19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for the Army say whether there is any truth in a statement. that appeared in the press - I am not certain whether it appeared under his name - to the effect that members of the Citizen Military Forces who have agreed to the new form of attestation are to be issued with a distinctive badge that they can wear when they are dressed in civilian clothes, the purpose of the badge being to indicate that they have agreed to serve in any part of the world? As the Minister knows, after the last war many men with good war records enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces in accordance with the conditions of service that then prevailed. If there be any truth in the report to which I have referred’,; will the Minister reconsider the decision to issue such badges in order to avoid what I am sure he, in his own heart, believes would be. a breach of faith with men who joined the Citizen Military Forces in the belief that they complied with all the conditions-
– Order! The honorable gentleman is beginning to debate this matter.
– If the report is accurate, will the Minister reconsider the decision that has been made in order that justice may be done to those men who joined the Citizen Military Forces and agreed to comply with the conditions of service that obtained at the time of their enlistment?
– In order to increase the strength of the Australian Military Forces of men who enlist for overseas service and to co-operate with the DirectorGeneral of Recruiting, Lieutenant-General Sir Edmund Herring, in his efforts in that direction, which I am pleased to say are meeting with success, it has been decided to issue the badge to which the honorable member has referred. A facsimile of the badge has appeared in several newspapers. I have no intention to review the decision that has been made. I believe that men who have indicated that they are prepared to serve their country in a period of crisis are entitled to this badge.
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing say how the importation into this country of prefabricated houses is progressing? What proportion of the prefabricated houses that are being imported are being erected by immigrant labour?
– In 1951, at the instance of State governments and the Australian Government, over 10,000 imported prefabricated houses will reach Australia. Probably over 8,000 of them will be erected during this year. I believe that approximately one-half of the imported houses that arrive in Australia this year will be erected hy immigrant labour brought to this country from overseas by the companies supplying the houses, and that as time goes on the proportion erected by such labour will increase steadily because the contracts now being entered into very nearly all stipulate that immigrant labour shall come to Australia with the houses in order to erect them.
– Is the Minister for Housing aware that a great number of new houses being built for exservicementhrough the War Service Homes Division are being built under contracts which contain a rise and fall clause? Is he also aware that the houses are now costing so much more than the original contract price that the War Service Homes
Division advance limit of £2,000 is not nearly sufficient to cover the cost of construction? Is he further aware that building societies in New South Wales have had their limit for advances raised to over £3,000 ? In view of those circumstances will the Minister, as a matter of urgency, raise the limit of advance to ex-servicemen to meet the present position ?
– With the approval of the Prime Minister, I handed over the’ administration of the War Service Homes Division to the Minister for Social Services, who is in another place. However, before the transfer of those activities was made to my colleague this question was under full discussion and had received a great deal of attention. I think that all I can say, or, in fact, all that any one can say, is that the matter is still under active consideration and that the Government is well aware of the present position.
– Can the Minister say how much of the erected cost of imported prefabricated houses is spent overseas and how much in Australia?
– The Department of Works and Housing keeps a general running calculation on this subject. Speaking broadly and not with precision, approximately .two-thirds of the erected cost of an average prefabricated house goes overseas in payment for the house and in freight and other charges, leaving approximately one-third, which is spent in Australia on erection costs and the connexion of services such as sewerage, light and water. About half of that onethird goes in labour which is brought to Australia for the purpose of erecting the houses.
– In view of the widespread anxieties concerning the relationship of the virus called myxomatosis to encephalitis and the possibility of viruscarrying mosquitoes attacking and affecting other animals besides rabbits, and in view of the danger occasioned by the fact that affected rabbits take from twelve to fourteen days to die does the Minister for National Development not think that the releasing of the myxomatosis virus has been premature ? Will the Minister make a full report on this matter to Parliament in the near future after obtaining expert advice on all aspects of the case?
– I intend, at the conclusion of question time, to ask for leave to make a short statement on the general subject that has been raised by the honorable member. I assure the House now that the advice of all the Government’s experts, including that of Sir Macfarlane Burnet, is that there is no connexion whatsoever between the myxomatosis virus and the recent outbreak of encephalitis in certain districts of Australia. I have that opinion from Sir Macfarlane Burnet in the most specific terms. I think that Sir Macfarlane Burnet, by general agreement among his colleagues, is the greatest expert in Australia on virus diseases and I believe that he has a world-wide reputation, so that his word, particularly in the terms in which he has given it to me, should satisfy the Australian public that there is no connexion whatsoever between these two virus diseases.
– Will the Minister inform the House of what real tests have been made of the effects of myxomatosis upon human beings? Is he prepared to accept the challenge of the citizens of Mildura to submit himself and other members of the Government to inoculation with the myxomatosis virus ?
– Over the years, tests have been made overseas of the effects of the myxomatosis virus upon human beings, and persons who have been inoculated with the disease have showed no reaction whatever. Recently in Australia two research workers voluntarily inoculated themselves with the virus, and there was no reaction. I think that, in the circumstances, the extreme lengths to which the honorable gentleman suggests that I should go are probably unnecessary.
– by leave -The virus disease of myxomatosis has been known for over 50 years. In 1933, Sir Charles Martin, one time. Professor of Physiology at the University of Melbourne and subsequently Director of the Lister Institute, of Preventive Medicine in the United Kingdom, carried out some experiments in England following his return from Australia,, where for two years previously he had been, in charge of tha Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Division of Animal Nutrition. The myxomatosis virus used by Sir Charles Martin proved to be particularly virulent to rabbits, and the Council for Scientific, and Industrial Research brought out a. supply of the virus to Australia and started laboratory work on it during the 1930’s..
A great deal of work has been carried! out to ascertain whether myxomatosis will affect other animals. This work has been carried out both in Australia and in several overseas countries. All domestic animals and a, wide range of Australian wild animals and birds were tested but none showed any development of the symptoms of myxomatosis. Even hares were immune.
Experiments on human, beings have been made overseas but no reaction to myxomatosis was shown. During the course of experiments: carried out in Australia, two men who were engaged on myxomatosis research inoculated themselves with the virus, with no ill effect. After the laboratory work by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had been carried out. in the. 1930’s, the possibilities of. myxomatosis were tried on a large scale, at “Wardang’ Island,, off the coast of South Australia,, and subsequently on the mainland. That was just before the; war. It was found that- the virus did. not spread, from one burrow to another under the conditions of trial on “Wardang Island and on the mainland of Australia. More recent work indicates that this, lack of spreading of myxomatosis was probably due to the absence of mosquitoes or other insect carriers of the disease.
With the approval of the Department of Health and the relevant departments of the State governments concerned, trials of myxomatosis were again resumed in the Murray Valley in 1950,- on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. The first spread of myxomatosis occurred’ early in December^ 1950^ since when the disease has spread quite rapidly to the west and to- the north but only to a. very slight, degree to the south.. It was. notable that the outbreaks of the disease were predominantly confined to* country associated with waterways and swamps, where mosquitoes were prevalent. The disease does not appear to spread to dry country or to areas at an appreciable distance from water..
The general spread of myxomatosis has been somewhat complicated by the efforts of many individual graziers who have collected myxomatosis-infected rabbits from the Murray Valley and transported them long distances in some instances to their own properties. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not taking any further steps to spread myxomatosis.. The virus, is. in the hands of the State Department of Agriculture in New South Wales and of the Department of Lands in Victoria. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial. Research Organization recently convened’ a conference representative of the Department of Health, the Department of Commerce’ and Agriculture, the New South Wales Department of Agriculture^ and the- Victorian Department of Lands. Dr. H. E. Albiston, Director of the Veterinary Research Institute. University of Melbourne ; Sir Macfarlane Burnet, Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, Melbourne; and Professor P. J. Fenner, Professor of Micro Biology in the Australian National University, Canberra, were also present. The conference discussed the progress of the present myxomatosis outbreak and made plans for intensifying the study of mosquitoes and other insect vectors. Afurther conference is planned.
There has- been some1 public anxiety as to any possible connexion between the myxomatosis virus and the recent outbreak of encephalitis in human beings. This- matter has been under the closest examination by officers of the various Departments of Health and by Sir Macfarlane Burnet, head of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical. Research, Melbourne, and Dr.. F. J. Fenner, of the Australian National University, Canberra. These authorities agree that there is no connexion whatsoever between the virus causing myxomatosis and the virus causing encephalitis. In fact, recent tests carried out at the Hall Institute in Melbourne prove conclusively not only that the two viruses are distinct and separate, but also that they are not even distantly related.
The question has been- asked whether myxomatosis is likely to eradicate the rabbit pest in Australia. Although myxomatosis has already accounted for very large numbers of rabbits and there is every indication that it will continue to do so, its maximum effect is likely to be limited to areas where large mosquito populations exist - that is, to relatively narrow stretches along water frontages and to swampy areas. Present knowledge of myxomatosis tends to the belief that it is likely to be a factor of consequence but by no’ means the complete answer to the rabbit menace. The name of Dr. Jean Macnamara has been prominently connected with myxomatosis work because of her energy in keeping the matter before the attention of people concerned in Australia.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that the dried vine fruits crop, the harvesting of which is now being completed, is one of the lightest, if not the lightest, on record ? Does the Minister know that this position applies chiefly to the Murray Valley, where most of Australia’s dried vine fruits are produced? Will the Minister take notice that many of those engaged in the industry, most of whom are returned soldiers, urgently require financial assistance if they are to continue in production? If the Minister is aware of the facts a3 stated will he bring the plight of the industry to the notice of Cabinet and recommend that necessary assistance be given?
– I have heard that the dried vine fruit industry which, of course, is principally conducted in the honorable member’s electorate, is experiencing a very light year of production and that this is successive to several years of adverse seasonal experience. The exact measure of the reduction of the crop is not yet ascertainable because harvesting has not been completed. However, industry will receive a very substantial measure of assistance from the new contract price which the Government is in the final stages of arranging with the United Kingdom Government. The grower representatives who are aiding the officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in conducting these negotiations in London have been successful in obtaining an offer from the Ministry of Food in the United Kingdom which will represent a very substantial increase on the contract prices of the previous two seasons. This will not aid growers who have experienced a complete loss of crop or who have very little crop to sell. All I can say to the honorable member is that, if the case that he has stated represents a disaster for the industry, the Government will give sympathetic consideration to the necessity for granting aid to the industry. However, the Government can not’ consider the situation until the facts are available after the final harvesting of the crop. I suggest that the best course for the growers to pursue, if they are in need of immediate relief, is to apply to their State Government. Then, if the State Government decides that the facts warrant it joining the growers in making an overall request for aid to this Government, I assure the honorable member that such a. request will receive consideration.
– I wish to address a question to the Leader of the Opposition. Does the right honorable gentleman consider it appropriate that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should continue to exercise the functions of that office in this House while a vote of censure in connexion with his activities on behalf of the Communists is pending against him within his political party?
