Communist Party of Australia. 1953
Published: Ballot Riggers at Work! Communist Party of Australia pamphlet, printed by G. Wheeler, 16 Corrs Lane, Melbourne, C.1., 1953;
Source: Left History Archive.
In the Communist Party Dissolution Act, the Menzies Government set out to destroy the independence of the Australian trade union movement. That particular move was frustrated by the Referendum’s No vote. The very provisions of that Act portrayed vividly what the government had in mind – it expressed the innermost, deepest aspirations of the Australian employers. In one fell swoop, that Act provided a scheme by which the trade unions would become mere appendages to the State – would be led by officials who were nominees of the government.
Both before, and after the Communist Party Dissolution Act, the employers have been, and are trying might and main to achieve the same objectives. The main line of their attack has been through the so called secret ballot legislation – legislation sponsored initially by the Chifley government, and carried to greater lengths by the Menzies government. Each Act of Parliament – irrespective of the political party which sponsored it – was designed to serve the employing class.
The Chifley Act provided that if after inquiry, the Arbitration Court found there had been “irregularity” in a trade union ballot the Court could order a Court controlled ballot.
The Menzies Act took the matter a stage further and said that if 10 per cent. of the members or 500, in the case of a branch; 1,000 of a federal organisation, whichever is the lesser, made a request to the Court, the Court must order a government ballot. (Part VI. Division 3, Commonwealth Conciliation & Arbitration Act, 1904-1951).
The purpose of each provision was, and is, to destroy the independence of the trade unions.
The scheme that was envisaged by the employers was;
1. Legislation that would open the way for government control of the ballots of militant led trade unions;
2. An apparatus, and candidates in the trade union movement, to take advantage of this – namely the so-called A.L.P. groups and the security service;
3. A big campaign of preparations for the operation of the scheme.
The independence of the trade unions is a matter of prime importance to workers and employers. To a worker, it is a guarantee that there will be a trade union movement that can protect his rights – fight the battle to keep his wages at something like a reasonable standard – prevent him from being victimised – give him the opportunity to pursue working class politics – preserve something of his dignity against the rapacious exploiters (like General Motors Holden which in 1951-52 made £3.5 million out of his sweat and toil: or B.H.P. which in the same period made over £2.25 million).
On the other hand, for the employers, an independent trade union movement threatens the very profitable business of war: for, apart from the political questions involved, trade union demands for higher wages, better conditions, threaten those golden profits. And, of course, if the trade unions in addition to that, declare and work for peace, let alone socialism, there is a still greater threat. The employers have never at any stage given up the struggle to smash the working class movement. Right from the beginning of capitalism the employers have bitterly struggled to smash the trade unions – the Tolpuddle martyrs, transported to our country in 1834, were amongst the many who suffered because they had the temerity to organise. Today, to the employers, it is an even more urgent question.
Impelled to squeeze the last drop of profit from the workers, what a comfort it would be to the employers to know in advance that they had a secure rear, that those they themselves sponsored were the leaders of the trade union in their industry.
The gentlemen of the B.H.P. must rest serenely now: they know that the workers organised by the Ironworkers’ Union – the people out of whose exploitation the B.H.P. makes its millions – will never again (so they hope) raise their voices or use their union to struggle for increased wages or better conditions. The B.H.P. (so they think) can go on its merry way making millions of pounds, unmolested by this most important union, for it is now led by the men they wanted. In their struggle to obtain the very maximum profit, they can see their way clear (so they think) to driving down wages, worsening conditions, lengthening hours.
No wonder the B.H.P. supported the campaign of the Shorts, the Hurrells, and the Lundbergs – the newly installed leaders of that Union. No wonder it played a big part in sponsoring the violent press and radio campaign against the independent trade union leaders who formerly headed this great organisation. No wonder the B.H.P. called into action in the campaign every arm of the State – it is indeed the B.H.P. and other like monopolies which own the State.
Was not the great French writer, Anatole France, a thousand times right when he said that the law in its majestic impartiality punishes alike the rich and the poor for stealing bread and for sleeping under bridges?
Are not the laws made by the Parliaments, laws for the rich? Is it not the function of the Courts to administer the laws?
Do not the police, the security service, the army, carry out these laws?
Yes, the modern state is indeed “subjugated to the monopolies.”
And the aim of the modern monopolies, aided by the weapon of the State is to extract the maximum profit from the workers, and therefore, amongst other things, to wage war.
Within that aim, a foremost position is occupied by the need to drive down wages, and to do that, to destroy the trade unions.
At this very moment, (19/2/53) the employers are trying to reduce the already totally inadequate basic wage to £8/5/-, to increase hours to 48 per week. The employers are desperately attacking all along the front.
Chief Judge Kelly of the Arbitration Court, on February 1, 1952, published a document which proposed:
“1. A reduction by say 10 per cent. per annum of any adjusted basic wage during a period of, say, three years;
“2. Award margins should stand fixed at present rates for a period of, say, three years;
“3. ‘Overtime for the first half hour of ‘overtime’ on any day or the first four hours of overtime in any week be paid for at ordinary rates . . .”
Chief Judge Kelly then took his seat on the Arbitration Court Bench to hear and determine an employers’ application in similar terms. An, objection taken by Mr. A. Buckley (General Secretary of the Boilermakers’ Society) to the effect that the Chief Judge had virtually given his decision on this, by his statement referred to above, was rejected.
Another sidelight on it. On November 27th, 1952, Mr. H. E. Bettle, Managing Director of General Motors Holden, said: “The extent to which we are successful in developing markets depends on the ability of Australian industry to achieve low-cost production.” (Melbourne “Age”, November 28, 1952). (i.e. above all, to keep wages down and working conditions at the very cheapest for the employers). In February 1953, there were 100,000 Australians unemployed and the number daily increases. The very growth of monopoly, with huge amounts of capital involved, impels the monopoly owners “to squeeze the very maximum profit through the exploitation, ruin and impoverishment of the majority of the population, through the enslavement and systematic robbery of the peoples of other countries, especially backward countries, and through wars and militarisation of the national economy.” (Stalin). The monopolists are impelled to launch all out attacks on the workers, to wage war. To them, it is imperative to break the trade unions, and to rid them of honest leaders. To some evidence of the process we have adverted – the aspects that impel them to try to destroy the trade unions must occupy our attention.
As we have said, this threat of the destruction of the trade unions is of paramount importance to every trade unionist-it goes to the heart of his struggle for wages, for better hours and conditions, for peace, for a decent social system. If his trade unions can be taken from him he is indeed a lost soul-at the mercy of the most foul and evil forces in the community.
The fate of the Ironworkers’ Union is a terrible warning – a warning that must be heeded.
Let us, therefore, examine what has been happening – what preceded the passing of the so-called secret ballot legislation.
For the last 10 years or more, a systematic campaign has been waged by the employers to the effect that trade union ballots have been rigged. The press has been full of it, the radio has blared it forth, servile people in the trade unions have assiduously spread it about. The most unscrupulous allegations have been made-day in and day out. The whole of this campaign has been directed against those unions which had elected leaders who were incorruptible, who had been outstanding in the winning of wage increases, who had firmly said that they stood for the ending of the wages system, and its replacement by a social system where the common people would own our country and its resources.
The whole burden of this campaign has been “getting rid of the so-called ‘reds’.” Ministers of the Crown, Press, Radio, Security, every employer, have presented it in this way – part of the anti-red drive. “Red” or “Communist”, means to those people, anyone who stands for peace, for higher wages or in any other way challenges the employers.
