16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W.M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether payment has not yet been made for blue peas compulsorily acquired by the Government and delivered to authorized stores, in some instances as early as February last? If so, when does the Minister anticipate that payment will be made to the growers?
– Only to-day, I learned that payment for blue peas compulsorily acquired has not yet been made. I had thought that definite arrangements were completed a few days ago. I shall take the matter up immediately, and assure the honorable member that I shall do everything to expedite payment. I greatly regret that the advance has been so long delayed.
Public Servants Compulsorily Evacuated
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories state what provision has been made for the maintenance or employment of Commonwealth public servants who havebeen compulsorily evacuated from territories outside Australia but under the control of the Commonwealth?
– I understand that the Department of the Interior (makes full provision for the maintenance of such persons until suitable employment can be found for them. I shall refer the question to the Minister for External Territories, and let the honorable member know the result.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Commerce to an apple that I hold inmy hand, which, in Sydney, cost1½d. The price of apples hasbeen excessive throughout the marketing season. Has this the approval of the acquisition authorities? Are the growers benefiting from the high prices that are being charged in some of the cities?
– As the whole of the administration of the Apple and Pear Acquisition Board falls within the jurisdiction of the Minister assisting me (Senator Fraser), I shall raise the matter with him, and furnish a reply to the honorable gentleman as early as possible.
– Having regard to the cost of producing apples, including the clearing of the land’, the planting of the orchards, the spraying and pruning of trees, the cost of transport from the orchard to the ship and from the ship to the cities on the mainland, together with the rents charged for the shops in which the fruit is sold, does the Minister for Commerce believe that 1½d. is an excessive price for an apple?
-I do not claim to be an expert on values, but I assure the honorable member that I would appreciate the opportunity to get apples of the quality indicated at the price mentioned.
– Seeing that applegrowers are receiving only 2s. or 3s. a case for their fruit, whilst the consumers are paying 15s. a case, does the Minister for Commerce consider that the time has arrived for the Apple and Pear Marketing Board to be scrapped, as the cost of distribution is 500 per cent greater than the return to the growers?
– I shall refer the matter to the Minister assisting the Minister for Commerce, who administers the Apple and Pear Acquisition scheme.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the serious position that is developing is the food-producing industries, particularly the rural industries, as the result of the call-up of labour, enlistments and the migration of workers to more remunerative employment? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that representations which have been made to the Departments of Supply and Development, War Organization of Industry, Labour and National Service, and Commerce have so far failed to rectify the position? Will the right honorable gentleman investigate the situation with a view to coordination of action by the different departments’ that are concerned with a solution of the problem?
Mr.CURTIN. - I said yesterday that the whole matter of man-power is under review by a sub-committee of Cabinet. All that has happened in connexion with the use of man-power will be reviewed by that, sub-committee, and recommendations will be made by it to the full Cabinet. I am aware that there is a grievous man-power problem in Australia, and that not only the rural industries but also other important industries are complaining of their inability to carry on in the way that they consider they should - by which I mean that they do not merely express a selfish opinion, but consider “that their activities are related to the requirements of the war.
– Many of them consider that they cannot carry on in accordance with the directions of the Government.
– That is true; and it is a fact that the number of men available is not sufficient to meet the require-, ments of full activity in respect to the land forces, the munitions programme, essential civil requirements, and all the works that have to be done in order to place this country in a position to undertake military operations most advantageously.
– But there will not be enough labour to produce the food that is needed!
– Some tradesmen are being held in useless occupations.
– Complaints of all kinds are being made. The fact is, that with the present available man-power this country is not able to carry on fully all of those enterprises and activities. That is one of the problems for which the war is accountable. The sub-committee of Cabinet has been asked to try to meet the position by making positive recommendations. It is certain that when such recommendations are given effect there will have to be a curtailment of certain activities. I have no doubt that some sections of the community will regard such curtailment as unjustifiable, but it will represent the best decision at which the nation can arrive.
– In view of the extreme shortage of man-power, to which reference has been made by the Prime Minister to-day, willthe right honorable gentleman say what the Government is doing in connexion with the utilization of the services of prisoners of war in this country, internees, refugees, and both naturalized and unnaturalized aliens on necessary non-military labour? Will he direct the Man-Power and Resources Survey Committee to investigate that . area of possible man-power?
Mr.CURTIN.- I shall have prepared and submitted to the Parliament information relating to what is being done with the various categories of persons referred to by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry whether, in view of the acute shortage of labour and the necessity for economy in the use of labour and materials in Australia, he will take steps to discuss with the Government of New South Wales the advisability of not proceeding with an order conveyed to the pastoralists of that State to flyproof windows and doors to all shearers’ huts and kitchens before the next shearing season? Will the honorable gentleman also ask that the order be suspended until such time as adequate labour and materials are available for the purpose?
– I have already considered this matter, and discussions on the subject are proceeding not only with the authorities in New South Wales, but also with the Minister for Labour and National Service. I hope that a satisfactory conclusion will be arrived at shortly.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Development seen in the press the statement by Mr. Mighell, chairman of the Commonwealth Coal Commission, that 300 miners are wanted for employment in the coal-mining industry? Is the honorable gentleman aware that many thousands of miners obtained employment during the depression, as labourers in other industries, and that now, owing to the man-power regulations, they cannot . be released from those occupations in order that they may return to the mines? Does not the honorable gentleman believe that they would be better employed in the mining industry than as labourers? If so, will he make representations to the man-power authorities, and endeavour to inculcate in their minds that such men should be placed in occupations in which they may better serve the nation?
– I have not read the statement which apparently appeared in this morning’s newspapers, but in some measure’ I anticipated the question. I had a conference with the Minister for Labour and National Service while the question was being asked, and he says that he believes that we may be able to penetrate the centre of receptivity referred to, and induce the man-power authorities to release these men.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware of the serious menace which dengue fever constitutes to the health of troops in military camps? Is he aware that the Director of Hygiene stated that if no action were taken to prevent the spread of the disease it could put an army out of action for a period of three weeks? In view of that statement will the Minister consider a proposal for the installation of fire destructors for the disposal of sewage in military camps ?
– I am aware that dengue fever is present in epidemic form in various parts of Australia. The DirectorGeneral of Medical Services has the matter in hand, and is taking all possible steps to eradicate the disease which is incapacitating a great . number of men, particularly in tropical areas. I shall take the honorable member’s suggestion into consideration.
– Can the Minister for- Supply and Development state at whose direction shipping space was made available on the Marella for the transport of 1,000 tons of meat to Western Australia, of which a large proportion was mutton? To whom was the meat consigned ? Has the Minister been advised that there is a shortage of mutton in Western Australia ?
– The allocation of shipping space is a matter for the Department of Commerce, which controls navigation. I have no information regarding the shipment of mutton to Western Australia, but I was aware that 1,000 tons of beef were to be shipped to that State in order to supply troops stationed there. That was the reason given to me.
– The consignment did not consist entirely of beef; there was a lot of mutton in it.
– I shall make inquiries regarding the actual quantities sent.
– And to whom it was consigned ?
– The Department of Supply is working in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture in Western Australia. A committee has been set up to handle such matters, and I understand that this committee had charge of the transaction.
– Will -the Minister for Supply and Development lay on the table of the House the reports of the committee which inquired into sites in Victoria for power alcohol distilleries, together with its recommendations and any correspondence relating to the matter ?
– The honorable member must, be aware that the Opposition side in this House particularly stressed that it would be inadvisable to make known the proposed sites of the distilleries. I have acceeded to the wishes of honorable members opposite in this respect.
Use of COLOUR Patches - Calling up of Engineers - APplication for Exemptions.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that about 200 members of the Australian Imperial Force at the Walgrove military camp, who had enlisted for overseas service, have been fined by the army authorities amounts totalling approximately £150 for entering a protest against the order to remove their colour patches? Will he have an inquiry made into the matter with a view to having the. penalty remitted on the principle that it is better to extend clemency in such cases than to add fuel to the fire of the men’s indignation ? Will he consider recognizing in some way the fact that these men have enlisted for active service overseas?
– I shall call for a report on the matter.
– Is it a fact that the Army is continuing’ to call up for military service fourth and fifth year engineering apprentices who are probably as useful as fully-fledged engineers, and that they are being calledup more rapidly than they can be replaced by graduates from’ the training schools? Has he seen the comment of an official of the Engineers’ Union regarding the result of such action, and will he instruct the army authorities to call a halt?
– I was not aware of what the honorable member has mentioned. As a matter of fact, under a new arrangement, the Department of Labour and National Service “ vets “ all such persons who may be called up, and decides whether they are to remain in industry or go into the Army. It is possible that some fourth and fifth year tradesmen have already been called up for service in the mechanized units of the Army, and that the Army authorities, believing that they can use the men in skilled occupations, have not been prepared to release them. I shall inquire into the matter, and I hope to be able to supply an answer to the honorable member within 24 hours.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether there is conflict of authority between the officers of his department and the Army over the question of the call-up of fourth and fifth year apprentices in the engineering trade? Does the Army take cognizance of the Department of Labour and National Service only when men are in protected industries? Is the department taking any steps to assert its authority over the labour aspect of the call-up?
– There has been a great deal of conflict between the two authorities in regard to the call-up for the Army, particularly of tradesmen, and it is in order to overcome this and other difficulties that Cabinet has decided to appoint a sub-committee to consider all aspects of this question and to establish some authority which will be able properly to regulate man-power.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether, in view of the large number of reported cases of hardship associated with the call-up of men for the Australian defence forces, he will take steps to provide that ample time shall be permitted for an application for exemption to be submitted to the proper authorities. Many men are ordered into camp immediately, and I ask that all applications for exemption be considered before the men are forced into camp and placed under the jurisdiction of the Army.
– Cases of hardship are at present considered by police magistrates in each State, but I propose to confer with the Minister for Labour and National Service on this matter. Apparently, in the view of the honorable member for Wimmera, sufficient time is not given in many cases to enable applications for exemption to be placed before a police magistrate before the men are ordered into camp. That is news to me, but I shall give close attention to the honorable member’s representations.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service made aware of the decisions of police magistrates who preside over courts dealing with applicants for exemption from military service on. the ground of hardship? In some cases magistrates have instructed an applicant who, possibly, is the single owner of . a business, that he must either sell or otherwise dispose of his business within three months and then be ready to go into camp. I ask the Minister to look into the facts of the case of John Remfrey, of Arncliffe, New South Wales, whose application for exemption was heard before the Kogarah Court on the 2nd April, 1942. Mr. Remfrey is the sole proprietor of a small business and is r.he only supporter of an aged father and mother. The police magistrate told the a applicant that hia business must be either sold or closed by the 30th June.
– The handling of applications for exemption on the ground of hardship by police magistrates has proved to be unsatisfactory because of discrepancies between the decisions given. On Saturday next I have arranged to discuss this subject with the Minister for Justice in New South Wales, and the particular case referred to will receive close attention. I also propose to hold a conference with the appropriate authorities in the other States and I trust that there will be greater uniformity in the decisions of magistrates in the future. In some instances the police magistrates are making what I consider to be unwarranted decisions, and they will be given to understand that in cases of hardship they are asked to determine on the facts. They will also be told that it is not their duty to send every one into the army, irrespective of the amount of hardship involved.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware of the inadequacy of food supplies in various country towns for the feeding of large numbers of soldiers who are given leave from nearby camps? I refer particularly to Albury, where restaurants and hotels have not been able to meet the demands made upon them.
– Inquiries will be made, and I shall let the honorable member know whether the Army authorities have any information on the subject.
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform me whether the proposed legislation dealing with social services, which will be introduced this session, will include benefits for the few remaining South Sea Islanders resident in the Commonwealth?
– If the honorable member will have a little patience until the legislation is introduced, he may find that some provision has been made for them.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a statement published in the Melbourne Herald recently to the effect that in Adelaide the Minister for Aircraft Production had advocated Commonwealth ownership of factories engaged on the manufacture of aircraft?. If so, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the Minister expressed the policy of the Government or his own personal view? Will the Prime Minister call for a report from the Minister regarding his utterances?
– The policy of the Commonwealth Government is to use all of the resources of the country which are required for the manufacture of aircraft. The Government appointed a director-general to control- the production of aircraft. He is a very competent, distinguished, and able man, and as the result of his appointment the Government has made progress with its programme for expanding the local production of aircraft. The question of whether aircraft should be produced solely in Commonwealth factories is of less importance than the acceleration of production. The Government will use either publiclyowned or privately-owned instrumentalities on the advice of the Director-General as to which are likely to produce the best results in the shortest time.
– I should like to know whether the Prime Minister has received the report of the committee that inquired into the effect of the war upon Tasmanian industries? If so, will the right honorable gentleman state whether consideration has been given to it with a view to implementing the recommendations contained therein?
– I have received the report, and forwarded it to the departments concerned. Certain departments are now giving effect to those phases of the report which admit of immediate action ; the remainder of the report is under consideration.
– When a firm has been declared for overcharging the public for goods, will the Treasurer consider the advisability of appropriating for Consolidated Revenue the amount represented by the excess charge in preference to the present method of allowing the firm to reduce its prices for a certain period in order to refund the excess to the public? The present practice does not ensure the return of the money to the persons who were overcharged.
– I shall examine the matter.
– I ask the Acting Attorney-General what penalty is to be imposed for profiteering on the colossal scale of the Myer Emporium Limited, Melbourne, which is revealed to have profiteered to the extent of taking £250,000 out of the pockets of its customers? Is further action contemplated against the company on lines similar to that taken by the Taxation Commissioner against defaulting taxpayers ?
– The facts of this matter are still with the Minister for Trade and Customs, whose department has taken certain appropriate action. The file will be sent to the Attorney-General’s Department and I shall then advise the honorable member of what is to be done.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House what progress bas ‘been made in the distribution to all States of adequate medical supplies and equipment for military and civil purposes to meet an emergency?
– Every precaution has been taken by the Commonwealth Department of Health for the purpose of ensuring that adequate medical supplies are provided in all States. The DirectorGeneral of Health, Dr. Cumpston, and departmental officials have visited all States and have paid particular attention to hospitalization and the provision of an adequate supply of drugs for the purpose of meeting the demands that would be imposed by an evacuation. Arrangements were also made for the distribution of sera, anti-toxins and drugs for civil and military use. The department is endeavouring to get the maximum number of man-hours out of doctors in order to meet civil and military needs.
– Has the Minister for Labour received from the chairman of the Newcastle Coal Reference Board, Mr. Connell, a report containing his recommendation to the owners of J. and A. Brown and Abermain Seaham Collieries Limited, to reinstate a man named Mitchell? If he has received the report, will he indicate to the House whether he proposes to exact his pound of flesh under Statutory Rule No. 77 and .prosecute the company for having disobeyed the recommendation?
– I have received from the chairman of the Newcastle Coal Reference Board a report in which he submitted & certain recommendation. I am advised that the management of the mine to which the honorable member referred has refused to observe the recommendation, despite the fact that I directed the company by telegram last evening that the Government expected it to give effect to the decision.
– Did the Minister per- sonally take that action?
– Yes. The Government takes a most serious view of this defiance of established authority by the management of the mine, and the matter of taking suitable action against the com- pany is under consideration. I expect to be able to make an announcement shortly of the Government’s intentions. The honorable member may rest assured that the management will not be permitted to override the authority of the Government in these matters.
– When the Minister for Labour and National Service is considering what action is to be taken by the Government against the J. and A. Brown and Abermain Seaham Collieries Limited for non-compliance with a direction by the local reference board, will he also consider whether action should be taken against, the Australian Iron and Steel Limited for its refusal to pay yardage rates in accordance with a practice that had applied at its colliery for some years?
– Inquiries are being made into this matter, and as soon as the results are available I shall be pleased to indicate to the Parliament what action the Government proposes to take.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service tell the House how long the weighbridge had been faulty, what was the usual method of testing it, and what weight of coal was lost to the miners?
– It is impossible for me to say how long the weighbridge had been defective, but it is quite possible that it had been defective for some time before it was discovered to be by the miners and the management.
– The weighbridge was last tested on the 17th January.
– That is so, but I cannot say for how long it was defective. Examinations of weighbridges at coal-mines are not so frequent as they might be. There is a suggestion from miners’ lodges that they have on many occasions asked for tests to be made and have had obstacles placed in their way. In regard to this particular weighbridge, now that the matter has been settled, I hope there will be no need for further complaint that tests are not regularly made.
– Recently an indus trial dispute occurred ait the Lithgow Small Arms factory, and approximately 400 members of the Amalgamated Engineers Union went on strike, despite one or more conferences with the Prime Minister. According to a report in the press, a compromise agreement was reached, resulting in the settlement of the dispute. Will the Minister forLabour and National Service inform me of the terms of settlement?
– The dispute affected three organizations. A compromise agreement, which I suggested to the parties, was accepted by the unions concerned in the matter. I am unable, from memory, to indicate the precise terms of the agreement, but I shall be pleased to make them available to the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me how many industrial disputes, in fact, have occurred, and whether the number is equal to that reported in the daily press ? If the actual number , be less than are thus reported, what action will the Minister take against the newspapers concerned ?
– My attention has been directed to certain erroneous newspaper reports relating to the number of industrial disputes. Yesterday, one newspaper reported that three stoppages had occurred at coal pits. The facts were that a stoppage occurred at one pit, because of a dispute. Another stoppage was due to a breakdown of a locomotive, whilst the third pit had not actually ceased work. The Coal Commissioner had reported to the Government that a dispute was likely to occur on the following day, resulting in a cessation of production. Therefore, the press report was exaggerated, but it is not uncommon among newspapers to-day to exaggerate industrial disputes. I am pleased to be able to advise the honorable member that since this Government took office, fewer man-hours have been lost through disputes than at any other time during the last thirty-five years.
– I should like to know the reason for the issue of the Army Order which declared the Hotel Canberra out of bounds to the rank and file of the fighting forces? I understand that subsequently theban was lifted. “Will the Minister for the Army make a statement to the House upon the matter?
– Does the ban apply to officers ?
– Commanding officers have power without seeking the approval of the Minister to declare hotels out of. bounds. Whilst I have not received a report upon the matter to which the honorable member referred, I understand that an officer, for disciplinary reasons, declared a certain hotel out of bounds for a period. That ban has now been lifted, and all ranks may frequent the hotel premises.
– Does the Minister know the reason for the imposition of the ban?
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that, as the result of the Government’s policy to immobilize small craft, about 2,000 boats have been taken from the water at Lake Macquarie and placed a short distance from the shore, where they are deteriorating through exposure to the weather and the ravages of white ants? Does the Minister not think that it would be better to allow owners to form themselves into groups to take charge of the craft in order to preserve them, and to charge those groups with the responsibility of destroying the boats in the event of an invasion?
– Because of the threatened invasion of Australia, the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Command, recommended that action be taken to place beyond the reach of the enemy the thousands of small boats on the eastern seaboard, not only those in the Hawkesbury River referred to by the honorable member. The defence of Australia must be ensured, but I shall take into consideration the suggestion made by the honorable gentleman.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether action has yet been taken to bring to trial the members of the Australia First Movement who were arrested in Sydney a month or so ago on suspicion that they were engaged in treasonable activities? Will he give an assurance that those people will be either brought to trial or released?
-Certain members of the Australia First Movement in Sydney were interned, not arrested ; other members of the movement in other parts of Australia also were interned. I understand that certain members of the movement appeared before the court in one State of Australia, not New South Wales, yesterday or to-day. That matter is being handled by the Attorney-General’s Department.
– During the last sittings, I. asked the Minister for the Army a question about allegations that certain privates in the Australian Imperial Force had been arrested and imprisoned on the charge of desertion from Malaya. The Minister undertook to investigate the allegations and report the result to the House. Has he investigated the matter and is he prepared to report whether those men were, in fact, guilty of desertion? If they were not, what compensation has been paid to them in respect of their arrest?
– I hope to be able to make a statement to-morrow on that matter, but, in order to clear up any misapprehension which the honorable gentleman may have, I say that investigation disclosed that the men had not deserted from Malaya and had not been arrested by the military authorities. I shall supply to the House the full official report.
– In view of the enormous increase of war expenditure since the Public Works Committee reported on the erection of new abattoirs at
Canberra, and in view of the restriction placed on people in the States desirous of embarking on business ventures, will the Treasurer say whether the Government still intends to provide about £40,000 for this project?
– My recollection is that in the first place the PublicWorks Committee reported that it would be possible to erect suitable abattoirs at Canberra for about £35,000. Then, with rising costs of labour and materials, the price grew, according to my recollection, to about £43,000. The tenderer who submitted that price later withdrew, and the next lowest tender was about £48,000. In the opinion of the Public Works Committee the work is an absolute necessity, and, I understand, the Minister for Health is arranging for construction to be proceeded with.
-Has the Prime Minister noticed in the press recently that the Australasian Performing Right Association - an organization with international ramifications - has during the past few months collected £500 in royalties for the performance over the air of what is now generally recognized as the Australian national anthem, Advance Australia Fair?It has also been stated that although that amount has been collected there is no information as to the authorship of the anthem. Is the Prime Minister aware that before the words and music of Advance Australia Fair can be printed permission must be obtained from W. H. Paling and Company Limited? 1 ask the honorable gentleman to ascertain on what authority the Australasian Performing Right Association, or any other organization, is imposing a charge for the performance of Australia’s recognized national anthem?
Mr.Calwell. - Who said it was the recognized national anthem? We have no Australian national anthem.
-There is some substance in the statement made by the honorable member for Richmond, but what is true to-day has also been true during the last seven years. The position of the Australasian Performing Right Association and its claims to copyright in music have been reviewed by a committee of the Parliament, and a full report, dealing with the arrangements between the association, picture theatre proprietors, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and others, has been furnished to the Parliament. No government has yet given effect to the recommendations of the committee. The present Government has been preoccupied with the war; previous governments were preoccupied with other things.
– Will the Prime
Minister inform me whether the Joint Committee on ‘War Expenditure communicated with him concerning a certain contracting firm in Sydney because it was so perturbed at what was happening? Did the committee request him to take steps to ensure that no further contracts should be given to the firm until its existing contracts have been investigated? Is the Prime Minister aware that, regardless of the steps taken in that connexion, the firm is now obtaining work as a subcontractor, although it is extremely doubtful whether it has the capacity to perform the work which it is undertaking to do?
– I received a communication from the Joint Committee on War Expenditure of the nature indicated by the honorable member and I took certain action in connexion with it. The suggestion in the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question is that the same firm is now obtaining sub-contracts from master contractors.
– That is so.
– I shall make an investigation of the matter and communicate with the honorable member later about it.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you have observed that throughout the last twelve months the notice-paper of this House has contained items of business which, because of the lapse of time and changed circumstances, have become dead for all practical purposes? I refer, in particular, to a notice of motion by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) concerning military camps; a notice of motion by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) concerning equal pay for the sexes, and an order of the day for the resumption of the debate on a motion by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) in relation to the Apple and Pear Marketing Board. In view of the need to conserve manpower, ink and paper, will you, sir, ascertain whether steps can be taken to delete these items?
– I have observed that the notice-paper has been encumbered by items of business which are not now likely to come before honorable members for attention. The removal of these items from the business paper is a matter within the discretion of the House. Usually the honorable member in whose name an item appears takes the necessary steps to have it deleted if he does not desire to proceed with it. I shall be glad to receive the authority of the House to remove from the notice-paper items of business which are really only an encumbrance.
– Will the Minister for Munitions inform me whether, some time ago, he authorized an honorable senator to visit the coal-fields to make a report upon lathes at collieries and in motor garages which were not being used to full capacity and which might be valuable for war work? Has the honorable gentleman received reports on the subject from the honorable senator, and also from myself and others, including Mr. George Ryder, of Rover Motor Limited? Did Mr. Ryder’s report indicate that eighteen lathes were available which could be assembled under one roof? These lathes are at present in various collieries and garages and are in operation for only three or four hours in each 24 hours. Did Mr. Ryder offer his services on a voluntary basis, for the purpose of assembling the lathes under one roof? In view of out urgent need of munitions, does the Minister intend to take any steps to bring this unused plant into operation ?
– The honorable member for Hunter intimated to me several months ago that numbers of lathes at various collieries and garages in the Newcastle district were not being worked to capacity. An officer of my department and also Senator Large submitted reports to me on the subject. Senator Large intimated that there was a number of useful machines. My department also has reviewed the position. I point out to the honorable gentleman, however, that lathes are not sufficient in themselves to equip a workshop for munitions production. The lathes must be operated in conjunction with other processing plant and equipment. Lathes, as a matter of fact, are only a small part of the equipment of a munitions factory. In munitions work machines of high precision are required. The advice furnished to me by my department was to the effect that several of the lathes available on the coal-fields could be used effectively if associated with other equipment, and a suggestion was made that they should be removed .to certain engineering shops in other localities in order to harness them to munitions production. This, I know, would be strongly resisted by people on the northern coal-fields. Thi’ taking of such machines may impair the repair work required at the collieries. T recognize the qualifications of Mr. Ryder, and I should be happy to utilize his services if it were within my power to do so. It would be of no use merely to assemble the lathes under one roof, however, for, as I have said, other equipment is necessary in order to establish a munitions manufacturing unit. I shall order a further investigation of whether something can be clone to utilize this equipment in the way desired by the honorable member for Hunter.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill lor an act to amend the Estate Duty Assessment
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Gift Duty Assessment Act 1941.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to -
That leave be- given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1041, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill lie now read a second time.
Some months ago, my colleague the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), when presenting the budget, indicated that the Government was considering extensions of social service legislation. Some time later, when introducing a bill to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, I informed the House that the Government proposed to increase, during this year, the invalid and old-age pension rate to £1 5s. «. week. More recently, I formally announced the first instalment of the Government’s social service programme. In fulfilment of those promises, the Government now presents this bill ; and with the indulgence of the House I hope to submit other measures almost immediately.
In order to simplify procedure, and facilitate administration, the Government has availed itself of this opportunity to improve the act, by omitting certain sections. Honorable members have my assurance that in so doing nothing is being proposed to restrict in any way the privileges or benefits provided by that legislation.
