18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at. its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Dispute in Launceston.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether any progress has been made in the negotiations which have been proceeding in an endeavour to settle the dispute in which members of the Wool and Basil Workers Union are involved in Launceston?
– I am happy to be able to inform the honorable member that after a conference last night a settlement was reached in that dispute and that work has been resumed to-day on terms which were previously suggested by the Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Kelly.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Franklin asked me whether I had any information about the likelihood of an early settlement of the waterside dispute at Hobart. The waterside workers held a meeting yester- day, and wo thought that the dispute had been settled, but when the men turned up at the wharfs this morning further discussions occurred with the ship-owners and work has not yet been started.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral the following question: - In view of the notice given yesterday of the Government’s intention to bring down national emergency legislation to freeze the funds of unions registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and in view of its failure to pass that legislation through all stages concurrently with the announcement, what is to prevent those unions from withdrawing funds from the bank to-day before the bill becomes law?
– It is extraordinary that the honorable member should make such a suggestion without having waited to see what is in thebill. I hope that he will contain his soul in patience until the bill comes before the House, although I know that that will place a great strain upon him.
– Can the Minister for the Interior do anything to fulfil the hope publicly expressed by the chairman of the State Coal Committee, in South Australia, Mr. Percy Bice, that the capacity of the Commonwealth railways to convey coal from Leigh Creek to Adelaide be immediately increased.
– I have not received a report from the commissioner during the last few days, but I assure the honorable member that the Commonwealth railways will be used to their full capacity in conveying coal from Leigh Creek to Adelaide.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen the cabled report that unless prompt action is taken by the 32 importing countries that have yet to ratify the International Wheat Agreement before the 1st July the agreement may lapse? Is it true that Britain has not yet ratified the agreement? What is the latest information that the Government has about the agreement?
– I have not seen the cabled report referred to by the honorable member. I am not ‘aware at the moment of the countries that have ratified the agreement, but I know that a number will do so. Ratification of the agreement is not due until the 1st July. The number of countries that will ratify the agreement will be sufficient- to make it workable.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health what information the Government has of the existence in Australia of the stemgonya fasciata mosquito, which is known to carry yellow fever. In view of the statements that have been made by Dr. Paul Mitchell, senior Commonwealth health officer in Queensland, that this mosquito can be found in territory extending from Newcastle, New South Wales, to the Northern Territory, will the Minister say whether any cases of yellow fever have been reported to the Government? How many cases have been reported to the Government during the last three years? What preventive measures are being taken against yellow fever outbreaks?
– I appreciate the seriousness of this matter. I shall ask the Minister for Health to-day what he knows about the subject and will obtain for the honorable member all the information that is available.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to this morning’s press reports to the effect that all dominion governments have accepted an invitation from the United Kingdom to send finance ministers to London to discuss the serious fall of gold and dollar reserves.
– I rise to order. The honorable member is reading from a newspaper and the Standing Orders provide that honorable members must not - do so when asking questions.
– Honorable members must ask their own questions. They are not entitled to read matter from newspapers when asking questions.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the finance ministers of all dominion governments are to attend a meeting called by the United Kingdom Government for the purpose of discussing the alarming fall of gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area. Is it a- fact that the Prime Minister does not intend to attend the conference and that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction will represent Australia instead? In any case, will this Parliament be given an opportunity to discuss the measures that should be taken to rectify the alarming depletion of Empire gold and dollar reserves before Australia’s representative leaves to attend the conference?
– The most that I can say about the matter this morning is that there have been discussions between the United Kingdom Government and other Empire governments regarding the decline of dollar earnings in sterling areas, which I have mentioned indirectly on previous occasions in answer to questions. Some time ago I indicated that our prospects of bridging the dollar gap are not so good as they were six months ago. I do not think that I ought to engage in alarmist statements about the matter at this stage. I can only say that there have been discussions about this subject. As Prime Minister and Treasurer,’ I have been kept informed of the position. The real trouble lies in the decline of dollar earnings. I might be able to give the honorable member a clearer answer to-morrow although no decision has been made at the moment regarding a visit to the United’ Kingdom by either the Minister for- r .Post-war Reconstruction or myself. How- ever, if there is a conference, this Government will be represented by a Minister. The honorable gentleman has asked ; .whether the Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss all the various aspects of economic affairs as they affect not only the British Commonwealth hut also the sterling area and western Europe. I am afraid that it would not bc possible to place all the details associated with that matter before the Parliament at any time because it is largely one that must be finally determined by the United Kingdom Government. Although T am always willing to discuss subjects in detail it must be realized that this is a very complex matter, all the implications of which it would be very difficult to convey to the general public or even to members of this House who have not been, as I have, in close touch with the numerous details associated with it. I can therefore make no promise that a full statement will be made to the House. I should like to be able to give the honorable member ;i clearer answer and, as I have said, I may possibly be able to do so to-morrow.
– Will an opportunity also be given for discussion?
– Such an opportunity will be given, if there is anything that can usefully be discussed. I should not be at liberty to discuss anything tha was purely a confidential matter between this Government and the British Government, but similar matters may, in some of their aspects, be referred to in a debate on external affairs during which I could try to make some explanation of them.
– Has the Treasurer any information concerning the press reports that have been cabled from Paris that France, which has been on the gold standard for some time, now has a glut of dollars and does not know exactly what to do with them?
– I think that the reports referred to by the honorable member, are, to say the least, a gross exaggeration of the position in France. So far from having an over-supply of American or English currency, France is ‘receiving sterling assistance from the United Kingdom and dollar assistance from the United States of America under the European recovery programme. I believe the cabled report to be entirely without foundation, but I shall make inquiries to ascertain the basis for the report.
– In view of the information now coming to hand about England’s financial position in relation to dollars, will the Treasurer say whether it will be necessary for the Government to give further consideration to the importation of oil from overseas, particularly in view of the increased fuel consumption that will be caused by the present coal crisis? Will the present heavy consumption have any effect on the future use of petrol and other oil products in Australia?
– I tried, in a paper that I circulated to honorable members last week, to survey the oil position generally and its effect upon dollar reserves, since dollars must be paid for a large proportion of our oil imports. I am speaking largely of refined petrol. It would take me too long to cover in an answer to a question all the ground connected with this matter. Regarding the present fuel consumption I can only say that the Government has endeavoured in conjunction with the oil companies, to obtain reasonably adequate stocks of both petrol and aviation fuel. Legislation will be necessary to effect that result and a bill will be introduced in another place either to-day or to-morrow that will give the Government power to conserve a proportion of petrol stocks for defence or other emergencies. We propose to take the power to see that a certain amount of aviation spirit and petrol are maintained in reserve. We shall take that course under the defence power of the Commonwealth. I cannot say any more about that subject at the moment except that the effect, on transport, of the coal strike i» worse in New South Wales than in any other State. The Commonwealth is prepared to join with all the States in trying to provide as much fuel oil as possible. The Minister for the Navy has made arrangements with his department to make provision for the release of certain stocks of fuel oil held by the Navy in Sydney. The Minister for Trade and Customs is also taking action to arrange for the importation of additional stocks of fuel oil. These, of course, have still to be obtained. The position is being watched closely by the respective Governments.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform the House whether it is a fact that two high-ranking serving Army officers stationed in Japan, acting in conjunction with an engineer of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, who visited Japan recently, have formed a company in Japan called the Empire Trading Company, with the main object of purchasing electrical equipment and insulators for Government and semiGovernment departments in Australia? If this is correct will the Minister take steps to prevent military personnel who have no overhead expenses from competing with private enterprise?
– I have no knowledge of the matter mentioned by the honorable member. Army officers desiring to go to Japan must make application through my department to do so. I- know of no other Army officers who have gone to Japan. However, I shall make inquiries about the matter and inform the honorable member of the result as soon as possible.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House whether the Australian Government requested Mr. C. E. Martin, Attorney-General of New South Wales, to file a nolle prosequi in the case of Edward Farrell, who had been committed for trial for conspiracy in connexion with the New Guinea timber lease case? If so, what ‘reasons did the Commonwealth have for making such a request? If, however, the New South Wales Attorney-General acted on his own initiative, did he inform the Commonwealth Attorney-General why such action was taken? If not, and in view pf the strictures contained in Mr. Justice Ligertwood’s report that has been tabled, will steps be taken to obtain that information ?
– The Prime Minister has asked me to look at the report covering the activities of Edward Farrell, and I shall furnish an answer in the House to the matters that have been raised by the honorable member as soon as possible, but this week at the latest.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether an investigation has been made with relation to the suggested building of a railway line and the construction of main roads to and through the Channel country in west Queensland, and whether any co-ordinated action with the Queensland Government is planned? Is this connected with the proposal to increase the supply of beef from the central west of Queensland and from the Northern Territory for export to Great Britain?
– I discussed this matter with Mr. Strachey, the British Minister for Food, and with Sir Stafford Cripps, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer during my visit to England when the general subject of an extension of Australian meat production, and a meat contract with the United Kingdom was being considered. Prior to my leaving Australia, Mr. Hanlon, the Premier of Queensland, asked me to keep in mind the development of the Channel country in Queensland. In all of the discussions that I have had I have kept in mind the possibility of the development of the portions of Queensland adjacent to the Northern Territory. We have set a time by which it is hoped that all of the investigations with relation to the possibilities of development of the meat industry over a period of years will be completed. A special departmental committee. Working tinder a Cabinet sub-committee, has been entrusted with the work of collecting all details with relation to the Channel country. The special committee will work in conjunction with officers of the Queensland Government. We have not yet received the final report, so that I cannot say what form of transport will be adopted. Some authorities favour railways and others favour roads. The physical features of the country would make it difficult to build railways, and the sub-committee of Cabinet believes that it may be necessary to concentrate largely on the construction of roads. The matter will be affected by the availability of earth-moving machinery. I understand from the Minister for Post-warReconstruction that a general agreement has been reached with the officers representing the Queensland Government, but the details of the agreement have not yet come before the subcommittee of Cabinet. 1 assure the honorable member that the development of the Channel country is being kept in mind in conjunction with the general plan for increasing the production of beef.
– I understand that a survey was made recently by health experts in an endeavour to discover the factors in the diet of the natives of Manus Island that accounted for their superior physique. Can the Minister for External Territories say whether the survey was successful in discovering those factors, and if so, is it proposed to apply the knowledge obtained to improving the diet of other natives in adjacent areas?
– I have not seen the report of the experts who made the survey, but I shall supply the honorable member with the information at an early date.
Properties fob ex-Servicemen -
Production Capacity of Farms
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say whether it is a fact that very few farms have been made available to ex-servicemen in the dairying districts of the North Coast of New South Wales under the single farm settlement scheme because the Commonwealth has imposed a condition that farm units, to be acceptable under the scheme, must be capable of producing 12,000 lb. of butter per annum? Is it true that the Lands Department of New South Wales, and the Minister for Lands in that State, have frequently approved of farms as suitable for settlement, but that the propositions have been rejected by the Commonwealth authorities? Have various organizations of ex-servicemen asked that the stipulated quantity of butter be reduced from 12,000 lb. to 8,500 lb.? In view of the desirability of settling ex-servicemen on the land, has the Minister considered those representations ?
– I am not able to isolate what are called promotion schemes on single unit farms from the total number of schemes approved. Over 2,000 ex-servicemen have been allotted holdings under the land settlement scheme. It is true that there has been some criticism from certain quarters of the conditions imposed regarding the size of farm units. It is true that a dairy farm to be acceptable under the scheme must be capable of producing 12,000 lb. of commercial butter annually. Whilst some persons may regard that standard as being too high, it has the complete approval of all authorities connected with the dairying industry.
– That is not so.
– The standard was based on the recommendation of the advisory committee which was appointed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to report on production costs in the dairying industry generally. Several dairy farms in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales have been submitted as single unit propositions. Some time ago I took the opportunity to visit that district in order to make a personal inspection of some of the propositions that had been submitted to me. I say frankly that it would be an absolute disgrace to settle ex-servicemen on some of those farms.
– If ex-servicemen were placed on them they would indeed be “ settled “.
– That is so. The standard of farm size prescribed by the Government has the approval of exservicemen’s organizations generally. It is true that some branches of the returned servicemen’s league, particularly in New South Wales have written to me complaining that the prescribed standard is too high.In general, however, that standard has been accepted by every State throughout the Commonwealth. It has the support of ex-servicemen’s organizations in every State and at the federal level. Only last week I spoke to the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia about this matter-
– Is he a dairy-farmer?
– No ; but he knows the attitude of the federal executive of his organization on this matter. He completely supports the attitude of the Government in fixing the standard at its present level.
– Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction able to inform me of the number of farms in Australia which are producing over 12,000 lb. of butter a year, and the number of farms which are producing over 10,500 lb. a year? If he has not that information to hand will he make available a return setting it out and also indicating in what States the farms are situated?
– Offhand, I cannot supply the information which the right honorable gentleman has sought, but I shall obtain it for him as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer arising out of a directive issued by the Commonwealth Bank to the trading banks restricting advances and overdrafts, which bears on the possible consequences, particularly to small industries and businesses, of a prolonged strike on the coal-fields. Will the right honorable gentleman state whether, under the directive, managers of branches of the private banks will have authority to exercise discretion in making advances available to small businesses and industries which experience difficulties in consequence of the coal strike. If such discretionary authority is not granted at present, will the right honorable gentleman confer with the Commonwealth Bank with a view to modifying the directive in order to meet this emergency?
– As I have stated previously, the granting of advances of up to £1,000 is entirely a matter for the private banks. Applications for such advances do not have to be referred to the Commonwealth Bank for approval. A certain degree of flexibility exists in relation to advances of amounts in excess of £1,000. All that I can say to the honorable member is that the question of modifying the terms of the directive arose in connexion with advances to sufferers from recent flood damage. The Commonwealth Bank has already given to . the private banks discretionary authority to make advances to meet cases of hardship arising from the recent floods in New South Wales. I have not been in touch with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank on that subject yesterday or to-day but I shall bring to the notice of the Governor the point raised by the honorable member and ascertain whether it is possible for similar discretionary authority to be exercised by the private banks in relation to advances to meet difficulties which arise from the coal strike.
– I ask the Minis ter for Commerce and Agriculture whether action has been initiated to prohibit the export of apples and pears from Western Australia, and whether similar action is to be taken in respect of other States ?
– The Government has received requests from the Government of Western Australia with regard to the prohibition of the export of apples from that State. I shall furnish information about the matter to the honorable gentleman as soon as possible.
Trans-Australia Airlines: Subsidy
– I ask the Minister for
Civil Aviation whether it is correct that the Australian Government has decided to increase the mail carriage subsidy paid to Trans-Australia Airlines from £325,000, the amount of the subsidy paid last year, to £400,000 this year ? If so, has the subsidy been increased on the ground that Trans-Australia Airlines is now providing services in Queensland previously provided by Qantas? Is it correct that the payments made to Qantas were based on a pound-mile rate, and did not amount to anything like the £75,000 additional subsidy which, it is reported, will be paid to Trans-Australia Airlines? If the subsidy to Qantas was less than the additional £75,000 which Trans-Australia Airlines is reported to be receiving, what is the reason for this additional expenditure ?
– The subsidy which will be paid to Trans-Australia Airlines this year will amount to £399,300 by an arrangement under which Trans-Australia Airlines will carry all mails that it may be required to carry. For example, it will be obliged to provide such services during the period of the coal strike. It is providing a similar service between Tasmania and the mainland. Under this arrangement TransAustralia Airlines will carry not only firstclass mail but all classes of mail that may be offering, as it did in areas affected by the last widespread floods that occurred in Queensland and in areas affected by the recent floods in New South Wales. Trans-Australia Airlines, under its contract, must meet any emergency that may arise whether the emergency be serious or of a minor nature. The payments previously made to Qantas Empire Airways were based on an arrangement whereby the company operated certain services in Queensland. That principle will he applied to Trans-Australia Airlines which has taken over certain services which could not be run at a profit but are being continued in order to provide air transport services to areas which otherwise would be without such services. If I have not answered the honorable member’s questions fully, I shall be happy to supply any further information that he desires.
– Has the Treasurer seen an article by Mr. V. C. Betts, secretary of the Queensland Taxpayers Association, which was published in the Brisbane Sunday Mail of the 26th June last, in which he claims that because of the present system of taxation, sheepfarmers, graziers and dairy farmers are not in a position to accumulate sufficient reserves to enable them to restock their properties after periods of drought during which they are forced to dispose of as many of their beasts as they can sell? Will the Government amend the existing taxation legislation to ease the tax burden on primary producers in such circumstances and thus enable them to restock without having to face financial hardships.
– I have not seen the article to which the honorable gentleman has referred. During the last seven or eight years, I have received representations on a number of occasions concerning the taxation of graziers in the circumstances indicated by the honorable member.
– And dairy-farmers.
– The matter affects all classes of primary producers. It was considered by the Government’s taxation advisory committee, while the right honorable member for Yarra was chairman of it, and it has also been considered by the committee since the Minister for Health has been chairman. The subject has also been discussed at several conferences which representatives of the graziers have attended. I attended some of the conferences. There is an averaging system by which the rate of tax applicable to the income earned in any year by a primary producer is determined. The operation of that system has been extended by this Government and previous administrations. The primary producers feel that the Government has made very fair concessions to them, although doubtless they want much more than they have in fact received. I do not think that any further discrimination can be shown to primary producers by granting them additional relief from taxation. The primaryproducers’ organizations are aware that We are always prepared to listen to their representations and to consider any matters that are put before us. The primary producers have done remarkably well of late years. It is estimated that they have discharged debts which have amounted to approximately £80,000,000 and have also reduced their overdrafts substantially. If the honorable gentleman has a particular case in mind, I shall he happy to consider it. I shall even read the article to which he has referred if he will supply me with a copy of it.
Reconstruction Training Scheme
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform me of the progress that has been made by the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme in relation to building trades trainees in Tasmania?
– The training of building trades trainees in Tasmania under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme is proceeding satisfactorily. The scheme provides first tor the enrolment and acceptance of applicants for training, because it is impossible to train all the applicants at one time. It then provides for a period of initial training, generally of six months duration, at the end of which the trainees are approximately 40 per cent, efficient. They then undergo a period of subsidized employment in industry, during which the Government pays a part of their wages and the employer pays the remainder. When the trainee is 100 per cent, proficient in his trade, the employer is responsible for the payment of the whole of his wages. The total number of applicants in Tasmania for training in the building trades under the scheme was approximately 6.”)0. Of that number, 100 applicants have completed their initial training period of subsidized employment and are now fully efficient tradesmen. Approximately twenty men are still undergoing their initial training. The remainder of the men, over 500, are now in subsidized employment.
– My question, which relates to the legislation that restricts the payment of allowances to the children of ex-servicemen of World War I. to those who were born before 1938, has arisen because of the ineligibility for pension of a child, aged five years, of an ex-serviceman who was married in 1922. Because of the hardship caused by the present legislation in such instances, will the Primo Minister and Treasurer again review the legislation with a view to makins; more liberal provision for children of marriages of long standing?
– I assume that the honorable member’s question concerns the administration of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and in deference to the wish of the honorable member, I shall have the matter examined by the Minister who administers that legislation.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say what increases of trunk line charges are proposed apart from increased charges for personal calls and the elimination of the concessional rate for calls made at night? There seems to be some doubt about the matter.
– I do not think that there is any doubt in peoples’ minds about the nature of the proposed increases. However, I shall reply to the honorable member’s question when I am replying to the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill later to-day.
Tariff BoARD Report.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject : -
– I have received from the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), 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 disastrous position of the people suffering from Hood damage in New South Wales, ihe inadequacy of the relief afforded by the Government, and the urgency of immediate action by tile Commonwealth Government under the defence powers to prevent flooding in the future.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– In taking the opportunity to discuss the tragedy of the recent floods in New South Wales, I propose to concentrate on the flooding that has occurred in the lower Hunter Valley, and the disaster that has overwhelmed the City of Maitland. I feel sure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), as an efficient representative of the electorate of Macquarie, has already inspected the damage in the towns of Windsor and Penrith, and on the lower reaches of the Hawkesbury River. Therefore, the right honorable gentleman will be able to tell his constituents, and the people of New South Wales generally, about the disaster that has occurred in the Macquarie electorate and the inadequacy of the funds that he is providing for the relief of the victims. For my part, I intend to devote my remarks to the position at Maitland.
As soon as I was discharged from hospital last week, I went to Maitland and the Hunter Valley, and spent two days surveying the flood damage there. I have some experience of the Hunter River in flood, and some knowledge of the history of flooding in that region, because most of my life has been spent in the Hunter Valley, and I have heard the story of the floods from my people. My great-grandfather, Ben Singleton, discovered the Hunter Valley, and founded the town of Singleton, and the town of Wallis Plains, the name of which was later changed to Maitland. For 129 years, our family has been associated with the development of the Hunter Valley. I believe that the disaster which overwhelmed Maitland on the 16th June, and reached its zenith on the 18th June, was caused by one of the worst floods, if not the worst flood that the valley has ever experienced. In many respects, the latest flood has been more damaging than the great disaster of 1893, despite the fact that the rainfall was 14.65 inches in 48 hours on this occasion compared with 17 inches of rain in the same time in 1893.
However, the rains which began about a fortnight, ago ran off soil which was more eroded and carried less timber and grass than in 1893. Torrential rains fell on Cockfighter Creek, south of Singleton, on the ranges south of that town, in Singleton itself and in the Maitland area, causing the Hunter River at Singleton to rise to a height of 43 feet on Saturday, 18th June. The Pacific Highway was covered to a depth of 4 feet near Raymond Terrace, and the flood waters swept up into the . town itself. Parts of the village of Branxton was under water, and access from the east and west along the New England Highway was impossible. The City of Maitland was overwhelmed principally as the result of the breaking of the levee at Oakhampton on the 18th June. A veritable sea poured through this gap and the banks collapsed between East Maitland and West Maitland. Many farms were damaged. Some houses were completely submerged, and others were under water to the level of the guttering on the roof. Maitland and the lower Hunter area, Nelson’s Plains, Miller’s Forest, Bolwarra and the big areas of the richest farm lands in the Commonwealth were submerged. Those farms are not vast areas that are held by wealthy land-owners. Many are from twelve to twenty acres in size, and represent the only real small proprietorship In +he Commonwealth. The production of vegetables and lucerne is the chief means of livelihood of many farm-holders in those districts. Some properties are held on lease. Crops have been irretrievably damaged, and in some areas, the effects of the floods will be felt for many years. At Wollomby, the Cockfighter River, normally a small stream of very little depth, rose to a height of 55 feet. It brought down such huge quantities of sand that there are now deposits of pure white sand to a depth of three or four feet on many farms between East Maitland arid Morpeth, and down through Nelson’s Plains and Miller’s Forest. As an example of the losses suffered by- the people in these areas, I shall quote ohe case. I met one returned soldier in Maitland who has just started in a poultry farming venture. He had 1,600 hens ana all his savings were invested in the farm. All his hens were drowned in the flood, and to-day he is ruined. In the Maitland district, one sees house after house smashed beyond repair. There is evidence of disaster as far as the eye can see. Immediately the floods occurred, the most praiseworthy efforts were made by local governing bodies, and by the citizens themselves, to alleviate ‘ the suffering of the people whose homes had been badly damaged and whose personal belongings had been destroyed. Led by the Mayor of Maitland, Alderman Fahey, the Deputy Mayor, Alderman Kennedy, Alderman Skilton, and the other aldermen, the City Engineer, Mr. Brand, and the Town Clerk, Mr. Dunkley, the local governing authorities did magnificent work. The Maitland Town Hall was opened immediately as a depot for the storage and distribution of clothing, mattresses and blankets for the relief of “people who had lost everything in the floods. The Mayor of Maitland at once opened a relief fund and received sub$!anti.al donations from not only local “residents, but also from people in other places far and wide. The Lord Mayor of Newcastle also opened a fund to assist distressed people in the flooded areas. Two district radio stations, 2KO and 2HD, appealed for assistance, and within twelve hours had raised £5,000. On the 20th June, according to a report published in the Maitland Mercury, the Mayor of Newcastle telegraphed to the Prime Minister asking for an immediate grant of £100,000 for the relief of distressed persons and £30,000 for the repair of damaged levee banks, roads, bridges and municipal property in the city of Maitland. Surely that was a small request, in view of the sufferings of the residents in the flooded areas. On the same night, the Prime Minister announced that the Australian Government would grant £20,000, as flood relief, not particularly for the relief of victims of the flood in the Hunter Valley, but for the relief of all flood victims in the State of New South Wales, but only if the Government of New South Wales would do likewise. I am reminded of the passage on the Sermon on the Mount -
What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
I am glad that Christ lived when He did and not to-day, for if He lived to-day, He would know that his words had fallen on deaf ears. I assure the Prime Minister that the feeling in Maitland is that when they asked for bread he gave them a stone. On the 22nd June, the Maitland Mercury, in a leading article, headed “ Two Bob Help!” said-
To Messrs. Chifley and McGirr:
In a generous mood, Mr. Prime Minister, you have announced that the Federal Government will provide £20,000 for flood relief in
New South Wales, contingent on the State Government doing likewise. You, Mr. McGirr, have played the part of “ follow my leader “.
If either of you gentlemen think that this “ generosity “ fools any one then you are fooling yourselves more than you do normally. No doubt you are far too busy to come and see our difficulties - not that we want your sympathy.
You, Mr. Chifley, would not have time to read of the dreadful losses sustained in the Hunter Valley, and particularly the lower Hunter area. Losses in Maitland alone probably exceed £1,000,000. And you offer £20,000 for the State!
Maybe it will be news to you both that we have neighbours who in one night subscribed £5,000 in response to the appeals of one radio station.
We have people who have rowed boats night and day to save us from mounting flood waters: people who are finding shelter and food for others, though they have little enough for themselves. And we have women who have slaved day and night to make the victims of this tragedy as comfortable as possible.
We have people in Maitland who have lost their homes, their furniture, their clothes. And you say, in effect, “ Our hearts bleed for you. Here’s a couple of bob
That is a fair statement about the Prime Minister and his Ministers. They are out of touch with what is in the minds of the Australian people. When I was in Maitland, people referred to the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales as “ Widow Chifley “ and “ Widow McGirr “. I asked them why they referred to such renowned citizens in that way and they said “ They have offered us the widow’s mite “. I went to Maitland on Thursday, the 20th June, and attended a meeting of the Flood Belief Committee. A representative of the Australian Government was present. He was not a Minister. In grave illness one needs a specialist. Maitland was suffering a grave illness. It needed a specialist. But did the Australian Government send one to the town ? No ! The Prime Minister did not go there. He did not even send his deputy. Nor did he send the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), or the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) nor indeed any Minister. The presence of any one of them would have been most useful. A Cabinet Minister could have spoken with authority. He could have said, “I will recommend to the Government that it provide funds for the relief of this stricken town and I believe that my recommendation will be acted upon.” Nothing like that happened. Who was sent to the town? Senator Amour went there as the representative of the Government. He made a pretty speech, but when questions were asked he was not so good. It turned out that he had no authority to grant any relief to people who had lost all but what they wore on their backs. It is a d.isgrace that no one was sent to Maitland to represent this Government except the itinerant Senator Amour. There is no time for humming and hawing about the state of misery that the people in the lower Hunter valley are in to-day; their needs are immediate. The Australian Government should grant to the Mayor of Maitland what he asked for in hi9 telegram. The amount should be at least £100,000 for flood relief and £30,000 for the repair of the levee banks. Maitland is a glorious city because, unlike most Australian cities, the farms are within its boundaries and secondary and primary industry are as groom and bride. Maitland can be protected from inundation. Its protection will involve two policies. One is a short-term policy and the other is a long-term policy. The long-term policy has been the subject of investigation since 1870. In 1896, Mr. E. W. Moriarty, who was then Engineer-in-Chief for Harbours and Rivers, reported on the problem. In 1947, investigators proposed for flood mitigation the building of three dams, which should be kept empty except when floods occurred and five more dams for irrigation. Those dams would check the rush of water from the hills and thus govern the flooding and prevent the bursting of the levee banks in the lower Hunter valley. It is estimated that the work would occupy ten years. The short-term job is the repair of the levee banks, which have broken at Oakhampton and between East and West Maitland. That job is beyond the capacity of the local authority, whose resources are sufficient only for pick-and-shovel work, but it is not beyond the resources ‘of the Australian Government which has at its command the most efficient earth-moving machinery. It is imperative that the levee banks be repaired and the Government has the ‘ authority to undertake the work under ‘ the defence power of the Constitution How can the defences of Australiabe maintained if the greatest coal–’ producing area of the Commonweath,.the South Maitland Field, can be tied up by periodic . floods which prevent coal from reaching the seaboard and the essential industries at Newcastle? Production can be stopped by floods at any time.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Bowden) “put -
That the honorable member for Kew England (Mr. Abbott) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Ms. j. j. Clark.)
Majority . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
spoke at some length and discussed many matters entirely irrelevant to the recent flood. Therefore, it might be wise to return to the subject before the House. I heard the honorable gentleman speak about reports that were made as long ago as 1893. I should imagine that many anti-Labour governments since that time have had opportunities to deal with the problem of flooding and to authorize the construction of dams and the provision of equipment to minimize the risk of disaster. As far as the present Government is concerned, this is a matter for the State Government to handle. It can include its plans for. flood prevention in the Maitland area in the list of works that it submits to the Commonwealth for inclusion in the loan programme.
– What about the Commonwealth taking action under the defence power?
– I do not think that it could use the defence power to authorize the construction of dams to prevent flooding.
– But it must get coal out of the Maitland field.
– I did not interrupt the honorable member when he was speaking, and I hope that he will allow me to deal with the subject for a few minutes without interrupting. The construction of dams is a matter for the State Government in the first place. Its proposals for works of that kind can be submitted to the Commonwealth through the Loan Council or at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers. This Government .cannot be blamed for something that has been happening periodically, according to the honorable member, for at least 30 or 60 years. The construction of dams which, in the opinion of the honorable member, would prevent such disasters, is entirely a matter for the State Government which could approach the Australian Government through the proper channels to ask it to co-operate in the work, as it has co-operated with the Government of Western Australia in providing water services in that State, and as it proposes to co-operate with the Government of
Queensland in carrying out the Burdekin valley scheme. The honorable member’s charge that this Government should build dams to protect the Maitland area from floods is quite absurd. The proper authority is the State Government. Other Prime Ministers and Treasurers have pointed out, as I have done on many occasions, that any catastrophe that occurs in only one State can be dealt with in the first place only by the Government of that State. If it considers that some relief should be given by means of a grant from the Commonwealth, they can make an approach to the Australian Government. That has been the practice of all State governments. It is the proper practice because the Australian Government has no control over the expenditure of any money in the areas that have been affected by the floods, where there are local government bodies which are under the control of the State Government. I desire now to take the opportunity to express in this chamber, as I have already done elsewhere my very great sympathy with the relatives of those whose lives have been lost and the people who have lost so much property. Every honorable member will, I am sure, join in that sentiment.
After the flood started, the Government received telegrams from local government bodies. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams). Senator Arnold and other members of Parliament who represent the areas affected ;by the flood, approached me personaally regarding relief. The honorable member for Robertson and the honorable member for Hunter made personal representations to me whilst Senator Arnold telephoned ane and also sent me telegrams in which he gave instances of the great, damage that had been done. I ‘asked them to inform local government bodies in those areas, or other interested parties, to make representations to the New South Wales Government. The Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, took the initiative in this matter. As soon us telegrams started to arrive he called me up on the telephone and we discussed what could be done regarding the relief of acute cases of distress.
We Lave a precedent for all the action taken. We had it in the floods in the northern area of New South Wales last year, and also in connexion with bush fires in Victoria and New South Wales. The procedure followed when a State government and this Government decide to join in providing relief in such instances is that the State Government sets up a committee of expert officers who are used to dealing with questions of relief, and some of whom can offer expert advice in addition to their administrative ability. That has been done in previous instances in every State. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) acted on a committee during the Victorian bush fires and Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Clark) in connexion with bush fires in New South Wales. Senator Amour acted on several committees that were established to provide flood relief.
I discussed the matter with the Premier of New South Wales and he indicated that he would do what had been done by his predecessor in similar cases. There arc numbers of instances of wealthy people who have suffered losses in the floods, but there is no intention to provide grants for the relief of such people. The McKell Government and previous New South Wales governments, perhaps even as far back as the days when the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) was Premier of New South Wales, arranged for the Rural Bank to make short-term loans at low rates of interest to enable reasonably wealthy people io recover, but such people should not be the subject of charity. The Premier and I decided that the special committee should ‘ immediately get to work in connexion with deserving cases where there was great personal hardship. The Commonwealth has one representative among the four or five members of the committee. The Premier told me what he was doing about loans and asked me whether the Australian Government could join in an arrangement, as it had done with State governments, including the New South Wales Government, on previous occasions. I asked him whether it was possible to estimate the number of necessitous cases requiring immediate relief. He stated’ that he did not think he could do so. I then discussed the matter with the Under Secretary of the New South Wales Treasury, Mr. Goodsell who has had some experience in such matters. Later the Premier and I agreed to follow the usual procedure by establishing the special committee and that the Commonwealth would subsidize relief, £1 for £1, with the State Government up to an amount sufficient to allow the committee to assist people who were in destitute circumstances as a result of the floods. There was certainly no intention to recompense affluent people who own property in the flooded areas and know, very well, the risks associated with such ownership. Commonwealth assistance was also not to be made for the special purpose of subsidizing shire and municipal bodies. It is not the Commonwealth’s business to deal with such bodies, which operate under State law. The money expended by those bodies for relief is obtained from the State Government. Mr. Goodsell told me that he would see what the position was regarding the number of necessitous cases. So that relief work could go on in the meantime, the special committee, of which Mr. Witheriff was chairman, divided into parties and set out to explore the position. I make no bones about saying that the whole intention was to deal with necessitous cases that required immediate relief, and to give assistance to others to get production going again. There have been floods in my own electorate just as much as in any other electorate. The Hawkesbury and Nepean Rivers were in flood and the town of Penrith was floodedout, so that I am not disinterested in this matter. I know that the rich soil of the Hawkesbury and the Nepean areas is rich only because of the floods that have occurred over a period of centuries. T also know that about six or twelve months after floods the price of land increases because of the improved1 fertility caused by the floods and the price of fat lambs also rises.
