18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.SPEAKER (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Dismissal of Officials
– I ask the Prime
Minister to state whether or not four Prices Branch officials, namely, Colin Gale, J. Bellemore, Horsey and Small, have been dismissed from the Prices Branch? Have official investigations revealed the existence of a list of “protected” tradespeople? If so, will the right honorable gentleman make the list available to the House? Have these officials been accused of taking bribes from tradespeople whose names appear on the “ protected “ list ?If so, what was the amount of the bribes which they received? Has it been established that one Prices Branch official travels frequently to Melbourne to collect bribes from master butchers in Victoria? If so, what is his name? Did a master butcher in Sydney begin bribing a Prices Branch official with a £5 note? Did it then become a matter of many officials each being paid £5 ? Did the amount then rise to £10 each week to each of many officials? When the butcher concerned ceased paying this money, was a charge preferred against him? Was he sentenced to three months’ hard labour, and did. he serve that sentence at Long Bay goal? If I have stated facts, what are the names of the officials concerned? What is the name of the master butcher, what charge was preferred against him, and what sentence was imposed on him by the court? Has the Government been aware that blackmail, bribery and corruption have become rampant in certain sections of the Prices Branch, and that for some time the New South Wales Police Department has been watching the position? Was an inquiry made as to the character and honesty of officials of the Prices Branchbefore they were invested with their powers under National Security and Prices Regulations? If so, what action does the Government propose to take in regard to the four officials mentioned, also those tradespeople whose names appear on the list of “ protected “ persons ? Will the Prime Minister’ cause an immediate inquiry to be made, and afford full protection to those who may wish to give evidence, as a preliminary to appointing a royal commission to inquire into the whole of the activities of Prices Branch officials?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who represents the Minister for Trade and Customs, will answer the question.
– The only information at my disposal at the moment indicates that the Prices Commissioner has dispensed with the services of four of his officers,on the ground that their service had not been entirely satisfactory. I have not the slightest doubt that if there is any concrete evidence of any officials of the Prices Branch having been guilty’ of any offence whatsoever, the Prices Commissioner will take any action that may be necessary. If a charge of having indulged in malpractices is to he laid against any officers of the Prices Branch I am sure that the Attorney-General will agree that the matter is sub judice and that consequently I cannot comment further upon it at this stage.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen a press statement, attributed to Mr. Pie, the Leader of the Queensland Peoples party in Queensland, alleging that the Commonwealth Government proposes to send unemployed men in Queensland to other States? Can he say whether the Commonwealth Government has the power to take such action, and whether lt is true, as alleged by Mr. Pie, that there are 10,000 workers unemployed in Queensland; or is his statement merely another attempt to mislead the people?
– I did see prominent newspaper headings relating to ‘ the subject mentioned by the honorable member, but I did not read the report carefully. So far as I know the statement referred to is not based upon facts. There is no power for the Commonwealth Government to transfer men from’ place to place against their will; but should considerable unemployment occur in any part of Australia and there is permanent employment elsewhere, my department will help to transfer unemployed men who wish to go there. The Government does not desire power to compel men to go anywhere against their will. Generally, the position in relation to i n employment is better than it was some time ago; the number of unemployed this week is not as great as it was last week. * ,
– There is a lot of unemployment in Melbourne at the presell time.
– As my statement appears to be doubted, I shall give to the House the figures contained in official reports which are supplied to me every week. The total number of persons unemployed in Australia on- the 5th April was 11,004!, of which 1,011 were in Victoria.
– I take it that those numbers relate to the persons who have applied for unemployment relief?
– Yes, that is our only guide. The position in Queensland is worse than in the other States because of the seasonal nature of the work there. Of the total persons unemployed on the oth April, 6,911 resided in Queensland. Nevertheless, the figures for last week aro better by 3S7 than for the previous week. I have made inquiries as to the position, and I am informed that a number of strong young men will be sent to the north of Queensland to pick peanuts. That will relieve the unemployment situation. There is no truth in the statement that the Government proposes to transfer workers against their will. Moreover, no approach has been made to the Government for assistance in transferring volunteer’s to other places.
Victorian Metal Trades Dispute
– In- view of the serious . dislocation of industry caused by the continual industrial unrest in Victoria, which the Premier of that State has said is. beyond his control, and which has a disturbing effect upon the economy of Australia, particularly that of Western. Australia where agricultural machinery and spare parts are urgently needed for the 1947 season, will the Prime Minister inform the House what steps, if any, the Government proposes to take to bring about a settlement of the dispute?
– The industrial unrest in Victoria is due primarily to the strike of the members of the Australian Engineering Union which has been before the Arbitration Court for some time, although certain other unions have become associated with the dispute. I do not propose to comment on the action which the court may take, butT point out that the Acting Chief Judge of the court, speaking from the Bench of the Full Court last week, suggested that the two parties to the dispute should get together and submit proposals to the court for its consideration. As I have said, the dispute is in the hands of the Arbitration Court, and we do not propose to interfere with what the court may do. The
Minister for Labour and National Service is maintaining close contact with the parties to the dispute, and I have myself done what is possible to make contact with them. I do not think that there is anything more I can say at this stage. I understand that during the last few days consultations have taken place between Judge Kelly and the parties concerned, but the court which has the matter in hand is at present in Sydney hearing the 40-hour week case. The honorable member may rest assured that everything humanly possible is being done to bring about a settlement through the court.
– It is reported in the Melbourne press that the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Cain, appealed to the Australian Government to help the Victorian Government to end the metal trades strike. Will the Prime Minister state whether Mr. Cain made such an appeal? Is the Prime Minister aware that metropolitan train traffic has ceased, and that many disabilities are being suffered by the people, particularly housewives, because of gas and lighting restrictions? Will the Prime Minister, through the AttorneyGeneral, take action to prosecute for contempt of court the chairman of the Australian Metal TradesUnion, Mr. J. J. Cranwell, who said -
Unless union demands were complied with, measures decided on for further extensions would become operative.
Will he also arrange for the prosecution of the Communist railway union leader, Mr. J. J. Brown, under section 58ba of the Arbitration Act, for incitement to strike? Will he take definite action to this end instead of saying, as he so frequently does, that everything possible will be done?
– It is true that I have been in touch with Mr. Cain, on a number of occasions with regard to this matter. In fact, I was speaking to him just before I entered the chamber to-day. I was as anxious as he was to have the dispute terminated as quickly as possible, and he would understand that, without waiting for any appeal from him, I would do everything possible to bring about that result. With regard to the prosecution of the gentlemen mentioned by the honorable member, I shall ask the Attorney-General to examine that matter.
– Was the Minister for
Immigration correctly reported in the published statement that he, when in Perth, said he did not know how many immigrant ships under alien flags were on theirway to Australia? If so, how does he reconcile this latest statement with his previous statements in this House? Did he travel to Perth on the same Trans-Australia Airlines Skymaster with the secretary of the refugee organization, Mr. W. L. Brand, to meet Misr? Did he make arrangements for Mr. Brand to travel on Misr to the eastern States, and, if so, for what purpose?
– I have no recollection of ever making a statement even remotely resembling that read by the honorable member for Reid. Therefore, I have nothing to reconcile with any previous statement I have made. It is a fact that on the . Trans-Australia Airlines airliner on which I travelled to Perth the. secretary of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society was also a passenger. He was not taken to Perth by me, or by any one other than his own organization, and I made no arrangements for him to travel on any ship from Fremantle to the eastern States. Any arrangements made were made by himself. I regard Mr. Brand as a very good Australian. He is a returned soldier of the first World War, and a member of the returned soldiers’ organization of Australia. He is doing very good work for the religious organization to which he belongs, and he is a man for whom I have profound respect.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether or not it is an offence against Commonwealth law for foreign ships to carry passengers from one port in Australia to another without a special permit. Did Mr. Brand, the secretary of a refugee organization, travel without a permit? If he’ had a permit to travel interstate in a foreign ship and under a foreign flag, who issued it. to him?
- Mr. Brand is at present travelling between Fremantle and Melbourne on Misr. Previously, he has travelled from Cairns to Sydney on Hwa-Lien and between the same two ports on Johan de Witt. He has been performing a very good service for those people in whom he is interested, and his activities have always been legitimate, Whatever he has attempted to do has been for the benefit of the newcomers and for Australia. He las no disgraceful record of which he need be ashamed.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House what success has been achieved in importing pedigreed stock from overseas under the Government’s scheme to assist breeders of stud stock? Will he state what class of stock is being imported, and in what numbers?
– Breeders of stud stock are freely availing themselves of the facilities offered to them to obtain subsidies in respect of stud stock .imported from overseas. During the last eleven months the sum. of £10,000 has been paid by way of subsidy for that purpose. Beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, sheep and milch goats have been imported. As the result of a recent decision of the Australian Agricultural Council, poultry and eggs for hatching purposes are to be included in the scheme. I shall inform the honorable member at the earliest opportunity of the numbers of cattle, pigs, sheep and milch goats which have actually been imported up to date.
– Is the Prime Minister aware “that the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, has assailed, the Commonwealth Government? Mr. Hanlon has claimed that he did not know of the Commonwealth’s drought, relief scheme for wheat-growers in -New South Wales . until he read of the details of the scheme in the press. Has Mr. Hanlon, as his statements to the press indicate, protested to the Commonwealth Government against the unfairness of its drought relief scheme as a whole? Has he notified the Commonwealth that he intends at the next Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers to protest against the scheme, and also that he proposes to protest against .benefits under the scheme being made available to ‘Other States while Queensland does not participate although it has to contribute towards the expense of the. scheme? In asking this question I desire only to defend the Commonwealth’s drought relief scheme which I support. My question has no bearing on the forthcoming State elections in Queensland. Is the Prime Minister of the opinion that Mr. Hanlon had those elections in mind when he endeavoured to do this injustice to the Commonwealth Government?
– The latter portion of the honorable member’s question is out of order.
– I have not seen any statement made hy the Premier of Queensland with regard to the ‘Commonwealth’s drought relief scheme. It is true that from time to time I have discussed with Mr. Hanlon questions relating to drought relief, particularly in respect of dairy products. I do not wish to do Mr. Hanlon an injustice, but I understand that it has ‘been the policy of the Queensland Government not to make grants in respect of drought relief, hut to -make loans available at a low rate of interest. Possibly, the Queensland Government has special machinery to facilitate the collection of repayments of such loans. On one occasion, iri respect of dairy products, the Commonwealth Government offered to share the cost of providing relief with the Queensland Government on a £1 for £1 basis. Mr. Hanlon wrote to me recently indicating that the Queensland Government was not prepared to accept aid for drought relief on that basis, as had been the policy of the Victorian Government for some years. As most former Treasurers know, the question .of drought relief has often been made the subject of discussion at conferences, of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and that on a number of occasions the Premiers have agreed to obtain loan money for the purpose of financing drought relief on a £1 for £1 basis with the Commonwealth Government. I cannot be. expected to know what was in Mr. Hanlon’s mind in this connexion, or what representations he is likely to make at the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
– On arrival at Canberra to-day, I received telegrams from farmers at Narrandera, Ardlethan and Matong requesting that the delivery of superphosphate .to those areas be hastened. What is the prospect of .immediate deliveries of superphosphate being made to those areas? Good rain has fallen there and it is essential that supplies of superphosphate be made available immediately. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider the desirability of granting farmers in those areas priority in respect of their requirements of superphosphate?
– Unfortunately, many farmers were remiss in ordering superphosphate supplies early in the year, at a period when the pressure on the railways was not as great as it has been during the lifting of the wheat harvest. For that reason, and because of other transport difficulties, it has been impossible to keep deliveries of superphosphate at the peak. Every effort is being made to expedite deliveries in the areas mentioned by the honorable member. The officers of my department have been in constant contact with the Railways Commissioners in the respective States in respect of the matter, particularly with the Victorian Railways Commissioners in regard to supplies for the Riverina district. We are doing everything humanly possible to see that supplies are delivered first to those areas where they are most urgently required.
– Will the Minister for Air investigate the possibility of installing a fire tender with a permanent crew at the Cambridge aerodrome, and, also, installing effective obstruction lights on the nearby hills which come within the circuit area?
– When I ,recently visited Hobart, and later,. Launceston, I found that the fire tender at
Launceston was being sent to Hobart and that a replacement tender was being put in order for the Launceston aerodrome. I believe that the transfer of the equipment to Hobart will meet the need mentioned by the honorable’ member. If the transfer has not already been completed the matter will receive attention. With regard to the installation of indicator lights on the” surrounding hills, I shall have the honorable member’s request investigated to ascertain whether such installations are essential and will aid aerial navigation.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state what is the average return to dairy-farmers at the present time? Oan he state what was the average return during the period in which the right honorable member for Cowper was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture? Has the Minister seen a statement in this morning’s press reputed to have been made by the right honorable member for Cowper regarding dairy products? Is the Minister in a position to comment on the accuracy of the statement?
– The present average return to dairy-farmers is ls. Sd. per lb., for commercial butter. The average return during the four and a half years that the right honorable member for Cowper was Minister for Commerce was 11 1/2 d. per lb. for commercial butter. It will be seen therefore that the return to-day is approximately 7S per cent, higher than it was during the term of office of the right honorable gentleman. I have seen the statement in to-day’s press attributed to ‘the right honorable member, and if it reports him accurately, it is remarkable for the inaccuracies that it contains.
– Will the Treasurer elucidate his statement at page 13 of the budget statement, that of the amount of £6,250,000 required for the payment of a subsidy to the dairy industry only £2,250,000 will have to be provided by the Australian Government, because refunds amounting to approximately £4,000,000 will be received from the British Ministry of Food ? Does this £4,000,000 which is being provided by Great Britain arise out of the increased price which that country -is paying for Australian butter? If so, does not this money belong to the producers of the butter, and are they not thus paying twothirds of the subsidy which they receive in respect of butter production, payment of which was made originally and ostensibly in order to keep down price levels in Australia and permit the basic wage to be pegged? Has the consent of the butter producers, been obtained to this transaction? If not, does it conflict. with section 31 of the Constitution, which deals with the acquisition of property on j” list terms, in view of the fact that the price paid to the producers is below export parity? Will the right honorable gentleman also inform the Minister for Commerce and .Agriculture that during the whole of my term as Minister for Commerce the Australian homeconsumption price for butter was 2d. per lb. above world parity, not 2d. per lb. below world parity as it is to-day?
– Order ! The right honorable member for Cowper has asked the Treasurer to elucidate a statement which he made on a subject that is still on the notice-paper. I believe it to bo quite wrong to take up the time devoted to questions in asking for elucidations which the Treasurer can make when he replies to the debate on his financial statement.
– That will suit me.
– In view of the calls that are being made upon the people of this country by the Australian Red Cross Society, the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and other organizations and individuals for contributions to the Food for Britain Fund, will the Prime Minister consider making such contributions an allowable deduction for income tax purposes?
– The question of granting income tax rebates in respect of contributions- to various funds has a number of aspects, and I shall have a statement prepared for the honorable member on the subject.
ELECTRIC MOTORS and Diesel Engines.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware of the urgent need of. farmers for electric motors and diesel engines for water conservation and irrigation? Can anything be done by the Department of Supply and Shipping to speed the production and supply of these urgently needed machines ? Is the Minister aware that many large firms possessing electric motors are refusing to sell, them- but are hiring them out at exorbi- taut rates ? Will the Minister have thismatter investigated to assist farmers and!, to ensure that they shall be given a fairdeal by agents and manufacturers?
– I am well aware of the urgent need for machines of this type and I shall draw the attention of the Minister for Supply and .Shipping to the situation as the honorable member alleges it to be. If manufacturers are leasing motors at exorbitant rates, that is a matter that may come within the jurisdiction of the Prices Commissioner, and I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who administers the Prices Branch, to the honorable member’s allegation.
– I anticipated that by the passage by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales of the Coal Industry Bill all industrial troubles in the coal industry would be overcome. A craft union which has taken advantage of the continuance on the statute-book of the Coal Production (Wartime) Act 1944, has applied to the Joint Coal Board for an award, and one has been made which is not in accord with the unions’ ideas, with the result that all the mines on the South Maitland coalfield are idle over the question of whether one union will control the contributions of one employee at Abermain No. 1 colliery. In view of the conflict and the intention of the Amalgamated Engineering Union to apply to the High Court for an injunction. . against the operation of Mr. Gallagher’s award, will the Prime Minister take steps immediately to repeal the Coal Production (“War-time) Act so that confusion shall end?
– I have discussed the dispute on the northern coal-fields with the Minister for Supply and Shipping,who administers that act. The honorable gentleman knows that many unions in the coal industry are not covered by legislation recently passed by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales. I will refer the legal matters raised by the honorable gentleman to. the Attorney-General for examination.
– Just before the House adjourned for the Easter recess the Prime Minister made a statement in connexion with the appointment of an all-party committee to investigate the claim for payment of subsistence to former Australian prisoners of war. Has he given consideration to the appointment of that committee and its personnel? If so, will he inform the House of his decision ?
– I am not aware of having made any promise about the appointment of any all-party committee.
– I did not mean that the Prime Minister had promised it.
– Since that matter was raised in the House by the honorable member and other honorable members the Government has given consideration to it. As no fresh facts have emerged and as no further reasons have been given why the original decision should be departed from, the Government has decided to adhere to. it, and the proposal for the appointment of a committee has been rejected.
– The shortage of candles, coupled with the shortage of kerosene, is so serious in parts of Tasmania not yet served with hydro-electric power that strips of hark are being burned to give illumination. Why is there such a serious shortage of candles 1 Are manufacturers and exporters cornering tallow supplies in the hope that the export ban will be lifted and that they will then be able to obtain high prices? If so, could stocks of tallow be declared, as was done in respect of hoarded leather supplies last year ?
– The present shortage of candles is due to a number of factors. One of these is the very severe nature, of the droughts that have occurred in various parts of the Commonwealth. This alone has caused a reduction of the quantity of tallow available for a variety of purposes, including the manufacture of candles. In addition, it is believed that, some persons may be hoarding tallow in anticipation of. price increases and also with the intention of effecting some saving of income tax. Profits made from sales i 11 the year 1947-48 will be subject to lower rates of tax than apply in the current year. Every effort is being made to overcome the difficulty and I” believe that, with improved seasonal conditions throughout the Commonwealth, ample supplies of tallow will be available within a reasonable time not only for local requirements but also for export in the form of soap, in the raw state, and in edible fats for the people of Great Britain and other countries. ‘
– Has the Waterside Workers Federation refused to obey the Stevedoring Industry Commission’s order that, if there is not a full day’s work for a man on a particular ship, he should be transferred to another vessel for the remainder of his working day?
– I saw a press statement in regard to this matter, and I discussed it with the Minister for Supply and Shipping. The Minister had no knowledge of the matter mentioned in the newspaper, but he is arranging to have a conference with all the parties concerned. I think either to-day, to-morrow or on Friday, first, regarding charges made by officials of the Waterside Workers Federation that men have been sent to ships and that no work has been available for them when they have attended, and secondly, regarding the point raised by the honorable member. When I have further information as to the truth or otherwise of the various allegations, I shall supply the. honorable member with an answer.
Grant for Medical School
– The Prime Minister recently informed me in this House that the Commonwealth Government was willing to advance an amount up to £125,000 towards the cost of building a medical -school for the University of Western Australia and that negotiations were proceeding with the then Government of that State concerning the proportions of the running costs of the school to be borne by the Commonwealth Government and the- State Government respectively. 1 now ask the right honorable gentleman whether the new State Government has yet indicated to the Commonwealth its intention to proceed with the building of the school. Have negotiations been completed, and, if so, what proportions of the costs are to be borne by the Commonwealth Government and by the State Government?
– As I indicated to the honorable member ou a previous occasion, the Commonwealth Government agreed to provide . £125,000 as a contribution towards the capital cost of a medical school at the University of Western Australia. However. it was not prepared to undertake any maintenance costs and it made a request, through the Minister for Health and Social Services, that a representative of the Commonwealth Government should be a member of the controlling body of the medical school. Since I answered the honorable member’s earlier question, I received a letter from the Premier of Western Australia asking my opinion of the position generally. I am not able to supply any further information regarding the granting of Commonwealth assistance to the University of Western Australia. I have no recollection of receiving any communication from the new Premier of Western Australia on this subject, but I inform the honorable member that the Commonwealth offer of £125,000 still stands.
Statement bt Mr. A. A. Calwell, M.P.
– The Minister for Information is reported to have stated at Ballarat that the Government in tended, during the life of the present Parliament, again to seek an alteration of the Constitution for the purpose of obtaining for the Parliament of the Commonwealth increased industrial powers, similar to those which the Government sought to secure at the last referendum, and .which the people refused to grant. Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the. Minister for Information made an .authorized or an unauthorized statement of government policy ?
– The Minister for Information has informed me that he did not make the statement which was attributed to him., and I inform the honorable member that the Government has not considered holding another referendum during the life of this Parliament. Whilst I have no doubt that at some future date such matters will receive consideration, no decision has yet been made regarding them.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Indi stated that I had. announced at Ballarat that the Government intended to take a referendum, or was considering taking a referendum for the purpose of securing increased constitutional authority during the life of the present Parliament. What I said at Ballarat was that in my view, and speaking personally, I ‘believed that another attempt should be made to secure additional powers for the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I said that the Government had not considered the matter but that I believed that the Commonwealth Parliament should have more power, and I expressed as my personal opinion that, ultimately, the people of Australia would be wise if they voted to alter the Constitution in order to give complete powers to the Commonwealth Parliament under section 51 of the Constitution,
Plight of Natives
– I desire to address to the Minister for External Territories a question which arises from a statement made recently by Monsignor Hannan regarding the very bad plight of our late allies, the natives of Bougainville Island.
Monsignor Hannan said that the natives at present are literally starving, that hundreds are suffering from, malnutrition, and that their death-rate’ since the Department of External Territories took over the administration of the island is higher ‘ even than it was when the Japanese were -in control. In ‘addition, Monsignor Hannan said that when he approached a member of the Australian Cabinet on this matter, the Minister in Question stated that he himself “was under the impression that Bougainville did not belong to, or was not under the control of Australia, and was an American responsibility. I ask the Minister for External Territories - 1. Ave Monsignor Hannan’s statements correct or incorrect? 2. What steps have been taken to alleviate the condition of those natives? 3. Who was the Minister who did not know that Australia controls Bougainville? 4. Will he arrange for seme instruction to be given to members >of the Australian Cabinet so that they may he. informed regarding the territories for which they are responsible?
– I have read the reported statements of Monsignor Hannan. I also had an interview with Monsignor Hannan during his visit to Canberra. Whilst his conversation indicated that he regarded the position of the natives as unsatisfactory, he did not in any way attribute that to neglect on the part of the Australian Government. The area to which he referred had been occupied by the Japanese for a considerable period, and when the civil administration again took charge of it, the condition of the natives was found to be very bad. Since the newspaper statements appeared, investigations have been made. District officers in the areas concerned have reported that there is no shortage of native food, with the exception of taro. Further reports have been called for, from officers in charge of sub-districts, and these are being awaited. The Government is satisfied that the food position of the natives in those areas is as good as it has been possible for the administration to make it in the short period during which it has had control. In the latter portion of his question, the honorable member said that Monsignor Hannan had been reported as having stated that during his visit to Canberra he “had interviewed a Minister of the Crown who was unaware that Bougainville is a responsibility of the Australian Government. That statement has been checked, and “J understand that during his visit Monsignor Hannan had a conversation with a member of the Liberal party, who is an ex-Minister of the Crown.