– I rise to order. I want to know, Mr. Speaker, how long it has been in order for an honorable member to ask a Minister questions other than those which refer to the department which he administers, or-
– Ever since the honorable member was in office.
– Fortunately for this country, the Minister for External Affairs will soon be leaving it.
– Order ! That has nothing to do with the point of order.
– Neither had the interjection. The question that I wish to ask, Mr. Speaker, is whether the Standing Orders have been altered to the degree that would permit an honorable member to ask a question at question time of anybody other than a Minister or the chairman of a parliamentary committee.
– The honorable member for Dalley is a member of the Standing Orders Committee. Standing Order 143, to which he agreed, reads as follows: -
Questions may be,. put to a Member, not being a Minister, relating to any Bill, Motion, or other public matter connected with the business of the House, of which the Member has charge.
– I must press my point, Mr. Speaker. Which, of all those matters, has anything to do with the Leader of the Opposition?
– That is for the Lender of the Opposition to say.
– No. I have raised a. point of order on the matter.
– Order ! I rule that the question is in order.
– I take the view, despite your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that matters which are not associated with the conduct of the business of the Parliament are not matters on which questions should be addressed to other honorable members. If such a procedure were to be permitted, of course, an honorable member could address to other honorable members questions dealing with their private affairs. I dealt with this subject very fully previously in reply to a matter that was raised in this House by the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer the honorable member for Mackellar to the reply that I gave then to the questions that were asked by the Minister.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that numbers of displaced persons are inmates of mental hospitals in Australia. If so, how many displaced persons are so situ ated? Will the Minister intensify the screening of prospective immigrants, particularly those who come from war-torn countries ?
– It is a fact that of the 160,000 displaced persons who have come to this country a fractional number is at present in hospitals or mental homes as the result of a psychotic condition. Previously, I have made available to the press the relevant figures which indicate that the proportion of such displaced persons is very much smaller than that of other persons in the Australian community who suffer from mental disorders. Those figures indicate that although these conditions developed as the result of experiences after the persons concerned had been screened and selected, generally the standards of health of displaced persons selected for admission to Australia are rather higher than those of our Australian community. I shall endeavour to obtain the precise relevant figures for the honorable member.
– By way of preface to a question that I address to the Minister for Labour and National Service, I should like to explain that at present shippers of perishable products from Western Australia are under considerable disadvantage because their cargoes are not always lifted after delivery to the Fremantle wharf for shipment by vessels with refrigerated space. This is due in large part to the fact that the waterside workers are unable to load the cargoes during the limited time that the vessels remain in port. At present, growers of fresh grapes for export are suffering serious loss because of their inability to ship their fruit overseas. Will the Minister consider ways and means by which additional labour can be made available at Fremantle in order to obviate .this loss to growers and the impeding of important export industries ?
– I am aware that the quota at the port of Fremantle is not as large as shippers and, indeed, the Government itself, desire. On a previous occasion I discussed this matter with the chairman of the Australian Stevedoring
Industry Board and as a result certain action lias been taken to increase the volume of labour at that port. I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the chairman of the Board and ascertain whether additional labour can be made available.
Conduct of Members of PARLIAMENT
– I address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. It relates to a matter of privilege that I raised last session. On that occasion the Chair informed me that when the matter actually arose a ruling would be given. I refer to May’s Parliamentary Practice, fourteenth edition, pages 114 and 115, which deal with breaches of privilege and contempts. The particular paragraph about which I should like-
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! ‘ The honorable member must realize that he is raising a matter of privilege which must take precedence over all other business and that he must conclude whatever matter he raises with a motion. If he wishes simply to address a question to the Chair he may do so ; but I understood him to say that he was raising a matter of privilege. He should be perfectly clear about the procedure that must be followed.
– I wish merely to obtain, by means of a question, your view of the proper interpretation of the paragraph, because it may affect privilege indirectly in the future. The paragraph to which I refer concerns advocacy by members in matters in which they have been concerned professionally. The time has arisen when that matter is before the House in connexion with one case, and it may later arise in connexion with other cases. One of the matters on which such an issue may arise is the validity of certain legislation. Such an issue could not be paralleled by any case in England, because whilst here we are limited by our Constitution the United Kingdom Parliament is not so limited. Therefore I wish to ask for your interpretation of that particular paragraph on page 115 of the fourteenth edition of May, so that all honorable members may be aware of the exact position.
– I shall examine the paragraph and any other authorities that I can discover, and report my decision, if I am able to reach one, to the House as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether it is a fact that men who volunteered for aircrew service in the Permanent Air Force as far back as last October will not be called up for service before next August? Is it also a fact that men who volunteered for part-time service as aircrew last January have no chance of being called up for service before the middle of this year ? If that is the position in the Air Force, why is an expensive recruiting campaign being undertaken by the Air Force at the present time in order to obtain recruits who cannot be taken into the service?
– Contrary to general belief the recruiting campaign for the Royal Australian Air Force has been a success, but all’ categories are not filled. We have a waiting list of more than 500 aircrew members, which includes pilots, navigators and gunners. Thirty-eight of more than 60 categories of the Permanent. Air Force are filled, but there are still vacancies in certain categories. If the honorable gentleman will give me particulars of the two cases that he has in mind I may be able to tell him of another category in which the men concerned may be used. The honorable gentleman is no doubt aware that it would be foolish to discontinue an advertising campaign for recruitment to the forces generally just because certain sections of the Air Force are fully manned.
– In directing a question to the Minister for National Development I explain that rumours are current in north Queensland that the Government intends to establish a committee of inquiry to investigate rare metal industries, particularly the wolfram industry. If that is the case, will the Minister ensure that the miners, who are the actual producers, are’ adequately represented on any such committee?
– I .know of no proposal for the establishment of a committee or any other body in relation to rare metals, minerals, or wolfram in particular, so that the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question does not require an answer.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Commonwealth Bank has recently given new directions to the trading banks regarding credit? “Will the right honorable gentleman make these directions, or the directions currently in force in respect of credit and the exercise of the Commonwealth Bank’s jurisdiction to control it, if such directions are in writing, available to honorable members for their guidance?
– The answer to the first of the right honorable gentleman’s questions is “ Yes “. I shall give consideration to his second question with a view to ascertaining the extent to which I can accede to his request.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service about arrangements in his department in respect of the National Service Bill 1950. If ‘ that bill should become law before Easter, as now seems probable in view of certain decisions reached by certain people entirely outside the Parliament, when will the Department of Labour and National Service be able to make available to the services the first trainees under the scheme ?
– What we have in mind is that, subject to the swift passage pf the National Service Bill 1950, we shall fix the 14th April next as the date for registration, and register at that time youths who reach the age of eighteen years between the 1st November, 1950, and the 30th April of this year. It will take a few weeks to print the forms and circulate them throughout the Commonwealth, but on the basis of that time-table, my department will have carried out the medical examinations and registrations :md considered such applications as may b” made for deferments and so forth, and will be in a position to place trainees in the hands of the services from the beginning of July. In. the initial call-up we shall concentrate on the registrants who live closest to the National Service offices, but the decision by the Government to double the intake will mean that the earlier plan to exclude persons who Jive in remote areas will have to be revised, and arrangements will be made to have them brought into the scheme as the year passes.
– Last December, in this chamber, I raised the matter of a subsidy for processed milk products other than butter and cheese, and I take this opportunity to thank the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for his statement of the 26th January last on that subject. However, I should now like him to clarify a few points in that statement. Reference is made in it to a price which is to bear an appropriate relationship to the price paid for milk used in the making of butter and cheese. Oan the Minister give more precise details on that point? What price must be paid, as a minimum by the manufacturer to the producer if the manufacturer is to be allowed to receive ‘the subsidy? If a price is not to be guaranteed to the producer, how is he to obtain any benefit from the subsidy? I have heard it stated, although not officially, that the minimum price which must be paid is 3s. 3£d. per lb. of butter fat. Can the Minister confirm ‘ that figure, and can he give any information about the matter generally to milk producers who supply milk to the factories making processed products other than butter and cheese?
– The matter that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has raised relates to the policy of the Government, which was initiated by the previous Government, .of guaranteeing the dairying industry of cost of production. At present, the scheme is operated by guaranteeing a price for commercial butter, or, in the States in which the payment is on butter fat, by an appropriate adjustment to the basis of butter fat. That method now involves a guaranteed return by the Commonwealth of 2s. 6id.. or it may be 2s. 6£d. per Jb. commercial butter. The equivalent in butter fat is 3s. 0£d. per lb. Suppliers to the manufacturers of processed milk do not come exactly under that provision, because the product supplied is not cream but whole milk, and an appropriate allowance has to be made for the non-fat solubles, as I think they are termed, or, in short, the serum or the balance of the milk. That allowance is not actually determined by the Commonwealth, but is, in practice, negotiated by the suppliers with the manufacturers of processed milk. I understand that, normally, it represents approximately 3d. per lb. butter fat, so that the return should be, on the equivalent basis, 3s. 3Jd. per lb. butter fat. The protection which exists for the dairyfarmer is that if a manufacturer of processed milk is not prepared to pay that margin for the non-fat solubles, the producer has the alternative of selling his supplies to a butter or cheese factory, which is under direct guarantee. But if, on the other hand, it were brought to my notice that a processed milk manufacturer was refusing to pay the 3s. 0£d. plus a reasonable additional marginal allowance, I could and would consider terminating the payment of the subsidy to such a processed milk manufacturer.
– My question to the Postmaster-General arises from a good deal of dissatisfaction among business people in the fast-growing industrial area of Auburn, concerning the installation of new telephones. Is it a fact that in New South “Wales accepted medical certificates entitle an applicant to a higher .priority for a telephone connexion than that given to business applications? “Will the Minister provide detailed information on how the priority system is determined for the allocation of new telephones? Has the department any method of checking applications for telephone services on the grounds of medical urgency?
– The Postal Department, has adopted a priority system which divides applicants into business, medical and a variety of other sub-divisions. There is a long list of priority subdivisions. The department does its utmost to hold the scales fairly as between all applicants for telephone services. Appli cations which come under the heading of medical priorities are given very serious consideration, but I assure the honorable member that there are a lot of people who can produce doctors’ certificates that we regard with the very highest suspicion.
Opposition MEMBERS - Oh!
– Therefore, we hold to our priority system fairly rigidly but at times there are circumstances which entitle exceptions to be made. Such exceptions are not very frequent. The honorable member has asked for information about the priority system. I invite him or any other honorable member who may be interested, to visit the telephone branch at his general post office where the system will be fully explained to him. I feel sure that any honorable member who made such an investigation would be satisfied that the postal officials are doing their utmost to deal justly with all applications for telephones.
– Will the Minister for Health give consideration to including neo-epenine tablets in the list of drugs that can be supplied free, or, if that be not practicable, to supplying them free to age pensioners? Many elderly people who suffer from asthma take neo-epenine tablets to relieve the condition from which they are suffering. Under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, adrenaline, whether administered by injection or otherwise, is supplied free of charge, and neo-epenine tablets have an effect somewhat similar to that of adrenaline in relieving asthma.