– The Prime Minister is talking about a different river from the Hunter.
– It is still full of water.
– The Hunter is still full of muck.
– The honorable member knows just as well as I do that the very richness of riparian soil has been created by floods. The fertility of the soil is maintained by floods notwithstanding what harmful effect floods may have or the great deal of damage that is caused by them. The honorable member for Reid knows all about that subject, as, I understand, he has a farm at Ebenezer in the Hawkesbury district. The Government was particularly interested in seeing that destitute cases were helped’ and also that any primary producers whom it could help received assistance as quickly as possible. It was decided that if, after the special committee had made its investigations, that there was not enough money available to it to provide for necessitous cases, the matter would be reviewed’ by the Australian Government. In addition to that, instructions were issued, after consultations between myself and the Navy, Army and Air Force authorities, for the service departments to give all possible assistance in the flooded areas. Th«y did so and nobody has questioned their efforts. The special committee, itself assisted wherever it could. I have not heard one word of criticism of the help given by the various departments in providing relief in cases where people had been flooded out of their homes or drowned. Mr. McGirr, the Premier of New South Wales, and I discussed the matter, and I make no apology for saying that if a man has. a farming property worth £10,000 or £12,000, which is damaged by floods, it should not be a matter for the Government, to recompense him for that loss, because ‘he should know when he took over the property that the area was subject to flooding, and that that would be one of the risks that he would have to face.
– I was referring to poor and penurious farmers rather than to friends of the right honorable gentleman.
– Those are the farmers that the Premier of New South Wales and I discussed.
– But the Government did not offer them any assistance.
– In effect the Government said, “Here is £40,000. Go ahead with the relief of necessitous people. When the committee furnishes its report the matter can be examined fully “. The conversation took place on a Monday morning, and the authority was really a personal one because, apart from myself, there were only a few’ Ministers, including the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), at Parliament House. Of course I have since reported to Cabinet. If there are any really necessitous cases that have not been covered adequately by the grant made by the Government I am prepared to consider an extension of that grant after the committee that was appointed by the State Government, and on which the Commonwealth has a representative, furnishes its report.
– Is this only the first instalment ?
– It will have to be shown by the committee that the amount already granted is inadequate to meet necessitous cases.
– I hope that the matter will not be dealt with by a “ Scotch “ judge.
– I am not prepared to commit myself until I have examined the full facts. If after the committee has fully investigated the position it isfound that necessitous cases have not been adequately provided for, the Government will be prepared to extend the grant. That will not be done, however, merely on the application of a council. The desirability of damming the Hunter River has been considered on a number of occasions since 1893 by the State Government. I am not prepared to deal with that aspect of the matter at present,, although I do not dispute what the honorable member has said. I regret that some of these great projects were not undertaken many years ago. Of course, I realize that in those days work of that description had to be undertaken by theuse of horses and drays, whereas nowadays it is accomplished by the use of modern road-making equipment.
– There is modern earthmoving equipment in the open-cut coal: mine at Muswellbrook that is not being used at present.
– I have been informed that various councils, although possessed of the necessary funds, are not able to obtain all of the earth-moving equipment that they require. Whilst some councils have all of the road-making equipment that they need, I should say that overall there is a shortage of that type of machinery in Australia. This Government takes an active interest in big and progressive schemes, as is evidenced by the fact that it has supported actively the provision of a water reticulation scheme in Western Australia, and will complete the Burdekin Valley scheme in Queensland. In addition, the Government has accepted the full responsibility for the Snowy Mountains project.
– Why cannot the Government do in relation to the Hunter River what it proposes to do in connexion with the Snowy River ?
– The scheme that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has advanced will probably be considered at a later date. All of the details have not yet been prepared. Whilst I do not question the right honorable member’s judgment about the desirability of the scheme, I cannot agree that this Government is blameworthy because of the damage that has been done during the recent flood. As I have already mentioned that matter has been considered by the State government ever since 1893, when a great amount of damage was done by flooding.
– Work is proceeding also on the Glenbawn Dam.
– That is an irrigation dam.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Burke). - Far too many interjections are being made by honorable members.
– This matter has been raised by the honorable member for New England, the honorable member for Robertson, the honorable member for Hunter and Senator Arnold. I repeat that action was taken only after full consultation with the State government. If the Premier of New South Wales considers, after the com mittee furnishes its report, that the amount provided is inadequate, and suggests to the Australian Government that New South Wales would he prepared to go a little further, this Government may extend the grant, although I cannot say by how much, because I have not yet seen the figures relating to the damages.
.- Portions of the district that I represent have been inundated by flood waters on several occasions during the last few years. I have never sought to make political capital of flood damage. However, when the Richmond River overflowed its banks in 1945, and again in 1948, the Prime Minister’s response to my applications for assistance was generally sympathetic. Both Army and Air Force facilities were placed at the disposal of residents of those districts. I consider, however, that the right honorable gentleman is not entirely au fait with what happens during a flood, nor is he fully cognisant of the circumstances of many of the farmers who suffer losses as a result of floods. Although the right honorable gentleman referred to people owning farms worth £10,000 or £12,000, I point out that many of the farms that were flooded when the Richmond River broke its banks were owned by people who were not wealthy. In many cases their assets were mortgaged. Yet because they owned farms or herds they were deprived of government relief. Although I could say quite a lot about this matter I shall confine my remarks to only several observations. As has been advocated by the right honorable member for Cowper, a representative of the Australian Government should visit the flood areas. It is not sufficient that Senator Amour should go there. I have been at several public meetings when Senator Amour endeavoured to represent the Australian Government adequately, but as he has very little authority he was not able to give much satisfaction to the people who were in dire distress. Even if only to improve the morale of the victims of the flood, the Government should be represented by a representative of the Cabinet. I hope that the Government will seriously consider this suggestion. The Prime Minister has said that help will be given to people in necessitous cases. In reply to a question in writing that I addressed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) during the Richmond River floods he said that 116 farmers had received assistance aggregating £5,167, or an average of about £45 each. Most of those farmers were put out of production for several months, from June until about the following November or December. During that period they were unable to make a single shilling of profit. That represented a loss to the Commonwealth from an income tax point of view. I consider that those farmers merited sufficient assistance to put them back on their feet. Although the Prime Minister has said that people who farm on the flats are well aware of the possible risk of damage by flooding, I point out that somebody has to farm those areas, and adequate assistance should be given by the Government to farmers who suffer considerable loss because of cyclones and floods. That has happened along the north coast of New South “Wales, and in Queensland. In 1945, an again in 1948, the district in which I live was devastated by floods. In the Lismore district damage estimated at hundreds of thousands of pounds was done. The Commonwealth contributed £5,000, to alleviate distress in the Richmond district, but in the same year Australia contributed £250,000 to alleviate distress in Poland. Flood relief committees are now functioning as the result of representations which I made to the Prime Minister in 1945, and- which he received very sympathetically. The position must now be taken further because since the introduction of uniform taxation, the States no longer can provide money for flood relief. Some system of insurance against flood damage must be introduced, but no insurance company will accept the risk. Nevertheless the risk must be accepted by some one on behalf of the nation, or much valuable land will revert to grazing. An insurance fund, heavily subsidized by the Government, should be established so that farmers in areas subject to flooding may bc able to protect themselves. I agree that farmers cannot all be subsidized to the full extent of their losses. Some of them have suffered very heavily. One farmer in my district lost 90 cattle in the last flood, and two years before that he lost 100. He had put every penny he possessed into his property, and had devoted 30 years of hard work to building up assets. He did not receive anything from the Government in the way of flood relief, because he still had some assets. Relief was given only to those who, because they had no assets, could not obtain advances from the Rural Bank, and then the amount of relief was limited to about £50. That is not enough. In the event of severe floods in the future, a Commonwealth Cabinet Minister should visit the affected area, if only to show that the Government sympathizes with the people. The visit of Senator Amour was not enough. I do not want to be critical, but there was plenty in the local papers about that visit.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mb. j. j. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave bc given to bring in a bill for an act to prohibit, during the period of national emergency caused by the present general strike in the coal-mining industry, the contribution, receipt or use of funds by organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904- 1948 for the purpose of assistingor encouraging the continuance of that strike, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Bill 1949 is an urgent bill.
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
Resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed - Th at the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the second-reading stage, until 8 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 9 p.m. this day.
– I am sorry that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) did not give us some reason for the allotment of these times. I am not quarrelling with the proposition that the bill should be dealt with with appropriate’ speed.
– We want to have it passed by the Senate to-night.
– I understood from what had been said to me that the Government also desires us to complete the Post and Telegraphs Rates Bill to-night.
– That is so. We also want to complete the passage of that bill to-night.
– I have not yet seen the bill which has just been presented by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). It may be that the general debate on the bill to the second-reading stage should be allotted the bulk of the available time with a shorter period for the committee stage. I suggest that if the motion be carried now, and it turns out subsequently that, by common consent, the bill is regarded as one that can best be discussed in the second-reading debate and not in committee, the Prime Minister may be prepared to invite the House to make some redistribution of the time limit allotted. As I have not yet seen the hill I can raise this matter only in this way.
– I support the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I suggest that the total inclusive time might be adjusted to meet satisfactorily the wishes of the Government and of the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I regret that physical difficulties have prevented printed copies of the bill from arriving. They will arrive as early as possible after lunch. Honorable members have been given roneoed copies of the bill for use until the printed copies arrive. I think that it should be possible for the bill to be thoroughly understood in the time that has been allotted by the House for its disposal. The title of the bill indicates its importance and the necessity for its introduction. The title indicates that this legislation is to operate during the period of national emergency caused by the present general strike in the coal-mining industry. In relation to that period, what will bc prohibited, broadly speaking, is the contribution, receipt or use of funds by organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act for the purpose of assisting or encouraging the continuanceof that strike. There are two points which I want to emphasize at the outset. First, this is a special emergency measure which is designed to deal with an emergency. It would he superfluous for me to enlarge upon what has already been stated publicly by the Prime Minister of this country in relation to the emergency. The essential facts leading to the emergency are stated in the bill itself by way of preamble. I think it may be of some help to members in considering the bill to recall them. In short we are asking the Parliament to approve of the statement in the preamble that certain demands were made by organizations of employees in the coal-mining industry, and because of noncompliance with those demands industrial disputes came into existence in New South Wales and extended throughout the Commonwealth. Although we mainly rely on New South Wales for the production of coal, the coal-mining industry extends throughout the Commonwealth. The second statement in the preamble which I wish to emphasize is that in order to enforce compliance with those demands, and in contravention of the principles of conciliation and arbitration for which provision is made, not only in the Constitution but also in the laws of the Commonwealth, a general strike in the coal-mining industry was decided upon on the 16th June - that is the day on which the stop-work meeting was heldand commenced on the 27th June. As the Prime ‘ Minister (Mr. Chifley) has pointed out, in this industry which is so vital to the economic life of the community and to the welfare of every man, woman and child in Australia, a general strike was declared contrary to the principles of arbitration, because, under the law provision has been made for the handling of disputes in this industry, and a coal tribunal has been established by joint. Commonwealth and State parliamentary action for the purpose of expediting and promptly handling all disputes that may arise in the coal industry. It has always been felt - and previous governments always acted on this principle as much as has the present Government - that great difficulty arose in relation to this important industry because disputes could not be dealt with by the court with SUm- *cient expedition. That difficulty was surmounted by the Coal Industry Act. A special tribunal was appointed with the approval of all concerned in the industry. The tribunal was actually engaged in the settlement of the matters in dispute when the organizations of employees engaged in the industry, at a stop-work meeting called for that purpose in defiance of the order of the tribunal, determined that unless all their demands were acceded to by a certain date, there would be a strike in the coal-mining industry in the eastern States in the middle of winter which would cause indescribable hardship to men and women, and particularly to children. That strike is now extending throughout Australia. That decision was made, as the Prime Minister has indicated, with callous disregard of ordinary humanity. In these circumstances, we submit in the preamble that the strike is prejudicing or interfering with the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community and has caused a grave national emergency. That is the real position. There is no other industry in which a stoppage of this character can have such a serious effect on the community. Because of the special character of the coal-mining industry only miners can obtain the coal which is needed for maintaining the life of the community. The Parliament has recognized its special duty to the coal-miners, but they in turn owe a duty to the community. They cannot wage economic war on the community and at the same time claim the rights of the arbitration system. They cannot have it both ways. The last portion of the preamble is in accordance with the principle of the bill. I now come to the provisions of the measure, and I turn at once to clauses 4, 5 and 6. Clause 4 reads -
Subject to this Act, a participating organization shall not make, or promise to make, any payment for the purpose of assisting or encouraging directly or indirectly the continuance of the strike.
A “ participating organization “ is a registered organization, some or all of whose members are actively engaged in this strike.
– As, in various places, there is some confusion on the point, I should like it to be made clear whether the miners’ federation is an organization registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– Yes, it is. There has been considerable confusion on that point. The Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation is registered under that act, and clause 4 of the bill will apply directly to that organization. That clause will hit at payments which, in the judgment of a proper court, are made for the purpose of assisting or encouraging, directly or indirectly, the continuance of the strike. Then we deal with participating organizations, which, of course, are not limited to the miners’ federation, but include participating organizations which are registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Clause 5 deals with those organizations at the point of their receipt of payments from any person. The statute deals with participating organizations and their boards, committees and trustees both at the point of their making payments or receiving payments for the purpose of assisting or encouraging the continuance of the strike, because the prohibition in clause 5 upon the participating organizations and their members and committees is that they shall not receive a payment, or accept a benefit, from any person for the purpose of assisting or encouraging, directly or indirectly, the continuance of the strike. The bill attempts to deal with the problem not merely at the point of payment out of funds of an organization, but at all points where payments are received by the participating organization or their committees of management or any members thereof for the purpose of assisting or encouraging, directly or indirectly, the continuance of the strike.
– Does it prohibit individuals from making contributions?
– Certainly. Clause 6 embodies a different principle, but a principle that is equally important. That clause provides that organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act shall be prohibited from making payments to, or for the benefit of, participating organizations, their officials, boards of management, committees or members, or bodies acting in the interests of a participating organization if those payments are made for the purpose of assisting or encouraging, directly or indirectly, the con tinuance of the strike. The net thrown out by the bill is wide. In every instance what is aimed at by the bill is payment or receipt of benefits or promises of payments which are made for the purpose of assisting or encouraging, directly or indirectly, the continuance of the strike.
I shall now explain the further provisions of the bill because, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has pointed out, the secondreading discussion of this measure should be equivalent in many respects to a committee examination of it. Clause 7 deals with a type of situation which may conceivably arise. An organization seeking to pay, or receive, moneys may be in doubt whether the purpose of- such payment is to assist or encourage, directly or indirectly, the continuance of the strike. In certain instances the payment of salaries, or wages, of agents or servants may be in a position that is not clearly understood in the particular situation that may arise. I do not want to deal with every case of difficulty, or doubt. There will be borderline eases, and it is provided that in such instances a prescribed authority, the Chief Judge of the Federal Arbitration Court, or the industrial tribunal in New South Wales, may authorize the making of a payment or the receipt of a payment; hut the authority must be satisfied that the classes of payment, or receipts, are not for the purpose of encouraging the continuance of the strike.
I now turn to a matter that was raised at question time in the House this morning, and which, in practice, may create difficulties. It may be that before this bill becomes law certain payments will have been made, or at any rate commenced or not, completed. Clause 8 has been inserted to deal with that situation. That clause provides that if the Federal Arbitration Court is satisfied, upon the application of the registrar, that, at any time on or after the 16th June, the day on which the stop-work meeting was held and the decision was made to hold a general strike unless all demands were acceded to, and before the commencement of this bill, moneys have been received or paid, the receipt, or payment, of those moneys being in circumstances in which such receipt or payment would have offended against this measure, the court may, upon the application of the registrar, order the repayment of those moneys to those entitled to them.
– That could cover bank drawings?
– Yes; any payments made between those two dates if the payments were made for the purpose of encouraging the strike. If, as one honorable member suggested at question time this morning, such payments are being made in any part of Australia, they will be covered by this provision. It would not mean that in such instances an offence would be committed1; but this provision empowers the registrar of the court to look at the transaction, to declare such payment null and void, and to order repayment of the money. That provision should be emphasized because if trustees of some of these great organizations are endeavouring, so to speak, to get in ahead of the Parliament they will find that they will not be successful, because the bill contains a provision that will intercept such action.
– ‘Who is to pay the money back?
– The person in possession of it. It might be a person, a bank, the destined recipient or some one who is holding the money in the course of the transaction; and, ultimately, the court will have to be convinced that the purpose of the payment was to assist or encourage the continuance of the strike, in which case the court will order the repayment of that money. Thus, the position would be the same as if no payment were made. Under clause 9 of the bill the court is given jurisdiction to make orders or injunctions for the purpose of insuring compliance with the act. The purpose of that ‘provision is that if there is some course of business by which this act is being broken it should not be necessary to take the ‘proceedings to the magistrate’s court. The Arbitration Court, which is a federal court with judicial power, can issue injunctions against any action taken i n breach of the act which threatens to be repeated; and that court has all the powers incidental to granting an injunction. I do not want the House to under estimate the importance of clause 10, which vests in the Registrar of the Arbitration Court, or a person authorized by him, power to inspect any books, documents or other papers of an organization or branch of an organization for the purpose of ascertaining whether there has been a breach of any of the provisions of the legislation. For the purpose of such inspection, the Registrar is authorized to enter premises of the organization if he believes such books, documents or papers to be there. He is also given authority to require a person - that means any person - to produce or deliver to him, in accordance with his requirement, any such books, documents or papers in the possession or under the control of that person. That is all for the purpose of determining and ascertaining whether, in his opinion, there has been a breach of the provisions of the measure. The Registrar’s opinion that there has been a breach will not decide the legal responsibility, but these provisions can place the authorities in possession of the necessary evidence. Penalties are provided for a refusal to comply with the requirements of the Registrar.
If an organization commits an offence against the act, the question of what should be the responsibility of the officers of the organization or of a branch of it will arise. Clause 11 lays down a principle that is well recognized in legislation of this character. After all, an organization cannot be prosecuted or suffer any personal loss. Under this clause, where an organization has committed an offence against the measure the officers are deemed to be guilty of the offence unless proof is given, in the case of an offence alleged against an individual, that he did not know of it, that is to say that it was committed without his knowledge, or, if he did know of it, that he used due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence. So there is a responsibility cast, not merely upon the abstract entity known as the organization in respect of its property, but also upon officers who, knowing of the situation, have not used due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.
Provision is made in clause 12 to meet the difficult case of a payment being made. the precise purpose of the payment being within the knowledge of the person paying “ it and the person receiving it but not necessarily within the knowledge of the Registrar or other authority proceeding under the measure. It is provided that in proceedings for an offence against this measure a payment shall, unless the contrary is proved, be deemed to have been made for the purpose of assisting or encouraging the continuance of the strike. If the payment has not been made for that purpose, that can easily be proved. Clause 13 provides for wide regulationmaking powers, lt may he that there are gaps in the measure that are not known to or have .not been contemplated by the law-making authorities and the draftsmen. The clause provides for power to make regulations of a wide and comprehensive character. Sub-clause 2 gives power to extend the provisions of the measure to other bodies that are participating in the strike. I shall not discuss now the constitutional basis of such action. In the Commonwealth Parliament, we are always acting under the limitations that the Constitution imposes upon the Parliament. In the event of a State authority not passing legislation applying to organizations that are not registered under the-Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it may be that we could fill in that gap under the provisions of sub-clause 2, but we have no” reason to apprehend that there will be a gap because of the failure of any State authority to act on lines parallel to those on which the Commonwealth has acted.
Air. Abbott. - Would that apply to the Australian Communist party?
-The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has asked whether the provisions of this clause could be applied to the Communist party. That was not the situation in the mind, of the draftsman when the clause »-ns drafted. The provisions of clause 5 would cover the Communist party, which i.s extremely active in connexion with this general strike. Under the provisions of that clause, the receipt of moneys by participating organizations and the committees or members of such organizations is prohibited, from whatever source the moneys arc derived, if they are for the purpose of assisting the strike. The rele vant portion of the clause reads as follows : -
Subject to this Act, any of the following organizations or persons . . . shall not receive a payment, or accept a benefit, from any person for the purpose of assisting or encouraging, directly or indirectly, the continuance of the strike.
Clause 14 is an important one. This is regarded as an emergency measure and therefore, it is provided that when the strike terminates the Governor-General shall make a proclamation declaring that the strike has terminated, and thereupon the act shall be deemed to have been repealed. That will not prevent proceedings in respect of any breaches of the provisions of the legislation that have occurred before that date.
We put this bill before the House for its consideration as an emergency measure. The community, through the National Parliament, is acting in selfdefence against aggression that is completely unjustified in the circumstances of this case. When one looks back upon the history of the coal industry, one realizes that for many years the employees of the industry have worked under unsatisfactory and often degrading conditions. Those times have gone. In the legislation that was passed by this Parliament and the Parliament of New South Wales, steps were taken to provide amenities for the miners because it was realized that we had a duty to them. This bill deals with the converse position. The employees of the coal-mining industry, having been given a special tribunal and a board to provide amenities for them cannot act in this way. Modern society no longer consists of separate and independent units; all the units are interdependent. But for this strike, there would be full employment in Australia. Those who are engaged in the coal-mining industry must realize that they have n duty to the community. The Government is acting in the interests of the community as a whole. We have had to take this step in order to lay down the principle that economic warfare cannot, be waged upon the community in a situation such as that described in the bill.
– May we assume that clause 4 is designed, among other things, to prohibit the payment of strike pay by (lie organization itself to its members?
– The answer to the right honorable gentleman’s question is
Decidedly, yes “. Payments in the nature of strike pay, deliberately socalled, are obviously made for the purpose of encouraging the continuance of the strike. There are other payments that may not fall within that category, such as payments by bodies that are not interested in the maintenance of the strike but are simply coming forward to relievesuffering or distress. The question that the right honorable gentleman has asked me can be answered in only one way. The payments to which he has referred are clearly struck at by the legislation, because one cannot imagine payments that are more clearly and obviously for the purpose of encouraging the continuance of the strike. Their very name proves that that is their purpose.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– I do not propose to address myself to the bill at length for the very good reason that the measure, which is an emergency one, was presented to the House only this morning and this is the first opportunity that honorable members have had to examine its provisions. However, the House has had the advantage of hearing it explained by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). The bill is undoubtedly designed to deal with an emergency, and I might summarize my approach to it by saying that I support it. The purpose of the bill has been described in compendious terms as that of freezing the funds of industrial organizations under certain circumstances. It is quite true that those expressions are not actually used, but they suffice for a general description of the purpose of the measure. The Opposition believes, and has believed for a long time, -that circumstances may ‘ arise under which resort must be had to measures of this kind. All that I propose to say now, speaking on behalf of the Liberal party of Australia
– What about the Australian Country party ?
– I am prepared to speak for anybody at a pinch, even for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard).
– Should the Minister be “ pinched “ !
– Even if the Minister should have the misfortune to be “ pinched “ as my friend has suggested, I should appear for him with the greatest pleasure. So far, however, he has eluded justice. The printed platform of the party which I have the honour to lead has for years included a provision that under certain circumstances, when strikes of a particular kind occur, the funds of the industrial organizations responsible shall be frozen. That has stood’ in the platform of the Liberal party since that party was formed. In the policy speech that I delivered before the last general election, I made an extended reference to the freezing of the funds of trade unions which take part in a strike thai may properly be regarded as a breach of the fundamental law of the land. So the principle which the Government now proposes to apply is not one to which any member of the Opposition will take exception. Indeed, from the limited study that I have been able to make, the bill appears to me to contain very stingest provisions in deed to deal at least with the financial aspect of the present crisis. As the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who introduced the measure, agreed, in replying to a question that I put to him at the end of his secondreading speech, the provisions of clause 4 will have the effect of preventing a participating organization, which, in the present, instance, is the coal-miners federation - to call that body by its short title - from providing ordinary strike pay. As the Minister rightly said, there might be circumstances in which strike pay might be regarded as a payment that was being made for the purpose of assisting or encouraging, directly or indirectly, the continuance of the strike. As- I understand the bill, what is being aimed at is this: First, the legislature says to the coal-miners federation, “ You shall not provide strike ‘ pay to your people for the purpose of continuing this strike “ ; and adds, for the benefit of other bodies which might participate in the disturbance, “ You shall not receive financial assistance from any other union or from any individual. You shall not receive payments from banks, and, therefore, you cannot operate on your bank accounts. You shall not receive assistance from the Communist party “. It is quite true that the bill attacks the problem at what I might term the “ receiving “ end ; that is to say, it starts off with the participating unions and then provides that such unions shall not receive money from other sources to continue the strike. The bill does not deal with individuals or organizations which may make payments to the miners’ federation; its provisions are directed at the “ participating union “, which becomes solely responsible for any breach of the law. I do not criticize that feature of the measure. I can see at a glance that the enforcement of provisions directed against any organization or individual which might feel disposed to assist the miners’ federation, would present considerable difficulties.
– Clause 6 provides for the imposition of penalties on organizations which assists a participating organization.
– My last remarks were, perhaps, a little too broad. I had in mind that the outstanding feature of the measure is that it will prevent the miners’ federation from accepting financial assistance from the Communist party or bodies of that kind. Although its provisions are not aimed directly at such bodies, clause 6 prohibits any body which is not a “ participating organization “ from making any contribution to a’ union participating in the strike. The effect of that prohibition may be summarized in these words : no trade union registered with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration may legally contribute to the funds of the coal-miners’ federation, which for the purposes of this bill, is a “ participating organization “, and the federation is precluded from receiving contributions from organizations which are not registered with the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and from individuals. I have no doubt that this legislation, if adequately enforced, as one hopes it will he, will have the effect of cutting off financial supplies from the miners’ federation, many of whose members have been misled into making this attack on the community. We may, therefore, hope that because their financial supplies will be cut off the stoppage may be of extremely limited duration.
One general observation which I should like to make concerning this piece of emergency legislation i? this : What is the basis upon which the Government formulated this measure? The Government has not put the bill before us merely as a measure to correct an industrial disturbance which is outside the ordinary conception of industrial disputes. I emphasize that the Government has been driven to realize that even in Australia the point had ultimately to be reached where a choice would have to be made between direct action and the upholding of the industrial arbitration system. In the past, the Government has displayed some reluctance to acknowledge that the point had been reached. Time and again we have been told that although we have a system of industrial conciliation and arbitration, whether embodied, in general, in the Arbitration Court, or, in particular, in the Coal Industry Tribunal, as in this instance, we cannot take away from individuals the right to strike. Now, as the Government has very properly recognized, we have been forced into a position in which we must decide whether we are really to act upon the principle that may be expressed thus : “ You may have your tribunal and your strike at the same time “. Therefore, I regard the bill as a most valuable recognition of the principle that, in a country that adopts compulsory arbitration as its method in industrial matters, there is really no room for the strike that is in defiance of the tribunal.
The present strike is a perfect example of that. Claims had been taken before the tribunal. The tribunal had sat. One claim had been withdrawn, and another claim for long service leave had been examined. Evidence had been taken. The tribunal was on the point of making an award. ‘ The whole matter was before the tribunal, which had complete jurisdiction over it and had, in part, gone through the processes of dealing with it. In those circumstances, led astray by false counsel as they so consistenly have been in this industry, the coal-miners decided that they would go on strike, that they did not want the tribunal, and that their demands must be conceded outside the tribunal, failing which they would bring the whole of the industry of the country to a standstill. I say, and it is not for the first time, that at long last, we have been forced to recognize that those two inconsistent processes cannot be permitted at the same time. So much has the Government been brought to believe that fact that it has introduced a bill of the most drastic kind which, briefly, is designed to terminate this strike by drying up the funds that would enable it to be continued. In other words, the whole force of the law is to be brought to bear to compel people to resort to arbitration and abandon the strike weapon. That seems to me to be the recognition of a sound principle for which we, on this side of the House, have contended time after time over the long course of years.
It is an ill-business to quote anything to the House, but I think that this is a convenient occasion on which to refer to what has, for many years, seemed to me to be about the clearest statement of this principle that has been made in this country. I do not believe that I have previously referred to it in the House. In 1917, the High Court of Australia heard argument in the Stemp case, which will be familiar to the Attorney-General. The argument was about whether, when the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act prohibited strikes and lockouts, that prohibition was valid; in other words, whether it came within the conciliation and arbitration power. The High Court held that ifr did, of course, and those prohibitions were . upheld legally ; but in the course of the decision, certain remarks were made by the late Mr. Justice Higgins. I refer to them at this time with all the more goodwill because I do not think that any trade unionist in Australia will deny for one moment that Mr. Justice Higgins did great and proper services for trade unionism in Australia. For many years he was the President of the Commonwealth Anbitration Court. It was during his presidency of that tribunal that, contrary to the wishes of organized employers on many occasions, he sub-
Mr. Menzies. stantially improved wages and conditions in Australia. Therefore, he was a contentious figure. He was a man of great ability, and he was highly respected. 1 trespass on the patience of the House to read two short paragraphs from Mr. Justice Higgins’s judgment in the Stemp case, because they contain what may be described as the genuine basis of the legislation that we are now considering. He said -
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. The method of physical force - violence - is sufficiently prohibited by the ordinary law. The prohibition of strike is therefore clearly relevant to the constitution of a tribunal for industrial disputes.
Later, he used these wise words -
When one party has a decided advantage over the other, it is very hard to get an agreement by the , process of conciliation ;
Those are She words of a man who, at that time, had been acting for ten years as the President of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The quotation continues - what induces the agreement is the knowledge that there is a compulsory power of arbitration in reserve. This is the kind of pressure that the act contemplates. But if the stronger party feels that he can still use the economic pressure of “ strike “ or “ lock-out “ as the case may be, this counter pressure nullifies, or tends to nullify, the pressure of the tribunal. The tribunal must be unconstrained, free to award what seems to be just and right; and it must not be left to fear that if the stronger side do 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.
As a logica] examination of this problem, I do not suppose that that statement could be improved. “We are now in the course of an industrial dispute, that is cognizable by the tribunal that has been set. up under the Coal Industry Act. Everything is ready for an’ impartial adjudication by that tribunal and one party that is possessed of enormous economic power to close the factories of Australia by refusing to produce coal,’ proceeds to go on strike. This, I suppose, is the most dramatic industrial ©vent that has occurred in Australia in our life-time, and it has brought everybody, and certainly the Government, hard up against this question - “ How do you choose ? Do you choose to say, ‘ You may have your strike ‘, or do you choose to say, ‘We will use whatever weapons we have to bring the strike to an end’?” Nobody will pretend that the bill contains a code which includes, within itself, all the weapons that could be used against this strike; but insofar as it proposes to use the weapon of depriving these most unlawful strikers of monetary assistance, and so, by sheer force of monetary pressure, monetary starvation if honorable members prefer it, bring them to their senses, and cause them to resume production, it has the warm support of the Opposition.
.- This is a most drastic measure. That fact is not only recognized by the Government but also freely admitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The purpose of the bill is to solve a drastic problem. The general coal strike, which hae paralysed the industrial community of Australia, has been caused, we believe, by the Communist-led miners’ federation at the behest of the Communist party of Australia. The evidence shows clearly that the trouble is not an industrial dispute but a purely political move. What the long-range objectives of the Communist party are, we can only conjecture, but I freely claim that its aim now, as it always has been, is to defeat the organized Labour movement and the governments which that movement has elected to parliaments in Australia. It is ako a matter of conjecture that the Communist party hopes, by the defeat of Labour governments, to cause chaos and discord in the community. In the circumstances, this bill, drastic as it is, and anathema as it is to many life-long supporters of the Labour movement, is completely justified. The Leader of the Opposition has reminded us that the platform of the Liberal party advocates the freezing of union funds in certain circumstances, which include the present situation. However, it cannot be argued that in introducing this measure, the Government is subscribing to the policy of the Liberal party. Labour believes that drastic legislation such as this should not be permanently on the statute-book, where it would be a constant threat *to the working-class movement of Australia, but should be reserved, as it has ‘been reserved by the Labour Government, for occasions such as this. The Leader of the Opposition went on to say that the bill does not provide for the use of all the weapons that are available to the Government. Owing to constitutional limitations, we are not quite sure what legal weapons can be employed in the present circumstances. This measure, however, indicates quite clearly to the Communist party, and to the Communist-led unions which seek to disrupt the Australian economy and destroy the Labour Government, that every legal weapon available to the Government will be brought to bear to end this dispute at the earliest possible date. I believe that this measure will be most effective in its application. By and large, the mining community consists of men and women of the average Australian type. In Western Australia at least that is certainly true, and whilst I am not so well acquainted with miners and members of the industrial community generally in the eastern States, I believe that they are very little different. It is true, unfortunately, that the bulk of the rank and file of the miners do not themselves decide even these transcendent issues. They leave matters that vitally affect their welfare and the future of this country to be decided by a small minority of the men engaged in the mining industry. This bill will indicate to the rank and file of the mining unions not only that they must play a part, but also that they must play a positive part, in their ‘union affairs. It is not sufficient that they should refrain from voting on a strike issue involving not only the welfare of the Australian community, but also their own vital interests. They must actively oppose, and vote against, any such proposal.