It is not my intention to depart from customary procedure by describing all that this bill contains; as is usual, detailed explanations will be made in committee, when honorable members will have ample opportunity to discuss each clause. However, at the present juncture 1 wish to make a few general observations which, whilst referring particularly to the bill I am now placing before the House, arc equally apposite to three other measures that I intend to introduce shortly, and in addition to mention certain features of this bill which are worthy of special reference.
Unhappily, the present generation lives in the shadow of universal catastrophe. Our people face momentous issues, and we are confronted by the gravest crisis in our history. Upon this Government rests the enormous responsibilities of directing a total war effort of a magnitude and complexity hitherto undreamed of. As has been shown already during the comparatively brief life of the Administration, every resource at our command will be fearlessly devoted to this supreme task. In this abnormal state we are compelled to divert wealth and labour from the peaceful channels of trade and commerce, and are forced to spend vast sums of money for war purposes. In our concentration upon this colossal task there is a real possibility that we may disregard the need for social reform, and forget that a large section of our population is undernourished, badly housed, and too frequently unemployed and lacking the elementary necessaries of life.
Social welfare has always been a prominent feature of the Government’s policy. At the moment, we regard it as of secondary importance only to the demands of the war, and see nothing incongruous in our determination to put that policy into effect concurrently with our war exertions. We believe, and feel sure that we are not alone in the belief, that so far as it is possible to do so without detracting from our war effort, sincere attempts should be made to improve social and living conditions. Everything that we do in that direction is actuated by the hope and confidence that a betterment of our circumstances will mean an improvement of national morale, and will stimulate and increase the vigour and tempo of our war preparations.
To a very great degree it is true that the totalitarian countries have given their peoples a large measure of social security at the expense of personal liberty and freedom. Upon the free nations rests the responsibility of showing that the democratic way of life is the best, and that in such a society there can be not only social security, but also liberty of action, and freedom of speech. They have also the responsibility of ensuring that our civil, religious and political institutions shall be preserved and strengthened.
Doubtless there are some members of our community who hold the view that it is inopportune in time of war and national peril to extend our social services. I place it on record that the Government that I have the honour to represent does not subscribe to that opinion; so far as lies in our power, we shall at least, prevent a lowering of social standards during the war, and we have every intention of improving them from time to time. The Government hopes to present, in the comparatively near future, a consolidating social security bill which, it feels sure, will be received with approbation, and will constitute a most noteworthy addition to our social service legislation.
From an examination of the data at its disposal, the Government - without surprise, hut with considerable pleasure - has found that its policy in regard to social services resembles that which is being followed by Great Britain, Canada, and New Zealand. Without wearying honorable members unduly, I propose to refer briefly to extensions that have been made in those countries since the outbreak of the present war.
In Great Britain, where devastation, desolation, ruin, and all the horrifying results of total warfare, have been borne with supreme fortitude and courage for many months, the Government determined that it would not be entirely obsessed by the struggle that was in progress, but that social services should be maintained. The Honorable Ernest Bevin, in September, 1941, announced: “ During this war, we accept social security as the main motive of our national life “. In connexion with a bill introduced in July, 1941, to improve widows’ pensions, unemployment insurance, and social welfare generally, it was stated that the promising of reforms after the war was arousing cynical comment. The statement continued -
The colossal problem of changing from a war footing and war economy to a peace footing and peace economy would present numerous problems of great difficulty. In the transition period a prescribed system of social security would be absolutely necessary. We ought to have this system of social security and social measures completed before the end of the war.
In February, 1940, Mr. W. Elliott, as Minister, introducing a bill, said -
We are working this afternoon in field.which have been the very starting point of social reform - care of the older and weaker members of the community. We share :i certain pride as members of a legislature which has not been diverted from its old tasks by the fierce necessities of war.
Concerning that bill, another Minister of His Majesty’s Government said -
Certain inequalities, complexities and (lilliculties of the social service structure aic being examined by an expert committee under the chairmanship of Sir William Beveridge.
He asked the House to review that particular bill as a temporary measure pending a later reconstruction of the whole of the social service fabric. An indication’ of the British Government’s conviction of ultimate victory is its request to Parliament to widen and extend social services in war-time. The conviction was expressed that, if the cost of living should increase, there should be some arrangement by which pension (benefits would at least maintain their war-time level. Honorable members will be interested to learn that, by the bill in question, the British Government increased its pensions cost hy £67,000,000 for the first year of operation. Rates to the unemployed in G rea Britain have been raised, the insurance limit has risen from £250 to £420 per annum, bringing in another 500,000 insured persons, the weekly rate of sick benefit has been increased by 40 per cent, for men, 50 per cent, for single women, and 60 per cent, for married women, and the Assistance Board has increased to 30s. a week the pension of pensioners not needing continuous medical attention or nursing, thus enabling them to live in hostels which usually had to be established and maintained by voluntary organizations. It is important to note, too, that there has been an extension of the scheme to provide milk for those who are in need of it, but arc not in a position to pay high prices for it. In many instances, the Government provides a pint of milk daily to each member of the household.
In New Zealand there has been for some time a Social Security Amendment Act, and a Rural Housing Act was introduced in October, .1939. The Social Security Act was amended to include allowances for all children after the first, and maternity benefits were slightly liberalized, whilst perhaps the most notable advance was made in October, 1941, when a joint medical and pharmaceutical service for persons resident in New Zealand was established by the Government and financed from the social security fund.
In Canada, the Unemployment and Agricultural Assistance Act extended previous provisions, whilst under the Unemployment Insurance Act of August, 1.940, a comprehensive dominion-wide scheme of unemployment insurance was introduced, and as late as February of this year the Canadian legislature was considering a national health insurance scheme.
Leaving the British Commonwealth of Nations and taking an international view of the question, I remind honorable members that this country was represented last October and November at the New York conference of the International Labour Organization. To a distinguished gathering the President of the United States of America made an historic address asking the International Labour Office to play a part in formulating social policies upon which the permanent peace of the world so much depends. The whole conference was characterized by a unity of purpose to improve conditions, not for a section of the people only, but for all the people.
I do not want to labour this point, but I do want to convince the House that this Government is not alone in its determination to improve social and living conditions. Finally, I should like to quote from a report submitted to the International Labour Organization by the former director, John G. Winant, upon his assumption of office as United States Ambassador to Great Britain. Mr. Winant said -
Despite the tragedies which have occurred, interest in social problems and in social objects lias not appreciably slackened, lt is significant for the future that this continuing and expanding interest in social advance is the keynote of the social world of to-day. Efforts arc being made in belligerent and neutral countries alike to extend health measures, safety precautions and . social security legislation, as an integral part of national defence programmes. An unemployed or poorlyemployed citizency is no basis for winning the peace. Even though at a moment when tha survival of democracy is in the balance, priority of production, energy and will must be granted to the waging of the war itself. No opportunity to enlarge the social content of democracy must be lost.
I come now to the more important features of this bil i. The extension of tha war to our own shores prevented the Government from bringing down this legislation earlier this year, but in order that pensioners may receive the benefit from the time the Government intended, provision is made for the operation of the new maximum rate of pension as from the 2nd April, 1942, when the last cost of living adjustment became effective. The first payment at the increased rate of 25s. a week will be made on the 9th July next, when eligible pensioners will ‘be paid arrears at the rate of ls. a week as from the 2nd April last. The principle of associating the maximum rate of invalid and old-age pensions with the cost of living index has been retained, but an important amendment ensures that, in the event of a fall of the cost of living, that rate cannot be reduced below 25s. a week without Parliamentary approval. The new maximum rate of 25s. a week has been related to the figure 1053 which was the price index number - all items “C” series - for the quarter ended the 31st March last, and it has been arranged that this maximum will be increased by 6d. a week for every twenty-one units by which the price index number exceeds 1053.
One noteworthy provision is the Government’s decision to liberalize conditions under which pensions are paid to blind persons who at present may have an income of £3 7s. 6d. a week without affecting the pension rate. The amendment now inserted raises the permissible income for a blind person to the level of the federal basic wage as adjusted from time to time, the amount at present being £4 10s. a week. Where both husband and wife are blind they will be permitted to have between them an income equal to the federal basic wage, and each receive a maximum pension. No alteration has been made regarding permissible income for pensioners other than blind persons.
As for pensioners who are inmates of benevolent asylums, the Government proposes to follow established custom and give to them half the increase of ls. a week which, as from the 2nd April last, will raise the amount of the institutional pension from Ss. to Ss. 6d. a week. The balance, which may reach a maximum of 16s. 6d. a week, will be paid to the institutions towards the cost of maintaining the pensioner. .
An amendment to which I draw the special attention of honorable members is the elimination of what are commonly known as the “ hospital “ provisions of the act. At present, when a pensioner becomes an inmate of a hospital, his pension is automatically suspended. If he is an inmate tor less than four weeks he receives the whole of the suspended pension on his discharge, but if he remains for more than four weeks he receives on discharge an amount equal to four weeks’ full pension. For the period in hospital in excess of four weeks he receives a “ hospital “ pension, the present rate being 8s. a week. It is now proposed to amend section 45 of the act so that the pension shall not. be reduced when the recipient is admitted to hospital: whatever rate the pensioner was receiving upon admission shall be continued throughout his stay in the institution.
The Government feels that there will be general agreement with this proposal, because the position in respect of hospitals has altered considerably since the passing of the original act. Intermediate wards have been added to many hospitals, and because these form a part of the institution, the pension is suspended when a pensioner enters such a ward even though he or his relatives may be making a substantial contribution towards the cost of his treatment and maintenance. In addition, there has been a considerable extension of hospital contributory schemes by which persons are entitled to free treatment for a period of about twelve weeks in return for small weekly payments. In such cases it is unfair to pay a portion of the pension money to the hospital, and with the consent and co-operation of the authorities controlling these schemes, it has usually been possible to arrive at a fair adjustment. This,’ however, has really been a circumvention of the provisions of the act and it is undesirable to continue such a procedure. It is estimated that about 70 per cent, of pensioners remain less than four weeks in hospital, and consequently they receive payment of pension in full for the whole of their stay, tb( hospital receiving no payment whatever from the Commonwealth on their account.
The repeal of the “ hospital “ provision will eliminate a considerable amount, of work in regard to admissions and discharges, and the making of adjustment* of pension payments, and should also result in a reduction of work in post offices, and in the hospitals themselves. At a time when the man-power problem is so acute this aspect is of considerable importance to the whole community. Many of the hospitals concerned, hundreds of individuals, and some organizations (representing pensioners have asked the Government to take the action now proposed. Some of the larger hospitals may fear the loss of regular revenue, but. it is felt that eventually there will be no material reduction because the institutional management may negotiate direct with those pensioners whose circumstances permit of a reasonable payment for maintenance in respect of the whole period of their stay in hospital.
The provisions of section 45 of the act, which deal with pensioners admitted to asylums for the insane, will remain unchanged, but the more appropriate term “ hospital for the insane “ has been inserted, thus following legislation in other parts of the Commonwealth. In these particular cases, no pension is payable during the pensioner’s inmatecy, but upon his discharge he may receive an amount not exceeding four weeks’ full pension.
A feature of this bill, which will make a strong appeal to, and receive the warm support of, every honorable member and of social workers and humanitarians throughout the country, is the decision to extend benefits to aboriginal natives of Australia who are living under civilized conditions, and whose character and intelligence qualify them to receive pensions. For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, a pension is proposed for aborigines, and it is hoped that this provision will bring some measure of happiness to the original owners of this country. The Government is well aware of the difficulties that it will impose upon the administration by the introduction of this new benefit, and prefers to hasten slowly. All who have any knowledge of this problem realize the futility of paying money toaborigines in certain circumstances; but, on the other hand, general agreement will be found with a plan which provides aid for those who prove that they can put it to good use. Where the aborigine, by reason of his intelligence and development, is exempt from the operation of the laws of the State relating to the control of aborigines, he will be eligible for a pension, subject to the same “ means “ test as other persons. At present such exemptions are provided under the laws of South Australia and Western Australia. Regarding aborigines from other States, the Commissioner will exercise his discretion as to the desirability of granting a pension and, in doing so, he will have regard to the same standard of character, intelligence and development as is applied in those States where certificates of exemption are in force.
It has been considered desirable specially to authorize the Commissioner to pay less than the maximum rate in those cases where it is appropriate to do so; and he is also given power to direct the payment of a pension to a suitable authority or person for the benefit of pensioners. The Government is under no illusion about the difficulty of administering this clause in a manner calculated to confer benefits as and where the legislature intends, and, for that reason, considers that only a fairly narrow provision is justified at present
During the debate on an earlier amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, a strong plea was made by certain honorable members on behalf of those Pacific islanders known as kanakas. After reviewing the special circumstances of these cases, the Government has made them eligible toreceive benefits under this bill. There are not very many of them. They are all of great age, and their number is rapidly diminishing. It is hoped that the conces sion will bring to them some comfort and happiness in the eventide of their lives.
The only other amendment of importance contained in the bill is the repeal of the provision of the act under which claimants’ for old-age pensions are disqualified if they are adequately maintained by their relatives. This restriction was introduced under the financial emergency legislation some years ago. It is really a “ dead letter “, as it has not been followed in practice.
A similar provision, relating to the granting of invalid pensions will be liberalized and modified to the degree that, in future, the only relatives of the claimant whose income will be taken into account will be the parents. In future, therefore, contributions by children will not in any way affect the eligibility of claimants for either old-age or invalid pensions. The total cost of the new benefits provided in this bill will be approximately £925,000 per annum.
When the original Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill was before Parliament, the late Senator E. D. Millen, who was Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, remarked, in the course of his speech -
If there is one bill received by this chamber that may honestly be termed a non-party measure, it is this.
In this spirit I leave the bill to the House with my strong commendation, and I ask honorable members to help me to place on the statute-book a valuable addition to our social service legislation.
Debate (on motion by Sir Frederick Stewart) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Maternity Allowance Act 1912-1937.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this legislation is simple. It empowers the Government to extend to aborigines the benefits of the Maternity Allowance Act.
Debate (on motion by Sir Frederick Stewart) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Child Endowment Act 1941.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill he now read a second time.
I am privileged to introduce a bill designed to liberalize a statute which has been commended by individuals and organizations usually holding widely differing and frequently opposing political, economic, and social views. The Child Endowment Act, which has been in force for less than a year, has been almost universally applauded because of the very real permanent benefit it confers upon approximately 1,000,000 children representing some 500,000 families. As was to be expected, the actual administration of the act has revealed some deficiencies and inequalities which my Government has decided to remove. I shall not make a lengthy second-reading speech. My remarks in describing the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill earlier to-day apply with equal force and truth to the Child Endowment Bill. In the committee stage honorable members will have full opportunity to discuss each clause in detail, and full explanations will be given. The more important clauses of the bill extend child endowment to inmates of State institutions and provide for the payment of endowment to those childrenwho have been maintained from moneys forming part of the estate of a deceased person. Honorable members will be pleased that provision is made for children of families who have become separated for any reason.
– Will any arrangements be made for the States to reimburse to the Commonwealth the savings that they will effect as the result of the extension of child endowment to inmates of State institutions? The State government? should be prevented from profiting by this measure.
– There is nothing in this bill to cover that aspect, but wo can safely leave to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) the evolvement of some way to ensure that we shall receive from the States some quid pro quo. There has been some controversy as to what the previous Government intended in respect of divided families. This bill makes it clear that, provided that the general conditions of eligibility are complied with, the children of divided families shall be paid endowment. Cases have arisen of four or five children being cared for individually by different guardians. So far none of those children has been classed as eligible for child endowment, although, if they were together under the one guardianship, all, in excess of one, under the age of sixteen years, would receive endowment. These inequalities have caused great argument and trouble, which we propose to remove.
– In such cases, which children would be eligible for endowment?
– The bill provides that the Commissioner shall pay endowment to the person or persons whom he considers to be most eligible.
– Is endowment not payable, to all children under the age of sixteen years?
– The honorable member is anticipating the Widows Pensions Bill, under which it is proposed to pay child endowment in respect of all widows’ children under sixteen years of age. Questionsas to the details of this measure will be better answered in committee. I commend the bill and ask for its prompt passage.
Debate (on motion by Sir Frederick Stewart) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the payment of widows’ pensions, and for other purposes. ,
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1942.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
. -I move -
That in lieu of the rate of tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. 1) 1930-1941 sales tax be imposed upon the sale value of goods, manufactured in Australia by a taxpayer and on or after the first day of May, One thousand nine hundred and forty-two, sold by him or treated by him as stock for sale by retail or applied to his own use. at the rate of-
That in lieu of the rate of tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. 2) 1930-1941 sales tax be imposed upon the sale value of goods, manufactured in Australia and sold on or after the first day of May, One thousand nine hundred and forty-two, by a taxpayer who purchased them from the manufacturer, at the rate of -
That in lieu of the rate of tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. 3) 1930-1941 sales tax be imposed upon the sale value of goods, manufactured in Australia and sold on or after the first day of May, One thousand nine hundred and forty-two. by a taxpayer not being either the manufacturer of those goods or the purchaser of those goods from the manufacturer, at the rate of -
That in lieu of the rate of tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. 4) 1930-1941 sales tax be imposed upon the sale value of goods. manufactured in Australia and sold to a taxpayer who has, on or after the first day of May, One thousand nine hundred and fortytwo, applied those goods to his own use, at the rate of - (a.) in respect of the goods covered by the Third Schedule to the Sale’s Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act - Twenty-five per centum ; and
That in lieu of the rate of tax imposedby the Sales Tax Act (No. 5) 1930-1941 sales tax be imposed upon the gale value of goods, imported into Australia by a taxpayer on or after the first day of May, One thousand nine hundred and forty-two, at the rate of -
Third Schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act - Twenty-five per centum; and
in respect of goods not covered by the Third Schedule to that Act, and on the sale value of which it is not provided by that Act that sales tax shall not be payable - Twelve and one-half per centum.
in respect of goods not covered by the Third Schedule to that Act, and on the sale value of which it is not provided by that Act that sales tax shall not be payable - Twelve and one-half per centum.
in respect of goods not coveredby the Third Schedule to that. Act.and on the sale value of which it is not provided by that Act that sales tax shall not be payable - Twelve and one-half per centum.
in respect of goods not covered by the Third Schedule to that Act, and on the sale value of which it is not provided by that Act that sales tax shall not be payable - Twelve and one-half per centum.
The effect of these motions, shortly stated, is to increase the rate of sales tax upon goods in the general field from 10 per cent, to 12½ per cent, and, upon less essential goods which are specified in the third schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1941, from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent. In other times, such increases as are now proposed might have been regarded as unduly burdensome, but, in the present circumstances, it is considered that they are quite justifiable. Never before in the history of the Commonwealth has spendingpower been so freely and widely distributed amongst the people as it is to-day, and never in the Commonwealth’s history has there been such freedom, of spending as now obtains. Since this increased spending-power is almost wholly owing to mounting government expenditure on essential war materials and services, it is not inappropriate that a greater part of it should be diverted back to Revenue when it is used, as it is being used, to increase the personal com forts of individuals. To the extent to which the higher rates of tax will discourage persons from purchasing goods which they can possibly do without, good service will be rendered, for, in that manner, the man-power available for essential war services will be increased; raw materials required for essential wax goods will be freed, and additional savings will be available for investment in war loans.
It is appropriate, here, to mention the fact that it is proposed in another bill, which will be introduced to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act, to restore exemption to all goods which at present bear tax at the 5 per cent. rate. In future, therefore, only two rates of tax will operate, namely, 12½ per cent, and 25 per cent. All goods at present taxed at 5 per cent, were exempt from sales tax before the 22nd November, 1940, when, with numerous other classes of goods, they were transferred to the second schedule and became taxable at the rate of 5 per cent. After the adjustments of the 30th October, 1941, relatively few classes of goods were left in the 5 per cent, group. In respect of all these goods there are strong grounds for granting exemption. Having regard to the rel atively small value of the annual sales of these goods, it is now considered that their restoration to the exempt class is justified, the resultant loss of revenue being made good out of the additional revenue to be gained from the higher rates of tax to be charged in respect of other goods.
The goods in respect of which exemption is to be so restored are specified in a statement which will he circulated with the appropriate bill for the information of honorable members. They may be briefly described as follows: -
In deciding to discontinue the 5 per cent, rate, the Government has in mind the difficulties of merchants in preparing their sales tax returns, as the result of the existence of three different rates of tax. It is recognized that considerable work is involved in the classification of goods into the three separate rate groups, and it is hoped that a substantial measure of relief will be afforded by the reduction of the number of rates of tax from three to two.
From the revenue point of view, the effect of these proposals is estimated to be as follows: -
In accordance with the usual custom, the proposed amendments of rates will operate on and from the day following this announcement, namely, the 1st May. 1942. As has been explained on previous occasions, this course is adopted to obviate the dislocation of trade which would occur if there were any delay between the date of announcement of the amendments and the date of their coming into operation. The existing law contains provisions which will protect vendors of goods who pay tax at the higher rates on and from their date of commencement. When the amendments become law, these vendors will have full power of recovery of the additional tax from those purchasers who may have refused to accept the higher charge.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and
Classifications) Act 1935-1941.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill which I am sure will meet with the general approval of honorable members. It has two purposes, the first of which is to implement the Government’s decision to restore exemption from sales tax in respect of those relatively few classes of goods which are now taxable at the rate of 5 per cent., and are specified in the second schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act. I. shall refer to those goods more fully later. The second purpose is to grant exemption to certain goods which are closely, perhaps vitally, associated with the national war effort.
The goods to which exemption from tax is to be restored may be briefly described as -
A complete schedule of the various items affected has been prepared and circulated for the information of honorable members. All of the goods concerned were exempt from sales tax prior to the 22nd November, 1940, when they, together with numerous other classes of goods, were withdrawn from the exempt field and made subject to tax at the rate of 5 per cent. After the rearrangement of the schedules on the 30th October, 1941, the estimated annual sale value of the goods then left in the 5 per cent, field amounted approximately to £5,800,000, a relatively small amount when compared with the sum of £211,500,000 which is the estimated annual sale value of the goods which are at present taxed at the rat* of 10 per cent.
It is considered that the goods in question are worthy of exemption, and although the restoration of exemption involves an annual loss of revenue estimated a;t £290,000, that loss wall be made good out of the additional revenue to be gained as the result of the provision in other bills for increases of the rate of tax payable in respect of other goods.
The proposal will also serve the purpose of simplifying the preparation of merchants’ returns. In the circumstances which obtained while the three rates applied, a merchant who sold goods which came within these three rate groups encountered a considerable amount of work in the separate classification of the goods into the different groups. It is hoped that these difficulties will be substantially alleviated by this bill, which has the effect of abolishing the 5 per cent, rate group and leaving only two rates of tax in force.
In addition, it is proposed to grant an exemption for uniforms purchased by members of the fighting forces of other countries, such as the United States of America and the Netherlands East Indies, who are serving in Australia in association with the Australian forces. An exemption already exists in respect of the uniforms of Australian soldiers, and it is considered just that it should be extended to members of the forces of our allies. It is proposed to make this amendment retrospective to the 1st December, 1941, so that the exemption may be allowed in respect of uniforms already purchased from tailors by members of these forces since their arrival in Australia. Associated with this amendment is a proposal for a similar extension of the exemption hitherto allowed in respect of goods purchased by non-profit-making organizations for donation to, or for the use, comfort or recreation of, members of the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth. It is intended that this exemption shall apply equally to goods purchased by such organizations for members of allied or associated forces serving in Australia.
Finally, it is proposed to allow exemption from sales tax, on and from 1st January, 1942, in respect of methylated spirit, specially prepared for use as fuel in internal combustion engines, as a substitute for petrol. The exemption will also apply to other substitutes for petrol, including mixtures of methylated spirit and other substances. The precise terms of the exemption are set out in the schedule which has been made available to honorable members. Petrol and power alcohol are already exempt from sales tax. In view of the present war situation, it is desirable to encourage the production of all fuels which may be used in internal combustion engines in substitution for petrol.
I hope that honorable members will not regard this as a suitable opportunity to press claims for further exemptions from sales tax. I know that there are many other classes of goods for which claims can be made. Unfortunately, the Government is not in a position to contemplate the allowance of further exemptions unless it can be established that, the goods in question bear directly on the war effort, and that the liability for tax thereon constitutes an obstacle in the way of a maximum effort. I ask, therefore, that honorable members will defer other claims until such time as revenue requirements are less pressing, and the Government is able to consider the allowance of taxation concessions.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 29th April (vide page 635), on motion by Mr. Blackburn -
That the National Security (Mobilization of Services and Property) Regulations under the National Security Act, made by Statutory Rules 1942, No. 77, be disallowed.
. -Statutory Rules 1942, No. 77, for the disallowance of which the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) moved yesterday, was gazetted on the 19th February, 1942. As the honorable gentleman observed, it confers arbitrary power upon the Executive, giving to it authority to direct persons resident in Australia to place themselves and their services at the disposal of the Government. That is a short, but none the less accurate, description of the tremendous authority which the regulations under this rule give to the Executive. The regulations are being contested on the ground that they vest too much power in the Executive.
– Not only in the Executive, but also in any other authority.
– I shall deal with that aspect presently. Unquestionably, the regulations provide that all property and services of citizens must be placed at the disposal of the Government if required. I accept as accurate the statement that the power is in effect unlimited. It is necessary, however, that we shall bear in mind the history of this matter. On the 20th June, 1940, nearly two years after the beginning of the war, and at a time when things were going badly from our point of view in Europe, in that France bad collapsed, .an emergency meeting of this Parliament was summoned. The first business of the day in this House was the introduction by the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), of a bill to amend the National Security Act. Included in that right honorable gentleman’s Government at that time was the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who last night seconded the motion for the disallowance of these regulations. The substantial part of that very short measure was a provision now known as section 13a, which reads - 13a. Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, the Governor-General may make such regulations making provision for requiring persons to place themselves, their services and their property at the disposal of the Commonwealth, as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the Commonwealth and the territories of the Coin mon wealth, or the efficient prosecution of any war in which His Majesty is or may lie engaged.
Provided that nothing in this section shall authorize the imposition of any form of compulsory service beyond the limits of Australia.
