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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3025

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I preface my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations by reminding him and the House that among the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which take great care to ensure that members of unions are able to participate effectively in the affairs of their unions are three sections: Section 133, which gives to all financial members of the union the right to vote; section 152, which requires that union secretaries keep a correct account of union ticket butts; and section 170 A, which requires union secretaries to supply to the Commonwealth Electoral Office full particulars of all butts which they have in their possession. Having regard to those conditions or requirements of the Act, I refer to a very serious example of union balloting malpractice which is occurring right now in relation to the Australian Workers Union. At Mt Isa in Queensland more than 1,000 financial members of the union have been refused the right to vote. Does the Minister know that when complaints were made to the electoral officer the electoral officer told the members that he cannot get from the union secretary concerned a list of the members who are entitled to vote and that the union secretary is in breach of the Act and nothing is being done about it? Does the Minister know that the union secretary, on the other hand, when complaints are levelled against him accuses the electoral officer or not sending out the ballot papers? I want to know from the honourable gentleman now what action he proposes to take to ensure that all members of the Australian Workers Union who want to vote for or against the present office holders shall be given the right to vote, providing they are financial.

Mr STREET (CORANGAMITE, VICTORIA) (Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters) -The ballot for the Australian Workers Union election in the State of Queensland is currently proceeding, as the honourable gentleman has said, and I am informed that it will close in early December. I am further informed that as at 3 1 July of this year the audited membership of the northern district of the AWU, which is the district of the union that is concerning the honourable member, was 10,313 members. I have made inquiries of the electoral officer responsible for the ballot in Queensland and those inquiries indicate that at this stage 6,419 ballot papers have been posted to members. I am advised that on previous experience this discrepancy is not an unusual proportion. But inquiries have revealed that there were no butts of membership tickets at the State AWU office for collection by the electoral office as at 7 November. However, it is understood that an additional number of butts are being posted from the Townsville office of the union and should reach Brisbane today.

I have confirmed that the electoral officer, in accordance with section 1 70a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act mentioned by the honourable member, has required that all butts be made available to him. The electoral office in fact has received no complaints at this stage from AWU members about the non-receipt of ballot papers. But any financial member of the AWU who feels that he is entitled to receive a ballot paper should immediately contact the electoral office in Brisbane. There is still time for him to do that and for his membership to be checked and papers issued before the closing of the ballot. If people feel that they have an entitlement to vote and have not yet received the opportunity to do so I advise them to contact the Brisbane electoral office immediately.

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