I shall not canvass the issues in the current dispute any more than did the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in an earlier debate, or the Leader of the Opposition in his remarks on this measure to-day. As both of those right honorable gentlemen have pointed out, the Government, at the request of the mining unions themselves, set up a special coal industry tribunal. The Government has said that its policy is arbitration on industrial disputes, and conciliation in all industrial matters generally. That is not the view of the Government only. It is also strongly held by organized Labour and the trade union movement throughout Australia, and is the accepted policy of all political parties, and of the people of this country generally. I exclude, of course, the Communist party of Australia, which has stated deliberately and continuously that its aim is to destroy arbitration as a means of settling industrial disputes. It is quite clear that the strike is being used by the Communists to destroy and discredit not only Labour Governments, but also the system of arbitration that has been long maintained in the Australian community. For that reason, I believe that the bill is amply justified. If we give way on this issue, we shall be forced to admit that arbitration has failed and that Australian governments are not prepared to stand up for arbitration, which is the accepted policy of all responsible organizations and individual members of the Australian community. The dispute could have been settled by the Arbitration Court; it should have been settled by the Arbitration Court ; and it must be settled by the Arbitration Court. To strike at this time is tragically unjust and, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, the stoppage has been staged in callous disregard of the welfare of the people of Australia, including the miners and their families.
The bill attacks the problem on the financial side. Its purpose is to prevent unions from using their funds to prolong the dispute. If the prohibition were to apply only to the miners’ federation, it would not be very drastic. According to press reports, the federation has approximately £30,000 in its coffers, and that of course would not go very far in strike pay or sustenance payments to miners. The bill, therefore, has been drawn in wider terms. It provides that other organizations registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court shall be prevented from giving financial assistance that is designed to, or would have the effect of prolonging the strike. I understand that the bill has specified organizations registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court because that is the probable limit of the Government’s constitutional power. However, the bill should prevent financial assistance being given by the Communist-led unions. Other private individuals and organizations not registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court are to be dealt with, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, at the receiving end. The miners’ federation and the Combined Mining Unions Council are to be prohibited from receiving funds from other organizations or individuals which might have the effect of prolonging the dispute. Those provisions are designed to prevent the strike from dragging on for a long time, thus causing untold disruption, and inflicting great hardship and misery upon the community at large. I believe that the bill does everything that can be done at this stage to prevent the strike from being prolonged unduly. We can be certain that, whether the strike be long or short, adherents to the Communist party throughout Australia will continue to attack the Government and the arbitration system, and any one who dares to speak in support of this measure or any other steps that the Government may take to end the dispute. . Doubtless, we shall be told that the Government is seeking to compel the miners to go back to work by starving them and their wives and children; but that argument lacks force, because, in one of the coldest winters in memory, the dupes of the Communists in the coal-mining industry have inflicted on their fellow Australians the utmost hardship. The bill is drastic and it is meant to be. Its purpose is to bring the strike to an end quickly. Normally, a measure drafted in such terms would be bitterly opposed by the Labour party and the industrial movement generally, but I believe that almost every one in Australia, regardless of political sympathies, will welcome it. The bill is intended to safeguard conciliation and arbitration, which the Communists seek to destroy and to replace with direct bargaining between employees and employers. I hope that the rank and file of the miners will realize that they have been led by their callous leaders to do a dreadful deed against their countrymen. They must throw out the Communists who have brought them and the rest of the Australian people to this sorry pass and adhere to conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of their disputes with their employers.
– I unequivocally associate the Australian Country party with the sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies’). The need for immediate implementation of the provisions of this bill is indisputable. The hill contains provisions that are indispensable if the challenge of the Communist controllers of the coal-mining industry to constitutional authority is to be met. The issue is whether constitutional authority shall prevail or the law of the jungle shall supplant it. The freezing of the funds of the unions is the least measure that the people of Australia could expect from a government charged with the responsibility of preserving law and order. It is not difficult for the Australian Country party wholeheartedly to associate itself with the contents of the bill, because, in and out of season, it has stood foursquare in support of the principle that conciliation and arbitration must be used in the settlement of industrial unrest. In opening the campaign of the Australian Country party at the general election of 1946, I clearly stated our party’s policy in the following terms : -
We propose also that all strikes and lock-outs occurring in the course of industrial disputes for which some competent tribunal exists, or against a decision of the competent tribunal, shall be declared illegal; that there shall be prosecutions and a resolute enforcement of penalties against strikes or lock-outs, and that the funds of any organization of employees or employers guilty of an illegal strike or lockout shall be controlled by the Arbitration Court.
I am astonished that the Government has left unheeded for so long the basic need to place on the statute-book a law, like that proposed in this bill, that could be quickly enforced to deal with circumstances like those of to-day. As the Leader of the Opposition so aptly said’, obviously conciliation and arbitration cannot run in double harness with the right to strike. But I remind the House and the country that the Government, through the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), has upheld in no uncertain way the right to strike and has thereby tacitly supported the Communists and discouraged those people who stand for the maintenance of constitutional authority via conciliation and arbitration. We accept this as an emergent and indispensable prerequisite to the correct and appropriate handling of this strike. But we do not accept it as the only method by which the Government could handle this industrial disruption and the lawlessness that arises from it. On behalf of my party, I give the Government an assurance that we recognize that the industrial situation in Australia to-day transcends everything else, and, consequently, we shall assist the Government to the greatest possible extent in connexion with any definite and resolute plan that it may bring forward for our consideration, so as to ensure that this country shall not further be held up to ransom by a minority of disrupters who, unfortunately, wield such influence and can bring such intimidation to bear that otherwise right thinking and responsible trade unionists follow blindly behind them. But the lead must be given by the Government, and it must be given very quickly and very definitely. The Government cannot give that lead while it continues to take the ridiculous attitude that the right to strike can go hand in hand with conciliation and arbitration as established by the laws of the country.
– I have been rather intrigued to hear how much the Opposition agrees with the Government’.? policy of supporting conciliation and arbitration in connexion with the present dispute, because on certain occasions in the past honorable members opposite have not been strongly in favour of conciliation and arbitration. The case could be well stated by saying that from the very inception of federation in Australia every step that has been taken in connexion with the progress that has been made in conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes has been fought for by the trade union movement and would not have been taken except for the strong fight that that movement put up for the principles of conciliation and arbitration. Indeed, one very often hears of members of the public who belong to the same political organizations as those represented on the Opposition side of the House, continually criticizing the whole system of conciliation and arbitration.
– Do not be funny.
– I think that the first thing that we have to do in our consideration of this measure is to examine the history of the events that have led up to the emergency situation in which this country now finds itself. The position was very clearly stated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in a public statement not long ago. He said that the issues in this dispute were clear; that the miners’ federation had filed claims with the Coal Industry Tribunal, which was established under the Coal Industry Act 1946, and that while these claims were under consideration by the tribunal the federation decided to go on strike. The Prime Minister made it perfectly clear that in the circumstances the decision by the Combined Mining Unions Council to stage a general strike beginning from last Monday was a wholly unjustifiable repudiation of conciliation and arbitration at a time when the processes of conciliation and arbitration were in course of effective functioning. The Government has taken a stand for conciliation and arbitration in this matter.
– All of the Government?
– Yes, all of the Government.
– What about Senator Morrow ?
– The Government takes its stand on the principles of conciliation and arbitration that were established under the Coal Industry Act, which brought into being an appropriate tribunal to deal with matters such as those that are at present in dispute. The Government takes the stand that the miners’ federation must take its proposals, demands and requests back to that appropriate tribunal. Ry deciding to go on strike the miners’ federation and the other unions associated with it are undoubtedly subjecting the public generally to very great inconvenience and hardship in the meantime. In those cir cumstances there was an obligation upon the Government to examine the situation to see what it could do, as a government, to bring this dispute to a speedy end so that the hardships and inconveniences now being suffered by the community would be limited to the shortest possible period of time. On Monday, for that reason, the Prime Minister had a conference with the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), and me. I am extremely interested in this matter because I was privileged to introduce the Coal Industry Bill 1946 into this House. The Government hoped under that legislation to bring about some measure of unanimity in the coal industry and to abolish some of the anomalies and hardships that the miners had undoubtedly suffered from in the past.- The four Ministers who attended the conference examined the various kinds of action that the Government could take. But at that stage we entered the realm of disputation regarding the Constitution itself. When any central government in a federated system has to examine an emergency situation such as we are now experiencing, it must con:sider not only what it would like to do in the circumstances, but also what it has the constitutional power to do. If the Australian Government is to take any action at all, that action must be related to a particular head of power in the Constitution itself.
– Just as in the case of the banking legislation?
– Yes. “ Banking “ is a head of power in the Constitution, and we took certain action under it. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has introduced a very important point, by his interjection. The point is that whilst the Australian Government may decide that, under a certain head of power in the Constitution, it is entitled to take certain action, at some later date the High Court of Australia can rule that that particular action was invalid. In other words, nobody can be really certain of just what the Commonwealth’s powers are.
– Is the Minister suggesting that this bill is ultra vires ?
– I am not suggesting anything of the sort. If the honorable gentleman will allow me to proceed for a minute or two, I shall explain the position regarding this particular measure. The four Ministers who attended the conference that I have mentioned, in consultation with the Solicitor-General, examined the extent of the action that the Government might take under the Constitution. It has been suggested outside this House that the Government should take action of a very drastic kind. L shall not go into that aspect in detail but shall merely say that the four Ministers and the Solicitor-General, and, nt a later stage, the Cabinet itself, examined the whole field of action that the Commonwealth Government could take in the present emergency, and the Cabinet came to the conclusion that at the moment the present measure appeared to be the only action that the Government could take to achieve a speedy settlement of the dispute.
– What nonsense!
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said that the Government had been driven to this particular course of action. That is quite untrue. The Government was not driven into taking this action.
– No, it was shamed into taking it.
– The Government did a perfectly natural thing. That is to say, a certain emergency arose and the Government proceeded to consider the circumstances surrounding that emergency, the result of its examination being the decision to take certain definite action. The Government was not driven into taking that action. It decided “ off its own bat “ that, in the circumstances, this action was essential and was the only action it could take, at the present juncture at any rate, to bring about a speedy settlement of the dispute. The Leader of the Opposition said that there was some antagonism between the attempt of the Government to drive the miners’ federation, and the unions associated with it, back to conciliation and arbitration, and the claim sometimes made by members of the Labour party that unions always had the right to strike.
One could embark on a long philosophical discussion of the rights of individuals, but we cannot escape the conclusion that if all members of an organization are resolved not to work for the remuneration offering, or under the conditions existing, in an industry, there is no force of law that can compel them to do so. In the present instance, the situation is somewhat different. Conditions in the coal-mining industry have, over the years, imposed great hardships on the miners. Not always have members of the Opposition or the mine-owners done justice to the miners. I was interested to note that honorable members opposite are now so strongly in favour of conciliation and arbitration. Had they always been so, they would have taken in the past a stronger stand regarding certain action by the employers. I remember that, in 1928 there was a lockout in the coalmining industry. At that time, there was in power an anti-Labour government led by Mr. S. M. Bruce. I do not remember hearing supporters of his Government-
– Was the Minister in Australia at that time?
– Yes, I had been in Australia for a considerable time when that lockout took place. I well remember that there was no move by the government of the day, led by Mr. S. M. Bruce, and supported by some honorable members who are still in the Parliament on the Opposition side, to compel the mineowners to open their mines on the terms laid down by the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The Opposition is now displaying a newly-founded appreciation of the need to support the principles of conciliation and arbitration. I remember particularly well what happened in 1928, because it resulted in a great deal of hardship to the miners themselves, and to the community as a whole. Members of the present Opposition parties were not game to take any action at that time against the mine-owners in support of the principle of arbitration, but to-day, when the situation is reversed, and when the miners’ federation is following a course of action which is completely unjustifiable, they say that we must stick to conciliation and arbitration. I say the same, and so does the Government. That is why this legislation has been introduced. After considering all possible action which it might take to bring about a speedy settlement of the dispute, the Government decided to introduce this bill, which provides that the funds of the miners’ federation, and of the unions associated with the federation in declaring the strike, shall be frozen.
– The people are just about frozen, too.
– It is true that the people are suffering great hardship because of the severe climatic conditions prevailing at the present time, and because of the scarcity of- coal. The Government believes that the freezing of union funds will have two effects. First, it will deprive members of the striking unions of aid which they might have obtained from outside, and also of aid which the miners might have obtained from funds held by their own organization. This will force them the sooner to come to the conclusion that they must go hack to work in order to avoid the sarnie hardships and inconveniences as those to which the genena! public are being subjected. The Government believes that this is the only kind of legislation which can have any effect on the situation. It is hoped that when the miners’ federation, and those who are ill-advised enough to support it, see that the Government is resolved to take every step in its power to bring the dispute to a speedy end, they will decide that the best thing they can do, in their own interests and in the interests of the general public, is to get back to work as soon as possible.
I am glad that the Opposition is supporting the measure and the action of the Government in declaring a state of emergency. This will demonstrate to the public, to the miners, and to those who are disposed to assist them in their unreasonable course of action, that the only way in which the dispute can be settled is for the miners to go back to the appropriate tribunal set up by the Government for the settlement of disputes in the mining industry.
.- It was rightly remarked at the outset of the debate that this is one of the most dramatic developments in the history of the Commonwealth. It is doubtful whether any previous industrial dislocation caused such wide-spread hardship as is being caused by the present dispute, which is particularly grave because it has occurred in the middle of winter, and every State in Australia is directly feeling the impact. Millions of people are suffering inconveniences and loss. That being so, we look to the programme submitted by the Australian Government for solving the problem. The entire programme so far presented by the Government is contained in the piece of legislation now before the Parliament. It is the only legislation we are asked to examine, and it contains the only proposals which the Government has indicated it intends to put into effect. This measure, as far as it goes, has the support of the Opposition parties, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) have both made clear. We were told by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that he is glad to find that we are behind the Government in this matter. Let me say to him that, far from being behind the Government, we are many years ahead of it. We have had to wait for three years for the Government to catch up with the stand taken by the Opposition parties on this matter. In the policy speech delivered by my leader at the last election, one of the aspects featured in the programme which he put before the electors was the methods by which he proposed to deal with industrial issues. At the cost of detaining the House for a few minutes longer, and so that this matter may be put in its proper perspective, it is appropriate that I should repeat for the benefit of honorable members what was said by the Leader of the Opposition when he enunciated the policy of his party to the electors at the last general election’. The right honorable gentleman then said -
The Liberal party stands for good wages and conditions; for the prompt re-examination of the basic wage by the Arbitration Court, the wage-pegging regulations being relaxed to include any new basic wage so determined; for the provision of adequate tribunals for the timely rectification of grievances; for incentive payments beyond the minimum; for profit sharing wherever it is practicable; for ample security against unemployment and old age and sickness; for a close, generous and friendly contact between employer and employee; for a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. It believes in trade unionism and in the protection by law of the rights secured by wage-earners. And, because it believes in all these tilings, it stands for a fair industrial law which will be enforced without fear, favour or affection, against employer and employee alike.
He then went on to discuss the specific measures which he would take in order to carry out this balanced programme. “ We reject “, he said, “ the idea that industrial arbitration and direct action can live side by side “. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has just told us, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) did earlier in this discussion, that the issue in this strike is whether the coal-miners should resort to industrial arbitration or to direct action, to a lawful act or to unlawful acts. We could see this issue looming up prior to the last general election, so we said, “ We stand for the notion that industrial arbitration shall prevail. We reject the idea that industrial arbitration and direct action can live side by side “. The policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition continued -
The time has come, in this country where the rule of law is so frequently attacked, for law-abiding people to defend the law.
He there fore proposed that all strikes and lockouts occurring in the course of industrial disputes for the settlement of which some competent tribunal exists, or against the decisions of the competent tribunal, should be declared illegal, and that there should be prosecutions and a resolute enforcement of penalties against those who organized, encouraged or took part in illegal strikes or lockouts. I pause here because the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has said that some doubt exists as to what courses may have been available to the Government under its constitutional powers other than those which it has adopted. There can be no doubt that there is available to the Government under its constitutional powers the right to prosecute those who break the industrial law. The Government itself has placed a provision giving it such a power in its own legislation dealing with the coal industry. In his policy speech the Leader of the Opposition stated that he proposed -
That the funds of any organization of employees or employers guilty of an illegal strike or lockout shall be controlled by the Arbitration Court.
Three years ago, to deal with industrial disputes in that way was a part of our programme. We have been told by the Minister in a patronizing way that he is glad to see that we are ‘behind the Government. If our programme had been adopted by the Government three years ago, and if provisions of the kind we suggested had been placed on the statutebook, we would not need legislation of the kind now before the House and have to “ guillotine “ it as a matter of urgency after a crisis had come upon us. We would have been able to act before the enemy in the community had struck against us. There would have been less prospect of subversive action being taken by the coal-miners if they knew that legislation to deal with illegal strikes was on the statute-book and would be fearlessly implemented. A further proposal outlined by the Leader of the Opposition was -
That it shall be a condition of registration of any organization that its rules shall provide for the election of office-bearers and the making of decisions involving stoppages of work by a secret ballot of all members under the supervision of an officer of the Arbitration Court.
I emphasize that point because it has a very direct bearing on the matter which we are now discussing. We pressed for the holding of a secret ballot of all members because we considered that rankandfile members of a union should have the right to indicate in a secret vote where they stood in regard to a strike before they became involved in it. Let us see how they are to be treated under this legislation. The only action which this Government has so far indicated it proposes to take is action which will directly hit the rank-and-file unionist in the coalmining industry. No action is proposed against the leaders of the mining unions. They are not to be punished under this legislation unless in some way they are directly implicated in a breach of its provisions. If the funds of the unions are frozen, and if contributions are withheld, who will suffer most? The Government intends that rank-and-file members of the unions shall be the sufferers. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has said that they will be shut off from financial aid and will suffer in that way. We accept that as one of the measures that should be taken against those who defy the law of this community. The rankandfile members of the unions are to suffer because of the remissness, the neglect and the utter disregard of the interests of rank-and-file members of this Government in denying them the right to say in a secret ballot where they stand in relation to this dispute. In summing up, the Leader of the Opposition expressed the whole spirit of his approach towards this problem, when he said -
Thi* policy against direct action is not a restriction of freedom ; it is a restraint upon anarchy. One coal-miner’s freedom to strike means that ten other men in factories are denied their freedom to work, because the factory is without coal.
In the light of what has subsequently happened his words were prophetic. The right to strike, which the coal-miners have exercised, is a right which has been preached to them by almost every honorable member who sits behind the Government. Standing in his place in this chamber, the Prime Minister himself has spoken of the right to strike. That i3 the background of this matter. The coal-miners have been led to believe that this issue is not between lawlessness and arbitration, and that they have the right to strike if they care to exercise it. They are now exercising that right. They will be astonished to find that those who urged them on in the past, those who encouraged them and condoned their lawless actions, have now turned against them and have adopted the policy which we have so consistently advocated both inside and outside of this House for many years. The policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition continued -
It is time that we realized that the only guarantee of all-round freedom is to be found in good and fair democratic laws, fearlessly and impartially enforced. We believe that the good sense of the Australian people will he behind on this vital matter.
I am certain that if the Australian people to-day had a programme of that kind put before them, understanding in the light of what has happened in recent weeks how necessary such a programme had become, they would overwhelmingly endorse it. I mention those facts because we have been told that this has always been the attitude of the Labour party and that honorable gentlemen opposite are glad to know that we are with them on this important issue. This is the only measure that the Government has brought down in connexion with this dispute. It is quite obvious from the speeches that have been made on behalf of the Government that Ministers see the solution of this crisis in a war of attrition between the community generally and the coalminers. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said yesterday that the Government is doing now what we did in 1940. All that 1 can say is that the people must be appalled if that is the attitude of the Government. The fact that the members of the Government are unable to distinguish between the conditions that obtained in 1940 and those that obtain at the .present time shows how utterly unfitted they are to be in charge of the affairs of this country in a period of crisis.
Mr. Beazley interjecting,
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) is to be allowed to continue to interject. It is most disturbing to me. In 1940, very substantial reserves of coal at grass were available to the government of the day. Those who suffered from the long drawn-out struggle that occurred then were the miners and the mining unions and not the community. The funds of the mining unions were depleted and the miners and their families suffered hardships. It cannot justly be said that the circumstances of the struggle of 1940 are similar to those of the present dispute. The miners now have ample coal for their own domestic needs, but the community is being starved of coal. Fuel for electricity, gas and transport is being denied to the community, while the miners and their families have adequate supplies of fuel for their own domestic needs. There is no parellel between the stoppage that occurred in 1940 and the present strike. The miners and the mining unions are in a very much better position to engage in a long drawn-out struggle now than they were in 1940. Neither the Parliament nor the people can accept as complete the programme that has been put forward by the Government. This is only one measure. It may be useful, but it will be completely ineffective as a means of achieving a speedy settlement of this dispute and of securing the quantities of coal that could be made available to the community by resolute governmental action. We have yet to hear that the Government has any proposals for securing, whether by its own action or in cooperation with the State governments, the coal that is already at grass, whether it has any constructive suggestions to make regarding the possibility of securing coal from open-cut mines, whether it proposes to bring down any measures complementary to this bill, or whether the Prime Minister has been in touch with other countries with a view to ascertaining how speedily coal can be brought to Australia from those countries. Those are steps that would have been taken by any government that was conscious of its responsibilities to the people.
What of the leaders of the, miners in this unlawful struggle? This bill is designed to punish the rank and file of the miners, but what of the leaders of the conspiracy? The Government has the power to prosecute them.
– So have the mineowners.
– There is no provision in the statute that confines action of that kind to the mine-owners. If there is, I should like to hear it expressed by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and to listen to the right honorable gentleman inviting this Parliament to pass amending legislation to give the Government authority to deal with the miners’ leaders who are defying the law. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) has told us that this is a Communist-directed strike. If the miners’ leaders are Communists or Communist-inspired, what action does the Government propose to take to deal with them ? What measures are to be taken to crush this conspiracy, which was planned months ago and put into operation at a time when the conspirators knew that it would cause the greatest hardship? The honorable member for Perth has told us that the Communists desire to destroy the Labour party, and a number of honorable gentlemen opposite seem to be more concerned with the political implications of this struggle than with the hardships that the people are suffering. I cannot help asking what the attitude of the supporters of the Government would have been if the Liberal party had been in office and had introduced a measure of this kind. I wonder whether we should have received from honorable gentlemen opposite the same strong support as honorable members on this side of the House have given to the Government on this occasion. Unless the Government goes a good deal further than it has indicated that it is prepared to go, we shall not be satisfied of its bona fides in regard to this matter.
I have already referred to the emphasis that has been placed by members of the Government, including the Prime Minister, on the right to strike. Until honorable gentlemen opposite point out to the wage-earners and trade unionists of Australia, whom they claim to represent, that a right to strike is irreconcilable with arbitration under the law, we cannot expect a peaceful industrial future for this country. I could understand members of the Labour party if they talked about the right to strike in the sense that a man has the right to thieve or to commit some other offence against our laws knowing that, if he does so, he is liable to have used against him the sanctions provided by the law. If there are no sanctions for the enforcement of a law, the law is futile and meaningless. If the Government secures the enactment of a law but refuses to make provision for sanctions to enforce its application and at the same time preaches the right to strike, is it surprising that we should suffer from periodical hold-ups ? I shall quote a passage from a book written by the late Mr. Justice Higgins - a man who has often been quoted approvingly by members of the Labour party. In his book, A New Province for Law and Order, he left no doubt about the policy that the community should follow. He wrote -
There should be no more necessity for strike* and stoppages in order to obtain just working conditions than there was need for the Chinaman of Charles Lamb to burn the house down whenever he wanted roast pork. The arbitration system is devised to provide a substitute for strikes and stoppages, to secure the reign of justice as against violence, of right as against might - to subdue Prussianism in industrial matters.
I hope that the views of that man, who has so often been quoted approvingly and who has spoken so truly on this issue, will be adopted by those who claim to speak for the Government.
We support this measure and will assist its speedy passage through the Parliament, but we warn the Government that neither the Opposition parties nor the people of Australia are prepared to accept it as the full extent of the action that the Government should take to bring this disastrous industrial dispute to a speedy end.
– Although the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has announced that he supports this bill, he has damned it with faint praise. He has preached the old tory doctrine and has expounded’ the old conservative theory that all strikes and lockouts should be declared illegal and that that there is no necessity for strikes at this period in our history. The Labour party is not prepared to accept the doctrine that all strikes and lock-outs should be declared illegal. Certainly lockouts should never occur, but strikes are inevitable as long as the capitalist system of society lasts and the workers have only their labour to sell and are forced to bargain with those who own the means of production, distribution and exchange, control the press and enjoy all the advantages of the system. While those conditions prevail a great deal of industrial friction is inevitable. For my part, I believe that the strike weapon should not be used. Most supporters of the Labour party hold that opinion.
– Does that statement apply to the position at Wonthaggi today, where there are no capitalists in the mining industry?
– I desire to discuss the bill, but let me say clearly that no supporter of the Labour party will ever deny to the worker the right to strike.
– The Minister is encouraging the strikers.
– Even though, we believe that strikes are out of date in these days, when the machinery of conciliation and arbitration has been perfected as it has been, I still express that viewIt is one thing to say that all the necessary machinery is provided for conciliation and arbitration, and that strikes ought to be out of date, but it is another thing to make it a penal offence for any worker to strike. While capitalism lasts, there will always be a bad employer or a bad set of circumstances. If all employer* were good employers, there would not be much trouble, but it is difficult for a man to be a good employer when he must compete with a bad employer. The bad employer brings conditions in industry ai low as he possibly can, and where there are bad employers, trouble is inevitable.
– The Government of New South Wales must be a bad employer.
– The present Government of New South Wales is a good employer. It is a much better employer than were previous anti-Labour governments in that State.
– The coal-miners in New South Wales are still on strike, although the Government of New South Wale* co-operated with the Australian Government to establish the Joint Coal Board.
– -I shall deal specifically with the terms of the bill in a moment, but before doing so, I desire to refer to the statement by the honorable member for Fawkner that there should not be strikes in our day. When capitalism and all its attendant evils have been relegated to the limbo of forgotten things, we may have a better system of society, one based on social and economic justice ; but to-day, the worker finds himself at a great disadvantage when, in a world of changing conditions, he has only the force and strength of the organization to which he belongs, to maintain the very little that he has in modern society. A person who has to live on the basic wage does not enjoy a very luxurious existence. He is not able to save much for a time when he may need the money. While human flesh is heir to many illnesses, the basic wage allows the worker and hia family only sufficient to enable them to live in frugal comfort.
– Does the Minister suggest that the coal-miners earn only the basic wage?
– Most Australians work on the basic wage.
– That statement is rubbish. Not one worker in ten receives the basic wage.
– That statement is just so much plain nonsense. I know that many of them do. I have a more extensive knowledge of the working class and the industrial movement than the advocates of capitalism and the defenders of big business have. The workers of Australia have very bitter memories of their dealings with the employing class in this country. The employers have not yet begun to sprout wings or to wear halos. Only a couple of years ago, after certain mem!bers of the Federated Ironworkers Association had been on strike for awhile, the Employers Federation in Victoria decided to lock out all the engineers in certain establishments. The employers said, “We will teach the workers “. When that particular trouble had ended, the engineers said to the employers, “ You locked us out. Now we have a problem to settle with you. We shall make certain demands”. It is all very well for honorable members to say that they believe in abolishing the right to strike and the right to lock-out. Those two rights are not equal. Once a worker goes on strike, he loses the wages that he needs to maintain has family. When an employer decides to lock out the workers, his wife and children do not suffer any personal inconvenience.
In 1928, the coal-owners in New South Wales were led by the late John Brown. In passing, I should mention that John Brown left his money to the then Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Adrian Knox, who forthwith resigned from the Bench in order that he might live a life of luxury on his inheritance. John Brown locked out the coal-miners of New South Wales for many months, and the miners resolved that, henceforth, they would not leave stocks of coal at grass, because they did not trust the employers.
– They did in 1940.
– I advance step by step in submitting my argument, and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) will not deflect me from saying what I desire to say about conditions on the coal-fields in 1928. The bitterness that exists on the coal-fields to-day was sown largely in the years before 1928, and the year 1928 provided about the worst example of the coalowners’ inhumanity, and callous disregard of the rights of human beings. In 1940, there was another strike on the coal-fields. Yesterday and again to-day, the honorable member for Fawkner has said, in effect, “ We, as a government, did not have to worry about them because there was plenty of coal at grass, and we depended upon the circumstances of the time to wear the miners down “. In other words, the Menzies Government at that time pursued a policy of attrition. The honorable member for Fawkner was then Minister for Labour and National Service.
– I was not.
– Then a little later, the honorable member became Minister for Labour and National Service.
– That happening occurred within a month or so of the strike. The honorable member was a member of the Government at that period.
– The strike lasted for ten weeks.
– The honorable member said, in effect, that the Menzies Government solved that industrial dispute because it starved the miners into subjection. He stated that he was proud of the fact that that Government did not have to send the strikers to gaol, or freeze the funds of the miners’ federation. The Menzies Government merely starved the miners into subjection. He regarded that as an act of statesmanship, and a stroke of genius. The position then was entirely different from the position to-day. However, any comparison of the conditions of 1940 and those of the present time is all to the disadvantage of honorable members opposite, who then constituted the Government. In 1940, they had full war-time powers. They could do anything that they liked to do. Rut all they did was to sit idly by and allow the strike to work itself out.
– The Government in 1940 did not have the support of the Labour party, which was then in opposition, and which was screaming out in favour of the strikers.
– All that the Menzies Government did was to say to the people of Australia, “ We have plenty of coal at grass, so do not worry about the strike. The miners will be beaten, anyhow “. To-day, the Chifley Government may use only those very limited powers that it possesses under the Constitution. At least, this Government has not resorted to the tactics that honorable members opposite employed in 1940. We have not tried to beat the strike by using the gentle art of bribery. We have not paid government funds to the Nelsons of to-day in the hope of defeating the striking miners. We have done what a government ought to do in the present circumstances. This bill will freeze the funds of organizations involved in the strike, and of any organization that desires to express practical sympathy for the strike in the form of monetary support. That is about as far as we can go in dealing with the strike. We have urged the miners to disregard the advice of the Communist section of their leaders. We have told them that there will be no compromise and no appeasement and that they must go back to the Coal Industry Tribunal and have their difficulties settled by it.
– Senator Morrow, who is a member of the Australian Labour party, did not say that. Does the Minister approve of what he said?
– I am telling the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) what the policy of the Government is. I do not know what any one else has said. As a member of the Australian Labour party, I know the party’s attitude. We knew for a little while, not very long, only a couple of weeks, that there was likely to be industrial trouble on the coal-fields. It became evident that the Communist party, through the members of the miners’ federation who are Communists, was determined to force an issue in the depth of the winter and cause the maximum inconvenience to the Australian people. We know now that on the 1st May the Communists booked the Sydney Town Hall for a meeting that was to have been held on the 1st June. The meeting was postponed until the middle of June. It was all a part of a plan, although we did not know it then, to force upon the Australian people a strike that has no association with the working conditions of the miners, the majority of whose leaders are Communists.