I remind honorable members that that measure was submitted to the Parliament less than two years ago, after Australia had been at war for about nine months, and was supported by the members of the then Opposition, who voted, for .both the second and third readings. The then Prime Minister, in moving the second reading of the bill, said -
The bill provides for the Executive the power which, although it stops short, and expressly stops short, of compelling any form of service outside Australia - in the sense in which Australia has been defined - does not, I believe, stop short of anything else. It takes power to control per- ons in relation to themselves so that they, for example, may be taken and trained to prepare for the defence of Australia. It takes power over their services so that they may be, notwithstanding any limitation contained in the original act, directed as to what services they are to perform and where they are to perform them. That applies all round. It takes power also to require these persons to place their property, whatever that property may be, at the disposal of the Commonwealth. Those are wide terms which, in themselves, do not admit of limitation, except the express limitation of the proviso to which I have already referred.
That bill was brought in by a government which included all the (representative figures of the present Opposition and it was accepted by the Parliament. The regulations to which objection is now taken are in identical terms.
– That is not so.
– What does the act provide? First, that His Excellency the Governor-General may, by regulation, direct people as to the services they shall perform, the place where they shall perform them, and the property which they shall .place at the disposal of the Commonwealth. That is what these regulations provide.
– The regulations were not needed to give effect to what was already in the act.
– The act provides that the Governor-General may gazette regulations to give effect to the provisions of the act. The act is the instrument under which the Executive must work, and the regulations are the machinery to bring into effect an instrument which this Parliament expressly provided. I have no illusions about what the act means. The then Government, having regard to the tremendous transformation that it proposed to effect in the existing relationships between the citizens and the Executive, and being proud of the passage of the bill, arranged for the noteworthy speeches that were made upon it to be published in pamphlet form and circulated to the community. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) was quite right in what he said last night as to what this power meant to the Executive. The point that I make is that the Parliament was told what the bill meant to the life of the community. The then Opposition supported the second and third readings of it. I, as Leader of the. Opposition, said -
Labour knew that in arriving at that decision it was giving to the Government power over life and death, over industrial conditions and over property and persons. It knew that ibis amounted substantially to making the Executive of the Australian nation the equivalent of absolute government of Australia. Labour knew exactly what it was voting for, but felt that the Government of Australia is composed of men who are responsible to the Australian nation, and who will have to account to the Australian nation for their stewardship. We at that conference also knew that the members of the Government would be morally restrained by the judgment of the Australian people with respect to the way in which the powers now sought would be exercised.
Unquestionably the test of any regulation is whether it is being abused; is it being unfairly operated ; is it being exercised unnecessarily and without proper justification? If it is, that is a ground, not for the disallowance of the regulation, but for censuring or changing the Government. The question before the House is: Are these powers necessary for the Executive? I put it to the House in the simplest and clearest language, that these regulations are in the precise form in which the act itself was amended by this Parliament.
– Having regard to the plenary powers conferred by these regulations, of what value are specific regulations?
– The regulations are the instrument whereby the act is applied. The regulations themselves say that they are to be administered by the Minister of State for Defence; that is, myself. When this matter was before the House previously, I said what would be done. I have here a copy of notes that I sent to every Minister on the subject. I know that these powers are very wide. But I put it to the House that the Prime Minister is not an individual ; he is the head of a government; he is the Minister who is most, responsible to his colleagues, for if he makes blunders, the Government is finished. As a matter of fact, when the Prime Minister gives a direction, there can be no possibility of the Government escaping from the consequences of what hp does. One cannot “pass the buck” when one is a Prime Minister. It is accepted that the purpose of making the
Prime Minister, or the Minister for Defence when he is the same person, responsible for the administration of a regulation is to ensure that what is done in pursuance of it is indissoluble from the most saber and complete responsibility of government. That is not only traditional, but also common sense.
– I believe that the right honorable gentleman has misapprehended my point. The regulations are in the most complete plenary terms. In view of that, of what value is any specific regulation? What is the need for any other regulation ?
– The regulations authorize, the Minister to direct any person resident in Australia to perform such services as are specified in that direction; that is to say, the Minister has to give a direction for the performance of such duties in relation to a person’s trade, business, calling or profession as are specified. That is a specific direction. The regulations are the enabling authority, of a general character, which empowers the Minister to give a specific direction. Without, first, the statute passed by this Parliament, and, secondly, the regulations as framed in conformity with the statute, the Minister could not give a specific direction to a citizen to perform that duty or service which the bill sought to accomplish because of the tremendous burdens and responsibilities which the war has imposed upon us, and, furthermore, because of unpredictable circumstances which might arise, requiring citizens to perform, at the direction of the Government, duties which in normal circumstances would not be conceivable. I put it to the House that, bad as the situation was in June, 1940, and adequate as was the warrant for the passage of this legislation, the position is graver now. We were then engaged very largely as a contributor to the strength of our allies in distant theatres. We are now. unfortunately, obliged to marshal our forces for the defence of our own country, to resist the enemy on our own soil, to endure, and to prepare for and organize against any assaults that he may make upon our territory; and, having done that, also to prepare for, and have the machinery ready to salvage, the destruction that he may occasion - to have the requisite machinery in operation, so that the minimum of dislocation will be caused to our military operations and to our economic organization as the result of any actual physical damage that he may cause to our people or our property. If, two years ago, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), as head of the government of that day, was justified in coming to this Parliament, and in an eloquent and, indeed, elaborate speech, asking the Parliament to grant that power to the. Executive, then in the present circumstances the . Government that. I lead has no hesitation in exercising the authority which this Parliament then gave to the Executive. I ask the House not to vote for the disallowance of the regulations.
– I have already made it clear in this House that, it was open to the Opposition to move for the disallowance of these particular regulations. That course was not adopted, for the simple reason that the Opposition is not opposed to the principle of the regulations. I formally moved for the adjournment of the House in order, not to discuss the underlying principle of the regulations, but to bring before the Government certain weaknesses that we considered existed and certain safeguards that we required in connexion with the administration of this particular statutory rule. We know that the statutory rule gives extraordinary powers to the Government. But we must also recognize that we are passing through extraordinary times, and are experiencing extraordinary conditions. I am positive that no democratic government, and no parliament constituted as this one is, would ask the people to accept a proposal for the delegation of such wide powers in time of peace. However, we are not at peace. The position is very grave, and the Government to-day must have at hand statutory power to implement decisions necessary to meet unforeseen circumstances as and when they arise. The Prime Minister touched the kernel of the matter, as the Opposition sees it, when he said that if this rule was not being properly applied, action could be taken to remedy the trouble. That is what we are concerned with. Since the Opposition agreed to the underlying principle involved, and asked that certain safeguards be applied, events have taken place which fully justify our attitude. I urged that the Government should meet the wishes of the Opposition in regard to the delegation of authority. In the opinion of the Opposition such delegation should, as a general thing, be made in writing, and where notice was given orally - as we admit might sometimes be necessary - the instruction should be confirmed in writing within a reasonable time. I understand that instructions have been issued covering these points, but I now submit that the mere issuing of instructions is not a sufficient safeguard. Some statutory provision should be made, and I respectfully ask the Prime Minister to consider the amendment of the regulations in that direction.
In order to prove that the concern of the Opposition was justified, and that discrimination in the application of the rule has been possible, it is only necessary to point to the events of the last few weeks. On the 12th March, after the War Cabinet had considered the matter of industrial stoppages, the Prime Minister declared : “ Statutory Rule No. 77 is to be enforced in all cases “. A few days later, some men who stopped work at the Royal Melbourne Hospital were ordered by the Commonwealth Government to resume, and each man was served witha notice under Statutory Rule No. 77. Those men returned to work. About the same time, 400 striking miners at Glen Davis, and 29 wheelers at a New South Wales colliery, were ordered to resume work under Statutory Rule No. 77. But, five days after the Prime Minister was so emphatic that Statutory Rule No. 77 was to be enforced in all cases, the following statement appeared in the Melbourne Sun Pictorial : -
The Minister for Labour said yesterday he would not tolerate the bluffing of workers by threats that Statutory Rule No. 77 wouldbe used against them. The rule, he said, was introduced in the interests of the Commonwealth and not as a stick to be shaken in the faces of the workers.
On the 18th March, orders under Statutory Rule No. 77 were issued instructing striking miners at Richmond Main colliery in New South Wales to return to work. On the 2Sth March, similar action was taken in respect of two collieries in Northern New South Wales where strikes were in progress. In the Daily Mirror of the 30th March, it was reported that about 400 miners at Hebburn No. 2 colliery in New South Wales were defying the regulations.
Then, in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 31st March, it was reported that, after these miners had decided to disregard the regulations, the names of 370 employees at the mine were sent to the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor so that penalty provisions under the regulations could be enforced. In the Melbourne Argus of the same date, however, Mr. J James, M.P., is reported as having said -
I asked the Minister to defer action against the mcn until they have had another chance to consider the position. Mr. Beasley agreed to submit the request to Mr. Curtin, and later informed me that action would be deferred until to-day.
Mr. James, according to the Herald, added that these miners ran the risk of forcing the Government into the position where it would have to enforce the penalties or resign. If, as was stated in the press, the names of these miners who were defying the regulation had been sent to the Crown Solicitor, by what authority did Mr. James interfere? The strike at Hebburn No. 2 colliery spread to Hebburn No. 1, where about 400 miners stopped work in sympathy with the others, and it was reported on the 31st March that, in all, 1,300 miners were on strike in New South Wales. Surely, the Opposition is entitled to ask why effect was not given to the Prime Minister’s declaration of the 12th March that Statutory Rule No. 77 would be enforced in all cases. In fact, the position on the coal-field3 became so serious that the Prime Minister issued yet another warning. He warned the miners’ leaders that unless work were resumed military rule might be applied.
On the 1st April, a3 a result of the Prime Minister’s warning, all miners on the northern New South Wales coal-fields resumed work, but on the 2nd April, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. five mines were idle. Next, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) decided to offer some advice at a time when several mines were idle in various parts of New South Wales and coal production was falling daily.
In the Daily Telegraph of the 9th April the Minister for Labour and National Service is reported to have stated -
Government ownership of the coal mines is the only solution of the industry’s troubles.
On the 8th April, nine mines were idle in New South Wales, causing a loss of production estimated at 10,000 tons. On the 10th April, the Prime Minister made a statement which was reported as follows : -
War Cabinet had yesterday considered reports on the further stoppages in New South Wales coal mines. As National Security (Mobilization of Services and Property) Regulations had been found inadequate to deal effectively with coal-mining stoppages, it was decided that separate regulations be drawn up for the coal-mining industry.
I turn for a moment, at this stage, to the activities of the Minister for Labour and National Service. It would appear that, apart from his utterances concerning Statutory Rule No. 77, and his ill-timed suggestion regarding the nationalization of coal-mines, the Minister was content to leave the solution of the coal industry’s problems to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Supply, and Mr. James, M.P. He issued a prepared statement to the press on the 22nd April in which the following appeared : -
As far as I am concerned, rule 77 never will be used against the workers because 1 believe that is the wrong way to get production. If rule 77 were used against any individual of the Miners’ Federation, or other workers, it would destroy the good work done by mc and my colleagues to restore peace.
The Prime Minister, desiring to ensure maximum production and the maintenance of industrial peace, set out to apply the regulations for the purpose for which they were promulgated, but one of his Ministers stated that, so far as he was concerned, Statutory Rule No. 11 would never be used against the miners. Does that mean that there is likely to be discrimination ‘ in the application of the rule? Are we to understand that there is a difference of opinion among members of the Government regarding the conditions under which the rule is to be applied. If the regulations are being harshly administered, the Government should be censured for it.
The House is also entitled to know the possibilities and risks of discrimination in the administration of .Statutory Rule No. 77. Honorable members are justified in seeking .an assurance that the regulations, which are indispensable, under present conditions, for maintaining production and for national security, will be administered without fear or favour. I urge the Prime Minister to recognize the necessity for amending the regulations in the manner that I suggested earlier in order to provide that delegations of authority shall be made in writing if possible, and that oral instructions shall be confirmed in writing within a reasonable time. Whilst agreeing with the principles of the statutory rule, the Opposition is fearful regarding its administration, because of the definite difference of opinion that exists among Ministers concerning it3 implementation.
– lt is true not only that the regulations give to the Government wide power, but also that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) have indicated that the approach to this discussion should be by way of an examination of the extent to which those powers have bee:: utilized. I am not at all dismayed by the many extracts from the press thai the Leader of the Opposition read to the House. The newspapers frequently quote me; almost as frequently, they quote me incorrectly. I have no hesitation in declaring my opinion of Statutory Rule No. 77, and its use in carrying out Government policy. My duty as Minister for Labour and National Service is to preserve peace in industry and to maintain constant production. What appears to trouble the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues is that my efforts, supported by those of my colleagues, have proved all too successful for their liking.
I read the comments of some honorable members opposite in the daily newspapers that support them. When I departed on my mission to the coal-fields and other industrial areas, they evidently wanted to play with a double-headed penny. First, they (predicted that I would fail to restore industrial peace in those areas. Criticizing my mission, they declared that I was most unsuitable for the task, and was likely to foment industrial strife. When the disputes w ensettled, they stated that Statutory Huie No. 77, and not the Minister for .Labour arid National Service, had secured industrial peace. In those circumstances, it did not matter what happened. According to their judgment, the Minister rmm be wrong. I adhere to my former statement that if Statutory Rule No. 77 ever applied against organized worker.in an endeavour to drive them into the factories and the mines, it will not restore industrial peace, but will lead to a wave of dissatisfaction among organized labour from one end of the country to the other. In fact, it will cause many more disputes than it is likely to settle.
The record of this Government in the handling of industrial troubles show? that Australia is now enjoying a greater era of industrial peace than probably ever before in its history.
– So it should, under present conditions.
– That position i,« not due to the efforts of the provocateurs who sit on the Opposition benches or to their agents, the anti-Labour press, which i.= always attempting to create the impression, both in Australia and abroad, thai Australia is experiencing a widespread industrial upheaval and dislocation of industry. By public utterance and through their newspapers, these men have accused the Miners Federation and its members of being fifth columnists, and guilty of treasonable activity. I shall examine for a moment the damage that their false accusations are doing to the cause of Australia. One of the successful features of recent governmental activity has been the ability of the Commonwealth Labour Administration to impress upon our ally, the United States of America, with the necessity for sending the maximum aid to this country. But honorable members opposite, in Parliament and through the medium of the press, do not attempt to impress our allies with the fact that industry is enjoying n greater era of peace than ever before. They try to make out that organized Labour is not supporting the Government. To them, I say that the Government i? obtaining from the organized trade union movement the greatest measure of support and co-operation that was ever accorded to any government since the foundation of the Commonwealth. The organized trade unions, at the request of the Government, have been prepared to give up many of their hard-won privileges. That fact is generally recognized. In return, they seek from tho Government assistance and protection against exploitation and misrepresentation. They are the victims of gross misrepresentation. Newspapers have misrepresented the position. In fairness to the newspapers, I should add that, unfortunately, some of the reports which have been published have, in my opinion, come from sources which should have been more accurate regarding industrial occurrences than they were.
– Does that also apply to the “ Government spokesman “ ?
– To which “Government spokesman “ does the honorable member refer?
– How many government spokesmen are there?
– I asked the question because I wanted to know whether the honorable member referred to the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell, who makes statements about some of the happenings on the coal-fields. I do not know where he obtains his information. He has often reported to the Government about happenings on the coal-.fields that have not told the complete story of the stoppages. For example, I read in the daily press an account of a stoppage which resulted from a wheeler’s objection to a fast pit pony. Honorable members opposite laughed at the incident, because it created in their minds the impression that the wheeler objected to working as fast as the pony did. That was not the case. Practical miners have informed me that great danger can result from the use of a fast, unruly pit pony. An unruly pit pony could throw the skip from the rails, knock down the mine props, cause a fall of earth, and endanger the lives of the miners. The complaint against a fast pit-pony was featured under black headlines in the press, but not a great deal of notice was taken of the fact that a few days ago the miners were shown to be right in their contention that an unruly pit-pony is a menace to their safety by one of the ponies kicking and killing a mine manager.
– That ought to be all to its credit.
– That instance clearly shows the misrepresentation indulged in by honorable gentlemen opposite when they talk about the coal-miners. I specify the coal-miners, in particular, because a great barrage has recently been directed against them. Do honorable gentlemen opposite realize what it is to go into a mine to win the coal which is so essential for the conduct of the industrial activities of this country? Little regard is paid to the sacrifices the coal-miners make in order that this war might be successfully fought. We must understand that it could not be successfully concluded and that this country could not be defended if we had to depend on the critics who make no greater contribution to this country’s defence than that made by honorable gentlemen opposite when they talk about the workers not doing all that they ought to do. The workers of this country are responsible for its production. Not only that; the ranks of the workers supply the men who use the implements of war. When honorable members opposite misrepresent the position of the industrial workers, in order to play up a case in support of the men in the various fighting services, they forget the fact that the great majority of the men in the armed forces are themselves trade unionists. They know that, besides defeating the outside enemy, the trade unionists have also to defend themselves against influential people in this country who, for the sake of profit, would sacrifice them and those who depend on them.
– Do not be silly.
– Has the honorable member ever been down a coal-mine?
– It is a pity the honorable gentleman ever came out again. Does the honorable member know what it is to walk 3 miles in darkness over rough ground from the pit-head to the coal-face through a badly ventilated tunnel with the roof sometimes only a few feet from the floor so that the miners have to walk doubled-up for great distances? Are these things known to honorable members? Do they know of the fatigue of the miners when they leave the pit? The men who hew coal in order that the industries of this country might continue are described By honorable members opposite as fifth columnists and traitors; but to-day the coal-miners are producing a greater quantity of coal per miner than ever previously. Honorable members opposite hold up the coal-owners as being the patriots of this country, but what are they doing to increase production? Are they providing transport from the entrances of the mines to the coal-face in order that the hours spent in walking to and from the coal-face might be diverted to the hewing of additional coal? No ! Are they endeavouring to bring about harmony by conferring with lodge officials? No; they are using every conceivable opportunity to bring about industrial strife and turmoil. In proof of that, I cite the fact that, when the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and I were arranging a conference in order that peace might be achieved in one dispute the mine-owners declared that the matter was one for settlement by the established machinery. The matter was then referred to the established tribunal, and a decision was reached. Now the owners are challenging the jurisdiction of the very tribunal to which they advised the miners to go. That, is why I repeat that there are people in and out of this Parliament who never wanted a Labour government. They want a government which will conduct the war on lines that they desire.
I say in regard to Statutory Rule No. 77 and all other statutory rules embodying regulations, that, when honorable gentlemen opposite found that it was proposed to interfere with the interests of the people whom they represent, by limiting profits, they threw up their hands in horror. To them an all-in war effort means that only the workers, certainly not wealth, should be thrown into the pool. I have strong opinions on the subject of an all-in war effort.
– There are in this country many people like the honorable member for Forrest who did not mind what was happening in the cities when men were called into the army, but protested vociferously when primary producers - share farmers and sons of graziers - were called up. An all-in war effort cannot be had unless everything goes into the pool. Why have the newspapers been screaming against the Government and trying to drive a wedge between it and organized labour? Obviously, no Labour government can exist if it be divorced from organized labour. The anti-Labour forces know that, and that is why the newspapers have engaged in a vicious campaign to misrepresent the Government’s actions. They and honorable gentlemen opposite profess to condemn the playing of party politics, but who has played that game more than they in their efforts to drive a wedge into the Labour Cabinet itself by talking about discrimination in the administration of the regulations made under Statutory Rule No. 77. I direct the attention of the Leader of the Opposition to what regulation 4 of Statutory Rule No. 77 says - (1.) A Minister, or any person authorized by a Minister to give directions under these regulations, may- “ may “, not “ shall “.
– Of course.
– The sub-regulation proceeds - direct any person resident in Australia. . . to do certain things. The Leader of the Opposition said that I had discriminated in the administration of these regulations. I do not operate them. It was a ridiculous statement for the right honorable gentleman to make, since I, as Minister for Labour and National Service, have not yet operated the regulations.
– I said that discrimination was possible.
– The fact is that these regulations might have to be used, and I can tell honorable gentlemen opposite one of the uses to which they may be put.
– The regulations have already had use.
– They may have other uses. The national register is approaching completion, and officers of the Department of Labour and National Service are examining the applications for registration. We talk about man-power problems, but one would not imagine that there was any man-power problem if one went into- the wealthy clubs which honorable gentlemen opposite frequent in the cities;. That there is a reservoir of man-power available is easily discernible in the number of men who have classified themselves as “ of independent means “. That probably indicates that they have never done an honest day’s toil in their lives. These regulations might result in many of those gentlemen being given the opportunity; instead of talking so much about an all-in war effort, to- contribute to it in some way by undertaking, some useful service for the country. I have definite opinions on how the country should be organized to produce a maximum war effort. The only way in which it can be done is by disregarding entirely all1 vested interests. If that be not done we cannot do what is necessary to organize the- country to put forth a maximum effort. Opposition members -were prepared to support the Government when Statutory Rule No. 77 was to- be used against the workers. Every time there was a small stoppage of work in the coalmines the press featured the news under heavy black headlines. In passing, it is remarkable that the newspapers can afford to waste so much paper in this way, at a time when there is supposed to be a shortage, of newsprint. The newspapers had been featuring coal strikes for some considerable time;, but shortly after the honorable- member for Hunter and I returned from the coal-fields^ when there -were no- strikes, the paragraph relating to the settlement waa relegated to the bottom of the page, and the featured item, again under black headlines, was the. fact that I, as. Minister for Labour and National Service,, had said certain things in relation to Statutory Rule No. 77. What, do Opposition members desire; do they really want industrial peace in the country? If that is their desire, it will not be attained by following the course they have set. The Government has been successful in securing and maintaining industrial peace throughout Australia. That was made possible, by endeavouring to secure just treatment for the workers, and! not by attempting to drive them. If action be taken under StatutoryRule No-. 77 against the- wishes of organized trade unionism, whilst it maybe possible to drive the workers into the coal-mines, it will not be possible to force them to- hew the coal: Production could not be attained in that way. The only method’ by which real production can be stepped-up materially is by paying some heed to the view of the miners. There is- no more patriotic section of the community; and no; section that is making a greater sacrifice in the country’s war effort than coal-miners and industrialists generally.
Workers- are entitled to more say in the control of the industries than they have at present, if they are to be expected’, to step up production. Practical men have- made many suggestions to me on this subject. Reference has been made to mine managers and mine superintendents. Many men holding these qualifications, and’ at present hewing coal, have burned the midnight oil in studying to qualify for these positions. In addition to theory, they have had practical’ experience of coal-mining, and they understand the views of the workers in the industry. When suggestions are made by qualified men to step up production, have Opposition members anything to say about them?’ Nothing has been said about the mine-owners who have reduced the numbers of workers in. their pits. At one small mine 45 pairs of miners were reduced to- 40 pairs. Opposition members, do not understand that coal production to-day is being, decreased and not increased by the mechanization of’ the coal-mines. The miners have submitted suggestions to step up- production, and have asked that all sections of the mines should be- worked continuously, but the mine-owners have made no suggestions to the Government for the maintenance of production at its peak. I do not retract one word that I have said on this matter.
– Is the Minister supporting the retention of the regulations?
– Statutory Rule No. 77, if applied against organized workers, will not bring- about industrial peace or increased production. Workers are patriotic, reasonable men, and if they are approached as such, if they are met in conference with a view to understanding and removing the difficulties that are being experienced, industrial peace will follow. It will not be brought about by coercing them or by using measures such as Statutory Rule No. 77 to drive them into the mines or factories or workshops.
As Minister for Labour and National Service, I am charged with the responsibility of securing and maintaining industrial peace. I claim that I have had a great measure of success in that task, because there is greater peace in industry to-day than had prevailed lor many years previously. Reference has been made to a dispute at a munitions factory at Lithgow, but that dispute has been satisfactorily settled. I believe that the strike at the abattoirs in New South “Wales will be settled within the next few hours, as a result of the activities of the Government. Those results have been achieved by reasoning with the workers, by cooperating with them. No government would be able to get the maximum effort out of Australian workers by means other than conciliation and reasoning with them. That is why I say that these regulations, if used against organzied workers, will not bring about industrial peace, but will have the opposite effect.
– The position taken up by Opposition members has been clearly stated by my right honorable colleague, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). “We are in favour of the regulations. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) will agree that it is of vital importance at all times, and particularly at present, that the law shall be administered fairly and without respect to persons. The complaint of the Opposition is that that has not been done in this case. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. “Ward) has admitted that in his speech. He has stated publicly, and has repeated in this House, that in his opinion Statutory Rule No. 77 ought not to be applied to labour disputes in such a way as to threaten or coerce the coal-miners. The honorable gentleman claims that the better way is to reason with the miners, and I think that we all agree with him on that point. As a broad principle, I should say that reasoning is always a better means to apply than coercion. Rut the honorable gentleman said to-day, in very definite terms, in relation to one mine manager who had been ordered to reinstate a miner and had refused to do so, that the unanimous decision of the Government was that he should be proceeded against under Statutory Rule No. 77. If it is a good rule to apply to a mine manager, or a mine owner, then it is a good rule to apply to every body. It is perfectly true that the mining industry is one which, from the very nature of it, imposes on the men who work in the mines conditions to which most of us are strangers. I agree with the Minister for Labour and National Service that .many people who talk about coal-mining, what the miners should do, and so on, have no conception of the conditions under which those men work. But we have to consider the position as it is, and with its eyes open the Government has declared, in a most positive and definite way, that Statutory Rule No. 77 should be applied without respect to persons and without differentiating between one industry and another. The Minister for Labour and National Service has just alleged that, in many instances, the mine-owners are acting as agents provocateur. That may be so. I hold no brief for the mineowners. They are men like ourselves, far from perfect. But my long experience with coal-miners has convinced me that they, too, are full of imperfections. In stubbornness and in refusing to listen to reason, there is not a pennyworth of difference between the coal-owners and the coal-miners. Even the Minister for Labour and National Service is beginning to realize that the coal-miners are difficult to reason with. They have grievances, I know, but never in the history of coal-mining have there been such convenient, complete and immediate means available for the redress of grievances as there are to-day. There was a time, not so long ago, when miners with grievances incomparably greater than those of to-day had either to endure their conditions or to strike. That is not the case to-day. Yet strikes and stoppages go on.