Reflect on this a moment: is it not true that every time you have read in the Press, articles about the so-called secret ballot legislation it has been presented as a move against the Communists? (Yet, if it were genuinely introducing secret ballots, there is no doubt that in many unions, it would be a move for the Communists because it is notorious that in many rightwing led unions there is either no ballot at all or an unsatisfactory one).
The main use made, for example, of the informer Sharpley was to try to give body and substance to these allegations. Sharpley came out with many, various and varying stories about the rigging of ballots – he secured headlines in the daily papers – he was the hireling of the monopoly press – of the Chambers of Manufacture and so on. (Yet Mr. Justice Lowe of the Victorian Supreme Court, appointed for the express and declared purpose of finding against Communism, found only one such allegation proved and that, not proved against the Communist Party nor against any individual Communist Party member). But that aside, Sharpley was used to build up the campaign – a campaign waged in a thousand keys.
Then Mr. Justice Dunphy conducted an inquiry into an Ironworkers’ ballot. Mr. Justice Dunphy found “ballot irregularities and fraud on a grand scale.” There is no question but that Mr. Justice Dunphy had to make what finding he felt the evidence warranted. That is not the issue with which we are concerned. What is a matter of concern is that his statement about fraud – was taken up and used on a grand scale in propagating the lie that all union ballots were crooked. Mr. Justice Dunphy’s words have been used far and wide to implant the idea that no trade union ballot is honest, that they are all rigged. To his further comments on ballot rigging we will refer later.
Parallel with this violent campaign, there were set up, what are called A.L.P. groups in the Trade Unions. With A.L.P. members, we have no quarrel – with A.L.P. members of the Trade Unions, we have no quarrel. On the contrary, the whole subject of government ballots is a matter that vitally concerns the Labour Party rank and file. We are sure that they are at one with us in wishing to see the end of this iniquitous legislation: to see the end of the unscrupulous activities of a handful of so-called Labour leaders associated with the beginnings of the groups. But it is well to remind ourselves of the history of these groups. Initially, they came into being as the result of a movement sponsored by what is really a political (and not at all a religious) movement, known as Catholic Action. This movement was seized upon by the so-called “Security Service” who saw in it the possibility of taking over the trade unions.
The Security Service fostered and developed the groups; they put their own men into them: they enlisted some of the people already active in them: they provided funds: they enlisted the aid of the newspapers: they used their contacts in the top ranks of the Labour Party to assist the group movement. After all, it was no good having perfect legislation for getting at” the trade unions yet nobody to use the legislation. An essential aspect of the working of this scheme was that it had to have the appearance of a genuine movement inside the trade unions, that its candidates had to be ostensibly acceptable, for the Australian trade unionist would have none of persons planted from the outside.
But these groups – of whom Catholic Actions’s own secret report, said the important thing was that “Today They” (i.e. the groups) “Have The Cover Of The Labor Party: it is impossible for us to exaggerate this chance for our activists worked might and main to foster inside the labor movement the ballot rigging lie.
With this background – having said that it was only corrupt ballots which kept the groups out – having made such an issue of it – indeed the focal point of their campaign – it would have been impossible for the authorities to allow the militants to win in a Government ballot. Just think about it – the government nominee simply had to win. There could be nothing else. If the militants had won, it would have destroyed years of work on the part of the government – work into which they had thrown the whole resources of the press, the courts, the security service. It would have exploded for ever the lie that Trade Union ballots are rigged. The authorities, in short, would have fallen flat on their faces. What absolute fools and liars the press, the A.L.P. group leaders would have appeared! What a fatal blow to their whole careful scheme and preparation! The logic of that reasoning is incontrovertible.
Conversely, by winning the ballot for their nominees, the authorities consolidated their whole position. Did not the result vindicate their claims that trade union ballots are rigged? Who would question the integrity of a government ballot? Could they now not say: have we not told you all along that once these ballots were conducted in this way, it would be the end of so-called Communist control?
But right at this stage, we want to claim, no to assert, and to produce the evidence, that these government ballots are definitely rigged. Far from the allegations against trade union conducted ballots being true, they are utterly false. The democratically, honestly conducted trade union ballots prove beyond any shadow of doubt that the government ballots are rigged from start to finish.
On September 10, 1952, the Federal Acting Minister for Labour, (Mr. McBride) said that by the end of 1954, there would have been a full round of Court controlled ballots and that would mark the end of “Communist control.” (Melbourne “Age” September 11, 1952). How did he know that? How could he possibly know? Everyone knows that at that time, the trend in trade union elections was to the left. The Seamen’s Union, the Miners’ Federation, the wharfies, to name three unions, whose ballots have never been attacked by the most rabid protagonist of the ballot rigging lie, were all showing a pronounced trend to the left. If one were going to make an honest, sober and objective estimate of the evidence, at the very least, one would have said that by the end of 1954, there would be no guarantee at all that the Communists would have been out of leading positions in the Trade Unions. On the contrary, one would have said the evidence pointed the other way. Consequently, the Minister must have had some other evidence. What other evidence could it be? The evidence was that of the Security Service and their guarantee that this was how the ballot legislation would operate. His statement was certainly no idle statement but the statement of one armed with the Security Service guarantee that the “Communists” (read good union fighters) would be defeated. Furthermore, his statement kept the ball rolling. Well done, he said, in effect, to the A.L.P. group leaders: keep it up and we will guarantee – guarantee is the word – your success. Many people raised their eyebrows when the startling results of the Ironworkers’ ballot became known – those results so completely contradicted contemporaneous trade union trends: they so completely contradicted reliable tests of how the Ironworkers voted. But after all, had not the Minister said just this: had he not forecast it? Who would question a Minister? So this statement falls into the general propaganda department: to build up the dual lie that the Trade Union’s own ballots are corrupt and the government ballots are honest.
Let us examine the technique of conducting one of these ballots. Remind yourself of the practice in Federal and State Parliamentary elections (which for the moment we will assume are unimpeachable. There is one polling day, and one only. The ballot boxes are examined before being put into use at 8 a.m. on polling day: they are examined by the government official and by representatives of the candidate. Throughout the day, they are under the constant scrutiny of literally hundreds of people, including those specially deputed for the task – scrutineers and government officials. Each voter appears personally and identifies himself in the same presence: declares that he has not previously voted: he votes there and then (he cannot take his ballot paper away). At the close of polling, the ballot box is opened in the presence of the scrutineers and the government officials. The votes are there and then counted. From start to finish, the ballot papers are under complete control and supervision. The possibility of malpractice, in such a ballot is small. But in the ballots conducted by the government in trade union elections, the picture is completely different.
There is no single polling day. The ballots have in each case been open for a full fortnight. There is no polling place: there are no scrutineers.
How would it be if in the next Senate election, or election for members of the Federal House of Representatives, or a State Parliament, the ballot was open for a fortnight, and the ballot papers were posted to each voter who had a fortnight to return it – the candidates had no scrutineers – no one knew where the ballot papers were kept – there was no identification of the ballot paper or the voter? Why, the thing is simply laughable! In addition, everyone knows that it is precisely in the postal aspects of State and Federal ballots (i.e. persons unable to attend the booth) that corruption does occur.
As we have said, the ballots have been one and all conducted by post. A ballot paper has been posted to each person on the voters’ roll. That person is required to return it by post by a certain closing date.
For a period of at least a fortnight, the ballot paper is completely out of the control of anyone.
With a postal ballot there is no guarantee whatever that the correct person gets the ballot paper.
