powers for the prevention of such irregularities, and for those purposes to amend that act. 1 direct attention to the form that has been used, because, yesterday, we were told by a Minister in charge of another bill that the title of that bill had been made deliberately wide to facilitate amendment. The title of this bill has been made deliberately narrow to prevent amendment. The House will recall that a substantial period of time has elapsed since I gave notice on behalf of the Opposition of a private member's bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That notice was given on the 18th May, and we are now into July. That notice was given, in fact, a month before the coal-miners had their celebrated meeting at which they determined in favour of a stoppage of work on the 27th June. That is a time-table that is worth having in mind. The bill of which I gave notice has not yet come before the House. Indeed, in the nature of things, it cannot come before the House. In fact, the motion for leave to introduce the bill has not yet come before the House, because it is a matter of private members' business, and private members' business has been set aside. It might have been possible, one would have thought, to introduce the substance of that proposal by way of a Government measure on an allied subject-matter, and that is why it is important to point out that the Government has not only got rid of my private member's bill but has also taken very great care to see that the substance of that bill shall have no chance of .being incorporated in the measure now before the Chair, because that measure, as I have said, has a narrowly expressed title, and an amendment of the bill, in committee, to extend the scope of its provisions -in relation to secret ballots would be properly ruled out by the Chairman as being outside the scope of the bill. In order that the Government may not entirely succeed in sidetracking a great and urgent matter in favour of one of minor moment, I propose to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the hill. I therefore propose to move -

That all words after "That" be left out, with a, view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - "the bill be withdrawn and redrafted so as to provide for the insertion in the rules of registered organizations of provisions for the secret ballot in the election of office-bearers and also in respect of voting on proposals for stoppages of work ".

I do so because it seems to be abundantly desirable that this House should have u chance to say what it thinks on a great matter of policy to which a great deal of public attention has been drawn. It is no novelty for an honorable member sitting on this side of the House to raise this matter. In point of fact provision for a secret ballot has stood in the platform of the Liberal party of Australia for some time. It has, I think, been advocated by all members of both parties on the Opposition side of the House. I content myself merely by reading the following paragraph from the platform of my own party :-

Restoration of democratic control of their own affairs by unions by means of the secret ballot both for the election of officers and other specified industrial decisions.

Dr Evatt - At some stage, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like you to rule whether or not the amendment is in order. I should like to submit a view to you on that point.

Mr MENZIES - I have merely indicated my intention to, move an amendment. I shall move it at the end of my speech.

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