The miners are on strike because they have rejected arbitration. That is the essential fact. They have been misled by the Communist section of their leaders into believing that direct action is a substitute for arbitration. The Australian Government says that direct action is not a substitute for arbitration. If honorable gentlemen opposite, who profess to be in favour of this legislation, were to show something more than snarling opposition to it, we might believe their protestations to be true. They are sorry that the Government has taken action. They wanted it to do nothing. The debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House to discuss the situation in the coal-mining industry, which was moved yesterday by the Leader of tha Opposition, fizzled out because the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) had already given notice of his intention to introduce this bill. The very fact that the Government had decided to freeze the funds of the miners’ federation indicated that we were doing as much as any government could do to meet the crisis. What do the miners want ? They want long service leave, a 35-hour week and a wage increase of 30s. a week. The story of what has happened in this agitation can be simply told. The Coal Industry Tribunal, which had concluded its hearing of the miners’ claims on the 9th June, announced that it would publish its draft award on the 14th June. Between those two dates, the miners’ leaders decided to hold stop-work meetings on the 16th June. At those meetings, the miners decided to hold a general strike on the 27th June, unless all their claims were met in full. The
Coal Industry Tribunal withdrew its draft award on the question of long service leave because of the threat to stop work. The hearing of the claim was adjourned when it had been almost completed at the request of the miners’ leaders. That indicates that the Communist section of the miners’ leaders lacked genuineness in what they put forward on behalf of the miners. I use this opportunity to tell the House and those people who are listening to the broadcast of these proceedings, particularly those who are listening on the coalfields, that the strike, in the view of the Government and, I hope, the Parliament as a whole, is an unreasonable and unjustifiable repudiation of conciliation and arbitration at a time when the process of conciliation and arbitration was in actual use. In our view, the strike is Communist-inspired. The Coal Industry Tribunal was established’ by this Government. The miners have foolishly repudiated it. Seventy-five per cent, of the miners are not Communists. They are good Australians and they have as much enthusiasm for their country as the average Australian worker has, and they are as good citizens as most other Australians are. But they have allowed themselves to be manoeuvred into a false position by the trickery of those of their leaders who are members of the Communist party. The Coal Industry Tribunal, which the miners have repudiated, was established by the Government at the request of the miners’ leaders. Since its establishment, in March, 1947, the Coal Industry Tribunal has done this for the miners -
In its two years of operation, the tribunal has done more for the miners than was done for them in twenty years before the tribunal was created. The gains that I have enumerated have gone to the miners through the use of conciliation and arbitration and the speedy machinery that is embodied in the Coal Industry Tribunal, for which they asked and which this Parliament was pleased to give to them in order to try to bring about peace in the coal industry. The tribunal has been repudiated by the very same leaders of the miners who persuaded the miners, in the first place, that it would be a good thing for the industry if, to use the vernacular, we streamlined the machinery of conciliation and arbitration. Having persuaded the miners to accept that form of conciliation and arbitration, their leaders now ask them to forsake it in favour of direct action. They ask them to adopt direct action at the expense of their fellow unionists and the community generally. Well, the Australian Labour party repudiates the whole of that manoeuvre. It is repudiated by the members of the Australian Labour party, not only in this Parliament, but also in every State parliament in Australia. The trade union movement organized under the leadership of the Trades and Labour Council in Sydney, I know, repudiates the manoeuvre. A similar body of workers organized under the leadership of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council also repudiates it. The Australian Council of Trades Unions is equally indignant at the action of the miners’ leaders in repudiating conciliation and arbitration and in plunging the community, during the worst period of the year when we have our most inclement weather, into the troubles and difficulties that it is now experiencing. The miners’ own general president, Mr. I. Williams, has publicly expressed appreciation of the Coal Industry Tribunal. As late as 1948, he said that the gains that had been made as the result of the tribunal were estimated to be worth millions of pounds to the miners of Australia. All that goes to show that the Communist section of the miners’ leaders is not at all interested in securing improvements in the coal industry but is anxious to get control of the industry so that, when the time seems propitious, they will be able to carry out the dictates of the Cominform. The aim of the Cominform is to make the nations allied to the western democracies weaker in production.
It may be asked how we can deal effectively with a situation of this sort. We cannot deal with it by passing punitive legislation. We can, in a crisis, freeze the funds of a trade union, but it is useless to ban strikes and lock-outs. As a principle, the banning of strikes and lockouts may be admirable in the view of some people. Mr. Justice Higgins, as was said by the honorable member for Fawkner, once said -
Now that the Commonwealth Government has set up the Arbitration Court, the workers should not resort to direct action, but should submit their claims to arbitration. They will gain thereby and will not have to suffer the loss that is always incumbent upon the community when they strike.
– The Opposition does not want the workers to strike until after they have conducted a secret ballot.
– I was coming to that. I offer no objection to what Mr. Justice Higgins said as a principle, or as a counsel of perfection, but one has to deal with human nature. People sometimes feel aggrieved because of some real or fancied act of injustice. When workers strike they feel an injustice deeply. They do not relish going on strike because they know that when they do so they and their families suffer. No one ever likes embarking on even a legitimate strike for improved industrial conditions; but this is not a legitimate strike; it is a mis-use of power by certain people temporarily in authority in the miners’ federation.:
– That is what happened in 1940.
– That may he so. If it is, the Government of that day should) have done what the Opposition counsels us to do to-day. That is a fair comment on the honorable member’s observation. My view is that the workers of Australia will be saved from the Communists, who would wreck arbitration and ultimately wreck Australia, if they take a more active and intelligent interest in the affairs of their industrial organizations and do not allow the Communists, who are in the minority in the trade unions as well as in the electorates, to take charge of their affairs. The Communist control of several trade unions in Australia is due to the apathy and indifference that seems to be characteristic of so many Australians about so many matters of vital importance to them. Many Australians are always prepared to allow some one else to do their thinking for them and to conduct the affairs of their industrial organizations. Some honorable members seem to believe that is a simple way out of all these industrial difficulties would be provided if members of trade unions were obliged to vote in secret ballots. Secret ballot;i would not do what honorable gentlemen opposite think they would do. The workers of Australia, by and large, do not want any interference from governments. They claim the right to manage their own affairs. They suspect governments when they talk about secret ballots and the right of supervising secret ballots, unless they themselves request secret ballots. The timber-workers struck in 1928, and the then Chief Justice of the Arbitration Court ordered them to conduct a secret ballot. They were so incensed that they publicly burned their ballotpapers.
– And what did the honorable gentleman do about it? Did he protest?
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was a member of the Federal Ministry in 1928, and he did precisely nothing about that strike. A distinguished person in Australia was fined £50, but the fine was never collected. The right honorable member did nothing when he had the power to do something.
– Why did the Labour Government repeal our legislation?
– The government of which the right honorable member was a Minister did nothing to prosecute the striking timber-workers.
– Order! The right honorable member for Cowper is completely out of order and must desist from interjecting.
– The right honorable gentleman did nothing in 1928 except to make foolish and ineffective gestures.
The Government of which he was one of the leaders did nothing to implement a provision for the secret ballot on strike issues in 1928. Such a provision will not work now, any more than it would have worked then, unless the cooperation of the whole of the Labour movement is forthcoming. The Government has another item of legislation on the notice-paper regarding secret ballots to be held in certain circumstances. It is introducing that legislation, with the full support and endorsement of the trade union movement, as another method by which it is hoped to stop the actions of certain Communists who are corrupting the trade union ballot system and thereby achieving results that do not reflect the opinions of the rank-and-file members of the unions. But that is another matter. To say that it is possible to solve all the present problems of the coal industry by merely including a provision in an act of Parliament to the effect that there shall be secret ballots, and then hoping for the best, is in line with the fatuity that was shown by honorable members opposite generally, when they constituted the Government of Australia.
I have told the House what the Coal Industry Tribunal has done for the workers in the coal industry. I have dealt with that matter briefly, and, perhaps, rather sketchily, because time is short and I do not desire to take up all the time available to me, as other members desire to speak on this bill. The Joint Coal Board, which this Government established, has also done a good deal for the coal-miners by promoting efficiency in the industry by providing amenities in mines and by other measures likely to benefit the mine-workers. The coal-mining industry is the most unfortunate industry with which Australians have any association. It is full of legacies of hatred and bitterness that have been brought here, unfortunately, from English, Welsh and Scottish mines. The whole history of the mining industry is one of frustration and negation and of hatred and bitterness between the coal-owners and the coal-miners. Let honorable members reflect on the fact that even in our time it is not unusual for a miner to have to walk two miles from the bottom of the mine shaft, where he gets out of the cage, to the coal face at which he works. According to some articles that appeared about two years ago in the Melbourne Herald, written by a reporter named Tipping, it is nothing unusual in some coal mines in New South Wales, for miners to have to walk 5 miles, there and back, underground, from the shaft to the coal face.
– Not only walk, but crawl.
– In many instances, as the honorable member for Watson has reminded me, they both walk and crawl to their work. Such conditions do not induce a very good feeling of friendship among miners towards the rest of the community.
Mr. Falstein interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Watson must cease interjecting.
– Such conditions do not increase social contentment. That was the situation in the coal-mining industry with which this Government had to deal under the 1947 legislation to which I have referred. That legislation was passed at about the same time as the articles to which I have referred were published. I do not wish to try to enumerate all that the Coal Industry Tribunal has done for the miners, but its accomplishments have been very real and substantial, and they have been appreciated. In any event, the mining of coal underground is very out of date. The world has to get used to more modern methods of extracting coal. There are many people in the world to-day who once would have been destined to follow their fathers’ footsteps into the mines, but who are not going down into the mines to hew coal for society. Their mothers have other ideas about their usefulness to society. The wives of Scottish, Welsh and English coal-miners do not allow their children to go underground in the same numbers as formerly and a similar feeling exists in Australia. Thousands of miners have left the Australian coalmining industry. The wives of miners, who are the mothers of youngsters who, in other times, would inevitably have gone into the mines, are determined that their children shall have a better chance in society than miners have. Two years ago I was in America, where the mines are the best mechanized in the world-
– The miners’ federation would never allow Australian mines to be mechanized.
– Coal-miners in America are the best-paid workers in that country to-day, and their production is the greatest per man in the world. The average age of the American miner is 42, which shows that, as workers, the American coal-miners are a dying race. Society must mechanize the coal-mines and adopt the open-cut system. Science must come to the aid of the industry. There are, I think, 169 mines in New South Wales, many of them only little rat-holes, and they are not places where the average man who works in them could be made so contented with his lot in life that he would co-operate with governments, either Federal or State. Coal-miners, as the result of the conditions under which they work, become easy and ready listeners to all sorts of people with nostrums and quack remedies for the ills of society. The employers in the industry generally have not helped their workers. Many of the employers, if they had the opportunity to do so, would destroy the miners’ federation. This Government has been trying to achieve a balance. It wants to see that the miners’ just claims are considered, but it also tells the miners, when they follow false leaders, that they will get nowhere by that way and must return to arbitration. The Government is not prepared in any circumstances to follow a policy of compromise or appeasement. It will continue to co-operate with the Government of New South Wales or any other government that desires to maintain the rule of law and the authority of Parliament in our modern democratic society. Those of the coal-miners’ leaders who are Communists have made one of their usual gross and foolish mistakes. They have over-stepped themselves this time, just as they did in December last year, when they misjudged the public temper and threatened to strike over the Kemira tunnel dispute. They have badly misjudged the public temper now in the same way, and the sooner they end this strike and get the miners back to work the better it will be for themselves and for society.
For the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) to say that thu measure is directed at the rank and file of the trade unions is just absolute nonsense. The honorable member know* that that is not true. If he had said that without having read the bill I could understand his ignorance of the subject, but he has been provided with a copy of the measure. The legislation is directed principally at organizations that desire to use their funds to encourage what we believe to be a communist conspiracy. It is directed at the officers and leaders of such organizations, and not at the rank and file members.
– The officers will still get their pay.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) is always wrong when he makes an interjection and is very seldom right when he makes a speech. If he would read the bill he would see that clause 4 deals with the prohibition of certain payments by participating organizations, whilst clause 5 deals with the prohibition of certain receipts for and on behalf of certain participating organizations, and clause 6 deals with the prohibition of certain payments by non-participating organizations.. Organizations and their officers can be prosecuted and fined under this legislation. Any suggestion by honorable members opposite that the legislation is directed against the rank and file of the unions is designed principally to try to stir the miners up to continue the strike. We desire the strike to be settled. We want the rank-and-file miners to assert their authority in their own organization and to get. rid of their false leaders who, if allowed to proceed in their present course of action, will destroy the organization. Under thi* legislation we shall have the power to inspect union books, enter premises and require persons to supply information and give possession of documents. The last clause of the bill provides that the legislation shall cease to have effect immediately the Governor-General has signed a proclamation stating that the strike has been terminated. Two honorable members opposite yesterday referred to Mr. John L. Lewis and what he had done for the American miners. They did not tell all the story. Lewis was prosecuted and fined a tremendous amount of money and compelled to pay the fine after several appeals had been made to the superior courts of the United States. Has organization also had to pay a huge fine. Lewis is a very wealthy man, as the Prime Minister has said. He is not a Communist; he is a capitalist. He receives from his union a salary that, I understand, is greater than that paid to the general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in Australia. He has been calling strikes year after year. He called one the other day. He said to the American miners, “ Have seven days holiday so that coal at grass will be used up and we shall be in a better position to bargain with the employers “. He has done that again and again. Two years ago, when the situation in America was very difficult, he told the owners that he expected them to come to a conference with him to draw up the yearly contracts with the United Mine “Workers Union, of which he is the leading official. He told them that all they had to bring with them was their fountain pens. He had already made up his mind about everything beforehand and all he expected the owners to do was to sign on the dotted line. If honorable members opposite want a coal hold-up in the depths of winter when the renewal of annual coal contracts would be due if we adopted the American system, they are advocating a course of action that could be even more disastrous than a prolonged stoppage would be in this particular instance. The coal-owners of Australia taught the coal-miners not to leave too much coal at grass because in 1928, 1934, and 1940, when there was plenty of coal as grass, the owners decided that those were the right times to strike at the mine-workers. In 1934, when the owners had a great quantity of coal at grass, they said to the miners, “We intend to reduce your wages, and unless you are prepared to work for the reduced wages, your jobs will not be available”.
The mine-workers were out for months at that time and were eventually browbeaten and had to go back to work at reduced wages. Honorable members opposite seem to think that the mineworkers are the enemies of Australia. The attitude of the owners has done more to cause bitterness in the coal-fields than has any other single factor. The coal-miners are wrong in engaging in the strike that is now in progress. They have embarked on a stupid strike. The Communists among their leaders are engaged in a wicked conspiracy against the best interests of the people of Australia, and are bringing great misery upon the Australian working class. The solution of the whole problem is, in part, governmental action as far as a govern^ ment can act, and, for the remainder, the sturdy common sense and natural patriotism of the Australian people coming into play to get rid of the wreckers who pass as friends of the working class and are in actual fact, their worst enemies. This Government is the only Government under which action has been taken against Communists. I remind honorable members of the proceedings against Sharkey in New South Wales, against Burns in Queensland, and Healy in Western Australia. The workers of Australia refused to follow the lead of Communist trade union leaders who wanted a general strike called as a protest against those prosecutions. On this present occasion the Communist party leaders have cleverly exploited the natural and reasonable desire of the workers for better conditions in the coal-mining industry, and they have manoeuvred a false issue into the forefront. They claim that the issue involved is the right to strike. Nothing could be further from the truth. The issue is whether the workers shall have their claims decided by an industrial tribunal or not. It does not matter to this Government what the tribunal decides. If it decides to give the miners a 35-hour week and/or a wage increase of 30s. a week and/or long service leave, the Government will honour and abide by its decision. It will abide by the decision of the tribunal whatever it may be, and it asks that the mine workers shall do the same.
– I thought the Minister was going to be brief.
– I am sure that no one wants to listen to the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale). The people would like him to give his tired tonsils a rest. They have heard him too often, but they have never heard from him anything worth while. I hope that I have contributed something to the debates in this House in a spirit of helpfulness and conciliation that will be helpful, but during the short period of two years, during which the honorable member for Parramatta has been in the Parliament, his contributions have been conspicuous, neither for literary merit, nor philosophic worth. I have put the position for the Government, as have other honorable members on this side of the House. This is a fight for the retention of conciliation and arbitration. It is not a fight against the miners, or against any move for the improvement of their conditions. A vast majority of the people of Australia, and particularly of unionists, will back the LabourGovernment, which desires that justice shall be done, which will not be browbeaten by a handful of Communists, or by Fascists, or by any pressure group that thinks it can black-mail the community, and so impose its will on the Australian people.
.- The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has spoken for nearly threequarters of an hour on a bill which, the Government says, is urgent, and must be passed through the second-reading stage by 6 o’clock this evening. In all that time he contributed nothing to the settlement of the dispute. Any one who listened to his speech right through - and he would be a brave person of great endurance who did so - would have wondered for whom the Minister was batting. First, he attacked the Opposition, as if we had something to do with it. Then he attacked the mine-owners of the past, including Mr. John Brown and Sir Adrian Knox. He went on to talk about the lamentable working conditions in the mines, and he told us how the mothers of youths would no longer allow them to go down the pits. If anything is calculated to prevent the recruitment of labour in the mining industry, it must surely be the kind of speech made this afternoon by a responsible Minister.
– An irresponsible Minister.
– No, I mean a responsible Minister because, unfortunate as it may be for Australia, it is to him, and to his colleagues in the Government, that the responsibility of governing the country has been entrusted. After listening to the Minister for Information and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), one could not but be convinced that they are not concerned bo much with settling the strike as with the fate of this Labour Government Apparently, it does not matter about the unfortunate people who are being thrown out of work in hundreds of thousands. It does not matter that the home-building programme will be set back eighteen months or two years as a consequence of the strike. All that matters is that the public might at last become fed up, and might, when the opportunity comes, in November or December of this year, do away with the Labour Government that is so largely responsible for the present trouble.
The Minister for Information said that if the rank and file of the miners’ federation had had the opportunity to do so they mighthave acted differently. They were, he said being misled by Communist leaders, but later they would assert themselves. Some time ago, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) gave notice of his intention to introduce a bill to provide for the holding of secret ballots, not only on strike issues, but also on the election of union officers, but the Government has denied him the opportunity to bring the measure forward. Only by a secret ballot can the rank and file assert themselves. At pittop meetings, the rank and file have no chance of expressing their real opinions. For instance, the voting at pit-top meetings on the present strike issue was as follows : -
Does any one suggest that the percentage of moderates among the coal-miners is not greater than those figures indicate? An overwhelming majority in favour of the strike was obtained by the very manner in which the motion was put before the miners. It was couched in these terms -
That the coal-owners, having deliberately repudiated their .previous acceptance of long service leave; the Joint Coal Board having scrapped its scheme for an even worse one, with a completely unreal approach to the question of continuous working; the chairman of the Coal Industry Tribunal having already rejected the principle of leave based on aggregate service.
The miners were confronted with a number of propositions worded in such a way as to distort the facts, and these were presented to them as a reason for holding up the national economy by going on strike. I believe that, for the most part, the miners are reasonable men. I have met many of them, and found them to be quite decent fellows. They have the same kind of ambitions, and the same hopes for their families, as has the average Australian. The result would have been very different if the motion had been put to them in this form : “ Are you prepared to throw hundreds of thousands of other unionists out of work? Are you prepared to force on to the dole people who are struggling to make ends meet on the wages they now receive? Are you prepared to put back the home building programme for two years ? Are you prepared to close down the railways, and inflict hardship on women and children, and on the inmates of hospitals ? “ If the motion had been put in those terms, the voting would not have been 920 to 20 at Cessnock, and there would have been no strike. Unfortunately, Communist officials control the miners’ federation. The president of the miners’ federation is Idris Williams, a prominent member of the Communist party. Another official is Edgar Boss, editor of the publication Common Cause, who is a member of the central executive of the Communist party. They, working in conjunction with other Communists such as Roach, Ellis, Rowe, Thornton and Elliott, make up the executive of the Communist party, which does not want to settle any industrial dispute by arbitration. For a long time, they have known that they have to deal with a government that is not prepared to take them on.
The Minister for Information said that the Government was going to assert its authority. He has left it pretty late in the day. He has left it until an enraged public demanded that the Government should show some sign of strength or get out, and every member of the Cabinet realizes that that is so. They realize that they dare not do less than it is now proposed to do. The very emergency legislation now before us, the purpose of which is to freeze the funds of the miners’ federation so as to prevent miners receiving strike pay, is to remain in force only for the duration of the present strike. The concluding clause of the bill is as follows: -
Immediately after the termination of the strike, the Governor-General shall make a Proclamation that the strike has terminated and thereupon this Act shall be deemed, to have been repealed.
Thus, it is merely proposed to pass legislation which will remain in force for a month, or fourteen days or a week or a few days, depending on the duration of the present strike. The Communist leaders realize that the next time they pull on a strike the Parliament may not be in session. What will the Government do then? Will it hastily summon honorable members from the four corners of the Commonwealth - from Western Australia, Tasmania and northern Queensland, in order to pass another act? If the Government is sincere in its expressed desire to challenge the Communist party,, and make a stand for the rights of the common people, why will it not leave this protective legislation in force so that it may constitute a weapon with which to defend the community in the future?
A good deal was said by the Minister for Information about the conditions of coal-miners in other countries, including Wales and the United States of America. The fact is that, since the war, production in the United States of America has reached a level never before attained, and that production was based on coal won by members of the United Mine Workers Association, which is controlled by John L. Lewis. The production of coal has been at the rate of 80,000,000 tons a year, and at the moment there is three months’ supply of coal at grass, sufficient to tide the United States of America over any temporary industrial dispute. In the United States of America, the coal-miners work under a contract from one year to another, and a strike is liable to take place only at the termination of the annual contract, when new conditions are being determined between the mineowners and John L. Lewis. Under that system, the production of coal has been continuous, and sufficient to meet the enormous industrial requirements of the United States of America. Great Britain now needs maximum production of coal and steel. We should remember that the entire economy of industrial nations now depends to a very great extent upon coal and steel. One wonders why in England and Wales, where the miners have perhaps the same long heritage of bitterness against the mine owners as have the Australian miners - in some instances their hostility goes even deeper - coal production has been uniformly maintained throughout the years. When the secretary of one of the great English coal-mining unions recently visited Australia, he told me that the strikes that take place at the Newcastle and other Australian coal-fields would not in any circumstances be tolerated by the English unions. In South Wales miners who participate in illegal strikes are given the option of paying a fixed scale of fines imposed by the union or of being taken to the court for breach of the law. The fines imposed on striking piece workers amount to £2 a day, on day-wage workers to £1 a day and on youths over the age of eighteen years to 10s. a day. These fines are imposed and collected not by the Government, but by the union. Recently the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) visited the coal-fields and, after examining the situation there, made this public pronouncement with great disgust -
I am very dissatisfied with the coal situation. Last Thursday-
His visit was made in April - of sixteen pits that were idle, fourteen were not working not because of troubles among wheelers and assistants but because of disputes associated with boys working in the pits.
That has been the reason for most of the stoppages that have taken place on the Newcastle coal-fields. The Opposition is prepared to facilitate the passage of this bill ; but it is of no use for Government supporters to deny that the real purpose of the measure is to freeze such funds as may become available to the miners in an attempt to starve them into submission. That action is to be taken by a government which has repudiated any suggestion that similar action should be taken by any other government. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) has said that the Government is being attacked by the Communists and that this strike had been called on in an attempt to bring about the downfall of the Labour Government. I wonder whether, if the honorable member were sitting on this side of the House and a Liberal-Country party Government were in office and introduced a bill such as that now before us, he would give the measure his support.
The only factor that will impel many members of the Australian Labour party to support this bill is the fear that if they do not do so they will have to deal with an enraged electorate later. Grave financial and physical hardships are being imposed upon all sections of the community as the result of this strike. Many persons hitherto in full employment and enjoying a measure of security have beer thrown out of work and have had to apply for the unemployment benefit. During the last two years the Government has made a great play about its generous unemployment relief policy. A married man with a wife and one child who is thrown out of employment as a result of this Communist inspired strike will receive 25s. a week for himself, £1 for his wife and 5s. for his child, or a total of £2 10s. a week. He may have been earning from £8 to £10 a week in some industrial employment. A single man who loses his employment for the same reason and who also may have been earning from £8 to £10 a week will receive 25s. a week. The greatest hardships will be inflicted on the women and children of this country. Those who have to provide cooking facilities in the face of gas and electricity failures will have to bear an intolerable burden. A good deal of the trouble that results from this strike, the possibility of which was foreseen by the Government long ago - the Minister for Information has admitted that the strike has been expected for a long time - has occurred at a time when coal reserves are down to the lowest point ever reached in this country. At Bunnerong power house there is sufficient coal to keep the Sydney County Council’s electricity undertaking in operation for only one or two days. The railways have sufficient coal stocks to maintain operations for only two or three days, and supplies for only one or two days are available for the maintenance of gas services. When the Communists called this strike they chose their time very well. They knew that they would have the community at their mercy. From their point of view the time was never more favorable for the staging of a strike. If the Government succeeds in keeping the situation in hand it will do so not because of any action which it has taken but because of the determination of Australian citizens other than those employed on the coalfields to see this strike through to the finish.
– The necessity for the introduction of a bill of this kind greatly disturbs me. Indeed, every member of the Australian Labour party is disturbed by the necessity for its introduction. The Government has been forced to introduce the measure in order to (uphold the principles for which it Stands and to protect the hundreds of thousands of honest working men and women of Australia who are associated with the trade union movement. The trade union movement itself was responsible in the first place for deciding that the Australian Labour party should adopt the policy of arbitration. I believe that there is much to be said for the miners’ claims. Having had some experience of the mining industry I know that t>he conditions under which miners work leave very much to be desired. There is no rush among workers for the employment in the coal-mining industry. My mind goes back to the hard days of the financial and economic depression, when, through the lack of industrial activity in this country and the inhuman legislation passed by anti-Labour governments, men were forced on the dole and were only too glad to work a couple of shifts in the coal mines at any time. Because of the rotten conditions that then existed underground workers in the coal mines and in other mining industries began to agitate for improvements. They rightly claimed that no Australian should be asked to work under inhuman conditions. Only economic necessity had forced them to continue to do so. In this dispute we have the regrettable spectacle of one section of the working class movement fighting against a government of its own political complexion and attacking the policy of industrial arbitration which is the mainstay of the Labour movement. No member of the Australian Labour party would be worth his salt if he were not prepared to uphold the policy of industrial arbitration. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said that the miners want a double-headed penny. They want the benefits of arbitration and at the same time they want to exercise their right to strike. This Government and the Labour movement will never surrender the right of a worker to strike if he desires to do so. We have gone through the hardships, trials and tribulations associated with the advancement of our class throughout the years-
– -What is the Minister’s class? In this country we are all workers.
– In 1927 the late Chief Judge Dethridge made an award covering pastoral workers, which was intended to operate for a period of five years. In 1930 the Graziers Association of South Australia approached the court for a variation of the award despite the fact that it still had two years to run. The award covered members of the Australian Workers Union in five States. The Australian Workers Union was called upon to show cause why the wages rates fixed only three years earlier should not be reduced by 32£ per cent. The then general secretary of the Australian Workers Union, the late Mr. Ted Grayndler, asked for an adjournment of the hearing to enable him to collect evidence throughout the five States covered by the award. He claimed that insufficient time had been given to him to do so between the date of the service of the notice and the date upon which the hearing began. Chief J udge Dethridge, whose words are indelibly imprinted on my mind because of the misery and degradation which resulted from them, replied -
Irrespective of what evidence the union may or may not be able to place before the court, I am faced with responsibility for reducing costs in the industry.
How would the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) feel if he were subjected to such treatment? Mr. Grayndler then said -
I am wasting the time of my organization in appearing before this court and attempting to defend the claim because Your Honour has already indicated that you have made up your mind.
No alternative was left to the Australian Workers Union but to fight, and accordingly its members went on strike. Unfortunately they lost the conflict. I have examined the awards granted to the coalmining industry and I have made comparisons between them and those made for other industries. I am disturbed by the deplorable conditions under which coal-miners have to work, but I agree that their grievances can be adjusted only by arbitration. I appeal to rank and file members of the miners’ federation to return to the straight path followed by the Labour movement and resort to the legal machinery established for the rectification of their grievances. Let them appeal to their leaders to prepare a case for submission to the court showing the shocking conditions under which they have to work. The Australian Workers Union has been able greatly to improve the working conditions of its members. It has obtained a 37^-hour working week for underground workers in the goldmining industry and a 30-hour week in certain mines such as winzes, rises, and wet shafts. What this Government is trying to tell the honest men who constitute the rank and file of the mining unions is that the arbitration machinery is there for them to use. We aTe not opposed to them. We want to help them. We are prepared to give them whatever arbitration machinery they require. Indeed, we have given it to them, but their leaders have refused’ to make use of it. The conditions in the mining industry to-day are such that no worker is anxious to enter the industry. There is no honorable member of this House who would willingly accept a position as a coalminer or who would desire to see any of his kin working in the coal-mines. We must convince the men who produce coal, which is the life-blood of Australian industry, that we are prepared to improve their conditions. This is the only government that has been prepared to do so. We have given them arbitration machinery, but their leaders have refused to use it on this occasion. Since the Coal Industry Tribunal was established, great progress has been made in improving conditions in the coal-mining industry. I appeal to the rank and file of the miners’ organizations to ask their leaders why they cannot make a success of arbitration when other unions have done so. The miners have not accepted arbitration completely because their leaders have put them on the wrong track. Owing to the rotten and wretched underground conditions in the coal mines our sanitoriums and hospitals are full of comparatively youthful men. My appeal to the workers - and I cannot repeat it too often - ie to realize that there is only one class in this country that will legislate in their interests, and that is their own class. We have often fought honorable gentlemen opposite. One of them has interjected and said, “Rot”. When I was a youth I had to fight because I was a member of the Australian Workers Union. The employers did not want me to be a member of the union. I had to get a pen in a shearing shed in the name of somebody else because I was a member of the Australian Workers Union. Communism came into being in this country because the employers, in order to weaken the unions, assisted the Communists to secure key union positions. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) hae criticized the Government for what he has claimed to be its failure to deal with communism. When the honorable member was Premier of New South Wales he tried to destroy the Australian Workers Union in that State, and nearly succeeded in doing so. He gave preference to the members of other unions that were registered at his behest. He did so in an effort to destroy the Australian Workers Union in New South Wales because it would not dance the tune of Jack Lang and his party. In the early days of the struggle to establish the Australian. Workers Union in Western Australia, decent unionists could not get jobs in shearing sheds, mines or other places because the employers vere anxious to cause dissention in the ranks of the unions and they gave preference to persons who were not union members. The employers are responsible for the existence of the Communist section of the Australian trade union movement.
I have not heard one member of the Opposition state that he is prepared to accept this bill for what it is worth and to give the Government credit for honest intentions in introducing it.
– The Government has been forced to introduce it.
– That is the cry of the parrot that has been feeding on poison weed. The honorable gentleman’s mind is so warped that he thinks that any Action that the Government takes is forced upon it by the Opposition. I tell honorable gentlemen opposite that there is nothing that the Opposition can do to force the Government to take action that it considers to be undesirable. This Government has the courage of its convictions. That is why it is in power now and will remain in power.
Let us see who are the top-ranking Communists in Australia. I shall attempt to show that they were elected or appointed to their present positions in trade unions during periods when the Labour party was in Opposition in this Parliament and when the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) or the late Mr. J. A. Lyons occupied the position of Prime Minister of this country. According to the articles that have been written by the Communist Cecil Sharpley, and which have been published in the Sydney Morning Herald, the topranking Communists are Wright, the federal president of the Sheet Metal Workers Union; Thornton, the national secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association; Healy, the federal secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation; Howe, of the Amalgamated Engineering Union; Elliott, the federal secretary of the Seamen’s Union; Williams, the presi dent of the miners’ federation; Brown, the Victorian State secretary and federal president of the Australian Railways Union; and Thompson, the secretary of the Building Trades Federation of Victoria and the general secretary of the Plumbers’ Union. They have been described as the “most powerful Red union bosses in Australia”. They were all elected’ to their present positions during the regimes of the Lyons, Menzies and Fadden Governments.
– And they have retained them under the regime of this Government.
– The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) has said that they have retained their positions under this Governments. That is so, but the governments to which I have referred gave them the opportunity to become powerful.
– Does the Minister suggest that Idris Williams became president of the miners’ federation during the time of the Menzies Government?
– Yes, I do. Sharpley, in his articles that have been published in the Sydney Morning Herald, has said-
– What have they to do with this bill?
– They have a lot to do with the bill. Honorable gentlemen opposite have argued that the present dispute has been caused1 partly by the Government’s failure to deal with the Communist party. We claim that the Communist party is an ally of the Opposition in its efforts to achieve the destruction of this Government.
Opposition members interjecting,
– I shall tell honorable gentleman opposite a little more if they will be patient.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini). - Order! The Chair cannot hear what the Minister is saying.
– You are not missing much, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker.
– Order! This is a parliament, and not a circus.
– Honorable members opposite do not like what I am saying.
Wright became secretary of the Sheet Metal Workers Union during the regime of the Lyons Government, in which the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) were Cabinet Ministers. Thornton became federal secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association during the term of office of the Lyons Government. During that period, he earned the unenviable distinction of forfeiting his deposit on the only two occasions when he sought parliamentary honours by opposing the present right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). Healy became the federal secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation and Elliott the federal secretary of the Seamen’s Union when the anti-Labour forces had a majority in this Parliament. Although “ Runaway “ Rowe was not elected to his present position until about six years ago, he and the Communists had done all the spade work and had perfected their organization to secure his election to the Commonwealth Council of the Amalgamated Engineering Union during the period when either the present Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Australian Country party was Prime Minister of this country. That is the list of top-ranking Communist trade union officials that has been published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Murdoch publications. Communists have always been prominent in the affairs of the miners federation. When the late Mr. Lyons was the Leader of an anti-Labour government, two men who were then Communists, Nelson and Orr, were elected as general president and general secretary respectively of the federation. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked just now what my remarks have to do with the bill. I direct his attention to the fact that Nelson was the person who received a payment from the “ slush fund “ at a time when the present Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party were in office. The payment, which was made from public money, later formed the subject of an inquiry by a royal commission.
– I waa not in office then. Why are these remarks addressed to me?
