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Wednesday, 6 July 1949


Mr FADDEN (Darling Downs) (Leader of the Australian Country party) . - I desire- to voice the disappointment of the Australian Country party at the ineffectiveness of the legislation that is before the House. That legislation should be assessed in the light of existing circumstances. The circumstances in which Australia finds itself to-day are most important and urgent. We are insistent that the management of the affairs of the trade unions of Australia shall be restored to the control of the rank and file of those organizations. This legislation is totally inadequate to bring that about. It is out of all proportion to the national needs. It is not legislation of the sort that should emanate from the Australian Parliament. It is obvious, of course, that the Government has been awakened to its responsibilities by recent disclosures of discontent among the rank and file trade unionists with the usurption of their control by their own officials. The process has been gradual but continuous, and it has been most effective. As an alleged counter move, the Government has produced for our consideration this bill, which it considers will be sufficient to achieve its aims in the control of the election of trade union officials. But, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, and his contentions have been ably supported by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), it will prove totally inadequate to carry out its intended purpose. Instead of producing a bill for the establishment of the best possible machine to enable the rank and file trade unionist to have his union affairs honestly and properly controlled, the Government has produced one that, in my opinion, will, if it be enacted, place every possible obstacle in the way of effective and expeditious determination of a trade unionist's dissatisfaction with the conduct of the affairs of his union. As the honorable member for Warringah has said, the responsibility for making applications to the Industrial Registrar of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration about any irregularity in ballots for the election of the officials of trade unions will rest entirely on individual trade unionists who consider that they have been harmed or otherwise adversely affected by such irregularity. The trade unionist who makes an approach to the Industrial Registrar for a fresh ballot on the ground of irregularities in the conduct of the first ballot is likely, as was pointed out by the honorable member forWarringah, to be involved in great cost, regardless of the outcome of the case that he presents. Like the Liberal party, the Australian Country party has for years had a definite policy on the control of trade unions and the desirability of improving the relationship between employees and employers. We have written into our policy that conciliation shall precede arbitration. Our policy is set out hereunder -

1.   Encouragement of good relations between employer and employee by -

(a)   maintenance of the system of Indus trial Conciliation and Arbitration.

(b)   conciliation to precede any approach to the Arbitration Court, and a compulsory secret ballot of all those involved be held by the Industrial Registrar before any strike, lock-out or withholding of services takes place in industry.

(c)   respect for award of properly constituted tribunals by all parties concerned, and the fullest support to employers and employees endeavouring to observe industrial laws and awards.

2.   Creation of machinery to ensure that all trade union elections shall be determined by secret ballot under the control of the Industrial Registrar.

That is not a new-found policy. It has been in our platform for many years. We have for a very long time been greatly concerned about the need for the rank and file unionists to have the final determination of the manner in which the affairs of their unions shall be con ducted. We have always recognized the need for the democratic control of trade unions. We realize that the trade union is an integral part of our industrial wellbeing and that, consequently, the rank and file trade unionists should be protected to the greatest possible degree in order that Australian industry and those employed in it may successfully ward off the cancerous growth of communism. We all must realize that the industrial strength of Australia is being sapped by the Communists, not merely as a part of their internal policy in Australia,but also, and more particularly, as a part of the attempted realization of the ambitions of the Kremlin in Moscow. All means of confounding the Communists in our midst in their efforts to wreck the Australian trade unions and Australian industry itself, must be applied. One means lies in the adaption of the suggestions of the honorable member for Warringah for the conduct of all ballots for the election of the officials of trade unions by the Industrial Registrar of the Arbitration Court. I marvel at the silence of members of the Government on the fundamental need to ensure the preservation of democratic methods in. the election of trade union officials and in the conduct of trade union affairs. It betrays a strange reluctance to support the decent trade unionists who desire to protect their rights against the insidious attacks that are being made upon them by their Moscow-inspired leaders. The Government has ample precedent to guide it if it wishes to ensure the protection of the decent trade unionist's rights. I direct its attention to the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1932 that was passed by the Labour-controlled Parliament of Queensland in 1932 and is still on the Queensland statute-book. Section 51 of that act prohibits strikes and lockouts. Its terms are as follows : -

Prohibition of strikes or lock-outs. (1) No person shall take part in, or do or be concerned or instigate to or aid in doing, any matter or thing in the nature of a strike or lock-out unless or until a strike or lock-out has been authorized by the industrial union or employers in the calling concerned.

A strike shall not be deemed to have been authorized until all the members of the industrial union who are engaged in the calling and in the district affected have had an opportunity of participating in a secret ballot taken .at n genera! meeting duly constituted in accordance with the rules of the union, and a. majority have voted in favour of such strike :

Provided that, where it is inconvenient for members of the union to attend at a general meeting, the decision of the members may be taken by means of a secret poll of the whole of those affected; the pool may be taken by postal ballot or otherwise; or a series of meetings may be held and ballots taken thereat, and in that case the result of the aggregate vote shall be taken ito be the decision:

Provided further that, in any calling where no industrial union exists, no strike shall be authorized and in no case shall any lock-out bc authorized unless and until the registrar has, in manner prescribed by Rules of Court, taken a secret ballot amongst the employees or employers, as the case requires, in the calling concerned, and such ballot has resulted in favour of such strike or lock-out:

Provided further, that no strike or lock-out shall be deemed to have been authorized unless or until the result of the secret ballot or voting thereon of the persons concerned, together with the details of the voting have been communicated to the registrar:

Provided further, that any question as to whether any strike is an authorized strike or any lock-out is an authorized lock-out shall be heard and determined by the Court.

A strike shall not be deemed to have been authorized until all the members of the industrial union who are engaged in the calling and in the district affected have had an opportunity of participating in a secret ballot taken at a general meeting duly constituted in accordance with the rules of the union, and a majority have voted in favour of such strike.

Provided that, where it is inconvenient for members of the union to attend at a general meeting, the decision of the members may be taken by means of a secret poll of the whole of those affected; the poll may be taken by postal ballot or otherwise; or a series of meetings may be held and ballots taken thereat, and in that case the result of the aggregate vote shall be taken to be the decision.

A.   further provision reads -

Any person who commits an offence against this section shall be liable to a penalty, in the case of an employer or industrial union, not exceeding one hundred pounds, and in other cases not exceeding ten pounds.

Thus, since 1932, provision has existed in the Queensland act, prescribing the conditions under which secret ballots must be held in connexion with proposals involving a strike or a stoppage of work. This bill is absolutely silent on that point. It merely provides the means whereby a member of an organization who believes that there has been an irregularity in the conduct of an election for an office in the organization may take steps to have the matter inquired into by the court. In no circumstances could anybody assert that the provisions of this bill are sufficient to rectify the disastrous economic conditions that exist in Australia to-day as the result of the dislocation of industry which has been brought about by a few irresponsible union leaders. It is incumbent on the Government to introduce a measure outlining the basic principles upon which compulsory secret ballots shall be held in relation to any proposal for a strike, lockout, or stoppage of work, which may result in industrial dislocation. This measure should have contained a provision giving to rank and file members of a trade union an opportunity to vote in a secret ballot for the election of their executive and management bodies. Not only has no such provision been inserted in the bill but the Government has also indicated that it will not agree to amend the bill by the insertion of such a provision. For the reasons that I have stated the measure is totally inadequate to meet the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.







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