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Wednesday, 16 August 1972
Page: 55

Senator JESSOP (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a letter to the editor in yesterday's Adelaide Advertiser* from a trade unionist from Para Hills West? The letter refers to union ordered strikes. Has he noted that the gentleman states in his letter a few lines of which I would like to quote:

After 30 years of working and striking I have had a gutsful of getting up in the morning and wondering whether my union friends are going to tell me to-

Senator Keeffe - I rise to take a point of order. The honourable senator is quoting from a letter to the editor in a newspaper. Obviously it is an unsigned letter. No authority exists, in accordance with your previous rulings, Mr President, for the honourable senator to base a question on that foundation.

The PRESIDENT - Order! The honourable senator has not indicated in any way what the name of the person is, whether the letter was signed or whether it was not signed; nor can the honourable senator vouch for the accuracy of the newspaper report from which he is quoting. I have dealt with that point several times before. I think that the honourable senator has given enough information to enable him to proceed now directly to his question and to enable the Minister to answer it if he can.

Senator JESSOP - Well, I can say that the letter is signed; the name is here. I refer to the concern expressed by this person who wonders whether his union friends are going to allow him to complete a day's work and to draw a full week's pay. I ask the Minister whether he has taken account also of this unionist's recommendations, arising from his letter, to bring in secret ballots for strikes and legislation to deprive union officials of their pay during strikes.

Senator WRIGHT - 1 have noticed the letter. I do not propose to comment upon that letter, but it can be taken as a sample of evidence of anxiety, very naturally entertained by union members, as to the arbitrary, domineering directions of some union bosses. The situation, on the evidence of several unionists, in that respect has become intolerable. In answer to the second part of the question, these matters have been taken into account by the Government in recent periods with regard to the appropriateness of legislation for secret ballots at any stage before or during strikes. It will be remembered that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill passed in the last session, which amended the existing provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, contained provisions whereby, in substance, a presidential member has the authority to order a secret ballot in relation to a question such as that when he deems fit. I state the position quite summarily. But the appropriateness of that provision should not be assumed to apply to all cases of impending disputes.

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