– The honorable gentleman is a supporter of those who were then in office. These facts demonstrate in no uncertain manner the means by which Communists secured a footing within the Australian trade union movement. They were aided and abetted by anti-Labour governments and employers because it was considered that their influence would weaken the fighting strength of the trade movement. As a trade union organizer and secretary, I have been fighting the Communists for the last 25 years. I belong to the Australian Workers Union, a union that the Communists have never been able to white ant because we have been prepared to fight them wherever we meet them. I ask the trade unionists of this country, and particularly the miners, to compare the working conditions of members of the Australian Workers Union with those of the members of any other union. I claim that the working conditions of members of the Australian Workers Union, which have been secured by arbitration, compare favorably with those of the members of any other union. The Australian Workers Union covers weak and strong industries from one end of the country to the other. Its members do not occupy key positions which can be used to enforce demands. However, we have been able to make our voice heard through the medium of the arbitration system, which was established by the trade union movement and the Australian Labour party. If the honest working men who are members of the coal-mining unions will examine what this Government has done for them, I feel that they will come to the conclusion that they should return to work and tell the Government that they are part and parcel of the great Labour movement of Australia, that they are prepared to stand or fall by it, and that they are willing to accept the principle of arbitration. If the miners wrecked this Government, they would not foe the only persons who would suffer. I say in all sincerity that working-class people throughout Australia and Australia itself would suffer if that occurred. There has never been a more progressive Australian Government than this one. It has had the courage to proceed with a well-considered and well-balanced programme. It has brought prosperity to Australia and strengthened our economy at a time when other countries in the world are facing great crises. It has been able to steer the people through their difficulties. We are in the proud position of being able to Bay that the amount of money deposited in the savings banks of this country, most of which consists of the savings of working-class people, has never been as great as it is now. That is the answer to the challenge that has been made.
I emphasize that the Government is not fighting the coal-miners. We are appealing to them to do the right thing and we are trying to put them on the right track. We ask them to request their leaders to re-examine the position. The miners are members of the great Labour movement, and still have faith in it. I urge them to submit their claims to the Coal Industry Tribunal, which the Australian Government, in co-operation with the Government of New South Wales, appointed at their argent request. The miners had appealed to the Chifley Government to establish g special tribunal to hear their claims, because they said that the approach to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was too cumbersome, and that that tribunal was not conversant with the peculiarities of the coal-mining industry. I can understand the justice of that claim. I have no practical experience of the coal-mining industry, but I have a knowledge of underground working conditions in the gold-mining industry. Whilst the working conditions in the gold-mining industry are bad enough, I imagine that conditions underground in the coal-mining industry are considerably worse. I recognized the justice of the coal-miners’ request for a special tribunal to examine their claims for improved working conditions. The Chifley Government, in co-operation with the Labour Government of New South Wales, acceded to their request, and they submitted their claims to the new Coal Industry Tribunal, and gained considerable benefits from its decisions. The latest claim that the miners’ federation made to the Coal Industry Tribunal was for a 35-hour working week and long service leave. When the tribunal was about to deliver its decision, the representatives of the miners’ federation declared that they had no faith in it, and that if the claims were not granted immediately, the organization would declare a jungle war, not only on the Chifley and McGirr Governments, but also on other trade unionists throughout Australia. I urge the miners to give further consideration to the position, and appeal to their leaders to re-examine it.
– Why does not the Government tell the leaders of the miners’ federation their duty to the nation? It is by-passing them.
– Order 1 The Chair will tell the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) something if he does not keep quiet.
– I shall ignore the interjection. With all sincerity, I urge the miners to compel their leaders to reexamine their decision, and allow the Coal Industry Tribunal to deal with their claims.
– It is perfectly plain to the House, and, I have no doubt, to the country, that the Government is very worried. Several Ministers have risen to speak on this bill, but we have yet to hear a private member express the views of the rank and file.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mt. Burke) has spoken.
– The honorable member for Perth is the Deputy Chairman of Committees, and, therefore, may not be regarded as one of the rank and file. The debate seems to have been left entirely to Ministers. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) delivered speeches that were similar in all respects except that the endings were different. Each made a ranting speech about the conditions of the coal-miners and workers generally, but instead of emphasizing the need for positive action against the strikers, they said, more in sorrow than in anger, that the Government proposed to take the action that is contemplated under the bill in order to shorten the strike. But every word that they uttered was designed to encourage the strikers. The course of this debate has taken some strange turns, and I shall deal with several of them. The Government attaches great importance to drawing red herrings across the trail. The Minister for Post-war Destruction - I am sorry, I mean Post-war Reconstruction - has delivered an address on arbitration and has endeavoured to convince his listeners that members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party ure the opponents of arbitration. Of course, the truth is that a government of the same political views as those of honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber introduced arbitration, and thereby enabled a basic wage to be fixed, reduced the hours of labour, and gave to workers the right, through their organizations, to sue employers who had not obeyed awards. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction made a futile attempt to draw that red herring across the trail. He should have dealt with the matter of greater importance that is now under consideration.
The Minister for the Interior spoke of the sacred right to strike. He followed the lead that had been given by the Minister for Information, who tried to have a bit both ways. He was like the lady of whom it was said, “ First she would, and then she wouldn’t”. The Minister for the Interior delivered a diatribe about the right of the worker to strike. He said that he believed in the right to strike. Earlier, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) had pointed out that workers could not expect to have it both ways. They could not have arbitration, and the right to strike at the same time. The Leader of the Opposition quoted the observations of the late Mr. Justice Higgins in the Stemp case, which were particularly appropriate to the present circumstances. The late Mr. Justice Higgins, I may add, has been acclaimed the champion of trade unionism. If the workers invoke the processes of the law, they must be prepared to abide by the decisions of the tribunal. A democracy cannot survive if one section of the community insists upon its right to disobey the law.
The Minister for Information said that employees were leaving the coalmining industry, and the Minister for the Interior echoed that statement. What are the facts? Last
March 18,046 men were employed in the coal industry, the highest number sine* 1930. Those figures do not indicate that the employees are leaving the coal-mining industry. However, there is another significant fact. Although the number of employees in the industry has increased by 20 per cent, since 1939, the output of coal is now approximately 700,000 tons less than the output in 1939. Thornfigures indicate to the general public the line of action that is being taken by the coal-miners. The Minister for the Interior, who used a veritable spate of words, said that the Government was appealing to the coal-miners to resume production, and to be good boys in future. Ever since this Government has been in office, it has been appealing to and retreating before the onslaught of the coalminers. It has never translated its words into positive action until to-day. Of course, it has now been absolutely driven to take some kind of positive action. The Minister for Information feigned complete ignorance of the Communists’ intention to call a strike in the coal-mining industry. I put it to the House and to the country that the honorable gentleman was indulging in a play on words. A boy attending a primary school would have known perfectly well that the Communists were awaiting an opportunity to organize the usual strike that has occurred annually since 1946 in the depth of winter. The Government knew that as surely as the sun rises every day this stoppage would occur. From time to time, honorable members are informed that the security service has inside knowledge of the Communist party. Does the Minister for Information claim that the security service is worth its salt if it has not been able to advise the Government about the proposals of the Communists to organize the present strike? Actually, the Communists were keeping to pattern, and the Government knows what that pattern is.
I shall make one more comment before I address my remarks to the bill. The Minister for the Interior endeavoured to convince his audience that members of the Opposition and members of the Communist party have entered into a deeplaid plot to smash the Chifley Government. He read a list of the names of persons who, he said, were appointed to various Commonwealth boards by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party when they occupied the treasury bench some years ago. I remind the Minister that we did not appoint Healy or Roach to any board, that we did not appoint “ J ock “ Garden, who founded the Communist party in Australia, as a liaison officer, and that we did not appoint Communists to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as this Government has done. If honorable members opposite require a fair indication of bow the Communists control this Government, they will be interested in a report that was published in the Melbourne Age on Tuesday, to the effect that the northern miners’ board of management had decided to write to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) telling them to keep out of the coal dispute. The northern miners’ board of management is controlled by Communists, and, like other great Communist unions, it controls the actions of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Hunter and the honorable member for Newcastle will not speak on this bill, because they will obey the orders that have been given to them by the miners’ federation to keep out of this brawl.
– That is not true.
– It is perfectly true.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has stated that the honorable member for Hunter will not speak on this bill because of orders that have been given to him by the northern miners’ board of reference. The honorable member for Hunter is absent on account of illness. I ask you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, whether that misrepresentation of the position is in order.
– I regret that-
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Burke). - Order!
– The honorable member for Wentworth is entitled to speak to the point of order.
– The honorable member for Wentworth has no right to speak to a point of order because the Chair rules that no point of order is involved. The matter of misrepresentation may be answered later.
– If the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) had been patient for one moment longer, I should have proceeded to state that I knew that the honorable member for Hunter was not able to be present. However, the honorable member for Newcastle is here, and I should be most interested to hear him make a speech on. this bill.
I have been forced to refer to those matters, because of the misrepresentation in which various Ministers have engaged. Although the Government hasbeen forced to introduce this bill, Ministers are trying in every possible way to excuse themselves. They are apologizing to the miners, and have said to them, in effect, “ We know that you have been forced into this position, and that you work under the worst conditions in the world “. Of course, that view is open to serious challenge. The Minister for Information has implied that the coalminers earn only the basic wage. He is perfectly well aware that they earn up to £4 12s. a shift, and that they work four shifts a week. Not one adult male in ten receives only the basic wage. However, Government spokesmen have made many reckless statements in an endeavour to excuse the Government for having introduced this bill.
Now that I have debunked statements thai have been made by various Ministers in this debate, I shall proceed to deal with the bill itself. I support the bill in its entirety. I believe in it. It will place on the statute-book an act that should have been passed long ago when the Government was similarly challenged by the Communist-controlled unions to govern the country or abdicate in their favour. In bringing down this bill, the Government is doing no more than its duty. I warn it that it must not expect the plaudits of the multitude, because, in the eyes of the multitude, it is doing no mors than it is its duty to do, and that is So govern the country instead ofallowing itselftobe a cypher and insteadofallowingthe government of the country to pass into the hands of the Communists in charge of certain trade unions. The bill is a tardy recognition of the Government’s responsibility. The Government, and only the Government, is responsible for the position in which it finds itself to-day, because, if it had allowed the leader of the Opposition to present and to have passed the bill to provide for the conduct of secret ballots by the trade unions, of which he gave notice a considerable time ago, this coal strike would not have occurred. To realize the truth of that statement one has only to examine the votes that were cast on the northern coal-fields on the question of whether the general strike should be held. I take it that the miners who did not vote were not in favour of the strike. A secret ballot would have revealed that they were not and there would not have been the need for this drastic legislation. The country is in its present sorry state only because the Government has been apathetic and has pandered to the miners’ federation and other Communist-led trade unions. In 1943, the then Prime Minister, the late John Curtin, said -
Prosecutions will be applied in every case of a mine worker absenting himself from work without lawful excuse and, similarly, prosecutions will be launched against any persons connected with the mine management responsible for a breach of existing regulations.
In 1944, in this House, he said -
There is on our statute-book a law which deals with the matter, and I say to the House hut more directly to the industry, that the law will be enforced ruthlessly … I repeat that the law which we passed in respect of the coal-mining industry will be ruthlessly enforced against all those to whom it can be applied validly, whether they be workers or members of the employing organizations.
Those were great words that struck a response in the hearts of the people who were suffering untold miseries ; but, after the Government had prosecuted the Communist leaders of the miners’ federation and they had been fined, the Government remitted the fines. Again, when the Government put the striking miners on the south coast into the Army, with the intention of sending them to north Australia, and its action was challenged by the union, it gave way and allowed the men to return to their homes.
– That is not true.
– It is true and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) knows that it is true. That is what we get from the Labour Government. It is fearless in the use of words, but it fears to back its words with action. It has retreated again and again in the face of challenges from the Communist trade unions. The Communists, in engineering this strike, have effected, in days of peace, the complete immobilization of Australia, which is something that neither the Germans nor the Japanese could do in days of war. They are causing misery to hundreds of thousands of honest trade unionists. The Australian public has come to expect a coal crisis every year, especially in winter. Ever since 1946, a coal crisis has been an annual event. The coal crisis this winter is doubly harsh because of the devastating floods in the Hunter Valley and other parts of New South Wales. That, of course, to the Communists, is all the better, because the more hardship and misery that they can inflict upon the people the better their cause is served. The machinations of the Communists are known by members of the Australian Labour party. They are not a figment of the imagination of members of the Liberal party. The president of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, Mr. Anderson, stated that the miners had allowed themselves to be manoeuvred into a false position by the Communist leaders of their federation, who, he said were sacrificing hundreds of thousands of trade unionists.
– A good statement, too!
– Of course it is. I am glad that the Government Whip supports that statement. I am glad, too, that at long last he and his colleagues in the Labour party have decided to support their flow of words with positive action. The strike on the coal-fields was decided upon when the miners’ own tribunal had examined their claims and was about to announce its decision. I invite the House and the country to take note of the technique of the Communists. In the timehonoured fashion of- the Communists, the officials of the miners’ federation threatened a strike, knowing full well that if they threatened to call the miners out on strike in defiance of the tribunal, the tribunal would withhold any decision that it had come to. The Communists wanted a fight and the fight was called on. I believe that it is as well known to most members of the community as it is to honorable members on this side of the chamber that the Government has done everything it can to appease not only the miners but also all other Communist-controlled trade unionists. Under the Canberra code, which was brought into being in 1942, the miners’ officials were supposed to have assumed the responsibility for disciplining members of the miners’ federation. The Government accepted that code. In effect, its members said, “ This is all right ; it gives us a let out “. The Canberra code was a complete failure in 1942. In 1943, it was given another airing and again it was a failure. In 1945, the code had no more success than it had had in previous years, although it was revamped. The new code provided a plan for the better disciplining of members of the federation. It also provided for a greater output of coal. Honorable members know how much more coal the miners were to have produced if they were given an extra week’s holiday. Again the miners let down Australia. “We all remember the black Christmas just after the war had ended. In 1946 Mr. Justice Davidson was appointed as a royal commissioner to inquire into and report upon the coal industry. In order to support what I have said, I propose to quote a section of his report. He made some most pertinent statements, amongst which was the following : -
The moat paralysing of all defects that hinder the success of compulsory arbitration is extraneous to the system itself, and consists of the failure of governments to support judicial decisions.
That is exactly what I have been saying. The Government has been forced into this decision by its own inaction. It has failed to back up the decisions of its own judicial instrumentalities. The chairmen of various boards and commissions have resigned because the Government has not supported them in their decisions. In fact, we have had the spectacle of the Government taking action contrary to the decisions of boards that it has itself appointed. Mr. Justice Davidson went on to say -
The rule of law is the only safeguard of peace in industry as it is of social life in a democratic community. Without enforcement of the law, any system must fail in the absence of rigid self-discipline in the community or the savage rule of the dictator.
The former of these alternatives is lacking in the coal industry, and the other alternative is not desired. There can be no exception of the law being’ obeyed if every adverse decision of a judge or other official is treated as a justification either for demands which are given consideration by the Government, for his dismissal or removal from further exercise of his functions in the industry, or for a strike which is uniformly settled by the concession of some of the items that were in dispute, or other benefits.
Truer words have not been spoken. If the Government believes in the principles stated by Mr. Justice Davidson it must act. I think that in their heart of hearts members of the Government do believe in those principles. That is why, at long last, this bill has been introduced. Its principal purpose is to freeze the funds of the trade unions registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Amongst those unions are the ones represented in the Combined Mining Unions Council, with the exception of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia, which is one of the big Communist-controlled unions. That union is excepted because it has been deregistered by the Arbitration Court. Neverrtheless, its members have joined in the strike. This measure cannot freeze its funds. Its funds cannot be used by the miners’ federation to prolong the strike, but they can be used to prolong its own strike, which was called in sympathy with the miners’ strike. The bill is not wide enough. In effect, the Government is saying to the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia, “ Of course, your strike is only a little one, and it does not matter much. So we do not intend to prevent you from using your own funds. We accept the principle of freezing unions’ funds when the strike is a big one, but when the strike is a little one that principle is not involved.” I say to the Attorney-General that the principle should apply to all strikes regardless of whether they are big or little. If he intends to insist on arbitration and the rule of law being observed - and that seems to be the theme-song of the debate on the Government side - then he cannot have it both ways, having arbitration to deal with big industrial upheavals and allowing direct action to he taken in respect of less important industrial troubles. I ask the Attorney-General to examine that aspect, because if unions can use their own funds to pay their own members on strike then that is indirectly continuing the strike. The union to which I have referred is not a registered body, and therefore, this bill will not apply to it.
There is only one other observation that I desire to make bef ore I resume my seat. I firmly believe that the problem that we are facing to-day will not be settled for all time by this bill. The bill may be effective in the present instance. I hope that it will be, because one cannot consider with any degree of comfort the community continuing to be held up to ransom by people who exercise the law of the jungle. I believe, therefore, that, having taken this step, we must plan to take another step. We must place this country in a position in which it can never have any recurrence of the circumstances that exist to-day. To do that we must have reserves of coal. The only way to place any industry or business, small or large, or any service essential or otherwise, beyond the possibility of its having to face similar circumstances to those which they now face, is to see that we have coal reserves. As it stands, we are always vulnerable because of our lack of coal reserves. We have an opportunity now to take action to develop such reserves. We cannot force miners to go into the bowels of the earth to hew coal, but we know that there are open-out mines that can produce huge quantities of coal, and we know also that coal’ is being freely mined in countries where the miners are prepared to hew it. It is the Government’s job to see that we are no longer placed in a position of having no reserves of coal. We should have six months coal at least at grass in this country. The Government can ensure that that position is achieved by importing coal. Unless this measure is nothing more than a form of lip service the Government can take that additional step. As I have said we do not want the recurrence of a similar set of circumstances to those which now exist in this country. But such circumstances will always occur unless there are reserves of coal behind industry and the Government. I repeat that the only way in which we can create these reserves, if the miners in Australia will not hew sufficient coal, is to purchase coal from countries where miners are prepared to hew it. I say to the Government, “ Be courageous. Do something more. Go on to bigger things. You will receive the support of the Opposition”. I am waiting to see this bill implemented. I know of other legislation that was introduced by this Government, but that has never been implemented to the full. There is the Crimes Act, for instance, which the Government is not prepared to implement in connexion with the present crisis. I want to see the present measure implemented. If this is only a gesture, and the Government does not propose to give effect to it, then it is likely to prove one of the greatest .possible disservices to the Labour movement, and will do more than anything to encourage and develop the Communist element in this country to a degree that must ultimately destroy the Labour movement.
Mr. BEAZLEY (Fremantle) [5.341. The cloak-and-dagger melodrama which we have just heard from the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) did contain one statement of fact that I heartily endorse. That is, that the Government has been driven to bringing down this measure. I do not make any apology for saying that. Several honorable members have made that point, and it is perfectly true. There is no legislation that the Government has been more reluctant to introduce than this measure. I do not see that there is any sense in pretending that this measure is not coercive or that it does not propose a curtailment of civil liberty. I see no sense in lying to the miners on that issue. The only profitable discussion that can be had on the measure is to ask whether the coercion and the curtailment of civil liberty are justified. I say that they are. The honorable member for Wentworth, ma I have already mentioned, said that we have been driven to bring in this legislation. The Government has been driven into doing so because it represents the community in this matter and it is simply acting in defence of the community. That is the present position, and it is the explanation for this legislation. The bill, if it is rigorously administered, will be strong medicine. The honorable member for Wentworth has suggested that we should have more of that medicine. I hope that what is medicine for the community will not become its daily food. That is the point that this Government stands for without apology. This is emergency legislation the operation of which will be terminated when a proclamation has been signed by the Governor-General that the need for it has passed. We do not make any lofty generalizations out of it to the effect that it represents the destruction of the right to strike. We do not profess that it does. In this case we have a key industry that is presenting the community with no alternative but to act in self-defence. That is the justification for the legislation. Let us look at the method by which this strike has been declared. That method will differentiate it from the ordinary strikes that the honorable member for Wentworth suggests should be dealt with by similar legislation. In that connexion he made a rather absurd statement. This particular strike will cause the unemployment of between 400,000 and 500,000 people in the community.
– Those figures refer to STew South Wales alone.
– This strike, if prolonged, would reduce the country to severe straits and would bankrupt the National Welfare Fund. Those pressures undoubtedly explain why the Government has introduced this legislation. In the election of 1946, and in previous general elections, the Labour party went to the country professing that it supported arbitration. If it were to go to the country on the Communist policy’ of abolishing arbitration it would be destroyed. Only one government has gone to the country on the policy of abdicating Commonwealth control over the whole field of arbitration, and that was the Bruce-Page
Government, which was defeated because of that proposed abdication. The only other party which has gone to the country with a policy of abolishing arbitration has been the Communist party which has obtained not one seat in the whole of Australia in any general election in the federal sphere. In fact, the Communist party has been distinguished for itf widespread forfeiture of statutory deposits. In those circumstances there is no doubt that governmental support for arbitration is desired by the Australian community. Whatever connexions any members of this Parliament have had with trade unionism they should not, in the face of those facts, be expressing the will of the people if they repudiated arbitration when if ha* been, in the last resort, defied. The Communist party has consistently campaigned against arbitration. I confess to be an assiduous reader of the Tribune, the Workers’ Star, the Guardian, the Communist Review and any other Communist literature that I can get hold of. It i* necessary to read these organs one week so as to find out what is going to happen in certain trade unions in the following week. For the last three years the Communist party has systematically derided the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Il has systematically derided the judges of that court. It has derided any trade union secretary who stands for arbitration. Having started off with the doctrine that arbitration must be discredited it has, when necessary, invented facts to help its campaign. The fact that the Communists are using the miners’ federation to discredit arbitration is in some respects a sign of their present weakness and not of their strength. We should remember that over the last few months they have endeavoured to start several strikes on the issue of arbitration and on other issues such as the Sharkey prosecution. But after a systematic campaign of vilification against the Commonwealth Arbitration Court they have failed on those occasions to win the support of the unionists. A prominent Communist and trade union official named McPhillips went into the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and deliberately insulted the presiding judges. When, as a result, he was committed for contempt of court the Communists endeavoured to cause strikes in several key unions, notably the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. They were successful to some degree in Sydney but, as in the Sharkey issue, unionists generally in other States overwhelmingly rejected their proposals._
The Communists are undoubtedly endeavouring to disrupt the Australian economy. Their first attempt to do so was made among unions on what we might call the Communist periphery but, having failed there, they have been driven back to the trade union hub of th’e industry that controls all other industries, the miners’ federation. This present move Ls a confession of failure. They did not want to hold the whole community to ransom because there are very grave risks involved in such a policy. Let us examine the issue in the present strike. Throughout this dispute the Communists will attempt, in a systematic campaign, to stress the economic objectives over which the strike has been called. I refer to the miners’ claims for a 35-hour week, a 30s. weekly wage increase and long-service leave. I shall not speak on those claims except to say that I believe that a very strong case could be made out for them. I say without any hesitation that the one thing that the Communist party would dread more than any other would be that these three claims should be granted by the ‘Coal Industry Tribunal. The Communists are not interested in those economic claims and have not given the tribunal a chance to consider them. They have no reason to believe that the tribunal would not grant the claims. What they want to do is to achieve those claims by militant action so that they can say to the miners, “You could never have gained recognition of those claims by arbitration. We got it for you by our militancy “. It would be a sad thing for the Communists if the claims were granted by arbitration. The Communists are determined, in fact, that arbitration shall not be the means by which the claims gain recognition. They intend to achieve that by militant methods. Their militancy is not unique in Australia’s industrial history, but some of the effects on this particular industry are unique.
The Government, in relation to this dispute has had to choose between allowing the community to be ruined and fighting back. It has chosen a very drastic method that was not quite correctly described by the honorable member for Wentworth as “freezing” trade union funds. The measure does not intend to freeze trade union funds that are used to pay trade union employees and to carry out the ordinary business of trade unions. It simply directs that trade union funds shall not be spent for the purpose of prolonging this strike. That is an important point. There is no doubt, judging by the telegrams that certain honorable members have received, that a lying Communist campaign is being stirred up. Winged words, like those of the honorable member for Wentworth, to the effect that under this bill trade union funds are to be frozen, can only be regarded as playing straight into the hands of the Communists, who will use for their own purposes the fallacy that the business of legitimate trade unions is to be disrupted and that unions will not be allowed to carry out their ordinary activities and make their ordinary payments, many of which are made into medical and benefit funds. We want to make it perfectly clear that the only purpose of this legislation is to stop the misuse of funds to prolong a strike. Let me say this. We get a great deal of demagoguery from Healy, McPhillips and many other Communist leaders. We, of course, shall be accused of having sold out the working class on this issue. Demagoguery will ignore the fact that members of the trade unions have voted overwhelmingly for the party which has always supported arbitration - the Labour party. Even the members of those unions that have Communist officials have voted overwhelmingly against the Communist party. The Labour Government is here as the instrument of the community. If this Government had supported the Communist party in its attempts to abolish arbitration, I have no doubt that it would have ceased to be a government, and the Labour party would no longer have a majority in the Parliament. Whatever affiliations honorable members on this side of the House may have with some trade unions, they cannot forget their responsibility to the community at large, and this bill has been brought down to defend the community.
I can see before my eyes the very words which the Communists will use in attacking the Government. They will say that we are trying to starve the miners and their wives and their children, in order to bring about the collapse of the strike. I say that the Communist party is endeavouring to starve the community. There is a perfect parallel between what the New South Wales Communist leaders are doing to-day, and what Russia did in Berlin. One might say that the policy of the Communist party is governed by the winter solstice. In Berlin, the Russians imposed the blockade in the middle of the winter. That established a precedent, and the Communists in New South Wales followed it almost to the day when imposing their blockade of the City of Sydney. No government could accept the present situation. It may be that the partial freezing of the funds of the trade unions will produce acute distress on the coal-fields. The Government has acted with great reluctance, but the action of the miners’ federation, under Communist direction, in trying to get what it wants, not by arbitration, but by gun-at-head tactics, means that the Government must choose between acute distress on the coal-fields, and far wider and more acute distress in the great industrial cities of Australia. In the circumstances, the Government has no alternative but to favour acute distress on the coal-fields as the lesser evil. In this legislation, the Government has chosen the lesser evil. The Government prefers to coerce the community on the coal-fields rather than to allow the community at large to he coerced by Communists. The Communists themselves are endeavouring to apply coercion. They are demanding that the Government abandon arbitration. If the Government were to surrender to their demand, there would be an end to arbitration, but the Australian community has repeatedly voted in favour of arbitration. The Communist opposition to arbitration is a minority opposition, and if the miners support the policy of the Communists they cannot expect the Government to do other than to give efFect to the will of the majority. If the miners support the Communists opposition to arbitration, they must take the consequence. This bill is the consequence, and. there is no apology for it.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley ) agreed to -
That the time allotted for the second reading be extended until 8.45 p.m., and for the committee stage, until 8.55 p.m.
– I support the bill, not because I wholeheartedly approve of its terms, and I most certainly do not approve of the way it has been introduced, but because it seems to me that this is the first time that the Government has really taken a stand in defence of arbitration. I am one of those who believe that compulsory arbitration and strikes are incompatible. Compulsory arbitration implies that industrial awards must be obeyed and that the law of the land must not be broken. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed out, the Communist party wants to see arbitration abolished. The surest way to destroy arbitration is to allow the awards of the Arbitration Court to be disregarded. About 25 years ago, I had an opportunity to discuss the subject of industrial unrest with Mr. Samuel Gompers, a great American Labour leader. We touched upon compulsory arbitration, and the right to strike. He said that the American Labour movement was content to retain the right to strike, and to fix working conditions by collective bargaining. They feared that if compulsory arbitration became the law of the land, those who broke industrial awards would become criminals. Then, if industrial awards were defied by big and powerful unions, the result might be industrial chaos, or even civil war. Of course, the only way to prevent such an occurrence is to ensure that the law is obeyed. The first Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act passed by this Parliament in 1904, at a time when the Labour party held the balance of power, contained this provision -
No person or organization shall, on account of any industrial dispute, do anything in the nature of a lock-out or strike, or continue any lock-out or strike.
Penalty : ‘ One thousand pounds.
The act of 1920 still contained that provision, although between 1904 and 1920 a Labour government had been in office for three years. In fact, the provision remained unaltered until our arbitration legislationwas consolidated in 1947, when the provision to which I have referred apparently disappeared. It may be hidden away somewhere in the act, but I have not been able to find it. The point is that, during all those years, the policy of successive governments has been that industrial law shall be enforced by monetary penalties. If this Government had enforced the law of the land, we should, not be in the present mess.
I regret the need for this bill. The miners are fighting for what, I suppose, they think is a just cause, and the country is threatened with economic chaos. In the midst of that situation, the Government has brought down this bill, which must have a powerful emotional effect upon the miners, and stiffen their resolution; whereas, if the action proposed under the bill were merely being taken as a matter of course under provisions in existing legislation, the effect upon the miners wouldbe far different. The Government is now forced to bring down panic legislation because its strategy, during the last six years, has been so bad. Everybody knows that the Communist executives, which control some of the most powerful trade unions in Australia, have been determined for a considerable time to bring about a general strike in the coalmining industry. By an act of deliberate policy they have ensured that reserves of coal shall be no more than sufficient to keep industry going for a few days. The official reply to those tactics has been to ration the use of gas and electric power in the hope of increasing coal reserves, but the Communist leaders of the miners’ federation have consistently reduced production so as to ensure that, even though consumption is restricted, the reserve of coal shall continue to be negligible. Now, they launch this final blow in the middle of the winter, when there are practically no coal reserves, when the resistance of people will be enfeebled by the wintry conditions, and when the national economy is in a dangerous condition be cause industry has been consistently starved of coal. If a fight was inevitable, it would surely have been better to begin: it when the physical and moral stamina of the community was at its height, and when we should have been certain of winning. The proper course would have been to call the bluff of the Communiste as early as possible and to have precipitated the clash, if the miners’ federation was really intent upon one.
As I have listened to the speechesof various Ministers, who have followed one another in such rapid succession, I could not help feeling that time has brought its revenge. During the last eight years, Labour governments have had to swallow various policies for which they had fought in previous years, such as the Labour party’s defence policy, its migration policy, and its central banking policy. Now, the Government ha* been forced to realize that the safeguards inserted by previous governments in our arbitration legislation were really necessary. Now, when forced to the last ditch, the Government finds that it must fight for law and order, or give up the government of the country. Its temporizing has brought about the present trouble. It has tried to sup with the devil with a long spoon, but the spoon was not long enough. This bill should contain a provision that could be evoked in any state of emergency that might arise in the future. Action of the kind contemplated in the bill should not have to be taken under the pressure of an urgent public need. It should be the result of a decision of an impartial court, which would advise the Government to enforce provisions already in our industrial legislation.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I had pointed out that the right to strike is incompatible with the compulsory arbitration system. Not only is that right incompatible with the arbitration system but strikes have also been outlawed. If anorganization of employees decides to call a strike, or if an organization of employers decide to lock out the employees of its members the law provides that those responsible for these decisions shall be subject to the imposition of certain penalties. If the system of arbitration is to be maintained the penalties imposed on those who break our industrial laws must be enforced. The necessity for the enforcement of our industrial laws has been in the minds of all governments and of all political parties until recent years because the penal provisions in our arbitration law have remained undisturbed since its first enactment. The arbitration system for the settlement of industrial disputes between employers and employees was adopted in Australia almost 50 years ago. Impartial tribunals have been established to ensure that just rewards shall be paid for labour and that every dispute between employer and employee shall be given the most careful consideration. All the circumstances surrounding a dispute are taken into account by these tribunals. One of the chief complaints of our extremist unions has been that too long a delay takes place in the meticulous consideration by the court of the factors necessary to enable it to assess a fair and just reward for the worker’s labour. The decisions of the court are binding on employers and employees alike. Employers must pay award rates, and members of the unions covered by the award are not permitted to work for less than award rates. But at present the extremist unions can defy the court and the provisions of the law without hindrance. To-day, awards are being enforced against the employers but not against the employees. During the last three years, the coal-miners have been given access not only to the Arbitration Court but also to special tribunals established for the specific purpose of expediting decisions relating to their wages and conditions of employment. The services of Mr. Cameron, the chairman of the Joint Coal Board, and of Mr. Gallagher, the Coal Industry Tribunal, are at the disposal of the coal-miners at all times. No one can claim that the just demands of the coal-miners have not been recognized. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has repeatedly told us that all sorts of concessions have been made to coal-miners in an attempt to mitigate the conditions under which they work. The right honorable gentleman has complained that the decision of the miners to stage a strike at this time is evidence of their base ingratitude to the Government for what it has done for them. In deciding to flout the decision of the Joint Coal Board and to ignore the arbitration laws of this country the coal-miners” leaders have thrown out of employment not only the members of their own key union but also the members of other ke% unions, with the result that there is chaos in the community. The anarchists who control the miners’ federation must be brought to heel. Trade unionism in Australia has expanded as the result of the introduction of compulsory arbitration, and a threat to the system of compulsory arbitration constitutes an equal threat to the maintenance of the growth of trade unionism. Therefore, we must take steps to ensure that the system of compulsory arbitration shall be maintained. The only method by which it can be maintained is by ensuring that awards shall be obeyed by both parties in industry. Unionists must take steps to ensure that discipline shall be preserved in their unions. Until we get goodwill in thi* matter we shall not get good work from the workers. The purpose of the industrial arbitration system is to ensure that the best conditions of employment and the highest standard of health shall be preserved for the working people of Australia. , Industrial tribunals have been established to serve the interests, not only of capital and labour but also of the other two parties interested in industry, namely, management and the community. In the strike against which the legislation now before us is to be directed, of the partners in this quartette the community is being hit most heavily. The purpose of this bill is to protect the community against those who resort to the weapon of the strike. A state of emergency is being declared so that the Government may take appropriate steps to deal with the strikers. In my view it would have been better if a measure such as this had been placed on the statutebook in permanent form so that it could be proclaimed as soon as a situation arose similar to that with which we are now confronted. If such a measure had been placed on the statute-book it would have been possible to freeze the funds of striking unions and their sympathizers without prior notice. In this instance several days’ notice has been given of the Government’s intention to freeze the funds of the miners’ federation and before this bill becomes law those funds may well have disappeared. I do not suggest that the provisions of a measure such as this should be continuously implemented. They are designed solely to extricate us from our immediate difficulties. We must ensure that when peace again reigns in industry the maximum productive output will be obtained from our workers. Two great factors operate against the achievement of maximum production and the maintenance of our arbitration system. The first is the enormous autocratic power wielded by irresponsible and ambitious leaders of certain unions who are able to damage not only the members of their own unions and the industry with which they are concerned but also the country as a whole. Many of them are avowed Communists who make no secret of their aim to foster the tenets of communism and to bring about discontent among the workers of this country. By the use of their autocratic powers they seek by every possible means to dislocate industry in this country. The second great factor which operates against the achievement of maximum production and the maintenance of our arbitration system is the existence of a weak government which will not enforce awards made by the Arbitration Court. Our arbitration system is something of which we may well be proud, but it cannot succeed unless responsible governments enforce our arbitration laws. Governments must ensure that the unions shall discipline themselves. ‘Some years ago Mr. Justice Davidson carried out a comprehensive investigation of the coal industry. In dealing with the difficulties that confronted the industry Mr. Justice Davidson listed the following causes : -
The excessive costs of production and the progressive decline in output.