– Adrenaline was placed on the free list of life-saving drugs because it is used in the treatment of asthma. I shall cause inquiries to be made to ascertain whether it is necessary also to include on the list the drug to which the honorable member has referred. The question will be considered by the advisory committee.
– I ask the Prime Minister to say when the Government proposes to introduce its excess profits tax legislation? Will the tax be based upon profits in excess of those made in a specific year, or upon profits made on specified capital invested in an industry?
– The matter the honorable member has referred to is, and has been for some time, under examination by the Treasurer and the Treasury officials who are assisting him. At the appropriate time, the right honorable gentleman will inform the Blouse of the exact nature of the Government’s proposals.
– I direct the attention of the Treasurer to the fact that there is an urgent need for fencing materials. A shortage of these materials has been caused by industrial hold-ups and the need has been accentuated by disastrous fires in Queensland, especially in the Maranoa area, where hundreds and probably thousands of miles of fencing have been destroyed. Can the Treasurer direct that additional supplies of fencing materials be made available to Queensland ? Alternatively, will he consider the payment of some form of subsidy upon imported fencing materials in order to bring the cost of imported materials into a closer relationship with the cost of locally manufactured materials? At the present time, imported materials cost many times as much as do materials manufactured in this country. I stress the urgency of this matter as far as Queensland is concerned.
– The direction and, as it were, rationing of materials is a matter outside the jurisdiction of this Government. At the present time, it is the subject of discussion with the States. With regard to the financial aspect of the matter, such as subsidies and other monetary assistance, consideration will be given to any representations that are made by the States.
– In view of the ever-rising cost of living, will the Treasurer give consideration to following the lead given by the Victorian Government, which recently increased the benefits payable under the workers’ compensation legislation in that State, by increasing the benefits payable under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act?
– The question asked by the honorable gentleman concerns a matter of policy that will be considered when the next budget is being formulated.
– Last year the honorable member for Hunter asked whether immigrants from the Greta camp could be employed in the coalmining industry. I now ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the coal and power output of this country must not be divided among a continually increasing population, including hundreds of thousands of immigrants? Can the Minister take steps to ensure that the immigrant labour force will make a contribution to the production of coal? If the “coal miners’ unions are not prepared to allow immigrants to be employed in existing mines, will the Minister say what can be done to permit immigrants to make a quick contribution to power production in some other way?
– There is no doubt that the needs of the immigrant population of this country have increased requirements for power and fuel, including coal. The Government has given a. great deal of thought to the question of what contribution can be made by immigrant labour to, in particular, coal production and other activities that would help to increase our resources of power and fuel. We have planned a programme of hostel and house construction in coal-mining areas under which we should have hostel accommodation for approximately 1,500 immigrant workers and houses for some hundreds more.
– They are mostly British immigrants.
– They will be mostly British-speaking immigrants from the United Kingdom and elsewhere. It is not entirely practicable, at any rate in the early stages, to place in underground mines immigrants who have not a good knowledge of the English language, because of safety considerations. However, we have explored that possibility and are moving in that direction also. To the best of our ability, we are using immigrant labour in activities other than underground mining that are concerned directly with the production of power and fuel, such as hydro-electric schemes.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s statement concerning the imminence of war and his exhortation to the people to co-operate to put the nation on a war footing, I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that 1,700 employees at the Small Arms, Factory at Lithgow are manufacturing even one rifle? I understand that these men are manufacturing golf clubs and other sporting equipment. I suggest that, in view of the Prime Minister’s statement, this factory should at least be doing work similar to that which it was doing during the war, when it rendered great service in connexion with the defence of the country.
– The question which the honorable member has raised will be brought to the notice of the appropriate authorities in order to ‘ascertain whether its basis is correct and, if so, what action should be taken along the lines he has suggested.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether the Bureau of Mineral Resources has completed its survey of the Oaklands coalfield. If the survey has not been completed, will the Minister have it expedited so that the people who are waiting to develop the field will not be unduly delayed?
– Unfortunately, the drilling work on the Oaklands coal-field in the southern Riverina has had to be temporarily stopped because the drilling rig and the crew have had to be moved to the Newcastle area, where they are at present more urgently required. I shallobtain a report from the Bureau of Mineral Resources as to the present state and prospects of the Oaklands field, but the cessation of operations there was only a temporary measure.
– Will the Minister for Health state whether it is a fact that many pensioners who are in need of the services of a specialist are not able to obtain them1 for financial reasons ? Will the Minister extend the scope of his medical scheme so as to include the service.5 of eye specialists and other specialists when pensioners are in need of them ?
– The whole medical scheme is based on a general practitioner service. The services of specialists are available at public hospitals.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– by leave - Many members have raised questions on behalf of their constituents concerning the availability and efficacy of the new drug cortisone, which is of use in rheumatic and allied conditions. This substance is in shortsupply, as only one firm in North America can make it, as it has evolved a process of manufacture from large quantities of ox bile. I have had discussions concerning its procurement with my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan). As a result, it is admitted into Australia duty free, and dollar allocations have been made for the maximum quantity of cortisone that can be imported into Australia.
Unfortunately, the amount available for export to Australia is limited. Seven Australian importers and drug houses have a small monthly quota from North America. Although the Commonwealth Government does not actually purchase any of this substance, officers have requested the manufacturer to make available for Australian use the maximum quantity that can be allocated. Cortisone has had some dramatic effects in certain diseases, but also it has had some harmful side reactions. It is desirable that its effect should be recorded and it efficacy estimated by a first-rate scientific body.
The importer with the largest quota has made arrangements with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians for that body to assist in allocating its supplies. It has been publicized in the
Medical Journal of Australia that any doctor who considers his patient would derive benefit by the use of cortisone should apply to the honorary secretary, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, 145 Macquarie-street, Sydney. The college gives its services free. Thi.doctor needs to furnish clinical details of the case to be treated or particulars of the projected research, together with an estimate of the drug required initially for each case or project. The doctor must; give an undertaking to supply an adequate clinical report on each case when the particular course of treatment is concluded.
This will ensure that persons most in need of cortisone will receive priority, and that information will be gathered both of the usefulness of the drug in certain diseases and of its untoward side effects. My colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, has agreed with me that the Royal Australasian College of Physicians should be approached to undertake the allocation of all the supplies of cortisone imported into Australia by the seven importers. These negotiations are now in progress and, when finalized, import licences will be made conditional on this type of allocation. I have had this statement roneoed and copies will be circulated to all honorable members.
Debate resumed from the 7th March (vide page 72), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) stated the issues quite fairly when he introduced this very important bill. The real purpose of the measure cannot be disguised. It refers to contempt jurisdiction for breaches of any order or award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration or a conciliation commissioner, which includes breaches of any portion of any such order or award. But the real purpose of the bill, which the Minister has not attempted to conceal, is to permit the invocation of the summary jurisdiction of the court in order to provide for punishment, by way of contempt proceedings, in any case in which a breach of an award of the court or of a commissioner amounts to a strike or something in the nature of a strike. The Minister was very informative when he was asked whether that was so, and he conceded the fact. Indeed, he linked the provisions of the bill with industrial disputes and stoppages which are now occurring.
I say further that the purpose of the bill is ‘to overturn an important High Court ruling in the metal trades case, which was given on Monday last. I think that the Minister will not dispute that statement. Pew ‘honorable members have even had the opportunity to read the decision of the court in that case. That ruling, in effect, limited the power of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in its contempt jurisdiction to the imposition of penalties not exceeding those which are already specified in the statute. Those penalties, to which I shall refer during my speech, are definite and limited. By getting over that ruling of the High Court, this bill will enable three judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to impose, in respect of offences that might be prosecuted summarily, unlimited fines or terms of imprisonment upon individuals or to order the sequestration of the property of an organization as the court might direct. The bill is very important from that point of view. Undoubtedly, the result of overturning the decision of the High Court in the way that is contemplated by the Government would be to enable the court to punish, for contempt, any participant in a strike which is prohibited by an award. I emphasize the fact that not every award prohibits strikes. Such a prohibition depends upon the awards made by the court or by the relevant conciliation commissioner.
The law as it now stands authorizes a penalty of £10* for a breach of an award, £20 for a wilful breach of an award in the case of an individual or £100 in the case of an organization of employers or employees. The power to impose such penalties is subject to safeguards, which enable an appeal to be made from the court of summary jurisdiction to higher courts in order to test questions of law or perhaps questions of fact. Such appeals may be carried <to the High Court. All of that procedure may be shortcircuited and subverted by this bill. The result will be a complete change of the whole balance of the statute. In other words, if a breach of an award is alleged, all the, safeguards that are attached to the ordinary court procedure will be removed. The limited penalties of £10, £20, or £100, as specified by the Parliament in the legislation of 1947, will be set aside and the court will be empowered to impose, for the same breaches, fines or terms of imprisonment subject to no maximum limitation. It. will be able to order the sequestration of the property of offending organizations as directed. Furthermore, if the bill becomes law and that procedure is put into operation, the Government will be able, through the Attorney-General, <to invoke the contempt jurisdiction of the court in relation to the non-observance of an award. Tn other words, the Government will be able to start proceedings. The first step will not be left to the employer or employee as is now the case. If the Governnent should gain a decision against any person, that individual will not have any right of appeal against his imprisonment or fine. The decision will be absolutely final. Under the present law,, any person, whether he be an employer or an employee, has the right of appeal against the imposition of the limited penalties that are provided, from the court of summary jurisdiction or the industrial magistrate concerned to higher courts, in some instances to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, itself .
Another important fact, which honorable members should keep clearly in their minds, is that this bill is intended to apply to every registered organization and its members. That means that organizations which have been deregistered by the court for conduct which, is considered by it to be improper and not in accordance with the prin ciples of arbitration, will be completely free of the procedures for which the measure provides. I admit that that is due to. limitations, but the result will be to give an absolute invitation to organizations to walk out of ‘the jurisdiction of the arbitration system altogether. In other words, if the bill becomes law, the Government, at its option, can take the matter of a breach of an award, such as a strike or a prohibition against overtime, to the court if the organization concerned is registered, whereas there will be no such sanction in the case of an unregistered organization. As I have said, that is partly due to the limitation of the jurisdiction of the court. Nevertheless, it has that effect and I am sure that the Minister cannot regard such a consequence with equanimity. Frankly, I believe that the Minister himself, as it would appear from his speech and other utterances, cannot have any real satisfaction in introducing a bill of this kind under which the degree of legal coercion and, consequently, of intimidation, reaches proportions so vast that a. democratic people could not approve of it despite their opposition to strikes where arbitration and conciliation procedures are available. But it is one thing to assert that principle and quite another thing to invent, or utilize, a procedure of this kind for a purpose which could never have been contemplated by the legislature at any time since the principal act has been in operation since 1903. As a matter of fact, in the past legislation of this character, which is highly repressive, was soon abandoned. In 1930 the Scullin Labour Government systematically repealed nearly every penal provision in the federal arbitration system and even during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government during which a number of penal provisions were instituted the court never had any specific power in respect of breaches of awards to order unlimited fine or unlimted imprisonment. That is perfectly clear from a statement that was made in a case that came before Chief Justice Knox and Mr. Justice Starke. Section 48 of the principal act, before the Scullin Government repealed it, gave jurisdiction to the court to make orders of injunction, in respect of breaches of awards; but even under that provision, which was subsequently repealed, the maximum penalty was a fine of £100 or imprisonment for three months. Even that section which was mild compared with the proposal now before the House was referred to by Chief Justice Knox and Mr. Justice Starke as conferring “ extraordinary powers “. On that occasion those justices referred to - - the drastic provisions of the section- and to the - harsh sanctions of fine and imprisonment.