The Government has made it clear that the safety of the nation demands continuity of operations in the coal-mining industry. Without coal, industry cannot function. Trade unionists, in all other industries, are dependent upon the miners for coal. The Minister for Labour and National Service has just informed us that we have stumbled, to our intense surprise, upon an unprecedented condition of affairs in the coal industry : he says that there is, to-day, a greater measure of industrial peace than has ever been known before. That statement came as a positive shock to me, as I believe it will come to the great majority of the people of tills country. I was under the impression that there was a perfect epidemic of industrial disturbances on t he coal-fields. .1 read with great interest the statement of the Prime Minister that many of the disputes were not industrial iu character. I quite agree with him, and some of the reasons given for refusal to work are a little difficult to understand. We have been told once again by the Minister the fascinating story of the pit pony that was too fast. The objection to the pony, so we understood, was that he went so fast as to make the miners work faster, which of course waa an unforgivable sin. But this the Minister says was quite wrong; the truth was that he kicked like a mule and wasa positive danger to human life. In proof of which the Minister told us that the pony had kicked a mine manager, or it, may have been a mine owner, to death ! Surely that should have been counted to the pony as an outstanding merit. Instead of promoting industrial strife, it should ‘have led to the use of other fast ponies, thus ensuring industrial peace. Then, there was the curious case of the fan that went too fast or too slow - and which caused a strike. And we must not forget, either, the case of the 800 coal.miners at Wallerawang who refused to work as a protest against press criticisms of the industrial unrest in the coal industry. If criticism were adequate reason for stopping work, many of us could not remain in this chamber for more than two minutes’! The miner is a man like ourselves. He cannot expect to escape calumny, the shafts of the cynic, the quips and gibes of those who hold him up to ridicule and scorn.
Statutory Rule No. 77 confers great powers. We believe that these are neces- sary for the safety of the country, but they must be exercised fairly. As it is, the wind is being tempered to the shorn lamb - in this case the coal-miner, who is above the law, who knows that he is in a position to dictate to the Government, and to the country. We must have coal: the miners are the only people who can get the coal. The Minister told us that one reason that moved him to act as lie has done was that he thought it the best way to get coal. This means, in effect, that instead of the Government governing the coal-miners, the coalniners are governing the country. They are above the law; the law is not to apply to them. I do not agree with that. 1 have championed the Miners Federation probably as effectively as any one in this country. But the Minister for Labour and National Service says that Statutory Rule. No. 77 should not be applied to members of the federation or to industrialists generally. I believe it should. To adopt the course suggested by the Minister - to apply the law to one section, and to place another above the law - is to do something repugnant to justice, and to aim a blow at the heart of the free institution of democracy - the principle that the Government must govern. Statutory Rule No. 77, if applied at all, must apply to every man whether he be owner or employee. I believe that the Prime Minister will agree with that view. The episode of the pit pony, although amusing, is also useful as an insight into the nature of the disputes which occur between the mine-owners and the mineworkers. But we must remember that the production of coal is essential to our safety. We need continuity of production. The Prime Minister referred to the number of working days which have been lost, yet the Minister for Labour and National Service told us that there had never been greater peace in the industry than at present. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who has an intimate knowledge of the coal-mining industry, has on several occasions told me that the tribunals which I established towards the end of the last war, or directly after it, led to peace in the coalmining industry for five years.
– That is true. The tribunals were effective because there was no appeal from their decisions.
– The tribunals were In the nature of an innovation and their appointment was opposed by many people, but they proved effective.
– That was one of the best pieces of legislation ever put on the statute-book.
– It serves to illustrate my view that the Government should govern. If the Government does not intend to apply this rule to both employers and employees, it should withdraw it. I ask the Prime Minister to consider carefully the eminently reasonable proposal submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, for he himself has said that he will confirm in writing at the earliest possible date any specific oral instruction given under these regulations. We want an assurance that the regulations will be applied to coalowners and coal-miners, and also to people throughout the Commonwealth, whether they be rich or poor, members of” powerful industrial organizations, or’ private individuals without other support than the justice of their cause.
.- I have listened with deep interest to the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). No doubt his experience in this country as the represents,tive of many and varied parties is unique, but what he said concerning my statement to him relative to the coal-mining industry was quite true, except that the period should have been seven and not five years. I exhorted the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), when he was Prime Minister, to bring into effect again the legislation for the control of the coal-mining industry which was passed by the Government led by the right honorable member for North Sydney, for it is still on the statute-book. It is still the law of this country and could be implemented’ immediately. The right honorable member for Kooyong preferred to confer with the owners of the industry, and brought into being what are known as reference boards, which are nothing but a huge joke and have been the means not of stimulating but of retarding pro duction. While I was actively engaged in the coal mining industry I saw grievances settled by the deputy, the underground manager, or the manager. To-day, the owners enforce the hearing of every pettifogging grievance by the reference boards, and that is the cause of the congestion that exists. The men are obliged to secure the endorsement by a reference board of customs that they have enjoyed for 20 or 25 years. In the period from 1914 to 1916 the miners, at a cost to themselves of £16,000, and a long stoppage of employment, fought for and obtained the abolition of the afternoon shift. An appointee of the right honorable member for Kooyong, a rejected candidate for the Senate - His Honor Judge Drake-Brockman - has now given a decision, later amended by the Local Reference Board, which means the re-introduction of the former practice of working machines on the second shift, at the Metropolitan colliery, better known as the Hellensburgh colliery, owned by Australian Iron and Steel Limited. That was a deliberate breach of an agreement. The miners had to knuckle down under it, or risk being described as fifth-columnists. Later I held a conference of all parties, including the chairman of the local tribunal, and the company agreed to eliminate the machine. In my advocacy of the cause of the miners over a period of many years I have filled a large number of pages of Hansard with a recital of their grievances. During the last meeting of the House the right honorable member for Kooyong was supplied with certain information by his coalowner supporters - information that was wrongly given to the press - concerning a decision that I had made at a conference regarding a dispute similar to that at the Hellensburgh colliery. In my reply to the right honorable gentleman. I gave the whole of the facts of the case. Little notice has been taken of the representations that I have made from time to time, but at all events I believe that I can claim to have been in some degree responsible for the decision of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) to visit the coalfields in order that he might see for himself the conditions that exist. On behalf of the miners, I thank the honorable gentleman for his visit and pay tribute to the efforts he has made on their behalf. He obtained in the press publicity that would have been denied to any body else. I have never misled this House in respect of the coal-miners, nor did I mislead the right honorable member for Kooyong when he sent for me in regard to certain trouble that existed on the coal-fields at the time. I then advised him to reintroduce the Industrial Peace Act. The right honorable gentleman said that he was handing the matter over to the then Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), whom I then approached, and by whom I was informed that he was quite willing to reintroduce the Industrial Peace Act. We believed that the whole of the trouble would be settled; but we found that the right honorable member for North Sydney was held on a leash, on the other end of which was the right honorable member for Kooyong. Accompanied by the then President of the Miners Federation, I again approached the right honorable member for North Sydney, and told him that the right honorable member for Kooyong was agreeable to his reintroducing the Industrial Peace Act, but we received the reply, “ He will not let me “. Consequently, I again approached the then Prime Minister, who said, “I have invited the coal-owners up here “. I replied, “ That will be the end of it, because you will take more notice of them than of me”. That is what happened. Had the right honorable member for North Sydney had his way, I am confident that the peace for which we have striven in the coal-mining industry would have prevailed; because there was no appeal whatever from decisions given by Mr. Chas. Hibble under that particular act. But what is the position to-day? Decisions are given by a local tribunal, of which Johnson, the superintendent of a colliery, is a member. He is also a member of the central tribunal. If he suspects that Connell may differ from him, he ignores the local reference board and takes the matter to the Central Reference Board ; and vice versa. Connell and other chairmen of local reference boards are coerced by the executive officer, Mr. Finnis, and cannot follow the dictates of their own judgment, with the result that many matters are sent to the Central Reference Board, the chairman of which is His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman, who, as I have said previously, would not know coal from chalk or cheese if either of the latter was blackened. He is advised by Mr. Finnis, a kind of legal luminary whose ignorance of the industry also is profound. The miners are continually being hampered in their endeavours to have their grievances redressed. The Central Reference Board could not be criticized if it were to function only in relation to interstate disputes or interpretations of general awards ; but it is interested in everything. I say definitely, that it is “ bludging ‘’ on the country, and that there is no need for it except in the directions that I have indicated. The local reference boards should function along the lines of the Hibble tribunal. Admittedly, there were no local tribunals under the Industrial Peace Act; but provision for their appointment was made under the act passed by the Menzies Government, and their ramifications would be far wider than are those of the existing reference boards. That act also made provision for the fixation of the price of coal thus safeguarding the consumer from exploitation. The sooner we revert to that system the sooner will there be peace in the industry. The members of the Central Reference Board are jealous of others who attempt to bring about peace. I have presided at eight conferences, at seven of which I have succeeded in achieving agreement of all the parties and the resumption of work, but because I have done this I have been told through the columns of the press that I have tried to circumvent the operations of duly constituted reference boards, and if there were much more interference by the Minister for Labour and National Service or myself the judge would walk out. The sooner he does so the better. I have never interfered with a decision of the local tribunal. At the request of the Minister I went to mines where there were disputes, and asked that conferences be arranged. As I am an experienced miner, neither the workers nor the owners can put anything over me. I say that without any desire to boast. I know nothing of any other industry, and have never belonged to any union other than the Miners Union. One of the first disputes I investigated was that in the Metropolitan Colliery owned by Australian Iron and Steel Limited. This was caused by the introduction of a coal-cutting machine in the afternoon shift. The men objected, and the Central Reference Board and the local reference board, I admit, gave a decision against the men. A conference was held, and after I pointed out what had happened in 1916, the owners agreed not to persist in their claim for the enforcement of the award, and they allowed t he men to work the machine on the day shift only. The next dispute was in the Richmond Main Colliery, belonging to ) . and A. Brown Limited. Those two companies, Australian Iron and Steel Limited and J. and A. Brown Limited, deserve to be prosecuted. Both are big companies which have, from time to time, absorbed many smaller ones. Australian Iron, and Steel Limited is an offshoot of broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Indeed, it is practically owned by that firm. At Richmond Main the owners were trying to force fifteen pairs of machines on the miners on the afternoon shift. A settlement was reached under which they agreed that only one machine was to be worked. I come now to the Glen Davis dispute. I was very sorry that the Government had taken action under Statutory Rule No. 77, and that the men had been got out of bed at 2 o’clock in the morning to accept delivery of the notices. This made it very hard for me to obtain a settlement. I am grateful to the Commonwealth police for accepting my suggestion that they should defer the issue of further notices until after I had my meeting with the miners. After the meeting, the men decided to go to work, in spite of the fact that they had waited so long for an award after the hearing of their case. Honorable members should try to understand something of the locality in which these men are working. They are very isolated, and conditions are far from good. Nothing could be more obnoxious than the smell of the water in which they are required to bath. The next dispute with which I was associated was that at the Bulli Colliery, also owned by Australian Iron and Steel
Limited. At this colliery it has been the practice to pay a minimum wage to compensate the miners for working deficient places. Before the war, the owners never made any attempt to break this agreement but now, with Statutory Rule No. 77 behind them, they think that they can bring pressure to bear upon the workers. Then, if the miners cease work in protest, we read in the newspapers that another mine is idle, but we are never told the cause of the dispute. There, again, I was able to effect a settlement, and the owners agreed to pay the money. However, the following fortnight, the deduction was again made, and the Minister for Labour and National Service went down and interviewed the owners, after which they agreed to pay. What was the motive of the owners in making the deductions? Was it an attempt to pin-prick the miners into causing stoppages, thus holding up production? If the owners were the agents of Hitler or of the Japanese Government they could not do a greater disservice to Australia than by fomenting strikes by breaking agreements and customs of long standing. At that conference I broke a long-standing precedent, and invited representatives of the press to come in and take a verbatim report of proceedings, if they wished. I did this because I realized that the miners’ side of the disputes had never been properly presented in the press. The newspaper reporters came in and took a report, but those reports never got past their news editors. I am not blaming the reporters, but all that appeared in the newspapers was the bare announcement that the miners at Bulli had resumed work after a conference presided over by Mr. James. The next dispute was that at the Wongawalli colliery, also belonging to Australian Iron and Steel Limited. It had been the custom to pay yardage rates to those who were working board, pillar or cut- through under 16 feet 10 inches. I am asking the Government in this case to institute a prosecution because the owners were, in effect, breaking the conditions of the lease under which they were working. It was provided in the lease that they should take no pillars, and should not work any but narrow places. However, in order to get more coal, they drove as wide as possible, and the payment to the men was really in the nature of hush-money, So that they would not disclose the fact that the terms of the lease were being broken. If there is a subsidence, and the Water Board’s valuable plant on the surface is let in, the position will be serious. The men also asked for travelling facilities. The Minister for Labour and National Service referred to this matter of travelling underground, and I know that in some mines the men have to travel a distance of between three and four miles in order to get to the face. The going is not so good when a man is carrying his pick, his crib tins and explosives. In some instances, a man is for as long as two and a half hours travelling to and from the face. If the miners were provided with transport underground, they would reach the working face within ten or fifteen minutes. That would increase production, because each man would spend a longer period at the face and fill at least 2 tons of coal a day. Unfortunately, the companies resolutely decline to provide the transport. In my opinion, the Government, which wants to stimulate production, should compel them to do :so.
I propose now to refer to a conference which was ‘held in the western district. The mechanism of a weighbridge happened to be so faulty that it registered only 18i cwt. for every ton of coal. The men complained and asked for an inspection of the weighbridge. When their reasonable request was refused, they ceased work. The public was not informed of the full facts. People do not understand that the miners are employed on contract work; they are paid by results. Another cause of irritation is that some managers blow the whistle while the men are attending a pit-top meeting. Such gatherings are not held at the expense of the employer, because 80 per cent, of the miners are contract workers and are not paid for lost time. Even if they lose half an hour by attending a pit-top meeting, the output does not slacken, because the miners are able to make it up.
A long-established custom in the coalmining industry has been to promote men according to their seniority of service.
That is a common practice in many occupations, and applies in the civil service. Officers of the Commonwealth Parliament rise to the exalted position of Clerk of the Senate or Clerk of the House of Representatives by virtue of seniority of service and ability. The Hebburn No. 2 Colliery had succeeded in departing from this custom. Instead of engaging men from within the industry, the management was employing strangers. That was wrong and did cause a stoppage, which was settled satisfactorily at a conference over which I presided. The J. and A. Brown Company, which also operates the Stamford Main No. 1 Colliery, employed for about 30 years a man named Mitchell. Following a disagreement with the superintendent, Mr. J ohnson, some time ago, Mitchell was disrated and transferred as nightwatchman to this colliery. As such, he was asked to fire the boiler that warms the room in which the miners dry their working clothes. Recognizing that the work was not a part of his duty and that if he obeyed instructions an inter-union dispute would arise, he declined to accede to the request and was given fourteen days’ notice. That period has now expired. I asked the Collieries Staff Association, of which he is a member, the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association and Mr. Johnson to confer with me on the matter. Mr. Johnson stated that he was unable to meet me, so I arranged for the chairman of the local reference board, Mr. Connell, to hear the case. On Tuesday, the facts were presented to him and he recommended the reinstatement of Mitchell. The man presented himself for work at midnight last night, but was told to go home. I pleaded with the men not to cease work. They have never yet laid down their picks, but can they be expected to remain passive when they see their privileges filched from them by the management? The instances of irritation tactics, which I have quoted, are characteristic of thousands of happenings.
When a stoppage occurs, honorable members opposite urge the Government to apply to the miners Statutory Rule No. 77. Whilst the regulations may be necessary in war-time in order to maintain production and in the interests of national security, any attempt on the part of the Government to apply the statutory rule to coal-miners who cease work as a protest against the loss of their privileges will lead to a substantial decrease of production. The Government, through the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell, has become over-zealous in demanding from the miners greater and greater production. The stoppages are not serious. The position reminds me of a shovelful of coal falling from a 5-ton lorry laden to capacity. The driver, in order to recover the shovelful of coal, is prepared to upset the vehicle and lose the lot
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) referred to the introduction into the coal-mining industry of mechanization. In the early stages, many people believed that mechanization would increase production, but their prophecies Iia ve not been fulfilled. The Richmond Main Colliery had an output of over 3,000 tons a day, but since the introduction of mechanization, production has fallen by approximately l;G0O tons a day. A similar reduction was experienced in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited Collieries, and the John Darling Colliery at Belmont. Mechanization, though causing a decrease of production, has increased the profits of the companies, because it reduced working costs. Formerly, the miners earned from £1 10s. to £2 10s. a day. Since mechanization, they earn the shift-work rate of £1 10s. 9d. a day. The output of every miner on these machines has increased, but fewer men are employed.
– ‘Soon the miners will be paid as much as the troops !
– If the honorable member bites, he must expect to be bitten in turn. Doubtless, as a major, he receives, in addition to his parliamentary allowance, substantial remuneration from the Army. I repeat that the coal-miners have a great record of patriotism. About 80 per cent, of them were born in the old country, and they realize that the country of their birth and many of their relatives are being or have been blasted to pieces. Their response to the appeals of this country has been greater than that of men in any other industry. Their
record in the last war proves that. In this war their organization has contributed to war loans an amount of £15,000, which is more than has been contributed by the proprietors or any other union. But what happened to them after the last war ? They believe at times that they are members of a lost race. They can elect few representatives to this Parliament. Senator Arthur and I are the only practical miners in it. Their patriotism in the last war has been poorly rewarded. You, Mr. Speaker, and some of the older members of this House, can remember their treatment at the hands of the occupants of the treasury bench in 1929, 1930, 1931 and 1932. It was in 1929, while the Bruce-Page Government was in power, that the coalowners committed the first breach of the Industrial Peace Act. The coal-miners were locked out for fifteen months because they tried to obey an award of the court made under the terms of that act, which I have frequently tried to have brought into operation again. The Bruce-Page Government not only failed to take the coal-owners to task for their breach of the law, but also made no attempt to ensure that the law was carried out. It took the side of the coal-owners. Not only did it abrogate the Industrial Peace Act, but it also sought to pass legislation whereby the Commonwealth would have vacated the field of industrial arbitration entirely in favour of the States. Eventually the Government was defeated on that issue. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was one of the group of supporters of the Nationalist party who voted with Labour to bring about the defeat of the Government, on that occasion. I well remember that. I was the stalking horse. Night after night I attacked the Bruce-Page Government until I finally taunted it into prosecuting the coal-owners, but immediately Parliament went into recess and the Government was safe from further harassment, the prosecution was dropped. Upon its defeat, the Bruce-Page Government gave way to another government.
– The Scullin Government.
– Yes, a government that I supported. I have always been conscientious, and I cannot play the political game to the same depths as some people are prepared to go - the murky depths of the sewer. As it had been good enough for me to attack the Bruce-Page Government for refusing to enforce its own laws, it was also good enough for me to attack the party which had displaced it in office and had promised on the hustings to do what the Bruce-Page Government had failed to do, namely, prosecute the coal-owners. Accordingly, I attacked the Scullin Government as I had attacked its predecessor.
– With what result?
– With no result. But I do not want to go into that. It has passed into history, although the miners do not forget, for they can never forget. They wonder to-day who is with them and who is against them; but I have always stood loyally beside them, and I shall continue to do so. I say definitely and unequivocally that Statutory Rule No. 11, if applied on the coalfields in order to stimulate production, will, as sure as night follows day, lessen production, not only of coal, but also of all other needs, for, if the miners be prosecuted und’er the regulations, the prosecution will be followed by a wave of sympathy strikes throughout Australian industry.
.- This debate over-concentrates on a particular industry as being possibly affected by Statutory Rule No. 11. Undue emphasis is being laid upon the position on the coal-fields. No doubt, that is a very important matter, but it seems to me that Statutory Rule No. 11 has not been introduced for the specific purpose of taking action against the coal-miners, or against any workers. It has been introduced to give to the Government power to organize in order that we might be able to hold Australia, and later take the offensive with other members of the United Nations. That is the reason why Statutory Rule No. 11 has been promulgated.
– Then why does the honorable member want to have the regulations disallowed ?
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) again demonstrates his entire lack of understanding of the position, because the motion for disallowance originated with one of his own party’s supporters, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has indicated that we do not. propose to vote for tie motion. If Statutory Rule No. 11 is to be of value to the Government it. must be used without fear or favour against all sections of the community against whom it might be necessary to invoke it. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) laid great stress upon the workers’ side of the war. Who are the workers? Are they only those who are members of industrial unions? Are they only those who support the Government ? I venture to say that 99 per cent, of the people of this country are workers, at the present time, particularly. There are very few independent people in Australia. There are very few people who can afford to live without doing something for their daily bread, and at least 99 per cent, of the community can be truthfully described as workers. Does the Minister suggest that only those who earn their living by manual labour of some kind can be classified as workers? If that is the case, how does the Minister classify himself? And how do numerous trade union officials qualify as workers if only the manual worker is to be described as a worker? I am not criticizing those individuals who rise from a position as employees to become owners of their own businesses. Nor am I criticizing those nien who graduate from the ranks of labour to take command of unions as officials. They all are workers, and there is no justification for the slur which the Minister casts upon members of the community who do not happen to work with their coats off and in bowyangs.
– A great many trade unionists do not work that way.
– I give to the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) the credit for doing a lot of work in his own garden on Sundays, but he would not qualify as a worker in the sense in which the Minister for Labour and National Service uses the word.
– I have been a trade unionist for a long time.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has been at great pains to emphasize that Statutory Rule No. 77 will not be invoked against what he calls the workers,but he has not specified whom he would include in that category. I am unhappy in voting against the motion for the disallowance of the statutory rule. When t he matter was first mentioned some weeks ago on the floor of the House I declared that I would support the Government because I believe that in wartime the government should have the power to be given under Statutory Rule No. 77. I fear, however, that the Government will not use the power properly, because the Minister for Labour and National Service has declared that so far as industrial disputes are concerned he will not, under any circumstances, use it against certain sections of the community. Of what use will the powers be to the Government? Are they to be invoked against one section of the community only - the section continually referred to by the Minister for Labour and National Service as the “bosses”? In that honorable gentleman’s mind there are only two sections in the community, the workers and the bosses. Any one earning his own living is a boss; any person employing one or two employees is a boss; and in his definition of a boss the honorable gentleman includes a solicitor, an architect or any other professional man who is earning his living by his professional skill. No person who comes within this category will be given the blanket cover of protection against Statutory Rule No. 77 that has been promised to the trade unionists by the Minister who will be entrusted with its administration. In view of the declarations of the Minister for Labour and National Service, as opposed to the views expressed by the Prime Minister, I should be justified in supporting the motion, because it is manifest that the statutory rule will not be administered impartially. Above and beyond my personal feeling, however, there is a greater duty which devolves on all members of this House, namely, to entrust the executive of the day, irrespective of what government is in office, with power to take speedy and prompt action for the defence of Australia should the emergency call for it. In spite of my lack of confidence in the manner in which the Minister for Labour and National Service will use the enormous powers given in the statutory rule, I shall not support the motion for its disallowance.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I believe that the Government of this country should be armed with the same authority to act rapidly-
– As Hitler has.
– I was about to say, as a totalitarian state has, but I adopt the expression of the honorable gentleman who has interjected. Is there anything wrong with empowering a democratic government to act rapidly, should the occasion to do so arise? Germany and Japan have demonstrated that they possess effective striking power. Since the inception of the war, the democracies have been mostly on the defensive. Despite all the criticism of totalitarian methods, their success makes it evident that, from a military and an offensive point of view, they produce results. Therefore, if the Government of this country asks for powers which, in its opinion, are necessary for the more effective conduct of the war, although I happen to be on the Opposition side of the House I shall not deny them to it, whatever party it represents. I admired the speech, of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), who stated his point of view with great logic, clarity and tolerance. Nevertheless, war is war, and, despite whatever fears I may hold, I believe that it is necessary to give to the executive of this country the authority to act rapidly, decisively, and with determination, in any emergency that may arise. The single flaw in the request of the Government is the declaration of a leading member of the Cabinet. If government by Cabinet means anything, it means that the whole of the Cabinet is of one mind. That is the very basis of the Cabinet form of government. There should be no division. The Cabinet should be one entity, and when the Prime Minister speaks in regard to a matter that has been decided by it, every member of it, whether he agrees or not, should declare himself for it, or resign his portfolio. Yet what do we find? The Prime Minister made the declaration that, if the regulations made by Statutory Rules 1942, No. 77, he disallowed, the Government will consider the submission of its resignation to the Governor-General. But one of his senior Ministers - the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) - who, in the main, will have the administration of these regulations in relation to industrial matters, declares that, despite what has been decided by Cabinet, he will not apply these regulations to a section of the community that he supports and the votes of which he hopes to gain for his own particular purposes. He is courting popularity at the expense of his colleagues and to the detriment of the prestige of the Government. I am not concerned with the degree of division that may exist within the party opposite. But I am concerned to get impartial administration, and when the Prime Minister appeals to this House not to disallow those regulations, whilst at the same time one of his senior Ministers declares that the power sought will not be used against a large section of the community - meaning, in effect, that it will be used only against another section - I entertain very serious misgivings. Nevertheless, I believe that the Government should possess such power, and for that reason I shall not support the motion for the disallowance of the regulations. Although, at present, I have not confidence in the administration of the Minister who will be principally concerned with the industrial side of the matter, I have a considerable degree of confidence in the Prime Minister, and hope and believe that he will exert all the influence he possesses towards ensuring that these powers shall not be abused.
Let us examine some of the statements of the senior Minister who is responsible for the control of industrial affairs. First, let us consider the attack he has made upon a man who has been appointed by the Government of which he is a member - the chairman of the Coal Commission, Mr. Mighell.
– This Government did not appoint him.