Indeed, in all the experience of postal ballots, there are many cases where incorrect persons have received the ballot papers, and many cases where persons eligible to vote have received no ballot papers at all. In the ballot conducted by Mr. Nance, the Commonwealth Returning’ Officer, in the Victorian Branch of the A.R.U., Mr. Nance admitted in an affidavit that at the very least 236 persons eligible to vote had not received a ballot paper. Yet the winning margin for President, on Mr. Nance’s own figures, was only 46. But much more serious is that these postal ballots open the way to deliberate and systematic malpractice – to outright forgery and alteration. You may ask, how can that be?
From the inception of the Commonwealth Security Service, (euphemistically styled the Australian Security & Intelligence Organisation), the Commonwealth authorities set out to establish a network of agents – agents whose identity would be unknown to anyone throughout every government department and every large factory. Governments, both Labour and Liberal, have consistently refused to give any information whatever, on the work of this body or the identity of its members. It follows the precise organisational pattern of the Gestapo. The Security Service has enormous financial resources – it makes lavish payments to its agents even for the most trifling information.
Throughout the Post Office, the Security Service has many of its members – a key place for the security service. Now if you take a ballot which is open for a fortnight, what do you find? First of all the ballot paper has to go out through the Post Office. It is in a distinctive envelope – anyone in the Post Office can see at a glance that it is a ballot paper. It is subject to interference in the very process of going out. But let us assume that the member who gets it, immediately marks it and posts it back. Again, it is in a distinctive envelope that anyone can identify in a moment as a ballot paper. For at least 13 days, no one knows what happens to that ballot paper. Unlike the Saturday polling days in State and Commonwealth elections, the ballot-paper is not within sight and reach of scrutineers, government officials and members of the public.
Does the ballot paper bear the initials of scrutineers? Not at all. There is not the slightest protection or guarantee that the ballot papers ultimately included in the count are the ones that originally go out. The ballot papers are a bare record of the names Of the candidates and instructions on voting. Even in the Saturday polls in Federal and State elections, each ballot paper is initialled in handwriting by the returning officer’s deputy in the presence of scrutineers and of the voter. But nothing like that in these ballots, that are not open for one day in the constant presence of scrutineers, but are open for 14 days, in the entire absence of scrutineers.
If the ballot paper remains in the Post Office it is literally at the mercy of any Tom, Dick or Harry. Its fate depends solely on the honesty of the individual persons who handle it. Leaving the Security Service out of it for a moment, everyone knows that there is dishonesty in every walk of life. While not for a moment questioning the general integrity of the employees of the Post Office, it is known that postal employees have stolen money, have tampered with mail, have committed other crimes. When added to that, there is an almost open season on crimes against Communists – that is, the person who commits a crime in the name of anti-Communism, virtually escapes free, there is, therefore, no doubt that a measure of such interference goes on. On record is the case of one T. Scully, who in a recent ballot of the Postal Workers’ Union – he himself being employed in the mail room of the Post Office – was found guilty by the Union of removing another member’s ballot paper as it went through the Post, filling it in and returning it.
But then, take the Security agents, whose identity no one knows, and whose express job is an anti-Communist job – who are paid for every manner of anticommunist activity. What a simple proposition for them! The ball is literally at their feet. There is the ballot paper: it can be altered: destroyed: substituted: taken away and returned. The possibilities are legion.
However, to make matters worse, the fact is that the ballot papers, on their return, are taken away from the Post Office, to an entirely undisclosed place. Daily, the ballot papers are picked up. If, on the first day 1,000 ballot papers are returned (and each day, of course, the number increases until all papers are returned), then for 13 days those 1,000 ballot papers are at the mercy of the entire Security Service, or any other unscrupulous person. Obviously, the security service has access to every government place. In fact, during these government ballots the Security Service was taxed to the utmost because they had such a big job to do. They had to refuse other assignments until the ballots were over.
All this, you say, is pure speculation but think about this. The Returning Officers have consistently refused to sanction any form of ballot other than a postal ballot. We will hazard a guess that there never will be one of these government ballots conducted like a State of Federal Parliamentary election. There cannot be, for the Security Service could not then carry out to the full its anti-Communist Work.
The Returning Officers have insisted upon postal ballots, even after the most foolproof schemes have been outlined to them for conducting a ballot that is unimpeachable. In the case of the Victorian Branch of the A.R.U., the proposition was a one day ballot straight into sealed ballot boxes under continual supervision. But the Returning Officer refused to do this. He insisted on a postal ballot, and he did so, despite the rules of the organisation which do not provide for postal ballots at all.
Next, there has been a pointblank refusal to allow any supervision on behalf of candidates of the printing of ballot papers. No one knows how many ballot papers are printed: there is not the slightest check on this. An elementary precaution, even against error , in any ballot, and, above all, in a postal ballot, is to have checked and rechecked the number of ballot papers printed, to have destroyed the format of the ballot paper. But no, not these ballots. What is the objection? What logical reason can there be for refusing it? To accede to it, would at least remove some of the ground for suspicion that these ballots are fraudulent. What possible objection, what reasonable or logical objection, could there be to such checking, and also to initialling of ballot papers by scrutineers. None whatever. If it were allowed, that, too would dispose of another objection.
It is not at all unreasonable to conclude that an entire duplicate set of ballot papers is printed. It is, at the very least, possible. Why should there be the possibility? There is not in State and Federal Parliamentary Ballots.
There is nothing in the wide world to prevent the printing of duplicate ballot papers at the behest of the unknown, ever present Security Service, whose avowed aim is to root out Communism. If the ballots were honest, why allow such a state of affairs to exist for one moment! Why not put the suspicion to rest forever! And it can be done with extreme simplicity: by allowing either the candidate or scrutineers to be present – check the printing and allow independent initialling of the ballot papers.
Furthermore, it is well known that the currency is forged from time to time. Excellent facsimiles of £10, £5 and £1 notes have been produced – notes that defy the scrutiny, except of those with the utmost skill. Leave aside the machinations of the unknown, ever present, ever active Security Service. What is there to stop anyone from making ballot papers and putting them in the ballot? Nothing whatever. It may be said that the type of paper is exclusive: it cannot be duplicated. That is nonsense. The most exclusive paper is that used for printing the currency, but an expert forger has little difficulty in duplicating it. In the government ballot, there is not the slightest guarantee that whole numbers of these ballot papers are not forged – not the slightest.
On such controversial matters, why leave it open? Why not seal up the gaps? What is the objection? How can it hurt anybody? Why is it not done? It is not done precisely because the Security Service wants an open go. Forgery, provocation, are their daily commodities.
Let us put another argument. In each of the government run ballots, simultaneously with the posting out of the ballots in the very same post, each person who has got a ballot paper has got a how to vote ticket issued by the so-called A.L.P. group. It is claimed that this is pure coincidence, that no one knows when the ballot papers are going out – no one at all. A remarkable coincidence, indeed – most remarkable one that would strain the credulity of any reasonable being. No doubt, it is a coincidence that Mr. Menzies and Mr. Holt praise the activities of the A.L.P. groups – claim that they, the Liberal leaders, have done more to help the groups than the Labour leaders. No doubt it is a pure coincidence that every proposition made by these groups is acceded to and every application made by their opponents is rejected. Yes, these are coincidences to the childishly credulous, but they are not to the honest man – they are extremely sinister manifestations of a very foul scheme.