Those judges said -
It is no light matter to issue an order in the nature of a mandamus or injunction compelling the observance of an award under pain of fine or imprisonment.
Thus, even before the Scullin Administration reviewed the principal act and got rid of section 48 the measure had its limitations. Yet the High Court, exercising its appellate jurisdiction, regarded it as being very severe and as imposing harsh sanctions.
I now turn to the legislation that was enacted by the Scullin Government in 1930. That legislation was of extreme importance. When introducing it, Mr. Scullin said that it was most important that emphasis be laid upon conciliation and persuasion rather than upon legal force, and his view in that respect was adopted by the then acting Leader of the Opposition, Sir John Latham. At that time Sir John Latham pointed out that the provision of penalties in respect of strikes and lockouts was unsound, that such penalties brought the law itself into contempt and were seldom effective. Thus, the Scullin Government was supported in introducing its legislation in 1930 by the Opposition which was then under the leadership of that distinguished jurist. By common consent, penalties, for strikes and lockouts were abandoned; but, to-day, the Government is seeking to restore something worse than that. The penalties provided in the past, heavy though they were, were limited. There is no real basis for the argument that it was the intention of the Parliament in 1947 to enable employers or the Government - now it is to be the Government under this legislation - to enforce an award by invoking contemptjurisdiction and so converting limited penalties to unlimited penalties of fine or imprisonment. In substance that is the view that the justices of the High Court expressed in the metal trades case.
– But the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Bill that the right honorable gentleman himself introduced went further than the provisions of this bill.
– Yesterday, the Minister said, completely inaccurately, that there is a precedent for this measure in the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act 1949. That statement is completely misleading. That was a special statute which had to be repealed as soon as the general strike in the coal industry was over. It did not make strikes illegal. What it did prohibit was contributions by registered organizations, or persons, for the purpose of establishing strike funds and supporting the strike in that way. Nothing else was prohibited under that measure. Under it no action could be taken in respect of any person who stopped work or went on strike. The court was given power to issue an order by way of injunction against a breach of the act. What happened was that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court did issue injunctions against certain defendants and organizations for ordinary moneys in their hands or control to be paid to the court not by way of penalty but by way of security against breaches of the statute. As is well known, a number of individuals deliberately and openly disobeyed the judicial order of the court and acted in contempt of the court. The action then taken was quite different from the mere enforcement of an award or order of a conciliation commissioner in ordinary routine activities if such award or order happened to produce a strike or a lock-out.
Mr. McMahon interjecting,
– I deny that there is any analogy between a statute of that kind and a statute of this kind which is to apply throughout the whole realm of federal arbitration jurisdiction and seeks to convert an action punishable by a mild fine, possibly a fine of £10, £50 or £100, into contempt of the court itself.
I shall now refer to the 1947 act. The proposal now made by the Government in respect of the amendment of that act is of a wholesale character. It is not limited to any period or to any situation. It is a general amendment of the principal act to enable the court to supplant other courts for the imposition and enforcement of drastic punishment. It is quite contrary to the emphasis made in the 1947 act upon conciliation as opposed to coercion and mere legalism. Now, the High -Court has held that the amendment is opposed to the interpretation and intention of the 1947 act. Mr. Justice Dixon in his judgment in the recent metal ‘trades case, with which Mr. Justice Kitto agreed, said -
The whole question of the enforcement of Orders as well as Awards having received the particular attention of the legislature and specific statutory provisions having been made for the purpose of giving a guarded summary remedy, it must he token to exclude recourse to the summary jurisdiction belonging at common law to a superior Court of Record to enforce its orders by fine, imprisonment or sequestration for contempt of its authority.
I consider it to be very important to refer to the action of the metal trades employers in this case because, even assuming that the application of this proposed law may be limited to certain other matters, the real cases in which the issue originated were the metal trades and the gas award cases. The action of the metal trades employers in attempting to use the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in order to convert a breach of an award into a serious criminal offence punishable by indefinite imprisonment or an unlimited fine, was both harsh and repressive. That was not a genuine attempt to invoke contempt jurisdiction. It was an attempt to take the matter from the courts where it would normally be decided straight to another court for the very purpose of avoiding the application of the ordinary penalty that would flow from the act alleged and proved. Judge Kirby pointed that out in his judgment in connexion with the gas award case. He dissented from the proposal that there should be an exercise of contempt jurisdiction. Judge .Foster agreed with him. Two other judges, the Chief Judge, Judge Kelly, and .Judge Dunphy, considered that, the contempt jurisdiction should be exercised. I should like to have the close attention of the House while I read Judge Kirby’s remarks in his judgment, in reference to the argument of counsel for the employers in the metal trades case. He said that counsel for the employers - claims that the penalties imposed under the Act for breaches by Unions or employees are too inadequate to justify proceedings for such penalties.
There was a direct attempt to evade the provisions of an act of Parliament for seeking summary redress. Judge Kirby continued -
He also says that where employees are prosecuted in the appropriate Courts a great deal of time and trouble is caused by technical objections being taken on behalf of the men.
In other words when they are prosecuted and are being defended - and it is really too bad, in the view of some people, that they should be defended - technical objections are taken and the employers ‘have to prove their case before a penalty can be imposed. Judge Kirby went on to say-
It is thus claimed that this Court should impose on the Unions an obligation to have their members obey the Award when, and indeed because, the employers cannot conveniently use other lawful processes to compel the men to do so.
It is obviously a lot more convenient for the employers if they do not have to go to a court from which there is a right of appeal to a higher court, but can go instead to a court from whose decision there is no appeal and where the penalties imposed can be of an unlimited character. He continued -
Inferentially, the employers asked the Court to make an order . . . against the Unions, and not against the men, because the Unions would he more successful, or more likely to be successful, than the Court in requiring the men to obey their obligations.
At a later stage of his judgment, Judge Kirby said of the argument of counsel for the gas employers -
In other words, that was a way of getting round the normal operation of the procedures of the act in order to obtain a redress that was suitable to the employers. The Government, or the Minister, is sanctioning the continuance of that practice. That is what the Minister wants. Yesterday when he was referring in this House to another matter he .said that in certain cases it was no good going to ordinary courts because the defendants might appeal against a decision adverse to them. He wants to have something to deal with unionists who may be on strike so drastic that it has to be done immediately and there can be no appeal against it. It is practically impossible for me to continue my speech because of audible conversation between two Ministers on the other side of the table.
– During question time to-day there was a great deal of conversation from the Opposition side of the House. The right honorable gentleman himself was one of the offenders.
– I was not then seated at the table.
– At any rate the right honorable gentleman often engages in conversation that I can hear.
– I am making the point that two judges took the view that the contempt jurisdiction should not, in the circumstances, be exercised. Judge Kirby dealt with the history of the case at considerable length and quoted Judge 0’Mara, who in previous years considered that it would be quite wrong to take away the ordinary summary procedure of action before the court or industrial magistrates. This is what he said -
I do not suggest that clauses such as those in this case were inserted in Awards for the purpose of doing more than putting an obligation on the Unions not to assist in the nonobservance of the award. . . . Nevertheless to my mind it would be calamitous if their presence in Awards were used as a means of imposing unlimited penalties in glaring contrast with the extremely limited scale laid down in the Act, on such unions as commit and continue breaches of them.
I have used the word “ calamitous “ deliberately ‘because in the operation of this Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, it is, in my view, imperative that powers of discipline used by the Court should have been conferred by Parliament in the clearest and’ most straightforward of terms. In all Courtsit has long been held, though expressed in many different ways, that it is imperative,, not only that justice should be administered,, but that it should be obvious that justice isbeing administered. By analogy, and whatever the cold legal interpretation of statutory powers may be, all persons having dealingswith this Court should have, by the manner of the Court’s own use of its great powers,, confidence that the Court will not be persuaded to build up its disciplinary strength by theuse of stratagem or device.
I say that Judge Kirby regarded’ that as a stratagem or device to get round, the penalty provided for breaches of an award and to go straight to the full court of judges who could issue an orderrestraining disobedience of an award ; and. if that order were disobeyed all concerned would be exposed to unlimited fine orimprisonment.
– Could a unionist be sentenced to life imprisonment under this bill?
– Yes ; the Minister admitted that yesterday. There is no limit to the term of imprisonment that can be inflicted. Nobody would suppose that advantage would be taken of that fact however, but that is what the bill provides. The fine is not limited and sequestration goes to the full extent of the fine imposed on the organization.
– Then a man could be sentenced to life imprisonment under the provisions of this bill?
– In theory that could be done. In any event, it is against the whole development of legal procedures to employ, as was done in the metal trades case, what Judge Kirby called a stratagem to get round the normal penalty provisions by having a case go straight to the Supreme Court jurisdiction.
– Should not there be a distinction between criminal and industrial law?
– That democrat, the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) believes that, in criminal law. everything must he in favour of the criminal. He can be charged before the first court, and if he loses, he can appeal from court to court and ultimately to the
High. Court of Australia and perhaps to the Privy Council. Yet, the honorable member considers that, in the case of industrial law, there should not be an appeal, even against a sentence of imprisonment. I draw the reverse inference from that of the honorable member for Lowe. I believe that penal sanctions should not be used in conciliation and arbitration systems except when there is absolute common consent to that course being followed, and the common consent in this instance is measured by the agreement in 1930 between the Scullin Government and the then Opposition, under which all the previous penalties were removed. I am sure that the honorable member for Lowe will recognize, upon reflection, that the distinction that he makes between industrial law and criminal law can result only in the conclusion that, in the sphere of industrial jurisprudence, penalties are to be imposed only as a last resort, and in the most extreme cases.