– Mr. Mighell, although appointed by the preceding Government, was confirmed in office by the present Government. I am not concerned with his qualifications, but I am concerned with the attack that was made upon him by the Minister for Labour and National Service. It is a most serious matter to make such a deliberate and devastating attack upon the chairman of the Coal Commission. It is almost an unforgivable offence. I can conceive of nothing that calls for more condemnation.
I come now to the Minister’s justification for various disputes. He weaved a heartrending story around a fractious pony which was likely to kick the man who was driving it, -or to upset a skip of coal, and so obstruct the working of the mine. In time of war, when every ton of coal is as vital as a drum of petrol, there ought to be some other way of settling a dispute that is caused by a pit pony being fractious, than the cessation of work by 200 or 300 men. It is the height of absurdity for the Minister for Labour and National Service to defend a wheeler and a number of other individuals who walk out of a mine merely because a pony does not possess the desired temperament. I have worked quite a number of horses, and have handled many fractious ones. I have not simply thrown down the plough reins and gone on strike when a horse would not work, but have broken it in and made it respond to my will. I have not known a. horse that could not be broken if one had the will. Instead of 200 or 300 miners being thrown out of work, either the man or the horse, or both, ought to have been removed, and the remainder of the men been allowed to continue at work. Defence of that, sort of thing by a responsible Minister in time of war is almost incomprehensible.
Then there is the alleged sacrifice which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) so often laments, and about which the Minister for Labour and National Service almost shed tears to-night - -.the sacrifice which miners are making in order to hew coal. I have very little knowledge of coal-mining, but I know that a coal-miner cannot be induced at any price to leave that industry and engage in any other industry, he would almost sooner starve while looking for employment in a coal-mine than engage in any other occupation. If coal-mining is such an unpleasant occupation, why do not the miners accept other employment? The honorable member for Hunter has told us time and again of the thousands of miners at Kurri Kurri and elsewhere on the coal-fields who are unemployed. Few of them could be induced to accept employment on a farm.
– Because they would be exploited.
– The claim is that they would be exploited, in producing the food which keeps alive such individuals as the honorable member for Hunter. The sorry story weaved around the miners by the Minister for Labour and National Service may or may not be true. The best evidence of whether it is or not, is to be found in the fact that they will not accept any other job. That, of itself, indicates that coal-mining does not impose such a tremendous strain as the honorable member for Hunter suggests.
– There are now thousands of miners in other industries.
– My honorable friend from Hunter is always talking about the mine-owners provoking strikes. Let us examine the position in relation to strikes. I have a press cutting dated the 14th April last. It will be argued that the statements in it are not true because they were published by the press. I have no very close knowledge of coal-owners, and not a tremendous amount of sympathy with them. Probably, there are a good many faults on their side as there are on the side of the miners, but the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) will admit that there could not be a better employer of miners than the McKell Government in New South Wales, of which Jack Baddeley, who represents a coal-mining district, is Deputy Premier, yet here are some headlines from the Sydney Sun of the 14th April, 1942:-
STRIKE AT BIG STATE COLLIERY.
850 Idle Men Greet Ward on Peace Mission.
That hardly constitutes an argument in support of the nationalization of the coal mines. It was not the owners who were responsible for the trouble. They did not irritate the miners into striking. The owner in this case was the Labour Government of New South Wales, the only kind of government which, in the opinion of the honorable . member for Hunter, should be in power. Nevertheless, in this State mine, this nationalized mine, 850 miners greeted the Minister for Labour and National Service by going on strike. Let us see what some of these strikes have been about. Are they strikes against the bosses? Has their purpose been to improve industrial conditions? I was in Lithgow five or six weeks ago when a strike was looming there, which threatened to hold up, and in fact, did later hold up, the production of vitally-needed arms and equipment in the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory. Was the purpose of that strike to right some industrial wrong? It was nothing of the kind. It was the outcome of a quarrel between two unions. The Amalgamated Engineers Union wished to impose certain conditions on the union to which the employees in the Small Arms Factory belonged. This demand was resisted, and the engineers went on strike. That is the sort of thing which the Minister for Labour and National Service defends.
– Was production held up ?
– Yes, it was.
– It was not held up at all.
– That is one instance in which Statutory Rule No. 77 should have been applied.
– You are telling lies.
– Order !
– Why should he tell lies aboutit?
– The honorable member for Hunter must withdraw that statement.
– Out of deference to an old cobber, I shall withdraw it.
– The honorable member muststand up when be makes his withdrawal.
– I withdraw the statement.
– I shall now quote the following paragraph which appeared in this morning’s issue of the Canberra Times : -
Although all coal-fields in New South Wales were again at work to-day when production resumed at the three pits which were held up yesterday, a new and more serious crisis which is threatening the possibility of a hold-up in Vew South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, now faces the industry.
The secretary of the Federated Engine Driver and Firemen’s Association (Mr. Hastie) claimed to-day that unless within the next 24 hours the miners withdrew certain classifications covered by the engine drivers’ award, from a log of claims now before the Central Coal Reference Board, a stop-work meeting would be held at an early date on all coalfields to consider strike action.
This strike is threatened, not because of unsatisfactory working conditions, not for the purpose of resisting oppression by the employers, not to obtain anything which it is in the power of the Government to provide, but because one union claims that another is usurping its rights. If the strike occurs it will hold up the production of equipment that is vitally needed at this time. It is no credit to the Minister for Labour and National Service that there are fewer industrial disputes now than ever before in the history of the Commonwealth. There should be no industrial dispute in Australia at the present time. It is an eternal disgrace to the “Government and the parties if disputes cannot be settled by some method other than the holding up of production when every ton of coal, every Bren gun, and every rifle are so urgently needed. I am not condemning the unionists as a body. I believe that much credit is due to union officials and to the unions themselves for the way in which they have risen to the occasion. The unionists are working as never before ; but there are some sections among them - fortunately very small - who are deliberately defying the Government, who refuse to recognize their obligation to the country, and decline to admit, it would seem, the danger with which the country is confronted. If they act in such a way as to .assist the enemy they should be rigorously dealt with. It is all very well for the Minister for Labour and National Service to say that persuasion is more effective than coercion, and that disputes should be settled by talking to the men. If it is impossible to obtain results by talking, and if work can be maintained only .by conceding things that never should be conceded, then it is evident that the time has come when the powers conferred under Statutory Rule No. 77 should be exercised. [Extension of time granted.] The Minister for Labour and National Service has spoken of the workers. Who are the workers other than the great majority of the people of the Commonwealth? Every person in Australia should be working, and the vast majority of them are. “ The term “ workers “ really includes 99 per cent, of the people, and not merely trade unionists, as the Minister for Labour and National Service has implied. If the Minister for Labour and National Service expects us to support this rule he should declare here and now that he is prepared to administer it impartially. His statements to date have left a grave doubt in the minds of many members of the community. He says that he will administer the regulations, but not against a certain section. If the regulations are to be enforced against one section only, the Opposition would be justified in seeking to deny this power to the Government. However, I appreciate the terrible danger with which we are confronted, and, therefore, despite my misgivings regarding the administration of the Minister for Labour and National Service, I am prepared to concede the power. The Minister spoke of coercing wealthy gentlemen in exclusive clubs, but how many such persons does he think there are? I suggest that he might, do better by coercing the loafers who draw the dole, and spend their time leaning against the verandah posts of pubs. As a matter of fact, there are very few wealthy clubmen who would be worth “ tuppence “ in the war effort, because most of them are over age and otherwise physically unfit. I can produce for the benefit of the Minister many scores of names of persons who are anxious to do something for the war effort and have made applications to the Department of Labour and National Service, but have had their applications rejected, or have been fobbed off. If the Minister is really looking for people to work in munitions factories, or perform other useful services, he should tell these people to whom I have referred where they can get jobs. I challenge the Minister, when he speaks of coercing wealthy members of clubs, to do something in the way of providing employment for those who have, in effect, been waiting on the doorstep of his department for months past.
The purpose of StatutoryRule No.77 is to ensure the more effective prosecution of the war. If it be used to that end, and be not abused, honorable members on this side will support it. In this respect, the Minister for Labour and National Service has a grave responsibility to the country. He must do something more than make repeated attacks on all who are not members of trade unions. We have become very tired of t hat. I also say that the Prime Minister should be paramount in his Government. The will of Cabinet over which he presides should prevail. The Prime Minis- ter must ensure that this shall be so, or he must surrender to the Minister for Labour and National Service. We have confidence that the Prime Minister is impartial in the discharge of his duties; but, unless he can assure us that the will of Cabinet will prevail over that of the Minister for Labour and National Service, there will be grave misgivings among honorable members regarding the granting of these wide powers under Statutory Rule No. 77.
.- Unlike those members of the Opposition who have spoken, I do not agree in principle with this regulation, which is repugnant to me, and opposed to what I believe to bo the fundamental principles of democracy for which we are fighting. I’ feel intuitively that the principle embodied in these regulations is fundamentally wrong, and that it is totalitarian in its essence, as was admitted by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). However, I have not the eloquence of the honorable member forBourke (Mr. Blackburn), who moved t he motion for the disallowance of Statutory Rule No. 77. I envy him because, on this occasion, he can not only speak, but also vote as he honestly thinks proper.
– And cannot the honorable member also do that?
– I am convinced that there are other honorable members on this side of the House who feel on this matter as I do ; but, as pledged supporters of the Government, they regard it as their duty to vote for such measures as the Government introduces. As the Americans say “ My country right or wrong “. On this occasion, it is “My Government right or wrong “. As a loyal supporter of the Government, I shall take no action likely to embarrass it or to substitute for it a reactionary government which would apply these regulations unsympathetically to the workers. Statutory Rule No. 77 is political dynamite for the Government, and the time may come when these regulations will smash it. I can understand why honorable members opposite support the Government on this occasion; they believe that, by so doing, they will give the Government an additional push towards destruction. In promulgating these regulations, the Government has been misled by press propaganda. Peculiarly enough, that propaganda has been intensified lately, in order to create panic in the minds of the people and stampede the Government into applying the regulations against the workers. Any true friend of the Government who appreciates the position must sound a note of warning as to the danger that confronts it.
I was impressed by the extraordinary alliance between the mover and the seconder of the motion. Whilst the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is the most democraticallyminded member of the House, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is the most autocraticallyminded member. Perhaps there is some significance in the alliance. Is the honorable member for Barker at last seeing the light? He is always sincere in expressing his views.
– I do not speak against a motion and then vote for it, as the honorable member proposes to do.
– On one celebrated occasion, the honorable member was alone in supporting a motion. If the honorable member for Bourke oan succeed in converting the honorable member for Barker, there will be some hope for democracy.
I appreciate the spirit in which the Government has promulgated the regulations, although I do not agree with them. In my opinion, there is no need to drive the Australian people. They will accept wise and courageous leadership without being driven to do their duty. The saying that “ One volunteer is better than ten pressed men “ still holds good, whether in the military or. industrial spheres.
– Will the honorable member vote as a volunteer or as a pressed man?
– Judging by the glint in the eye of the honorable member for Barker, it seems as if I shall be a pressed man very shortly. My experience as a member of this chamber has led me to believe that there is no need to drive Australians to do their duty. People in all walks of life wish to assist the Government to the best of their ability. It is only a matter of organizing the voluntary spirit that undoubtedly exists. The Government may take the view that, in a crisis, people must be prepared to accept a bitter pill. In my opinion, a good deal depends on the person who administers the pill. If it is given by a sympathetic matron, everything will be all right. But if it be given by a hard-hearted old hag, all will be wrong.
Who will administer the regulations? Although the Prime Minister has assured the House that he will personally supervise the matter, it will be physically impossible for him to do so. His attention is occupied with matters of higher strategy, and in that sphere he has rendered wonderful service in the interests of Australia. He should be permitted to concentrate upon higher strategy and should not be expected to deal with details. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) is one of the busiest members of the Government, and it is not physically possible for him properly to administer and police the regulations. That the Prime Minister must eventually delegate his authority to other persons is inevitable. This conclusion leads me to another thought. The Government has inherited unfortunate legacies from its predecessors. Many persons who were placed in key positions are not fitted to hold them. Having failed in the commercial sphere, they grasped an opportunity shortly after the outbreak of w.ar to gain key position?. Those misfits in civil life may now be called upon to administer these regulations.
In addition, the .motives of some of these gentlemen are distinctly doubtful. Instances have been reported of collusion between departmental officers and business men for the purpose of exploiting the community or seizing the plant of other firms. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) cited an instance of that. When I visited a large munitions establishment recently I had an interesting discussion with the general manager. The Government had appointed him to that position because the output of the works, which played an important part in the war effort, was not satisfactory. The Government guaranteed the overdraft of the undertaking and ‘installed the general manager to watch its interests and to reorganize the establishment. He informed me that the incompetency of a number of persons occupying important executive positions was responsible for the disorganization. To use his own words,. “ They were not worth two bob “. He dismissed them, but subsequently, he found that they had secured positions in Commonwealth departments and were charged with carrying out important functions in connexion with the war effort. Persons of that kind may administer these regulations.
On a previous occasion, I referred to the machine tools dictatorship. Early this week, I learned that an establishment in my electorate which was manufacturing wood screws for the PostmasterGeneral’s department for important defence work, required a certain machine to replace one which had become antiquated and had broken down. The manager discovered a suitable machine in a second-hand depot, where, it had lain for. four years. The proprietor had received no inquiries for it. Before the firm was permitted to purchase the machine, it was obliged to seek approval from the Director of Machine Tools’. He refused to give permission -and stated that his decision was irrevocable. The establishment made strenuous representations to have the decision reversed, and eventually its efforts were successful. How is it that a decision which was said to be irrevocable was later reversed? The explanation is that Nettlefold’s Proprietary Limited, Melbourne, was the only supplier of wood screws. In other words, the business was a monopoly.
There is a great danger that the administration of these regulations will get into the hands of people who are unfit to shoulder the responsibility. A host of petty tyrants will be created who, for the first time in their lives, will feel a little power. They will begin to “throw their weight about “. An illustration of what can occur was provided only a few days ago. A dispute occurred at the Water Board works at Newcastle and representatives of the union, following a long established practice, began to reason with the mcn in an effort to settle the dispute. Thereupon, fifteen members of the Commonwealth police force ordered them to quit the premises. Drawing their revolvers, they issued a threat that if the union representatives did not leave voluntarily, they might be carried from the place. That is the sort of thing which . is likely to occur if these regulations are used.
– It occurred in my electorate.
– Yes, in the Hunter electorate, where, during the Rothbury riots, a miner was shot when the police came on the scene. Once these regulations are used against the workers, the process will have to be continued to the end, even to the length of using armed force, which will lead to disruption and possibly civil war.
There does not seem to be any inclination to use these regulations against the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), when Deputy Leader of the Opposition, promised to nationalize, but I am convinced that many small manufacturers, whether engaged on war production or not, will be driven out of business. .Some honorable members opposite, who were Ministers in previous adminis trations, will remember that I introduced to them deputation after deputation of manufacturers who wanted to bring their plants into the field of war industry. All honorable members will recall that in this House I have brought to the notice of Ministers the unavailing anxiety of various firms to play their part in the war effort. Some of them were engaged part-time on war production, but were anxious to devote 100 per cent, of their capacity to it. Others were conducting non-essential industries and wanted orders and credit facilities from the Government to enable them to switch to the production of war materials. In a great many cases their attempts were fruitless, and now they are being told that because they are not engaged on war work their plant will be taken over and handed to larger concerns. In order to instance the way in which regulations are being misapplied, I cite the case of an electro-plater who is engaged full-time on war work. He received from the general secretary of the Master Electro-platers, New South “Wales, a combine of which he is not a member, a circular in which he was asked, on the ground that it was the official representative of the Department of War Organization of Industry, to supply to a committee set up in connexion with his industry - .most of the members of the committee belong to the combine - confidential details of his business. I must say that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has since explained that the circular was issued without his knowledge and against his instructions, and that it was his intention, not that people should be required to supply to competitors secret details of their trade, but that such information should be supplied only to the department. That example shows how power placed in the hands of vested interests can be misused. In New South Wales alone about 100 electro-plating firms operate. The circular stated that the information asked for was needed to - . . provide an estimate of the production possible after consolidating the trade’s machinery, plant, and man-power into four or five factories.
In other words, 100 small concerns are to be welded into four or five monopolies. I agree therefore with the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Eadden) that it is necessary in the administration of these ‘regulations to have safeguards, hut I do not agree with the method suggested by him. If the Government intends to allow these regulations to remain in force, it should appoint a committee answerable to this House to administer them, because it is physically impossible for any one Minister personally to handle the administration. Alternatively, a committee should be appointed to give direct assistance to the Prime Minister in his administration of the regulations and to review all cases of supposed injustice, claims for compensation, ‘and so on.
The troubles of the coal-mining industry will never be settled under the private ownership of the mines or by t the enforcement of regulations such as those contained in Statutory Rule No. 77. The right honorable member for North .Sydney (Mr. Hughes) once said in this House that it was easier to issue than to carry out regulations designed to compel the coal-miners to work. The right honorable gentleman knows from his long experience that men cannot be forced to do their duty, but that they can be led. I congratulate the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) on the excellent way in which he has settled the disputes in the coal-raining industry and other industries. I agree with his view that the proper way in which to settle disputes is by an appeal to reason and for the co-operation of the men. I know the psychology of the coalminers, for I was born in a coal district and lived there for years, and for many years I was associated with the coalmining industry in a professional capacity. The condition in the industry can be summed up in one word: “distrust”. The mutual distrust among the miners and the owners is traditional and has been passed on from father to son. Young men in the industry know from their forebears that the coal-owners’ only care is the exploitation of the coal seams and of the labour of the men. They have no caro for the social conditions of the miners. When have they ever taken any part, in the social life of the men? When have they ever sponsored housing schemes or any other proposals for the betterment of con- ditions on the coal-fields? Whatever benefits have been gained by the miners have been , wrung from the owners, mostly by direct action, unfortunately, for that seems to ,be the only way. I commend to honorable members who have never been down a coal-mine Dr. Cronin’s ThStars Look Down, which will give to them a fine insight into the conditions of the mining industry. Every character in that, book I could duplicate from my memory. Honorable members who read it will realize that conditions in the industry are improved b.y the mine-owners only after a. catastrophe. For instance, the Mount Kembla catastrophe of 40 years ago was needed to induce the Government, to compel the management to introduce safety lamps in mines. I have no personal recollection of the events of that catastrophe beyond what. I was told by my farther. On behalf of the miners, he was examining the manager of the Mount Kembla mine, a man who was regarded as being among the most competent of the mine managers, and had just elicited from him the statement that the Mount Kembla mine was the safest on the South Coast when, with the words hardly said, there was a terrific explosion. Every body present rushed outside; and saw the Mount Kembla mine go up in smoke. In fairness, I must say that representatives of the men and the management went, into the mine pair by pair to rescue the entombed miners. One hundred lives were lost. Since it took a catastrophe of that magnitude to awaken the Government and the mine-owners to the necessity to introduce safety devices in the mines, is it any wonder that miners are restive people? It is little wonder that they become more restive when they are assailed by propaganda charging them with disloyalty. Why, a strike occurred directly as the result of that, sort of propaganda ! It is opposed to the interests ‘of the country to create the illusion that we are divided among ourselves. To magnify the disputes which occur and to minimize the efforts the miners are making to maintain production is, in effect, to invite the enemy to come here.
The policy and actions of the Menzies Government contributed greatly to the present trouble in the coal-mining industry.For instance, the secret fund created a lack of confidence among the miners in their leaders and the Government. The miners’ leaders were urging them to increase production, and they were competing amongst themselves to answer the appeal when the secret funds sensation broke. Advisedly, I say that the Government should end for all time the troubles in the coal-mining industry by taking control of the mines. The mineowners are out of sympathy with the policy of Labour and, accordingly, are by propaganda and other means doing what they can to bring this Government to an end. Their attitude is in line with that of certain employers in the United States of America who were taken to task by P resident Roosevelt for retarding production because of their reluctance to encourage the establishment of production committees in their industries. Production committeesin the coal-mining industry in Australia are discouraged by the management in certain collieries. Although myremarks are received with stony silence by Opposition members, not only the Labour party, but also many other liberallyminded men in the community are thinking along the same lines. I propose to read a newspaper extract on this subject.
– The statutory rule under discussion embraces industrial disputes, but the motion does not entitle the honorable member to debate at length the nationalisation of mining.
– One of the objects of Statutory Rule No. 77 is to bring about harmony and co-operation between employers and employees, and I propose to discuss this aspect of the matter without going extensively into the subject of the nationalization of mining, regarding which I hold definite views. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 17th April, the following paragraph was published : -
Elimination of speculators in industrial stocks, nationalised transport. Government di rectors in all industries, and labour repre sentation on boards of directors are among the post-war reconstruction ideas advanced by Mr. Samuel Courtauld, the industrial magnate, in an article in the “ Economic Journal,”
Commenting on the article, the “Financial News “ says : “ Some of Mr. Courtauld’s views are, to say the least, surprising.” [Mr. Courtauld is 65. He has been chairman of the great rayon and textile combine, Courtaulds, Ltd., for 21 years. Courtaulds, Ltd., has issued capital of £stg32,000,000. operates18 plants in Britain, and has controlling interests in a number of other companies, including some on the Continent. Mr. Courtauld is a member of a family noted for philanthropic activity. He is a trustee of the National “Gallery.]
Mr. Courtauld says in his article:
– I again ask the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) to connect the subject-matter of the article that he has read with the motion before the Chair, which provides for the disallowance of Statutory Rule No. 77.
– I am contrasting the attitude adopted by certain prominent industrialists with the view expressed by an industrialist of another class as reported in the Sunday Telegraph of the 19th April : -
Sunday Telegraph Service
The managing director of a firm engaged on war work referred to his employees as “beasts” “animals,” and”riff-raff”’ before an investigating committee.
A reportby the committee, which was organised by the Advertising Service Guild to investigate war production, reveals this.
The managing director was distinguished mid titled,” the report states. “ He addressed the committee for more than two hours on the selfishness and stupidity of his work-people who number many thousands, and are mostly highly skilled.”
The report quotes this man’s views as an example of the need for more intelligent use of human resources in war production.
Other employers regarded compulsory introduction of works canteens as the beginning of Communism, and considered the very idea of works councils as the equivalent of sabotage, the report adds.
Nearly one in ten of the firms studied was strongly anti-trade union.
The report does not suggest that either labor or management has a monopoly of blame.
It is apparent from the two extracts I have read that, whilst one section of the industrial community believes that there should be greater co-operation between employers and employees, that workers should be co-partners in industry and should share in the management of, and rewards from, industry, there is another section which looks on employees as beasts and animals who should be driven to do their duty. Under Statutory Rule No. 77, the Government has an opportunity to move towards greater co-operation between all sections of the industrial community, and to pave the way for a higher social system. If this be not done by an evolutionary process, a section of the community might attempt to bring it about by bloody revolution.
– A few years ago it was my great privilege to sit in the gallery of the House of Commons on the celebrated occasion when Mr. Winston Churchill, who was not then in office, described the then Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, as “ the boneless wonder “. My mind ran back to that remark while I was listening to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). We who are sitting in the outer darkness of the Opposition were given a mere fleeting glimpse of what goes on in what is called “ the Caucus “.
– What happened at the right honorable member’s own party meeting?
– I shall tell the honorable member later, with great pleasure. Never previously have I heard an honorable member so frankly inform the Parliament that whilst he was proposing to speak in one direction, because that was how he thought, he proposed to cast his vote in another direction, because that was what he was compelled to do. For the first time, I regret that I am not a member of the Labour party, because I see great advantages in that line of action. What an advantage it is, in an electorate such as is represented by the honorable member for Reid, which was represented previously in this House by a conscious humourist, to be able to go to the more conservative portion of the electorate and say - “Ladies and gentlemen, I supported Statutory Rule No. 77 : I know that you like Statutory Rule No. 77 because you think that it is going to be used against the coal-miners. I voted for it.” I can imagine how every body would applaud! And then to be able to go to the other end of the electorate, where the Left wingers live, and say - “Boys. I review what I said about Statutory Rule No. 77 and if you do not believe me, here it is in Hansard”. It is a wonderful advantage and, whilst I could pursue the topic with profit, I do not intend to do so. I shall come back to the question before the chair and discuss whether Statutory Rule No. 77 should or should not be disallowed. I am glad that the Prime Minister has done me the honour of coming from his other important work in order to listen to this debate, because I think it has given rise to a discussion of firstclass importance. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) initiated the debate with a speech which was, as usual, a thoughtful contribution in which he endeavoured to base his arguments on the ground of high principle. I want to pursue that a little further, and whilst I do not desire to engage in an academic discussion on this matter, I want to refer to the principle which is affected by Statutory Rule No. 77. At the outset. I shall inform the Prime Minister that I thoroughly agree with him that the provision that was made in 1940 in the amending National Security Act was not only justifiable, but. imperative. I do not qualify in the slightest degree any word that I spoke on that occasion, and I know that he does not qualify any word he spoke on that occasion. But that does not determine the matter. It is quite true that Statutory Rule No. 77 is almost in terms identical with the amending National Security Act 1940, but again that does not conclude the matter. It is not the scope of any regulations, but the essential character of the particular regulations themselves that are being criticized in this debate. It is quite true that in time of war the Government, whatever its political colour may be, ought to be given the widest authority that the Constitution entitles it to have. I am not prepared to say that this Government should be denied the authority which I should want if I were in charge of the government of the country. I am as prepared to entrust the present Prime Minister with great powers as I would be willing to receive them myself from this House. The real question is whether this particular form of statutory rule is the kind of law that was contemplated by Parliament, whether it has any defects which are incurable, or defects which are curable. Undoubtedly it has certain defects, which I think are, for the most part., curable. I invite the Prime Minister to consider whether he should not, even at this stage, introduce certain amendments into the regulations which will make them more consistent with an orderly scheme of government. *.I shall deal presently with what, I believe should be the teste applied to any regulations under a statutory rule. What I have already said has been said in order to indicate thatI have not a narrow-minded approach to the problem of what power ought to be given to the Executive. I go further and say that when any doubt exists, in a time of war, we ought, to resolve that doubt in favour of the executive government of the country.