– I ask the Minister for External Territories whether any steps are being taken to export Australian food to Bougainville arid any other areas under Australian jurisdiction which have suffered from the dislocation of food production as a result of their occupation by the Japanese.
– The Department of External Territories is fully utilizing all the available shipping space in forwarding supplies of food to areas in which it is most urgently needed. On occasions, due to the dislocation of shipping, food shortages have occurred, but the position has been rectified as quickly as possible, and the conditions are now much more satisfactory than they have been for some months.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the moratorium provisions in relation to ex-servicemen and women will continue to operate for a period of twelve months after the signing of peace, or whether the Government will have to take further steps to safeguard the interests of those concerned.
– I shall have a full statement prepared, and inform the honorable member of the position to-morrow.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the Commonwealth Security Service, which is now being strengthened, saw a recent newspaper report that a visitor . was able to walk unchallenged through the Sydney headquarters of the Navy, Army and Air Force, and to enter, unquestioned, offices, rooms and storerooms, including deserted offices which were littered with importantlooking documents. In view of the state of affairs disclosed by this report, is any action being taken to render such premises more secure ; if so, what action ?
– The honorable member’s question deals with a newspaper report. I do not know the nature of it, or whether the Commonwealth Security Service saw it, but I shall ascertain whether such a report has come to its notice. Before I determine what state of affairs exists, I shall investigate for the benefit of the honorable member the correctness or otherwise of the report.
Mr. A. W. Rudkin
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said in this House recently that he accepted full responsibility for the appointment of Mr. D. Mountjoy to the executive committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. He also stated that Mr. Arthur William Rudkin, who is employed in a research post in the Forests Products Division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Melbourne, had been a member of the Western Australian branch of the Communist party, and editor of its Western Australian organ, Workers’ Star, and that he had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment in that State for subversive activities. I now ask the Minister whether he accepts personal responsibility for the appointment of Mr. Arthur William Rudkin to the service of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. When this man was appointed, did the Minister have knowledge of his record? In view of his record, will he now have the position filled by an ex-serviceman, and discharge this man who was ready to betray his country in time of war?
– There is no comparison between the appointment of Mr. Mountjoy as a member of the executive committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the appointment of Mr. Rudkin. The appointment of Mr. Mountjoy was made by me personally, it being a matter which under the act came within my province as Minister. The appointment of any official of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is also governed by the act, which provides that the Minister may approve recommendations by the executive. At the time that I approved the recommendation for the appointment of Mr. Rudkin, I was not aware of his alleged record. I do not believe that some of the statements which have been made concerning Mr. Rudkin are correct.
– In view of published statements that goods to the value of morethan £2,000,000 have been stolen from the Royal Australian Air Force since the end of the war, and that detectives are investigating huge robberies, including the disappearance of 25,000 yards of heavy silk for parachutes valued at £20,000, will the Minister for Air state -
– The statement that goods to the value of £2,000,000 belonging to the Royal Australian Air Force had been stolen since the end of the war, -which appeared under a prominent heading in the Melbourne Sun, and was probably published in newspapers published in other States also, was untrue. Immediatelyit appeared I had an investigation made with a view to obtaining full particulars of the value of the goods that had been stolen, in order that the public may know the facts, but the same evening the Melbourne Herald, which is controlled by the same people as the Melbourne Sun made a mis-statement under the heading, “ Forces plan to Guard Vital War Secrets “ as follows - “ illustrated by the £2,000,000 loss estimated by the Royal Australian Air Force “. The reference in the Herald was based on the article which appeared in its sister journal the Sun published previously. Investigation have disclosed that the total value of Royal Australian Air Force goods stolen is £51,000. In the light of that fact, the honorable member for Wakefield must agree that the newspaper article was a gross exaggeration. That is an instance of what the. press is doing from day to day. The statement that 25,000 yards of parachute silk valued at £20,000 had been stolen was also found to be an exaggeration; the actual quantity stolen was valued at £1,200. That more recent robbery is now being investigated with a view to the recovery of the stolen silk. At this stage I am unable to inform the honorable member of the value of the goods stolen overseas as there has been no direction of the amount, but I can say that the statement which appeared in the Sun was a deliberate distortion of the facts. My refutation of the charge was sent to the Sun with a request that it be given the same publicity as was given to the original statement, but that was not done. Instead, it appeared on page 11 of the newspaper under an inconspicuous heading.
– I have received from the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely-
The need for a full public inquiry into the administration of the Division of Import Procurement relative to matters associated with anr arising out of the Goldberg case.
I do not propose to submit the motion to the House because - -
– Why not?
– Who interjected?
– I did.
– If the honorable member does so again I shall name him. He should know that Mr. Speaker must be heard in silence. My reason for not submitting the motion to the House is that it involves reference to a matter which at the moment is sub judice.
In the primary court the defendant, Goldberg, was. convicted and fined. His counsel, in asking for a stay of proceedings of 21 days,’ announced that he pro posed to bring fresh evidence from the United States of America. The court granted the stay of proceedings pending an appeal being lodged. By the stay of proceedings the machinery of justice has been suspended for 21 days, and, in the circumstances, I believe that ‘it would be improper for a discussion on any matter arising out of the case to take place in this House at the present time. In coming to this decision I have been fortified by the previous practice of this House. I refer particularly to what is known as the “ Father Jerger case “, which the then leader of the Opposition, Mr. T. J. Ryan, attempted to discuss. The AttorneyGeneral of the day, Sir Littleton Groom, informed the House, that counsel had announced in court the intention to appeal, whereupon Mr. Speaker Sir Elliot Johnson ruled that as the case was still sub judice, matters relating to it which might form the subject of evidence to be submitted or inquired into by the court, could not be debated. For those reasons, I rule the motion out of order.
-I rise to order. I should like an opportunity to make a submission on this matter.
– The Chair has ruled that the motion is out of order.
– After hearing my submission the Chair may decide otherwise.
– The Chair is satisfied with the ruling given. If the Leader of the Opposition disagrees with it. he has his remedy.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That Mr. Speaker’s ruling - that the motion by the honorable member for Wentworth is out of order -be disagreed with.
– I second the motion.
– In accordance with the Standing Orders, the. debate on the right honorable member’s motion will be adjourned until to-morrow.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Stevedoring Industry Bill 1947.
Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill 1947.
Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1947.
International Monetary Agreements Bill 1947.
Air Navigation Bill 1947.
Debate resumed from the 12th March (vide page 552), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That tl, e bill be now read a second time.
– This is the resumption of the debate on the amending Conciliation and Arbitration Bill introduced before Easter by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). The Australian conciliation and arbitration system is of such supreme importance that any major bill amending it deserves the very dose consideration of the House. The jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is immense. Wisely exercised, it’ can contribute very greatly, not only to contentment and a feeling of justice in the industrial sphere, but also to the general economic stability of the nation. If it is unwisely exercised, or recklessly exercised, or is not. exercised impartially it can have a disastrous effect, not only on the contentment of the individual, but also on the economic stability of the nation. The truth is that at present the jurisdiction and influence of a Commonwealth Arbitration Court judge is very much more far-reaching than that of a Supreme Court judge of any State.
Our compulsory arbitration system, which has lasted for over 40 years, is founded on the power in section 51 (xxxv.), of the Commonwealth Constitution. That is a power “ to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State “. Those words are, of, course, very well-known, and they have been frequently debated. Perhaps a basic defect of the arbitration system, which is founded upon that power, is that it is founded upon disputes and their determination. Therefore, it has come to involve, in the course of time, a very high degree of organization for conflict on both sides, with the result that the parties to industry are regimented into groups which come to regard themselves as mutually hostile. That is a basic criticism of the origin of the system, and, unfortunately, it does -mean that the vital spirit of co-operation and of common enterprise and of common interest which ought to exist in the industrial field comes to be blurred by controversy which is very frequently somewhat artificial. Many of the disputes that have come before the court in the past have been artificial in the sense that they were created for the primary.purpose of invoking the jurisdiction of the court.
But while all that could have been said with great force in 1900 and even, perhaps, at a substantially later date, we must deal with the position as we find it to-day. This system, which, has been established for more than 40 years, has come to stay. In spite of the criticism which I have just offered about its basis, it has done very much good in Australia, particularly to those who are employed in industry. It has done that good, thanks, primarily, I believe, to some very ablejudges of the Arbitration Court who have been its leaders from time to time. The arbitration system is accepted by thepublic mind, and it has largely broken down the inequality of bargaining strength which existed in industry in the nineteenth century, and which came to a head in some very serious conflicts in the “ nineties ‘’. Our task, therefore, is not to go back to 1900 and discuss whether, if we were drafting the Constitution anew, we would deal with this problem in some other way : our duty is to act on the basis of the constitutional power as it stands, with all its implications, and with whatever limitations exist in it. We are to do our best as a Parliament to make arbitration swift - that is of very great importance - effective, respected and obeyed. We must do all those things, and try to make it an instrument of industrial justice according to industrial law. In his .second-reading speech on this bill, the Attorney-General said this -
Tt builds on the foundation of past experience, but it seeks to get away from the legalism and technicalities which’ have been so much criticized ‘ in the existing system
Thereafter, in the course of his speech, he made particular reference to what he describes as the law’s delays, and the need for “ streamlining “ the jurisdiction. What that means I do not know, but it has come to be rather a “ blessed word “. An examination of the bill shows that, so far from achieving the results aimed at, the bill will probably destroy an essential quality of the whole system. Admittedly, the bill .endeavours to create an impression of “ streamlining “. It employs such’ words as “ expeditious “, “ promptly “, “ effectively “, “ immediately and “forthwith”, but those words mean almost nothing unless the powers, most of which now exist under the act, are in fact expeditiously or promptly used, and unless the parties adapt themselves to those ideas. In actual substance, this measure is primarily designed to destroy the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, and substitute for it a system of industrial control by persons possessing unstated qualifications, and enjoying an almost unfettered discretion.
– Is there any provision foi- co-ordination between them?
– In substance, no. The real change made by the bill is involved in the confining of the judges to the four issues of standard hours, female rates of pay, basic wage and annual leave.
– And legal matters and questions of appeal.
– I wish the AttorneyGeneral to be clear. There will be no appeal to the judges from the conciliation commissioners, hut, as I shall point out later, there will be some power in the commissioners to refer a question of law to the judges in which case they will deal with it, and they may, or may not, do something about it later on. But, substantially, those are the four matters with which the judges will deal, and they will sit as a full court: but in all other matters this bill substitutes for the judges conciliation, commissioners who are possibly, and we might think, probably unqualified, uncontrolled and uncontrollable. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) remarked, “The judges might be unqualified “. Judges cannot be ‘ appointed unless they possess the technical qualifications set down in the act. These conciliation commissioners may possess no qualification, either human or divine, but they will be there uncontrolled and uncontrollable.
I shall not attempt the impossible task of discussing in one speech all the matters that .will arise, and, therefore, it seems useful to select certain major questions which are provoked by this bill and endeavour to provide some rational answer to them. The first question is : Is the Arbitration Court strangled by legalisms ? I say with very great respect to all concerned that more nonsense has been talked on that matter than, perhaps, on any other. It goes back to the famous complaint by Mr. Justice Higgins that the court was surrounded by “ a Serbonian Bog of Technicalities. “ That was a headline phrase, and it has -served over a long period of years to create certain impressions in the public mind.. My own experience was that although Mr. Justice Higgins possessed very great force- of mind and character, he was himself one of the most technical pf lawyers, and, in fact, created most of his own legal technicalities in the Arbitration Court.- Apart from . the normal formalities by which a tribunal gets a.- matter before it, whether it is a select committee of the Parliament, or a standing committee, or court of petty sessions or any other tribunal - the great mass of technical legal questions which have arisen in the arbitration field have so arisen in relation to the power in section 51 (xxxv.) of the Constitution. . “ .Conciliation and arbitration “ - what is involved in those words? Do they include compulsory arbitration? And “for the prevention and settlement” - what did prevention mean ? Did it mean that you could get in, early before it was an interstate dispute? “Settlement of industrial disputes”? - Was it an industrial dispute? Was the particular occupation an industrial occupation? The volumes of Commonwealth Law Reports are almost filled over a term of years with decisions of the court on those matters. And those matters will still remain ; we must remember that. This bill cannot get rid of those technicalities, because they arise from the constitutional power, and, therefore, they cannot be averted by this Parliament. Therefore, I am a little puzzled to know how the so-called “ strangling legalisms “ are going to bo avoided; and, apparently, the answer is, “ We will .avoid them by having laymen as the arbitrators”. That is rather nattering to the laymen, because some of the worst producers of had points of law are not lawyers ; but the bill appears to assume that if you have laymen as arbitrators, that will’ do the trick. Is it really supposed that these laymen will understand the limits of the constitutional power more clearly than lawyers? Is it really thought that they will understand and operate these simple procedural steps, and they are simple, by which matters come before the court, better than lawyers? Is it really thought that they will sort- out the salient facts more quickly than lawyers? I do not believe that any one thinks so. But the bill provides that an award, or order, of a conciliation commissioner is not to be appealed against. The conciliation ,com- missioner - I am putting this in shorter language - may, if he thinks fit, refer any question of law arising in relation to a matter for the opinion of the court. If he does not think fit, nobody can compel him to do so. If he says to himself, “ ‘No, this is just down my alley ; I can decide this question of law “, he can decide it; and there is no appeal. His legal conclusions may be fantastic; but there ie no appeal.
– Will his decision be binding on other conciliation commissioners ?
– No ; it will be bind- ing on the people with whom he is dealing in the making of an award. They are bound by it, and the question of law may at’ his discretion be referred to the judges; and if it is so referred, then the court is to’ hear and determine the question of law referred to it. Notwithstand-ing this reference the commissioner may go ahead ‘and make an order, or an award, but the court, having given its opinion on the law, the clause then graciously says, the commissioner may vary that order, or award, in such a way as to make it consistent with the opinion of the court. “May” - that is remarkable. And for good measure, when we come to the proposed new section 43f we find that on a matter before the court, parties are not to have the benefit of being represented by a lawyer except by leave of the court and with the consent of all the parties. A lawyer may get in on that ground; and on a similar ground a lawyer has been heard on matters of law in the past. But on the hearing of an industrial dispute by a conciliation commissioner in which, mark you, thesame questions of law may arise, “no party shall be represented bv counsel, solicitor or paid agent “. He is deprived of any legal assistance on a point of law. He may send the point to the judges for advice, and he may take the advice if he thinks fit. And, subject to that, what the conciliation., commissioner says is to go unchecked without any appeal, with no control at all either by the court or by the Parliament, because I want to remind honorable members that, having regard to the nature of our .conciliation and arbitration power, the Parliament cannot alter what is done. The Parliament has no direct power to deal with these matters, but power only to provide for conciliation and arbitration. And, therefore, what that conciliation commissioner does, stands. It may be said in answer to that, “But, of course, that has been the position with the judges “. That is true, but the judges have had technical training, and on this important technical matter of interpretation have skilled assistance. But the conciliation commissioners are to have no known qualifications, and may turn out to be of a kind to which I shall refer later.
Behind the drafting of the bill there seems to be a belief that if a commissioner is a layman and not a lawyer, matters will be investigated more informally. There will not be examinationinchief, or- cross-examination, as at present. In some way the truth will be ascertained by new methods and with great speed and certainty. You do not necessarily have witnesses to-day. Any judge of .the Arbitration Court, to-day, can go and have a look at a factory, and inform his mind, as he thinks proper from any source he thinks good to him. But, in practice, when matters of controversy arise, the parties are heard; and nobody has insisted more strongly on the right to be heard in that way than the trade unions. And, quite rightly, because their case has a right to be heard. But, if it is going to be heard, will there not be cross-examination? The longer I live - and I have had more than a smattering of experience in this -matter - the more convinced I a.m that, if there is to be evidence, evidence that has not been crossexamined is not worth very much. It is true that an optimist once said that truth will out, even in an affidavit; but that was regarded as something of an exercise of wit. on his part. But allowing for all of these matters, and having put all these points clearly, there is, I believe, some reason to think that our present procedures are too slow. It may very well be - and I think there is a very great deal of substance in this - that the right way to produce expedition is not to destroy the normal arbitral power of the judges but to have more judges, to have more of the people who can get on with the job. Apart altogether from the shortage of numbers the reasons for the slowness of our arbitration machinery must be looked at rather gravely. I regret to say, and the Attorney-General will, no doubt, share my regret, that in some quarters I have heard it suggested - rather noisily I am sorry to say - that the Arbitration Court judges are to some degree at fault because, it is said, they have not sufficiently pressed on with their work. I mention that criticism only, from my own experience, to give it a most vehement denial. I am sure that the Attorney-General will agree with me. Of recent and present judges alone, it is well known that the Chief Judge, who has now been on leave for some time, has suffered a grave impairment of health through gross and concentrated overwork. The Acting Chief Judge is in poor health for similar reasons. Judge O’Mara’s lamented death was undoubtedly contributed to by the strain of unceasing labours. Judge Kelly - and these are all judges of admitted ability - for exactly similar reasons was compelled to be absent from court for some months during the hearing of the 40-hours case, and felt compelled to say that he would not attend for the remainder of the case not, having heard a substantial portion of the unions’ .evidence - no doubt a very proper decision. The work of an Arbitration Court judge is literally never done. He does it in an atmosphere of fierce controversy and is frequently the subject of violent and sometimes malicious attacks. Australia has great reason to feel indebted to the men who, from the Bench, have built up our arbitration system. In my opinion the real reasons for the delays - and I shall not take them in order of importance - have been first, the comparative long-windedness of lay advocates. Laymen’s legalisms are always infinitely more terrifying than those of lawyers - terrifying for themselves in the result and in the long run. I venture to think that if my honorable friend from Griffith (Mr. Conelan) became involved in’ some proceedings he would do well to have a lawyer speak for him. The second reason is to be found in the fact that conflicts in the arbitration jurisdiction are more frequently conflicts of opinion than of pure fact, and therefore lend themselves to almost endless repetition. Nobody in the Parliament will deny that if our conflicts were merely those of fact our sittings would he remarkably short; but because our conflicts are those of opinion they seldom end. That is true in the arbitration jurisdiction. And that of course inevitably gives rise to repetition which, in turn, inevitably leads to delay and will continue to do so. The- thirdreason is the human factor that these arguments in the arbitration jurisdiction are conducted under a great .glare of publicity and their results affect not. only one or half a dozen, but literally thousands of people. Consequently advocates on each side are pretty sure to put up a “ good show “ so as to please the great masses of members and to show them that no stone was left unturned.1 That does not produce brevity. The fourth reason is the natural hesitation on the part of judges to truncate evidence or debate, because of the misrepresentations to which such action would inevitably give rise. A judge in the arbitration jurisdiction, with thousands and thousands of men looking on and concerned in his actions, will hesitate before he says “ I have heard enough of this matter; I shall hear no more; I want to hear something from the other side “. Things which could be done in an ordinary court without difficulty cannot be done in the arbitration jurisdiction without criticism by those affected by the proceedings. In consequence the judges of the Arbitration Court do not intervene as much as they would if they were trying ordinary civil litigation. That accounts for a good deal of the time occupied in an inquiry like the 40-hours case. The fifth reason - and it is one that is frequently overlooked - is the undoubted fact that most adjournments and postponements result from the wishes of the parties concerned and arise either fromtheir inability to prepare their cases in time or from other circumstances. I remember vividly a case in respect of which I heard bitter complaints about delay in the Arbitration Court, but a simple examination of the facts showed that there had been three or four adjournments over a period of nine months, all asked for by the party complaining of the delay. That is happening all the time.
The next question I turn to is, will this new bill when enacted reduce the delays?I draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that this bill, whether validly or not remains to be seen, enormously increases the number of industrial matters to be dealt with. The Attorney-General is no doubt as conscious as is any one else of some of the problems that will arise in connexion with certain words contained in the bill. The definition of “ industrial dispute “ has now been widened to include not only a threatened, impending or probable dispute as to industrial matters extending beyond the limits of any one State, but also “ a situation which is likely to give rise to a dispute as to industrial matters” extending beyond the limits of any one State.
– What is wrong with that.
– I am not saying whether it is right or wrong, what I am pointing out is that that greatly widened definition of “ industrial disputes “ is bound to increase the jurisdiction of these tribunals.
– It may save a lot of time.
– I am not saying whether it is good or bad. I believe that the more matters that can be brought within the control of the arbitration system the better. I am merely pointing out as a matter of objective fact that many more of these matters will come within the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court as the result of the amendment of the definition of “ industrial dispute “. Therefore, on the face of it, we shall have a great increase of the area from which disputes may come for adjudication. These ‘things would not amount to very much if we continued to have them dealt with under a system in which a coherent set of principles was applied ; but, having regard to the fact that all our recent experience suggests that the fifteen conciliation commissioners are likely to he chosen more for their politics than for their impartiality
– Why does the right honorable gentleman say that?
– Because every appointment made by this Government completely supports it.
– Not judicial appointments.
– But the AttorneyGeneral’s whole scheme is that these shall not be judicial appointments. However, time will show, and I shall look up what I have said on this matter when I read the list of new conciliation commissioners in due course. There can be no doubt that all kinds of claims, good, bad, and indifferent, will be piled up before them with the result that delays may actually increase.
Two illuminating paragraphs in the very much neglected report of Mr. Justice Davidson upon the ooal-mining industry hear upon this matter.. In paragraph 712. the commissioner says -
The expression “ strangling legalism “ is used to support the claim that no one who has not been trained in the industry is capable of understanding its problems sufficiently to enable him to give satisfactorydecisions.
Later, in the same paragraph, he says-
This cult of the untrained is weighing like a dead hand on the progress of the industry.
And. talking of the argument that conciliation commissioners should be chosen from the ranks of practical menwho know all about the industries in which they are to exercise jurisdiction, Mr. Justice Davidson says in paragraph 713 -
Several aspects of this topic are of vital importance. First, that however honest a person may be, he cannot avoid a subconscious bias in favour of the particular workers amongst whom his life has been spent.
Or, he might have added, a subconscious bias in favour of the particular employers among whom his life had been spent. It cuts both ways. Further on, in that paragraph the commissioner says -
Oric of these officials’ admitted frankly to members of the board that h6 was much embarrassed by this feeling. He added that, on several occasions, although the owners and management told him lie was wrong in his decisions, they observed their terms on every occasion without hesitation, and he afterwards found that he had fallen into error. On the contrary, he stated that the miners not only did not follow the same practice in supporting bini, but even induced Ministers of the Crown to visit the pits and criticize matters that were under consideration. Second, those officials who have had no judicial training too often do not decide issues before them upon principle but are influenced by expediency, largely swayed by the idea that in any circumstances thu pits must be kept in operation, regardless of repercussions upon the district or the whole industry. Hence any claim is found by malcontents to be worthy of a trial, and the tribunals are flooded with claims.
