Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 6 July 1949


Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) can always be trusted by his party to go in to hat when the wicket is sticky. He told us about various union ballots in which hundreds of ballot-papers were returned because the union members could not be found. That amounts to a confession that the unions are not capable of conducting ballots properly. In many instances, the direction of union ballots has been taken over by wicked men. This bill would have the blessing of the Opposition if it represented an honest attempt to deal with the problem, but it does not do so. The honorable member for Hindmarsh voiced

Iiib simple belief in compulsory unionism, lie and his colleagues do not, of course, believe in compulsory military training. Given compulsory unionism, he says, an industrial paradise would be achieved. Is it any wonder that people do not want compulsory unionism when they see the kind of men who have captured control of the unions, and have thereby placed themselves in a position to control the lives and fortunes of thousands of unionists and their families? This bill provides that a member of a union may protest against a ballot, after it has been taken, if he believes that it -was irregular, and his objection will be heard. Of course, the hill is merely a pretence. The rising tide of public indignation has forced the Government to do something and so the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) turned to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and said : " Bert, we have got to do something. We must make a show. But you know my motto - we must not crucify the workers ". Then the Attorney-General, with that technique which is so well known at the United Nations, drafted this bill, which is a mere time-wasting measure, full of sound and fury, satisfying nothing. After it is passed, things will go on just as before. Healy, Roach and other Communists, whom we have sometimes seen sitting in the galleries in this chamber telling the Government what they want, will continue to direct the policy of the unions. This bill is an example of shadow-sparring by the Government in an effort to make decent unionists think that something worthwhile is being done. The vital provision of the hill is> in proposed, new section 96A (1), which reads as follows: -

Where n member of au organization, or a perron who. within the preceding period of twelve months, has been a member of an organization, claims that there has been an irregularity in or in connexion with an election for an office in the organization, or in a branch of the organization, he may lodge an application for an inquiry by the Court into the matter.

The honorable member for Hindmarsh spoke about ballots of railway workers. The Melbourne newspapers recently published the story of an Australian Bailways Union ballot in which Mr. J. J. Brown, a notorious Communist, who is secretary of that union, took the ballot1 boxes away, and kept them for days before they were handed over to the returning officer. Originally, the function of trade unions was to make men better artisans, and to bring them together in order to achieve progress and efficiency. Now, in the hands of men who owe no fealty to Australia, they have become political instruments that are used to further the interests of a. foreign country. Such well-known Communists as Dixon, Thornton and Lockwood are now in Moscow and no doubt iri ve their orders from the other side of the world, and they are obeyed in Australia. We cannot but give credence to the ex-Communist Sharpley, who has told how he, himself, helped to rig union ballots. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) laughs. No one knows more about such things than be does. I should like him to be called before the royal commission in Victoria, which is inquiring into the activities of Communists. The evidence already given before that commission shows that the Government should do something more than is contemplated in this bill. The munition workers had their own industrial organization, and fought for a long time against .the proposal that they should be incorporated in the ironworkers' union. However, because their secretary, who was a good Labour man, and no Communist, opposed the policies of the ironworkers' union, Mr. Thornton said that his organization would have to be swallowed up, and that was eventually done. It is of no use for the Prime Minister to say that he does not read the newspapers. His officers, I am sure, tell him was is going on. Through evidence given before the royal commission in Victoria, many of the under-cover Communists will be exposed for what they are.

This bill is worthless, and will not prevent intimidation. Everybody knows how the Communists work. They join trade unions in order to wreck them. They get themselves elected to executive positions, and then, at union meetings, if they see that there are not enough of their supporters present to carry the resolutions they want carried they put forward a fake agenda for consideration, and await a more favorable opportunity to present iiic business that is their real concern. That is what happened in the ironworkers' union. That is how Healy, the de facto Minister for External Affairs in Australia, exercises such power over the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. That socialism and communism are fruit of the one tree is shown by the fact that the Government is afraid of these men and will not take any real action against them, ls it not obvious that the Government is afraid to antagonize them when we hear such statements as the one that was made to me last week by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) when. I asked him a question about a member of the Trades Hall Council in Melbourne. The Minister said, " That man is not a. member of the Labour party ". How can a member of the Trades Hall Council not be a member of the Labour party or a member of a trade union? The trade unions decide the destiny of Labour members of Parliament. Therefore, the Government does not dare to antagonize trade union leaders who are the profiteers of disaster and to whom strikes bring fame and notoriety. It is afraid of the industrial middlemen who batten on decent trade unionists and who, in fact, are defended by bills of this kind. The Government should haveaccepted the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition. He gave notice of a. private member's bill to deal with union ballots. I remind the House that some of the landmarks in legislative history a.re the abolition of slavery, which stemmed from a private bill introduced in the House of Commons by Wilberforce, and the provision to ensure the safety of ships at sea by preventing overloading of ships, which came from a private member's bill introduced in the House of Commons by Mr. Samuel Plimsoll, whose name is commemorated in the " Plimsoll line " on ships.

Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Burke).- Order! The honorable member's remarks may be interesting, but they have no relation to the bill.


Mr WHITE - The Leader of the Opposition, who is an ex-Prime Minister, gave notice of a bill that, if passed into law. would do all that this hill seeks to do, and more, to ensure that decent trade unionists would not be trodden upon by the Communists who have infiltrated their unions. It is a pity that the Government is afraid to do what we should do had we the power to do it. We would ensure the holding of secret union ballots. It is also a pity that the Government is making this pretence at protecting the unionists. If union ballots were compulsory and secret and were conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Office, the decent unionists would come into their own again and justice would be done. It is only fair and democratic that union officials should be elected on terms like those on which we are elected to the Parliament. A bill that the Opposition would be glad to support is one that would emancipate the trade unionists and restore the freedom to work that is denied to so many of them to-day.







Suggest corrections