– The powers under this legislation will be exercised only by the Full Court of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
– The Minister says, quite correctly, that this relates to a full court jurisdiction. A sentence of imprisonment may be imposed for a period exceeding twelve months. If an ordinary offence were committed against the law of the Commonwealth, the person concerned would be entitled, on indictment, to trial before a jury. Such provision is made in the Constitution. Of course, certain offences, by consent, may be tried summarily. However, provision of trial by jury is not made in this bill. If the Full Court were divided, as it was in the gas case, when two of the judges were for the contempt jurisdiction, and two were against it, the casting vote of the presiding judge would determine the issue. Yet the Constitution provides that the verdict of a jury shall be unanimous. The reference by the Minister to the Full Court, though correct, does not seem to me to support his case, but, on the contrary, appears to weaken it. Provision has not been made for an appeal. The Minister did not deal with that aspect in his second-reading speech.
– Did the right honorable gentleman make provision for an appeal against an injunction when he drafted section 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act?
– The right honorable gentleman has used the word “ stratagem “ a number of times.
– Yes, in a passage that I read from a statement by Judge Kirby.
– Has the right honorable gentleman in mind the stratagem of obtaining delays for the Communists to destroy our economy?
– That is not a question.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! The honorable member for Mackellar is not in order in interjecting, particularly when he is occupying a seat other than his own.
– The Government is seeking to attach to a measure of conciliation and arbitration the penal sanctions of a criminal code. But the proposals in the hill go far beyond the provisions of any criminal code, or, at least, most criminal codes, which contain, as a rule, elaborate safeguards for trial by jury, and for appeal. Those safeguards are completely absent from this bill. The use of the injunction in labour disputes has been tried in other countries, particularly in the United States of America, and a study of that subject has been made by Mr. Justice Frankfurter, of the United States Supreme Court. The use of the injunction by way of restraint in labour disputes, followed by imprisonment in the event of a breach of the injunction, has been strongly condemned by him. The Government is angry and resentful at the present position, and the Minister for Labour and National Service is resorting to a measure that will prejudice the individual freedom of every trade unionist in organizations registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and, as has been pointed out will have no effect whatever on the members of unions that have been deregistered. This bill is coercive. The Minister referred to the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and to a statement made by Mr. Monk. I say that this bill will be, and must be, denounced by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, because that body actively participated in Hie proceedings that led to the ruling by the High Court a few days ago against the employers, which the Minister now seeks to overturn. The Australian Council of Trades Unions said that it regarded the exercise by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court of the contempt jurisdiction as striking a severe blow at the true purpose of conciliation and arbitration.
Exercise of the contempt jurisdiction can lead to extraordinary anomalies and contradictious. Contempt of court committed by a means of direct insult of the court, or by newspaper articles, are illustrations of grounds for invoking this jurisdiction. On many occasions newspapers have been cited in respect of comments on court cases. Courts take a different view from time to time, and from place to place, and an enormous disparity occurs between sentences. Under this legislation, imprisonment could be directed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, if four judges were sitting, and were equally divided, by the casting vote of the presiding judge.
Attention should be called to the recent warning by Professor Sir Douglas Copland about the deadlock in our industrial relations, due partly to what he described as “ the legalistic structure that has developed “. He went on ,to say -
The responsibility for this deadlock rests primarily with management which had been too prune to leave the issues involved to be settled on a nation-wide basis as a matter of law.
I contend that there is no substitute for conciliation, and I believe that, in the long run, the Minister has tried to act in accordance with that policy. He referred in his second-reading speech to the Crimes Act, and to its limited application to interstate and overseas commerce. Certain organizations are subject to .the Crimes Act, but it cannot be applied in the event of stoppages in other industries. It applies to the shipping and waterfront industries, but not to the production industries. Such an important discrimination should be carefully considered by the House before it reaches a conclusion on this bill. If the proposed machinery which, I submit, is both extreme and violent from a legal stand- point, were set in motion, thousands of workers might be liable to gaol sentences,, depending upon the relevant award. All of them would be equally liable in theevent of a strike. The Minister has admitted the one-sidedness and partial nature of the Crimes Act, applying as it does only to interstate and overseas commerce, yet he now proposes to establish a new and worse kind of discrimination. The Government will be given the option of selecting some persons from many thousands who may be visited with pains and penalties through this contempt jurisdiction. It may be that persons may be selected by the Government on grounds that have no real relation to the breach of an award. Such selection will depend entirely upon the discretion of the government of the day.
This bill constitutes a grave departure from the letter and the spirit of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1947. The ruling of the High Court, to the effect that the contempt jurisdiction cannot be applied under that act in respect of breaches of orders and awards of the court or of a conciliation commissioner, should not be overturned. No valid grounds have been given for what is here proposed. If the proposed amendment were adopted, it might, and probably would, lead to an enormous increase of cases in the contempt jurisdiction. Such was never the intention of the Parliament. The metal trades case and gas case established clearly that the exercise of the contempt jurisdiction in this way without the limitations and safeguards of the ordinary procedures referred to in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act would be calamitous. For those reasons, and for other reasons that will be given in the course of the debate, the Opposition is opposed to the bill.
– The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has given us a typical example of his approach to the important industrial problems that confront Australia today. He has acted outside this House in defence of the interests of those who are trying to destroy the economy of this country, and he is acting similarly inside it. He has made certain statements that can be challenged. He said that this bill is an attempt to confer upon the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration power that really should not be exercised by it, because the penalties which it can inflict and the powers which it will possess under this proposed law, are beyond the functions of three men and should be exercised by a jury. He says that under the ‘Constitution no man can be imprisoned for more than twelve months without trial by jury; but I remind him that while he was a justice of the High Court he possessed the power of the High Court to sentence for contempt any person or persons to any period of imprisonment that the court thought fit. I challenge the right honorable member to deny that. The High Court possesses almost unlimited power to deal with those who defy its orders or who commit contempt of the court. All that this measure seeks to do is to give to the full Commonwealth Arbitration Court, not to a single judge, the powers in. respect of contempt which are at present exercised by the High Court. The right honorable member said that the conferring of such powers was contrary to the Constitution, and that in any matter which involves imprisonment for more than twelve months there should be a trial by a jury. Yet he himself as one of the justices exercised the powers of the High Court for many years. The right honorable gentleman comes to this House seeking to mislead the Parliament and the people of Australia, and defending, as he is accustomed to defend, those who wish to destroy Australia. All that this bill seeks to do is to restore to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the power that it believed it possessed until the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was challenged by the right honorable member for Barton. Section 29 («) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1950 now reads -
The Court shall have power -
to enjoin any organization or person from committing or continuing any contravention . of this Act.
That is how the matter stands to-day and how it stood for many years while the right honorable member for Barton was Attorney-General of Australia. Every normal person would have believed that that section of the act gave to the court full power to impose an adequate penalty upon those who committed contempt of the court.
– Does the Minister’s statement mean that the justices of the High Court are not normal?
– I am making this speech, and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) can make his speech later. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court has interpreted that particular provision to mean that while the court can impose penalties for any act in contravention of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it cannot impose penalties for any act in contravention of an award made under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Until the recent case was brought before the court it was generally believed that the court had power to impose penalties for breaches of awards made under the act as well as for breaches of the act itself.
– Unlimited penalties?
– The same penalties as might be imposed by the High Court for offences committed in contempt of the High Court. I suggest that contempt of the conciliation and arbitration system of this country is sometimes far more serious and far more damaging to hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia than are some forms of contempt of .that august body, the High Court of Australia. It is far more necessary therefore to give powers, not to some petty individual or minor official, or to some inspector or investigator, but to the full bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court which must consist of not less than three judges sitting together. Does the right honorable member for Barton suggest that the full Commonwealth Arbitration Court, or its members, are so venal, so lacking in appreciation of the public interest or so unjust in their approach to problems such as these that they will inflict penalties out of all proportion to the offences that may be committed? The right honorable gentleman remains silent in the face of that challenge because he does not dare to make insinuations such as that against the members of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, most of whom he himself appointed while he was AttorneyGeneral in a previous Government. Therefore, his statements this morning are exposed as a hollow mockery and a sham, being merely a cover-up to serve the interests of persons outside the Parliament - Mr. Idris Williams, Mr. James Healy and their ilk - to enable them to continue their nefarious activities against the rest of the people of Australia.
I remind the right honorable member for Barton of some of the statements that he made when he was confronted with an industrial problem of the nature of the problem that now confronts the Government. Honorable members of this House are not much affected by what is happening in the industrial world; most of them are able to get by somehow, irrespective of shortages and rationing. The people really affected by the industrial trouble to-day are the hundreds of thousands of decent Australians who have been stood down from employment for one, two or even more days each week. In addition to those people many hundreds of small business men have been forced to close down because of the lack of power due to a designed attempt on the part of certain people in this country to prevent our making economic progress.
I desire now to quote from a speech which the right honorable member for Barton delivered when he was AttorneyGeneral, upon the introduction of the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Bill 1949. He said at that time -
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.
At that time the right honorable gentleman, as Attorney-General, had the immense responsibility of settling the industrial upheaval that was then in progress. He said, “ They cannot have it both ways “ ; yet to-day. he has endeavoured to give Mr. Healy, Mr. “Williams, Mr. Roach, and others of that ilk, an opportunity to have it both ways.
All that this measure seeks to do is to restore to the full Commonwealth Arbitration Court the Dower,” that everyone, including ,the court itself, believed it possessed. Until a week or two ago, it was believed that the Full Court possessed, in respect of the punishment of contempt, the same powers as were possessed by the High Court of Australia. It was believed that, under section 29 (c) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which provides that the court shall have power to enjoin any organization or person from committing or continuing a contravention of the act, the court had power to impose penalties of a deterrent nature, but it was discovered that the maximum penalty that the court could impose upon an individual was a fine of £20 and on an organization a fine of £100. Does the right -honorable member for Barton suggest for one moment that the prospect of a fine of £20 -would deter his client, Mr. Healy, or other Communist leaders in this country, from continuing their conspiratorial efforts to put Australians out of work and to create chaos in Australian industry? Does he believe that the prospect of a fine of £100 would deter the miners’ federation from defying the Commonwealth Arbitration Court ? According to the interpretation that was placed upon the act recently, all that the court could do in an attempt to prevent industrial dislocation would be to impose upon the individuals and organizations responsible for the dislocation fines of the kind that I have mentioned.
– How much was the Minister fined?
– The question is not how much I would fine them.
– I asked how much the Minister was fined.
– The question is what penalty not less than three judges of the court would impose, having knowledge of the offence and having listened to the evidence presented to them. The question is whether we want Communists to have a free hand to interrupt and disorganize production in this country. If honora’ble gentlemen opposite want them to have a free hand, why do not they say so? “Why do not they come out into the open and say, “We believe that no impediment should be placed in the way of these individuals who call unjustified strikes, defy the court, ignore the conciliation commissioners and want it both ways “ ? If the Opposition is not prepared to agree that teeth should be put into the act, what does it propose shall be done in order to ensure that those persons shall be deterred from those actions?