I refer to that because it has an acute bearing upon the last point that I have made. The next question to which I address myself is this : Should arbitrators be laymen? I for one have believed ‘ for many years that it was an initial misfortune that the Arbitration Court was constituted as a court, or by “ judges “, under that name, when its function was so clearly much more legislative and administrative than judicial. It has been a great misfortune for the ordinary courts of the land which should be .above the storm, and whose judgments should he instantly respected and obeyed, that the highly contentious jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court should also be associated in the public mind with the terms “ judge “ and “ court “. “We should have done very well from the beginning had we made no reference to a “ court “ and if the presiding officers, however judicially trained, had not been called “ judges “, but had been described as .” Commissioners of Arbitration “. As a matter of pure theory,- 1 see no reason why non-lawyers should not he appointed to exercise conciliation , or arbitration functions. Everything depends upon the man. But there is one aspect of the matter that cannot be ignored and this qualifies the pure theory of it : Lawyers, by the whole of their training and experience^ become experts at the quick study and apprehension of new facts and problems. After all, that is their business. Every day. in almost every court, facts of science, industry, transport and so on, are investigated by lawyers both on the bench and at the bar table. Other things being equal, therefore, a lawyer wall grasp salient facts more quickly than a non-lawyer. On the other hand, of course,, an” arbitrator or conciliator, familiar with a particular industry, could go to the heart of the trouble in- a fraction of the time that would, be required by an outside investigator. But here is the really . practical question : How can we get a man with this practical knowledge of an industry, who has not been engaged in it either as an employer or an employee? In brief, how can we get a man who will not only be impartial, but who will also be regarded by both sides as -impartial, which is at least equally important if his judgments are to be accepted ? How can we create the atmosphere of complete fairness that is so essential if his decisions a re to be respected and obeyed ? The chief advocates of the present proposals which strike away so much of the power of the court and substitute so much of this actvity by unknown and “undefined individuals, are to be found amongst the militant union leaders who have enjoyed so much publicity and have had so much . success in recent months. I wonder how they would like genuinely impartial conciliation commissioners? Why, they would cry out against the very thought of it. They do not want impartial conciliation commissioners. They want partial men who will give effect to what they believe to be the true union policy on all these industrial matters.
– And they probably have the political strength to get them.
– That is the one thing that needs to be said to complete my proposition. What is there in the history of Australia in the last twelve months to suggest that these gentlemen will on any occasion be defeated by this Government? It would be better a hundred times to accept some of the law’s alleged delays and the non-expert adjudication of trained men, trained outsiders, than to have the conciliation and arbitration system shorn of its impartiality so that the notion of a just industrial law should disappear. Impartiality is of the essence. Without it the independence of tenure prescribed by the present bill, appointment until the age of 65,. will be a defect and not a virtue. ‘Security of tenure is a “ great virtue when you are seeking to give judicial independence and to ensure absolute impartiality. It is then of the essence, but to appoint until they reach the age of 65 people whose qualifications are not prescribed and who, if the pressures of the last twelve months continue to be effective, will be partial may pass permanent disaster on to Australian industry.
My next question is, are the powers of conciliation commissioners under the bill wider than those which the court has exercised in the past? In some respects, they are. I take one important matter by way of example. In section 40 of the present act the court is given power to - . . direct that, aa between members of organizations of employers or employees and other persons (not being sons or daughters of employers) offering or desiring service or employment at the same time, preference shall, in- such manner as is specified in the award or order, be given to such members, other things being equal.
That is, so far as the statute is concerned, the preference to unionists power at present. I am not talking about temporary war-time regulations. I am talking about the act as it stands. The House will, observe that there are three conditions attached. The first is that sons and daughters of employers are excluded, it being thought by the Parliament that it would be pretty rough to prevent a man from employing his son because his son did not happen to belong to the union in question. The second is that preference may be given to “ persons, not being sons and daughters of employers, offering or desiring service or employment at the same time”. So they have to roll up at the same time asking for a job. The third is -
Preference shall, in such manner as is specified in the award or order, be given to such’ members, other things being equal.
That power, with all its conditions, has been very sparingly used by the Arbitration Court in the past. I have a vague re collection of the late Mr. Justice Higgins making a preference order once. I have, of course, vivid recollection of a series of orders being most properly made in the clothing trade.
– The right honorable gentleman upset them.
– I was always a strong advocate of them, as the right honorable gentleman knows. They were very properly put into operation.
– I meant as counsel, not personally.
– Apart from those matters I think the number of times when the preference power was exercised is negligible.
But the bill, by the now proposed sec- tion 43p confers upon a conciliation commissioner an immeasurably wider power in these words - (1.) A Conciliation Commissioner may, by an award, or by an order made on the application of any organization or person bound by an award, direct- that preference shall, in relation to such matters, in- such manner and subject to such conditions as are specified in the order or award, be given to such organizations or members thereof as are specified in the order or award.
So after the passage of this bill no conditions will exist, except the unfettered discretion of the conciliation commissioner, and, in the exercise of that discretion, I suppose we may take it for granted, preference in absolute terms will hereafter become the rule rather than the exception as in the past.
I now turn to the question of whether there should be any appeal from the conciliation commissioners to the court, because the bill does not provide for such appeal. It is true that there is no appeal from individual judges to the Full Court, though certain matters like standard hours and the basic . wage are expressly reserved for the decision of the Pull Court. But this absence of appeal is of no moment where you have a limited number of judges who are in close contact with each other and who by judicial practice usually endeavour to formulate a common set of principles and to apply common procedures. As the AttorneyGeneral knows, that has gone on throughout the life of the Arbitration Court and the result is that you get a deference by one judge *to another on the question of the principle to be applied and the procedure to be adopted. So you get uniformity of practice, and where you get uniformity of practice you do not get acute anomalies between industries dealt with by individual awards.
If what we are aiming at is an ordered system of industrial justice according to industrial law then it must be realized that no law is a good one unless it possesses at least two qualities - first, that it Ls sufficiently certain to be knowable and to enable rational advice to be given about how it will operate, and, secondly, that there should be uniformity in its application so that similar circumstances will produce similar decisions. The force of these two points will be seen if we remember that if every judge and magistrate in . Australia from now on was at liberty to formulate his own rule to fit the particular case before him the whole system of law would disappear overnight to the great loss and confusion of all citizens. Now, fifteen conciliation commissioners, each operating in his own industry or group of industries, and’ never brought together by the necessity of the Full Court, will, have literally no connexion with each other. I notice that they are to have . a consultation, or rather to be called together once a half-year in order to be told something.
– Does that not mean something ?
– Very little. Each can formulate his own rules and apply his own principles or ideas or, for that matter, may not act according to principles at all. The result will be that industrial law as such will cease to exist, and that each industry, trade or calling will find itself tinder the unfettered control of a man whose job is secure for life but whose qualifications will be unknown until after his appointment, and whose decisions cannot, having regard to the constitutional power, be altered - even by the Parliament itself. In these circumstances, the hosts of anomalies that will arise as between one industry and another will be more provocative of industrial dispute and dissatisfaction than any of the defects in the present system.
– The anomalies might arise in one industry.
– Quite so. That is why I said “ industry, trade or calling “. The engineers in one industry may be dealt with by one conciliation commissioner and in another industry by another conciliation commissioner on a different basis.
I turn to the question whether there should be penalties for strikes and lock-outs. This is a very much-debated problem. I believe it to be a sound principle that, with the protection and security ‘ that it is designed to give, industrial arbitration and direct action cannot rationally exist in relation to the same matter at the same time. That is why we on this side of the House believe that certain strikes and lockouts represent a violent attack on the law and should therefore be treated as unlawful. It is interesting to recall that, in an earlier ease which will he remembered well by the Attorney-General, that of Stemp v. Australian Glass Manufacturers, the High Court found that the prohibition of lockouts and strikes, which then stood in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, was constitutionally valid. It had been argued that it was not valid because the only power was for conciliation and arbitration and that a law against strikes had nothing to do with that. ‘ There were at that time two judges of the High Court whose records indicate a profound sympathy with the trade union movement and a deep knowledge of it. Their views, are frequently quoted with great respect by honorable members opposite, including Ministers. One was the then Mr. Justice Isaacs, and the other was the late Mr. Justice Higgins. 1 At the risk of wearying the House, I shall quote a couple of short passages from, their judgment, because they put in crystal terms what the real issue is: - an issue that we in Australia, and, indeed, people all over the world, must ultimately face,” however long it may Ihe postponed. Mr. Justice Isaacs said this -
The parties may mutually agree to end their dispute, and if so there is nothing to arbitrate upon; but if they cannot do that, then if Parliament so determines they must resort to law and if they are compelled by law to resort to law it necessarily connotes that they cannot lawfully resort to force. This is not a mere figure of speech; force is the recognized attribute of the remedy by strike or lockout. … It is said that though a thing may be compulsory it is not necessarily exclusive. That all depends on the circumstances. Compulsion to do a given thing excludes everything inconsistent. And the nature of . submission to arbitration is inconsistent with self redress.
Mi-. Justice Higgins said this - a dispute cannot be settled by two inconsistent methods at the same time; and if the method of reason is to be followed, the method of force, economic force, must be prohibited.
Then, from the wealth of his own experience in the Arbitration Court - and no man had a more foundational experience in this jurisdiction than Mr. Justice Higgins - he said -
The tribunal must be unconstrained, free to award what seems to be just and right; and it must not lie left to fear that if the stronger .side does not get what it wants it will take it by stoppage of work or by closing the works. Any one who is at all familiar with the working out of problems under the act must know that the two methods of strike and of reason, of might and of right, cannot operate together.
If honorable members will look at paragraph 724 of the report of Mr. Justice Davidson on the coal-mining industry, they will find similar views expressed in equally pungent, terms.
The Government, commanding a majority in both Houses, had three possible courses open to it. First, it could have written into the law a pro-, hi bi tion of strikes or lockouts against awards -or in the course of disputes cognizable by the court. Second, df it did not want to do that, it could have done something for which there is a very strong rational argument as a course of good sense - it could have done nothing to weaken the authority of an award, once given. In other words, it could have stood “pat” behind what the tribunal did. Third, it could have surrendered to pressure after an’ award had been given and then used its influence to procure such modifications of the award as would satisfy those- who had challenged it by direct action. In other words, it could come in to see whether something could be done to go beyond the court’s award or to alter the Commonwealth’s own regulations so as to facilitate something being done beyond what the court had prescribed. Unfortunately, the Government has invariably adopted the third course, and the result has been that for twelve months - and this cannot be said too emphatically - the Communist union leaders in Australia have passed from triumph to triumph. A perfect recent illustration of this is to be found in the proceedings before Mr. Mooney, a conciliation commissioner, in the metal trades dispute in Victoria, a matter that was alluded to only a few weeks ago by my colleague, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) in a speech on the motion for the adjournment of the House. Mr. Mooney was quite competently possessed of jurisdiction in that matter. The dispute was submitted to the court by the Government under the National .Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations’. It was referred to Mr. Mooney by Judge Sugerman, not for advice as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) seemed to think when the matter was discussed in this House, not for something tentative, but for “hearing and determination “. I entirely share the good opinion of Mr.. Mooney which was expressed by the honorable member for Fawkner a few weeks ago. Mr. Mooney indicated on Tuesday, the 2oth February, the nature, of the award which he proposed to make* under that authority. He proposed, to increase metal trades margins by sums varying from 5s. to 9s. a week. On the 18th March, a few weeks later, the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Iron Workers Association were still on strike, and the various parties appeared before Mr. Mooney to discuss this proposed award. I am sorry to occupy time over this matter, but this is the whole foundation of the chaos that now exists in Victoria, and it is therefore well to be clear about it. Those - parties appeared before Mr. Mooney. The Conciliation Commissioner was armed with all the streamlined authority that this bill can suggest, because he was acting under the National Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations, which represented the most comprehensive piece of streamlining ever done in the industrial field. What happened? Among those who appeared before him was Mr. P. J. Clarey, who was there in a happy combination of functions. He was the Victorian Minister for Labour and a high office bearer of die Australasian Council of Trade Unions.
– The president.
– Yes. And he announced himself on this occasion, “ appointed by the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the associated unions in the metal industries to appear this morning on their behalf “.
– A treble function !
– Yes. Mr. Clarey addressed himself to Mr. Mooney in these terms -
Hie submission I desire to make at this stage is1 the fact that the order which you proposed to make has had the consideration of the Union affected together with all ‘ the other Unions associated, I think, in the Metal industry, and after three . meetings at which the proposed order was the subject of consideration on each occasion the Unions deem the proposed order unsatisfactory and not a satisfactory settlement of the claim which is being made by the Amalgamated Engineering Union and by the Ironworkers’ Association.
Of course, while the Premier of Victoria was deprecating this most unfortunate strike, his Minister for Labour was able at the vital time to come along and say to the Commissioner, “ The unions have decided that this order that you propose to make is unsatisfactory “. In reply to his submission, Mr. Mooney said -
This dispute has been referred to me by His Honour, Judge Sugerman, and under the Regulations I have a duty to hear and determine this. That may be determined by making no order or it may be determined by making some order. On 25th. February I indicated to the parties that I was prepared to make an award on the terms which I have set out …
The main function of this court is to en’deavour by conciliation or arbitration to settle industrial disputes. The fact that the proposal has not settled the dispute is no evidence that it will not, and there are people working, and I arrived at this conclusion by giving thought and consideration to it to the best of my ability. I do propose to make an order. [Extension of time granted.”). “Well, that was only the beginning so far as Mr. Clarey was concerned, as the transcript shows -
– You have apparently decided to make an order in respect of those who are actually at work. I desire to point out to you that that order docs not settle this dispute.
The Commissioner. - That is not the point. I am doing the bast I can.
– I want, on behalf of the unions that are concerned with this matter and who are still at work, to make certain submissions and suggestions that I hope will pave the way to the settlement of this dispute. I can understand from your judgment and from statements made here this morning that thematter lias been referred to you by His Honour Judge Sugerman to hear and determine. Now, at thu present moment the Amalgamated Engineering Union, its members, and the members of the Federated Ironworkers Association are not at work and they, as you know, have regarded the proposed order which has now been made, as unsatisfactory, so the dispute is still on and it is a question of how to bring about a settlement. . .
I want to go a little further, but what 1 want to suggest is this: It is not a question’ of trying to overcome things that arise from, the award; it is a question of finding a solution of something that is pressing to theaward
The Commissioner. - I do not understand’ . what you are talking about, Mr. Clarey, “ ispressing’ to the award “. The award is supposed to settle this industrial dispute only.
– -May be so, but you yourself said it was very doubtful that what you weredoing would bring about a solution of the dispute, and it has not brought about a solution.
The Commissioner. - In. that case it is veryunfortunate and has no value.
Mr. Clarey. ; That may be so. I want toput it frankly and straightly to the court that this court is a court for preventing and settling all disputes. This court has been advised that the order, as made, is unsatisfactory.
What an exercise in “ smarminess that was, and how utterly destructive of the authority of the court this kind of nonsense is.
– By a Minister of theCrown, too !
– Yes, in one capacity. The transcript proceeds -
The Commissioner. - Mr. Clarey, I haveheard, and you have heard in pretty well every arbitration, that has been said.
– The true effect of the order must be understood. I desire to say this because of the importance to the community in regard to arriving at a satisfactory conciliation and settlement of this dispute. 1 want to suggest this, that the court in making an order cannot wash its hands of the whole thing and say - ‘ so far as we are concerned, nothing further can be done ‘. 7716 *Commissioner. - It has often said it.
Mr. Clarey. ; It is a question as to whether the court in these circumstances is performing the duties devolving on it under the act.
The Commissioner. - Mr. Clarey, that puts, you in a most peculiar position. You indicate that this court can never perform its functions unless it gives everybody everything they ask-
Mr. Clarey. ; That is putting my remarks in a direction I never intended, and you know I never intended that; but it does not alter facts,. sir, that the order which you made and the proposal which you made as on the second page which says: - “I have already informed the parties … as follows “ - and then you followed up with these words: “The proposal is not open indefinitely “. The fact is, nguiu I want to stress this, that a certain position exists in the community and I have made a suggestion to you as a way in which T believe that critical position might be overcome. I have pointed out that, before you made the award you knew exactly what was the nature of the decisions made by the unions in the matter concerned, and I have now suggested a. very real way in which this problem might he met. Again I suggest and I make thi? suggestion here in the court so that the. ecmt is fully aware that steps have still to hp taken in order to settle the dispute-
The Commissioner. - Will you come right out in the open, Mr. Clarey? Do you want steps taken at a conference to increase the order I have made - is that it? fr. Clarey. - Give the parties an opportunity to meet. . . .
The Commissioner. - If the employers are desirous of -meeting you and you think anything can be settled, that is good with me. That is mv decision. That is all there is about it.
– I was hopeful that as conciliation commissioner you would be willing to exercise the functions of conciliation even at this late hour.
The Commissioner. - There is no chance ot conciliation apparently - that is the determination of the authority, good, bad or indifferent, that is the determination and it would not he altered by me because I would not alter it. ifr. Clarey. - I can only express my regret with the decision in spite of what I said because, unfortunately, it leaves the community in this State aware that the court is not prepared to take a realistic view.
What Mr. Clarey was doing was obviously not to strengthen but to weaken the position of the Arbitration Court. The proper course is to write into the act practicable provisions, not provisions of unreality, which will give reality and strength to the industrial law. I submit that there are two kinds of strikes and lockouts in Australia which should be prohibited by the law. The first is a strike or lockout against an award of the court. How in the name of common sense can we set up a tribunal, have it pronounce an award, and make the award freely enforceable by the person who claims its benefits in all the appropriate courts of the land, and then say to any organized group of people, “ If you do not like the award, you can sweep it out of existence, defy it and have nothing to do with working on its terms “ ? Or, if an employers’ association is involved, how can we say, “ If you do not like the award, you can lock your employees out until they are prepared to come back to work on some other terms “ ? A strike or a lockout against an award of the court should be unlawful.
Secondly, a strike or a lock-out in the course of an industrial dispute of which the court has obtained cognizance under the act should be prohibited by law. When I say, “ of which the court has obtained cognizance under the act”, honorable members know that there are various ways by which an arbitration court comes to hear a dispute. It may for example receive the case on a plaint by a- union, or following the failure of a compulsory conference. But once the jurisdiction of the court has attached to the dispute, it is a piece of arrant nonsense to say, “You can have your choice, you can continue to enjoy the compulsory processes of the arbitration court .and at the same time enjoy direct action in relation to the same matters “. Those who dislike these ideas say that they are a lot of nonsense, and that you cannot put 1,000 or 5,000 people into goal. Nobody suggests putting thousands of people into gaol. I am not talking about imposing penalties on individual unionists, thousands of whom are dragged into strikes, as we very well know, against their own will. If there is a strike that is unlawful, the penalty for it should be directed against the organization which conducts it. If there is a penalty against lockouts, it should be directed against the relevant employer or group of employers. Individual penalties should he provided against individuals who incite others to engage in unlawful strikes or unlawful lock-outs. If we had a sound system of individual penalties of that kind, some of the Communists, who are having such a whale. of a time in Australia now, would be regarded as law-breakers, and dealt with accordingly. The funds of an organization, whether it be one of employers or employees, should not be available to support an illegal strike or lockout. The funds should be placed under a form of receivership under the authority of the Arbitration Court. It is idle for people to adopt the defeatist attitude that “ you cannot enforce, the industrial law and make it work with consistency and stability even when the decent interests of an entire community are at stake “. I should ‘like to sum up the whole matter by asking one question. A few men declare war on the community - is the community to be helpless to defend itself?
The last matter th at I desire to mention is this. We have been discussing the. machinery of conciliation and arbitration. But the machinery of conciliation and arbitration is not everything. Nor is it even the most important factor. Whatever system of law we may have, we shall secure no proper degree of peace in industry unless two factors be present. The first is of vast importance, namely, the mutual understanding of employers and employees; and the second is coherence and consistency in government policy. Let me say a few words about the first. The extent to which employer-employee relations have degenerated in Australia is alarming; and the fault is by no means all on one side. I put on one side, as being in a class of their own, those malicious instigators of class hatred, as they call it, the Communist agitators of Australia. Let us take the ordinary employers and employees. It is true to say * that unionists have been too frequently misled into regarding their employers as their natural enemy, and in thinking of the success of his business as of no moment to them, whereas, of course, in truth, the success of the business of their employer is vital to them. It is equally true that there are in Australia far too many employers who automatically resist every claim that is made on them, who adopt a hard legal approach tq their obligations, and who have failed to learn that their employees present human as well as financial responsibilities. The employer who says, “ When I have paid him his wages and let him go out of the gate, he is of no more interest to me “, is a bad employer, and one who contributes as much to this terrifying lack of understanding in the industrial world as does any Communist who can be found in the country. We must in some way encourage people to understand more and more that their best interests in industry are interests in common. Let them devote a little attention to those things by way of a change. As I said at the outset of my remarks, one of thevices of an arbitration system that isfounded upon disputes is that it tends toblock the friendly approach and the informal exchange of ideas, because, being founded on disputes, the first requisite isthe dispute.
The second factor to which I have referred is that of coherence and consistency in government policy. I say unhesitatingly, in the presence of thePrime Minister (Mr. Chifley), that- the Commonwealth Government itself , islargely responsible for the industrial trouble we have had in Australia since the end of the war. Rightly or wrongly, it has continued a wage-pegging system which has given rise to very great resistances. We know perfectly well that it has been- the ostensible cause of practically every major dispute in the last eighteen months. The Government basal altered that wage-pegging system, not asan exercise of judgment from time to time on the basis of the economic condition of the country, but under threat and . pressure by strike leaders. Time after time we have seen that happen. We have seen the latest example of it only in the last few weeks. The Government, therefore, has encouraged strikes, and has put a premium on the work of the very Communist leaders who have organized those strikes against its own law. The last absurdity occurred when Cabinet, shuffling out of its responsibility to produce a. coherent policy, transferred holus bolus to the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court - and in the coal-mining industry to another authority - the obligation to decide, upon applications for wage increases, whether those increases were “ not opposed ‘ to the national interest “. I should have thought that the national interest, the economy of this country in this sense, was the responsibility of the Government. The Government created the wage-pegging law. It is the Government’s own law.- Yet now, in effect, it says to one judge of the Arbitration Court, “Will you please accept the responsibility of deciding when and under what conditions our own law is to come to an end ? “ That transfers to a judicial authority the whole responsibility for the Government’s economic policy. It represents a complete abdication on the part of the Government, and that kind of abdication has accounted for practically every strike that has occurred in the last twelve months.
- (Mr. Clark). - The right honorable member’s extended time has expired. ‘
– This measure, because of its technical nature, as all honorable members will recognize, is largely one which, can be dealt with more effectively in committee. Nevertheless, one needs to review briefly the history of conciliation and arbitration during the last 40 odd years, in order to prove that there is reason for the amendments that are now proposed to be made. I had hoped to hear from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) a really constructive speech which would have been helpful in informing the minds of honorable members at this stage of the consideration of the bill. 1 believe that the right honorable gentleman spoilt his speech by one unfair reference to existing conciliation commissioners; though he contradicted himself later, by praising one of those gentlemen. The first conciliation commissioner to be appointed under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act was appointed by the right honorable gentleman himself, much to my gratification. The first Commonwealth industrial inspector, also, was appointed by Hie right honorable gentleman himself.
– Oddly enough, he was a Labour man.
– The right honorable gentleman made that appointment because he recognized that employers were not abiding by the decisions of the court. He agreed to make an experiment by appointing the first inspector and the first commissioner. The total number of commissioners is not large,, although a few additional appointments were made under National Security Regulations during the . war. Not a single act of any conciliation commissioner has ever been criticized, prohibited or vetoed by the judges of the Arbitration Court, and I regard it as rather improper for the right honorable gentleman to refer so casually to the type of men who would be likely to fill the positions of commissioners, based upon the experience we have had in the past.
– That is a gross misrepresentation.
– I did not mean to misrepresent the right honorable gentleman.
– I was referring, not to the experience of the past in the appointment of conciliation commissioners, but to the experience which we have had of appointments by this Government during the last two years.