The constantly reiterated demand by the unions and mine workers for the nationalization of the industry.
Se said that the demand for the nationalization of the industry had had an unsettling effect on both employers and employees. That is difficult to understand because the coal-miners have been told on many occasions that the Australian Government has no power to nationalize the coal-mining industry. Mr. Justice
Davidson’s list of the causes of difficulties in the coal-mining industry continues -
Especially in the northern and southern districts of New South Wales discipline is almost non-existent among mine workers who are members of the miners’ federation and are within its immediate sphere of influence.
Discipline is observed by mine workers who are not members of the miners’ federation or who are remote from its influence and generally, also, by mine workers in mines that are mechanized and free from a system of payment on contract rates.
He said that lack of discipline was mainly due to -
The last mentioned seems to be one of the greatest causes of difficulty in the industry. If the miners think that they can do better by engaging in a wrangling argument outside of the ambit of the Arbitration Court they are inclined to follow that course. Mr. Justice Davidson’s summary of the reasons for lack of discipline continues -
He said that an absurd position had been reached in which numerous minor disputes were carried to Ministers and became major political issues and the subject of innumerable conferences. By this procedure, he said, some union leaders had succeeded in usurping some of the important functions of management of the mines. He continued -
Prosecutions and action under National Security Regulations and the Coal Production (War-time) Act, for absenteeism and other offences, achieved a considerable amount of success and might have had more force if pursued inexorably.
Not only must we pass the legislation now before us but we must also implement its provisions to the letter. I do not think that they should be directed against persons. I hate to think that little children and the womenfolk of the miners will be hungry and ill fed as the result of this legislation. This trouble has arisen because of the actions of certain union leaders. The existence of large sums of money at the disposal of the unions fortifies them in the high-handed action which they have taken. Penalties should be enforced against organizations which deliberately flout the law. Only when the Government begins to enforce such penalties shall we begin to get rid of the present unsatisfactory state of affairs. The penal code has been part and parcel of our arbitration laws from the inception of the industrial arbitration system. They have never been revoked. In order that unions which deliberately flout the law may be effectively dealt with, opportunity must be given to the members of the unions to control their executive officers. Bank and file members must be given the right to elect their leaders by secret ballots, which should be conducted by the unions under the direction of the Arbitration Court. If that were done the rank and file members would elect to executive positions in their unions only men whom they could thoroughly trust. I hope that as a result of this trouble we shall evolve a method for dealing with industrial disputes that will ensure that in future we shall have, not merely peace, but peace with goodwill. The only kind of peace that we are likely to achieve by this measure is something like that which was achieved by one of the old Roman conquerors, that is, peace in a desert. He wiped out everything. What we desire is peace with goodwill, maximum production and improved conditions for every one in Australia. The coal-mining industry is a basic industry. Without coal we can not produce iron, steel, baths, sinks, or railway lines, or generate gas and electricity. I hope that the Government will not be content with securing the support of the Opposition for this measure. I trust that, first, it will ensure that the impact of the legislation upon individuals will be cushioned as far as possible, and secondly, that it will do something of a constructive nature to end this trouble, not merely now but for all time. It is important that we should have ample reserves of coal. I hope that the Government will endeavour to accumulate those reserves and that it will not allow itself to be bluffed by the Communists.
.- This is legislation of a drastic kind and is designed to meet a drastic situation. There is no need to be mealy-mouthed about the Government’s approach to the problem or to occupy an undue length of time in discussing it. Already some misunderstanding of the purposes of the legislation has arisen. The intention of the measure is not to freeze the funds of unions, but to control the disposal of the revenue that may be used to.assist the strike. This is not an act of war against the miners but the lifting of a siege. The miners’ federation is infested by Communists, who have gained control of it. To those who say that this measure represents an extraordinary departure from the normal policy of the Australian Labour party, I say that it is an answer to open political warfare. It has nothing to do, in the final analysis, with industrial warfare, except that at the present moment a nation-wide paralyzing strike is in progress. There must be a siege on the coal-fields if only 4,000 of approximately 20,000 miners who live, work and think in the same way as do most average Australians feel that they can attend an aggregate meeting to register a vote upon whether or not they should strike, whether or not they should starve and whether or not their industrial conditions should be worsened. If there is not a state of siege and intimidation, the facts are very much awry. It seems to me that the loose talk of war being declared upon the miners is only Communist propaganda. This is a political and not an industrial battle if the simile of war must be used.
The Communists in the miners’ federation have been pursuing a long-sustained policy of attrition against the operation -of the system of conciliation and arbitration in the coal-fields. These people are not, in the main, Australian-born or very interested in Australia. Their policy is directed from overseas, and they are working upon the age-old hatreds that belong to another nation and another -clime. The average miners, whom I met as the result of a close investigation that I made of conditions in the coal-fields when I went there to -assist the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) in a journalistic capacity, are not savages. They do not wish to inflict hardships upon the community, but they are being influenced by the stronger wills of the Communist top-rankers in the miners’ federation. We must raise the siege to which they are being subjected. It is wrong to talk of this measure as being a negation of all the principles of the Labour party. Warlike attacks must be met by counter attacks. Babble about the bourgeoisie leaves me colder than does the coal strike itself.
I do not propose to indulge in mealymouthed talk about this measure, which I shall back to the end. It is a logical -and sensible step to take to preserve the Government that has been elected by the people and also to preserve something that is even more important, that is, the application of the principle of conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes in this country. An insidious and deadly attack has been launched against that principle on the coal-fields. Arbitration is as old as the Labour party. It is as old as industrial justice. One of the major reasons, if not the paramount reason, why this struggle, in which so -many innocent victims are involved, has been brought to a climax and the country ^plunged into a vortex of disaster at the most suitable time for the strikers but the most unsuitable time for the poor innocent bystander, Mr. John Citizen, is not that the system of arbitration in the coal-fields was failing but that it was ^asserting itself. It was winning the battle under conditions which gave to the mining unions almost an autonomous control of the coal-mining industry. The arbitration system on the coal-fields conferred upon the miners conditions that could not be purchased in a country other than Australia by the sweat, blood and tears of miners over a thousand years. It has been thrown aside with an idle gesture because the democratic way was winning. Let us trace the struggle for the acceptance on the coal-fields of the principle of conciliation and arbitration as opposed to the destructive tactics that are employed” by the Communists. The fear of the Communist leaders of thu miners, who have declared war on the people of this country, the Labour party and this Government, was not that arbitration would fail, but that it would succeed. It was about to succeed. The Coal Industry Tribunal had considered the miners’ claim for a 35-hour week. This claim was mysteriously withdrawn because some one on the inside had allowed information to leak out that it was likely to be granted. There was precedent for a 35-hour week, because ii is now in operation in Western Australia
– Is the honorable gentleman dropping a hint?
– I am explaining the Communist line. The miners’ leaders feared that the claim for long service leave might be granted. It was the fear that arbitration would win and not lose the long battle that had been taking place on the coal-fields that induced thu strike. So the strike is on. It is all a part of the Communist pattern. The Communist leaders of the miners take the view that if peace comes to the coal-fields they will not be worth “ a tinker’s cuss “. Anxiety, misery, frustration and despair form the seed-bed for Communist propaganda and the Communist means of inciting people to do things that they would not do in normal circumstances. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has pointed out, the recent floods and inclement weather, this winter being the coldest that has been experienced in New South Wales for many years, have been taken advantage of by the Communists, whose plans for this stoppage had been prepared and were ready to be given effect before it occurred.
– Surely the honorable gentleman does not suggest that the Communists caused the floods.
– I suggest that they have taken advantage of the floods and of their own clever planning. I am sure that the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) does not disagree with me on that point. If he wishes to assist the Communists by stating that they have not taken advantage of the recent floods, he is entitled to do so.
This strike began at the point at which most other strikes have ended. There is not a handful of coal in our bunkers. Before the strike actually began the lights in the homes of the nation had been dimmed, the gas limped out of the deflated gasometers and the people were at the point of capitulation. This siege must be lifted and order, common sense and rational thinking must be restored. The technique of despair that has been used so successfully on the coal-fields forms part of the Communist pattern. When there is a severe winter, an anxiety complex and a shortage of supplies, the strike is on.
The Communists have attempted to nullify the processes of conciliation and arbitration by referring to the arbitration tribunal triflling, niggling and stupid issues that do not matter at all, and have then said that they could not get their claims heard. I heard that complaint all over the coal-fields. The Communists have treated the arbitration tribunal in the way in which they have treated it in order to frustrate, destroy and discredit the system of arbitration in relation to the coal-mining industry. When an intolerable situation had been brought about, the strike was begun. Et had been planned for a long time. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) has stated in the press and in the Senate that he has evidence to prove that the aggregate meeting, which was said to be a spontaneous expression of the miners’ anxiety about their future, was to be called on a certain day. He has also revealed that three weeks before the meeting was held a hall had been reserved. This so-called spontaneous expression of anxiety was to burst forth when the time was ripe for it to do so. Long before this strike occurred and long before curfew sounded for the people of Australia, Communists had made their plans for this strike, and they have carried them out mercilessly. The strike was a premeditated one. It was winter and time for the cold war.
In addition to the fact that the arbitration system was succeeding on the coalfields, the Joint Coal Board was also succeeding, despite intolerable difficulties. The Joint Coal Board found itself in the position of having to rescue the struggling miner from a position in which he had got himself over years of discord, dispute and demoralization. It made plan; for the provision of amenities and the introduction of mechanization into the mines. In every direction it was frustrated by the difficulties of the post-war world, but it did miraculous work. It has installed mechanical borers and expended thousands of pounds on the coal-fields. The age-old charge that the coal-fields are neglected areas - areas that the nation has tossed aside or which have fallen from the pantechnicon of civilization - is no longer valid. Despite the fact that there hat been a shortage of materials, the Joint Coal Board has dotted the landscape with amenities or the beginnings of amenities, and is planning for the provision of more of them. In Cessnock I saw a recently completed lung clinic, where 10,000 miners had undergone tests as a part of a scheme by the Commonwealth and State health authorities for a thorough investigation of health on the coal-fields. I saw baby health centres, plans for repertory theatres and libraries and excavations for swimming pools. Money is being expended upon school radios and play-ground amenities. Miners were building their own homes, financed by loans advanced by the Joint Coal Board. There were subsidies for miners’ choirs, brass bands and concert groups. All those things are there for the miners to see. The tiny stream is becoming a river. The Communists realized that as the provision of amenities proceeded they would be less able to play upon the isolation of the miners, and therefore they decided tostrike quickly.
The Communists have always clouded the issues on the coal-fields. I regard the miners as beleaguered Australians, dazed by propaganda and doing things that they would not normally do. I still say that the miners are the salt of the earth insofar as decent Australianism is concerned. They have been misled by a junta of leaders which has captured them. By the very nature of their work they have to listen to what their leaders tell them. On the industrial side the organization is quite efficient, but on the political side it is entirely destructive. The Communists who have infiltrated into the miners’ federation have an amazing technique that must be seen to be believed. When the Minister for Shipping and Fuel visited the coal-fields, he called a meeting of top executives of the federation. At that meeting were knowledgable, intelligent men who discussed on broad lines of Australianism the standard of living of the miners and the industrial capacity of the coal-fields. Their conclusions were a pleasure to hear, and their reasonableness was quite remarkable. I had not met that kind of Communist before. Their attitude towards petty stoppages and the penalties that were imposed upon offenders under the lodge rules, were explained,, and I left that meeting with the feeling that, at last, we might make progress. Of course, I heard afterwards that that meeting was called “the high level activity”. The Communists talked in that manner in order to convince their audience; but when their visitors had departed, they set their roneo and cyclostyle machines to work, and next morning they distributed their literature to the miners at the pittops. All through the night, the Communists had churned out their melodrama about the dreadful conditions in the pits. Every miner received a copy before he went underground. The purpose of the propaganda was to increase the workers’ hatred of persons who were living in other parts of the country. Most of the propaganda that the miners receive ‘in the course of a day is published in those kinds of leaflets, which are laden with, hatred against everything except the wail of the miner.
That was the second flange of the Communist plan, and it was called “ feeding the dope “. Those things happen, and, therefore, when we examine the problem and the dilemma of the coal-miner, we must realize that he has been, to use the words of a Prussian general, completely outflanked, encircled and destroyed. In addition to sovietism, there is a measure of Prussianism in the classic principle of enschliessen, umfassen, vernichten. That is the job that the Communists perform at the pithead. Outflank the facts, encircle the minds of the miners, destroy the effect of outsiders willing to help - the state of seige in another form. When a person is looking for the standard static facts that are not changed from day to day, he must be impressed by the complete system of propaganda which encircles the men who descend the pits to win the coal. In the Newcastle district and points north, the output of words daily is greater than the output of words even in this Parliament. The Communists have decided to make an assault on conciliation and arbitration and they feed the coal-miners on hatred. As I have stated, their propaganda machines rip out their messages for the men before they descend the pits in the morning. That, briefly, is the situation as I saw it on the coal-fields.
The position has been brought to a climax by the events of the last few days and the Government has introduced legislation to correct a drastic situation. I have no hesitation in saying that no cardinal principle of this Government’s policy and of its humanitarianism, has been breached in the preparation of the bill. Patient indeed are the people of this nation, and patient indeed is the Government, but there is a breaking point. Within the last two hours, honorable members have been flooded with telegrams from various organizations, some of which are unknown to me, although they are allegedly in my electorate, asking us what we propose to do for the starving women and children on the coal-fields.
– Would the honorable member let them starve?
– Order! The honorable member for Bendigo must refrain from interjecting.
– I know the views of the honorable member for Bendigo, fie believes that strikers should be shot, f believe they should be saved. If women and children are starving on the coal-fields, who are the guilty men? Before I refer to conditions in the completely beleaguered City of Sydney, I shall examine the circumstances that may be prevailing on the coal-fields, and endeavour to give a fair and factual summary of the position. If the families of the miners are short of food, who is responsible for that position? Approximately two-thirds of the members of the miners’ federation would not speak up for their women and children at the meetings of coal-miners when the decision was reached to strike. We have yet to learn whether the big majority of coal-miners were in favour of the strike. Have they been intimidated, are they opposed to the strike, and are most of the homes on the coal-fields in a state of seige? If the answer to those questions be in the affirmative, this drastic bill is justified. The introduction of the legislation may be compared with the action of taking a drowning swimmer out of the water, even though he struggles against his rescuer and may have to be given a sharp slap to restore him to his normal senses. The story of the starving miners makes me smile. In the country districts, whether the coal-fields or the primary producing areas, living conditions are vastly different from those in a large city. Most of the miners, we are told, have their own homes. Certainly they have their own fires, because once a month they receive a ton of coal. They can obtain credit from the storekeepers and they have community interests. Of course, they also have around them the awful black cloak that inhibits them. They live out their miseries together whether they be right or wrong. The technique of the Communist is well known. When strike pay and other assistance are exhausted, the strikers simply take another job. That used to be called “ scabbing “. According to press reports, strikers to-day are fishing at Lake
Macquarie. They may assist with flood relief at considerable remuneration to themselves. Some trap rabbits or fell timber. I invite honorable members to compare the conditions of the miners during the strike with the conditions of the residents of the beleaguered City of Sydney. This strike hurts women and children, wherever they may be. However, I must insist upon making a contrast between the conditions on the coal-fields and those in. Sydney because the telegrams that have flooded Parliament House this evening have mentioned that the wives and children of the miners are starving. What are the conditions in the secondlargest white city in the British Empire? The people are living like Kaffirs in a kraal, or like Eskimoes in an igloo. They carry a greasy candle, fall in and out of trams and trains, and stumble in and out of their homes. Frustrated housewives run down the street to get the last chop on the marble slab in a butcher’s shop. Housewives are boiling or baking meals with the aid of a flickering blue light that is not hot enough to burn one’s finger. Yet some people talk about sacrifices in this strike. Those conditions are not new. They have been a part of our lives in various ways since 1945, when the Communists evolved this plan to cause misery. The women and children of the cities have been the victims -of this merciless squeeze each winter. As soon as the winter solstice has come, the Communists have ap plied the squeeze to the community. Therefore, we have been brought to the point at which most people say, “ The miners must not proceed with the strike “.
I am also reminded of the plight of the age pensioners. In Sydney there are 10,000 aged men and women who receive a pension. They have no people upon whom they can depend in any way. They are entirely on their own. They live in small bed-sitting rooms, and cook their meal? on a gas-ring. They have no water in their rooms, and must walk down three flights of stairs in order to obtain their requirements. At the best of times, they sit over a flickering gas jet, and cook their food. When the gas fails, they walk up and down the cold streets. Most of those persons support the Labour party. This revolt is not against the coal-owners or vested interests but against the majority of the workers by a minority of the workers. Bringing it within an even narrower compass than that. I may describe it as an organized revolt by a small group of men who are determined to change the way of life in this country by causing discord, and eventually establishing a new Soviet State here. That is the Communist technique, as it is revealed on the coal-fields. There has been naked class warfare on the coal-fields for many years. That is the seed bed and the forcing ground from which this evil flower will grow. The Communists know it, because they have received from overseas an intimation of the methods that they should adopt. The Southern Cross is not good enough for them. They must worship a foreign star. I do not like to say this, but I consider that in the miners’ federation there are too many gentlemen from overseas who have never been able to absorb the Australian spirit of a “ fair go “. This strike is not a “ fair go “, and that is why the Government has introduced this bill. The honorable member for Fremantle’ (Mr. Beazley) is not afraid to use a descriptive English word in regard to the situation. The Government has been forced to consider its position and to take drastic action for the benefit of the nation as a whole. We have had enough of all the romantic nonsense that has been spoken and written about the section of the community that is said to be starving as the result of the squeeze. The degree of suffering is much greater in Sydney than on the coal-fields.
– That form of suffering will do the miners good.
– I am not indebted to the honorable member for his assistance and I should like to make my speech in my own way. This strike is not an industrial struggle. The bill will not gripe the unions, or wring their withers. It is a counter-move against an act of war that has been committed against the citizens of this country by a little junta. It is time to raise the seige. I still do not believe, and I have yet to be convinced, that 23,000 decent Australian miners will be led by the nose forever. It is inconceivable that the unions of this country will stand idly by while everything for which they stand is attacked by a few persons whose ideals are foreign to us, who have come here from a far away land, and whose whole philosophy is repugnant to us. I have had to make these remarks with firmness and precision. This strike is warfare that has been imported into this country. It must be met with dramatic legislation. For the time being this bill is adequate, severe and minatory. If it should be necessary to go further in defence of the Australian people and the Australian way of life against a few paltry “ Commos ‘” who do not mean anything to us, we should get on with the job.
.- This bill is a good move and honorab.lt- members on this side of the House are in favour of it, but we consider that it doe* not go far enough. It is, we believe, half a step, when a full, resolute step is necessary. The view that is taken by the Government is that if we dry up the unions’ funds, the strike will peter out. That is not good enough for the State from which I come. Two days ago 3 was in Victoria, where conditions were bad enough, but yesterday I returned to New South Wales, where the attitude of a vast majority of the people is one of boiling indignation. They are boiling not because of the extreme heat, because there is none, but because of the bitter resentment that they feel against the state of affairs- that has been imposed upon them by the coalminers. The Minister fox Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has said that the action that the Government is taking in this bill is the only action that it has the power to take. That is not true. There are several other actions that it could take. In this very bill it could empower the authority that will administer it to direct the banking institutions with which the miners’ federation and the other trade unions do their banking business-
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the second-reading stage has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
.- I take the opportunity to conclude what I was about to say when the “ guillotine “ fell to terminate the second-reading debate. As I was about to say then, the Government could do several things in addition to what it proposes to do under the bill. It is a good bill.
– To what clause is the honorable member addressing himself?
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) will not be here much longer.
– Order! The honorable member for Parramatta must address himself to the measure.
– My transgression was provoked by the honorable member for Watson. I repeat that this is a good bill to far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. All that it does, to use a colloquialism, is to freeze the funds of the trade unions.
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The committee is entitled to know what clause the honorable member for Parramatta is addressing himself to.
-Order ! The Chair has control of the committee. The committee agreed to take the measure as a whole.
– The Government could go farther. In addition to what it proposes in this bill, it could empower the authority that will administer it to say to the banks with which the miners’ federation and the other trade unions do their banking business, “I suspect that vou propose to pay out money to the trade unions to enable them to do an unlawful deed and you must not pay out that money”. That would be salutory and it would protect the people of Australia by preventing the trade unions that support this unlawful stoppage from using their funds to prolong it. The title of the bill is -
A bill for an act to prohibit, during the period of National Emergency caused by the present General Strike in the Coalmining Industry, the Contributions, Receipt or Use of Funds by Organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1948 for the purpose of assisting or encouraging the Continuance of that Strike, and for other purposes.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that the initial letters of the words “ national emergency “ are capitalized. The fact that those words are used stresses the palpable fact that we are faced with a national emergency. There has never been the like of this national emergency previously in the history of Australia in a time of peace. We are faced with the crisis of our time, and the Government acknowledges that by using the words “national emergency” in its bill. The Crimes Act has been on our statute-book for many years. Section 30j provides - (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.
The Governor-General, acting upon the advice of the Attorney-General and other Ministers of the Crown, may proclaim that a state of national emergency exists. A whole series of important consequences would follow such a proclamation. For instance, sub-section 2 provides -
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 - shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable, on conviction to imprisonment . . .
Section 30k provides -
Whoever, by violence to the person or property of another person, or by spoken or written threat or intimidation of any kind to whomsoever directed, or, without reasonable cause or excuse, by boycott or threat of a boycott of personal property - shall be guilty of an offence.
I do not need to detail the offences prescribed in the section. What is wrong with proclaiming the existence of a national emergency when one exists? You do not have to sit until the moment arises and it is a very nice power for the Government to have at its command. It could easily say to the miners and the trade unions that are supporting them that a national emergency involving the whole of Australia exists and that they will subject themselves to the various prescribed’ penalties if they continue or incite the continuance of that national emergency. That would be a useful step for the Government to take in addition to having this legislation passed. It would put Australia farther along the road towards the settlement of this deplorable dispute. Another step that the Government could take is the enforcement of some of the penalties prescribed by the Coal Industry Act for breaches of that act. It could strengthen the provisions of that act, too. Moreover, the Government could allow to be passed into law the bill of which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has given notice of his intention to introduce for the purpose of compelling secret ballots of enabling trade unionists to decide whether or not they will strike. Failing that, the Government could introduce and pass through the Parliament a bill of its own that had the same purpose. Those are courses that the Government could follow. So it is not true to say that it has done all that it can constitutionally do. Like Paul Jones, it has not begun to fight. The miners and their sympathizers will only understand resolute action. It is useless for the Government to fight a rearguard action hoping that the enemy will wear himself out. “We need proof from the Government that it is resolute. We welcome the bill but we insist that it does not go far enough. In conjunction with it, the Government should take the other steps that I have suggested to prove to the Australian community, particularly that section of it that is in New South Wales, where the people are desperately fed up with the situation, that it is really determined, at long last, to take a firm stand.
.- I support the bill, but it is worth our while to consider why we have been called upon to agree to pass legislation of its character. Some of the observations made by Government supporters in the second-reading debate were the most damning indictment of the Government that could possibly come from members of its own party. We on this side of the committee have been warning the Government for a long time that the situation that now exists would come about. We have suggested ways and means of preventing it. Nothing was done by the Government until Australia was reduced to a state of chaos by the coal-miners. The Government now has brought down the most punitive piece of legislation that the Australian Parliament has ever been asked to consider.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the committee stage of the bill has expired.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from the 28th June, (vide page 1603), on motion by Mr Calwell -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- We have spent the whole of today in discussing industrial matters, and now we come back to the more mundane things of life. The bill proposes the imposition of increased postal, telegraph and telephone charges on the public of Australia in order to enable the Postmaster-General’s Department to pay its way. It will come into force, if it is passed by the Parliament - and there does not seem to be any power to prevent its passage - on the 1st July. It is a kind of a new financial year’s greetings to the people of Australia. It is interesting to note that the tax cuts that are proposed by the Government will also become effective on the 1st July. On one side of the ledger, we are to have tax cuts, and on the other side, new taxes to balance the cuts. Postal, telegraph and telephone charges are, of course-, an indirect tax, because every one in the community, in some way or other, will be compelled to pay the increased charges. It is a strange paradox in the life of the Chifley Government that the more it tries to reduces taxes and relieve the taxpayers of their burden the heavier their burden becomes. The Commonwealth Year-Booh for this year indicates that that is unmistakably true, for it show9 that the tax load, direct and indirect, borne by every man woman and child in the Commonwealth is as follows : -
Then the tax cuts began to operate, and in 1948 the per capita rate of taxation was £59 ls. Id. In 1949, it is anticipated that the per capita rate will be £70. The “golden age” of the Chifley Government seems to be going all wrong, somehow, and as people become alert to the true road along which Labour policy is leading this country they will have good reason to wonder how far the Government is leading us, not into a “ golden age “ hut into the shadows of depression. This bill is a case in point. Until this year the Postal Department was a highly profitable business. Its annual profit was approximately £6,000,000, and in the six years ended 30th June, 1947, it accumulated surpluses amounting to £35,914,646. In 1.946-47, which is the last year for which the Postmaster-General’s annual report is available, the profit was £5,103,886. Last year paralysis or something similar set in and we are told that next year, unless the increases provided by the bill, come into operation, the loss on the department’s activities will be £6,000,000. The difference to be bridged in the last two years, therefore, is about £12.000,000 - that is to say, a profit of about £6,000,000 last year and an estimated loss of approximately the same amount this year - unless the increases are imposed. I submit that if the shareholders of any private company had a statement presented to them similar to that which this Government has presented to the shareholders of the Postal Department, who are the people of Australia, they would probably seek the replacement of the board of directors responsible for such a result.
– So will the shareholders of the Postal Department.
– The PostmasterGeneral in his long statement offered various reasons and excuses for what has happened. He stated -
There have been enormous increases in expenditure.
The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) who represents the PostmasterGeneral in this chamber said in his speech -
Increases in the cost of living, coupled with the 40-hour week, have made great increases in cost -
It is interesting to examine the result of the 40-hour week. I am not blaming the Postal Department for the prodigious anticipated loss. I am blaming the Government’s policy that has imposed upon the officials of the Postal Department such conditions that they cannot, and could not, possibly operate at a profit. The history of the 40-hour week shows that the implementation of the Labour party’s policy has made necessary this measure to increase postal charges. The most interesting matter that I turned up on the 40-hour week was a statement by the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. McGirr), that was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 22nd February, 1947, which reads in part -
The Premier, Mr. McGirr, mid last night that the legislation would operate not later than July 1st.
It is interesting to see how the chickens are coming home to roost, because this hill states specifically that its provisions will operate from the 1st July, 1949. The report continues -
Employees: us a whole have shown commend mb le patience in awaiting this much-needed reform.
The New South Wales Government feels that its introduction will usher in a new era of industrial progress and contentment, of benefit to employer and employee alike.
The benefits to the health and physical wellbeing of those engaged in industry should be considerable, and production generally should ?how a corresponding improvement.
The gentleman who made those remarks was the Mr. McGirr who in 1947 promised the people of New South Wales 90,000 homes in the space of three years.
– What has that to do with this bill ?
– It has a great deal to do with it. The Postmaster-General in his speech said that a substantial contributory cause of the proposed increases has been the introduction of the 40-hour week, and I am showing that its introduction has been part of Labour’s policy, and has caused the Postal Department, as well as every other industry in Australia., to operate at greatly increased costs without any resulting benefit in increased production.
– The honorable member’s speech is just an attack on the 40- hour week.
– I am making this speech. The Minister has already made four speeches in the last 48 hours. Listening to them, it seemed more like 400 speeches. Now let us see what the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, had to say on this subject. The Brisbane Courier-Mail of the 27th February, 1947, published the following report : -
If the State Labour Government is returned at the election, Queensland workers are assured of a 40-hour week despite any Federal Arbitration Court ruling.
This was decided by the Labour Convention to-day, on an amendment submitted by the Premier (Mr. Hanlon) and agreed to on the voices.
The amendment declared that if the Federal Court failed to award a 40-hour week the State Arbitration Act would he amended to provide for it.
Those Premiers are among the people who are to-day telling us that the miners must return to arbitration. Here are two Labour Premiers who said that they would ignore the Commonwealth Arbitration Court unless it brought in a 40-hour week.
– What the Premiers and governments of some States did or said in connexion with the 40-hour week has nothing to do with this bill. The honorable member must not continue in that strain.
– The Minister in his speech dealt very extensively with the 40-hour week.
– Only as a cause of the increased costs incurred by the Postal Department.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is entitled to deal with the 40-hour week as long as his time permits, but only in respect of its effect on the finances of the Postal Department. He is not allowed to canvass the matter by bringing in other aspects of it. His attempts to do so, like the flowers that bloom in the spring, have nothing to do with the bill.
– Very well, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. I suppose it is very inconvenient for the Government to have that matter mentioned now and 1 shall not pursue it.. My point is that the Postal Department has had to cope with the imposition of the 40-hour week. The people of Australia were promised, by Labour’s national spokesmen, that when the 40-hour week was introduced, the health of the workers would be benefited to such a degree that their output would be so improved as to make costs immaterial, and that production would be increased. We have seen what a lie that was, and what its results have been. The proofs of the lie is repeated in the bill that we are now discussing. The PostmasterGeneral has offered a number of excuses for the loss on his department’; activities, one of which is the 40-hour week. We now realize that somebody has to pay the piper, and in this particular instance those who will pay the piper are the people of Australia who use the postal services. I shall show in a moment the effect that the operation of the increased charges will have on ordinary businesses. A great deal has been said about turnover of staff in the Postal Department. That is also mentioned in the PostmasterGeneral’s speech. He said -
There has also been a heavy rise of costs . . . due to the tremendous increase in the proportion of unskilled and untrained labour caused by the shortage of man-power and the unusual turnover of staff recruited for the various activities of the Post Office.
That, incidentally, was caused substantially by the introduction of the 40-hour week. There has been a very heavy turnover of staff in the Postal Department and in almost every other industry in the country. Unskilled labour of all kinds is drifting from one job to another and whatever else the Postal Department may be accused of being extravagant in, it cannot be accused of extravagance in the matter of wages that it pays its staff. [ have taken out some figures relating to the rewards that are paid to various officers of the Postal Department and it :s no wonder that there is a big turnover if staff. It will probably be suggested to uac in a moment, by some honorable member on the Government side, that I am advocating improved salaries for the staff which in turn would enormously increase the cost of the department. But [ want to say that there are many of the employees in the Postal Department who would sooner have had ‘an increase in salary than a shortening of hours, so that they could meet their commitments and keep themselves, their wives, and their families better than they are now able to do Postal Department employees have no opportunity to “black market” their labour and take another casual job at week-ends. They must live within the limits of the salary provided by the Government, every shilling of which is taxed to the utmost. They have no hope of putting something away into savings as people in other sections of the community have. I have taken the figures that I am about to cite from the Postmaster-General’s own reports and they are therefore accurate with the proviso that there might have been a slight variation, possibly of about £24 a year, since the figures were prepared. A senior mail officer’s pay is in the range of 266 to £314 a year which is about £5 to £6 a week, and the highest grade mail officer, the overseer, receives £488 a year, or £9 10s. a week. The humble postal clerk who works behind the counter dealing with money order business and postal notes and handing out mail, selling -tamps and operating morse instruments, and who is a fairly skilled man, is rewarded for his year’s work with a salary of from £308 to £398, or £6 to £8 a. week. A postmaster is no doubt very proud when he receives his first appointment to a small post office. The lowest grade of postmaster receives from G320 to £410 a year, or £6 5s. to £8 a week. A telegraphist, a skilled man who has a nerve-racking job, receives from £308 to £412 a year or £6 to £8 a week. I have been a telegraphist and I am familiar with the work that telegraphists do. The highest grade of postmaster, which is grade 6, who is in charge of a post office like that at Newcastle with hundreds of employees to supervise and with a turnover in money order and other business approaching £1,000,000 a year receives a salary of £900 per annum.