Let us come to the close of the ballot. At this stage, that is, after the ballot papers have been lying round for periods of up to a fortnight – suddenly scrutineers are allowed. They are allowed to witness the count. In short, after all the damage is done, scrutineers, for the first time in the course of the ballot, are allowed.
Let us recapitulate:
(a) There is no supervision of the printing – every request that there be such supervision has been rejected;
(b) There is no scrutiny at the vital stages of the ballot before the counting and all requests for scrutineers have been rejected;
(c) There are no safeguards on the ballot paper and all requests for such safeguards have been rejected;
(d) There is no supervision at the Post Office on behalf of candidates and all requests for it have been refused;
(e) No one on behalf of the candidates knows where the ballot papers are kept or what is done with them after they are returned;
(f) Information about the ballot has been given to candidates of the so-called A.L.P. groups.
It may be objected that what we have said just could not happen with government controlled ballots – that the Commonwealth officers are beyond suspicion – that there has never been any case of malpractice in a State of Federal Parliamentary election, Well, of course, there have been cases of malpractice, even in State and Federal elections, and particularly in that part done by post for the sick, absentees and so on. But the circumstances of the government elections in the trade unions are completely different for the reasons that we have pointed out above.
However, there is no need for the Returning Officers to know anything about this fraud on a grand scale that we assert goes on. The whole ballot is conducted in such a way, that, from start to finish, the job can be done in secret. The Returning Officers, knowing nothing of what goes on behind the scene, merely have to stick to their guns about the method of the ballot. In every step taken, Commonwealth legal officers have advised the Returning Officers.
The very position of the Returning Officer, the very tradition about him, provides the most ideal set up for skullduggery on the grand scale. Behind him, given the possibilities, almost anything can be done. That the whole scheme provides the opportunity has been proved above.
As a matter of fact, corrupt practices in government ballots have long been the order of the day in the U.S.A. America is a land in which it can be solemnly recorded that of a population of 19,923, including children, of an electorate in Kansas City, 20,687 votes were returned. (The Tax Dodgers: Irey and Slocum). The U.S.A. has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in exporting its way and means to other countries. It is busy taking over our country – its total investments in Australia exceed £ 138,000,000: it has invested £50,000,000 in the last six months. (Figures from American Department of Commerce and Australian Minister for National Development, Spooner).
Its “Office of Strategic Services” enjoys an annual appropriation of 100,000,000 dollars to carry out just the sort of work of faking ballots in foreign countries. There are millions of dollars of undisclosed expenditure. Of course, Australia is a foreign country to America, and a very important one. In Australia, the American monopolists maintained a gentleman named Weiner, a so-called Trade Union liaison officer. It is another one of those sinister coincidences that the technique of successfully conducting these ballots has occurred at precisely the same time as Mr. Weiner has been taking an interest in Australian trade union affairs. The F.B.I., notorious security service of America, has a strong influence in the Australian Security Service: its methods and even personnel are being imported.
The American Office of Strategic Services, with its various instruments, including the F.B.I., are to-day, busy organising even the murder of the outstanding patriots of many lands – anyone who dares to question the almighty dollar is on the black list. Forgery is part of their stock in trade. Many are the forged master plans “discovered” by these practitioners of corruption. Plotting is their daily work. To them, everything is justified in their holy crusade on behalf of the dollar: forging a few additional ballot papers to defeat the “Reds” (read “decent union fighters”) is a mere nothing – all in the day’s work.
Take another aspect of it. Day in and day out, the newspapers scream their hatred of the workers: howl about “Communists” (and that means anyone who voices any sort of protest about his conditions). Anyone, who, for example, has had experience of a strike, knows the unscrupulous lying of the press. The daily newspapers are a byword for lying: how often do we say “Oh, you can’t believe anything in the newspapers.” But the gentlemen who own the newspapers are the very same gentlemen who own the B.H.P., the Banks and the Shipping Companies, the Coal Mines, the bonds in the Railways, Tramways and so on. The newspapers merely express what is in their minds. And if they lie, fabricate, invent, indulge in anti-working class provocation, is that far removed from outright forgery? If they present trade union leaders and people whom they dub “Communists” as criminals (as in fact they do) against whom it is legitimate to do anything at all, is it surprising that they will go to any lengths whatever to defeat these “Communists"?
Many will recall the shameful incident when Dobson, (who had been sponsored by leading politicians of both Liberal and Labor Parties) threw himself into Sydney Harbor and then alleged that “Communists” in the Clerks’ Union had attempted to murder him – a story, no doubt, that he would have got away with if he hadn’t made a number of crude mistakes.
If the employers will bribe, as it is notorious they have, what is the difference between that and forgery, between that and ballot rigging – very little. In the Tramways’ strike in Victoria, in 1950, a gentleman named Port was offered financial inducements to act as a fifth column in breaking the strike. He was offered them with the full knowledge and authority of Victorian Labor leaders. The job was executed by one of Mr. Cain’s colleagues. Do you see much difference between that and putting a few ballot papers in a ballot of which you have undisputed control?
There you have it – a violent press campaign which creates the atmosphere, a government official conducting the ballot, an apparatus consisting of the Security pimps and the A.L.P. groups to do the skulduggery. A perfect set up to take over the trade unions from within – the age long dream of the employers come true.
Throughout every government ballot there has been, every proposition of the inner core of A.L.P. group leaders has been carried into effect. In effect the government has lent its apparatus to this handful of individuals who have no real connection with the Labor movement. The history of these people will not stand up to the slightest scrutiny. Apart from all other considerations, their history has been one of corruption in ballots. How often have Labor Party pre-selection ballots been the subject of scandal? History records the names of leading A.L.P. officials linked with ballot corruption. These are the past masters in ballot rigging. Over long years the technique has been perfected. Now it is being used to bigger and better advantage. Furthermore, the Security Service has established its direct agents and employees within these A.L.P. groups and in Trade Union official positions. What further evidence is needed?
Ask yourself, too, why it is that the legislation precludes an appeal against one of these government ballots. Why should there be no appeal? To those who have nothing to hide, as these gentlemen claim they have nothing to hide, would not the logical, reasonable thing be to allow the maximum right of appeal? Apart from the wholesale faking that went on in the A.R.U. ballot, for instance, there were irregularities which clearly affected the result of the ballot (as for instance, Nance’s admission that members, though entitled to vote, did not receive a ballot paper), but which could not be made the subject of an appeal because the Arbitration Act provides:
“The provisions of this Division relating to inquiries do not apply in relation to an election conducted under this section.” (Section 96M (8))
The figures in some government ballots are indeed revealing. In the 1952 Ironworkers’ ballot in Victoria, where the then officials had been in undisputed leadership for more than 15 years, a check ballot conducted in accordance with the Union rules, showed a vote of 2,624 votes for Flanagan (the sitting militant Secretary) and a vote of 109 for Lundberg, his opponent. (The third candidate, Grant, polling 561). It may be objected that this ballot was restricted by the boycott of the A.L.P. groups – a boycott supported by a fierce press campaign. The press urged Ironworkers to ignore it: said that it would have no legal effect: that it was fraudulent and 4 thousand and one other things. But far from the boycott restricting the ballot: it emphasises that it was indeed a true reflection of the very minimum support for Flanagan. Here in a voluntary ballot which in fact did have no legal effect, where no one had any incentive to vote other than a desire to test the accuracy of the government ballot, 2,624 Ironworkers voted for Flanagan. Yet in the government ballot for which the press, the A.L.P. groups, and everyone else contrived to ensure a big vote, Flanagan got 1,679 votes and Lundberg 2,757. Could you believe for a moment, that there could honestly be such a discrepancy? Of course there couldn't. Perhaps you will say “all right, the dishonesty lay in the ballot in which Flanagan got the 2,624 votes.” But the voting in that ballot took place, in the main, in the factories, in the sight of hundreds of members, in conditions approximating those of State and Federal Parliamentary elections – the results, factory by factory, were published. So everyone in the factories was in a position to know whether or not there had been malpractice and if there had been, had only to raise his voice about it. No one would question that such a voice would have had a joyful reception in the press, in the government, in the Security Service, in short in every such circle. Anyone, even with an invented story (provided it was at all credible) about an irregularity in this ballot would have been handsomely remunerated by the press, the employers and the Security Service. Yet not a word was said against it by any of the more than 3,000 participants – not one word.