-Order! The Minister must be heard in silence. The Leader of the Opposition has completed his speech, and is not entitled to bp further heard.
– I stand my case on the statement now made by the right honorable gentleman, in which he has attempted to Contradict me. He has said, “ He was referring to the type of commissioners appointed during the war period by the present .Government “.
– I said nothing of the kind. I said that I was referring to the appointments made by this Government during the last two years, almost every one of them being appointments reeking with politics, and chiefly of defeated Labour candidates. I hope that that is clear enough.
– Surely, the right honorable gentleman can stand up to his case! We are talking about conciliation commissioners to be appointed under this bill.
– The honorable gentleman may say what he likes about them. I have not discussed them.
– The right honorable gentleman now says that he referred to other appointments. To what other appointments did he refer?
– I submitted a censure motion about them a couple of months ago.
– Order ! I ask the Minister to address himself to the bill and to the Chair. I call upon other honorable members to cease interjecting. Any honorable member who disobeys the Chair will be dealt with.
– I was merely defending the appointment of conciliation commissioners, because of the experience we have had of commissioners previously appointed. Those commissioners, I thought, had been criticized by the right honorable gentleman. Now he says that he has no complaint to make against Mr. Mooney. That is probably because Mr. Mooney recently gave a decision which r,he right honorable gentleman favoured.
– It is a great pity that 1 am not allowed to interject.
– I did not interject when the right honorable gentleman was speaking. The Leader of the Opposition then attempted, to amuse honorable members by his references to Mr. Clarey’s occupancy of two positions. I should not refer to these matters except in defence of a friend, but I recall that when the Leader of the Opposition was Attorney-General in the State of Victoria he defended the employers in a case before the court. He did not then mind filling two positions himself. In saying that I do not necessarily defend Mr. Clarey for holding two positions.
During 30 of the 40 years that Australia has had laws dealing with arbitration anti-Labour governments have been in power. Those governments have appointed judges and commissioners and have administered the act. They allowed weaknesses in the legislation . to exist, and should not now attempt to throw the blame for them on the present Government. Many of the difficulties which it is hoped will be removed by this legislation have existed for 40 years. One of the outstanding causes of discontent in industry was revealed in the first year after the act came into operation; I refer to the absence of a common rule. Yet every attempt by the Labour party to remedy that defect by getting as close as possible to a common rule was opposed by anti-Labour forces.
– An effort was made to meet the situation in the industrial peace regulations.
– The anti-Labour parties would not support legislation providing for a common rule.
– There is provision in this bill for a common rule.
– We want it.
– Is it valid?
– We shall find that out later. Lots of things which the right honorable gentleman said were invalid have been proved to be valid. I hope that he will be wrong again on this occasion. The present Government is at least attempting to make arbitration workable. That is something which anti-Labour governments never did. The shortcomings of the principal act, which were pointed out by Mr. Justice Higgins and others, were not remedied by previous governments, but this bill when enacted will remove some of them. Among other things, this legislation aims at saving time by dispensing with legal advocates in the court. The Leader of the Opposition claimed that more time is taken up in the courts by laymen than by legal practitioners, but I disagree with him. I know of instances of proceedings being delayed for long periods by legal practitioners, and I believe that much time will be saved by getting rid of them. The right honorable gentleman also said that the court could not function .satisfactorily without legal advice, but I remind him that the judges are legal men, and that they will deal with the fundamental matters which will come before the court. For instance, they will be able to deal with, the basic wage which in the past has been a source of trouble in industry. A majority of the three judges will be able to review and determine the standard hours of work from time to time and also deal with any proposal for the extension of annual leave without loss of pay. On the other hand, conciliation commissioners will deal with such matters as margins for skill, classifications, and overtime.
The Leader of the Opposition said that it would be practically impossible to get good men to act as conciliation commissioners unless they had had a legal training. There is nothing in the bill to prevent men with legal qualifications from being appointed as conciliation commissioners. Probably some such men will be appointed. The object of this provision is to shorten proceedings in the court, and! to prevent delays arising out of legal disputations. It is hoped that there will be fewer appeals to the High Court than in the past. Surely Australia is not so bankrupt of good men that it will be impossible to appoint fifteen or twenty satisfactory conciliation commissioners.
– After the next election there will be a number of men available for appointment.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) will not be here then.
– Will all of these commissioners be additional appointments?
– Not necessarily. The number of commissioners to be appointed will be decided when the amount of work to be performed is known.
– The honorable member for Fawkner must not act discourteously to the Chair by interjecting. Any interruption of the Minister or any honorable member who is addressing the House is disorderly. If he offends again I shall name him.
– There is nothing to prevent consultations between commissioners, and between commissioners and judges, and it is to be hoped that many consultations will take place.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the desirability of dealing with a potential dispute before it reaches the stage of an actual stoppage of work. That is something which organizations of employers and employees, as well as successive governments, have been trying to achieve for 40 years. Surely that is a laudable objective.
– We do not object to that.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that that would cause further delays, but I remind him that all disputes were first potential disputes. Many real disputes have arisen only because there was no power to deal with them until work had stopped and industry had been thrown into a state of chaos. When that stage has been reached neither sideto the dispute has been willing to give in. By that time it is too late to avoid chaos. The purpose of this bill is to make it possible to nip a potential dispute in the bud. The Chamber of Manufactures has a disputes board which attempts to do this very thing, and the trades union organizations have similar bodies. The idea is to enable the parties to meet round a table and discuss their differences before a dispute becomes a stoppage of work.
– Is the Minister really as ingenuous as he makes out?
-I hope so. I have had a long experience in these matters. I maintain that the proposed scheme will shorten proceedings, and make for peace in industry. I am convinced that this bill when enacted will improve the situation. I do not believe that we shall ever remove all discontent. Indeed, I should not like the country to reach that stage. Some measure of discontent may still be regarded as divine, and without it there will be no progress, material or otherwise, if we are to become mere robots. By placing conciliation first instead of last a great improvement in industrial relations can be achieved. The conciliation side of the act has never yet been properly exploited, a fact which has been stressed by judges of the court. Labour organizations have repeatedly approached anti-Labour governments with requests that greater importance should be attached to conciliation. I myself’ took part in a deputation to Sir John Latham, when he was AttorneyGeneral, asking that conciliation commissioners be appointed. However, we were never able to get a satisfactory response to our requests. I agree that everything depends upon the men who will be appointed as conciliation commissioners, but I have not such a poor opinion of my fellow citizens as to think that it would be impossible to select men of the right type. I believe that we will be able to appoint men of courage, integrity, knowledge and experience who will be well qualified to fill the positions. The Leader of the Opposition asked how it would be possible to obtain men with a knowledge of the industries concerned unless they had worked in those industries as employers or employees. I suggest that that is a childish way to look at the matter. Will any one deny that some of the judges of the Arbitration Court have become experts in particular industries? They have, in fact, become experts because the policy of the court is to assign them as much as possible to one industry,, or a group of industries. The commissioners will not be appointed because they belong to any particular industry, but once they are appointed they will be gradually steered into a group of industries. Surely, that is common sense. .
– What qualifications will the Government seek in those whom it proposes to appoint?
– First of all, they will have to possess character, and it will be necessary for them to have experience. There are in Australia between 400 and 500 men occupying positions or who have occupied positions as chairmen of State wages hoards. There are others who have been associated with State arbitration courts, and there is also a large number of State labour officers. All these men are experienced, and from among their number it should be possible to make suitable appointments. I am hopeful that when this scheme is in operation it will be possible to remove the discontent and discord which arise from long delays in hearings, and” from the delayoccasioned by appeals to the High Court. Under this scheme the principle of conciliation will be given its first real trial, and I am convinced that the result will be. satisfactory. I will have more to say in committee.
.- The speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on this measure was most informative, because he spoke from his wide knowledge as a barrister, and from his experience in the Law Courts and as a public administrator. . He voiced some powerful criticism of the bill, criticism which calls for a reply from the Government if it is not to admit that the criticism is justified. We have just listened to the Government’s specialist on this subject, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.- Holloway) ; but that gentleman studiously avoided a categorical reply to the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition. , We are left with no alternative but to believe that the Government has no reply to it. I have not the experience in law or in industrial matters to attempt to discuss in detail the multitude of technical amendments proposed to the act, and I do not propose to do so. However, I feel well enough qualified. t< offer some observations on matters of principle and elementary justice. I believe that my experience of public administration qualifies me to offer an opinion upon how the Government’s new scheme will operate as compared with that which it is to replace. What honorable members, and the public generally, ought to realize i? that, although this proposal comes before Parliament, in the form of an amendment of the arbitration system, it is. in fact, not an amendment of that, system, but a substitution for it of an entirely different system. The sooner that is recognized, the better we shall be able to assess the merit of this alternative proposal. ‘We are now to be invited to vote upon a proposal to change the fundamental basis upon which the workers of this country are to be rewarded for their labour’. Hitherto, the basis of arbitration awards has been the findings of a judicial authority. That, after all, is the foundation of our whole British system of social life, that, the community be governed by decisions made by the courts of the land within the framework of statutes. There are obvious advantages in that system. Those appointed to the bench are,. I am certain, chosen .by governments regardless of party politics from men deemed to be skilled and experienced in the discharge of judicial duties, and who are known to be impartial. But, now, laymen who are unskilled in weighing and assessing, evidence, are to be appointed to discharge the most important duties of the Arbitration Court. No matter how estimable such men may be as private citizens, their >appointment to such offices cannot be justified. There is now to be set up a. galaxy of laymen who are to be clothed with the tremendously important power to make decisions which will have farreaching consequences. In so far as 1 am able to interpret the Government’s proposal, it is designed to strip the Arbitration Court of all its existing authority, except that which it exercises with respect to the basic wage and standard hours of labour. Standard hours of labour may be a controversial subject but, ultimately, if I may use the term without being misunderstood, a decision thereon is a simple decision. It is not subject to very frequent review. In the same category, although not so simple, is the fixation of the basic wage. Nevertheless, when such. fixation has been made it is not subject to frequent review. With some trimmings that is to be the future function of ‘ the Arbitration Court; and the rest of awards in respect of labour, the controversial issues, such as marginal rates, are to be removed from the judges and placed in the control of a group of laymen. It will not be easy for any government upon which the duty may fall to choose laymen to occupy these positions ; but I should say that almost inevitably they will be chosen from men who have spent their lives in special industries. 1.’ shall be greatly surprised if they are chosen from among men who are on the paying side of industrial, life. They will lie chosen, I am sure, from among those who have spent much of their industrial life as advocates for the men for whom in future they will sit as judges.- That is a primary and basic criticism of the Government’s proposal. And, of course, if this were a place where decisions are really made, I believe that that criticism would be deemed so powerful as to bring about a change in the Government’s proposal. But the people of Australia ought to know that this is not a place where decisions are made but merely a place where speeches are made. I am permitted to make a speech, but there is not the remotest likelihood that as the result of my speech I shall win over the vote of une honorable member opposite. None of us is so simple as to be unaware of the truth of that statement. The whole system of paying rewards for labour is to be changed because of a decision already made, not in this chamber, but in the caucus room. In respect of such a farreaching decision, it is appropriate to examine the propriety of a prior and unalterable decision being made in the Labour caucus room. In order to form an estimate as to whether that is the proper place in which to make the laws, one has to examine the circumstances in which one gains entry to the caucus room and is allowed to remain there. The main channel of entry to the caucus room is trade union membership, and the majority of those in the caucus room who have framed this legislation have come up through the industrial movement. They are, unquestionably, partisans.
– Should they not understand what they require?
– That is only too clear, and that is my criticism; but the point 1 make is that they are not the only people who understand what is required, and neither are they the only people who are interested. Broadly, four parties are interested in this matter; first, those who pay wages; secondly, those who receive wages; thirdly, the public who, ultimately, are concerned in every respect, comprising both those who pay and those who receive, as well as those who find the money indirectly and whose standard of life is 90 .per cent, determined by decisions on industrial matters; and the fourth party which is interested in this matter is the Government of the country. Thus, we have before us a proposal to make revolutionary changes in the whole system , of rewards for labour in which four great parties are vitally, if not equally, interested. But the form of the change comes to the Parliament of the country as a prior decision emanating from the caucus room’, where only one of the parties interested is represented. That is bad; it is absolutely indefensible and untenable. And, of course, in the present circumstances, that decision is unalterable in this chamber. I believe that it will be altered in the course of time, because I do not believe that, indefinitely, the nation will tolerate a state of affairs in which the Government of the country derives its power from only one section of the community. That system is undemocratic, because that section is not responsible to the Australian people as a whole. In that sense the Government- is controlled by a body which has no political responsibility. The inevitable result - and we see all the signs of it at present - must be either that the Government will become so much the creature df the industrial Labour movement that the people of Australia will be forced to tolerate it as such, or that it will deem it to be its public duty to steer a course inimical to the industrial Labour movement which ‘will result in a split between the political and industrial wings of the party. . Sooner or . later the political
Labour movement must be discredited because of the domination of the industrial wing of the party or there must be a complete split within the movement itself. I do not desire to traverse that aspect of the matter any further.
– The honorable member would not be in order in doing so.
– I am endeavouring to relate these trends to the origin of the far-reaching proposal now before us. The bill has received the endorsement of the Labour caucus, most of the members of which are dependent for their continuance in political life on the industrial labour movement which, in turn, is largely dominated by industrial unions led by openly avowed Communists. I am not endeavouring to trot out the Communist bogy; I merely say that this bill has been devised at the instigation of the Communist-inspired element that stands . behind the industrial Labour movement. The policy of the Communist party, openly stated and constantly repeated, is the destruction of the arbitration system. This measure, which is naively described as an amending arbitration bill, is designed to circumscribe the functions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to the narrowest possible limits and constitutes’ a further effort to remove authority for the determination of industrial matters from the authority of the court and to repose it in the hands of fifteen unlinked, unassociated men who are to be given freedom to make their own decisions. As to the sources from which these men will spring we can only use our imagination. The two factors that make for contentment in industry are first, the existence of an adequate reward for labour and fairness in the conditions of labour, and secondly, the intangible but nevertheless powerful thought in the mind .of every worker that he is being adequately rewarded having regard to the wages paid to his fellow workers in other industries. There can be no industrial contentment in this country while there is disequilibrium in the rewards paid to workers in different sections of industry.
– The foundation necessary for the attainment of that dual objective exists in the present arbitration system. The Arbitration Court itself is supreme. It lays down basic rates of pay and establishes general conditions of employment -and hours of labour. Then there are the delegated authorities of the Arbitration Court, namely, single judges and conciliation commissioners. There we have the whole machinery for adjudication on matters such as margins .of pay and the interpretation of awards, in accordance with general principles laid down by the court. More important still, any one of these matters may be referred back to the Arbitration Court itself. Under this system there cannot be a state of’ unbalance in industry generally. One measuring stick that can be applied to this bill is the question whether it will maintain these essential requirements, and, at the same time, improve the mechanics of employment, or whether it will merely have the shortterm result of facilitating quick decisions whilst permitting a state of unbalance to he created between the various branches of industry. On that important point, I personally, and on behalf of the Australian Country party, voice the strongest criticism. We believe that the abandonment of our present judicial system as it will be abandoned by this measure, in favour of a most circumscribed Arbitration Court exercising only narrow functions in respect of the basic wage and general hours of labour, is a retrograde step.
It has been stated that fifteen conciliation commissioners will be appointed under this legislation, but, so far, the Attorney-General has not made clear whether the fifteen will be in addition to, or inclusive of, the six existing commissioners. However, that is not a point of great magnitude. We are to have at least fifteen conciliation commissioners sitting independently, holding their own preconceived ideas on the issues that they will be called upon to determine, and without the training that a barrister and a judge has in assessing evidence. The decisions of these men will not he subject to appeal except in regard to questions of law. There is not the slightest doubt that this system will result in provocation in industry far greater than has ever existed before. For instance, a conciliation commissioner dealing with a prosperous industry will no doubt be influenced in his judgments by the fact that the industry is prosperous and profitable. In another completely ‘watertight compartment, another conciliation commissioner will be dealing with perhaps a rural industry that has not enjoyed much prosperity. He will realize that it is impossible to make an award providing for wages that will be beyond the capacity of the industry to .pay. There we shall have ideal conditions for the establishment of a state of unbalance, and for the creation of discontent amongst workers. Surely this measure must represent the most short-sighted approach that has ever been made to the problem of industrial unrest. The bill proposes to a’bandon about three-quarters of our historical arbitration system and to substitute ‘for it a system providing mainly for separate lay adjudicators. We must bear in mind the fact that condition’s in various ‘industries are by no means common. In certain industries, employment is provided -by that class of employer whom we hear spoken of broadly as “ big business “. My view is that “ big business “ employers are well able to look after themselves, and to adjust themselves to almost any conditions. “ Big business “ is not concerned finally with what rates of pay the workers receive. It is concerned finally with profits. That is inevitable in a country which is not yet the complete socialist state.
So, I picture a state of affairs in which an application will be made to conciliation commissioners by employers, or employees as the case may be, in certain industries with the capacity to pass on costs. If such an industry has the opportunity thereby to obtain adequate labour and absolute continuity of employment, I have not the slightest doubt that’ the employers will be very ready to subscribe to a mutual agreement with the employees that will provide them with high wages. How will that react upon employers in industries not able to pass on higher costs immediately in which the employees necessarily cannot be given such generous awards ? Disparate awards, made without consultation or collaboration, operating at the same time, I have rio doubt, will provoke much greater unrest than we have had. The kind of industries that I have in mind as those capable of passing on costs are those enjoying great -profits. I think the gold-mining industry is one. It would be far more concerned to have adequate labour and continuity of employment than about chiselling a shilling or two a week off the wages of its employees. So under the proposed system, we shall have an award that will magnetize labour into that industry. The great manufacturing industries, in normal times, are able to go before the Tariff Board. If they can convince it that their costs have risen, they automatically receive a greater measure of protection to compensate. them for the rise. So they will be less concerned about wages they pay than their ability to ensure a full supply of labour and continuity of production. The industries that sell their products at a fixed home-consumption price and, by some means or other, are a’ble to pass oil additional costs will also be less concerned about the rates of wages than ‘their ability to maintain full staffs. I instance the luxury industries. Above all, tho monopoly industries will be able to make with their employees separate deals in watertight compartments. Of the monopoly industries none are greater than the government monopolies - the railways and the Postal Department. What is to be the position with those .great government monopolies? What will be the position if the employees of the Victorian railways make an application to the conciliation commissioner ? Will they be resisted by the Labour Government of Victoria? Of course not! This is the most fantastically unworkable proposal ever devised under the guise of a measure to achieve industrial, peace and stability. It completely disregards the well-being of the most important .party, the Australian people. I do not lay particular stress on the rural industries at this moment, but I do point out the simple fact, which no one will dispute, that the industries that are at the end of the line and are completely unable to pass on’ costs are the great primary exporting industries. They are enjoying to-day high’ prices foi- their exports, but, heaven knows, their history is that for most of my lifetime to carry on they have had to struggle Against mounting costs. If there is one section of the workers of this country that has ‘been exploited it consists of those who work in the primary industries. If this proposed new system comes into’ vogue, as I have no doubt it will, and those great industries fall upon hard times, the people will suffer.
And what of the Government’s great anti-inflationary programme about which we have heard so much and to carry out which I. must in justice say the Government has endured a great deal of political odium.
– Unjustified !
– Yes, in many respects; I concede that. But in carrying out its anti-inflationary programme, the Government has endured all the criticisms of various controls, such as pricefixing and wage-pegging. Yet to-night it is abandoning that anti-inflationary programme by handing over the fixing of margins above the basic wage to independent arbitrators.
– Without appeal!
– Yes, ‘ as my honorable friend reminds me, without appeal. T think the Attorney-General would be the first to admit that once wages mount the stairs prices inevitably mount with them. There starts the inflationary spiral that the Government has fought so hard against. It is abandoning its antiinflationary policy. I criticize it for that, but I look beyond that and say that the Government is abandoning not only arbitration but also the Labour policy of arbitration by substituting for arbitration separate watertight compartments in which conciliation commissioners will operate. It is doing so under duress. Abandonment of arbitration is not to be found in the policies of the Liberal party, the Australian Country party, or the Labour party. ‘ The only political party in Australia that propounds the policy of abandonment of arbitration is the Communist party.- I do not wish to be offensive, but. if I may say so inoffensively, this snide pretence that arbitration is being improved, when, in fact, it is being abandoned, arises from the irresistible pressure from the Communists in the powerful Labour move ment to whom so many of those who sit opposite me are- beholden to maintain their political existence. I repeat that no speech from this side can do more than beat the air. The decision has been made. It was made in the caucus room under great duress. This Parliament is merely called upon to give it its formal imprimatur. ‘ The Government’s majority ensures that the rubber stamp approving the bill shall be firmly applied.
I do hot appeal to the Government, hecause I know that that would be futile, but I declare for this party that there are certain essential ingredients in a system that is to give us industrial stability, whether that system is to be known as arbitration or not. The law must he complete. It must be just. Its application must be uniform to those who are to be subjected to it. This bill does not ensure that. The law must provide for expeditious determination of disputes. The one argument that has been used with force and, I think, with justification in support of this bill is that multiplication of the number of adjudicators ensures greater expedition in reaching decisions. The Government could multi-‘ ply the number of judges and the number of those who function subordinate to judges just .as- easily as it can multiply the number of adjudicators by appointing fifteen additional commissioners. Therefore this measure, although it has that merit, does not have it exclusively. In’ order to ensure industrial peace, we must, have not only those qualities in the law that I have enumerated but also some means of enforcing the law. This bill, if it be notable for anything, is notable for its silence on that point. What is the law unless it carries within itself provision for its own enforcement? There is no such provision in this bill.
The day is rapidly approaching when there must be recognition of the fact that those who enjoy the protection of the law must submit to the law. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, I do not suggest that enforcement of industrial law implies the gaoling of thousands of unionists. That would be a cheap and stupid suggestion. However, very valuable rights are provided . in this bill and in other industrial laws already in force, and those for whom such rights are provided must assume obligations in respect of .them.. Therefore there should at least be provision for pecuniary penalties for organizations which defy the law. There should also be penalties for individuals who incite people to defy the law, whether it be the criminal or the industrial law. There should be a complete uprooting of those who, as a general policy, advocate the abrogation of all law. That is why the Australian Country party has adopted the. policy of banning the Communist party as an organization in this country because of its continuous attack upon the structure of the law. Certain sections of the - people enjoy special benefits. These are the people who arc employed by governments and in public utilities. They enjoy adequate rates of pay and reasonably liberal conditions of work, and they also have security of employment. They are not dismissed when work is slack. They have everything that a worker needs, though perhaps not in as great a measure as they might wish. I say to the Commonwealth Government and to the State governments concerned that the people of Australia are not prepared to tolerate indefinitely a complete disregard of the public interest by those who, like employees in the Victorian Railways Department to-day, take all the benefits of the law but defy the law when it suits them to do so. I repeat that a government which derives its authority from an interested party, whether it be representative of bankers or of trade unionists, cannot govern the country satisfactorily. The rock upon which this country is being battered to-day is the common identity of the industrial labour movement and the political Labour party. It would be greatly in the interests of both groups and of the country as a whole if they were separated.