I say again, because it cannot be said too often, that all that this bill seeks to do is to restore to the Full Commonwealth Arbitration Court the powers that it was believed, even by the court itself, the court possessed until they were challenged. I direct attention to proposed new section 29a (1) which reads as follows : -
The Court has, and is declared to have had at all times since the commencement of the Common-wealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, 1047, the same power .to punish contempts of its powers and authority, whether in relation to its judicial powers and functions or otherwise, as is possessed by the High Court.
The bill does not seek to give the judges of the court powers in excess of those already possessed by the High Court of Australia, and which were exercisable by the right honorable member for Barton himself for, I think, the period of thirteen years during which he was a justice of the High Court. Nevertheless, the right honorable gentleman has suggested that this measure is practically a flagrant violation of the Constitution. He has said that no court should have power to imprison a man for a period exceeding twelve months except after trial by jury.
– Does the Minister think a court should have that power ?
– Let the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) ask the right honorable member for Barton whether he thinks it should. I shall not delay the House any longer. This measure is vital and of an urgent nature. The action, speeches and record of the right honorable member for Barton speak for themselves. The people of Australia must choose whether Communists are to be given virtually unlimited freedom to snap their fingers at the Full Commonwealth Arbitration Court or whether teeth are to be put into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in order that the Communists may be dealt with. to- CLAREY (Bendigo) [12.24].- I find myself in entire disagreement with most of the statements that have been made by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), which make one wonder whether he really understands what this bill proposes to do. He has said that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court always believed that it had power to inflict penalties for non-compliance with its orders or awards, and that this bill proposed to give that power to the court. The position is that the court has always possessed power to inflict penalties for breaches of its orders or awards, as was admitted by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) in his second-reading speech. That power is contained in section 59 of the act and has been exercised by the court on many occasions. This bill proposes to extend extensively the powers of the court in relation to penal sanctions. It proposes to do what hitherto has been unknown in the arbitration legislation of this or any other country, that is, to permit an arbitration court to exercise the power of imposing unlimited penalties - penalties that can be determined without any reference to a statute.
– Does not the honorable gentleman trust the court ?
– I am not prepared to trust it to do that. I am not prepared to entrust to any court the power to inflict unlimited penalties. Previous legislation has always determined the limits of the penalties that may be imposed by a court, whether it be a criminal court or an industrial court. In the act that it is now proposed to amend, the penalties for nonobservance of orders or awards of the court are stated.
– Would the honorable member support this bill if a limit were placed. on the penalties?
– I am dealing with the bill in its present form. That is what we have to consider. I object to the bill because it proposes to import into our system of conciliation and arbitration penalties over and above those that are now prescribed. If the measure were passed in its present form, the court would have two methods of deciding what a penalty should be. First, the judges could decide to act in accordance with section 59 of the act and impose a fine of up to £20 upon an individual or a fine of £100 upon an organization. Secondly, it would be possible for an employer or the Attorney-General to apply to the Full Court for an injunction. If an injunction were secured against some one and was not observed, the person concerned could be brought before the court and adjudged guilty of contempt of court, and fined or imprisoned, or both fined and imprisoned, and no limitation whatever would be imposed upon the court’s right to act.
– It would be the Full Court.
– That is so, although it is proposed that in the case of certain kinds of contempt a single judge shall be allowed to act.
My second objection to this measure is that it is of a hurried nature. It was only last Monday that the High Court gave the decision to which reference has been made in this debate. If there is legislation of any type that requires earnest consideration, it is legislation connected with the vexed subject of industrial relations. As one who, during the last few years, lias been involved in negotiations for the settlement of many big industrial disputes in Australia - disputes that have had a bad effect upon our economy - I have found that when the tempers of both sides are inflamed it is the easiest thing in the world to spread a dispute, but that if toleration is exercised and a certain amount of time is allowed to elapse in order to permit inflamed tempers to subside, a settlement can be achieved. Despite the attacks that have been made upon the Minister for Labour and National Service in the press during the last few days. I believe that the honorable gentleman acted in the best interests of Australia when he decided to allow a few more days to go by before putting into operation the Crimes Act so far as the waterside workers were concerned. I presume that the intention of the Government was to bring about a settlement, not to pursue a vendetta, and the result of the Ministers’ toleration has been that a settlement has taken place. The overtime ban has been lifted, the wharfs are being worked normally, and there is peace and contentment in the industry for the time being, at any rate. In dealing with the vexed subject of industrial relations, it is extremely unwise, while the dispute exists1, because one feels irritated - justly because of certain circumstances - to introduce legislation which is regarded as provocative and which causes the feelings of one side or the other to be further inflamed. One does not arrive at settlements of industrial disputes by such means.
It is because I understand the motives of those who have propelled this legislation forward and because I disagree with those motives and do not think that the legislation is in the best interests of Australia, that I feel that it should be opposed. There are many causes of industrial disputes and the basic objection of the trade union movement to legislation of this description arises from what is generally called the “ right to strike “. There are occasions, even under the best systems of conciliation and arbitration when certain happenings so inflame people with a sense of injustice that they go on strike. All the laws in the world and all the threats of fines and imprisonment will not prevent strikes from taking place when men are white hot with indignation and a feeling of injustice.
I recall to the minds of honorable members the events which occurred during the 1920’s following which the penal sections of the Arbitration Act were amended. Very frequently, from the experience of the past we oan learn the right road for the future. The 1.920’s were scarred and pitted with industrial disputes to as great an extent as the last seven years have been. There was the timber workers’ dispute of 1929 and the waterside workers’ dispute of 1928 when the wharfs were closed for some months. There were the miners’ lock-outs, when, because it was impossible to deal with the lock-out, no action could be taken. Despite the fact that penal sections had. been inserted in the act and that penalties were imposed they did not stop the succession of strikes. At least one honorable member present suffered a penalty at that time.
The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has properly said that it was because the penal sections of the act did not prevent strikes that they were removed from the act in 1930. Because there has been a series of industrial disputes, the Government now proposes to increase the penal sanctions against those held to be responsible for them. Apparently the Government believes that immediately it introduces penal sanctions the spirit of man will become frightened. It seems to believe that because the prospect of imprisonment and fine is dangled before their eyes those who have a feeling of injustice as a result of harsh treatment will immediately collapse and that, as a consequence, there will be perpetual peace in industry.’ I have always been against strikes that are purely political. When strikes have been purely political the trade union movement and the individual unionists have rejected them. I suppose that the best illustration of that fact is the occasion on which Sharkey was imprisoned for making certain seditious statements. Attempts were then made to bring the men in certain unions out on strike, but the men rejected such proposals because they were able to see that no industrial question was involved.
Leaving out the question of whether or not persons in the unions concerned are members of the Communist party, I ask honorable members to consider the industrial merits of the two disputes that have been causing concern. The timber workers’ strike which lasted for many months in 1929 arose from the fact that, in a period of expanding economy, hours were lengthened and wages reduced. That was felt by the full trade union movement to be completely wrong and unjust. In the present two disputes two peculiar thing3 happened. The first case concerns the waterside workers,” who, since the late Mr. Justice Higgins made his award in 1914, have had their wages based on the assumption that they worked a 30-hour week; in other words, because of the casual nature of his work the man whose livelihood was gained on the waterfront had an average working period of 30 hours a week. Since 1914, the hourly rate has been based on the assumption that the waterside worker worked for 30 hours a week and received a wage equivalent to the basic wage plus a certain margin. I am advised that during the hearing of the recent application neither side sought to alter the basis of computation of wages. Both sides accepted the 30-hour week as the basis of wage fixation but, to the astonishment of both sides the court, instead of basing the wage on a 30-hour week, based it on a 32-hour week.
– It is not correct to say that the employers had not made an application to that effect. Such an application had been made some time before.
– I am advised that the position is as I have stated it, and that the question of whether the wage should be based on a 30-hour week or a 32-hour week was never properly investigated by the tribunal. Because of that the men consider that a vital principle in connexion with the fixation of their wages has been destroyed as there is no appeal against the decision. This is regarded by them as a vital issue which has considerable industrial merit.
I am also advised that, in connexion with the coal dispute, the matter of any increase of wages being made conditional upon attendance at five consecutive shifts each week for a fortnight was certainly not raised before the tribunal, and that the tribunal therefore introduced into its decision something for which neither side had asked. When the employers found that something had been hauled out of the air and placed in the award they made a series of applications to have the same principle put into operation with regard to payment for holidays and other matters of that description.
When men consider that an unjust decision has been made they are bound to rebel. To imagine that by means of penalties, imprisonment and fines the rebellion will be prevented from taking place is simply to reveal a total misunderstanding of the psychology of those who are engaged in the industrial field. I therefore suggest that it would be very wise of the Government to consider seriously and earnestly the proposal which it has asked the House to put into operation. I ask any honorable member on either side of the House who has studied industrial history to prove that, at any time in the history of the trade union movement since the days of the anticombination laws at the end of the eighteenth century, a government has been able to’ discipline, to cow and to prevent the trade union movement from fighting and striking for what it believed to be right. During the last 160 years the more repressive the laws have been the greater has been the struggle against them and the greater has been the determination of those affected to ensure by hook or by crook that the offending law shall be repealed. An illustration that will occur to honorable members is the industrial irritation and friction in Great Britain after .the passing in 1926 of the anti-strike act, following the strike of transport workers in that year. At the following election the repeal of the anti-strike legislation was made a major issue and eventually the workers, as a consequence of organization and agitation, had the pleasure of seeing that act removed from the statute-book.
Nothing is more calculated to generate in the industrial system ulcers which will constantly irritate than is legislation of this description. For those reasons I oppose the bill. I remind honorable members that the right of the worker to withdraw his labour is one of the major differences between the free man and the slave and that, unless the worker has the right to withdraw his labour when he considers that his industrial or economic interest is being imperilled and that he is being treated unjustly, there will be resentment, irritation, rebelliousness, and all those factors that make it impossible for our economic system to work, throughout industry. An overwhelming majority of the awards that have been made by the Commonwealth and State tribunals are being observed by the workers and unions concerned. With the exception of that which relates to three or four organizations there is little industrial trouble in this country. Yet this bill proposes to treat all unions alike whether they be Communist or nonCommunist controlled. They all are to be brought under the one blanket. They all are to be subject to the one penalty.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Coercive powers in relation to conciliation and arbitration have never succeeded and can never be successful in the future. One of the chief objects of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as stated in section 2, is -
To promote good will in industry and to encourage the continued and amicable operation of orders and awards made in settlement of industrial disputes.
I submit that the enactment of this bill would, in effect, destroy that object. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) referred this morning to the possibility of organizations withdrawing from the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I strongly stress the fact that this measure, operating as it will do upon organizations registered with the court but not upon non-registered organizations, is likely to have the effect of causing the unions which the Government seeks to discipline to withdraw from the court. Two organizations, are deregistered at present. One is the Building Workers Industrial Union and the other is the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia. The legislation in relation to the control of union affairs which was recently passed by this Parliament does not operate upon those two unions and they would not come under this legislation.