Then there were Mr. Short’s desperate calls that the ballot be boycotted. Why? What possible conceivable reason could he have? If the government ballot is a genuine one, surely Mr. Short would be only too anxious to flatten, for all time, the allegations made against it? Surely he would urge his supporters to vote to a man in the Ironworkers’ own ballot and secure approximately the same result in this ballot as in the government ballot.
But instead of that, what do you find? Let Mr. Short speak for himself (or rather through his mouthpiece, the monopolist “Herald” newspaper): “The National Secretary of the Federated Ironworkers’ Association, Mr. L. Short, today directed Victorian members to ignore the unofficial ‘check ballot.’
“Mr. Short said the check ballot was irregular, and that attempts to stampede or intimidate ironworkers into taking part in it would bring swift disciplinary union action.”
In Victoria, the key vote in the government ballot was 2,757 for Lundberg (the government supported candidate) and 1,679 for Flanagan, (the workers’ candidate). In the Sydney, Newcastle, Queensland, South Australian and Tasmanian Branches that pattern was almost exactly followed.
You will thus see that it was a consistent 2 to 1 majority against the militant candidates. In Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, the Ironworkers’ Branches were under the leadership of the militants there was no organised opposition whatever. Such respect did the policy of the sitting officials command that neither at union meetings nor in the factories, was there any opposition to them. In the union’s own ballot, they received a 10 to 1 majority: yet you are asked to believe that, in the government ballot, Lundberg, secured a 2 to I majority over Flanagan. In his own factory, in the voluntary ballot, Lundberg got not one single solitary vote!
Indeed, so lacking in confidence were Mr. Short and his colleagues of their ability to command any sort of rank and file support in Victoria (and South Australia and Tasmania) that they amended the rules of the Union to provide that the branches must put their ballots in the hands of the Court. There are, of course, alternative ways of getting a ballot into the hands of the Court. The most familiar is on the petition of 500 members: but Short & Co. said, quite frankly, that they had no earthly chance of getting 500 signatures in Victoria. That was a sober analysis of the position – in fact, they did not have a chance of getting 500 signatures because they had not, and have not, the genuine support of 500 Victorian members. Yet you are asked to believe that 2,757 voted for their candidate – that is, more than five times as many as they themselves freely admitted they could not get. The way they got to the Court was not through any petition, or any move of the rank and file, or even of the Committee of Management, but by using their majority on the Federal Council to amend the rules to compel the branches to put their ballots in the hands of the Court.
A further extraordinary feature of this extraordinary ballot was that in Port Kembla the militant candidate for secretary was defeated by only a handful of votes. Yet at Port Kembla, a calm and sober estimate before the ballot showed that it would be very close. What an extraordinary discrepancy – a 2 to 1 majority everywhere except in Port Kembla. It just could not happen honestly. What happened was that the Security Service didn’t get round to the job of dealing with Port Kembla.
Are you to believe that of all the places in Australia, Port Kembla was the only one where, at the very least, the genuine vote would be about even?
Of over 30 positions in the Victorian Branch of the Union, the militant candidates won not a single solitary one and in no case did the voting vary from the approximately 2 to 1 majority against them. You are asked to believe that of over 30 positions in a union where the militants were in undisputed leadership, where it was impossible to get 500 signatures for a government ballot, the militants didn’t come within a thousand votes – a thousand votes, mind you – of winning one single, solitary position. It is, indeed, straining credulity too far.
In common with other government ballots, the ballot paper here was the bare letterpress of the candidates names and the voting instructions. It contained no signature of anyone at all on behalf of the union or the candidates. Nance’s (the Returning Officer) own signature was machined-not even handwritten (not that that would have necessarily presented any obstacle). The significant thing is the absence of any independent signature. (That, too, is an obstacle that these people could get over but at least it would he an obstacle). No witnessing was allowed, let alone supervising of the printing of the ballot papers, nor (except at the count, when it was too late) was there any scrutiny of the ballot. Mr. Nance said that the ballot papers were picked up every day from the Post Office, but refused, and still refuses, to say where they were kept.
Yet after the ballot was concluded, that is, at the count, super democracy became the order of the day, the scrutineers (scrutineers, mind you, only of the count), being offered the custody of the key to the ballot box at lunch time – a fine gesture indeed, but only serving to emphasise the contrast of what transpired before the ballot. Such happenings only deepen the evidence from which the inference is irresistible that the ballot is crooked.
Let us look at the A.R.U. ballot-Victorian Branch.
This time a petition was taken up – a petition signed by more than 500 members. Accordingly, we can conclude that the A.L.P. group leaders in the A.R.U. have a certain degree of mass support. But the members of the A.R.U. far and wide, demanded a ballot taken in accordance with the union rules – that is, a ballot taken on the job which would be under the constant supervision of many members – in short, one approximating the conditions of a State or Federal Parliamentary election.
Ignoring these demands, Mr. Nance, on June 16, 1952, informed the Union that he had decided to conduct a postal ballot. A fortnight before this, Lloyd Ross, the “Herald's” “Labour” writer, had announced that a postal ballot was to be held. A.L.P. group leaders had made similar statements. Obviously, the A.L.P. group leaders were right in the know, long before the Union was officially informed. Again, these individuals sheltered behind the Returning Officer.
The A.R.U. protested at this disregard of the Union’s rules – but to no effect.
As indicated above, the A.R.U. leaders proposed a fool-proof method of conducting the ballot, under which Union collectors and Sub-branch secretaries would work together with Electoral Officials, and 90 per cent. of the members would vote on the job straight into sealed ballot boxes. The proposal was rejected.
A postal ballot was insisted upon.
Demands poured in on the Electoral Officer for proper safeguards over the ballot.
The A.R.U. demanded:
That scrutineers be permitted to observe the printing of ballot papers;
That representatives of the candidates be permitted to initial the ballot papers;
That the A.R.U. seal be placed on the ballot papers;
That a sealed ballot box be placed in the post office to receive the ballot papers;
That scrutineers be present when ballot papers were collected from the post office, and that the ballot papers be placed under seal each day as they were collected.
EVERY ONE OF THE REASONABLE AND LOGICAL PROPOSALS TO SAFEGUARD THE BALLOT WAS REJECTED!
The A.R.U. supplied lists of names of members to Mr. Nance. Addresses were supplied by the Railways Department.
Because of the insistence on a postal ballot, hundreds of malpractices occurred. (Let us assume, for a moment, that they were innocent).