– That is unconscious hum our !
– If the honorable member for Melbourne(Mr. Calwell) can perceive humour in that statement, I shall have to recommend him for suitable medical treatment, because it is not humorous. If there is any doubt in the mind of Parliament about whether a certain regulation ought or ought not to be approved, then I am prepared to resolve that doubt always in favour of the executive Government, because I be lieve that it is far better, in a time of war. to err by trying to do too much than to fail by doing too little.
I shall now deal with Statutory Rule No. 77 itself. It is true that it specifically provides -
These regulations shall be administered by the Minister of State for Defence Coordination.
That is a form of words with which we all are familiar, and it places’ on the Minister for Defence Co-ordination the responsibility for the administration of the regulations. It then goes on to provide, in regulation 4 -
That is not the Minister administering the statutory rule, but any Minister of State in the Cabinet - or any person authorized by a Minister to give directions under these regulations.
I direct attention to the fact that that authorization by the Minister is not in writing, and it is not by an order in council or anything of that sort, but is merely an authorization with no limitation and no statement of form - may direct any person resident in Australia -
In other words, there is unlimited power in any Minister to delegate to any other person, by any form that he thinks fit, powerto direct any other person in Australia to perform unspecified service, unspecified duty, or to incur unspecified obligations in relation to his property. That, I venture to say, is the most farreaching regulation in the world. I should be surprised if any regulation could go further than that. The regulation also provides -
Any such direction may be given so as to apply -
) Every person to whom any such direction is applicable shall comply with the direction.
Air. James. - Orders have been given in. writing in all resumption cases of which I have any knowledge.
– -This is not a matter of compulsion, but of choice. These regulations provide that a specific direction may be given either orally or in writing. Great powers of this kind, which, invade the private rights of citizens as they have never been invaded before - and, admittedly, these are times when the rights of citizens must be invaded as never before - should in my opinion repose in the head of the Government, who, by virtue of his position and character, whatever party he may belong to, is entitled to exercise great authority in the country. But powers delegated by him should be delegated in writing, and any orders given under such delegation should also be given in writing so that private citizens may know exactly where they stand. If that be not done we shall be in a position in Australia which will be hard to distinguish from, the position of people subject to the operations of the German gestapo.
– The right honorable gentleman should come over here !
– I shall be over there sooner than the honorable gentleman imagines.
– ‘Cannot the right honorable gentleman conceive of circumstances in which a direction may need to he given orally?
– I can conceive of some circumstances in which an oral direction would need to be given, but I can see no reason why such oral direction should not be confirmed in writing within a specified period.
– I have accepted that proposition.
– It should be provided for in the regulations.
– The Prime Minister should realize that we are concerned as the representatives of a people who are presumed to know the law under which they live. I am not making any mental reservations in this matter, for nobody knows better than I do that governments come and go, sometimes with, painful frequency. What I am concerned about is the laws that govern the people of this country, because whether we be at war or at peace, the greatest gift of citizenship a still security ,under the law. I am sure that the Prime Minister agrees with that view.
By what yardstick should we measure regulations? I am not prepared to measure them by a consideration of the Government that is in office at that particular time, nor am I prepared to consider them according to any argument that may be advanced in relation to the importance of any section of the community, .coal-miners, for example. In my opinion, regulations should be submitted to a perfectly sound objective test. When we learned that this debate was imminent, I took the trouble to write down what I thought were fair principles to apply to regulations of this kind, and, having done so, perhaps I may be allowed to use my own words. I submit in respect of any regulations of this order, first, that they should be designed directly to forward the war effort and be really for the public safety and defence of Australia. [ shall not attack these regulations on that ground because I believe that the House realizes that some such regulations ure necessary, but that is a fair test to apply. Secondly - and I attach great importance to this, as I think the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) does - any such regulations should reasonably and intelligibly convey to citizens some adequate conception of the duties and liabilities which they impose. As we are presumed to know our legal duties we should be given a fair opportunity to discover them. This is an important rest to apply to regulations. We must remember that when a bill is presented to Parliament it is required not only to pass through a general debate on the motion for the second reading, but also to pass through the committee stage ; and, except where the Chairman of Committees is able to obtain an affirmative answer to his question, “Is it the pleasure of the committee that the bill be taken as- a whole?”, the measure is analysed closely and submitted to the keenest criticism of honorable members. But what happens in the case of regulations? Hundreds of these regulations may be gazetted in the course of a year, .and it is impossible to draft them with the quiet precision that is employed in the drafting of a bill. It is also impossible to give every aspect of the regulations the consideration which we give to the different provisions of a bill. The result is that, apart from the power of either of the Houses of the Parliament to disallow a regulation, we must rely largely on the knowledge that if an instruction is given and it turns out to be bad it can be altered very simply. If a regulation turns out to have some outstanding vice Parliament can attack it and disallow it. But within reasonable limits, the ordinary citizen is entitled to the opportunity to discover from the reading of a regulation what his duty under it really is. The regulations now under consideration can hardly survive that test.
Let me clarify one point. I have no objection to giving to Ministers who are known and accountable to Parliament the widest possible powers because, in the long run, if a Minister exercises wide Dowers badly he can be disciplined in Parliament or in Cabinet, and if he exercises wide powers with perverse ideas, he can be. disciplined by the country. Those are democratic remedies, but I point out that if an executive known and accountable to the people takes wide discretionary powers and hands them over to any group of unnamed people not known and not accountable, such safeguards are more or less useless. That is really the vice of this statutory rule. These regulations do not satisfy my second principle.
– I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he thinks it would be possible for a Minister personally to serve orders on citizens?
– An order need not be served by the spoken word, for that method does not give a person, the opportunity to test it.
– Oral orders would be given only in cases of emergency and such orders would be covered by th* assurance I have already given.
– It may well be that in the long run the only difference between the Prime Minister and myself is as to whether such an assurance is sufficient. With very great respect I prefer that a provision implementing that assurance should he included in the regulations.
Mr.Curtin. - I quite agree; but when I discussed that point with the Government’s legal advisers it appeared that the only words that could be added usefully to the regulation on this point were, “ where practicable “, because the Government would still need authority to give direction orally in the event of the enemy being actively engaged against our own citizens.
– Perhaps the right honorable gentleman’s advisers are not so fertile in suggestion as they once were. If the Prime Minister will give me the opportunity a little later, I shall suggest to him a better form of words.
The third quality that should be included in regulations of this kind, is that when they provide for possible interference with life, liberty and property, or with normal civil rights, they should include proper safeguards, such as the requirement of writing to enable any citizen to see and test the authority of any person or body assuming so to interfere. Such a. provision, whilst not completely correcting the defects of this statutory rule revealed by the application of my second principle, would go a long way towards satisfying me. I should then find myself in this state of mind : Here are regulations which are not, in the true sense of the word regulations, since they regulate nothing; because a regulation is something that lays down a rule. This is not regulation; it is - if I may use the word - un regulation, because it hands over discretion to unnamed, unknown, and unaccountable people. I have had very great heartburnings as to whether such a provision should be allowed even in the state of emergency in which we now live. I have been left in grave doubts about the matter. Those doubts would be sensibly minimized if the Prime Minister would agree to make some amendment that would satisfy the third criticism I have made. If that were done, I should feel that I ought to fall back on the principle that I stated - apparently facetiously - at the beginning of my speech ; that was, that when your country is in danger, and when we are in doubt as to whether the Government ought to have a certain power, such doubt ought to be resolved in favour of the Government. I say that without hesitation, although the Government of the daymay be, politically speaking, my strongest possible opponents.
.- I desire to add a few remarks to what has been said by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies). When this matter was before the House previously, upon a formal motion for adjournment, the Opposition expressed its approval of the principles underlying these regulations. Speaking to that motion, I said that privatelyI held objections to the way in which these regulations were drafted. 1 expressed, in part, what has been said so well by the right honorable member for Kooyong. I do not regard it as necessary to have regulations in these terms. Indeed, I do not think that these are regulations in any sense of the term. This is a plenary delegation of power. Whatever power is vested in this Parliament, except, for instance, the power to tax, is by these regulations vested in the Executive, and in such manner as to be completely uncontrolled by any terms of the regulations.I do not know why the Prime Minister should say that, because the Na tional Security Act provides that rules may be made dealing with any one of these subject-matters, therefore there should be no objection to these regulations. The power to make regulations is one thing; the exercise of that power is an entirely different thing. When this matter was previously before the House I said that I could see no justification for the absence of specific regulationsdealing with different subject-matters, because these things can be done over night; indeed, they can be done in the space of a few hours. I have never yet known of any justification for believing that, because power is given by an act to make regulations along a certain line, therefore, any regulations made must be exactly in the terms in which the act gives the power. The misgivings that I had concerning these regulations when I last spoke, have been confirmed by what has since taken place. If these regulations are to be applied in the extreme terms in which the power is given, they should be applied equally to all sections of the community. To-night we have witnessed what I might describe as a tragic pantomime between the Prime Minister and thcMinister who is principally concerned with thi? administration of these regulations. .L had always thought that it was a primary conception of responsible government that every member of the Cabinet was bound by a Cabinet decision, even though he did not like that decision; and if it were in respect of a vital matter, to which he could not reconcile hig conscience, his course was clear, namely, to resign from the Government. Yet to-night we have had the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), for reasons which i have no doubt conscientiously appeal to him, expressing himself in direct conflict with his Prime Minister. I have said on previous occasions that a proper function of a. government is to govern. 1. now say that a proper function of a Prime Minister is to lead his Cabinet. Either the Minister for Labour and National Service should resign from the Cabinet or he should state publicly that he supports the principle that the Government has laid down. To-night we hoard the Minister attacking the Opposition for .having expressed itself in favour of regulations introduced by his own Government. On the other hand, we have bad the Prime Minister defending those regulations, not to members of the Opposition, but to members on his own side of the House. This is quite inconsistent, with responsible government. The people of this country will want to know who is leading the Government. The matter is not clear to me. It appears to me that these regulations have been adopted by the Government in the face of considerable opposition in its own party, and that now they are being defied by the same section of the party, and, indeed, by a responsible member of the Cabinet. My misgivings in regard to these regulations have been confirmed by what the Minister himself has said. Tn short, he has stated that he will not apply these regulations to the industrial workers of this country. I am not concerned with debating the merits of that matter. The Minister may hold thai view; he has certainly expressed it courageously, and we know where we stand. I have now to determine what course I shall take in regard to this motion. When the matter was last before the House, it was by way of a formal motion for adjournment - which, of course, meant that there was no issue and no vote. On this occasion, there is a motion for disallowance by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and upon that a. vote must be taken. What has occurred has revealed to me that these wide and extensive powers are to be applied in respect of only one section of the community. I am not prepared to support regulations in these terms which a government spokesman - in this case the Minister for Labour and National Service - says are to be applied against only a certain section of the community. Like the right honorable member, for Kooyong, I have no objection to the most complete powers being vested in the executive. But these powers are being vested only by virtue of the National Security Act, and they could be exercised at any given time in respect of any specific subject-matter by a regulation made under that act. Having been told in clear and unmistakable terms that these so-called regulations are not to be applied to one large section of the community, but are to be applied to another section, the misgivings that I had have been confirmed ; consequently, I am not prepared to concede to the Government such wide powers in the terms expressed without proper precautions against abuse. I say to the Prime Minister and his colleagues that nothing is gained by trying to fool the people. In respect of any subject-matter, there is no difficulty whatever in introducing regulations at a moment’s notice. Judging by the extent of the power conferred by these regulations, there is nothing that comes within the province of government which the Minister /for Labour and National Service, or any other Minister or his delegate, could not direct any individual to do. As the right honorable member for Kooyong has stated, we as an Opposition are prepared to concede that power to the Government; but the important point is, in what form is it to be conferred? The object of the safeguarding provision applicable to regulations is, that every regulation has to be tabled in this House, upon which it may be considered, and this Parliament may express its views in respect of it. I have always held very strongly that it is the function of this Parliament to watch very carefully the exercise of such powers. That is in no way inconsistent with the giving of the most complete authority to the Government. But when regulations of this description have been approved by this House, orders made under them, which can have the most extreme and far-reaching effects - just as extreme as may result from any piece of legislation ever passed by this Parliament - never Gome before this House for consideration, and cannot be challenged except in the form of a motion of censure after the whole damage has been done.
– The honorable member would like to have such powers.
– I never sought such powers, and am sufficiently democratic not to ask for powers in this blank form. If they were given to members of my party, they would (be exercised with a degree of impartiality which is entirely unknown to the present Government.
I shall state very shortly where I stand. I. am in favour of the exercise of plenary powers by the Executive. Such powers could Be exercised through regulations, which could deal with specific matters. I arn opposed to these regulations as framed, and I shall oppose any such regulations which do not incorporate the amendments suggested by the right honorable member for Kooyong. In view of the statement of the responsible Minister whose chief function will be to apply these regulations, namely, that not in any circumstances will he apply them to the industrial workers of this country, I am notprepared to permit him to apply them, in their present blanket form, against the rest of the community. I believe that those of us who sit on this side of the House owe a duty to the electors who returned us to this Parliament. In face of the declaration by the Minister for Labour and National Service (hat it is .his intention not to apply these regulations to the workers - whom he claims that he alone represents - no support should be given to them.
.- One hundred years or so ago, the people of France began a revolution in the name of “ Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. Before the revolution had been in progress for more than a few years, there was no liberty left in France; and before it had gone many more years the monarchy was restored; that ended equality. As a consequence there was no fraternity left in the French nation for’ several subsequent generations. We started in this war as a democracy, determined to preserve democracy above all else. The longer the war lasts, the less democratic becomes our form of government, and the less regard do we pay to the spirit and the principles of democracy.
I disagree with these regulations; 1 disagree with the whole of their construction. Unlike the right honorable member for Kooyong, I cannot .find in them anything to praise. Not only am I opposed to their form, but I shall also bc opposed to any application of them. The speeches delivered by honorable members on both sides of the House indicate that there are very few people in this Parliament who really ca<re much for democracy. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) quite openly said that there was a lot to admire in totalitarianism, and he was not ashamed, in effect, to see a democracy become totalitarian in the exercise of certain powers. If ever there was an example of unconscious humour, surely it was provided by the honorable member .saying that he wanted to preserve democracy by making the Government as powerful as is Hitler’s Government.
– For the prosecution of the war.
– Of course, for the prosecution of the war. That is the excuse which justifies everything. While the two governments of which the honorable member for Richmond was a member were in -power, no attempt was made to take such far-reaching powers as have been taken under Statutory Rule No. 77. It remained for a Labour government to go the absolute limit in this direction.
– The Japanese are a lot nearer now than they were then.
– That ds true, but even so there is no need for the taking of such extensive powers. The. right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) told us very plainly what could be done under these regulations. So far as the outside Labour movement is concerned, and I maintain, a very close connexion with it, I have not found any section of workers prepared to defend Statutory li u le No. 77, or even to accept it. There is general hostility to it because of the traditional attitude of the Labour movement to such matters.
– Is not the honorable member going to vote in accordance with the wishes of his electors?
– There are some questions which only an enemy would ask, and only a fool would answer. There are other questions which only a fool would ask, and a wise man would not answer. The honorable member’s question is a mixture of the two kinds. In true Asquithian fashion, I ask the honorable member to wait and see. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) expressed the fear that thu Government would, under cover of these regulations, inject some socialism into the economic structure. I give the honorable member, and any others who may be concerned, all the assurance they may need that this Government will never inject any socialism into the economic structure, nor will it do anything to disturb the existing order, except with the concurrence of the Opposition.
– ls the honorable member assuring me that Eddie Ward is a conservative?
– I cannot understand by what crude syllogism the honorable member arrives at the conclusion that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) is in any way conservative. The Minister has made his position very clear. He says that he will not apply Statutory Rule No. 77 to the workers. and that if it be applied to them, it will split the 1. abour movement. The Prime Minister has said that it will be applied with all the impartiality which the Leader of the Opposition could wish. As things stand nt present, there is no clash between the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Prime Minister, but the time may come when there will bc one There is no need to anticipate the clash; let us wait until it occurs. I have a pretty fair idea what will happen if the clash takes place, but I am prepared to wait. Members of the Opposition hope that the clash will occur to-morrow, or even to-night. They are trying to fan the flames of dispute in order to bring the clash about as soon as possible.
I believe that the nationalization of the coal-mines in New South Wales would provide a solution of the difficulties encountered in that State. There is a good deal that is wrong with the coal-mining industry in New South Wales. Despite various attempts to solve the difficulties, the trouble persists there. On the other hand, in the State coal-mine at Wonthaggi, there has been no stoppage for many months, and production was never higher than at present. I suggest that if all the mines in New South Wales, including that of Lithgow, were brought under the ownership and control of the Commonwealth Government, no further difficulty would be experienced.
– That was not the experience in connexion with the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers.
Mi-. CALWELL. - The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, which was established by a Labour government, was sold out by an anti-Labour government to the White Star Company, of which Lord Kylsant was the head. Afterwards, he went to gaol for forging balance-sheets, and the people of Australia have never been paid for the ships. If that is the sort of deal which commends itself to the honorable member for Barker all I can say is that he is slipping.
– And the maritime unions sabotaged the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers.
– It is true that there was some trouble’ between the Line and the Seamens Union, and it is equally true that the then leader of the union was one Thomas Walsh. He was then a supporter of the Labour party. A little later he became one of the foundation members of the Communist party of Australia. Later still he was expelled from the Communist party, and then he became a United Australia party organizer in
New South Wales. After that he sold himself to the Japanese. With his wife he took a trip to Japan, and they have been in the pay of the Japanese Government ever since. That is the sad story of one of those who helped to sabotage the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, but that is no argument against State ownership of ships. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will establish another ship- ping line. It would be better for the primary producers in the Bendigo electorate if such a line were in operation. However, it is true that this Government will not introduce regulations to nationalize the coal-mines. Members of the Opposition may rest peacefully to-night so far as that is concerned. There will be no such thing as the nationalization of banking, or of transport, or of the munitions industry. The Government will stick to the good old cost-plus system, and we shall continue to allow the profiteer to rob us, though perhaps not quite to the ,>-ame degree as before. Nevertheless, we shall not take the profit out of the munitions industry. I recognize that nothing I can say is likely to affect the present issue. There is an overwhelming number in this House to support Statutory Rule No. 77. Despite what they say, ex-Ministers are itching to get back to power, so that they may have the administration of the regulations now under consideration. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and the right honorable member for Kooyong lacked the moral courage to introduce such regulations when they were members of the Government. They are glad that this Government brought them in, and the honorable member for Warringah has said that, once the regulations are in force, no effective control will exist over their administration. I have no doubt that he hopes to become once more Minister for the Army, or to fill some other high ministerial post. He assured me, by interjection, that when he became a Minister again, he would administer the regulations with absolute impartiality.
– I said that if the Opposition got into power it would exercise these powers with more impar- tiality than, has been shown by the Labour Government.
– I stand corrected, and the correction suits me very well. J hope the honorable member will administer the regulations with the same degree of impartiality as he exercised in the making of promotions in the Army when he was Minister. I trust that he will be, as impartial as when he promoted himself to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. So far as the Labour Government is concerned, a power outside this House will express itself in due course. When it does, no matter what the House may do regarding the regulations, that power inherent in the Labour movement will demand an alteration of them in order to make them more democratic.
– That is the real government, and the power behind the throne.
– It expresses the real wish of the Labour movement. If it were noi for the power of the Labour movement, no one on this side of the chamber would -be gracing these legislative halls. In my opinion, the regulations are most extraordinary. I have no conception of the mental processes that took place in the head of their author before they were formulated.
– Who was the author?
– The regulations were prepared by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and I am certain that he drafted them in a moment of panic. No democrat in his right senses would ever forge such a weapon to be used some day, unfortunately, by the agents of reaction who now sit on the Opposition benches of this chamber. Bad as that position is, an even worse one was recently created. (Viti) the Attorney-General in Washington, no Minister seems to have any knowledge of Statutory Rule No. 77. No one is able to explain precisely what it means, or why it was drafted. So far as I am aware, no similar regulation has been promulgated in Great Britain or in any other of the Dominions. We in Australia always seem to be extraordinarily sensitive to the need for doing things that are not. done in other countries. We somerimes overreach ourselves. Perhaps the reason is that, as the Parliament is so small, it is possible for the Executive to dominate the Parliament and form an inner cabinet to dominate Cabinet itself. In that way, power is eventually concentrated in the hands of a few people. I repeat that the Menzies and Fadden Governments managed to administer the country without such wide powers, and no argument has been adduced by any speaker to controvert the contentions of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). The burden of his complaint against the regulations was that they can have only a one-sided application. They can be used only against the workers, because property is protected by the Constitution. In that ea.se, it is useless to talk about impartial administration. The workers do not need that proof of a militaristic outlook on the part of the government to force them to toil. The Minister for Labour and National Service achieved excellent results when he visited the coal-fields, and if trouble does arise out of misunderstandings, it would be infinitely better for other Ministers, instead of sharing with one another the splendid isolation of Canberra to go to the scenes of the disputes and arrange a settlement.
– Does the honorable member favour the despatch of a delegation to the Melbourne wharfs?
– At the moment the position on the Melbourne waterfront is quite satisfactory.
– Because the soldiers are doing the work.
– That is not correct. Accompanied by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), I visited an American camp at Seymour and we discussed with an American General the position on the wharfs. Wie heard a good deal about the trouble that existed on the waterfront. The following day the Minister for the Army, accompanied by American officers, visited the wharfs, where he met representatives of the shipowners, unions and stevedoring companies, and plans have already been formulated to obviate a good deal of the trouble. Unfortunately, trouble has occurred, but the problem was tackled quickly and I have not the slightest doubt that ways and means will be found to prevent delay in unloading vessels which arrive in the principal port of Australia with much-needed equipment from America. 1 was conscious of my responsibility to help in order that the job might be tackled satisfactorily and expeditiously.
– ls the honorable member aware that American ships sailed from Australia without a cargo of wool because the men would not work during the day?
– I am aware that a good deal of justifiable criticism was levelled, but the position is being handled in such a way that no cause for complaint will exist in future. It did not require the application of Statutory Rule No. 77 to overcome the difficulty. At no time are regulations of this kind required to rectify the matters about which there might be complaints.
The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition agreed that the regulations are necessary and desirable. Naturally, I disagree with both of them. I agree, with the honorable member for Bourke that the position should never have arisen. There was never any need for the regulations. I am rather intrigued by the attitude of honorable members opposite, if I might presume to be intrigued by anything that they do. Their friends in the Senate strenuously opposed these regulations, but in this chamber honorable members opposite speak with divers tongues, as they usually do - a. modern tower of Babel - and some of them support the regulations, whilst others quarrel about the form of them. Then again, some honorable members opposite have remained silent while wailing to =ee what happens. At the la?t moment, they will make up their minds whether they will follow the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) or the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies). As usual, the right honorable member for Kooyong will probably win.
– 1 think that they are following the example of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– I shall await with interest to see whom the honorable member for Bendigo will follow.
When this subject was discussed a few weeks ago on a formal motion for the adjournment of the House, the Prime Minister stated that he had received from The Labour movement authority to do what he has done, and he quoted a resolution of the special federal conference of the Australian Labour party held in June, 1940. The right honorable gentleman declared that the conference agreed that the entire resources of Australia in man-power and in materials should be placed at the disposal of the Government. I contend that the resolution did not give him any power which, by the wildest stretch -of the imagination, would justify the imposition of such regulations upon a democratic country. The relevant portion of the resolution stated -
The entire resources of Australia (which includes all productive and financial organization) to be under the control of the Commonwealth Government for national service in the urgent and adequate defence of Australia and the prosecution of the war.
The resolution did not empower Ministers to delegate authority to unnamed persons, who, in turn, may delegate authority to others. There was nothing in the resolution to suggest that power could be delegated orally or in writing at the discretion of the Minister. Now that the regulations have been hammered and smashed in this chamber and when the Labour movement outside has had an opportunity to express its views about them, I have no doubt that very vital changes will be made in them. Any changes will bc for the better, but the complete abolition of the regulations is the main desideratum.
– Both yesterday and to-day, the debate has taken a most extraordinary course. No honorable member on either side of the House has shown any real enthusiasm for the regulations. Very few honorable members have declared point blank that they will vote against Statutory Rule No. 77. Others, who have devastated it with criticism, are not prepared to vote against it. A great many honorable members, particularly on the other side of the chamber, have refrained from expressing any opinion upon it When I spoke on this matter on the 25th March last, I agreed with other speakers that it was essential for the Government to possess full powers in war-time, but I was very critical of the form in which the present powers were taken, particularly regarding oral instructions and the lack of any certainty in the minds of the person affected as to whether there was any real authority behind such instructions. What has happened since then has added to my doubts.
I do not propose to speak at length on this subject, any more than I did on the previous occasion, because the whole field has been thoroughly covered ; but I should like to emphasize two or three points which have impressed me since the matter was last debated. In the first place, the statement that the regulations would be enforced by the Government has constantly been made. In the main, they have not been so enforced. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) publicly announced that he is opposed to the enforcement of the regulations against the miners, although he made it clear in answer to a question to-day, that he had no objection to their enforcement against mine managers. The essence of a law is that it .should be applied without favoritism to all classes, but it is clear that the Minister does not propose, so far as he has any say, to observe that fundamental principle. He said -
Statutory Rule No. 77 will never be used against the workers because I believe it to be the wrong way to obtain maximum production.
The Minister made that statement before he attended a conference of representatives of coal-miners and coal-owners on the South Coast. From what I have heard 1 do not know that he saw very much of the mine-owners. I think that he saw only the miners. The Adelaide Advertiser, of the 23rd April, published the following comments: -
Federal observers consider Mr. Ward’s remark to-day the more extraordinary for the following reasons: - (I) The rule was gazetted under instruction’ from full Federal Cabinet. Collective Cabinet responsibility presumably rover us every member of the Cabinet. (2) As Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr. Ward is the Minister chiefly concerned with the disputes which the rule must be used to end.