It is possible that the organizations which the Government seeks to control by means of this legislation will take steps to remove themselves from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court if the bill becomes law. They have only to declare that they are not prepared to submit their disputes to arbitration or have their wages and working conditions determined by the court. As soon as they repudiate arbitration and thereby assert that they no longer wish to be controlled by the court, an application on their part for deregistration must succeed. In the past, when such situations have arisen, the court has invariably deregistered the unions concerned. The result will be that organizations, such as those of the coal miners, the waterside workers and the seamen, if they adopt that attitude, can remove themselves entirely from the provisions of the ‘Conciliation and Arbitration
Act. They ‘will be free of the law. They will be permitted, as the Minister for Labour and National Service suggested yesterday, to operate under the law of the jungle, and this measure will not affect them in any way. The unions which then will be subject to the rigid control of the court for which this measure provides will be those organizations which now, as they have been in the past and presumably will be in the future, are prepared to abide by the decisions of the court. Therefore, I suggest to honorable members that, no matter how earnestly they believe that past occurrences in the industrial field warrant some form of action, this legislation will not achieve the results for which they hope but will lead to loss of control by the community over the organizations concerned. That possibility cannot be ignored.
I oppose the bill on many grounds. I oppose it because it proposes to make the Commonwealth Arbitration Court a court of punishment as well as a court of awards. It will empower the court to mete out to offenders .penalties that are not stated by the law and which might involve imprisonment, fines, or both. The legislation is bad because it has been prepared hurriedly, and I consider that hurried legislation in regard to industrial relations is the worst possible kind of legislation that the Parliament can pass. It is wrong to introduce legislation of this character when industrial disputes are in progress and the temper of both sides is inflamed so that it is not possible to secure sane judgment on either side. I oppose the bill also because, although it does not prohibit the right to strike, it implies that striking is almost a criminal offence and it aims, by means of unstated penalties, to prevent persons from taking part in strikes. I oppose it because I believe that it is inimical to the arbitration, system and will enable trade unions which wish to evade their responsibilities to escape from the field of arbitration. Finally, I oppose it because coercion in the industrial field has never succeeded in compelling men to observe the arbitration law when they believe that the law is unjust. For those reasons, I consider that the bill is unsound and should be rejected by this House.
.- The speech we have just heard from the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) was either based upon a complete misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of this bill or else was a deliberate attempt to deceive the House. The measure does not attempt to introduce into the arbitration law penal provisions of an unknown nature. It represents an attempt to restore to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration a power which, until last Monday, all of us thought it already had. I suspect that that fact is very well known to the honorable member for Bendigo, and I am certain that it is very well known to the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), as I shall demonstrate beyond doubt in due course.
The honorable member for Bendigo gave us a dissertation on trade unionism and industrial arbitration. He warned us, using copious illustrations from the past, that we must wrap arbitration up in cotton wool and treat it with the utmost care or the whole system would go up like a bomb. The honorable gentleman is living in the past. The arbitration system is no longer under threat from the rapacious or repressive employer. All of us know that. “We know that, instead, it is under threat from the Communist party. For that reason, this is not the time to weaken the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It is the time to strengthen it. I agree with the honorable gentleman’s statement that the majority of industrial unions observe awards. The deliberate non-observance of awards comes to-day only from the limited number of important unions which are controlled by the Communist party. To talk about repression being employed against them is nonsense, and to talk about weakening the arbitration law, which will be the effect of the Opposition’s policy if it is implemented, is dangerous. The honorable member’s attempt to continue to live in the past and look upon the arbitration system with the attitude of mind of the ‘nineties, or even the ‘twenties, fully justifies the comment by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that he should bring himself up to date. Many other honorable members, some of whom are credited with moderate opinions in the trade union movement, must bring themselves up to date or they will find that the institutions for which they fought in the past will bc taken from them by aggressive communism because of their refusal to allow this Government to defend those institutions.
The bill is a simple remedial measure designed to restore to the court the power which all of us thought until a few days, ago that it already had. That is of the essence of my argument. The bill will not introduce new powers. It will restore powers which have been taken away from the court, quite correctly in a strictly legal sense, as the result of an accidental omission during the drafting of the 1947 legislation. Everybody concerned with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court - lawyers, advocates, such employers and employees as have directed their minds to the matter, and certainly the right honorable member for Barton - believed until Monday that the power to grant injunctions in order to prevent a breach of industrial awards lay in the court.
– “Without limitation?
– Yes, the ordinary power of injunction which resides in every superior court of record. I asked the right, honorable member for Barton this morning whether he had believed, until Monday, that such power resided in the court, but he ignored the question for the obvious reason that he would not answer it.
Let us consider the object of the bill. I shall try to present this matter with the utmost simplicity. If I should appear to over-simplify I apologize, but it is important that the nature of the provision should be clearly understood. Under the old law, as amended in 1930, but prior to 1.947, the court had the power to make awards and it did so. It also had the power to enforce its awards and the power, as I have pointed out to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), to make unlimited injunctions in support of those awards. In case anybody should doubt my assurance, I direct attention to section 3S (da) and 38 (e) of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904- 1934 under which the court had power and which read -
The Court shall, as regards every industrial dispute of which it has cognizance, have power (da) to order compliance with any term of an order or award proved to the satisfaction of the Court to have been broken or not observed ;
to enjoin any organization or person from committing or continuing any contravention of this Act;
Those provisions were contained in our arbitration law from 1914 to 1947, and the power was frequently used by the court to enforce observance of its awards.
– What penalties were provided?
–As most other honorable members know, the power to enjoin is the power to give an order to an individual which he must obey, and the penalty for non-observance is committal for contempt of court. In theory, there is no limitation to what a court oan do when it punishes an individual for contempt of its orders. However, there is a very real and serious limitation to what the Commonwealth Arbitration Court can do to a person whom it punishes for contempt. I shall deal with that matter later.
These provisions which gave the court power to order compliance with its awards and to enjoin any organization or person from committing or continuing any contravention of the act were left intact when the 1947 legislation was passed by the Chifley Government. That is a very important fact and I particularly direct the attention of honorable members to it. This morning we heard a great deal from the right honorable member for Barton about the iniquity of giving .a court power to make injunctions’ in order to enforce its orders. The right honorable gentleman made those remarks with his tongue in his cheek. The 1947 bill which he introduced when he was Attorney-General contained the very same powers and they were agreed to by the
Parliament. Section 29 of the act reads -
The Court shall have power -
to order compliance with an order or award proved to the satisfaction of the Court to have been broken or not observed;
to enjoin an organization or person from committing or continuing any contravention of this Act;
That is exactly the power .that was contained in the 1930 act and the right honorable gentleman when he was AttorneyGeneral left those words in the bill which he introduced in 1947. Under the 1947 act the whole scheme of arbitration was altered. That legislation set up the conciliation commissioners who were charged with the duty of making industrial awards. It retained the court, but restricted the matters which the court could deal with to four residual headings. Thus, under the new system conciliation commissioners make awards and the court makes orders. However, due to an accidental omission in drafting, those powers m’ere lifted out of the 1930 act holusbolus and inserted in the 1947 act. Let us examine the effect of the omission to which I refer. Under the old system industrial awards were made by the court. They were orders of the court and a contravention of an award constituted a contravention of the act. But now the High Court has held that under section 29 of the 1947 act, in pursuance of which awards are made by conciliation commissioners, a contravention of an award is not a contravention of the act. That position has resulted from an omission in the drafting of the 1947 act by including those provisions in that act. It has not been made clear that the powers of the court extend to this enforcement of awards or that they are made by conciliation commissioners. Consequently, a peculiar result has arisen. Whereas under the 1930 act the court had power to enforce awards by injunction it no longer has that power under the 1947 act.
If .the right honorable member for Barton advanced sincerely the arguments that he put forward this morning he must be prepared to say that that omission was deliberate. Let us examine the effect of it. Section 29 of the 1947 act, I repeat, was lifted holus-bolus from the 1930 act. The High Court had considerable argument about this matter; there were dissenting judgments. But can any honorable member really credit that a draftsman worth tuppence would deliberately take that section out of the 1930 act and leave the question of the power of the court in doubt ? It is absolutely clear to me that this provision was lifted out of the 1930 act with the intention of giving to the court power to enforce awards by injunction. However, the High Court has ruled that the court does not retain that power. That has been due to an accidental omission and now the Government, quite rightly, proposes to give that power back to the court. Yet, the right honorable member for Barton talked about the repressive nature of this legislation. I had not previously heard such nonsense and humbug in this House.
I propose to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that when the right honorable member for Barton, as Attorney-General, introduced the 1947 bill he believed that that measure gave power to the court to enforce awards by injunction. I shall cite three reasons for that belief. While none of them by itself is conclusive, the three of them taken together clearly show that no other conclusion can be drawn. First, that conclusion is consistent with .the whole scheme of the 1947 act that the power of the court to enforce awards should be strengthened. In 1930 the penal provisions of the arbitration and conciliation law were removed. A totally different state of affairs existed then from that which prevails to-day; but the power to grant injunctions was not removed. I suppose that that matter was overlooked ; but the power was retained by section 29 of the 1947 act. Such action was consistent with the attitude of the Government of the day ‘towards arbitration, that awards should be. made enforceable. I do not need to tell honorable members opposite that the whole problem of arbitration to-day is to ensure that awards shall be observed. The scheme of the 1947 act was to streamline arbitration by remedying the old grievance that it took weeks and months to get determinations from the court, and to see that grievances were placed before the court quickly and dealt with expeditiously and fairly by conciliation commissioners and, finally, to see that awards were observed. It was not for nothing that the right honorable member for Barton included this power to grant injunctions to enforce awards. Such action was logical. My second reason in support of the conclusion that I have indicated is that if the right honorable gentleman had not intended to retain for the court the power to enforce awards he must have made that fact clear. Considerable argument took place on the bench whether, failure to observe an award constituted a contravention of the act, and finally a majority of the judges decided that in the terms of section 29 a breach of an award does not constitute a contravention of the act. I repeat that no draftsman worthy of the name would have disregarded that point if his mind had been directed to it. The right honorable member for Barton, when he was Attorney-General, intended that the power which previously resided in the court to grant injunctions to enforce awards should be retained in the 1947 act and it was due to faulty draftsmanship that that was not done. The third reason that I advance in support of the conclusion I have indicated is that prior to 1947 the court was known technically as a court of record. That had certain consequences. Such a court has a particular status, dignity and power. Under the 1947 act the right honorable member for Barton made the Commonwealth Arbitration Court a superior court of record. He raised its status and increased its power and one consequence of that action was to give to it power to grant injunctions in ordinary matters to prevent breaches of its orders and to impose penalties by treating breaches of those orders as contempt of the court. It was the right honorable gentleman’s intention to elevate and strengthen the court and that was consistent with his intention at the time to give to the court power to grant injunctions to prevent breaches of awards.
