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Wednesday, 6 July 1949

Mr SPENDER (Warringah) .- I do not think that the explanation made by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) fully meets the objection which I have made. It is true that the provisions of proposed new section 96k are fair in the sense that they provide that a person who is unsuccessful in instituting an inquiry by the court may, if the AttorneyGeneral thinks fit, recover the whole or a part of the expenses which he has incurred. The point which I have made is that the average unionist is most unlikely to engage in litigation if he realizes that there is some uncertainty about the outcome of his action, as indeed there is in all litigation. First, he may or may not win the case. Secondly, he engages in proceedings which may or may not be lengthy. The question of irregularity is of its very nature likely to involve prolonged litigation. The point which I make is that this hill, which is supposed to protect the average unionist, offers no protection to 99.99 per cent, of the unionists. Even with the protection afforded by the provisions of proposed new section 96k the great majority of unionists would not risk engaging in litigation of this kind. The only person who would be likely to do so would be a defeated candidate. Even if I am wrong in that view it seems to me in any event that there should be some provision in the hill to enable the Registrar to act when a person who is entitled to act does not desire to commence proceedings. I should think that the average man would be very reluctant to commence legal proceedings, and, speaking with some experience, I say that his reluctance would be fairly well founded. In my judgment, the bill will not confer any real right upon trade unionists because of the practical limitations that are imposed upon litigation of this kind. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that intimidation has been practised against trade unionists who have commenced proceedings against organizations, even though they may have been successful. Recently, a Mr. Freeman successfully challenged certain action that had been taken against him by the Wateraide Workers Federation; but he did not win in the end, because finally the federation was able to deal with him in another way. It would not help much if a trade unionist who wished to proceed against hia organization was protected to the extent of being guaranteed the payment of his costs, because a limitation would be imposed by the fear of what might happen to him, even if his action were successful. Provision should be made for the Industrial Registrar, whose task is to see that justice is meted' out, to take action if facts are brought to his knowledge which, in hia opinion, justify intervention by the court. Proposed new section 96b (2) provides that the Registrar may take into account any relevant information which comes to his knowledge. If facts are placed before him or brought to his knowledge which lead him to suppose that an irregularity has occurred, and if nobody else is game enough to move in the matter, why should not he be given authority to move, if he thinks fit to do so?

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