– Are they not covered by awards?
– I am not talking about awards. I am saying what they have to live on, and I say that there is no extravagance in regard to the wages paid to those faithful officers of the Postal Department who serve the public. I will not criticize them, nor will I tolerate criticism of them. Almost without exception, postal employees would rather have had salary increases than the alleged benefit of a shorter working week, an innovation which has not only brought much unskilled labour into the department, but has also increased living costs, which now bear very heavily on those in receipt of small salaries. No price-fixing authority has power to ensure that the charges imposed by the Postal Department are fair and reasonable. The charge for registering mail has been increased by 100 per cent; that is, from 3d. to 6d. The postage rate on books has been increased by 50 per cent., as has also that for sending certain telegrams. Postal charges on commercial papers printed matter and circulars have been increased by approximately 50 per cent. There are slight variations, because the rate has not been increased on the first 8 oz. in some instances, and the first 16 oz. in others, the 50 per cent, increase being applied to matter over those stipulated weights. Substantial increases have also been made in telephone charges. One of the changes which will hit country people hardest is the abolition of the half-rate for trunk telephone calls between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. Many country people find it necessary to communicate by telephone with persons in the cities, and it is convenient for them to make their calls between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., when the half-rate applies. Now, that concession is to be withdrawn. The half-rate is to be abolished, and only the intermediate rate will continue to apply, which is three-quarters of the full rate. The Minister for Information, when introducing the bill, said that the Postal Department was following the timehonoured practice of a well-run business concern by making a fair charge for goods and services supplied. That was an unctuous remark, but the Minister failed to add that the Postal Department is a monopoly. The customer has no choice. If a business firm raises its charges by 50 per cent, or 100 per cent., it must take the risk of its customers going to a rival concern, but the customers of the Postal Department have no such choice. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said that, in order to conduct the Postal Department in a businesslike way, higher charges would have to be imposed. No one, he said, could expect the department to continue subsisting on subsidies from Consolidated Revenue. Does the Prime Minister apply the same principle to Trans- Australia Airlines? According to an Auditor-General’s report-
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini). - Trans-Australia Airlines is not a post office.
– I know that, but Trans-Australia Airlines carries mails, and is mentioned in the report of the Auditor-General.
– The honorable member may discuss the remuneration which Trans-Australia Airlines receives for carrying mails, but he may not discuss the balance-sheet of that organization.
– Trans-Australia Airlines is being subsidized to the extent of £400,000 a year by the Postal Department. It lost £800,000 on its operations last year ; yet I may not refer to the fact that it has not been compelled to raise its charges! The Postmaster-General mentioned the difficulty experienced in recruiting staff for the Postal Department. I have drawn attention to the poor salaries paid to postal employees, and it is therefore not surprising that young men should seek employment elsewhere. I have here an advertisement which was inserted in the press by the Victorian Railways Commissioner offering £7 10s; a week to youths nineteen years of age. as junior clerks and junior porters.
– The honorable member had better not continue in that strain.
– I am trying to show what sort of competition the Postal Department has to face in its efforts tiget staff. Presumably, one of the reason,for increasing charges is that the Postal Department must train recruits. Then when they have been trained, they leavethe department and take jobs elsewhere, perhaps as porters on the Victorian Railways. There is much heart-burning among employees of the Postal Department over the subject of temporary employment. Some men have been employee on a temporary basis for ten or twelve years, and appear to have no prospect of receiving permanent appointments. Thi.practice has been followed to an alarming extent by the present Government, which wants to keep as many employees a? possible on a temporary basis so that they will be beholden” to it for some kind of social, benefit if they are thrown out of work. In 1939, there were 25,000 permanent employees in the Postal Department, and 9,700 temporary employees. In 1948, there were 31,000 permanent employees, an increase of 6,000, and 28,000 temporary employees. I suggest that greater opportunities should be afforded temporary employees to become permanent officers. Many of them are linemen working in country districts. Some are ex-servicemen who have been on the job for a number of years, and who, because of their war service, missed the opportunity to sit for examination? in order to qualify for appointment to permanent positions.
Government supporters have stressed the point that increased postal charges are necessary because of the tremendous expansion of postal services in the last few years. The latest report issued by the Postmaster-General’s Department i.* that for 1947, and it gives some illuminating information about the alleged expansion of services. Here is one passage -
Post offices, including telephone offices opened throughout the Commonwealth for the fear ended 30th June, 1947, were 239.
– There is later information available than that.
– I have quoted from the latest published report. Perhaps the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) has some secret document which has not yet been published. The fact is that, during the year ended the 30th June, 1947, 239 post offices and telephone offices were opened in Australia, and 201 were closed, a net increase of 38. Perhaps increased postal charges are inevitable, just as increased prices and charges by business firms have become inevitable because of the policy applied by this Government and by State Labour governments. However, it is ironical that this Government should make the increases, seeing that the Ministers sing loudly on the air every night that if the Government’s referendum proposals had been agreed to, the Government would have kept prices down. In the Postal Department, the Government has an undertaking under its own absolute control, yet it proposes to increase charges by as much as 100 per cent, in some instances. If a private business firm attempted to do the same thing, the sleuths of the price fixing authority would immediately invade its office. The Minister for Information, who introduced this bill, was unable to explain satisfactorily how a surplus of £6,000,000 had, in a few years, been turned by this Government into a deficit of over £6,000,000. I resent the increased charges by the Postal Department. I resent them particularly on behalf of country people, who will suffer most. A great deal of the mail matter goes out into the country, and it is the country people who must ultimately bear a great part of the cost involved in the increase of parcel postage rates. No one can deny that country people will bear most of the increased charges for long distance telephone calls. In the cities, newspapers and periodicals are either delivered to the door, or are bought over the counter, hut country people receive their newspapers by post. Therefore, the increased postage rate will bear most heavily upon them. If the Government cannot put up a better case for imposing, through the Postal Department, additional charges amounting to £6,000,000 a year, the time has come for the holding of some sort of inquiry to determine whether the charges are justified. David Jones Limited, the Myer Emporium Limited, or any other great trading concern would have to submit to an inquiry by the prices authorities before they would be permitted to raise their prices. However, because of the dictatorial powers exercised by this Government and the fact that this monopoly has no competition, the public must bear these increased charges and suffer the consequences. I only hope that they will not have to suffer them for more than another six months.
.- The Postal Department touches every person in the community more intimately than does any other instrumentality of the Commonwealth. Opposition members have criticized the department as a socialistic enterprise. They claim that it has failed and as a result the Government has been forced to increase the charges made for the services provided by it. When honorable members criticize the Postal Department as a socialistic enterprise-
– I do not think that any honorable member on this side of the House has done so.
– I remind honorable members opposite that the Postal Department was established in 1901 by a non-Labour government. It was written into the Constitution of the Commonwealth that, among other things, the Commonwealth Parliament should control the postal services of this country. The Commonwealth Constitution was written, not by a Labour government, but by the federal convention in which nonLabour thought was predominant. A good deal of the criticism levelled at this bill has centred around what Opposition members describe at the failure of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) to give reasons why the Government has been forced to increase certain postal, telephone and telegraph charges from the 1st July next. They have laboured that point. If we examine this subject fairly and honestly we must realize that, as in private enterprise, costs have risen in this great Commonwealth enterprise. Much play has been made about the effect of the 40-hour week. Indeed, the 40- hour week was made a feature of the speech which has just been concluded by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). The total cost of the 40-hour week in the Postal Department is approximately £1,000,000 per annum. Cost of living and basic wage adjustments for postal employees throughout the Commonwealth amount to approximately £6,000,000 annually. Therefore, the introduction of the 40-hour week has not provided the main cost of the services provided by the Postal Department. Charges for those services must be increased in order to meet wage adjustments and the steeply rising cost of materials. I shall name a few of the materials used by the Postal Department, the costs of which has greatly increased since the war. Copper plays a tremendous part in telephone extensions. Since the war the price of copper has risen by 150 per cent. The price of lead, which also plays a very important part in the provision of telephone services, has risen by 75 per cent. Cable, which is hard to procure at present, and the scarcity of which is delaying telephone extensions to country districts, has risen in cost by 250 per cent. The cost of automatic switch equipment has risen by 100 per cent. Certain telephone instruments have risen in cost by 145 per cent. Paper for the printing of telephone directories has risen in cost by no less than 275 per cent. If all of these additional costs are taken into consideration throughout the whole of the ramifications of the Postal Department over the Commonwealth, honorable members will realize how tremendously the costs of operating the department must have risen since the war. The cost of the 40-hour week is only one of many burdens which the Postal Department has had to meet. It is by no means the principal reason for this proposal to increase the charges imposed for services rendered by the department. The Government does not intend to increase the charges for services which above all others affect the great mass of the people of the Commonwealth. I refer to the postage rate on ordinary mails, which is to remain at 2-d. an ounce, and the fee for telephone calls from public telephone booths, which is still to remain at 2d. These two important facilities touch the mass of the Australian people more closely than do any of the other service* provided by the Postal Department, yet the existing rates are to remain undisturbed. Therefore it is unfair for the Opposition members to claim that the proposed increased charges will hit hardest the great masses of the people.
There has been a general demand by people for better postal, telephone and telegraph services. It is obvious that they cannot have it both ways, They must realize that the proposed increases are essential to meet steeply rising cost* and the extensions of facilities which they demand. Members of this Parliament are constantly being asked to secure improved postal and telephone services. The provision of such services must cost much more than it did in pre-war years. With the greatly increased population of Australia and with the thousands of nev. businesses opening up throughout the Commonwealth, some of them demanding not one. but half a dozen telephones, it is obvious that some additional revenue must be obtained by the Postal Department to enable it to provide these greatly expanded facilities. No fair minded person would object to paying additional charges if he obtains the benefit of improved services and facilities. When these increased charges come into force it will be encumbent upon the Postal Department to provide improved services for the community. It would be wrong for the department to take additional money from the people and to do nothing to improve the services which it provides.
I have had a very close association with the department since I have been a member of this Parliament and I have made a close survey of the work undertaken by it. I am sure that the postal authorities will do their best to provide services which are consistent with the additional charges that are to be levied. New trunk lines running into thousands and thousands of miles have been provided throughout the Commonwealth. Countless hundreds of additional letter-boxes have been provided in order to meet the expanding needs of our rapidly growing suburban areas and the provincial cities and towns of Australia. Hundreds of additional public telephone booths have been erected. Thousands of miles of cable have been installed in order to provide new telephone services for people residing in the new suburbs of our cities and in country areas. These additional installations have involved the use of large quantities of lead, copper and other materials, all of which have greatly increased in price. Improvements have been made to existing postal buildings and many new buildings are either under construction or have reached the planning stage. In addition, the number of non-official post offices has been greatly increased. The hours of attendance at many post offices throughout Australia have been extended as the result of representations made by members of this Parliament and of decisions made by postal authorities. New mail servies have been established in isolated country areas. Many new mail services have been provided in my own electorate for the service of newly populated areas. Many people who previously were in a sort of no-man’s land now enjoy the benefits of a daily mail service. All of these improvements have involved the Postal Department in additional costs. In many places where people were getting mail on only two days a week, deliveries are now made on three days a week. In some places where deliveries were made on three days a week, a daily service has now been instituted. Additional staff has had to be provided to meet this general expansion.
The staffing problem is one which causes headaches to the administrators of the Postal Department. The department is losing staff to other activities, and is being forced to engage recruits and train them in postal work. I realize that it is facing a difficult human problem which legislation can neither alter nor improve. The Postal Department does everything that it can do to attract people to undertake this work for the community. A postal employee must have the community spirit. No other service which is rendered to the people touches them as does the postal service. If a prospective employee of the Postal Department does not possess the community spirit, he may as well seek other employment. Like members of the nursing profession, postal employees must have the right touch.They should not be tempted to join the’ service of the department for what they’ can get out of it. I pay a tribute to the’ thousands of splendid workers throughoutthe whole of the ramifications of the department. During the war, a tremendous strain was imposed on the postal services of Australia, and particularly on the men behind the counters of our post offices. They have had to include in their work countless small jobs which were not originally a part of their duties, and they were not granted additional remuneration for undertaking them.
Honorable members generally, will join with me in paying a sincere tribute to the faithful community service rendered to the people of Australia by official postmasters, non-official postmasters and their staffs in the post offices throughout Australia. I have not yet met in my experience - and it has been very extensive since I have been a member of this Parliament- one instance of a disservice rendered to me by a postal employee. I have not seen one sign of arrogance or lack of co-operation on the part of a postal employee. The Postal Department has increased its staff to meet the growing demands of the public for additional servies. That increase has involved the department in additional costs. The outline of the extensions and improvements which I have given will furnish adequate reasons for the proposed increases of postal, telephone and telegraph charges.
Honorable members opposite have referred to the profits that were made by the Postal Department during the war. Because the resources of the nation were concentrated on defence, the Postal Department was unable to undertake a programme of expansion and improvement of its services. It might have been a wise move to place the excess profits that the Postal Department made during the war in a special fund for use in later years. The existence of such a fund would have enabled the department to meet the crisis through which it is now passing. However, that was not done. The profits of the department were paid into Consolidated Revenue. Existing charges are no longer sufficient to meet the costs incurred by the department, and therefore, the Government has no alternative to increasing existing rates.
I pay a special tribute to the nonofficial postmasters and postmistresses. They number more than 8,000 and they are providing services for the people in isolated country districts throughout Australia. These people are the guides, philosophers and friends of the whole country. When I was on my family’s farm in the Wimmera I saw many instances of the great services that are rendered by non-official postmistresses and postmasters to people who live miles away from a doctor and are taken seriously ill, and to my own family. That is equally true of to-day. These people are in a category of their own and seem to posses sympathies that are above the average. Although they render magnificent services to the people who live in country areas, their salaries, at any rate until last year, were a disgrace to the Postal Department. I say that quite deliberately. As a result of pressure from the Non-official Postmasters’ Association and some honorable members of this House, last year the salaries of these deserving officers were increased by £250,000 a year. That . increase will not make much difference to the annual salary of each non-official postmaster, but it is a step in the right direction. I do not think that the pay of these people is, even yet, commensurate with the work that they are doing. When I made my last tour of my electorate I visited many of the non-official post-masters and postmistresses in it. Not one of them criticized their present rate of pay. Indeed, they were grateful for what had been done for them, but I do not think that we should allow the matter to rest where it is. We must try to improve their conditions still further.
In my opinion, the Postal Department is fully justified in expending thousands of pounds upon the installation of rural automatic telephone exchanges. This phase of the work of the department, which is expanding year by year, is very valuable to the country districts. The installation of these telephone exchanges is decreasing the demand for non-official staff, but doubtless the Postal Department will find other employment for those who are displaced and need other employment. A rural automatic telephone exchange can he used by over 200 subscribers. Its value to a farming community situated within a reasonable distance of a city or large town is obvious, because it enables a continuous telephone service to be maintained. Farming is now a business and is no longer conducted on the old hit or miss principle. Farmers must now study the markets and keep themselves constantly in touch with merchants. Consequently, they need a continuous telephone service now more than ever they did before. Rural automatic telephone exchanges, by enabling continuous telephone services to be maintained in country districts, will confer a great benefit upon Australian primary producers. Approximately 200 of these exchanges are in operation in Australia now.
– Can the honorable gentleman tell me of one that has been installed in Victoria?
– I shall leave the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) to look after the interests of Victoria. I am looking after the interests of Tasmania. In 1939, 93 rural automatic exchanges were in operation throughout the Commonwealth. Now there are 172 of them in operation and 650 are on order. The 79 exchanges that have been installed since 1939 and those that will be installed when they are delivered will enable the Postal Department to make telephone services available to thousands of people. One of these exchanges that was installed recently in my electorate can accommodate 273 subscribers. Rural automatic telephone exchanges are expensive pieces of equipment. We have been informed by the Postal Department that they are now being delivered more quickly than previously, and that in the near future many more of them will be installed. That will cost money. Surely farmers will not object to paying an additional 5s. a year for their telephones if they can enjoy the facilities that automatic exchanges will make available to them. The department has promised to install seven automatic exchanges in my electorate in addition to the several that are already in operation there. Therefore, I have no complaint to make in this regard.
The Postal Department has been very kind to Tasmania, because 85 per cent, of the representations that I have made on behalf of my constituents regarding telephone and postal services have been successful. In two and a half years I have dealt with approximately 200 postal problems on behalf of farmers and other folk in my electorate, and I assume that other honorable members have dealt with a similar number. It will be seen, therefore, that there is a tremendous demand upon the department for new and improved services. Having regard to the present shortages of materials, I consider that the department has done a marvellous job in maintaining and improving its services, and I pay tribute to it. In Tasmania, there are now eleven telephones for each 100 people, or approximately one telephone in every two homes. There are 600 public telephones on the island. In 1948, ten rural automatic telephone exchanges were installed. We have 17,000 miles of trunk line channels, and more have been promised and are being installed. The number of telegraph channels to the mainland has been considerably increased. We must thank the Postal Department for making vital improvements to the telegraphic and telephonic channels by which we keep in touch with the mainland. Telephones are now being installed in Tasmania at more than double the pre-war rate of installation, in spite of the shortage of materials. That is a remarkable achievement. In the country districts, they are being installed at more than double the pre-war rate. In spite of losses due to resignations and other causes, the staff of the Postal Department in. Tasmania has increased from 1,133 in 1939 to approximately 2,000. A similar expansion has occurred throughout the Commonwealth.
At the present time the department is prepared to contribute £100 towards the cost of installing a telephone in a farm. That is £50 more than it was prepared to pay last year, but I consider that the’ contribution is not sufficient. At least eight or ten farmers in my electorate whose farms are considerable distances from a telephone exchange, are unable to proceed with their applications for .the installation of telephones because the cost of installation would be too great, even if the department defrayed £100 of the total cost of each installation. In the last ten or twelve years the farmers who live near towns have been able to have telephones installed at little cost to themselves. The great majority of the persons who now wish to have telephones installed live in places that are some distance from a town. Even although the Postal Department has increased the amount of its assistance from £50 to £100, the cost of installing a telephone in an isolated area is still too great for many farmers to bear. Returned servicemen are now being settled on blocks of land, many of which are in isolated areas, and they want telephones. In my electorate, eight returned servicemen have been settled on the Macquarie estate. They want telephones to be installed in their houses, but they cannot afford to pay their share of the cost, which would be between £60 and £80 each. The department has promised to examine the problem to see whether the difficulties can be overcome. I consider that, the grant of £100 should be increased in order to assist people in isolated districts. We should cater for the people in rural areas rather than those who can telephone from a public telephone booth without much trouble.
The Postal Department charges a fee for the opening of a telephone exchange in a rural district if it is needed later than the normal closing time. The staff, who are mostly the postmasters or postmistresses themselves, are paid ls. 6d. a half-hour for opening the exchange. They may retain that amount. Perhaps people in every class of employment require more money to-day, and I mention this matter, not for the purpose of criticizing the department, but to indicate that the position requires examination. Many applications have been received in my electorate to have the hours extended from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. or from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. in order that the farmers may have an opportunity to telephone later in the evening, particularly in summer time when they return from the fields. In such circumstances they should not have to pay the opening fee. However, the non-official postmasters, including those at railway post offices, refuse to re-open, because they claim that the amount of ls. 6d. is not sufficient remuneration. The people have carried on under these conditions for years. They do not strike or cause a great industrial upheaval over the matter, and this is one reason why they should receive every possible assistance. If the department can see its way clear to pay non-official postmasters, say, an extra 6d. for each half-hour, many more persons, particularly farmers, will be able to avail themselves of the longer period without having to pay the opening fee.
The Postmaster-General’s Department hae promised a number of additional trunk-line channels in Tasmania in order to obviate delays in making calls. There will he three new circuits from Launceston to Deloraine, two from Launceston to Campbelltown, two from Launceston to Burnie, which is a considerable distance, two from Launceston to Longford, and seven from Launceston to Hobart, a distance of 123 miles. Strange to say, Tasmania is substantially longer than 123 miles and people do not fall over the southern end when they have travelled that distance from north to south. Tim Postmaster-General’s Department has also acquired sites for new suburban post offices at Invermay, Newstead and Newnham, Evandale and “Westbury. That is excellent progress in the expansion programme for Tasmania. The department also intends to provide a district telephone office in Launceston to enable commercial matters to be dealt with more expeditiously in northern Tasmania. I appreciate that convenience. Launceston has been promised a new post office building, and the residents of that city will thank the department for including it in the expansion programme.
The department has already given some consideration to providing residences for country postmasters. At present, many of those officials have to cycle distances of perhaps seven or eight miles, because no accommodation is available in thu towns where their offices are situated. Some of the postmasters find that this constant travel is a hardship, particularly in wintertime. The department ha* promised to provide two residences for postmasters in my electorate, and that is a wonderful step forward. I realize that the cost that is involved when the department branches out in that way is considerable, but country postmasters artfinding it expensive, on their present salaries, to board at hotels. The department, in its long-range plan, will need to give more consideration to constructing residences for postmasters. Once the dwellings have been built, they will be available to a succession of postmasters. By way of an analogy, I point out that some churches build parsonages or manses for their ministers, and when those gentlemen are transferred elsewhere, their successors are able to take over the houses. The building programme that the department proposes to undertake is a gesture towards those very faithful postmasters who, to-day, are carrying on under great difficulties because of the housing shortage.
I understand the reason for the proposed increases of postal, telegraphic and telephonic rates. Fair-minded people are prepared to pay the additional charges provided they receive service commensurate with the increased rates. I believe that the Postal Department will give that service. Seventy-five per cent of the criticism that members of the Opposition have voiced against these proposals is based on political considerations, and, therefore, I ignore it. If honorable members opposite were true to themselves, they would realize that the additional costs which the department must pay for equipment, and the higher wages bill, justify these proposed increases. However, the department will need ti; give efficient service and provide improved facilities. If it does so, the people will be satisfied.
– The purpose of this bill is to increase postal, telegraphic and telephonic rates in order to raise sufficient revenue to meet the deficit in the financial operations of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Minister for Information (Mr Calwell), who represents the Postmaster-
General (Senator Cameron) in this chamber, has stated that the increases of rates are required in order to make the Postal Department self-supporting, instead of being a drain on Consolidated Revenue. The deficit which will result from the operations of the department in the current financial year is estimated at £3,500,000, and if the existing charge* and services are continued, the deficit for L949-50 will be approximately £6,000,000. The Postmaster-General has virtually admitted that, because of war-time conditions, the revenues of the department were high and expenses were low. But even if we grant that the proposed increases are warranted, we still have food for thought in the swing from the profit of £3,625,000 in the last year before the outbreak of World War II., and the Anticipated loss of £6,000,000 in 1949-50, a difference of £9,625.000.
Of course, it is clear that the expenses of the department have increased enormously, and if inescapable expenses are not to exceed the revenue, an adjustment of rates is inevitable. The point at issue is the actual charges that should be. made rn balance the budget of the department. Honorable members have not been supplied with data to support, the proposed increases. The decision of the Government to inflict this additional impost upon an already unduly heavily taxed community must be examined in the light of two considerations. First, on the surface, it would appear that the bill provides further evidence of bad budgeting by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and a gross incompetency on the part of the right honorable gentleman and his advisers in the Treasury in formulating anything like an accurate estimate of revenue and expenditure. This contention is supported by the fact that when the Treasurer presented his budget last September, and estimated a deficit, he did not say one word about the financial difficulties of the Postal Department. Again, on the 15th February, when the Treasurer submitted his revised financial statement, he was silent regarding the critical state of the finances of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, as has now been revealed. When we study the budget papers, we find that the Treasurer budgeted for a los3 of £13,400,000 for the current financial year, and that deficit was to be met from Consolidated Revenue. That amount included works and charges of a capital nature, which, according to the budget, the Treasurer proposed to finance out of receipts from taxation and other sources of revenue. Consequently, we may assume without any hesitation that the Government had decided, in view of the accumulated profits of tindepartment, to meet the deficit from Consolidated Revenue. In other words, the Treasurer, in calculating the extent to which he could reduce taxes, took into consideration the fact that that amount of £13,400,000 would have to be provided from Consolidated Revenue.
According to the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended the 30th June. 1948, and dated the 10th March, 1949, th* excess of expenditure over revenue by the Postmaster-General’s Department, on h cash basis of course, was shown u> £781,490, but according to the Minister’s second reading speech, a surplus of £1,849,781 is shown on a commercial, or proper accountancy basis. Therefore, even allowing for the bad budgeting for which the Treasurer has become notorious, the deficit must have been known to him long before he made his financial statement to the House last February, and long before the Government found it necessary to introduce this bill.
I shall now examine the second consideration. The Treasurer, for political reasons, obviously has deliberately suppressed information about the trend of the finances nf the Postmaster-General’s Department in the current financial year, and the anticipated position in 1949-50. Last February, the Treasurer very belatedly announced tax remissions amounting to £36.500,000 per annum, which were to take effect from the 1st July, 1949. It is almost inconceivable that, when he made that announcement, the Treasurer was ignorant of the drift of postal finances. Surely, both in September, when the budget was brought down, and in February, when the revised financial statement was made, the Treasurer was in a position to come out into the open about that situation. He must have known that a review of charges was then necessary to meet the deficit now disclosed, unless he intended that the deficit should be funded out of the Consolidated Revenue. However, we have another example of the Treasurer’s political expediency. He did not want to detract from the vote-catching value of his £36,500,000 tax reduction preelection bribe. He recognized that his announcement would lose all its glitter if, at the same time, he announced an increase of £6,000,000 in indirect taxation to enable the Postmaster-General’s Department to balance its budget. This savors of sharp dealing in finance which would be severely frowned upon if it occurred in any privately controlled business enterprise. Now, in June, the Parliament is asked to approve of an increase of indirect taxation by way of higher postal, telegraph and telephone tariffs. The Government claims that this increase of indirect taxes is necessary and inevitable, despite the utmost care, economy and sound management exercised by the department. 1 will examine those claims in detail later.
At this stage, I remind the House and the people that the Parliament is asked to approve of these increased charges in the absence of any detailed information from the Treasurer, from a parliamentary committee, from any independent authority or even from the PostmasterGeneral himself about the functioning of the Postmaster-General’s Department in the 1947-48 financial year, even to say nothing of this financial year. The Auditor-General’s report for 1947-48 did reveal a decline of revenue from private bags and boxes and telegrams compared with the earnings from those sources in the previous year, but the actual revenue was £1,500,000 greater than in 1946-47. The expenditure, however, was £5,400,000 higher than it was in the preceding year, the principal increase being in salaries. As ] stated earlier, the deficit on the year’s operations was £781,490. Even if the Government refuses to furnish the Parliament with a detailed report on the activities of the department, surely the Postmaster-General’s report for the 1947-48 financial year could have been made available to honorable members in order to assist them to make an intelligent survey of the operations of the department, and assess the need for the increased charges that we are being asked to agree to. When I asked, on 3rd June, that the report be made available, the Postmaster-General made two excuses. The first was that preparation of the report had been complicated by the shortage of staff in various State branches. The second was that, under present pressure of work in the Government Printing Office, it was difficult to give any firm estimate of the date on which the report would be available. The Postmaster-General said that he did not except that the detailed report would be available before the end of the present calendar year. Neither excuse is valid. Neither excuse can stand up to investigation. As to the first, it is utter nonsense to talk about shortage of staff. Between June, 1947, and June, 1948, the permanent staff of the department was increased by more than 4,000 and the temporary staff by more than 2,680. Compared with 1939, the total staff at the end of June, 1948, had been increased by more than 25,000. Actually, approximately half the staff under the control of the Public Service Board is in the Postmaster-General’s Department. Therefore, the absurdity of the first excuse will be apparent to the House and to the people. Moreover, if there is a shortage of staff for the preparation of the Postmaster-General’s financial accounts, the same staff must have prepared the present proposals for increases. In these circumstances, the proposed increases must have been recommended by a depleted staff which, in consequence, has recommended half-baked and ill-considered increases.
As to the second excuse, for years past I have been the first to recognize the difficulties under which the ‘Government Printer, Mr. Johnston, has been and is working, principally because of staff shortages. I do not blame the Government Printer for the non-availability of the report, but I do blame the Treasurer, who administers the Government ‘Printing Office. Surely, in the printing of documents such as the reports of the PostmasterGeneral and of the AuditorGeneral for the year ended the 30th June, 1948, there must be some system of priority over documents of no importance, except to Ministers. While members of the Opposition are denied the PostmasterGeneral’s report because of pressure of work, they are inundated with Government publications of a propagandist nature. There is the Digest of Decisions and Announcements and Important Speeches by the Prime Minister, which is available up to March last. There is Current Notes on International Affairs which is available up to April last. There Is Facts and Figures, which is issued by the Department of Information, and is available up to December, 1948. Likewise, there are numerous and costly pamphlets dealing with migration policy, including To-morrow’s Australians. Then we have Ten Years of War and Peace, a pamphlet issued by the Minister for Labour and National Service, together with photographs. Each of those publications is for the personal aggrandizement of the Minister concerned, and is straightout Labour party propaganda paid for by the taxpayer. Some of them are printed by the Government Printers in the States and a great many are printed by private printers. Yet, when it comes to printing an important document like the Postmaster-General’s report, the Parliament is asked to believe that it cannot be done because of pressure of work in the government printery.
It is not only absurd, but it is also grossly improper that honorable members should be asked to consider and to approve of these new indirect taxes in the absence of detailed information about the operations of every section of the Postmaster-General’s Department. We are being asked to impose these fresh taxes on the people merely upon the Minister’s bald statement that the reasons for them are an increase of the department’s annual wage bill by more than E7,000;000 because of the 40-hour week, cost of living rises, the upward movement in wages and a marked increase of the cost of materials. This is irrefutable evidence, if evidence should be required, of the falsity of the Government’s frequently repeated claim that the defeat of the prices referendum is responsible foi the increased living costs throughout Australia. Here is a department under the direct control of the Commonwealth in relation to which the referendum result played no part. Yet we have the definite admission that the increase of general costs is of such a nature that the department’s tariffs have to be increased by as much as 100 per cent., in some instances in an attempt to .balance the PostmasterGeneral’s budget. If the Government wants the Postal Department to he selfsupporting, it should treat it as a separate business venture, such as Trans-Australia Airlines, the Australian Aluminium Production Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. At present, the Postal Department, is merged with all other Government departments, and any profits are taken into the Consolidated Revenue. As soon as there is a reverse, or a loss, the department is asked to stand on its own feet. The sooner it is put on a proper accountancy basis, in accordance with commercial practice and the Australian Country party’s policy, the better. The Postmaster-General endeavoured to minimize the effects of the Government-supported 40-hour week upon the department’s operations. He emphasized that it represented only 15 per cent, of the extra wages bill. The Prime Minister, however, admitted that ite application involved the recruitment of additional labour. What both the Minister and the Prime Minister failed to disclose was that the 40-hour week was a major factor in increasing all the costs of the wide range of locally manufactured materials purchased by the department. I turn to the Minister’s statement that -
The change from substantial war-time profits to the expectation of an equally substantial deficit for 1949-50 is neither surprising nor inexplicable.
On the contrary, there is every justification for a searching inquiry into why a department which, for years, even during the depression, was not only self-supporting but whose profits had added materially to the Consolidated Revenue, should, in 1949-50 be faced with a huge deficit. The situation demands the appointment of a select committee of the House to make a thorough and independent investigation of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and I intend to move the necessary amendment in an endeavour to achieve that objective. Questions which demand investigation and a reply include -
The reputation of the staff of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has been highly regarded by us all over the years. The department has been one of the best training grounds in Australia. Some of the leading and most valuable Commonwealth public servants as well as leading . professional men and business men of Australia started their careers as telegraph messengers. I hope that the efficiency of the department is not being impaired by overstaffing. I further hope that any such overstaffing will not be to the disadvantage of efficient and competent members of the staff. A searching inquiry is needed to discover whether the department is being conducted as efficiently as it used to be and should be. The department has never had the reputation of overpaying its employees, but T hope that mismanagement of it is not responsible for the increased charges that are proposed in the bill and also that desirable salary adjustments to efficient officers will not be prejudiced.
Other questions which should be answered are -
The Postmaster-General’s Department keeps two sets of accounts, one on a commercial, or proper accountancy basis, and the other on a departmental, or cash basis. In the latter, other departments artcharged less than full commercial charges for services rendered, according to the reports of the Postmaster-General The profits disclosed since the Labour party came into office, which amount to about £36,000,000, are those shown in the commercial balance-sheets, and are much larger than the real surpluses as shown in treasury accounts This system is bad accountancy practice and must be strongly criticized. The Postal Department should charge other departments on a commercial basis for services rendered, as, otherwise, its real profits cannot be determined from treasury statements, and the cost of other departments is shown in budget figuresas less than the actual cost. For instance local post offices often act as agents for the Commonwealth Savings Bank. 1 understand that a fee of 7s. 6d. per £100 has been charged for this service, under an agreement made in 1912. Is th<present fee now adequate? Have the conditions of the original agreement been varied and to what extent and for what reason ? If the present fee is not adequate the Postmaster-General’s Department is helping to swell the profits of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and people have to pay heavier postal and telephone charges to help provide this uneconomic service. Again, local post offices pay oui age and other pensions, as well as child endowment, and until recently they were entrusted with the distribution of petrol tickets. Is this service rendered to the Department of Social Services at too low a charge? If so, the National Welfare Fund benefits, and the telephone users and letter-writers suffer in a totally inequitable fashion.