As a matter of fact, the Minister emphasized that any Minister may put the regulations into force. A third point was in the Advertiser’s comment -
A possible effect of Mr. Ward’s remark will be to encourage potential strikes hi the belief, ill-founded as far as the rest of the Cabinet goes, that no disciplinary action will be taken against them.
That remark is entirely justifiable. Statements such .as that which the Minister uttered are bound to incite certain workers to strike, and that is most undesirable at the present time. This is a one-sided application, of justice. “We can recognize another indication of the policy in the action taken by the Government against the trading banks. Whilst they have been obliged to sacrifice a number of their country branches, all the employees of the Commonwealth Bank are regarded as being in an essential industry. The ability of the employees of the trading banks may be greater than that of the employees of the Commonwealth Bank, but the Government did not consider that point.
The Prime Minister stated that the regulations will be enforced., and the Opposition accepts that as a definite statement of the intentions of the Government. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) delivered an annihilating speech on the subject of Statutory Rule No. 77. I do not know whether he proposes to vote for or against the motion, but unless the regulations be amended, I ann confident that if he votes for them, he will do so with a very sore heart. He said that the Prime Minister might receive a direction from caucus not to enforce the regulations against certain sections of the community. Some of the regulations are unnecessarily wide. I object not so much to the powers as to the form in which it is possible for them to be exercised. I see no reason why they should be put in their present form, or why they should not be amended. I am opposed to the ratification of the regulations, because their application might, be one-sided in character. If the honorable member for Bourke calls for a division T shall support the motion.
In regard to the coal-miners we tend to lose sight of the major question of the war and of the relative position of the different participants in it. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said something about this to-night. Speaking as one from a central Stale, where there ave no coal-miners, I say briefly, but emphatically, that, from all I know, hear and have been able to read, the coal-miners work at a very high wage. They work very reasonable, if not short, hours, compared with the miners in other parts of the Empire, particularly in Great Britain. I have no reason to think that they work under anything but good conditions and, therefore, I say, believing it to be the opinion of the great mass of the people of my State, that the South Australians are not satisfied with the part that the coal-miners are playing in this war. They are not pulling their weight, and the great majority of the South Australians are thoroughly disgusted that there should be all these strikes with the fate of this country, and particularly the fate of the fighting men, hanging in the balance.
.- The debate has indicated, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), a serious difference of opinion on both sides of the House as to the merits of the regulations contained in Statutory Rule No. 77, and as to how they should be operated. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) laid stress upon the fact that the then Opposition in 1940 supported the enactment of the National Security Act under which these regulations are made. It is true that when the vote was taken on that, measure the majority of the members of the then Opposition did support it, but it, is also true that there was a substantial body of opinion against it, not only in debate, but also in the voting. Of the 30 members of the then Opposition 21 voted for and nine against the second reading. Twenty voted, for and ten against the third reading. So, it is hardly fair to say that the then Opposition gave its wholehearted support to the measure. Two present ministers, the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), in addition to the Prime Minister, took part in the debate, and had it not been for the guillotine a considerably larger number of Opposition members would have spoken. It is not correct to give to the people at this late stage the impression that the Opposition whs united in its support of the aci under which these regulations are made. I was one who spoke and voted against the bill, in the belief that the power to make regulations should not be granted to the Government and, as I believe that Statutory Rule No. 77 should not be enforced against, the workers, I intend to place on record side by side with the Prime Minister’s declaration with regard to the unanimity of the Opposition the fact that there was no unanimity. Because the Prime Minister quoted extensively from the speeches made by himself and the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) I -! J:i a i 1. quote very briefly from the speech delivered by the honorable member for Weft Sydney (Mr. Beasley), now Minister for Supply and Development - [ do not know whether the introduction of tl is hil) was prompted by Mr. Essington [.-wis ur any one else with a similar outlook, hut T do know that the trade unionists of this country, and those who have followed the struggle of the trade unionists for many years, are awu re of the outlook of that gentleman and his associates; they fear that there may hi> some sinister purpose behind the introduction of this measure to enable the fullest possible advantage to be taken by certain interest!! of the present situation of the country.
His words show his unquestionable opposition. It is interesting to note that Labour members who formed the “ noes “ on the second reading were the honorable member for West Sydney, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the honorable member for Melbourne (the late Dr. Maloney), the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) and myself. We were joined by the honorable member for Ballarat. (Mr. Pollard) on the third reading. As the honorable member for Bourke properly pointed out, the only people who can make an effective sacrifice under these regulations aire the workers in industry, since, althouh compensation must be given to property-owners who make no personal sacrifice, no compensation is pay- able to workers when they are transferred compulsorily from one employment to another at possibly half the wage they previously earned. I am opposed to these regulations as I was opposed to the legislation which makes them possible. I believe that when the full effects of the confiscatory regulations and the industrial conscriptive regulations are felt ,by the people generally, as they have already been felt by men forced by one means or another out of small ‘businesses into the crushing hands of the combines, there will be a reckoning, and it is as well that there be a record of those who support these things and those who do not.
My most deadly fear is that by these regulations we have forged a weapon which might easily fall into the hands of the Opposition. This ‘Government is dependent for its existence on the votes of independents who owe no allegiance to the Labour party. At any time Labour could be thrown from, office and the Opposition parties restored to power to wield as a weapon regulations which they did not have the political courage to make when previously in office, however much they would have liked to have them. The right honorable member for Kooyong very aptly said to-night that governments come and go. That was never more true than in the life of this Parliament.
The honorable member for Bourke, thoroughly honest in his convictions, moved for the disallowance of these regulations, but we have seen the Opposition using this debate as another means to attack the Minister for Labour and National Service. The Minister disclosed to-day that since this Labour Government has ‘been in office, there have been fewer industrial stoppages than in any similar period in the last 35 years. The Minister for Labour and National Service got the miners back to work by going amongst them and reasoning with them. The success of his mission, for the failure of which members of the Opposition must have prayed, has resulted in the fire of the Opposition and the anti-Labour press being directed against him. With the outstanding exception of the right honorable member for Kooyong, every Opposition speaker to-day -has used this debate to attack the Minister for Labour and
National Service, who has said - and I entirely agree with him - that in no circumstances will he operate these regulations against the miners. His theory must be tested that the men can be persuaded to work by reasoning with them, but that they cannot be induced to do so by threats of force. So far, as all fairminded persons will admit, his theory has worked very successfully, whereas no success attended threats.
From what I have been able to see of the miners although they are of the workingclass movement, they are a class apart. There are many reasons for that. I believe that the problems of the industry are more psychological than industrial. The Minister for Labour and National Service, correctly seised of the situation, has dealt with the industry on that basis and has met with success. Miners are a class apart because they and their forebears have been in the industry for generations. I venture the opinion that80 per cent, of the 22,000 miners on the New South Wales fields are the children or grandchildren of miners. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) could not understand why it was that when miners were out of work they waited for another mining job instead of looking for work elsewhere.
It is as though they were bred into the industry. The industrial struggle of the miners is history. Less than 100 years ago, there was in the mines of Great Britain slavery worse than any slavery known in the civilized world, worse even than the slavery of Czarist Russia. Knowledge of these things is handed down from father to son. I have a book of an old miner at present a member of the legislature in Western Australia. He had a taste for verse and amongst other things he mentions particulars with regard to findings of the royal commission which inquired into the coal-mining industry. I propose to read certain quotations from the book in order to impress on honorable members why I think the treatment of the problems of coal-miners should be psychological rather than industrial. The author said -
Excerpts from the evidence of the Royal Commission on the Employment of Children in Mines. 1841 -
Page 82, line 4 - “The child in front is harnessed by his belt or chain to the waggon; two small boys assist in pushing the waggon forward.”
In those days there were no fast pit ponies, a reference to which seemed to cause great amusement to some honorable members to-day. One hundred years ago the place of pit ponies was taken by small children of both sexes.
Page 95, line6 - “ The lad or lass is harnessed over the shoulders and back with a strong leathergirth, which is furnished behind with an iron hook, and which attaches itself to the chain fastened to the coal-waggon or hutch, and it is thus dragged along.”
Page 95, line 35 - “ Harnessed like horses . . and the more difficult in consequence of the inclination, which is frequently one in three to one in six.”
N.B. - The description of the harnessing of boys to do the work as above described is correct. I have been so harnessed and employed.” Dairy “.
The author of that publication is a member of the Legislature in Western Australia, a man over the age of 80 years, who was mining in the days when boys and girls aged as young as five years, were harnessed like animals to draw the coal trucks. The stories of the trials and tribulations of miners in the early days are almost the folk lore of the miners of to-day. Every improvement gained in industrial conditions in the mines since that time has been steadfastly hung on to because the miners realize the great struggle that has gone on for over a century to raise mining to the present standard.
– The honorable member need not refer to conditions in England to substantiate that claim, for in 1860 similar conditions applied in the mines at Newcastle.
– Boys and girls are working just as hard in this country today to keep the idle miners.
– In order to further the war effort of Australia trade unionists are at present sacrificing customs, usages and principles for which they have fought for years. Similar sacrifices are not being made by the miners, but they have informed the Government that if coal must be won they will get it. They have offered suggestions to the Government for the better utilization of manpower in the mines, in the interests of the nation, but not in the interests of private individuals who get profit out of the mines. The miners are a class, apart within the working classes, and are divided and distinct from the average working man, both individually and collectively. The Minister for Labour and National Service adopted the correct procedure recently when he visited the mine- fields, and conferred with-, the miners. Instead of telling them- that the Government would force them to do certain things, he reasoned with them. The fact that his efforts were successful has rankled in the minds of Opposition* members.
When Ministers of the Crown are speaking about industrial workers they should be sure of their facts. Opposition members and the press have freely used a statement made by the Prime Minister regarding frivolous strikes. On the 15th April, the right honorable gentleman said -
The great majority of coal strikes this year arose over matters not associated with relations between the employers and employees.
As not more than 20 per cent., of all stoppages relate to- matters between- owner and employee, there is little evidence that provocation plays any material part in. the productionloss.
The Prime Minister was very caustic in his criticism of the miners in his statement to the press, a statement which, I suggest,ought not have been made at that stage. The right honorable gentleman placed upon the miners the responsibility for at least 80 per- cent, of the stoppages on the coal-fields. The Minister for Labour and National Service has assured the Parliament that that is not a true representation of the position that obtained on the coal-fields. His contention is backed up by a further statement made by the Prime Minister two days after the publication of his original statement, when the right honorable gentleman recanted and said -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin)- to-day denounced any attempt by mine-owners to exploit the national need of coal by forcing changes in industrial, practice on the workers. He said that the Government had long been conscious of the eagerness with which certain mine managements- were seizing on the; present circumstances to make changes at the workers’ expense. Mr. Curtin. quoted the case of a dispute at the Wongawilli Colliery on Wednesday. He said that his facts we’re basedon a report from Mr. Fred Loudon, president of the Southern Miners’ Federation, whom he regarded as an absolutely reliable and patriotic trade unionist.
If that be true, the right honorable gentleman should never have made his original statement against the miners. If the Government was . aware that . mine-owners were making profit out of a commodity that really belongs to the people of Australia from mines which they hold on lease from the Crown, and that the mineowners were taking advantage of existing war conditions to obtain financial’ benefit for themselves, then obviously it should cancel the leases and nationalize the mines. Had that been done, there would have been less trouble, so far as the miners are concerned.
I listened with interest- to the right honorablem ember, for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) in his. discussion, of the statutoryrule. The honorable member is. in favour of. it.. I am not; but I appreciate the soundness of the arguments he raised because I, too, believe that, it is possible to drive, a horse and cart through- the provisions of the irate. There are loop-holes, by which any irresponsible person, guided- by motives of self interest, can evade the rule. The Prime Minister said that the powers given would not be put into operation without written authority. I believe that any Minister operating such, far-reaching powers, would take that precaution, but action that might be taken under the statutory rule might come within three different categories.First, where does the advicecome from upon which the Prime: Minister, or any Minister, will set the rule in operation? Second, will the Minister consider a. written Lastruction essential’, or will an oral- instruction be sufficient for the purpose?’ Third, what will be the effect of any action taken- under this, statutory rule? It is conceivable that some persons might obtain a. benefit at the expense of the people who- are dispossessed. I have previously mentioned the case of a man from Melbourne, who, acting under instructions conveyed orally, as is provided for in the statutory rule, and in defiance of the instructions of the Board, of Area Management of New South Wales, endeavoured to secure possession of a factory which was to. be handed over to another firm in which that gentleman was financially interested. It is true that that gentleman is no longer in the service of the Government and that the transaction was stopped. He was caught red-handed, but how many others have operated in the same way and have escaped detection ? But for certain officials in New South Wales, he might never have been found out. Irrespective of the intentions of the Government, particularly in relation to the confiscation of property, if power is to be delegated to somebody in Western Australia, obviously the Prime Minister cannot be on the spot in every case, and he must delegate his power to some one else. On whose advice would the Prime Minister depend ? Aftei’ twelve months of investigating the war effort in Australia in relation to the manufacture of munitions and so on, I have no hesitation in saying that representatives of big business dealing with defence contracts have a selfish interest in many matters dealt with by them. The dollar-a-day volunteers are being weighted down by the personal interests of individuals who are giving that service. Whilst for the time being they are divorced from the private interests which they represented prior to the war, they have not, deserted those interests, and if the opportunity should come to place, material gain in their way they will undoubtedly take advantage of it. In every State of the Commonwealth on boards of area management, and even at the centre of things in Melbourne, persons are in positions of authority who represent vested interests. Every move that the Government is making in order to develop its war plans is subject to advice by these self-interested individuals. Ministers are, in fact, not in a position to form independent opinions on many matters, and it may easily happen that persons who represent vested interests may use delegated power to give oral or written directions in certain connexions. Fo] this reason I consider that there’ should be in these regulations safeguards such as have been suggested by the right honorable member for Kooyong.
– What about the Board of Business Administration?
– I would include it with the others.
– One of the members of that board is the managing director of a business enterprise which robbed the people of £250,000.
– I referred this afternoon, during question time, to a certain firm whose affairs had come under the notice of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure. The committee requested the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to investigate this case. I believe that if a certain contract given to that firm comes before honorable members in detail, they will get the greatest shock they have ever experienced, and they will marvel that such things can happen in war-time. The position was so serious that the committee invited the Prime Minister to take steps to prevent the firm from obtaining any further contracts until its present contracts have been investigated. It is quite possible that persons responsible for giving the firm a certain contract may advise the Minister that, in effect, particular factories should be confiscated, and handed over to some other control. The individuals giving such advice may afterwards use delegated power again to transfer such factories, or it may be other property or plant, to people whom they specially wish to favour. Delegated power may be exercised, under these regulations, on oral instructions, and persons affected may have no means to ascertain whether, in fact, the alleged oral instructions were actually given. Obviously, therefore, additional safeguards should bc included in the regulations. I support the Minister for Labour and National Service 100 per cent, in his statement that these regulations should not be applied to the workers. I believe that far more satisfactory results will be obtained from the. workers by reasoning with them rather than by threatening them. Threats of pains and penalties are always less effective than persuasion. That applies particularly to miners. When the National Security Bill was before the House I protested against its passage. I protest now against the issue of these regulations. Honorable members may ask, “But how do you propose to vote? “
The Labour party has decided how it will vote, and I intend ‘ to vote with my party. 1 shall do so because I shall not cast a vote which will have the effect of destroying a Labour government. I realize that the alternative to this 0-ove mm em is a government composed of members of the Opposition, whose hands are itching to lay hold of the dreadful weapon which we have forged. They will not lay hold of it with my help.
.- I shall vote for the disallowance of these regulations unless amendments suggested by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) are accepted by the Government and provision is actually made in the regulations to implement the assurances given by the Prime Minister. I offer no objection to the granting of the widest powers to the Government in time of war, but I object to the delegation of such wide powers by the Executive to unnamed and unknown persons, particularly as it is provided that such delegation may be made orally. The regulations are not sufficiently descriptive to give citizens the guidance which they are entitled to expect. The general public has not the faintest idea of what is expected of it under these regulations, and I consider that more information should be given in the regulations.
Many things have been done during the last two years under the powers conferred upon the Government by the National Security Act. Land, and at least one ship, have been acquired. Perhaps ‘* confiscated “ would be a better term. Action was taken in relation to the . ship because its owners refused to carry out the instructions of the Government. I heard an honorable member say this afternoon that no oral instructions had been given under these regulations. That is not true. The Secretary to the Minister for War Organization of Industry can substantiate my statement. I have had an instance of oral instruction brought directly under my own notice. A man called on me in Perth just before T left to attend these sittings of the Parliament and told me that he had been given an extension of time from the 24th April to the 21st May to dispose of his property before going into camp. I asked him, “Have you that in writing ?” He said, “ No, it was given to me orally, and I was told that confirmation would be forwarded to my address “. Obviously, therefore, oral instructions are already being given in certain cases. My conscience will not allow me to withhold a vote for the disallowance of these regulations unless the amendments suggested by the right honorable member for Kooyong are to be incorporated in them. If the regulations were to be administered by the Prime Minister 1 should not be fearful, but regulation 4 provides that the power may be exercised by a M’inister or any person authorized by a Minister.
We have witnessed a sorry spectacle in this chamber to-day. The Prime Minister made an excellent speech in defence of these regulations, but the Minister for Labour and National Service subsequently gave reasons why he would not use this power against the “ organized workers “. Those were his words. Obviously he intends to use the power against those unfortunate workers who are not organized, and against farmers’ sons and workers engaged in rural industries. I have a copy of the priorities list issued by the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– If so, the honorable gentleman will observe that sharefarmers are protected.
– Scant consideration has been given to workers in rural industries, compared with that given to workers in other industries. I remind the Minister for Labour and National Service that the great majority of the people of this country are being fed by the sweat of aged men and women, and children, who are working arduously to provide foodstuffs for our fighting services and for the civil population, including the loafing coalminers, who are continually on strike. The coal-mining industry seems to be a haven of refuge for young shirkers. The 2.000 coal-miners who reached the age of 60 years last February should be required to return to this industry before the rural industries are drained of their remaining man-power. I know of a market gardener who has been shanghaied into the Militia although he was working a farm of six or seven acres of potatoes. Potatoes, as we all know, will be in acute short supply before very long. It is not right that these “loafing jokers “ in the coal-mining industry should be allowed to please themselves whether they will work or not while rural industries are being denuded of manpower. Having analysed the speech delivered by the Minister for Labour and National Service this afternoon I make it clear that I, at least, have the courage to say that I do not think that he could administer any regulations without fear or favour. Unless these regulations be amended as suggested by the right honorable member for Kooyong, it will give me some satisfaction to vote for the motion for their disallowance.
.- It must be obvious to even the least discerning person .that the motion for the disallowance of the regulations made under Statutory Rule; J 942, No. 77, is being used by honorable gentlemen opposite as a weapon with which to attack the Government.. If I am any judge, the Opposition intends to accept every conceivable opportunity that presents itself to embarrass and harass the Government. Yet these are the gentlemen who, by their Owl utterances and by means of their servants and agents, are trying to lead the people of Australia to believe that they alone favour an all-in war effort. They even go so far as to tell us that they are endeavouring to co-operate with the Government in the prosecution of the war. The tactics employed by some members of the Opposition are deplorable and are utterly inconsistent with their public statements and with statements made on their behalf in the press. Some honorable gentlemen opposite are extremely keen to regain office, -not because they would welcome the opportunity to cope with the problems of total war which confront the country, but because they would thereby obtain the opportunity to use the power provided by this Government. Undoubtedly they would use that power to bludgeon the workers more cruelly than they were bludgeoned during the Port Kembla pig-iron dispute. I was surprised to hear the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) say that certain provisions in these regula tions were not desirable. In fact, I would assume from the right honorable member’s speech, that these regulations are almost as bad as were those contained in Statutory Rule No. 42a gazetted by his Government; that they are equally unfair in their incidence and in respect of the administrative acts that are possible under them. I believe that, like a bubble that has been pricked, these regulations will now be placed on the shelf, never to be used.
– Perhaps that is what was agreed upon in Caucus this morning.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that that is not what was agreed upon. Some members of the Opposition have suggested that the regulations are desirable because they supply a. weapon which will enable direct action to be taken against miners and other workers who have just grievances, in the same way as fifth columnists are dealt with in other countries. I remind the House that wherever fifth columnists have appeared they have not sprung from the ranks of the workers. Quisling himself, and the quislings of every other country, will never be found to have associations with the working classes of those countries.
– What about Laval ?
– Laval is a quisling who sprang from the ranks of the bankers of France.
I desire to say in passing that whilst 1 welcomed the almost transcendental appreciation of the regulations voiced by the right honorable member for Kooyong. 1 greatly regret that it was spoilt by his reference to another honorable member as “ a boneless wonder “. If ever there was a “ boneless wonder “ in this or any other Parliament of Australia, it was the right honorable gentleman himself; because, had he had the pluck or the spunk to do the job with which he was entrusted he might still have been Prime Minister of this country. I understand that he has always wanted to be called “ Bob “. He is now being called “Pig-iron Bob”.
Perhaps the most distressing matters mentioned by members of the Opposition were those that clearly showed that they have no appreciation of the problems of the coal industry or any other industry. But worse than that; not only have they no appreciation of those problems, but they have even been prepared to invent statements and to fabricate circumstances in accordance with whatever came into their minds, in order to make the industrial position appear to be worse than it was in fact. Indeed, one honorable gentleman said that employees in the State coal-mine had gone on strike. I know something of the facts of that matter, and can tell honorable members that at1½ minutes after 7 a.m. on the day on which the union had decided to call a stop-work meeting for the purpose of settling certain matters which needed adjustment, the management blew the “no-work” whistle, without inquiry from the union as to how long the meeting might last or what was the nature of the matters to be discussed at it.
– Stop-workings are nor a custom, but a habit.
Mr.FALS TEIN. - I cannot speak for generals, but I can say that it is common sense that wherever grievances arise which are likely to interfere with production they should be resolved at the earliest possible moment. I was saying that this action was taken by the mine management. Even in nationalized coalmines, unless a rigorous policing of the management is undertaken it is possible that some persons who have not at heart rite interests of the miners will be anxious to do things that are detrimental to them. The miners at this particular mine work on contract; consequently they would be the only persons affected by their failure to enter the mine at 7 a.m. sharp. Loss of time at the coal face would mean reduced earning for them. This stoppage might have developed to the proportions of a lock-out. Honorable members will recall the circumstances. There is evidence to show that agencies which have not at heart the interests of the miners were at work in order to aggravate industrial trouble on the coal-fields. This kind of thing is engineered by persons both inside and outside of this Parliament who are actively engaged in doing everything in their power, either consciously or unconsciously, to wreck this Government. Whether honorable members are aware of it or not, many persons are endeavouring to wreck a government which, in this nation’s hour of greatest trial, is coping magnificently with the problems that confront it from day to day. Honorable members opposite claim that the war effort is being” hampered by strikes. I can only reply that if the war effort has been hampered in any regard, it has been as the result of the policies of governments that preceded the present Government in office. If there is to be an election, and I tell my people in half-an-hour’s speech the story of Australia’s unpreparedness, not one man will vote for a candidate representing the party that sits opposite.
– It is no secret.
– Ithank the honorable member for Reid for that reminder. I believe that the people know that had this Government not assumed office when it . did, Australia would to-day be occupied by the Japanese. There are certain matters which, for security reasons, I am precluded from mentioning. When I see the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) laugh at my statement, I can only assume that he has not applied his mind - if he has one - to the real problems that have to be tackled.
– If the honorable member is prevented by security reasons from mentioning the matters here, how will he be able to mention them to his electors ?
– One of the matters I am prevented from mentioning is that, which the honorable member for Warringah revealed in this House at a secret meeting. .
– In May of last year.
– Were that statement alone repeated-
– The honorable member knows very well the state of this country at the outbreak of war.
– Order ! The debate’ is degenerating into an exchange of personalities.
– Of the statements made by Opposition members in the course of this debate, only one appeared to me to contain merit; that was, that the Government must govern. I believe that the Government ought to use powers of the nature of those taken under Statutory Rule No. 77 and other statutory rules, in order to bring about in this country a re-orientation of the social outlook so that when this war is concluded there will be a certain guarantee to the community in Australia that Ave shall not revert to the era of unemployment, when money could not be found to put food into the mouths of many thousands, clothe them properly, and in other ways care for them as they should be cared for.
It is a matter for deep regret that the Opposition in this House should be occupying the valuable time of service Ministers, and the Prime Minister himself, in debating regulations which common sense dictates are necessary for that total war effort which those honorable gentlemen now proclaim is needed. If the Opposition has any idea, of occupying the Government benches in either the near or the distant future, I say very deliberately that any attempt to do that will be met by a public statement by me of its activities as a government in the past - activites which, in my opinion, warrant an inquiry as to whether or not things involving even treason to this country have been done.
– With growing amazement and amusement honorable members on this side of
I he House have watched the political circus opposite. Reference was made this evening to “ the boneless wonder “. The variety artists opposite, from the political tight-rope walkers-
-Order! Personalities must cease.