– When the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) rose to commence his speech, he said that he did not feel himself to be competent or qualified to deal with the matter before the House. Honorable members who have listened to hia speech will agree that he has prov’ed that he was correct in his assumption. The Government will have sound public ap proval for this bill, because it represents a serious attempt to stifle industrial turmoil and bring about peace and harmony in industry. The Commonwealth Government has been severely criticized on account of industrial disturbances which have occurred during and since the war. However, only a few people in the community have taken the trouble to acquaint, themselves with the true constitutional position and to find out how the’ Commonwealth Government stands in relation to such matters. Most people do not know what powers the Commonwealth Government has in relation to industry and how it can exercise the powers that it does possess. Many electors have asked me why this Parliament has not legislated for a 40-hour working week and for a better basic wage.
The Commonwealth Parliament’s powers to interfere in industry in peacetime are expressed in these few words of the Constitution - “ conciliation and arbitration for’ the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State”. It might be thought that this provision would permit the Commonwealth Parliament to pass an act providing for a 40-hour working week or a minimum basic wage. However, the High Court, which was established by the Constitution as the interpreter of the Constitution, has ruled that this Parliament has power only to set up courts of conciliation and arbitration and to appoint arbitrators. The additional power which would enable this Parliament to pass laws fixing the basic wage and hours of work was withheld from it by the people at the- referendum because of a press campaign which created confusion in their minds and because of the difficulty of explaining technical matters to them. Had the power which was sought at the referendum been granted to this Parliament, I have no doubt that the Government would already have provided by legislation for a standard 4.0- hour working week. For the reasons which I have stated, this bill makes no provision for a 40-hour working week or for a minimum basic wage. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) takes the view that, under the Constitution, he lacks power to do more than, to establish a court of conciliation and arbitration and appoint conciliation’ commissioners and to allow the court to deal with hours of work and’ the basic wage. There is strong and conclusive authority for that view. Chief Justice Knox in the’ case Waterside Workers Federation of Australias v. Commonwealth Steamship- Owners Association, reported’ in 2S C.L.R., said1 -
Under section 51 (xxxv. ) of the Constitution the Parliament has powers to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention ;and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. This power may be paraphrased as a power to make laws with respect to the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes subject to two conditions, viz., that the prevention or settlement shall be effected by means of conciliation and arbitration, and that the disputes to be dealt with shall be confined to those which extend beyond the limits of one State. It is clear that this power does not authorize the Commonwealth Parliament to regulate conditions of employment by direct legislation, e.g., to prescribe by act of Parliament the minimum rate of wage to be paid or the maximum number of hours to be worked. It is, I think, equally clear that the power ‘in question does not authorize the Commonwealth Parliament to set up a tribunal with plenary and unrestricted power to prevent or settle two-State industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration.
His Honour added -
The Commonwealth Parliament cannot settle a dispute or make an award, by legislative enactment.
Therefore, honorable members will see that this bill provides ‘for the settlement of disputes which extend beyond the limits of any one State, and that this Parliament has no power to settle disputes by legislation. The only authority that it possesses in the matter is to set up industrial tribunals, and empower them to settle industrial disputes. In the same case Mr. Justice Isaacs, and Mr. Justice Rich expressed this view -
Parliament may give what powers it pleases to the arbitrator; it may limit his powers as it pleases; it may make the exercise of these powers conditional, and may make any determination, of the arbitrator law. But it cannot, consistently with the terms of its legislative power in relation to- industrial disputes, impose any obligations or alter rights by any provision which dispenses with arbitration ; it cannot go beyond the actual decision of the arbitrator, or alter his decision, or make any provision for settlement of the dispute binding that docs not involve his own decision, or that extends beyond his own decision or adoption. The settlement, the complete settlement, of industrial disputes is limited to “ arbitration “, which consists in judicial examination into the circumstances of each particular case as to how, and for how long, ordinary rights should be varied in the interests of industrial peace.
Mr. Justice Higgins, iti Australian Boot Trades Employees’ Federation re Whybrow, said -
A sound provision for a minimum wage in an act of Parliament might be a great aid to the prevention of disputes,, and conducive to industrial peace; but it could hardly be contended that a power to enact a law for a minimum wage is reasonably incidental to the power to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration.
Consequently,, the House will see that we, in this Parliament, can only set up machinery for arbitration. We ourselves cannot legislate for the introduction of a 40-hour working week, or for minimum rat.es of wages. We have the. authority only to, set up industrial tribunals and conciliation commissioners, and this Parliament is entirely in their hands. They have the responsibility for settling indus. trial disputes, if they can. However, it has never been denied that we have the power to grant a 40-hour working week to Commonwealth employees, and I have never been able to extract a satisfactory explanation of why this has not. been done. Some honorable members appear to be under the impression that all the pressure for a general 40-hour working week and a higher .basic wage is the result of Communist agitation. There can be no greater fallacy than that. All sections of the workers and a large majority of the general public are in favour of a nation-wide 40-hour working week, and I know from my own investigations that the basic wage is too low. Unfortunately, the Government, which would like to introduce a general 40-hour working week and increase the basic wage, has no authority to do so. It is regrettable that these two- vital matters, upon which industrial peace depends, must be left to industrial tribunals which, although they are acting conscientiously and in a high-minded manner, have no concern with the general political situation, and the discontent and frustration of the workers which have been damming up over the years. The period of the war has enlightened the workers, and the promises of world leaders have given them hope of a happier, world, and improved working conditions. Those improved conditions would undoubtedly come with the years* but who is< prepared, to wait indefinitely when’ the workers know, perfectly well that; with- proper agreement, those conditions’ could be obtained immediately ?’ There will be littleindustrial peace kv Australia until the workers get a greater- return out’ of industry. The Government- is in an unenviable position:, deprived of power to do thethings, that; it considers necessary to- bring about- industrial peace, attacked and’ harassed by the very- people who refused to grant- to- the Commonwealth Parliament the- additional industrial powers, blamed’ for industrial disputes and disturbances, to settle which industrial tribunals are’ responsible; although they are unable to settle them, and worst of all, sniped at by its own supporters, who do not or will not understand the true position. The Government is desperately trying to prevent industrial disturbances. Through lack of proper liaison and CO operation between politicians and trade union leaders, the Government is at times in a pitiable position. However, it need . not remain in that plight. The Labour Government, elected by the people, need fear no disgrace for going to extremes to legislate in favour of the workers, whom, i’t represents.
Under the bill, the Government pro. poses to appoint conciliation commissioners with unchecked powers, and they will be required to intervene quickly in any threatened” or impending- industrial disputes. The- purpose- of the bill’ may be simply stated. Under- the existing- act, the judges of the Arbitration Court are dominant. Their duty is to reconcile* prevent and settle industrial1 disputes. They discharge those duties in a stiff kind of manner by convening compulsory conferences. The .act provides for the appointment of three conciliation commissioners, with limited’ powers, for a period of five years. These officials were rather poorly remunerated, and were completely controlled by the judges. When any matter is before a conciliation, commissioner or the Arbitration Court for determination, an interested .party may apply to the High Court for- a decision whether there is a dispute, or whether the dispute extends beyond the limits of any one State, and thus delay proceedings- for weeks or even months’.
In the case that I have mentioned - the Waterside Workers Federation against the Steamship Owners; Association - the. matter’ was referred, to the- High Court by the then president of the Arbitration Court. It was argued before six judges in January. The; High Court did not react a decision, and it was further argued: before seven judges towards the end of March of that year. That is- one case which has come clearly under our notice. Doubtless, in. dozens, and perhaps hundreds of cases, the same kind of delay has occurred. When a matter reaches the High- Court, its’ decision may be reserved, and thus further delay may be occasioned.
What this bill does- is to provide for the appointment of conciliation commissioners, who will retire at the age of 65 years, who will not be removable from office except for proved misconduct or incapacity, and who will be paid £1,500 a year. They will have the duty of pre venting and settling industrial disputes, and of making orders and awards. They will be the guardians of industry, and from their decisions there will be no appeal. They are to be free and untrammelled.. There will be no. delaying appeals to the High Court or any other tribunal. Let me make it clear that, upon appointment they will take the oath that they will’ faithfully and impartially perform the duties of their office,, the same oath as has to be taken, by. any. j.udge. appointed under the act. The Leader of the Opposition 6Mr. Menzies), has- suggested rather subtly, and no; doubt his example W]11 be followed’ by other members of the Opposition, that it will not be possible to repose trust in these conciliation commissioners because they will be laymen. I do not think that any honorable member, or any member of the public, will contend that a layman’s oath is worth less than that of a lawyer. Reputable and honorable members of the community will take the oath of allegiance, and the further oath that they will faithfully and impartially perform the duties of their office: If a person- is convicted of any offence against the act, an appeal will He to the Arbitration Court, which will be the final court of appeal. That court will deal exclusively with these four matters1 - standard hours of work’ in industry, the basic wage 6r-the principles upon which, it is computed, the period which shall be granted as annual leave with pay, and the minimum rate of remuneration for adult females in industry. The conciliation commissioners will have nothing to do with those four important matters. Their powers and duties will be those that are set out, namely -
It shall be the duty of each Conciliation Commissioner to keep himself acquainted with industrial affairs and conditions.
If it appears to a Conciliation Commissioner that an industrial dispute has occurred or is likely to occur, he shall (whether he has been notified under this section or not) immediately ascertain the parties to the industrial dispute and the matters which form the subject of that dispute and shall bike such steps as he thinks tit for the prompt prevention or settlement of that dispute by conciliation or arbitration.
As soon as an organization or employer becomes aware of the existence of an industrial dispute or of an industrial situation which is likely to give rise to an industrial dispute, trie organization or employer shall forthwith notify a Conciliation Commissioner or the Registrar accordingly.
A Minister who is aware of the existence of an industrial dispute or of ah industrial situation which is likely to give rise to an industrial dispute may notify a Conciliation Commissioner or the Registrar accordingly.
Upon any notification being given under either of the last two preceding sub-sections, it shall be the duty of a Conciliation Commissioner to examine whether an industrial dispute exists or is threatened, impending or probable, and, if so, to ascertain the parties to the industrial dispute and the matters which form the subject’ of that dispute.
It shall be the duty of the Conciliation Commissioner to do all such things as he thinks fit for the prompt prevention or settlement of an industrial dispute by conciliation or arbitration.
The House will note that the conciliation commissioners are to have wide powers and duties. The Government now has the chance to appoint reputable men with a practical knowledge of the working conditions in industry, men fresh from industry who will be full of enthusiasm and the desire to achieve industrial peace. J. earnestly hope that the Government will appoint to these positions not public servants but workers who have a specialized knowledge of the industrial conditions in the workshops. It will be useless, however, if, when these conciliation commissioners have been appointed and have given decisions, their orders are not obeyed. The people of this country, including the workers, are heartily tired of strikes. They are in such a state mentally that they would gladly make the sacrifice of going through a general strike lasting for weeks if they were certain that industrial peace would thenceforth permanently endure. This is a Labour government. It is based on and is a part of the trade union movement. It is responsible for the government of the country, and its legislation is designed to ensure principally the benefit of the workers. The workers look to their own Government to ‘legislate beneficially in their interests, and to govern with a strong hand. A Labour government could not be expected to act partially against the workers, by a rigid enforcement of unjust conditions. This is a measure to establish special conciliation and arbitration machinery which is designed to secure justice and first-rate industrial conditions in relation to wages, hours of labour, and. amenities. I trust that the Government will appoint trade union representatives as conciliation commissioners so that the workers themselves will be able to fix their own conditions. If the Government takes that progressive and forthright step, it may expect obedience to the orders’ of the conciliation commissioners. If those orders arc not obeyed, we shall have legislated in vain.
The Arbitration Court as it now exists, and as it has existed for 40 years, has not brought to this country the results that were expected from it. We have not had industrial peace. What arc we to do in order to attain it ? Are we to do nothing? Drastic action is necessary because the Government has a responsibility for maintaining peace and harmony in industry. The Leader of the Opposition said that, more judges should be appointed, but would that bring about the desired result? By virtue of their training and office, judges stand aloof from industry and industrial workers, whereas men trained in industry understand the conditions associated with employment and are better .qualified to settle industrial disputes. Some members of the Opposition have suggested ways and means of settling industrial disputes ; they would deal harshly with workers, gaol their leaders, impose heavy fines, and generally act in a way inconsistent with the liberty of the subject. Their attitude is similar to that of Mussolini and Hitler. Rather than that the Government should resort to repressive measures, I should prefer that it should resign. The Government expects that this legislation will be effective, and that trade unionists generally will .co-operate with it in bringing peace to industry. “Whether or not that objective will be reached will, depend largely upon the conciliation commissioners who will be appointed. I congratulate the Attorney-General upon the introduction of this bill and the able manner in which it has been prepared.
.- The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) has complimented the Attorney-General (Dr.’ Evatt) upon thislegislation; but I do not think that the right honorable gentleman will reciprocate, because the honorable member let the cat out of the bag when he said that he hoped that the conciliation commissioners who will be appointed under this bill would be trade union representatives. At no time has the Attorney-General suggested that the fifteen conciliation commissioners will be representatives of trade unions. Indeed, he has been at some pains to tell the House that they will be impartial persons, although not necessarily lawyers. Perhaps the honorable member for Robertson was speaking mainly to the electors, of Kandos and similar parts of his electorate when he said that, the commissioners would be the friends of the workers. If the honorable member ‘has expressed correctly the invention of the Government, the conciliation commissioners, far from being impartial persons, will be grossly partial in their outlook.
I agree with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) that this is essentially a bill for consideration in committee. That being so, honorable members are relieved of the necessity for dealing with its provisions in detail at this stage. I propose, therefore, to deal now with some of the general principles underlying the bill, and to reserve more detailed remarks until the committee stage has been reached. The bill before us seeks to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act which was first placed on the statute-book in 1904, and has been amended about’ twenty times since then. That celebrated statute was based on legislation enacted by the parliaments of Western Australia and New Zealand. It was the first attempt by the Commonwealth to give legislative effect to the belief that it was possible to solve industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration following on the great struggles of the ‘90’s between masters and men, employers and employees, management and labour - various terms meaning the same thing. In 1904 an attempt was made to solve industrial problems by conciliation methods; representatives of employers and employees were to meet before a judge representing the State to decide what was reasonable. At first the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth over industrial disputes was comparatively small, but with the passing 1 of the years it grew, until to-day it is correct to say that at least 50 per cent, of industry in Australia comes under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
The legal basis of legislation passed in 1904 was placitum xxxv of section 51 of ‘ the Constitution which authorized the Parliament to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to “ conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State “. That is layman’s language. Perhaps it was a misfortune that such a complicated matter as the settlement of industrial disputes was expressed in lay language rather than in the more precise language normally used in legal documents like the Constitution. A similar state of affairs exists in respect of section 92 of the Constitution, which provides that trade and commerce between the States “ shall be absolutely free “, for every honorable member knows that many volumes of the Commonwealth Law Reports are filled with decisions . of the High Court interpreting those apparently simple words. In the same way the words “conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State have not been so clear as was thought. There has been much argument as to the meaning of “ conciliation “ and “ prevention “. Even the term “ industrial disputes “ has led to much controversy as has also the phrase “ extending beyond the limits of any one State “. Each of those terms and phrases has been the subject of many judicial decisions. I draw attention to this fact because we must recognize that the defects of the Australian arbitration .system are due, not to the act itself, or to its administration, or the judges who interpret it, but to the fact that the ‘Constitution gives to the Commonwealth Parliament only limited power in this field. Nearly all of ,the so-called defects of the arbitration system- are constitutional defects, and have nothing to do with the act as such. Therefore, when one considers the new legislation, one -must consider it in the light of known constitutional limitations. In this regard anything that could be :said of -the old legislation is equally true of the new.
Constitutional limitations cannot be cured in this Parliament. If it is necessary to cure them, it can be done only by the people. I believe that if the Labour Government had presented honest proposals for the amendment of the Constitution they would have been accepted by the people, but in 1944, and again in 1946, the Government’s proposals were presented in such a way that the people, quite rightly, regarded them as suspect, and rejected them. As I have said, this Parliament cannot alter the constitutional position, so that we must consider both the act and the bill in the light of the Constitution as it stands. Two causes have militated against the successful operation of industrial arbitration law “in Australia, insofar as it has been unsuccessful. The first is lack of enforcement. If the government of the day had taken its courage in its hands and said, “ This piece of law is on all ‘fours .with any other flaw of :the ‘Commonwealth, there ‘being no difference an principle :be- tween industrial law and any other branch of civil law, and we intend to ensure that ‘the law is enforced-“, there would have been a very different result, indeed. Again, if the Government had refrained from gross political interference with industrial law, the result would have been different. Honorable members can without difficulty recall instance after instance of political interference by which concessions were made and appeasement offered to the workers, until they came to believe that they could strike and defy ‘the law, knowing full well that the Government would not enforce the law, but would give way in the long run. As the result of this political interference, which has .occurred constantly since the outbreak of the war, the arbitration system, -can be said not to have functioned properly.
Under the old system we had trained judges - lawyers of so many years’ experience. They .presided over tribunals before which the employers and employees might put their.cases, pro and con. There was a .limited number of conciliation commissioners, hut except for such matters as were referred to. them, all industrial disputes, or ‘.impending disputes, which looked liked extending beyond the limits - of a State, came before, judges. These judges were men who had a certain kind of training and .experience. I propose later .to refer to .that training, and to the need for insisting upon it in -the making .of .appointments: Tie judges were judicial officers, hearing cases in open .court, before which both parties to the dispute had an equal right to put their case? The system worked reasonably well, “bearing in mind the two .factors which, .all the .time tended to destroy it - lack of enforcement and political interference. It was not perfect, because no system .dealing with human beings is perfect, human beings themselves not being perfect. The.re is, of course, conflict of opinion. -It is absurd to suggest that in this world workers should be always satisfied with their conditions, or -that management should he willing to grant every .concession for .which the workers ask. Within -ordinary human limits, !the present arbitration system has worked well. Under the new system it is proposed that the judges of the Arbitration. Court shall continue to function in a sort ofway. They are still to hear matters relating to standard working hours, the basic wage and women’s wages. They are to hear appeals on questions of law, when the conciliation commissioners choose to refer such matters to them, but otherwise the commissioners will usurp their functions. All the vast detail of conciliation and arbitration, covering virtually 50 per cent of the industries of Australia, is to come before not fewer than fifteen gentlemen who are to be chosen by the Government. They are to be laymen, presumably - not necessarily, the Attorney-General will say - but as the Leader ofthe Opposition pointed out, our experience indicates that almost of necessity they will be laymen. If the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) is to be believed, they will be friends of the Labour movement. They are tobe trade unionists and trade union officials - I am using his very words - and they are to adjudicate upon, and govern, industrial conditions for the whole of Australia, or, at any rate, such industries as come within the jurisdiction of Commonwealth arbitration tribunals. From their decisions there is to be no appeal. It is true that provision is made in one part of the bill to enable a. commissioner to submit a question of law to the court, although he is not bound to do so. Subject to that provision, no matter how gross, how unjust, or how fantastically illegal a commissioner’s decision may be; there is to be no appeal against it. The welfare of industry, of the men employed in it and of the management, is to be in the hands of these gentlemen. That is the new system which is to be substituted for the old.
I do not, propose to deal with the bill in detail, but merely to draw attention to a few of its provisions. Clause 5, which sets forth the objects of the measure, contains these words -
The chief objects of this Act are -
to establish an expeditious system for preventing and settling industrial disputes. . . .
I draw the attention of honorable members to the smooth and glowing words used throughout the bill - “ expeditious system”, for instance, as if there never. had been an expeditious system before; as if this God-given Government was the first to deal expeditiously and justly with industrial disputes. A further purpose of the measure is to “ promote goodwill in industry “. Is this the first time that an attempt has been made to promote goodwill in industry ? It is to provide means whereby the conciliation commissioners maypromptly and effectively, whether on their own motion or otherwise, prevent and settle industrial disputes. Is it seriously suggested that the principal act does not attempt to, and does not, in fact, deal promptly and effectively with disputes or threatened disputes? But in this measure, as in other bills, we again and again read these meaningless words with their sentimental connotation, which has a propaganda value, but no legal meaning - “ expeditious system “, “ goodwill in industry “, “ promptly and effectively “. One does not need to insert words of that kind in legislation in order to achieve the purpose of this measure. What is needed most is goodwill on the part of those administering the legislation, and government backing for their decisions. The mere use of words of the kind I.have mentioned will not get us anywhere. Apparently the reason for using such words is because they are publicized in the press, or because the Government believes that merely by saying these things it can achieve them. The definition of “ industrial dispute “ under the principal act was wide enough, and it was again and again subject to interpretation by the High Court, but under this bill it is greatly widened. Notwithstanding what is in the bill, the interpretation of that definition will still come before the High Court for adjudication, because nothing in this measure can encroach upon the Constitution itself. Nothing in the bill can go beyond the powers conferred on the Commonwealth under the Constitution. The bill contains phrases which inevitably must go before the High Court, which, in my’ humble view, will decide that such provisions areultra vires the Constitution. Paragraph b of the amendment of section 4 of the principal act proposed under clause 6 defines “ industrial dispute” as. among other things, “a situation which is likely to give rise to a dispute as to industrial matters- which so extends …” I have had some experience in these matters, and I know how hard won have been some of the present decisions of the court, and how difficult it had been to widen, the interpretation in order to permit actual or threatened disputes to come within the ambit of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I am sure that the Attorney-General realizes that, no matter how desirable it may be to do so, this attempt to extend the definition of “ industrial dispute “ to “ a situation which is likely to give rise to a dispute5’ will inevitably reach the High Court for decision ;’ and, probably, the decision will be adverse to the Government.
– Whilst matters of law will go to the High Court, no matter of substance can, under the measure, be referred to the High Court.
– Yes. The bill attempts to abolish the right of appeal to the High Court, in the same way that it takes away the right of appeal from conciliation commissioners to the Arbitration Court. But the Government cannot deprive the supreme appellate jurisdiction, the High Court, of its right to determine whether legislation is valid under the Constitution. I am amazed that the AttorneyGeneral should attempt to do so under this measure. Proposed new section 16 provides that a conciliation commissioner shall not be empowered to make an order or award in relation to standard hours, the basic wage, annual leave or the minimum rate of remuneration- of adult females. But sub-section 6 of proposed new section 17 provides - (fl) It sh all be the duty of the Conciliation Commissioner to do all such things as he thinks fit for the prompt prevention or settlement of the industrial dispute by conciliation or arbitration.
And I am surprised to find that sub-section 7 of the same proposed new section provides -
Nothing in any other provision of this Act . . .
And, I presume, that covers the provision contained in proposed new section 16 which I have just read - . . shall prevent a Conciliation Commissioner from taking action under this section.
If those words mean what they say, should a conciliation commissioner deem he should take such action to settle an industrial dispute, he can, notwithstanding proposed new section 16, deal with standard hours and the basic wage. Those’ provisions raise serious difficulties. They do not appear to have been carefully considered by the Government, or, perhaps, the Government is deliberately attempting to vest conciliation commissioners with power to deal with standard hours and the basic wage.
Paragraph c of proposed new section 42 provides - (<;) the Court or Conciliation Commissioner shall act according to equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities and legal forms.