At least two railwaymen who are not A.R.U. members received ballot papers; Some members received two sets of ballot papers; One member even received three sets of ballots papers;
Many members who were entitled to receive ballot papers, and whose names appeared on the lists of financial members, did not receive ballot papers. (Mr. Nance’s admission that some did not receive ballot papers at all, has been previously referred to);
One member found his ballot papers in the paddock next door to his home the day after the ballot closed;
One member found an empty envelope, which presumably had contained his ballot papers, stuffed into his hedge;
Many members received their ballot papers after the closing date of the ballot;
The ballot papers of many members were sent to incorrect addresses.
Knowing that the way in which the government proposed to run the ballot left the ballot wide open to the most serious abuses, a check ballot was run in the Union.
Well-known and highly respected A.R.U. member, Mr. George Morris, of Newport Workshops (a man whose integrity is universally accepted) was appointed returning officer in the check ballot.
In a very short time, ballot papers were issued to about 60 per cent. of A.R.U. members. (In the time available, it was not possible to cover all members in the check ballot). Of those who received ballot papers, nearly 6,000 voted by about, 10 to I in favour of the militant candidates.
This was a convincing demonstration of the tremendous rank and file support for J. J. Brown as Secretary and his colleagues.
A gasp of amazement went right through the railways when the results of the government-run ballot were announced.
The A.R.U. members knew that the ballot was wide open. They knew that the Menzies Government was determined to remove militant leaders from the Victorian Branch of the A.R.U. Yet many A.R.U. members believed that, after such a campaign, with such obvious signs of overwhelming rank and file support, no one would dare tamper with the ballot.
But the ballot was fixed. The postal ballot, and the absence of any safeguards, provided the opportunity – and the job was done.
On top of all the irregularities, which have already been indicated, there was wholesale tampering with the ballot. The results prove it.
Take a look at these figures. For the Secretary’s position Brown (the militant candidate) polled 6,560 while the government candidate Ryan polled 5,474 while for President, Fogarty (the government candidate) polled 6,020 and Williams (the militant candidate) 5,974.
If you accept these figures, you are expected to believe that in the government ballot:
Over 80 per cent. of financial members returned their ballots papers before the closing date – when 60 per cent. is considered a good return in a postal vote in Australian trade union ballots;
Add to that, that there has been no statement as to how many were returned through the post unclaimed.
On experience it would not be less than 15 per cent., but let us say 15 per cent. The overall return then was 95 per cent. in a postal ballot. The thing is absolutely preposterous.
Of the 2,000 members who voted in this ballot, but did not vote in the March 1952 ballot, every single one voted for the right-wing candidates.
Of the 305 extra votes (as against March 1952) in the Union’s Rolling Stock Division, all but about half a dozen voted for the government supported candidates; (allowing 15 per cent. for unclaimed ballot papers, the return was over 100 per cent.);
Of the 578 extra votes in the Traffic Division, all but a handful voted for the government supported candidates;
Of the 339 extra votes in the Officers’ Division, over 300 were cast for the government supported candidates;
Of the 340 extra votes in the Works, Signal & Telegraph Division, 316 were cast for the government supported candidates.
The Acting Minister for Labour, Mr. McBride, described the appointment of right wing supporters to the positions of President and Vice-President of the Victorian Branch of the A.R.U., and to a majority of positions on the State Branch Council, as: “One more vindication of the legislation” (i.e. the Arbitration Act amendments), “designed...as a practical step towards greater industrial peace.”
“Industrial peace” – that is just a polite name for the destruction of the independent trade unions.
They are confident that the men they have placed in leading positions in the A.R.U. will keep the (industrial) peace – on the employers’ terms!
For a moment, we must return to Mr. Justice Dunphy.
In an official document, dated October 28, 1952, Mr. Justice Dunphy reported on some government ballots in trade unions. That report makes remarkable reading. Let Mr. Justice Dunphy speak for himself: “The Court’s declaration of Short as National Secretary of the Ironworkers’ Association and the success of his followers at subsequent elections was not nearly the end of the matter.
“A rearguard action was fought by the Left Wing Rump and several applications had to be made to the Court ... to defeat unfair, inequitable and illegal use (or misuse) of the Union rules against him. If a sympathetic and informed history of this particular phase of Australian industrial relations is ever written it should be recorded that the Court’s invocation of equitable principles under this part of the Statute was instrumental in preserving democratic rule within the fabric of domestic administration of organisations.” (Industrial Information Bulletin, October, 1952, p. 857). If we strip that of all its verbosity, do we find a political speech or not: what do you think of the words “a rearguard action was fought by the Left Wing Rump” or of the words “if a sympathetic and informed history of this particular phase is ever written
Let us again quote Mr. Justice Dunphy. After summarising his enquiry and order for a government ballot in the Ironworkers’ Union, he said: “This election” (i.e. the government ballot) “was duly held and resulted in an overwhelming vote in favour of the A.L.P. candidates which result, I suggest, somewhat supports my findings.” (Mr. Justice Dunphy apparently, felt the need to look for support for his findings). “The Returning Officer in the election under investigation was admittedly a Communist” (why “admittedly”: one makes an admission of a crime or some wrongdoing: to Mr. Justice Dunphy being a Communist warrants an admission: that is, it is a crime, or otherwise wrong, to be a Communist) “and, as the election ordered in my finding has been described as ‘Court controlled ballot’ a comparison of the relevant voting figures might be interesting and I append the details hereunder:”
1949 Communist Controlled Ballot
AHERNE, D. (A.L.P.) 2,216
MACKAY, J. M. (Com.) 4,022
(Note: Mr. Justice Dunphy brands Mackay ‘(Com.)’ when, in fact, Mr. Mackay is a lifelong A.L.P. member).
“Senior Nat. Vice President:
PAPPS, R. (A.L.P.) 1,868
McHENRY, P. (Com.) 3,951
“Assistant Nat. Sec.
GASCOINE, P. (A.L.P.) 1,993
McPHILLIPS, L. J. (Com.) 3,900
1952 Court Controlled Ballot
AHERNE, D. (A.L.P.) 11,916
MACKAY, J. M. (Com.) 5,940
Senior Nat. Vice President:
CAMERON, (A.L.P.) 12,320
McHENRY, P. (Com.) 5,851
Assistant Nat. Sec.
HURREL, (A.L.P.) 12,445
McPHILLIPS, L. J. (Com.) 6,255
“Incidentally, the above pattern is typical of the result of all elections ordered as a consequence of inquiries held by me in this special jurisdiction. In each and every instance when I have ordered a ballot because of Left Wing inspired irregularity the consequential voting result has strongly favoured Right Wing candidates.”
Mr. Justice Dunphy claims this as vindicating his position. We claim it as doing the exact reverse: if your approach is based on what we have previously said, the very figures produced by Mr. Justice Dunphy, fit exactly the pattern we say exists in all these ballots. A threefold increase in the vote with a 2 to 1 majority against sitting officials!
(Nobody can stop Mr. Justice Dunphy from making the assumptions that he does: namely that all ballots in Left Wing led unions are rigged. But one is equally entitled to make the opposite assumption, and adduce the evidence to support it, as we have done).
Another aspect of this – Mr. Justice Dunphy sweepingly speaks of “Left Wing inspired irregularity” and in the same report, only one sentence further on, he says: “I was unable to say who was responsible for the forged markings in the Ironworkers’ matter.” A strange situation – that he can say he is unable to determine who was responsible but yet speak of left wing inspired irregularity.