– Whilst deferring to your ruling, sir, I point out that honorable members opposite have spoken in one way and propose to vote in another way. Therefore, I draw attention to the fact that these men are walking the political tight-rope. That is an expression which is commonly and frequently used by honorable members in this chamber. In ordinary tight-rope walking there is a hazard, a danger of falling off, but honorable members opposite have acknowledged this evening that, as the result of a caucus meeting held to-day, there is no longer any risk of their falling on the side of their personal opinions. If they lean that way they will always straighten up and eventually fall on the side labelled with the party tag. A fundamental principle of democracy is that, if legislation or proposed legislation be bad, parliamentary representatives will endeavour to alter it, but if it be good, and only badly administered, they will not try to alter the legislation, but w,ill draw attention to its maladministration. There is a con.flict of opinion over this matter. We have the so-called champions of democracy sitting on the Government benches and attacking these provisions which the Government has declared it will enforce. They have declared that if Statutory Rule No. 77 be enforced it will split the Labour party because it is dictatorial in essence, something which might more reasonably have been expected to emanate from a Fascist government. Nevertheless, not one of them is prepared to support his argument by voting against it; no one, that is, except the mover for the disallowance of Statutory Rule No. 77. I refer to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), who, I know, is looking with dissatisfaction and disgust at his erstwhile colleague for having deserted him, although he has made out an almost unanswerable case in support of the principles of democracy for which all honorable members opposite say they stand. Honorable members on this side of the House, unlike many of those on the other side, say that there is something good in this legislation. They say that it is necessary, in order to ensure a maximum war effort, for the Government to clothe itself with powers of the kind conferred by Statutory Rule No. 77. They have a full sense of their responsibilities, and they know what a maximum war effort means’. However, they are concerned with the manner in which the regulations are likely to be administered. Therefore, whilst they are prepared to place their imprimatur on Statutory Rule No. 77, they draw attention to the biased statements of the Minister for Labour and National Service, and to the conflicting opinions expressed by the Prime Minister himself. It is natural that there should be some suspicion in the minds of honorable members on this side of the House as to whether the regulations will be administered fairly, if at all. I was astounded at the statements of the Prime
Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service, as well as by the speech of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), inwhich he sought to prove that the Prime Minister had made a declaration one day and had reversed it the next. He stated that the Minister for Labour and National Service had issued a challenge to the Prime Minister, -who had evaded the challenge. These matters call for some explanation. In the Melbourne Argus of the 10th April last, the Prime Minister was reported as follows: -
Mr. Curtin, Prime Minister, who attended the Melbourne Trades Hall Council meeting unexpectedly last night, said he did not intend to apologize to any body for having used the National Security Regulations against the coalminers. He had not done so until he had been informed by the Coal-miners Union that the men had stopped work without the union’s approval. “ I am not going to allow the activities or the desires of my Government “, he declared, “ to be stultified by a band of insurgent malcontents “. . . . While men were dying and making sacrifices for the security of Australia, Mr. Curtin went on, other people were trying to hold up essential war materials, such as coal. Men or women who so hold up production were just as much traitors to Australia as were soldiers who deserted in the face of the enemy.
Those are strong words, and I heartily commend the Prime Minister for having used them. They express completely my own sentiments, and those of other honorable members on this side of the House. However, although he said that he proposed to enforce Statutory Rule No. 77 against the miners, something prevented him from doing so. Just what that was is best known to the supporters of the Government. We have our own ideas as to why the powers were not used, and I propose to develop those ideas as I proceed. In the Melbourne Herald of the 15th April, the Prime Minister was reported as having said that not more than 20 per cent, of the stoppages in the coal industry were related to disputes between the owners and the employees. Some of the reasons for the other80 per cent, were -
A claim by a miner that his drill was not properly sharpened.
A reprimand to wheelers for coming out ca rly.
Water placed in the boots of a clipper.
A bathroom attendant not being on duty.
A wheeler’s horse “ too “fast.
The honorable member for Dalley read an extract with the intention of proving that the Prime Minister had been given wrong information, and that he had virtually disowned the statement which I have quoted. However, on the same day, he made a statement in which he compared conditions on the eastern coal-fields with those obtaining in Western Australia. After referring to the fact that through strikes there had been a loss of production amounting to 16,000 tons, and a loss of 10,800 tons caused by absentees, he went on to say -
In contrast was the example set by the mine workers at. Collie, in Western Australia. These men were now working every Saturday, thus completing twelve days a fortnight against the ten days worked at mines in New South Wales. In addition, the miners in Western Australia had decided to work on Good Friday. Easter Saturday and Easter. Monday in order to work up production in that State.
In New South Wales the secretary of the Miners Federation, Mr. Grant, had requested the Government to give the miners Easter Monday so that it could be taken as a rest period. The Government had agreed. In spite of this, many miners had then stopped away on the following Tuesday.
The Prime Minister is the political leader of the Labour movement, and ought to have some knowledge of what goes on within that movement. At a time like this he should not make loose statements, but even if he had been hoodwinked in regard to the causes of the various stoppages, he was certainly not hoodwinked when he made that statement comparing conditions on the eastern coal-fields with those prevailing in Western Australia, or when he referred to the action of the miners in New South Wales after their secretary, Mr. Grant, had made his statement. These facts show conclusively that the strikes were frivolous, and were designed to hold up production. In this they were effective, as the figures indicate. The Prime Minister said that men and women who held up production were just as much traitors to Australia as were soldiers who deserted in the face of the enemy.
Now a change comes o’er the scene. The Minister for Labour and National Service intrudes himself, having decided to challenge the Prime Minister on this point. Within union circles there was a violent reaction against Statutory Rule
No. 77. Is it not a fact that in Victoria the Australasian Council of Trade Unions carried a resolution condemning it? Is it not a fact that violent opposition has developed throughout the entire Labour movement in Australia, and that this opportunist, the Minister for Labour and National Service, capitalized this opposition by turning against the Prime Minister and the interests of his country at this time of crisis? It is a fact, and he was strong enough to force the Prime Minister to give way. We do not know what promises have been made in order to induce honorable members to vote against the wishes of the unions. Ordinarily, the opposition of the unions would have forced honorable members opposite to run for cover, to ditch any one and every one in an endeavour to keep their seats. We do not know what happened, but it is obvious that some undertaking was given. To-day, the Prime Minister, speaking from his place in the House, declared that Statutory Rule No. 77 would be enforced, while standing over him was the Minister for Labour and National Service, who said that he did’ not withdraw one word of what he had previously said on the subject. He defied the Prime Minister, and heaped contempt upon him for his efforts to chastise him.
The Prime Minister declared that these regulations are required for the purpose of safeguarding national interests, but I contend that they should be applied without fear or favour against offenders, whether they be employers or employees. My. criticism is directed not against Statutory Rule No. 77 but against the maladministration of the Minister for Labour and National Service. Displaying the bias for which he is famed, he declared that he would not apply the regulations against the workers. He did ‘ not add that he would not apply them against other classes. Therefore, he made a reservation. If the administration of these regulations be vested in the Minister, this country will see an example of maladministration carried to excess, because he will impose the statutory rule upon one section of the community whilst pandering to the workers for their support. Attacking honorable members on this side of the chamber, the Minister accused them of “ pointing the bone “ at the coal-miners, but he forgot that the Prime Minister had also done that. On second thoughts, I wonder whether the Minister did forget the part played by the Prime Minister, and whether this was another gesture to lower the prestige of his leader in the eyes of the country. When challenged by a member of the Opposition, he asked with withering scorn whether the interjector had ever been down a coal-mine and walked 3 miles along the track to the cutting-face before beginning the day’s work. His choice was unfortunate, for he directed his question to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) who, as a soldier in the last war, often marched considerably more than 3 miles before going into action. During the campaign in Palestine, the Lowlands Scots Regiment marched 40 miles between sunset and sunrise, and then went into action. Those troops were not paid the high wage that is earned by coal-miners.
Statutory Rule No. 77 is designed to prevent the miners from prejudicing the defence of their country. They are supposed to be members of the vast industrial army; but the Government draws a distinction between the industrial army and the fighting forces. I cannot see my way clear to vote against the regulations because I believe that they are warranted. If the United Australia party-United Country party Government had remained in office, it would probably have been obliged to take similar powers, but its administration of them would have been much fairer than that of the Labour Government. Whilst I am not prepared to vote against Statutory Rule No. 77, I cannot vote for it because I believe that it will not be administered to the benefit of the country. I shall not prostitute the powers that my constituents have given to me, as the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) proposes to do. I shall take the course of action which, I think, is warranted in the circumstances. If honorable members opposite can justify the manner in which they propose to vote, all I can say is that their political conscience is such that it will never give them a moment’s uneasiness.
Sitting suspended from 11.35 to 11.55 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
.- It has been said that political life makes strange bedfellows. Confirmation of this is found in the fact that the motion for the disallowance of this regulation was ably submitted by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and seconded with a good deal of emphasis by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I should not have spoken on this matter but for the fact that a good deal of play has been made of the industrial disputes that have occurred in Australia during recent months. The newspapers have featured these disputes, and have endeavoured without much success to pit the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) against the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). With few exceptions this fact has been the keynote of the speeches of the Opposition. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) made an excellent speech. I have not heard a better address from him in this chamber. Although I do not agree with all his remarks, he put his case well. He did not discuss the recent industrial disputes, but made the proper approach to the consideration of theregulation. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) said last evening that the Prime Minister was the Minister who operated the regulation, because he gave the authority, for it to be used. The Prime Minister admitted to-day that it was his prerogative to act under the regulation, and that nobody had power to do so without his approval.
– The regulation does not say so.
– I do not claim that it does, but every honorable member will accept the assurance of the Prime Minister that the authority delegated verbally will be confirmed in writing. In view of the situation that confronts us, that should be satisfactory to everybody who is prepared to accept the Prime Minister’s assurance. Much has been said about the position that the Prime Minister has taken up with regard to the regulations and the attitude of the Minister for Labour and National Service. I have never made a secret of the fact that I am a great admirer of the Prime Minister. He has my utmost confidence and support, and I shall oppose this motion for the disallowance of Statutory Rule 77. I also have a good deal of confidence in the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Now the honorable member is spoiling it.
– That is a matter of opinion. Nobody denies that the Minister has great courage and capacity. He is always prepared to say frankly where he stands. I believe that a regulation of this kind is necessary in the present crisis, and I also consider that the Minister’s approach to industrial disputes has been successful. I have no doubt that, as a result of his handling of the affairs of his department, peace in industry will be brought about, and that it will not be necessary to implement the regulations. While we have a Prime Minister with the capacity of the present occupant of the office, and a Minister with the ability and driving force of the Minister for Labour and National Service, we shall have an excellent combination which will be helpful rather than harmful at this critical time. The debate has centred upon the troubles experienced in the mining industry. Nobody likes the disputes that have occurred in that industry, and of course they are most undesirable at a time when the maximum production of coal is essential to the successful prosecution of the war; but the fact remains that both sides of the story have not been presented to us by the daily press. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) told us about the causes of strikes in the coal mines and referred to trivial matters that precipitate these disputes.
– That is in accordance with the statement by the Prime Minister.
– That isso,but, with the exception of the honorable gentleman’s former leader, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), honorable members opposite have refrained from giving a clearly balanced picture of the regulations and their application to the coal-mining industry. It would not suit their book to do otherwise, because they want to create discord in the Labour party and to drive a wedge between the Prime Minister and the
Minister for Labour and National Service. Their attempts to do so will ignominiously fail.
– We have no need to try to do that; the Minister for Labour and National Service will do it himself.
– I am not worrying about the relations between the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service. All the worry is on the Opposition side, because honorable members there know that their efforts to split the Labour party must be unavailing. I am reminded that not long ago a noted Australian cleric said that strikes were quite apparent to all, but that those individuals who made excess profits were very carefully and successfully concealed. [ make bold to say that it will not be very long before we learn something about those who are exploiting the community for the sake of profit. I do not claim that the men have been entirely free from blame for all industrial disputes in Australia in recent months, or even in recent years, but in many instances the men have been entirelyblameless, the blame lying with the managements, which have employed irritating tactics and have themselves been responsible for the loss of coal production. In order to counter some of the things which have been placed on record by honorable members opposite, I shall read the following report from the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day: -
Mr. P. J. Clarey, M.L.C., of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, said in a national broadcast last night that fewer industrial disputes were taking place in Australia to-day and fewer man-hours were being lost than at any time in the last 35 years. “ If employers conferred with the representatives of employees on doubtful matters instead of putting into effect their decisions without consulting employees, most of the existing industrial disputes would not occur,” he declared.
Mr. Clarey said that one of the greatest contributions which could be made to war production by employees was to refrain from initiating or pursuing any policy which led to friction and disharmony in the workshop.
A frequent cause of disputes in the coal industry was the employers’ decision to interpret a doubtful rate on the lowest possible payment basis without in any way attempting to get the miners’ viewpoint. He suggested that, if the employer took a reasonable view and discussed the position with his employees, 95 per cent, of the disputes in the coal industry would never occur.
In the last few months trade unionists had sacrificed many of their rights and privileges. Working people had been absorbed into two distinct groups - into the fighting forces and into the civilian production forces.
Mr. Clarey suggested that the Government might find it necessary to organize seasonal workers into a mobile body of men who could move from one seasonal industry to the next so that maximum production could be obtained by those best able to give it.
Without exception, leaders of the industrial movement in Australia are doing their very best to get the maximum output from industry. Their sons, as well as the sons of the people represented by honorable members opposite, are fighting this war.
– Apparently, they do not care for their sons ; they are more concerned about their pockets.
– That statement is worthy of the honorable gentleman.
– It is, indeed, because it is true.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that it is untrue.
– The honorable members knows equally well that it is true of some people.
– It is true of employers who exploit the war situation in order to fill their own pockets. Few people in the Labour movement exploit the situation for their own advancement. I repeat that industrial leaders are doing all they possibly can to get the maximum production from industry. The honorable member for Darwin knows that perfectly well.
– I do not.
– The honorable member would not admit it anyway. I repeat that I shall oppose the move to disallow these regulations, much as I dislike being separated from my friend from Bourke. I believe that the powers contained in these regulations are desirable to be retained by the Executive at this time. Somewhat similar regulations were passed by the previous Government, as was pointed out by the Prime Minister, and, if they were necessary then, these regulations are doubly necessary now because of the attacks already made on Australia, and of the possibility of further attacks in the future. I realize that these regulations, badly handled, could do a great deal of harm to this country, as well as cause undesirable repercussions in the movement which we on this side represent. Honorable members who oppose these regulations do so because they do not like them. No honorable member likes them. Does any one of us like the situation which has obliged us to adopt these regulations? I do not like it any more than does any other honorable member. However, we must be realists. We must face up to the fact that regulations of this kind are absolutely necessary. I hope that the time is not far distant when we shall be able to repeal them, and return to a utilization of our democratic institutions to a much greater degree than we have done in the past, in order to ensure that democracy shall be the foundation on which we shall build this country. I shall vote against the motion.
Friday, 1 May 1942
– At this late hour, I do not propose to speak at length. However, I desire to make a few observations with regard to these regulations. The honorable member for Watson (Mr.Falstein) has complained of the criticism levelled against the Government. He implied that the criticism came from this side of the House. I have listened very carefully to the whole of this debate. Very little criticism of the Government in respect of these regulations has been voiced by the Opposition. All that I heard emanated from honorable members opposite. The honorable member went on to explain the reason for every coal strike which has taken place in New South Wales in recent weeks. Listening to him, I came to the conclusion that the gentleman “ doth protest too much “. The blame could not have been so much on one side as he endeavoured to make out. Regulation 3 of Statutory Rule No. 77 declares that the purpose of these regulations is to enable the Commonwealth, during the present war, to use for the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth and its territories, the services and property of all persons and companies in Australia and its territories. Surely nobody will complain about that. It means the utilization of the whole of our resources of man-power and wealth, and the physical resources of this country, for the waging of the war to prevent the capture of Australia by the enemy who is now hammering at our gate. We have been told that these regulations will be used in all sorts of ways; that they will be used to destroy the workers, or to destroy the owners of capital in this country. But I submit they can only be used for the preservation of the Commonwealth. Why are such powers necessary? If we were living in the piping times of peace no necessity for them would exist; but, to-day, we are living under the shadow, of a grave and desperate danger. Honorable members realize the appalling danger that confronts us to-day. Australia may be invaded at any moment. Consequently, the Government must have certain power which it can use swiftly should the need arise. Thus, a definite necessity for these regulations exists.
I should like to comment upon the remarks made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) in this House yesterday afternoon. He said that the workers cannot be coerced, that these regulations will not make them work. I do not think that anybody wants to coerce the workers; but when these regulations are applied the design is that the workers or the owners of property against whom they are used should be made to pull their weight in the defence of the Commonwealth against the danger which threatens us.. The Minister went on to say that the workers of Australia would not work if these regulations were used against them. I have a very clear recollection of an event which took place within the last three or four weeks in connexion with the construction of the new Melbourne hospital. These regulations were invoked against the workers who were on strike on that job, and the men went back on the following morning without the slightest complaint and have since worked on that job continuously. Consequently, it is so much moonshine to say that the workers would not work if these regulations were enforced against them.
– They would be applied only as a last resort.
– Yes; and they can only he used in the defence of the Commonwealth and its territories. This power will not be used needlessly, or capriciously. I come now to the application of these regulations to the coal-miners. Listening to some honorable members one is led to believe that the miners are as black as the coal they mine; and, listening to other honorable members, that they are as white as snow. Neither conclusion, I suppose, is correct; the miners are human like ourselves. However, when coal-miners, or any other workers, go on strike, they do not help our war effort, or do anything to assist in the salvation of this country. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) declared that the coal-miners are a class within the working class itself; they are a class apart from ordinary workers. If they are prepared to accept the protection of the Government and the flag of Australia, and the protection of our armed forces, they must also accept with these privileges the obligations of citizens of the Commonwealth. When they are ordered by the Government to return to work, they must do so. If they cannot obtain redress of their grievances, they must take up that matter with the Government with a view to obtaining an amendment of the law in the way they desire. I am not a lawyer, but simply a grower of wool. However, 1. have often wondered why we cannot utilize the structure of our civil law in order to enable arbitration magistrates and arbitration courts of petty sessions to deal on the spot with disputes that arise on the coal-fields.
– There is arbitration.
– I favour taking arbitration right to the pit mouth, instead of forcing coal-miners into the awesome legal atmosphere of bobbed wigs. There is quite a lot in that suggestion. I repeat that if the miners accept the privileges of citizenship in this country, they must also accept its obligations. The honorable member forReid (Mr. Morgan) said that so long as the coal-mines are controlled by private enterprise, the difficulties now peculiar to the industry will never be settled. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), as I have already said, gave certain reasons for the strike which occurred recently at the State coal-mine at Lithgow. There have been strikes at the State coal mines in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
– The Wonthaggi State coal-miners are not striking at present.
– I admit that they are doing a good job, but I do not think that the nationalization of the coal-mining industry is the panacea for all the ills mentioned by the honorable member for Watson and the honorable member for Reid. One deadly result of strikes in coal-mines is that they are retarding the aggregation of adequate coal stocks in the various States.
– Coal stocks are increasing in the different States.
– They are not increasing in South Australia or, to the quantity desired, in Victoria. That is bringing about a dangerous state of affairs. It is no use mincing words on this subject. Many members of this House and the people generally throughout the Commonwealth are not greatly perturbed because, they say, the British navy rules the waves. We cannot ignore the possibility that in the Indian Ocean and, to a lesser degree in the Pacific Ocean, at no distant date, the trade lines to Australia will be smashed by enemy action. If interstate transport should be held up, or if munitions industries should be unable to continue because of the shortage of coal stocks, a serious position would arise. Movement of troops by the railways to the danger areas throughout the Commonwealth where the battle for Australia might be waged would not be possible. A person who strikes at present, whether in coal-mining or in any other industry, is not striking against the employer, but is plunging a deadly dagger into the heart of the Commonwealth. If that sort of thing be permitted to continue the nation will be destroyed. The Government acted correctly in making Statutory Rule No. 77, and I support what it has done, although I think that provision should be made that orders given to any person to set into operation the regulations should be in writing or, if given orally, should later be confirmed in writing. If the coal-mine owners are not playing the game, that is no reason why the miners should do likewise. The regulations should be set into operation against anybody in Australia who is not prepared to play his part in this period of danger. Members on the Government side of the House have complained that the regulations are a form of totalitarianism and are undemocratic. ‘When fighting enemies so well organized as the Japanese, the German and the Italian nations, we must use the same weapons as are used against us.
Mx. JOLLY (Lilley) [12.28 a.m.].I should like an assurance from the Prime Minister that the Government intends to amend the regulations under Statutory Rule No. 77 in order to provide adequate safeguards along the lines suggested by various honorable members. It is important that directions issued under the statutory rule should be given in writing. As the regulations are at present framed, this is not essential and, in the absence of the Prime Minister, I should like a member of the Government to assure honorable members that the regulations will be amended in accordance with an assurance, which I understand waa given by the right honorable gentleman during an earlier debate on this subject.
– I shall not detain honorable members unduly, but certain statements that have been made during the debate must be answered. In the first place, I shall deal with the topic which has overshadowed the merits of the statutory rule, namely, the coal-mining industry and disputes in it. I have before me a group of statutory rules - Nos. 34, 64, 76 and 77 of 1942. Rules 34 and 76 deal with the control of labour. The former provides that a worker in a protected undertaking - and the Government may make any industry it so desires a protected undertaking - cannot leave that employment. Statutory Rule No. 76 states that a worker in any industry may not demand more wages than are fixed by the current award for that industry. He may not absent himself from his place of employment without reasonable excuse, and he may not refuse to perform his work at his place of employment except under certain specified conditions for which regulations under the rule provide. There is ample power in those regulations to deal with any strike that arises. If the strike has relation to wages, there is a statutory rule which provides that it is an offence for a man to demand more wages than are provided for in the current award. In addition, it is an offence for an employer to pay less than existing award rates. Under regulation 5 of Statutory Rule No. 76, it is an offence for an employer to pay more than the rate set out in the award. That rule provides measures by which disputes in the coal-mining or any other industry may be effectively dealt with. Although I do not like some of the regulations, I have not the same objection to them as I have to Statutory Rule No. 76. The existing statutory rules lay down general principles and give guidance for the conduct of people, at the same time fixing certain penalties for failure to observe those principles. But that is different from Statutory Rule No. 77. I emphasize that there is in existence ample power, if the Government chooses to exercise it, to meet almost any set of conditions that may arise in industry. What the Government has done is to make an exceptional provision in an attempt to use the Citizen Forces, in breach of the Defence Act, against the waterside workers and others in order to compel them to work. The result has been disorganization of industry generallyIf the Government is anxious to set penal measures in motion against the workers, it already has available the regulations under Statutory Rule No. 76.
I shall now deal more fully with the question of whether Statutory Rule No. 77 of 1942 should, or should not, be disallowed. .Something has been said about my association in this motion with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). Although we do not agree upon all things, we agree upon some things. We certainly agree upon this, that before persons are punished their accuser should be able to point to some rule they have violated, and I agree with other honorable members on the same point. My contention is that there should be a rule of conduct applicable to every body. Again, the point has been made by. some honorable member that these powers will be needed under the pressure of actual or impending disaster ; but we have made regulations to deal with. that. A regulation made under Statutory Rule No. 64 provides -
Where the Minister is of opinion that it is necessary or desirable, for the purpose of meeting any emergency arising out of the war, that these regulations should apply to any part of Australia, he may, by notice published in the Gazette, declare that ‘these Regulations shall apply to that part as on and from a date specified in the notice, and thereupon these Regulations shall apply to that part accordingly.
The emergency is then controlled by military officers. The . Prime Minister himself* in discussing this matter, admitted that if it were necessary to act under the pressure of actual or impending disaster, the regulations under Rule No. 64 would give power to control people and property. It is obvious that what is intended by the Prime Minister is that we must have these regulations, not only to deal with places where there is actual or impending danger, but also to deal with places where there is no actual or impending danger. He admits that the legislation is of an arbitrary character ; but he says, “ I am doing nothing but what section 13a of the National Security Act of 1940 intended [ should do, and what Parliament authorized me to do.” I submit that Parliament never contemplated anything of this kind. Section 13a provides -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act; the Governor-General may make such regulations making provision for requiring persons to place themselves, their services and their property at the disposal of the Commonwealth, as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the Commonwealth and the Territories of the Commonwealth, or the efficient prosecution of any war in which His Majesty is or may be engaged.
That, I submit, is not what Parliament contemplated. I opposed this amendment of the law in 1940, and I made a speech pointing out what could be done under it. But I do not think any member of Parliament conceived that, under the cloak of regulations, the Government could take power to direct what should be done with the services and property of the people. It has become perfectly obvious to this House that the only thing the Government can control under Regulation No. 77 is the services and actions of individuals, and that it cannot take their property without paying compensation for it. The regulation, although it appears to be directed at the property-owner as well as the wage-earner, does not take from the property-owner anything that he has. It does not impose upon him any disability, but the wage-earner can be dealt with at the discretion - or the indiscretion - of the Government. I believe that this regulation has disorganized industry, and I agree with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), who says that if he is supposed to preserve continuity of industry and to keep the people of Australia at work, he must be freed from decrees of this kind. I believe that is a right decision, and he deserves commendation for the frankness with which he has stated it; but I believe also that his attitude has ‘been misrepresented and misunderstood. That attitude is: “I cannot preserve peace in industry -and no one can say he has not made great efforts and sacrifices to maintain continuity in industry - “ I cannot keep the workers at work if they are to be the recipients of directions applied t<i no other class in the community”. I believe that he is right. I am quite aware of the fact that I shall have very few supporters for my motion; nevertheless, I propose to press it to a division.
Question put -
That the National Security (Mobilization of Services and Property) Regulations under the National Security Act. made by Statutory Rules 1942, No. 77, bc disallowed.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. W. M. Nairn.)
Majority . . 47
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired -
For Defence purposes -
Rathmines, New South Wales.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1 to 9) - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 178.
House adjourned at 12.53 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
What was the adult basic wage rate payable to (a) males, and (&) females, after cost of living adjustments, in (i) Sydney, (ii) Melbourne, and (iii) five capitals, for the September quarter, 1938, September quarter, 1939, September quarter, 1940, September quarter, 1941, and March quarter, 1942?
Compensation for LOSS of Employment.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– This matter, together with other Superannuation Fund matters, is at present under consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that former members of the Public Service who are now members of the Australian Imperial Force are having their superannuation payments maintained by the Government, will he undertake on behalf of the Government to extend the same concession to members of the Volunteer Defence Corps and the Australian Military Forces who are on active service and who were formerly members of the Public Service?
Mr.Curtin. - This question has already been the subject of consultation between the Treasurer and myself. A decision in the matter will be announced assoon as possible.
Mr.Rosevear asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
Very many persons are experiencing difficulty in obtaining supplies of tea, particularly those who have not dealt regularly with a grocer. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs make such arrangements that, in the allocation of supplies of tea, all sections of the population may obtain a proportion of what is made available?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: - - The system of tea rationing introduced on 30th March last assures equitable distribution of available supplies to all sections of the community on a common basis upon registration with a retailer.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 April 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420430_reps_16_170/>.