This is not new; it exists in the act. The relevance of that provision is that it is said in this House that the Arbitration Court is too technical, that there are too many lawyers and formalities; we must streamline the arbitration system. Under the principal act the court has always been free from legal technicalities, and in most cases it has been free from lawyers excepting its presiding officers. I do not apologize for the usual rules of evidence and proof which exist in the ordinary courts ; they are profoundly valuable, and are the result of years -of experience. But these so-called technicalities do not apply to the Arbitration Court. Some honorable members opposite contend that the existing arbitration law is subject to great delays. That is not true. By some, such a statement is made deliberately, by others it may he made through ignorance. With some experience of these matters, particularly in the State arbitration tribunals in New South Wales, I assert that it is not true that there are delays. It is now possible to bring any industrial dispute before a judge within 24 hours of its occurrence. That is the case in New South Wales, and ‘ I know that it is also true with respect to the Commonwealth arbitration jurisdiction. I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Servi pp. (‘Mr. Holloway”) knows that to be true from his experience. In the federal sphere also it is possible to get a judge of the court to deal with an industrial dispute within a few hours of its occurrence. It is, therefore, untrue to say that the existing arbitration system is subject to great delays. The Minister has not said that, but that statement has been made by honorable members opposite, and it is very frequently made outside the Parliament. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out, the late Judge O’Mara died at his post, and three other judges have become seriously ill because they were always prepared to work whenever their services were required. The real difficulty in the existing arbitration system is that we require more judges, having regard to the fact that more disputes are .arising and that the Commonwealth jurisdiction has greatly expanded in recent years.
To say that there are delays that have something to do with the presence of barristers or solicitors at these tribunals is also deliberately false. As to the legalities, I have already referred to the sub-section in the existing act which is repeated in the present bill which eliminates technicalities of proof. The Leader of the Opposition made some reference to the fact that it is not the lawyer who causes delay, and from my les3 extensive but nevertheless not inconsiderable experience in my own State, I support what the right honorable gentleman said in that regard. The presence of trained lawyers before the judicial tribunals in New South Wales has not contributed to the delays in determining matters submitted to them. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that there is no one like the non-lawyer for technicalities, and no one like union advocates in particular. The claim that lawyers are responsible for the law’s delays is fantastically false. Again and again I have participated in cases in which the simple issues of fact have been crystallized in a few hours and presented to the court by somebody trained in the job, but argument upon them by somebody not trained in the elucidation and presentation of facts has taken days and sometimes weeks. The simple fact should be put on record that it is untrue to say that the presence of legal representatives has contributed to delays in industrial tribunals. The justification for the presence of such representatives before industrial tribunals is not so much their legal knowledge as the nature of their training. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, they have been trained to assimilate facts quickly, to discern the difference between what is relevant and irrelevant and to present the facts lucidly. Not once but many times in the struggles that have taken place before the industrial tribunals I have heard union advocates and representatives of employees, and their lawyers too, applying for adjournments, manoeuvring for position and themselves being responsible for the resultant delays that have occurred. Sitting behind the industrial advocates is a gallery of union officials, and conscious of the presence of their audience, the advocates are constantly- manoeuvring for position. I have seen delays take place of the most heart-breaking kind. This House has not been told about them; it should be told of them, and it should be assured of the falsity of the propaganda that the presence of lawyers before the industrial tribunals has been responsible for the delays that are alleged to have taken place.
The bill provides for the appointment of fifteen or more industrial commissioners, who are to deal with the whole gamut of industrial relations which will come before the Commonwealth industrial courts except matters of appeal and pure matters of law which may -still be dealt with by the judges. When the Stevedoring Industry Bill was before the House some weeks ago I spoke of the necessity for the appointment of trained personnelto judicial positions, saying that it was not a matter of legal training so much as of” appointing people who were prepared tohear both sides of a question and werecapable of adjudicating on the facts presented to them. Ability to carry out such a job does not depend on whether a man is or is not a good lawyer, but on his forensic experience. Such a man, by reason of his years of training, his experience in appearing for one side and the other, obtains a faculty for understanding the difference between truth and ^falsehood and for being fair. In any judicial proceedings, “whether they be industrial, criminal or civil, there is
Mo substitute for that training. I would not attack the proposed appointment of fi man as a conciliation commissioner merely because he was a layman. During the discussion of the Stevedoring Industy -Bill the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) asked me a question ihe import. .of which was, if you have a layman trying in ..good .faith to do the job, could he not do it? I say he may do so, but the odds are against it, because pressure will be brought to bear upon him and the nature of his training is not such as to .arm him against such pressure. Positive training, ability to discern the difference between truth and falsehood and to ascertain relevant facts is obtained only by forensic experience. The honorable member for Robertson would have union secretaries, “ stooges “ put up by the men themselves, appointed as conciliation commissioners. We all ‘know what the .honorable member for Hunter .(Mr.. James), who says “ Hear, ‘hear “, would do. How can the scales of justice be held evenly ‘between the opposing parties if one-eyed and prejudiced persons who come armed ‘with one weapon only, namely, -an intention to give the workers what they .want and not .what is .just and fair, .are .appointed as .conciliation commissioners,? Yet .that is what .the .honorable member for Robertson desires, and his desire has been reiterated -by the deep-toned voice of the honorable member for Hunter. Honorable members opposite do not want conciliation; “they do not want justice; they want to have appointed as conciliation commissioners men who will be prepared to give the unions exactly what they ask ‘for, not what is fair and just. There are two- sides to -every question, and if men who are prepared ‘to recognize only one side, men whose sole concern is ‘to benefit some sections and not Australia as a whole, are appointed <as conciliation commissioners, what good will come of it? No arbitration system will be of ‘any use which does not consider the invisible third party, the people of Australia. Consequently, men appointed as conciliation commissioners must be absolutely impartial, men who will not only ta’ke the oath of impartiality but also observe it. I do not know w’ho the new conciliation commissioners are to be. One of the existing commissioners .who has exercised -his authority with some distinction, courage and independence is in fact a man of legal training. That is significant and bears out -what I have said about the necessity for forensic experience ‘ as a necessary qualification for appointment to positions of this sort. We do not know who the appointees are to -be; all we know is that they are -not to be men of judicial qualifications. Are they to be ex-railway porters, ex-public-house keepers who i ailed at the elections ? . Are they to be men whom the Labour party wishes to reward for services previously rendered, men who are pushed into these positions merely because they have .rendered meritorious service to the Labour movement? If so it is indeed a sad state -off affairs for Australia. Unless the appointees ‘are men of ‘courage, independence and ‘training their appointments will ultimately ‘be of :no ‘value in the -solving o’f the industrial problems of this country, it is not necessary that ;the appointee should come from the industry concerned.
It is “.true, ras the Minister for Labour and National Service conceded, that there are men (outside (of a particular industry or .trade ‘who have the ability rapidly ‘to learn ‘enough about it to (preside over a tribunal dealing with at. .For instance, some years iago, Mr. Justice “Davidson, a distinguished .judge >of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, was appointed a royal commissioner to inquire into ‘the co’al-mining industry. Although he was a lawyer,, and an equity lawyer at that, and had -not had any .previous experience of the coal-mining industry, lie soon demonstrated .to .those engaged in ‘that industry, -to the general public, :and even to this very reluctant Government, that he had become very familiar indeed with every facet of coal-mining. Mr. Justice Davidson made a most enlightening report, so -good in fact, that this Government has not ‘been game to put it into effect, but has shelved it. Judges all oyer the ‘Commonwealth and’.in ,all .parts o’f the world have shown their training to ‘be :such ‘that they can assimilate rapidly a wide knowledge of an industry and its needs.
No provision is made for an appeal from the decisions of the conciliation commissioners, nor is any provision made for co-ordinating their work. They will meet occasionally under the chairmanship of a judge of the Arbitration Court, but generally speaking they will deal individually with the industries under their jurisdiction, and will make whatever decisions they like in regard to them. No attempt will be made to dovetail one industry into another. A conciliation commissioner will not have to say to himself, “ I must not do this in industry A because it will vitally affect industry B “. These men, some of whom may be good and some bad, are to be let loose on the community. These are things that condemn this measure, and are conclusive reasons why this House should vote against it.
The absence from the bill of any attempt to deal with the question of strikes and discipline in industry is extraordinary. . It is true that penalties are set out for certain offences that may be committed by an employer or an employee. For instance, an employee may be fined as much as £10 for having committed a breach of an award. Fancy that ! A man who may cause Australia to be held up to ransom, can be fined only £10! An employer committing an offence may be fined £100. But apart from these provisions, no attempt is made to get to the root of this trouble and to say, as must be said in this country sooner or later, that we cannot have law on the one hand, and anarchy on the other; we cannot have the right to strike and at the same time, the right to go to industrial tribunals for the determination of industrial matters. The timehas come in this country to declare that when there is an award governing a specific subject-matter, or when there is a dispute before the Arbitration Court, it shall be illegal for any man or body of men or organization to go on strike against our industrial laws. This bill does not provide that, and any legislation that fails to take this’ stand in the present state of affairs in this country, where militant trade unions are determined to flout the law and resort to direct action, is dodging the real issue. There isno longer any justification for the strike weapon. The great industrial injustices of Australia - the great burning injustices regarding hours of labour, rates of pay, and working conditions that disrupted this country in the early days of this century - have been remedied. There are other “questions constantly arising, and my philosophy is that, as far as possible, these new grievances must he remedied. But to say that when they do arise the unions may file a log of claims with the Arbitration Court, and then, if they do not get an award to their liking, they can proceed to go on strike, is a negation of the ordinary principles of law and of the whole principle of industrial law. After all, law is law whether it is industrial, civil, or criminal.
Another important matter is the omission from this legislation of any. provision for disciplining those individuals who in cits others to break industrial laws. It is not possible, or even just, to fine or to put in gaol a whole body of men for striking or breaking an industrial law. What the men do is done in the mass, upon incitement by union leaders or others. In this day and generation one cannot say, “ You have technically broken the law and we shall prosecute you in your thousands “. That is one thing, but it is another thing altogether to fail to deal with the inciter who causes the thousands of workers to strike. This legislation makes no such provision, but if it were realistic and honest it would.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired. .
Motion by (Mr. Anthony) negatived -
That the honorable member for Parramatta be granted an extension of time.
.- I have listened with great interest to the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale).Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), he is moaning mostly because this bill will cut out many judges and lawyers from our arbitration system. One of the statements made by the honorable member for Parramatta was that no mention is made in this legislation or in previous legislation of this character for lawyers.
The Leader of the Opposition argued that because of their legal training, lawyers were quick to grasp salient facts and could always go right to the point. Certainly, in the past, they have always managed. to go straight to one point, and that is the pocket. I can assure, the honorable member for Parramatta that the man who works with a pick and shovel is far more knowledgeable and has far more practical experience in industrial matters than members of the legal fraternity, most of whom are well versed in theory only. All that lawyers have to do is to repeat what is poured into their ears, and in some cases they cannot even do that, because it is much too difficult to penetrate the centre of their receptivity. In further criticism of this bill, the honorable member for Parramatta said that it was of no use because it could not operate unless a dispute extended beyond the limits of one State. Perfectly true ! We know that. He wenton to say that if we went to’ the people for an alteration of the Constitution in an honest way they would concede it; but I remind him that in 1926 his party, with the support of the then Leader of. the Opposition, my predecessor as the honorable member for Hunter, Mr. Charlton, went to the country with a request for an alteration of the Constitution on lines identical with those on which we went to the country, namely, that the Commonwealth Parliament should have power over trade and commerce and industrial matters. That can be verified. Now, however, any proposition made to the people by whatever party is in power is opposed by the opposition party. I believe what my predecessor said, namely, that we shall never secure the people’s approval of an alteration of the Constitution unless all the parties .-join together in asking for it. It is only fair to say that until we get power we do not fully recognize how necessary it is for the Constitution to be altered. An impossible situation arises when .State wage-fixing authorities prescribe varying rates of wages in different States. Of what use is it if the wage-fixing authority in one State gives better pay and conditions to the workers in that State’ if in another State the wages prescribed are lower? That results in the lower-wage
State being able to flood the higher-wage State with goods without check, because of the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution, and thereby bring about unemployment in it. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) knows better than any one else how true that is, because in. the depression, when he tried to maintain the basic wage in New South Wales at £4 2s. 6d. a week when it had fallen in other States to £3 5s. and £3 a week, New South Wales was flooded by Victoria with goods produced at prices with which the New South Wales manufacturers could not compete owing to their higher costs. He tried to .counter that trade invasion of New South Wales by Victorian manufacturers by sending inspectors around to shops displaying the cheap Victorian goods and by putting into the shop windows notices displaying the origin of the goods and pleading with the people not to purchase them because they had been made in Victoria. When we come to this Parliament we are no longer staterighters; we.are federalists and believe that Australians remain Australians regardless of the State they live in. We are one people with one flag and one destiny. I believe we should have one Parliament.
– Federalist! I thought the honorable gentleman was a’ unificationist.
– I am a unificationist! The Leader of the Opposition is also afraid that trade unionists will be appointed as conciliation commissioners. Frankly and bluntly, I hope they will he. I hope that the unions will have the right to choose them and sack them if they do not do the job for Labour. That is where I stand. I make that quite clear. I believe in following the precedent set by the Opposition. Let honorable gentlemen opposite examine their own record. Whom have they appointed to the judiciary? They appointed no less a person than the coercive Judge Lukin, who had been retired from the Queensland Arbitration Court. They also appointed Judge Drake-Brockman, He is a decent man, and I do not criticize his work as a judge; but I am talking about political appointments. Both Judge Lukin and Judge Drake-Brockman, however, were members of the Opposition party. The Lyons
Government appointed, as Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John -Latham, a former Commonwealth Attorney-General. It was he who prosecuted the .Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) and caused him to be fined £50.
Opposition Members. - Why?
– Over industrial troubles. Another member of the Opposition party appointed to the Arbitration Court was the late Judge Dethridge and another was the late Judge Beeby. Cheek by jowl with that the Leader of the Opposition has the temerity to complain that the Labour party will appoint trade unionists as conciliation commissioners. It is only just that that should be done, and I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will remember that and ensure that men who have worked for us shall receive some of the plums of office equal to those received from the Opposition when it was in power by men who worked for it.
– The honorable member ought to be made to join the diplomatic corps !
– There is nothing diplomatic about me. What is in my mind comes out. I could never be and I have never wanted to be a diplomatic politician. All I want to be is a true and faithful representative of my class, the working class. What has the Leader of the Opposition said? It was said too, by the honorable member for Parramatta. So faithfully’ did he repeat his leader’s words that I suspect that he must be a good shorthand writer. Anyway, the Leader of the Opposition said in reference to the present set-up of the Arbitration Court-“ There is great delay - it will be admitted by the judges - but it is due more to lay advocates “. His charge was that lay advocates, because they had no legal training, .could not go straight to the point, and he said that lay conciliation commissioners would be similarly handicapped. In order to refute that, I merely have to refer to what has been done already by lay conciliation commissioners and the like. The chairman of the Northern District Local Coal Authority, Mr. James Connell, to whom I pay a well-merited tribute, last year heard and despatched 638 cases. In order to hear and determine all those cases he had to work on Saturdays and even Sundays. Did any one ever hear of a member of the judiciary doing that? Not on your life! Judges must have their long vacation. They work about three hours a day and are well paid at that.
– How many strikes were there ?
– Admittedly there were strikes. There were strikes impending, too, but Connell nipped them in the bud. This bill provides for the appointment of conciliation commissioners to prevent and settle industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration. This is not coercive legislation. It aims at conciliation. Under it the parties will be called together not only when a dispute hasoccurred but also when one is likely to develop. . What is wrong with that? Does the Opposition believe that when a conciliation commissioner learns that a dispute is likely to occur he should not endeavour to bring the parties together in order to prevent it from developing and thereby ensure continuous production? That is what Mr. Connell has clone and is doing on the northern coal-field. Conciliation commissioners in other spheres have also nipped impending disputes in the bud. But honorable gentlemen opposite do not want that. They want the lawyers to have fees. They want delay. The honorable member for Parramatta, who is a barrister, would not settle a case in a day if he could stretch it out .at £10 10s. a day, for a fortnight, a month, or even three months. That is one reason why the workers squeal about the legal entanglements that were referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, who, quoting the late Judge Higgins, talked about the Serbonian bog.. The situation that led Judge Higgins to make that reference exists to-day. Judge Drake-Brockman made a similar statement on the 14th April when issuing a decision of the Central Reference Board of the coal-mining industry. I am a wholehearted believer in industrial unionism. In order to secure peace in industry, we must have one union for one industry so that an award can be made covering the whole of that industry.
Under present conditions, one union may fight to. remedy unsatisfactory conditions in a certain industry or to secure increased wages. When the improvements which it seeks are conceded to it, unions . representing other workers, in the same industry must go through the same slow, process: in order to obtain similar concessions for their members. That sort of thing happens in the steel works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, in which about twelve different unions are represented. The workers in the. coal-mining industry, to which I belong, have five different unions. Commenting on this unsatisfactory state of affairs, in the decision to which I have referred, Judge Drake-Brockman said -
There are, of course, a considerable number of members of the federation who are employed in classifications covered by the “mechanics” and “ enginedrivers “ awards and this board has long since ordered that the conditions of employment prescribed by the “miners” award shall be applicable ,to members of the federation engaged in the classifications covered bv the “ enginedrivers “ award (C.K.B. !1S of 30th April, 1942). The “ mechanics “ award has been declared a common rule for the industry, and shale miners, although members of the federation, are outside the purview of the Coal Industry Tribunal and within the jurisdiction of this board.
Where the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration. Court, by a majority, refused to reduce standard hours in this industry tq 40 per week, Mr. Justice Drake-Brockman (who is Chairman, of this board) found himself in a minority. He found himself unable to agree with the majority decision substantially on the ground that the Commonwealth Arbitration Act specifically required that the court should in making its award provide so far- as- possible and as far as it thought proper foi: uniformity throughout an industry carried on by employers iii, relation to hours o,f work. The same section of the act required specifically that like attention should be given in relation- to. holidays and general conditions in that industry (section 25a). Whilst the industrial regulation in the industry is. n.o.w divided, between the respective State authorities and the Coal Industry Tribunal (Commonwealth) and this board, it is conceived that the principle underlying that act is a. sound one. In. the hope that some, attempt will quickly be made to enable industrial regulation in the industry to struggle free from this Serbonian bog, the. board directs that employees upon the books, of the employers in (iiic coal-mining, industry (within the jurisdiction of this hoard and covered by its decisions) on the relevant date shall be. paid as for an ordinary working, day for Friday, Blister- Monday and- Anzac Day-, 1047; where not. worked, The claim for a minimum, payment when, called in to work upon an award holiday will be granted to the extent now recognized under the metal’ trades award and such- employees must be paid for a minimum of three hours? work. The-decision will have effect as from the 1th day of December. 1946, and will remain, in operation thereafter for the nominal period of six months.
In reaching its- decision, the board is noi unmindful of the fact that the decision will, in effect, amount, to a costly charge upon Consolidated Be venue, and so upon the community generally rather than upon the employers ‘in the coal-mining industry.
Insofar, as the applications are not disposed of they will be restored to the hoard’s list for further consideration.
This decision is not unanimous hut expresses the opinion of the Chairman, which opinion accordingly becomes the decision, of the board.
The Government must try to unite the unions. Much industrial unrest is due to dissatisfaction because one union gains for its members better conditions than those of members of other unions who work in the same industry. The Government would save much time and forestall a great deal of industrial turmoil if it could remove the cause of such disturbances. It suits the employers not to have collectivism amongst their employees; They wish to- keep the workers apart. It is to their advantage to have one section of workers on strike or locked out while another section is working and protecting, their interests. While they keep the unions . divided they secure greater dividends. The Government must give serious consideration to this matter. A. total production of 17,000 tons, of coal has: been lost to-day owing to. a strike in one mine alone. What is the reason for the stoppage ? It is- a dispute between two craft unions.. The Amalgamated Engineering Union claims the. body of a pipe layer who is a member of the miners federation. The representatives; of the two organizations went before Mr. Gallagher, the Chairman of the Joint Coal Board, to, obtain a ruling on this dispute. He gave a decision that the man, who was employed at Abermain Noi 1 colliery, should- remain- a. member of the miners, federation. The members of- the Amalgamated Engineering- Union employed at the colliery went on strike immediately that decision was given on the. 31st March. The union now threatens . to apply to. the High.’ Court, to secure’ an. injunction against; the Chairman, oft the’ Joint. Coal Board* This sort of thing could1 not happen if there were, only one union for the whole of the. coal-mining industry. The workers would benefit if- there were only one union, and. the owners would benefit because they would be dealing with only one set of individuals- instead of’ a variety of craft unions’. Before I was elected to this Parliament, I was- appointed by the miners federation- as a temporary officer to organize the establishment of one union for the whole of the industry. ‘ I found that the scheme was strongly opposed for the same reason as the proposal to do away with State parliaments and establish one- parliament for Australia is opposed. Members of State parliaments have said to me, “ It is all right for you to advocate the abolition of State parliaments, Bawley, because you have a job. What would happen to us if the State parliaments were abolished “ ?: Similar fears beset the paid officials of craft unions. Each union has its paid executive officers, who are unwilling to relinquish their present jobs until they have a guarantee that they will be absorbed into the proposed greater trade union. If we are* to secure the sort of industrial unionism which I advocate, we must hold out to the paid officials of the craft unions some inducement to support the change. I recall the time when there was only one union organization in the> coal-mining industry. However, with, the development of mechanization in the mines, members of other unions entered the industry.’ Work that was once done underground by a wheeler or driver belonging to the miners’ federation is now performed by a man who operates a mechanized unit. He is claimed by both the enginedrivers union and the miners federation. As mechanization develops, the miners federation will become- the smaller ‘ union,, and, ultimately, may he absorbed by the. other-. In Britain there is only, one union in the coal industry. The, award to which I. have referred will! create further discontent. Whilst Mr. Gallagher granted to the miners holiday pay on condition that they worked the- day before and the day after the holiday, and prescribed thai the award should come into operation on the 1st April, last;. Judge Drake-Brockman made- holiday pay for the. craft, unions retrospective- to the 6th December;. 19.46, without qualifications, or. restrictions, and covering, the: whole of . the Christmas period. The increased: costs- involved in that- determination- will be met, not by the coal-owners, but from. Consolidated Revenue. Will other unions allow that, award to pass- unnoticed? I do not know the reason for the distinction, but I urge the. Attorney-General to inquire into the matter, and ensure that the award shall not cause- further, trouble in- the coal mining industry. Years ago,, the miners first sought holiday pay, but. not until this month were their’ claims met.. ‘ I do not begrudge the. craft -unions their award-; I only contend that the members of the, miners’ federation should he. similarly treated in the matter’ of holiday pay. As I stated, this award will lead to trouble.
– Could. a big strike develop out of this award?
– I hope not. I congratulate the Attorney-General upon the introduction of this bill, which is an honest attempt to bring about peace in industry. When the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was Minister for Labour and National Service, he established local coal- reference boards, and they functioned effectively. Some critics might truthfully assert that despite the setting up of those authorities, a substantial measure of industrial discontent has occurred during the last- few years ; but if those tribunals had not been appointed, the trouble would have been more general. .Stoppages of great magnitude would have appeared during the period- of World War II.. In the meantime, those tribunals have, been improved,, and, to-day, .their decisions are final and binding. When the, local coal authorities were, first- established, all the evidence which they- took had to be submittal to the Chairman of the Central Goal Reference Board.