(Some other views of Mr. Justice Dunphy, perhaps, cast some light on the scene. He said: “The right to strike has gone. It died when a system of law was introduced which give the people who had the right to strike a complete and absolute remedy. (!) ... So complete has been ‘the workers’ emancipation that nowadays they have little to complain about and their contribution to the community should be continuity of production. Despite the Arbitration Court, troubles arise in industry because of greed and fear. It is to the greedy that Communism appeals because Communism can always outbid democracy.” (Melbourne “Herald,” May 12 , 1949), and again “Capitalism in the old sense of the term is dead.” (Melbourne “Sun”) May 18, 1949). ).
The critics will say: “How do you account for the militant majority returned in the government ballots in the N.S.W. Branch of the Blacksmiths’ Society, and in the election for country sub-branch delegates of the A.R.U. in Victoria, which returned a majority of militant delegates.”
To this we rejoin, such results go to prove our contentions to be correct. In each case, only a small number of votes was involved. To tamper with a small number of votes is terribly dangerous because the fraud can be exposed by the pimple expedient of getting hold of all the people who voted for a particular candidate. For example, if we take the Lethbridge sub-branch of the A.R.U. there was only some 35 votes involved, all told. Though that is the smallest, many of the others were of a similar pattern.
(As a matter of fact, there is no doubt that some, even of these sub-branch votes, were tampered with to produce a government majority: others were interfered with but not sufficiently).
Similar considerations apply to the Blacksmiths, where the total vote was only some 500.
Though roundly defeated in the government ballot for country sub-branch delegates to the A.R.U. Annual Conference, a narrow coterie on the A.R.U. State Executive, insisted on a government ballot for metropolitan delegates. Offered the joint returning officership in a union conducted ballot they declined. They insisted on the government postal ballot open for a fortnight with no safeguards whatever. Why? Because they know beyond any doubt that the very purpose of government ballots is to put their men into office: they know that if all goes well, they cannot lose. They were prepared to accept defeat in the ballot for country delegates: quite happy about it. Why? Because they hoped that a genuine result would boost the waning confidence in these government ballots. The sub-branch delegates’ election, indeed, helped to preserve the mass faith in the tattered flag of the honesty of government ballots. That was its very purpose.
It is again a commentary on these ballots, that with experience the technique of the ballot riggers has improved. No doubt it will improve still further. From the inordinately high return of ballot papers in the A.R.U. elections, there will no doubt be a smaller return next time: other defects will be removed. One by one, the objections made in this pamphlet will be met to give the ballots the appearance of verisimilitude. But no matter what they do, we say that these ballots are rigged from start to finish. As we said before, when the government ballots are taken on the job, in one day, with every ballot paper scrutinised and opened in the presence of scrutineers out of whose sight the ballot boxes have never been, then and then only, will we begin to believe in the genuineness of government ballots. And when that day comes, there will be no government ballots because their very purpose will have been defeated. Such a thing will never be agreed to voluntarily: of that you can be perfectly sure.
Another insidious aspect of this whole matter, is the huge burden of expense the unions are called on to bear.
If we take as an example the Railways’ Union, with a financial membership of some 15,000, the Union must bear the cost of postage out to 15,000 members, that is to say, 15,000 at 3.5d each, and must bear the cost of 15,000 business reply envelopes, that is to say, 15,000 at 4d each. Mr. Nance, the government Returning Officer, after a protracted delay, rendered the account for the 1952 ballot, £707. There is no doubt that the government knew full well that the members of the A.R.U. were in open revolt against this tremendous burden. Thus the Attorney-General, i.e. the Menzies Government, paid £361 of the original account which was £1068 – (£707 plus £361) towards the cost of the ballot. Cheap at the price! Yet if the Union itself conducted the ballot, there would be none of this financial burden, the cost would only be the cost of printing the ballot papers.
In addition to the actual costs incurred by the Electoral Department, the Union was forced to engage additional clerical assistance and pay overtime for clerical work caused by the method of conducting the ballot. That expenditure amounted to £720.
Almost before the ink was dry on the government ballot results, the government appointees, led by Mr. Ryan, clamoured for a new government ballot in the A.R.U. which will cost approximately the same. Therefore, in the short space of less than six months, the Union is asked to carry an additional financial burden of roughly £2,000. In other words, £2,000 of the members’ money is diverted from the struggle for wages, conditions, which is the very purpose of unionism. What a godsend to the employers, to the government, and to all anti-union forces! It is indeed a perfect technique for breaking the unions under the slogan of giving them honest ballots.
The Ironworkers’ ballot involved that Union in thousands of pounds additional expense. There has now been incorporated in the rules of that union, the provision that all ballots must be conducted by the government. Thus, there will be a constant drain on the resources of the Union, that is, a diversion of its strength from the real purpose of trade unions.
The cost of conducting a ballot which approximates the conditions of State and Federal elections would in fact be far less than the cost of these postal ballots. The A.R.U. has estimated that about 40 electoral officers would be needed to conduct a ballot like a Federal or State Parliamentary election. If we are generous to them, and allow them £4 each, for the one day they are engaged, that gives a sum of £160 compared with the postage alone of £468/5/-.
It may be said that it is impractical for 40 electoral officers to be available on the one day, to do the job, but everyone knows that in a State or Federal Parliamentary election there are literally hundreds of officers available. And in the very count of the government conducted ballot in the A.R.U., 24 electoral officers worked on Saturday, at penalty rates, to count the ballot. The claim that it is impractical will riot stand up to a moment’s examination.
Almost parallel with the A.R.U. and Ironworkers’ ballots, was the ballot in the Tramways’ Union, Victorian Branch. Here is a ballot conducted on one day, in circumstances which approximate those of Federal and State Parliamentary elections. It is taken in the tramway depots, the ballot boxes are under continual supervision from start to finish, including their being opened in the presence of a large number of people. The Tramways Union has been noteworthy in its pendulum like swing between left and right leadership. Yet at the time when the Ironworkers, always a militant section of the working class, and the railworkers, were supposed to be showing majorities for right wing candidates, O'Shea, Communist Secretary of the Tramways Union, received 2,770 votes to his opponent’s 896. In the balloting for Federal Secretary, of the votes from Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia, O'Shea received a majority of 1,200.
When the comment was made to a government electoral officer that the Tramways’ Union had returned militants, he said: “Yes, that’s one we haven’t got hold of yet!”
But there it is – the tramway employees in their own ballot, returning the militants: a ballot conducted in conditions of scrupulous honesty: at the same time in a government postal ballot, the Ironworkers and railwaymen throwing the militants out. A remarkable situation!
To get hold of all such ballots, no effort is lacking. Hopelessly beaten in the tramways’ ballot, the gentlemen so enamoured of court ballots, organised obvious interference with the N.S.W. section of the ballot for General Secretary of the Tramways Union. (The N.S.W. Branch of the union is led by right wing officials). The room where the ballot papers were was broken into. Eight hundred ballot papers were interfered with. There is no doubt that one of the motives in this was to bring discredit on ballots conducted by the unions themselves, to foster the campaign for court controlled ballots. No one dared to suggest that the militants had anything to do with this interference with the ballot. Knowing that a government ballot would give them unquestioned leadership, the gentlemen of the groups and of the Security Service took steps which they thought would get the ballot into the hands of the government.
Again, almost parallel with the Ironworkers and A.R.U. ballots, was that of the Waterside Workers’ Federation where, except in Victoria, the conditions of the ballot approximate those of State and Federal Parliamentary elections. And, at the very same time, as the Ironworkers militants are supposed to be being beaten 2 to 1, Mr. J. Healy well known Communist, is returned General Secretary of the Waterside Workers’ Federation by an all time record majority. Indeed remarkable!