Further, a full investigation should be made into the payments made to TransAustralia Airlines and other semigovernmental air services, through the Department of Civil Aviation, for the carriage of mails. These payments by the Postal Department amounted to £1,319,000 last year Is the Postal Department being used to bolster up the finances and to minimize the losses of TransAustralia Airlines at the expense of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the users of telephones and mails? Who gets the lion’s share of the profit on the carriage of airmails? Again, are adequate charges being made by the Postmaster-General to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for land-lines, and other facilities rented for broadcasting? If not, the Postmaster-General’s Department shows a greater loss, and the full cost of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is hidden by this accountancy stratagem. In other words, is the Postmaster-General’s Department being used to hide the real cost of nationalized services in other spheres? Is a greater indirect tax now to be inflicted upon the users of postal facilities in order to support nationalized airlines, government banks, and nationalized broadcasting and television services? In the absence of the detailed information to which this House is entitled and as several departments are vitally involved these questions can only be adequately answered by an independent investigating committee. In any event, the expected return from the proposed increased charges is more apparent than real. Has the Treasurer overlooked the fact that postal in creases on commercial papers, newspapers, press telegrams and countless others are deductible for taxation purposes, and will result in a decrease of income tax revenue from large companies paying, in the main, a high rate of tax. So it is a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul. To what extent has that aspect of these increases been taken into account in a proper and wise survey of the infliction that we arc now asked to pass ? If the Postal Department operates at a loss, the policy of the Government is to increase charges to the public. It apparently does not matter to the Government what the former policy was or what the budget stated would be the policy - that is, that the Postal Department’s deficit was to be advanced out of Consolidated Revenue - or that that fact was taken into con sideration in arriving at the amount of tax reductions that could be introduced.
Trans-Australia Airlines has made a loss of £80S,000 in the past two years without any regard being had to interest adjustment on the amount of £3,500,000 that was advanced to it by the Treasury. Will Trans-Australia Airlines fares be increased also to make it a paying concern?
– They have already been increased.
– Will they be increased further in order to absorb and recoup the loss to which I have referred! The working expenses of the Commonwealth Railways, according to the budget, exceeded revenue by £266,000 in 1947-48 and the Treasurer has budgeted for a deficit of about £1,400,000 for 1948-49, due, according to the Auditor-General, and I quote from paragraph 43 of the report -
Will the fares and freights on that nationalized concern be increased also, or is it the policy of the Government to increase charges only on monopolistic services which the public cannot possibly do without ? The Minister stated that, since the beginning of 1947, 146,000 telephones had been added to the telephone system. Has the revenue from these telephone services been properly taken into account? Has their earning capacity been considered, together with the potential increased earning capacity that will be provided by the thousands of new subscribers who, according U> the Postmaster-General’s report, will btconnected to the system before June. 1950? It has been stated that, throughout Australia 125,000 people are nov. waiting for telephones. Has the potential revenue from those subscribers been taken into consideration?
I propose now to examine some of the statements of the Postmaster-General and of his representative in this chamber. The Minister has suggested that the new rates will not press unduly upon country subscribers. Obviously that is absurd. In the first place, higher postal charges will affect every country dweller ju3t as they will affect every city dweller. The Minister has announced that telephone rentals are to he raised hy 5s. at small country exchanges, but he did not say anything about the rates at large country exchanges. Unit fees for local calls are to be increased by one farthing in country districts. Increased charges for trunk-line calls and “particular person “ calls, together with the abolition of the special S p.m. to 7 a.m. night rates, will add to the burdens of country residents, both subscribers and nonsubscribers. The night rate has been a convenient and indispensable concession to country residents. At the 30th June, 1947, £331,526, or 37 per cent, of Australia’s telephones were installed in country districts. There were 154 small automatic exchanges serving approximately 7,700 subscribers. I have no doubt that if the 1948 report were available to members, it would show a substantial increase on those figures. Consequently, it is difficult to follow the Minister’s reasoning that country subscribers will not be unduly affected.
The Postmaster-General said that ever since 1930, the department had been the victim of depression budgets and that governments had deliberately made it impossible for postal officials to render the service that they were capable of rendering. The facts are, however, that the gross earnings of the department increased from £12,600,000 in 1932-33, to £15,000,000 in 1935-36. The capital value of fixed assets and plant rose from £52,900,000 in 1932-33 to £58,600,000 at the close of the financial year 1936-37, representing an increase of more than £6,000,000. Furthermore, between 1937-38 and 1941-42, under non-Labour governments, the department made a profit of more than £20,000,000. There has been a continued increase of the monthly average receipts of the department. In 1937-38, the figure was £1,300,000 whereas in 1947-48 it was £2,600,000. The Minister has said that, prior to 1939, the Postal Department attained a high level efficiency, and was providing facilities with reasonable promptitude but that “ the parsimonious attitude of non-Labour governments “ had denied the department sufficient money; that “there was little long-range planning “ and, that “ the Postal Department was more or less existing on a hand-to-mouth basis “. So, the Minister admits that, under nonLabour governments, everything was satisfactory in 1939, and even up to the end of June, 1941. But the Minister should remember that Labour has been in power now for eight years. Therefore, he condemns the Chifley Administration when he says there has been no long-range planning, and that the department has been starved for money. Since 1941, commercial profits of the Postal Department have been nearly £36,000,000. However, this Commonwealth department failed to earmark sufficient reserves against future contingencies. In these abnormal times, that is an extremely bad method of accounting. Any commercial enterprise which gave the whole of its surplus to shareholders during the war and then, when its post-war costs became abnormally high, increased its charges from 50 to 100 per cent., would come in for deservedly severe criticism. My contention that the Treasurer, in February, 1949, suppressed information regarding the trend of postal finances, is borne out by this fact. The 1946-47 report, which was not presented to the Parliament until fifteen months after that financial year had closed, revealed that the surplus had declined by more than £1,000,000 compared with the previous year. Surely that should have indicated to the Treasurer how the finances of this major department were shaping. Furthermore, earnings of the wireless branch compared with working expenses in 1941-42, when Labour came into power, showed a surplus of £78,000 over expenses. After providing for working expenses and interest payments, there was a surplus of £58,400. However, from then onwards, there have been yearly deficits which, in 1946 and 1947, were as high as £403,000 and £418,000 respectively. Here is another point. If, as suggested by the Minister, the Postal Department has been living on a “ handtomouth basis “ since 1939, it is interesting to note that the capital value of its fixed assets and plant was £20,500,000 more in 1946-47 than it was in 1941-42. I also find it difficult to understand the Minister’s statement that a good deal of the work done during the war was of little value for civilian use, then or now. Having some knowledge of the magnitude of the facilities provided to meet the war emergency, it is difficult to believe that many of these services did not have a peace-time value.
The Minister’s comments upon the staffing of the department the war-time deterioration of the standard of service, and the fact that staff replacements could not he expected to have the skill and experience of other employees with years of experience were largely humbug. The Chifley Government has now been in office for four peace-time years.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and his colleagues and supporters never cease prating about the success of their rehabilitation plans. It comes as a surprise, therefore, to find the Minister for Information admitting that post-war rehabilitation of postal staffs has been a failure. The Minister paid tribute to the PostmasterGeneral as an able administrator and said that the department had been reorganized and streamlined. Everything the Government touches is “streamlined” these days, even the arbitration system. Despite this streamlining of the Postal Department, however, the result has been a net loss. Something must be wrong with the administrator or the streamlining. During the bank nationalization controversy, the PostmasterGeneral remarked that officers of the private banks had nothing to fear because there would be plenty of scope for their employment in the Postal Department. That gives rise to the question whether the Postal Department is overstaffed in some respects. The whole position relating to these increased tariffs, or new indirect taxes upon the public, is highly unsatisfactory to members of the Opposition. A brow-beaten Labour caucus apparently has no qualms about taxing the farmer and the worker even more heavily than he is taxed to-day, because, surely even the most rabid Labourite in this House no longer regards telephones or telegrams as a luxury. In the final analysis the workers and the producers will be the ones who will have to meet these increased charges. The Opposition is not prepared to accept the bald statements that have been made in an endeavour to justify this heavy increase of indirect taxation. “We are entitled to a minute analysis by an independent parliamentary committee of the financial operations of all branches of the Postal Department. The Minister said that this was a business undertaking, and would have to pay its way; otherwise, those who used the services of the department would gain at the expense of the general body of taxpayers. [Extension of time granted.’] The contrary argument is equally applicable. The users of Postal Department services have been called upon to pay excessive charges in order to relieve the general body of taxpayers of some of the burden which they would otherwise have to bear. Is it reasonable that all profits earned’ by the department in past years should have been paid into Consolidated Revenue without any reserve being established to meet possible future deficits or rehabilitation costs? Commercial organizations, despite the fact that they have to pay heavy taxation, are expected to, provide for such contingencies. Indeed, if they failed to do so, they would eventually find themselves in “ Queer-street “. Apparently, the current users of services supplied by the Postal Department are expected to meet the cost of maintenance work which has been deferred for eight years because of the war. That is unjust. Since the beginning of the war, the cost of salaries and wages, apart from new staff, has increased by £7,000,000. The 40-hour week is held to be largely responsible for the increase, but the 40-hour week is the responsibility of the Government. Moreover, certain services have been curtailed. For instance, many post offices now close at 5 p.m., instead’ of 6 p.m., as previously. Although it is true that some post offices operate on a day and night schedule, that is not true of all offices, so that the number of night workers should not be great. I move -
That all words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be referred to a select committee of this House appointed to inquire into and report upon the deterioration in the finances of the Postmaster-General’s
Department which has resulted in the imposition of these heavy increases in charges at a time when revenue from other sources is at a record high level “.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate, with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 3 - (2.)For the purposes of this Act, any money paid or received by a branch of an organization shall be deemed to have been paid or received by the organization.
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - Leave out subclause (2.), insert the following sub-clause: - “ (2.) For the purposes of this Act, a payment or receipt, or a promise to make a payment, by a branch of an organizat ion shall be deemed to be a payment or receipt, or a promise to make a payment, by that organization.”.
Clause 5 -
Subject to this Act, any of the following organizations or persons, shall not receive a payment, or accept a benefit, from any person for the purpose of assisting or encouraging, directly or indirectly, the continuance of the strike.
Senate’s amendment No. 2. - Leave out “ , or accept a benefit,”, insert “or benefit”.
Clause 8 - (1.) Where the Court is satisfied, upon the application of the Registrar, that at any time on or after the sixteenth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine, and before the commencement of this Act, money has been received or paid, and the receipt or payment of that money would, if this Act had been in force at the time when the money was received or paid, have been an offence against section five or six of this Act, the Court may order the repayment of that money by the person to whom, or the organization to which, the money was paid to the person from whom, or the organization from which, it was received.
Senate’s amendment No. 3. - Leave out subclause (1.), insert the following sub-clause: - “(1.) Where the Court is satisfied, upon the application of the Registrar -
.- I move-
That the amendments be agreed to.
The three amendments have been circulated. The first amendment makes some verbal alterations to bring the language of the sub-clause into conformity with the language of other parts of the bill, and also extends the operation of the sub-clause to promises of payment as well as to actual payments. The second amendment is a purely verbal alteration to ensure that the clause will refer to the receipt of benefits instead of to the acceptance of benefits. The third amendment substitutes a new sub-clause for sub-clause 1 of clause 8. In its present form, sub-clause 1 authorizes the Arbitration Court to order the repayment of certain moneys paid after the date of the stop-work meeting, and before the commencement of the act. In the bill as it went to the Senate, authority was given to the Arbitration Court to order the repayment of moneys in circumstances where the payment of those moneys would have been an offence had the act been in force. The amendment extends that power to transactions occurring after the passing of the act. It is an incidental and necessary power. Question resolved in the affirmative. Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Dr. Evatt), read a first time.
.- It is regrettable that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) saw fit to criticize certain publications that are issued under the authority of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). He directed his attack particularly at the booklets issued under the title Tomorrow’s Australians, and said that such documents should not be printed in preference to reports such as those of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I deplore criticism of that kind directed against such widely read publications which contain a considerable amount of valuable information and which have been freely and favorably commented upon by many people. Far from giving unnecessary or unjustified publicity to the Minister, they present a clear picture of Australia’s immigration policy and relevant subjects to people in Australia and overseas. T also bring the right honorable member to task on account of the unreal way in which, according to his time-honoured custom in this House, he deals with important problems. He has moved, as an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill -
That all words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be referred to a. select committee of this House appointed to inquire into and report upon the deterioration in the finances of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department which has resulted in the imposition of these heavy increases in charges at a time when revenue from other sources is at a record high level “.
The right honorable gentleman has never suggested that select committees should be appointed to inquire into the staggering increases that have been made in the charges of shipping combines an-d other private enterprises in this country. He has never objected to the numerous requests that have been made by industries for permission to add high percentages to their charges on account of increased operating costs. In fact, he has freely supported such requests. In spite of that, it seems that he is prepared to vote against essential increases for a great national undertaking. In the light of his contradictory attitude, I consider that we may dismiss the arguments that he has advanced in support of the appointment of a select committee. His views were unrealistic and acceptance of the amendment would only delay thi* important measure. Such an inquiry could not lead to any other result than the adoption of the proposed new charges, because they are fully justified.
The Minister for Information clearly stated the reasons for the proposed increases in his second-reading speech Every honorable member knows thai the Postal Department has been obliged to bear heavy extra costs in recent years. Those costs bear just as heavily upon government enterprises as they do upon private enterprises. Not one businessorganization in Australia has failed in recent years to increase the charges foi the goods or services that it supplies to the public. The increases have been made necessary by the rising- level of costs. The Postal Department has given excellent service to the people, and, -if it is to continue to do so, it must augment itr income in order to meet the financial commitments that are now involved in providing such a service. Wages have been considerably increased by awards of arbitration authorities, and we all agree that those increases are justified. As the result of the growing burden of wages and other costs, every enterprise, whether it be government controlled or privately controlled, must increase the charges that it makes to its customers unless it is supported by means of direct subsidies from the Government. For instance, tram fares in Sydney and other places have been increased in order to offset rising costs. The Minister clearly explained why profits accrued from the activities of the Postal Department until relatively recently. During the war, about 8,000 skilled men were released from the department for wartime service, and its activities had to be considerably restricted in many ways. Therefore, operating costs were reduced and costly developmental works could not be undertaken. As a result, funds that normally would have been used to maintain and improve postal and telegraph services accumulated in the form of unreal profits. For that reason, the department must now endeavour to make up a huge leeway of work that had to be abandoned temporarily while its staffs were below strength and while it was unable to provide all of the services that would ordinarily have been demanded in peace time. Costs of materials that are needed to overtake delayed maintenance work and to meet the need of expansion have also increased considerably. In some instances, they range from 100 per cent, to 200 per cent, above pre-war costs. Therefore, although the department has’ effected economies and endeavoured to obtain the highest possible degree of efficiency for the lowest expenditure by maintaining an organization to overhaul its activities from time to time and to prevent waste, it has been obliged to prepare a plan for increased charges to the public. Those increases must be made if the department is to continue to. operate on a businesslike basis. The department, although it has a monopoly, has always endeavoured to give good service at reasonable cost to the public. For years it has operated at the absolute minimum of cost. In considering the problems that confront it, we must not confine our attention only to the Australian scene. The charges for postal and telephone services in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America have been greatly increased. En Australia, the Postal Department is experiencing the same difficulties that the postal departments of other countries have encountered in meeting steeply rising costs. Tie Minister has indicated that in the United States of America, which is the home of free enterprise and to which honorable members opposite cannot tie the tag of socialism, the Postal Department has incurred a loss of 300.000,000 dollars annually. Recently a bill was presented to the United States Congress which provided for increased postal and telegraphic charges totalling 250,000,000 dollars. The postal authorities in the United States of America cannot meet the present day costs on the basis of current charges, and, accordingly, they have had to seek assistance from Consolidated Revenue.
– In the United States of America there has been an over-all increase of the rates in respect of every item.
– That is so. That statement of the position in other countries shows the necessity for the introduction of a measure of this kind in the Australian
Parliament in order to enable the Postal Department to meet its maintenance costs and its programme of expansion. As the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) has pointed out, there are approximately 125,000 outstanding applications for telephone connexion. Honorable members on this side of the House who took part in the debate earlier have shown that additional technical staff have been engaged and new equipment Ls being purchased. I do noi know the kind of financial wizardy that the Opposition would employ to finance those additional facilities, the purchase of expensive equipment and the employment of additional technical staff but the Government has decided that it should be done by increasing the existing charges. Honorable members opposite have nol given us a clear indication of bow they would provide the additional money which the Postal Department needs to maintain its services for the people. Knowing their method of financing the war, and being well aware of their limited financial policy, I cannot conceive that they would have us believe that they would extend bank credits in order to meet the commitments of the Postal Department. The department is committed to the expenditure of £42,000,000, over a period, to rehabilitate its services. Honorable members opposite must face the fact that the introduction of this measure to increase the existing charges is absolutely necessary in order to enable the Postal Department to carry on its activities, and to provide the highly skilled technical staff and the mechanical mail handling appliances for maintaining postal services at a high level of efficiency. The people who are enjoying the benefits of high wages and liberal amenities must pay the increased charges in order that member? of the staff of the Postal Department may share in the same benefits as they enjoy.
The programme for the expansion of the services that aire rendered by the Postal Department will enable it to increase its efficiency and to give greater service to the public as time goes by. The Minister representing: the PostmasterGeneral and other honorable members on this side of the House have clearly indicated the reasons for the proposed increases of charges for the postal, telegraphic and telephonic services. Although there may be some disagreement among honorable members on this side of the House about certain charges that are made for opening country telephone exchanges at night, it cannot be said that these increased charges are to be imposed for the purpose of increasing the contributions to Consolidated Revenue. They are to be made for the express purpose of meeting the usual commitments of the Postal Department, to enable it to maintain an efficient service and to finance a very extensive rehabilitation programme. I pay a tribute to the high state of efficiency which has been achieved by the Postal Department. I support the bill, and I hope that we shall not hear any more of the short-sighted criticism which we have had from honorable members opposite to-day.
– After having listened to so many speeches on this bill, it is difficult for me not to indulge in repetition. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has given to the House facts and figures relating to this subject which must have impressed the Government. I propose to reply to some of the statements which have been made by honorable members opposite. While they are still fresh in my memory I want to refer to some remarks which have just been made by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly). In endeavouring to make up a case to justify the proposed increases of postal, telephone and telegraph charges the honorable member said that most business houses have recently been allowed to increase their prices. How many business houses which have recently been allowed to increase their prices could show on examination that their profits have been proportionately equivalent to the profits earned by the Postal Department? During the six years ended the 30th June, 1947, the average annual profits of the Postal Department amounted to £5,9S5,000. If a primary producer had shown large profits for six years, but had incurred a loss in the operation of his farm his income would he averaged and he would have in the seventh year no chance of convincing the Commissioner of Taxation that he was entitled to a remission of income tax. The arguments submitted by the honorable member for Martin are without foundation. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) referred to the increased rates to be imposed in respect of telegrams. For telegrams sent to a post office more than fifteen miles distant from the office of despatch the charge now imposed is ls. for fourteen words. That charge is to be increased to ls. 6d. The honorable member foi Hindmarsh spoke of a telegram containing 43 words as being a “ small telegram Only a press despatch or « message sent by some very big businessman would contain 43 words or more. The average telegram sent by a private individual would not exceed fourteen words
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh was referring to telegrams sent by business houses.
– In order to COl aider the effect of these charges we must take into account the length of an average telegram. Private individuals as a rule take great care to keep their telegrams within the stipulated number of fourteen words for which a lower charge is imposed, but they are to be called upon to pay an additional 50 per cent, for that service. The honorable member for Hindmarsh should not endeavour to base a case on false premises. A telegram containing 43 words is the exception rather than the rule. I challenge the Minister in charge of this bill to ask the postmaster at any country post office for figures relating to the average number of words contained in telegrams sent through his office. I venture to say that they would be between fourteen and eighteen words. Information on that point could be easily ascertained by the Government.
– They certainly would not average 43 words.
– That is so. Only newspapers and large business houses are in the habit of sending lengthy telegrams. Lengthy telegrams may also be sent by primary producers to Ministers in a vain endeavour to obtain spare parts for a farm machine. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) made some misstatements when speaking to this hill. Honorable members on this side of the House have suggested that it is possible that by means of these extra charges the Postmaster-General’s Department will become another taxing machine. The honorable member for Fremantle said that that was absolute rot because if a person buys 1 lb. of peanuts he gets the goods that he buys, and that if he travels by some form of transport the charge is for the service rendered. We all know that to-day transport is a taxing machine. If a person travels by motor transport he has to pay increased fares because of the tax of 10£d. on every gallon of petrol. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said that that is a tax on the community. I.f that is a tax on the community so also will the Postmaster-<General’s Department be used as a taxing instrument. This is merely a way in which the Government proposes to exact further taxes from the people while at the same time telling them that it is reducing taxation n,s from the commencement of the next financial year which will be on Friday. The honorable member also said that the press has whipped up the idea of the increase, and that people all over Australia are taking notice of what i9 published in the newspapers and the newspaper proprietors were the worst offenders in having increased charges for advertisements. The honorable member was not on very sound premises in that connexion.
On referring to the pink pages of the telephone directory, which contain advertisements, and on making inquiries about them, I found that Doolan’s Dance Band Agency is charged £18 18s. for each issue for an advertisement occupying a space of li inches in a four-column page. Although the telephone directory is now issued only once a year, in normal times it is published more often.
– That is a reasonable charge.
– I found on inquiry that for an advertisement occupying a modest 1 inch in the pink pages of the Melbourne telephone directory, the Housewives Association is charged £12 12s. Apparently Perc Davey, who runs a dancing academy, decided to be more economical. For an advertisement occupying only a inch he is charged £6 6s. The insertion for the Country party, which is a very important organization, comprises only two words, twelve letters in all. For the two word* “ Country Party “, and nothing else, that organization is charged £3 3s., which isequivalent to 5s. 3d. a letter. Yet the honorable member for Fremantle had th, audacity to refer to the press having raised its charges for advertising. Iii the Minister’s second-reading speedreference was made to the fact that th,COSt of block type entries in the direc-tory would be increased. Goodness know» what else the Postmaster-General’s Department will do when it starts to increase these charges. What I have just related is most probably in accord with what the Minister has said in hie second-reading speech and I assume that that is right. Fancy the PostmasterGeneral’s Department charging the Coun-try party £3 3s. for such a small entry’ The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) who represents the PostmasterGeneral in this chamber could probably get his name in Who’s Who for a les* charge than that. All of these argument* are based on frail premises. When one looks into the real position it is found that it is the Government that has imposed high charges for advertisements in the pink pages of the telephone directory and in other places.
– Would the honorable member say that those rates are above standard charges?
– Upon consulting the country telephone directory for Mildura and Ouyen districts I found that although only 22 pages are occupied by subscribers’ telephone numbers the advertisements on the pink pages occupy eighteen and a half pages. Even in those 22 pages there are numerous advertisements also. Although the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is at present making a great deal of profit out of these advertisements, it intends to increase the rates still further. I consider that the increased postal charges will be felt most keenly by the people in the community who are doing most to increase production. There is not the slightest doubt that the activity of a man and the way that he is working in this country is a gauge by which he can be hit the hardest and become a target for increased charges. It is true that many retired people have means and live quietly. They do not use the telephone extensively. Furthermore there are other people who have not any definite *take in the community. The Government has protected their interests by deciding that the charge for making a call from a public telephone booth, either in the metropolitan areas or in country towns, shall remain at twopence. However the charges are to be increased for people who have a definite stake in the country. The business man or the person who has a telephone in his private home will be charged an extra halfpenny a unit in the metropolitan areas, whilst in country districts the increase will be one farthing a unit. The Government is following its usual practice of “ running a steam-roller over the people” who are actively engaged in industry and contributing to the production of this country, while at the same time protecting the interests of those people many of whom cannot be regarded as being active or enterprising. Under this measure the primary producer will be hit most because the costs for the telephones and telegrams that he uses will be increased considerably. As honorable members know, Mildura is the most progressive decentralized area in Australia. At present the full rate for a telephone call between Mildura and Melbourne is 3s. lOd. for a three minutes conversation ; that is to be raised to 5s. In addition, of course, the ordinary unit fee will be charged. At present the night rate is ls. lid. for a three minutes conversation. That rate is to be increased to the intermediate rate of 2s. lid. plus the unit call fee for a three minutes conversation. In consequence a resident of the Mildura area will be penalized every time he makes a telephone call to Melbourne, as will a resident of Melbourne who makes a call to Mildura, [t is well known that, irrespective of whether a call originates in the city or in the country, it is the primary producer who ultimately has to pay for it, because the cost is passed on to him.
One honorable member opposite referred to the number of rural automatic telephone exchanges that are being installed by the Postal Department. 3 have not seen one in my electorate. It may be that some will be installed in the future, but we are now dealing with existing conditions. The work of the department in regard to the installation of these telephone exchanges provides no justification for the increased telephone charges that are proposed in this bill.
In to-day’s issue of the Melbourne Herald there is an article about the mail subsidy that is paid to Trans-Australia Airlines. The article reads as follows: -
Trans-Australia Airlines air mail subsidy for the current year has been raised by £75,000 to £400,000.
The actual amount of the subsidy is £399,300. The Government evidently desires that it shall be kept below the £400,000 mark. The article continues -
Although negotiations have been going on for some months, final decision was given within the past month - just as Trans-Australia Airlines was closing its books for the current financial year.
That is a strange coincidence. The article goes on -
The circumstance upon which the increase has been hung is that Trans-Australia Airlines has now taken over extended routes in Queensland formerly operated by Qantas Empire Airways.
The amounts to be paid to airlines for th» carriage of air mails are decided by the Department of Civil Aviation as agent for the Post Office.
If a private contractor could determine his charges to the Postmaster-General’s Department for the carriage of air mails he would soon be in a very good financial position. Private contractors must submit tenders before a mail contract is given to them, but in the case of TransAustralia Airlines, a governmental organization, the Department of Civil Aviation decides how much shall be paid to it by the Postmaster-General’s Department. The article continues -
In 1948 the Postal Department collected £588,000 from the domestic air mail surcharge of 3d a letter. It kept £58,000 to cover handling charges, and paid to Civil Aviation about £532,000. ‘
The Postal Department did not take into consideration what the carriage of the mails was worth. It paid that amount to the Department of Civil Aviation as a subsidy. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for the department’s present deficit. The article continues -
Qantas carried 987,740 lb. of mail on their domestic route last year. On the Australian National Airways lb-mile payment basis, this mail would have cost the D.C.A. £5,350 to transport. Even at T.A.A.’s 2/6d. a lb., it would have cost only £12,343. But T.A.A. is to be paid an extra” £75,000
The Postmaster-General’s Department is increasing the subsidy to Trans-Australia Airlines hy £75,000 and is doing so at the end of the financial year. I suppose that the Government considers it desirable to increase- postal .charges and to pay this amount of money to Trans-Australia Airlines rather than to allow that organization to issue a balance-sheet showing that it has incurred a greater loss than that which it incurred last year. Some honorable members on this side of the Mouse have .been very active in directing the attention of the Australian people to the losses which have been incurred by Trans-Australia Airlines. The article concludes -
This month, Trans-Oceanic Airways, of Sydney, a small company using Sandringham flying boats, is operating an emergency airmail service from Sydney to Grafton in the flood-bound areas of New South Wales. For this they are being paid 4d. a lb.
Although the Postmaster-General’s Department pays a private airline 4d. per !b. for the carriage of airmails, a charge of 2s. 6d. ,per lb. by Trans-Australia Airlines is not considered to be sufficient and the organization is to be paid in addition thousands of pounds as a subsidy in an endeavour to hide the losses that it has incurred.
The reasons for the proposed increases of postal charges are deep-rooted. The deficit shown by the Postal Department lias implications in other government departments. The Leader of the Australian Country party has given the House an indication of what is going on beneath the surface. There is not the slightest doubt that this bill fits in with the framework of the Government’s socialization policy. When one government department incurs a loss, another department has to finance it. The people have to pay all the time.
.- The House is being asked to assent to a measure about which it is more or less in the dark, because honorable members have not had an opportunity to study the annual report of the PostmasterGeneral for 1947-48 and to discover what is wrong inside the Postal Department. I oppose the increased postal charges that are proposed in this bill. If a private enterprise incurred a loss after making substantial profits for many years and sought some relief from the Government, honorable members opposite would at once suggest that it should improve its efficiency.
Generally speaking, I have no complaint about the efficiency of the services that are provided by the Postal Department, but I wish to refer to something that has occurred in Perth and for which I do not blame the department entirely. I want to know why it is possible for a starting price bookmaker in Perth to have seventeen telephones in his establishment.
– He is a busy man.
– It sounds like it. The Postmaster-General’s Department cannot take any action against this man unless a conviction is reported against, him. The department is aware that the majority of tie telephones in his establishment are in the names of people employed by him. He has only a silent number in his own name. It is unfortunate that those seventeen telephones are held in the names of ex-servicemen. They stated in their applications that they are commission agents whereas in fact they are employees of that bookmaker. I have said on previous occasions in this House that ex-servicemen should be given priority in the provision of telephones. I realize that in this instance the PostalDepartment cannot take action to rectify the position I have indicated. However, things must appear to be very grim to ex-servicemen who are engaged in legitimate businesses, endeavouring to producegoods, when they find that they cannot obtain telephones although telephones have been given to others who are noi engaged in legitimate business. I do not think that any one would say that a starting price bookmaker is engaged in a legitimate business. I urge the Minister to look into that case because it discloses one of the snide tricks that are being put over the department. Practices of this kind should be stopped. Such a state of affairs is not very encouraging to people living in country districts 200 or 300 miles from Perth who have to wait for hours and, sometimes all day, to get a call through to Perth. [ had an experience of that kind myself. It is poor consolation to those people to be refused a better service for the reasons usually advanced when they learn of instances of the kind I have mentioned.
I shall not delay the House further. I associate myself with the views expressed by honorable members of the Opposition in this debate. The proposed increased charges will be passed on to consumers. Therefore, before such charges are implemented a complete investigation should be made of the efficiency of the Postal Department. Until such an inquiry is held we shall be obliged to remain “in baulk “, as it were, and we shall not really know whether the department is so efficient as it is claimed to be. Further, the proposed increases of charges are unwarranted on the ground that the financing of capital works out of revenue is opposed to sound buiness practice.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1949 -
No. 42 - Peace Officer Guard Association.
Nos. 43 and 44 - Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
No. 45 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
No. 47 - Transport Workers’ Union of Australia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Army - J. B. S. Waugh.
Defence - M. B. Lynch.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) ActRegulations - Statutory Rules 1949, Nos. 35, 37.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for postal purposes -
Balwyn North, Victoria.
Burleigh Heads, Queensland.
North Albury, New South Wales.
Patents Act - Regulations - StatutoryRulea 1949, No. 36.
House adjourned at 11.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Stevedoring Industry Commission.
– On the 31st May, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) asked me a question on the subject of the working conditions of lighthousekeepers. Supplementing my reply to the honorable member on that date, I now advise that it is proposed to hold a conference between the Fourth Division Officers Association of the Department of Trade and Customs - the association to which most lighthouse-keepers belong - the Department of Shipping and Fuel - the employing department - and the Commonwealth Public Service Board. This conference will consider the rates of pay and the conditions of employment of lighthouse-keepers. It is expected that the conference will take place in the near future.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he furnish a detailed list of the Commonwealth Government’s shareholdings in various activities, such as Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, &c?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The following table shows the Commonwealth’s shareholding in limited liability) companies: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What has been the increase in the price levels of individual items on which the Govern.ment has eliminated price stabilization subsidies since the taking of the prices referendum?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
According to available information, the following approximate percentage variations have, since the prices referendum, taken place in the price of items in respect of which the Government has eliminated subsidies: -
Interstate shipping freights have been in-
Teased by a flat rate of 32s. a ton on general argo, and there have been somewhat proportionate increases in other special and bulk lines of cargo. It is impracticable to express these increases as percentages of the rates applying previously, owing to the wide variations in cargo grades and route distances.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
If no taxation is imposed on 3. (a), (6) or (c), under what provision or provisions of
– The information is being sought and a reply will he furnished as soon as possible.
y. - On the 21st June, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Commonwealth Employment ‘Service.
– On the 15th’ June, the right honorable the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked me a question regarding the Commonwealth Employment Service offices in Queensland and1 the relationship between these offices and the State employment offices, particularly in connexion with the engagement of labour by State government instrumentalities. Further to my interim reply to the right honorable gentleman on that date, I now advise that my information is that Queensland bureaus exist in ten centres where there are Commonwealth employment offices and that instructions have been issued by the Queensland Government to State works authorities and other instrumentalities receiving financial assistance from the State Government, that they must, in recruiting labour, use the Queensland State labour bureaux. I understand further that very little business -in relation to employment service work is transacted by the State offices apart from recruiting labour for State authorities under the circumstances mentioned above, but that the State offices provide other services for the Queensland State labour and other departments, e.g., factory and industrial laws inspection. There is really no significant duplication of activity between the two organizations, and’ discussions are proceeding with the Queensland1 Government in the hope that a solution satisfactory to both the State and Commonwealth will .be arrived at.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490629_reps_18_203/>.