This, bill will streamline the. arbitration process, and . decisions will be expedited. Earlier; I dealt with some of the1 con- .tentions of the Leader of- the: Opposition regarding the causes of delays in the arbitration, system.. Towards the conclusion of his remarks, the right honorable gentleman stated that he considered that the punishment for illegal strikes and lockouts should he inflicted upon the union or the employers concerned. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act has always contained provisions for the imposition of penalties upon persons and organizations that infringed it, and the anti-Labour parties have not hesitated to invoke those sections, often in a very unfair manner. When the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John Latham, was Attorney-General, he prosecuted the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) who was fined £50, and in addition, he tasted the blood of the timber workers, the coal-miners and the waterside workers. Sometimes, be had the men put in gaol, and he became so ferocious that he went after “ big shots “ like John Brown. In 1929, the matter of the prosecution of John Brown was extensively debated in this House. I remember the occasion well. .Shortly before the Parliament adjourned for the Easter recess, the House began to discuss this subject, expecting to adjourn at 10 p.m. So deeply interested were honorable members that the House continued to sit until 8 a.m. next day. ‘ I shall’ never forget the occasion. The honorable member for Angas, a good deal of which is now incorporated in the division of Barker, had asked an inspired question - what is known as a “ Dorothy Dix “ - to ascertain whether the Attorney-General proposed to take any action against the coal-owners for the illegal lockout. Every honorable member will remember that lockout in 1929-30. For sixteen months, the coalminers were locked out against an award of the Arbitration Court. Did any members of the Opposition “ squeal “ ? Did they take any action to end that lockout? On a number of occasions, the numerically small Labour opposition moved the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing that urgent matter of public importance. I was one of the principal speakers. The then member for Fawkner rose in his place, and stated that if the Attorney-General did not take action to terminate the lockout, he would reconsider his loyalty to his party. In all, five honorable members challenged their own Government and demanded that action should be taken. What happened ? When the House re-assembled at 11 a.in., the honorable member for Angas was informed that legal proceedings against John Brown would be instituted forthwith. Everybody was satisfied and happy. We thought that the lockout would end. When w.e adjourned for Easter to celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour, we learnt that John Brown was not to be prosecuted. As one might say, he, too, was resurrected on the third day. That is an instance of the manner in which the anti-Labour parties did not enforce the penal provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act against the employers. I do not recall one instance where they ever prosecuted an employer. To be consistent, they should not demand that the employees be penalized for engaging in so-called illegal strikes. Indeed, the workers have learnt a lesson from the Opposition. Now, they have no” faith in arbitration. They have adopted the policy of “ one out, all out “. I do not agree’ with it. But, if one unionist goes to gaol for participating in a strike, all his fellowunionists will go to gaol, and the gaols will overflow. Of course, that will .not produce coal or restore peace in the coalmining industry. This bill will go a long way towards establishing peace in all industries.
No workers have confidence in arbitrators who. have not had some knowledge and experience of the industry into which they are inquiring. Whilst I prefer that an inquiry should be conducted by a man ‘ who has been actively engaged in the industry, I should not object to the appointment of an owners’ representative or a mine manager, provided he possesses the qualification to which I have referred. The decisions of a mine manager, if he were appointed as a. conciliation commissioner, would be accepted by the workers more readily than those of a member of the legal fraternity who had no knowledge of the industry. If the owners were to co-operate with the miners and other workers the industrial tribunals would not be congested with unheard cases, because disputes would he “ nipped in the bud “ immediately. Only co-operation in industry will ensure that flow of production
Which this country needs for its future development.
.- Wo have heard from the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) a characteristic speech, in the course of which he distorted historical facts in some degree. I admit that he has been refreshingly frank about the Government’s intentions. I wish that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) had been equally frank. The honorable member said that the conciliation commissioners who are to be appointed will be proved Labour men. He wants all of them to be trade unionists. Maybe he is a prophet. In whichever direction one looks, one finds that, when making appointments, the Government has followed the principle that the possession of the necessary qualifications to fit the appointee to fill the position to be occupied has not been essential. I have in mind the appointment of trade commissioners and the managing director of a national airlines commission. Exservicemen havebeen completely disregarded, the only consideration being whether the person to be appointed was or was not a good Labour man ; in other words, a puppet of the Trades Hall.
I have read carefully the whole of the provisions of this bill and have endeavoured to find some merit in it, but confess that I have not been able to find any. It is only another appeasement measure, of the kind which all too frequently is brought to this Parliament. It is quite unnecessary. I have no doubt that it will be given effect, despite our protests. Only the people will have the opportunity to put the matter right, and they will do so at the next general elections, when they will remove this incubus of a government.
This measure will sound the death knell of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which has a reasonably good tradition. It was anexperiment in Australia’s industrial history, and has been honoured in industrial circles, except by. militant unions, which would not accept its decisions. This proposal will not find acceptance in Melbourne, that great city which to-day is suffering from the partial paralysis of its transport systems, where gas is restricted to the lowest degree, inflicting grave hardship upon the innocent particularly and the community generally, where electric light and power are rationed, the use of radiators is prohibited, and all the harm that could be caused is being inflicted upon a democracy, merely to suit the. ambitions of industrial despots. Although the measure is entitled an arbitration till, it can more rightly be described as a Communist appeasement bill, because the objective of the Communist is to destroy the Arbitration Court and to have a number of committees which may be described as Soviets, to deal with different industries. Our industrial position will be worsened. The honorable member for Hunter has high hopes of the appointment as conciliation commissioners of certain prominent or notorious men in the Labour movement. The main proposal in the bill is that fifteen conciliation commissioners shall be appointed. Is one of them to be Mr. Healy, the czar of the waterfront who is the de facto Minister for External Affairs, the man who said that no Dutch ships should sail from Australia and no goods should be sent from this country to distressed people in Indonesia, and that tallow would not be exported from New South Wales without his acquiescence, the man who decides our trade policy? Or is an appointment to be given to Mr. Brown, one of the masters of the Government who was in Canberra only recently, the man who is given ready audience by the Government; the man who, when the Railway Commissioners of Victoria said. “ The trains will run as usual “, retorted “ The trains will not run, and I am ringing the commissioners to say so”? No trains are running in Melbourne to-day.
The Parliament and the people should know what this bill is designed to achieve. Its main proposal is that fifteen conciliation commissioners shall be appointed to adjudicate upon disputes in different industries. Even if the fifteen men appointed were paragons or saints in their outlook, they could not achieve uniformity in their decisions, such as is achieved by the judges of the Arbitration Court to-day. In that court, there is a concentration of industrial opinion. It is presided over by a learned judge, who gives his decision after he has heard the case expounded by advocates for both sides. If there is delay at the moment in the hearing of cases, it could be overcome by appointing more judges. Too many cases go to the court unnecessarily. Many of them are frivolous. Consequently, the court is cluttered up with move or less fictitious claims. The Australian working man is to-day, and always has been, as good as the worker of any country in the world. He wants industrial peace,, and his meed of justice, tolerance and freedom. To-day, he is the victim of one of the worst forms of industrial conscription that could be imagined. For months, union organizers in Melbourne have been visiting workshops and telling skilled men that they have to leave their jobs because of the existence of a dispute in the :metal trades. . They have been promised. that -jobs will be found for them elsewhere. I know of a factory in a Melbourne suburb, twenty of whose skilled engineers were put on labouring work which had been found for them by the union in order to -put out of action a workshop with which they had no quarrel whatever. Thousands of men have been conscripted by these parasites in the Labour movement, who profiteer when there is industrial dislocation; men such as Brown, Southwell and Rowe, all Communists who owe no allegiance to this country and have never done anything. for it, but who- have lived sheltered lives during periods of .emergency. In time of trouble, their fealty would be to a foreign power, mot to Australia or the British Empire, t .deplore that such things can happen in Australia, and as ;a Victorian I particularly deplore the sabotaging of that State’s industry. The machinations of Communists and militant disturbers of industry are causing chaos and confusion. If the fifteen .conciliation commissioners who are to be appointed are merely labour leaders, industrial troubles will be more continuous than ever, and the problems confronting industry will not be solved. In my opinion, .this bill will mean -the ultimate demolition of the Arbitration Court, because it will -destroy the uniformity which has existed hitherto. The main provision of the bill is that which authorizes the appointment of conciliation commissioners, but I fear that it will merely make confusion worse confounded.
As I wish to be constructive, I make the following suggestions : Men who refuse to obey decisions of the court and are determined to extend strikes should be dealt with for contempt. Mr. Cranwell, the head of the Australian Engineering Union, who, I understand, is not a Communist, should be dealt with for saying t that the present strike should be extended. There is provision in the existing act to enable that to be done. The bill should also provide for the taking of a ballot of unionists before a strike takes place. I believe that if a secret ballot were taken many strikes would be averted, but, as things are, a few undisciplined agitators shout down reasonable men when they attempt to express their views. I suggest also that a union which disobeys an award of the court should immediately be deregistered. Agitators should not be allowed to throw their fellow members out of work against their will. Men who want to work should reject leaders of this type-; they should revolt against their iron discipline. I have talked with many unionists who have expressed their fear of the men who control their unions. They know :that a strike means the loss of their savings, and possibly the deprivation of educational facilities for .their children or holidays for their families. These things occur, but the spineless Government now in power in .the Commonwealth stands idly by and takes no action. The honorable member for Hunter appeared to be proud of the fact that the Minister for Labour and National ‘Service (Mr. Holloway) was -once -fined £50 for the part taken by him in an industrial disturbance. If more fines were imposed for -creating disturbances the result would be beneficial. I suggest also that when a union disobeys an order of the court it should be possible for a new union to be formed. An additional 500 men arc to be admitted to the membership of the Waterside Workers Federation in New South Wales, but no provision is made for preference for ex-servicemen. I am firmly convinced that if there were provision for the formation of a new union in the circumstances that I have mentioned many ex-servicemen .would form new unions, and Australia would enter an era of industrial peace. As things are,this country is losing opportunities to develop and advance. Already valuable trade opportunities have been lost,and considerable unemployment has been caused bythe actions of extremists. Thisbill shows that the ‘Government has neither vision nor understanding, and is without backbone.
InMelbourne there is an excellent conciliation commissioner in the person of Mr. Mooney. In that State there is also a man who occupies the dual positions of a Minister of the Crown and the head of a powerful trade union organization. I refer to Mr. Clarey. When Mr. Mooney, as commissioner, made a determination in an industrial dispute, Mr. Clarey, in his capacity as union leader, went to him and said : “I was hopeful that as conciliation commissioner you would be willing to exercise the functions of conciliation even at this late hour “. He hoped that Mr. Mooney would alter his views, but the commissioner replied, “ There is no chance of conciliation apparently. That is the determination of the authority, good, bad, or indifferent. That is the determination and it would not be altered by me becauseI would not alter it”. Mr. Clarey then said, “I can only express my regret at the decision in spite of what 1 said because, unfortunately, it leaves the community in this State aware that the court is not prepared to take a realistic view “. We have seen other instances of attempts to intimidate men in high places. Another man who holds dual offices is the Minister for Air (Mr.. Drakeford). He is also thehead of a large union. No Minister of the Crown should allow himself to be placed in such a position. It is unfair to all concerned, and is particularly unfair to the government of which he is a member. The Government is only wasting time in bringing forward this measure, because instead of creating peace in industry it will lead to greater confusion. The Government should deal firmly with men who are determined to disturb peace in industry. Unless we return to the reign of law there can be no hope for Australia, and therefore I urge the Government to consider care fully theproposals which I now make, someof which I forecast will besubmitted as amendmentswhen the bill isin committee.
If theGovernment wants to maintain Australia’s prestige as anation, to keep men in employment,it will accept these proposals,thereby making the measure more workable. I suggest that there should be a right of appeal to the full Arbitration Court from the decision of a conciliation commissioner. There is no such provision in the bill. A conciliation commissioner may give a wholly unjust decision, but under the proposed law there will be no appeal against that decision to the Arbitration ‘Court. More judges should be appointed to the court. Provision shouldbe made to protect the interests of the public. Democratic safeguards should be provided against the imposition of compulsory unionism, which is implicit in the bill as it stands. Conciliation commissioners will be encouraged to make the “closed shop” principle operative throughout industry, so that the worker who is not a friend of the union secretary may become an outcast in his own country. Provision should be made for the holding of secret ballots on democratic lines. It might appear that there is something sinister in the words “ secret “, but I mean only that voting should be secret as is voting for members of this Parliament. There should be independent returning officers, and the constitutions of the unions should provide for the taking of secret ballots. If necessary, Commonwealth electoral officers could supervisethe voting. It should also be provided that costs are to be paid in arbitration cases. Ifthis were done fewer frivolous cases would be brought before the court. There are industrial advocates - and some say lawyers also - who alwayshave litigation before the court. If costs were debited against a union or an organization of employers they would think twice about bringing casesbefore the court, and would probably be more disposed to resort to conciliation. So far, the Arbitration Court has not levied costs. I understand that it has power to do so, but in no instance havecosts been collected. If a union is entirely guilty in adispute, as are the Australian Railways Union and the Metal Trades Union in Victoria, its funds should be frozen, and a substantial fine imposed. There is no need to gaol hundreds of men for breaches of the industrial law. We know that under present methods men are intimidated into striking by a few malevolent persons who attend mass meetings and shout the others down. The majority of unionists want to work. In the United States of America,the fining of Mr. Lewis, the union leader, proved effective. When, a little while ago, he called for a strike, only one-third of the unionists responded. If such Australian union leaders as Thornton, Brown and Roach, who carry on their nefarious work, were prosecuted in the courts, it would give great joy to many unionists. These men incite class antagonism, but there is no room for this in Australia. Australia is a democratic country, and this form of fascism should not be tolerated. The fact is that communism and fascism are synonymous terms. An insidious dictatorship has crept into the unions. The Government now has an opportunity to loosen the hold of the men who exercise the dictatorship. The punitive power of the courts should be increased. If the Government lacks the courage to act in this way, and to do what is necessary in the interests of Australia, it should do the right thing, and resign. Unless amendments are accepted to give effect to what I have suggested, I shall oppose the bill. Judging from the record of the Government there does not seem much prospect that it will accept amendments, and if it does not I shall vote against the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brennan) adjourned.
Prices Control: Dismissal of Officials - Industrial Unrest : Victorian Metal Trades Dispute; Power Restrictions ; Transport Difficulties; Activities of Communists - Fertilizer Supplies - Food for Britain: Loading of “Orion” - Crimes Act: Maintenance of Constitutional Authority.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn. .
– This morning I asked a series of questions of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in which I directed attention to the fact that four officials of the Prices Branch, Messrs. Colin Charles Gale, J. Bellemore, Leslie R. Horsey, and Small had been dismissed from the Priced Branch. I set out in the form of a question certain information which I had received, and I made certain allegations. I asked that the Prime Minister should cause an immediate inquiry to. be made, with full protection for those who might wish to give evidence, as a preliminary to appointing a royal commission to inquire into the whole of the activities of Prices Branch officials. Those allegations were not made lightly. There was substance in them, and I take a very poor view of the fact that the questions were not answered satisfactorily, and that no assurance was given that an inquiry would be held. The Minister who answered the question replied that all the information he had was that the Prices Commissioner had dispensed with the services of four officers on theground that their services had not been entirely satisfactory.. It is not sufficient to say that four men who had been employed by the Prices’ Commissioner for a long time, and who had been prominent in many raids made under the powers vested in them, were dismissed because their services had not been entirely satisfactory. That might mean a lot ; it might mean nothing at all. I have a right to expect that some notice should be taken of the charges implicit in the question which I asked, and to expect an assurance that a full investigation would be made, and that action would be taken if the charges were found to be correct.
The information which I have in my possession, and which I believe is authentic because it comes from an authentic source, is that the prices officials were dismissed, and that it was found that they had with them a list of protected trades people who were bribing them. Apparently, they were operating the old “ protection “ racket which flourishes in parts of the United States of America. The persons whose names appeared on the list were making payments by way of bribes to the officers concerned. I have further information that a raid made on the Homebush abattoirs on the 5th March, 1946, was a “ phoney “ raid because the wholesalers had been advised previously that the raid was about to take place. The raid took place at 6.30 a.m., before any business had been transacted by the wholesalers at the Homebush abattoirs, and, strangely, the man who led that raid was Mr. J. Bellemore, one of the officers who have now been dismissed. The allegation made against him was that he conveyed information to the wholesalers regarding the raid, and that he was paid certain money for that information. It is strange that the raid was not productive of results, notwithstanding the impounding of books and documents on that occasion. I also asked whether it was a fact that, a Sydney butcher who “fell” for this racket began bribing an official with £5 notes and a parcel of’ meat each week, and eventually so bribed several officials until the amount of £5 was not sufficient and the butcher increased the amount of the bribe and continued giving the parcel of meat each week to each official. When the butcher could not afford to keep paying up he stopped, and when charges were preferred against him he was sentenced to imprisonment for three months at Long Bay Gaol.
That case was heard on the 2Sth August. The butcher was Henry Ernest Caldwell. When he made it clear that he could not carry on his business further, those charges were made, and the two officers who succeeded in prosecuting him were Horsey and Gale, who were two of the officers who have since been dismissed by the Prices Commissioner, and in respect of whom the Minister says that their services have not” been entirely satisfactory. Those two matters are significant. First, it is alleged that a “ phoney “ raid was engineered at Homebush abattoirs. It was not productive of results, but money changed hands and the wholesalers were advised. The officer who conducted that rail, Mr. J. Bellemore, has now been dismissed. Secondly, a butcher, of whom it is said that he paid money and continued to do so for as long as he could afford it, was prosecuted and sent to gaol. The two” officers responsible have now been dismissed by the Prices Commissioner, because, as the Minister said, their ser vices were not satisfactory. I shall go further, because these allegations can be aired in court if the Prime Minister is prepared to hold a public inquiry and to grant immunity to any person who is prepared to give evidence at such inquiry as a preliminary to the appointment of a royal commission. Surely, that is not too difficult for the Prime Minister to agree to, particularly in the light of the charges that have been made. Further information in my possession is to the effect that one of these’ officials has been taking bribes of up to £100 and over, that amount, and the other three officials have been accused of .taking bribes of £5, £10 and £20 on different occasions. I am informed that the Government had been aware that there was blackmailing and corruption in the Prices Branch, and that the New South Wales Police Department had been watching the position for the last twelve months. It seems that their vigilance has been rewarded, because it is rather strange that the men against whom the allegations have been made have been dismissed by the Prices Commissioner. What I, and the-, people want to know, is why were they dismissed. It is- not sufficient to say that their services were unsatisfactory. There is a reason, and the public is entitled to be told the reasons if only to clear the names of these men.
I have also been advised that when the position of these officials became dangerous, because they had some indication , that they were being watched, they installed a receiving agent at the Homebush abattoirs with whom certain letters containing money had been left instead of being handed to them as was done previously. The man whose name has been given to me as the man to .whom those on the protected list gave this money, was a Mi-. Woodham, commonly known as “ Bluey “ Woodham. These charges can easily be refuted, or inquired into, or action taken by the Government to satisfy itself on the matter. Further .information in my possession is that , one of these officials travelled very .frequently to Melbourne to collect bribes from master butchers in Victoria. SO; it seems this racket of typical gangster technique has extended outside New South Wales. What I want to know is what does; the Prime -Minister propose to do with respect’ to- these’ allegations?’ Is he satisfied^, because it is rather strange, that no statement has- been made to the public that these four, officers have been; dismissed, as is; customary in matters of: this kind? Charges of this sort become public; property within a very short time, and. the fact that four pro,minent officers of the Prices Branch should be dismissed. out of hand i3;widely commented upon. No publicity has beer given to these dismissals!
– When were they dismissed?
– I have not made inquiries- as to the date of the dismissals ; but I know that they must have been made some time last week. I am also given to understand- that the Prices Commissioner himself desires that no publicity bc given to the dismissals of these officers at this juncture. It may be that the Government proposes to take action: and is awaiting information on which to launch prosecutions. If that be the Government’s attitude, I commend it; but this condition of affairs indicates that we are drifting dangerously when power like this is placed’ in ‘ the hands of bureaucrats whose previous character has never been investigated before being appointed to these positions. I have information with regard to the character’ of two of these- officers which is not of a savoury nature. I may have to use that information later. I wish to know - whether investigations were made into the character of. these men before they were appointed to the Prices Branch. Why were they dismissed? Is- the Prime Minister prepared to cause an immediate inquiry to be made, and to- grant full protection to persons who are prepared to give evidence at such an inquiry as a preliminary to the appointment of a royal commission to investigate these allega tions of misconduct on the part of officers in the Prices Branch?
– The honorable member, for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has made statements which, if they be true, reveal a serious state of affairs;, but!, after all* his statements’ are! made- only on- hearsay and oil- information which has– come1 to him throught certain- channels*
– My statements can be checked;
– When, the honorable member asked this afternoon whether any members of. the staff, of the Prices Commissioner had been dismissed, I truthfully informed the House that the only information I had’ at present was that four, members of that staff had been dismissed, and that. I, had been informed that they had been dismissed on the ground that their services had not been entirely satisfactory.
– Were no details given ?
– Not at this stage. 1 have not the slightest doubt that in due course, and I shall see that such action is taken promptly, a- full report of the circumstances surrounding the dismissals of these officers will be made to my colleague, the- Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice), and if there be the slightest foundation in fact for these allegations, appropriate .action will be taken to clear up the matter: It is satisfactory to know that the Government has launched- investigations which have resulted,, it would appear, in the disclosure at this stage of unsatisfactory service so far as certain officers are concerned. The .honorable- member for Wentworth said that he had been, informed about this matter. . I assume that he has been informed by the Prices Commissioner, though he did say so, that, it is not desired that publicity be given to the matter, at this, juncture. Is that so?
– Never mind by whom the information was given !
– I can only say that by revealing these allegations, the honorable member for Wentworth has possibly prejudiced the success of any action which might be taken, if there is any foundation for suspicion.
– Do not be a little poseur.
– I am making an honest statement of the facts as I see them. It will indeed be something new when the honorable-‘ member for New England (Mr. Abbott) speaks as’ he thinks and believes. The- honorable gentleman is always, casting innuendoes at some people. He is not worth a moment’s consideration. He isjust a big “ blob “:
– Order !
– I should not allow myself to be led off the track in this way by the interjections of the honorable member forNew England. I am merely endeavouring to answer satisfactorily a statement that has been made by the honorable member for Wentworth! A report on the subject will be asked for, and I have no doubt that itwill be submitted. If it reveals the slightest grounds for action, as suggested by the honorable member for Wentworth, suitable action will be taken by the Government. At this juncture, however,I am not prepared to make allegations or to indict anybody, not even thefour men concerned, on the information given to him.
– I do want the Minister to do that. All I say is that the information could be obtained by appointing a committee to inquire into the matter.