The question naturally arises: “Are the trade unions helpless in the face of this onslaught against their positions?” As we pointed out previously, the trade unions have grown up only as a result of vigorous struggle against attacks of every type. There have been attacks both from within and without. There has been corruption. The trade union movement has grown from strength to strength. It is true that this particular form of attack is the most insidious of all, but it can be defeated and it will be defeated. To fail to defeat it is to forego one of the most vital positions of the whole struggle of the working class for freedom: means to place an incomparable weapon in the hands of all those evil forces in society. Naturally, you will ask how then can it be defeated. Against the open onslaught of the Communist Party Dissolution Act, the Australian working class responded to a man, to beat the attack back. The Australian working class must see this new threat as just as great a menace to their trade unions as was the Communist Party Dissolution Act. Therefore, every single trade unionist must be acquainted with the nature of this legislation and the diabolical menace it constitutes to his very livelihood, must demand its immediate repeal: the restoration to the Unions of control of their own affairs. Once the facts are known, once they become the possession of all trade unionists, half the battle is won. It is the bounden duty of every honest person to make these facts known.
One thing which has facilitated the operation of this legislation has been the attitude of leaving the battle to the union affected. But an attack on one union is an attack on all unions. The emasculation of the Ironworkers’ Union is not only a serious blow to the Ironworkers. but is an extremely serious blow to all other trade unions – in short, to the whole working class. Furthermore, it sets a pattern, a precedent. Conversely, the defence of the Ironworkers’ Union is the defence of the whole working class. Whenever any union is attacked, that attack is immediately a matter for all trade unions. All trade unionists must rally to the defence, financially, morally and if necessary, by direct action, of the union which falls victim of this legislation. No union can stand aside and say: “We are free of government ballots, therefore, we need not worry.” Each victory by the government encourages it to go further. The whole history of the struggle against fascism, against attacks upon democratic liberty teaches that each single manifestation (however small) of fascism must be taken up, brought into the light of day and fought. Just as each victory by the government encourages it to go further, so each victory by the working class, inspires it to further victories.
The part played by the Security Service is utterly alien to the whole splendid tradition of the Australian people. Liars, perjurers, and pimps have always been the subject of healthy hatred by Australians. Those anonymous misguided individuals who work behind closed doors in the guise of security men have no place in our community.
A secret “security service” has no place in Australia. Phone tapping, interference with mail, baggage stealing, snooping, all the things made notorious by the hideous Gestapo, are all offensive to every decent person. Why should it be secret? What has it to hide? Everybody must insist that it be abolished immediately. The people have the means of exposing security agents provided only they exercise eternal vigilance. That vigilance must be exercised and each case of pimping, informing or other suspicious conduct must be brought to the attention of the trade unions. The guilty person will last for no time under the gaze of decent human beings.
The threat exists to every member of the working class, whatever political party he adheres to. Unity of action irrespective of party – Labor, Communist or no party – is demanded. Common action on every job, in every workplace, in every trade union is an undefeatable weapon. Faced with the threat of the coercive provisions of the 1928 Arbitration Act, the N.S.W., A.L.P. led Labor Council declared: “The situation calls for the united action of the whole of the Labor Movement, political and industrial, and particularly the fighting militant leadership which has generally been excluded from the political wing.
“Every genuine working class member and organisation must co-operate in fighting tooth and nail against the most dangerous attempt that has yet been made against the very existence of the Trade Union movement in this country.
To-day those words have direct application: they are a call to action.
The 1951 All Australian Trade Union Congress (A.C.T.U.) carried the following resolution, in connection with these ballot provisions of the Act:
“This Congress declares that the proposed amendments to the Commonwealth Arbitration Act, are designed to interfere in the internal organisation of the Trade Union movement ... and by imposing conditions for the taking of ballots which interfere with and deny the democratic control of the organisation ... would subject the Trade Union movement of this country to the control and direction of the Government and/or appointees.”
The 1953 A.L.P. Federal Conference declared that the unions must control their own ballots. That Conference also refused to give Federal A.L.P. recognition and encouragement to the A.L.P. groups. While the leaders of the A.C.T.U. and A.L.P. correctly assess and record in their resolutions the feelings of the workers against these things, they carefully paralyse any action against them. Their very position is to hold back the struggle against them – to act as a safety valve – giving lip service to the opposition but doing nothing about it. The workers must take these declarations at their word, give them flesh and blood, and force the A.C.T.U. and A.L.P. leaders either to act up to their declarations or stand condemned.
Participation in these ballots by unionists must become absolutely impossible – so strong must be the campaign against them that everyone understands that by signing a petition which requests a government ballot or by supporting any move to place the ballot in the governments hands, they are surrendering one of the vital strongposts of democracy – a free and independent trade union movement.
The A.C.T.U. and A.L.P. must end forever the practice of unions placing their ballots in the hands of the Court; must end forever the practice of petitions being taken up but they will only do so if their constituent parts – that is you and your union – force them to.
The leaders of these bodies are tied hand and foot to the employers: they are wedded to Arbitration: hence a mighty effort indeed, is necessary to give their declaration flesh and blood.
It must be remembered too, that this process of fixing government ballots is a sigh of the desperate weakness of the employing class, and their government. In no sense is it a sign of strength. The workers must assess it as it is – acute weakness – and bring to bear on it their own great strength.
This requires the utmost united action on the part of A.L.P. workers, Communist Party workers, workers of no party. The Labour Party groups, in fact, exclude many members of the Labour Party – on the militant tickets defeated in many of these so-called government ballots were many A.L.P. members. On the other hand, from the choice of A.L.P. group candidates, many lifelong A.L.P. members have been excluded. But the use made in the name of the A.L.P. of these groups demands the attention of all workers – particularly the genuine A.L.P. rank and file members.
To-day the monopolies are straining every nerve to wage war, they are intensifying the attack on democratic liberties and on the independence of our country. The struggle for peace is a struggle for life: the right to defend the peace is dear to all: it is particularly dear to the trade unionist, for with it go so many other things.
To argue out political questions, is. a right that is dear to all. The Communists say that their program of Socialism and struggle for it, will solve the problems that flow from what almost everyone admits is a broken down social system. Socialism – an end to capitalism, is the only final solution. That matter can be best argued out and tested in conditions of democratic liberty. Whether, as we claim, the Soviet Union with its socialist system is superior to capitalism, is a matter that can be tested in peaceful conditions. We have no doubt of the result and we are sure that you, too, will ultimately have no doubt. In order to test it, to enforce the peace so that it can be tested, an independent trade union movement is vital.
The words “Communism” and “Communist” are used by the monopolies to try to smear everything that is good. The best patriots, the best defenders of the people, are branded as “Communists” as though that is akin to criminality. The reason for that is that the multi-millionaires see quite well that the Communists do in fact represent the true aspirations and strivings of the people – the multi-millionaires desperately fear an awakened people. Therefore, they strive to behead the people by lopping off everyone whom they brand as “Communist.” Their very recklessness in this regard is a measure of their hysteria and their desperate weakness: it is not at all a sign of their strength. Notwithstanding all threats, all victimisation, gaolings, and anything else, the Communist Party will continue to strive day and night to lead the people to end this social system. In the meantime, and as part of that struggle, it will fight to unite all and any section of the people who are affected by the terrible drive to war. The trade union front is a vital section. Life and truth always assert themselves – life and truth are on the side of the people – the capitalists know only death, destruction and deceit, they have no hope. Let us exert ourselves might and main to speed up the process of life and truth asserting themselves.