.- Members of this Parliament, who have come here from Victoria, had hoped that the Government would be able to-day to say publicly something about the measures that it proposed to take in order to deal with the extraordinary emergency -the industrial dislocation - which is developing in that State. I say nothing about the merits of the disputes that have already developed there. I merely refer to what are the indisputable facts existing in Victoria, and, in particular, in the metropolitanarea of Melbourne at the present time. Power utilities have been restricted ; transport has been interfered with.; the community life of the people of Melbourne has been completely disorganized ; and, to add to the general confusion and chaos in Victoria, a dispute between the proprietors and employees of the newspapers an that State has resulted in failure to give to the people a complete picture of what isoccurring. When I sought to ascertain to-day the more recent developments,Ifound in the Parliamentary Library only one newspaper from Victoria, anabbrievated edition of the Argus . Last night’s Melbourne Herald and thismorning’ss Sun and Age have not reached us. It appears that the newspapers in Victoria are being produced under emergency conditions. At question time to-day I asked the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) whether the Government had considered issuing a proclamation through theGovernorGeneral under the terms of section 30j of the Crimes Act. The AttorneyGeneral, in asking me to put the question on the notice-paper, suggested that so far, the Government had not given consideration to this method of dealing with the extraordinary emergency which has developed in Victoria. Since then, I have had an opportunity to read this morning’s Argus, which contains a statement by the chief citizen, the Lord Mayor, Councillor Connelly. This is one of the strongest statements that I have ever seen in print from a public man. I propose to read it in order to indicate the degree of the drift which has occurred in that State and which has led to the extraordinary announcement by the Lord Mayor. The statement which appears under the heading “ Communist Agitators”, reads -
Condemning the fomenters of the present industrial chaos, Councillor Connelly said that when men refused to listen to their elected leaders - such as Mr. Cain, Premier, and members of his Cabinet - and took the law into their ownhands -to disrupt the community life of “this city it was time for a showdown. “IfI had the power I would call for volunteers to set the wheels of industry going , he continued. “Like a lot of other people Iam heartily sick of the fact that Communist agitators, through brute force at meetings, are intimidating decent unionists - the fault being that there is no secret ballotand we are all the sufferers. “ If democracy allows this sort of thing to go on, then I think the people will have to take the matter into their own hands. “ Australia to-day is a paradise in comparison with anyother country in the world, yet we are allowing our imports to rise instead of exporting our goods to help people less fortunate than ourselves.”
The final paragraph of the Lord Mayor’s statement is the strongest of all. He said -
I will issue a final warning: Unless these agitators are prepared tolisten to their parliamentary leaders, I cannot hold back the variouspeoplewho are coming to me wanting me toorganize protest meetings and to organize -voluntary labour to take over.
The fight is on; let us have a show-down - the sooner the better.
Members of the Parliament may describe Councillor Connelly as they like; to me, he represents, for the time being, the chief citizen of our City of Melbourne. He was speaking in his capacity as Lord Mayor of that city. I have to assume that when a man makes inflammatory statements of that kind, he must be taken as doing so with a full sense of the responsibilities of his office. I ask, I think properly, what does the Government propose to do in an emergency such as this? To-day, we were told that the matter is being left to the court; but what can the court do with the powers that the Government has left to it? As I understand, the present position, the maximum power in the hands of the court is to impose a penalty of £100 on an organization, and a fine of £20 on an individual, and, when matters are brought before the court, to order the deregistration of some particular organization. Those are not the sort of emergency powers called for in a situation such as this. The only power on our statute-book of which I am aware is that contained in section 30,t of the Crimes Act, which clearly contemplates the kind of situation that gets beyond the control of the court, and brings about a state of anarchy in the community. The section refers to serious industrial disturbances involving interferences with transport and our trade and commerce with other countries, and provides that in so grave a situation, the Governor-General may issue a proclamation, and that during the period that such proclamation remains in force, prosecutions may be made and sentences of imprisonment may be passed for the given period. As far as I am aware, that is the only course which our statutes provide at the present time. There are other methods which a government may adopt to deal with the situation. It may bring in the necessary legislation to give the court power to deal with these matters. The present Government, however, makes no move in that direction. When public men in positions of authority, such as the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, say that it is time for the people to take these matters into their own hands, that the fight is on and that we should have a show-down, such statements must be given due weight. I do not’ necessarily approve of them. I do not know how grave a situation is that calls for a statement of that kind, but I say that when one finds a man in his position giving expression to such remarks, no government that hopes to preserve law and order in this country can ignore them. It must act in some way or other to remove the causes of dislocation which are disturbing the community life of this country.
.- I support what has been said by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) in regard to this matter. The supply of meat to Melbourne is in jeopardy, as is the supply of superphosphate to the farming community of Victoria and the Riverina. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said today that the farmers of Victoria had been remiss in that they had not ordered superphosphate immediately the railways were relieved of the burden of wheat transport.
– No, before that. .
– The Minister said that the farmers had been remiss in not ordering it; but there was no possibility of having superphosphate sent out at any time from the start of harvesting until the end of January. I ordered a truck of fertilizer on the 20th January. At least twenty other people ordered full trucks, but have not received any. It is time that the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Cain, or the Commonwealth Government took steps to permit road transport to carry stock to the Melbourne market and fertilizer and other farming requirements to the country areas. Also, as the railways are a public utility, the Commonwealth Government or the State Government should subsidize that -road transport so that the farmers will not be penalized by having to pay higher rates for fertilizers and other requirements. It is the responsibility of whatever government is in power to ensure that citizens shall be permitted to make a living. The world is hungry for wheat. If this strike continues for a month, as it may well do, it will have a serious effect upon the wheat crop for the coming season. That crop should be sown now. Australia wants the export market, and our kinsmen overseas want wheat; yet this Government does nothing. The Government of Victoria also is spineless. It has not the courage to stand up to “ Walkie-talkie “ Brown, and Flanagan who are the real rulers of Victoria to-day, just as certain other individuals are the real government of Australia. It is a disgrace that a dozen men whose political ideology is that of a foreign country should be permitted to wield this power, [f they were in that country they would not last five minutes. They would be dealt with as they should he dealt with here. No one can foresee the end of the present disturbance in Victoria. The individuals to whom I have referred are determined to seize the reins of government. Even if we were to agree to everything they ask to-day, they would have a new set of demands to-morrow, and the trouble would continue. They know that they can only survive by causing industrial trouble. They crave limelight and power and are prepared to go to any length to get them. The citizens of this country are calling upon the Government of Victoria and this Government to act in this matter and to ensure that transport shall be available to carry foodstuffs to the city and essential requirements to country areas. There cannot be any valid excuse for failure to do this.
.- 1 support the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) with regard to the disgraceful state of affairs that exists in Victoria to-day. I wish to deal with two points to which the honorable member did not refer. The first concerns the remarks of the Lord Mayor of Melbourne with regard to the loading of Orion at the Port of Melbourne. Incidentally, I might mention that there are no Melbourne evening papers in the Parliamentary Library to-night. Either they have been delayed because of the transport breakdown, or they have not been published owing to the state of affairs existing in Victoria, at present. However, an article in to-day’s Argus states -
From 0.45 a.m. yesterday people began telephoning Councillor Connelly, Lord Mayor,’ literally in hundreds to express their “ disgust” at the delay in loading the “Food for Britain “ ship Orton. There was no loading yesterday as watersiders stopped work for 24 hours to discuss their attitude to the Metal Trades strike.
The waterside workers can stop work for 24 hours and delay the loading of thaivessel which possibly may have to proceed on its voyage with partly filled holds, but the hunger bug in the stomachs of the people of Great, Britain will not cease for 24 hours. It is at work all the time. To-day, the people of Britain are literally starving; yet this Government, which the honorable member for Fawkner has shown to possess power to intervene in this strike, sits idly by. Will any honorable member opposite suggest that Councillor Connelly, Lord Mayor of Melbourne, is not a responsible person, or should not be allowed to make such comments? In the same issue of the Argus appears a report of the following statement by Sir Edmund Herring, a most distinguished soldier of World War II. and Chief Justice and LieutenantGovernor of the State of Victoria : - lt is altogether wrong that warring factions should be able to hold the community to ransom and that such conditions should exist in 1947.
Section 30,t of the Crimes Act states - (1.) If at any time the Governor-General is of opinion’ that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, he may make a Proclamation to that effect, which Proclamation shall be and remain in operation for the purposes of this section until it is revoked. (2.) Any person who, during the operation of such Proclamation, takes part in or continues, or incites to, urges, aids or encourages the taking part in, or continuance of, a lockout or strike - (a.) in relation to employment in or in connexion with the transport of goods or the conveyance of passengers in trade or commerce with other countries or among the. States; or
I want- to know whether the GovernorGeneral has drawn the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr., Chifley) to the serious industrial disturbances in Aus*tralia. The Governor-General is no., novice-
– Order!! The name, of the GovernorGeneral’ must not, b.e. imported into, debates, in this House.
– The name of theGovernorGeneral is not being; imported? into, a debate:
– Order ! The- honorable member is deliberately trying to evade my ruling. I hope1 he does not attempt to frustrate the ruling of the Chair:
– May I then refer to. the Crimes Act?
– The Crimes Act says -
If at. any time the Governor-General is of opinion that there exists in Australia a serious industrial’ disturbance ….
I want to know whether the Governor-
General and. Prime. Minister have: dia. cussed the serious industrial disturbances: in Australia. There cannot be any doubt that as we- now have an Australian Governor-General. who has not been unaware of the political life-
– Order ! I have clearly ruled, that the name, of the. King or his- representative may not be used. in. order to influence this House.
– I shall not bring the Governor-General’s name in any further ; but the Crimes Act says - ‘
If at any time the Governor-General is of opinion that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance ….
I want to know whether- the Prime Minister has consulted the Governor-General as to whether, in his. opinion, there is a serious industrial- disturbance in Australia. If he has not, will he tomorrow morning take up with the GovernorGeneral the desirablity of giving effect to that section of the Crimes Act by issuing a proclamation in order that the chaos and anarchy in Victoria may be brought to an end as- soon as possible ? I recollect that when- the meat industry of Queensland was tied up* the- Premier of Queensland took certain action. Reference was made im this House to that hold-up. .Copying Pontius Pilate, the
Government, washed- its hands- of the disturbance. The right honorable member for North Sydney (.Mr. Hughes) was: asked from the other, ‘side what he would do, and he answered-,. “I would stand behind Hanlon, and see that. the. law of this, country was. carried, out,”., The Prime .-Minister and his. Ministry shouldinvoke the law of this. country and invitethe Governor-General. to; take, action, under, the Grimes- Act to end the anarchy in Victoria.
,. - From one end of Australia to- the other production is being- held up because of industrial’ dislocation, principally.- in Victoria. I do not intend to: deal. with the subject at length because- previous speakers have already directed attention, to. it, but it must, be recognized by the Government and every one concerned that the Victorian hold-up is. not designed to ensure better industrial conditions for the workers. It is well known to every one that, if the- requests now being madewere conceded there- would- be a- freshset, to-morrow. This is a challenge toconstituted authority in Australia. Is the Government going to- accept, the challenge.? The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) was asked a question, to-day by the. honorable member- for Fawkner (MrHolt). His attention was directed to a- certain remedy that the. Government may be prepared, to. use. The. Attorney-General,, one. of our most, distinguished jurists,, asked that thequestion be placed on. the notice-paper in. order that its legal and. constitutional implications might be.- examined. I. make no reflection on the Attorney-General when I say that to ask that a question be placed on the notice-paper is a device frequently used to prevent debate thereafter on. tha matter with, which the. question is concerned. I hope that: the honorable member for Fawkner will not. place his question on the notice-paper and that the Attorney-General, who has had ample notice, will make a statement to-morrow on the Government’s intentions. The authority of the Government of the Commonwealth is challenged. That challenge places responsibility on every member of.’ this House. With one. or two exceptions, not on, this side, every. honorable< member, and, I believe, public opinion in Victoria and most of Australia would be behind the Government in any action taken by it to maintain constitutional authority. The time has arrived when the Government has to meet the challenge. If it does not meet it to-day, to-morrow or next week, it will have to meet it eventually. The time to meet it is ripe. The whole law-abiding section of the Australian community is prepared to stand behind the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister if the Government takes action.
.- What has. been said about the industrial chaos in Victoria has not been exaggerated. The position is worse than at any time in the last 50 -years. One aspect that has escaped attention is that the hold-up of Orion, the first passenger liner to come here since the end of the war, means a delay of the efforts of the Australian Red Cross- Society to relieve the distress of Great Britain. I in no contentious way appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to take action. I know that the right honorable gentler man is greatly worried; but I agree with the honorable member for Richmond (Mr: Anthony) that the people of Australia would be solidly behind him in any action that he took. The waterside workers have co-operated fairly well in the last two days. The Prime Minister should ask them to continue their good work and take all action necessary to deal with the disturbers that are causing the hold up. I know that the Government is co-operating with the Australian Red Cross Society in its laudable work because of the reply that I received last week to a question about it, but the delay of aid to Great Britain is implicit in the Victorian disturbance, and that is another reason why the Prime Minister and his Ministers should take action.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Deter- minations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 -
No.15-Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union.
No. 16 - Meat Inspectors’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 17 - Australian Federated Union of LocomotiveEnginemen.
Coal Industry Act - Regulations: - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 44.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - N. R. L. Blackmore, W. W. I. Burgan. W. A. L. Burrell, F..C. G. Coughlin, W. R. Dean, P. F. Ellis, W. G. Faithfull, W. J. M. Faithfull. N. W. H; Hill, C. S. Holroyd. D. F. Leigh, M. M. McDonald, R. G. McLean, G. P. McLennan, J. J. Murphy, W. Revell. S. J. Scarborough.. F. W: Smith, N. W. Walmsley, A. E. White.
Interior -E. Weston.
Labour and National Service - R.J.
Alexander, L. F. J. Edmonds, M. Kangan, J. McCreadie, R. J. Tilby.
Supply and Shipping- J. F. Ivanac.
Trade and Customs - T. C. Jenkins,
Works and Housing - E. H. McCandless. C. D. Osborne, W. M. Telford.
Control of Naval Waters Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1947, No. 45.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Minerals) Regulations - Order - Lead.
National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations - Orders - 1947, Nos. 6, 7, 9.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 41. Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes - Wynyard, Tasmania.
Postal purposes -
Carramar, New South Wales.
Forest Hill. Queensland.
Scarborough, Western Australia.
Wantirna South, Victoria.
Life Insurance Act - First Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner, for the period ended 31st December, 1946.
House adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Electricity. System of Western Australia.
Mr. C. H. Campbell.
Mr.fadden asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Was Mr. C. H. Campbell appointed temporary trade commissioner for the Republic of Indonesia in Australia, by Sutan Sjahrir, on 14th December, 1946?
Was the appointment notified to the Australian Government?
Is ‘the appointment recognized by the Australian Government?
Is Mr. Campbell at present in Australia ?
What is the nature of the duties (if any) which he has carried out in Australia since 14th December, 1946?
What association (if any) has Mr. Campbell with the Communist party?
asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon not ice -
What does he mean by the term “ unmanufactured butter”?
asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
s asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The terms of the Atomic Energy Commission cover the control of any such weapons, as that Commission was set up to consider the control of the war-like use of atomic energy and “ other major weapons of destruction “.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen.
Mr. -Francis asked the Minister for Pos’t-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
Since the cessation of hostilities, how many ex-servicemen have been settled on the land and placed in occupancy on their holdings in each State under the Commonwealth’s scheme for rehabilitation?
n. - The answers to the honorable ‘member’s questions are as follows : -
It is a misnomer to speak of the “ Commonwealth’s scheme for rehabilitation “. Long discussions took place between the States and the Commonwealth before it was found possible to reach agreement on .the respective responsibilities .of the Commonwealth and of the States as embodied in the .Commonwealth-State War Service Land Settlement Agreement. Under the scheme the numbers settled on the land to April, 194.7, are -
The numbers for each State of loans approved under the Commonwealth £1,000 -loan scheme and the amounts involved to 28th February, 1947, are -
As far as I know all these ex-servicemen are now in occupation of their holdings. ‘Nine hundred and seventy-eight of the loans have been granted to ex-servicemen for the purpose of financing part of the cost of purchase of farms acquired since discharge.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice^-
– ‘The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– -The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) 1,015 at 30th September, 1945; (6) £572,019, salaries and allowances to 30th September, 1945; (o) £187,890, general expenditure ‘to 30th September, 1945. 2. (a) 517 at 31st January, 1947; (6) £833,400, salaries and allowances to 31st January, 1947; (o) £256,592, general expenditure to 31st January, 1947.
Government Accounts : Temporary Advance from Loan Fund; Trust Fond Balances.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The honorable member is invited to read the whole of the summary in Hansard, page 1609 of the two bills for stabilizing the wheat industry. Particular attention is drawn to the concluding sentence in clause 8 which explains that - “ The Government underwrites the scheme to the extent of guaranteeing that whatever be the rise or fall of the market over five years, the farmer will get a return of not less than 5s. 2d. a bushel f . o.r. bagged at ports “.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. Provision is made in the current Estimates for an amount of £20,000 to cover losses incurred by States in carrying out rental projects under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements Act 1945, but no payments have yet been made on this account. The so-called losses, for which provision has been made, will arise because of the policy of providing houses of a reasonable and decent standard, at a rent the tenant can afford. Where the tenant’s income is so low that he cannot afford to pay the full (or economic) rent, based on the cost of the dwelling, the deficiency in the rent is shared by the Commonwealth, and the State concerned, in the proportions of three-fifths and two-fifths respectively. The Commonwealth’s share of any “ losses “ which arise will be charged to the National Welfare Fund, in accordance with section 4 of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements Act 1945, and section 0 of the National Welfare Fund Act 1943-45. These amounts are not losses in the ordinary sense of the word, but clearly represent social service expenditure designed to help lower income families. The specific welfare or social service involved in the implementation of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements is (as stated by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in his second-reading speech on 13th September, 1945), the provision of means whereby a full-scale attack may be made on one of our worst social evils, namely, the bad housing of the Australian people.
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– As this matter falls within the immediate responsibility of the Ministers for the Navy, Army and Air, I have brought the honorable mem ber’s question to the notice of those Ministers with a view to their furnishing him with a reply so far as their respective services are concerned.
British Government : Proposed
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
Motor Vehicles: Purchases by Disabled ex-Servicemen.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Government is now considering a number of questions relating to Australia’s interests and responsibility in the Antarctic, including the matters referred to by the honorable member. An executive committee of the Commonwealth departments concerned has begun the work of organizing an Australian expedition to the Antarctic later this year. It is felt, however, that a genera] conference on the lines envisaged by the honorable member might be premature at present. Meanwhile the Government is in close touch with certain other governments interested in the Antarctic.
d. - On the 20th March the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked a question as to whether the Government has given consideration recently to the necessity for the continuance of sugar rationing, and also as to whether the rationing of other commodities will soon be lifted. The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
The Government considers that sugar rationing is still necessary but will reconsider the question when reliable estimates of the new season’s crop are available. Regarding other rationed commodities, there is no indication that the control may soon be lifted but, as in the case of sugar, the matter is continually under review by the Government.
House of Representatives.
Thursday, lt April 1947
Mr.. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 pan., and read prayers.
R. - I desire to inform the House that the Bight Honorable Lord Killearn, G.O.M.G., CB., M.B.O., a member of the House of Lords, is within the precincts of the chamber. “With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Lord Killearn thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
E. - I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service, who represents in this, chamber the Minister for Health and Social Services, whether all the States are entitled to receive financial aid from the Commonwealth under the Tuberculosis Act 1945. If so, are all the States taking advantage of the provisions of tha act? What is the total amount that has been allocated to the States, and what is1 the basis of the allocation? In what way can the money Be expended by the States when they have received it from the Commonwealth?
Mr. HOLLOWAY.- -All the States are entitled to receive financial aid from the Commonwealth under the provisions of the Tuberculosis Act 1945. “Five of the six States have taken advantage of those provisions, the sole exception being Queensland. An amount of £50,000 per annum is allotted to the States for the purpose of providing new diagnostic facilities and the maintenance of existing facilities. A further £50,000 is allotted each year to the States for the maintenance of after-care facilities; and an amount of £250,000 has been allotted for the first year for the purpose of giving direct relief to sufferers from tuberculosis. The money is paid direct to either the sufferers or their dependants, the aim being to encourage sufferers’ to leave their employment when they are not fit to work on account of their condition, in order that they may undergo treatment, and to ensure that their dependants will not ‘be in. want while they are undergoing treatment, thus avoiding, as far as possible, the spread of the disease.
N. - I have received an urgent telegram, which reads -
Welcome inquiry. Any information required? - L. R. Horsey.
As that appears to be the name of a man against whom I made certain allegations in the House yesterday, and as he appears to be desirous of a full inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his dismissal from the Prices Branch, will the Prime Minister give the assurance that such an inquiry will he held, with the object of at least giving to him an opportunity to clear his name?
Mr. CHIFLEY.- It would appear that the honorable member for Wentworth first sets up something and then asks me to assist him to knock it down. The Minister in charge of the department is having a full investigation made of the cases referred to by the honorable member on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night, and also of the allegations contained in questions which he submitted to the Minister yesterday. When those investigations have been completed I shall supply an answer to his questions.
S. - I understand that the’ Prices Commissioner has agreed to an increase of the price of new cornsacks, but that no increase has been approved in respect of second-hand sacks, with, the result that merchants have large quantities of second-hand bags on hand and will not release them to farmers. As in most wheat-growing districts larger areas are being sown than were sown last year, and as a good harvest is expected, the farmers are anxious to obtain hags for their wheat. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping take this matter up with the Prices Commissioner with a view to avoiding confusion in the wheat-growing industry?
Mr. POLLARD. - So far as I am aware, no announcement of any increase of the price of cornsacks has been made by the Prices Commissioner. It is true, however, that he has announced that the price of chaff hags has been increased from 15s. 6d. to 25s. 7d. a dozen. A similar course of action has not yet been taken with respect to cornsacks, although the matter may be under consideration.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s appeal to the public to assist the food position in Britain by the surrender of coupons, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to a reduction of the postage rates on food parcels! I understand that a parcel of books weighing 4 lb. can. be sent to Britain for ls. 6d. whereas a food parcel weighing 3 lb. costs ls. lid. I am informed Dy persons in the shipping industry that the postage rate on foodparcels is equivalent to £60 a ton.
Mr. CHIFLEY.- This subject has been referred to on a number of occasions. I am not familiar with the details, but I understand that the postage rates on food parcels sent to Britain have been decided by’ the British authorities themselves. However, I shall ascertain the exact position and let the Tight honorable gentleman know.
N- Last November I referred to the inability of working men to obtain bicycle tyres and tubes to enable them to travel to their -work. At that time, the Minister informed me that he would take the matter up with the firms concerned in an effort to have supplies made available in those districts where men depended upon bicycles for transport to and from their work. Since then I have received further correspondence on the matter from the secretary of one of the big unions in Adelaide who had asked the Premier of that State to make other transport available for men who could not get bicycle tyres. Will the Minister again look into this matter with a view to ensuring that tyres and tubes are made available to working men to whom they are a necessity?
Mr. DEDMAN.- The honorable member is evidently aware that the Commonwealth Government has relinquished all control over the rubber industry. It is true that, as a result of representations made by him and by other honorable members late last year, the Minister for Supply and Shipping tried to persuade the manufacturers of rubber goods to make available more bicycle tyres and tubes for replacement purposes. I shall ask the Minister to renew -his representations to the manufacturers.
N. - Does the Minister for Labour and National Service know that at the beginning of this month the executive of the Australian Workers Union instructed shearers to work no more than 40 hours a week? As this is contrary to industrial law, except in Queensland, what action does the Minister intend to take in regard to the matter, and what advice has he to tender to farmers and graziers ?
Mr. HOLLOWAY. - I have not read any report in the press to the effect that the Australian Workers Union has instructed shearers not to work more than 40 -hours a week, hut I should not be surprised if it had done so. Quite recently, one of the judges of the Arbitration Court agreed to give the members of the Australian Workers Union a 40-boiur week. It is not against the law for ono industry, or for a particular industrial group, to enjoy a 40- hour week. Already the Australian Workers Union has been awarded a 40- hour week by the court for certain industries.
Y. - Shearing is contract work, paid for on a piece-work basis in accordance with agreements entered into between the shearers and the pastoralists. I do not know whether it would constitute a breach of the law for one party to such an agreement to insist upon working only 40 hours a week, but I shall inquire into the matter.
Dismissal ov Officials.
– For shearers ?
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 April 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470416_reps_18_191/>.