I shall repeat the three points I have made. They are, first, that the action of the right honorable gentleman, when he was Attorney-General, in including section 29, was acting in a way that was consistent with the whole scheme of the 1947 act; secondly, that if he had not intended to give to the court the power to which I have referred he must have made that fact clear as a matter of draftsmanship; and, thirdly, that he gave increased power to the court by making it a superior court of record. Those three reasons convince me, as they must convince all honorable members, that the right honorable member intended, when he introduced the 1947 bill, to give the court power to punish breaches of awards by contempt of court procedure. Against that background I suggest that honorable members as a whole will recognize that the remarks of the right honorable member for Barton when he talked this morning about an abuse of new power and oppressive legislation in respect of this measure were nothing but arrant humbug.
Let us look now at this power of the court to punish by injunction. Another example of the right honorable member’s hypocrisy was provided when he replied, in the course of his speech, to a question by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), whether the court could order punishment by imprisonment and on whether it would be possible for the court to imprison a man for life. To that question the right honorable gentleman replied, “ In theory, yes “. That answer was misleading. The whole protection of the citizen in this and every other British community lies in justice as it is administered by our courts and depends primarily upon, the character and qualities of the persons who comprise our courts. For the right honorable member to lead the trade unionists to believe that this is repressive legislation, is nothing short of contemptible.
Let us consider the background against which this legislation has been introduced. We have had the most serious warning yet given to this country in peace-time about the limited tenure of our state of peace. We are aware of the destructive activities of the Communists and that those activities are designed to terminate our present state of peace. We are aware of the shortages of production which in themselves are the principal cause of the present inflationary trends and we know that the very people who are primarily responsible for that state of affairs are the most determined opponents of the system of arbitration. Is this a time to weaken the power of the court? Now that the High Court has ruled that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court does not possess a power which the whole community,, including, the trade union movement, thought it possessed, is it not the duty of the Parliament to give that power back to the court in order to enable it to deal with the small body of persons who seek to destroy the arbitration system and all that we enjoy as the result of it? It is important that all honorable members should realize that this measure simply seeks, in a time of crisis when the court urgently needs all the power which can be given to it, to give back to it a power which we all thought it ‘ possessed. If the Opposition realizes that fact it will support the bill; but if honorable members opposite have made decisions outside the chamber to-day which prevent them from doing that, I appeal to them in the interests of the safety of this country to revoke such decisions. If the Opposition will not do that, it is important that the country at large should understand that the Opposition prefers to gain a cheap political advantage at the expense of the arbitration system and of the safety of this country. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said yesterday that every trade unionist, concerned in disputes to-day should ask himself whether he is not being used as a tool of the Communists. I suggest that honorable members opposite should ask themselves that very question. Are they not being used as the instruments of Communist policy in denying to the arbitration court a power which it sorely needs?
,. - I do not think that anybody in the House agrees with the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) that this bill1 merely seeks to restore to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court power that everybody thought, prior to last Monday, that the court had, because I am sure- that nobody, either on the Government side or the Opposition side,. at any time in the history of arbitration, believed that that court had power to impose an unlimited penalty upon a person who. failed to carry out an award or order of the court. The mere fact that under this measure an injunction must first be obtained means nothing, because if an award were not being carried out an. injunction would be granted by the court, immediately any application was made to it for such an injunction. I am certain- that the trade union movement would never have agreed to the- introduction of the arbitration system if it had understood arbitration to meanthat disobedience of an award that a trade union felt was unjust would render the union concerned, and/or its members, subject to unlimited penalties.
– That means, then, that the trade unions will never accept an unfavorable judgment.
– The trade unions have never insisted upon the right to have judgments that they consider to be favorable to them. We do not mind unfavorable judgments, but we object to judgments that are obviously unjust and unfair.
– In whose opinion: - the court’s or the honorable, member’s?’
– The trade unions and the Australian Labour party have always maintained the right of unionists to resort to the strike weapon after unions have failed to obtain justice by constitutional means. I say quite definitely that there have been decisions of the court that have been patently unfair. Those of us on this side of the House who have been associated’ with the Australian Workers Union can recall the decision of the late Chief Judge Dethridge in a pastoral case, in which he made it clear that he had. decided that there was to be a reduction in the rate of pay for shearers, regardless - and that is the very word that he used - of what the trade union advocate had to say about the. matter. The Opposition can see this bill in its true light. It is undoubtedly a bill to take away from the workers the right to strike.
– It is- not!
– Yes it is., because it gives the court, immediately a. worker or a trade union exercises the right to strike, and upon an injunction being granted - which is a mere formality - the right to impose an unlimited penalty of imprisonment or a fine which could be heavy enough to constitute the confiscation of the whole of a worker’s property, even his home. This bill does not prescribe any limit to the severity of the penalties provided under it. It should be remembered that the Australian Labour party has always maintained that arbitration should be upheld, but the Australian Labour movement has never said that arbitration should be upheld at any price. “What we say, and have always said, is that arbitration is entitled to be given a fair trial and is, moreover, entitled to be given every .possible assistance to make it just and efficient. But we must reserve the right to strike when we find instances in which injustice hasbeen done to our members. “We must always retain this right, because it is the only factor, in many instances, that compels industrial tribunals to give proper consideration to the matters that come before them. The Australian Labour party has dealt rather thoroughly with this particular matter, and at its recent annual convention it carried a resolution which deals with the present situation - the very situation that has caused the hysteria that has led to the introduction of this bill by the Government. The following resolution expresses what the delegates to that convention thought of the situation.
The Federal Conference of the Australian Labour party expresses its profound concern with respect to the disturbed industrial situation prevalent throughout Australia. Whilst
Ave arc prepared to concede that certain political influences are at work which materially assist in the creation of this situation, both from the extreme Left and from the extreme Right, we are strongly of the opinion that legitimate industrial disputation is taking place.
I repeat the last words, so as to impress them upon honorable members. They are -
The resolution continued -
The sole responsibility foi; this unrest cannot be placed upon the shoulders of employees’ organizations but Governments and employers’ organizations and industrial tribunals generally must share this responsibility. The present industrial unrest in Australia is accentuated by the living standard of the- workers being decreased by the failure of the Federal Government to arrest the dangerous inflationary condition. We declare our support of the trade union movement in its fight for the retention of the traditional right to strike for the betterment of wages and working conditions and the rectification of industrial injustices.
That declaration makes it quite clear that the Australian Labour party recognizes that in the waterside workers’ dispute and the miners’ dispute that were then current were genuine and legitimate industrial issues that could not be pushed lightly aside as being the result of a Communist conspiracy. The Labour movement believes that these two disputes, like many other industrial disputes, are as much the responsibility of the court as they are of the trade unions concerned. As a matter of fact, far from being Communistinspired strikes, the waterfront and coal-mining strikes are strikes that any trade unionist worthy of the name would have to support because of the issues that are at stake in them. If anybody has inspired the waterfront strike, it is Judge Kirby, whose decision started the trouble. The same remark applies to Mr. Gallagher in the miners’ case. It was as a result of their decisions that the strikes started. As a matter of fact, in my opinion you will never get permanent peace in the coal-mining industry until you sack Mr. Gallagher, because Mr. Gallagher is nol;- -
– Order ! !
Mr. Osborne interjecting,
– I know that we made other appointments that appeared to be good at the time they were made, but that later on proved to be bad appointments. Only a clairvoyant could have foreseen what would happen in those instances. As far as the miners’ dispute is concerned - and here we have an important aspect of arbitration that should never be lost sight of - the position appears to me to be that Mr. Gallagher seems to have some queer notion in his mind that if he continually rejects applications by the miners’ federation that will have the effect-
-Order! I do not think that the honorable gentleman can enter into a discussion of any industrial commission, because such matters are altogether outside the scope of the bill. If he wishes to do that, he must move in this House for the removal from office of the commission concerned.
– With great deference to you, Mr. Speaker, I do not consider that that is so in respect of the Coal Industry Tribunal.
-Order! The honor- si bie gentleman used the words “You will never get permanent peace in the coal industry until you sack Mr. Gallagher “.
– Yes, I used those words, but I dispute the notion that I have to move a motion in this House in order to criticize Mr. Gallagher. That may be true of judges.
– Order! I shall not permit any discussion of industrial commissioners in the second-reading debate on this measure.
– I shall now proceed to show that the decision of the Australian Labour party convention to fight for the right to strike is in conformity with the views of the trade union movement. The federal convention of the Australian Workers Union last month also carried a resolution reaffirming that union’s determination to fight for the right to strike. The Australian Council of Trades Unions has also re-affirmed its determination to fight for that right. The reason that these three bodies support the right to strike is that they believe that men who have only their labour to sell have a perfect right to strike if they believe ‘that a tribunal is attempting to compel them to accept lower prices for labour than they think that they can obtain in the labour market.
– What about the farmers ?
– I thank the honorable member for that interjection, because I am coming to that very point. I should like to know what the squatters would say if the Government decided to establish a tribunal to which they would be compelled to submit their cases, and which would fix the price of wool. I should like to know what would happen if the manufacturers, for whom the employees work, were compelled to submit to some tribunal a case for the fixation of the prices of the articles that they have to sell. What we have to remember is that the working man has only one thing to sell, and that is his labour power. If he is to be compelled to go to ari arbitration court and to accept an unjust assessment of the price of his labour, and is not to be given the right of combination that the employers have in determining the profits that they will make, we shall have a onesided social system and an unfair economic system. We know that an attempt was made many years ago to amend the Constitution to give to- this Parliament the right to control combines and to legislate in respect of combinations of employers. On that occasion the Liberal party, which now wants to take away from combinations of employees the right to use effectively the strength of their combination, fought strenuously against the Parliament being given power to exercise the same control over combinations of employers.
It is true that the judgment of a court can be bad, and, in that connexion, I shall elaborate on some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). The decision of the Coal Industry Tribunal in the miners’ case justifies some analysis. It is only by proper analysis that an understanding of what the men are incensed over can be gained. The history of that case is that the miners’ federation made an application for an increase of £2 a week in the marginal rates of its members. The federation had a perfect right to make that application, and in view of the conditions under which miners work a very good case could be, and was indeed, made out in the miners’ behalf. The tribunal decided that it would not grant the miners the £2 a week increase in margin, but would grant them an increase of, in effect, £1 a week in margin, provided that the employer had the right to take it away again if an employee did not work for the full pay period of a fortnight without loss of time. As a matter of fact the tribunal made it clear in its decision that there was to be no exception to this rule. Mr. Gallagher said -
Quite apart from the principle being wrong there are other serious anomalies in this case. One anomaly that I can call to mind at once is that which gives the employer the right to fine these men approximately 6d. an hour, by taking that amount from their margins because of absence from work, not only for the days of absence but for the whole of the fortnight in which the absences occur, regardless of the reason for them. Everybody knows that it is a tradition in the mining industry that when a man. is killed underground in an accident, the miners immediately knock off work for the remainder of that day, and on the following day, when they attend the funeral of their comrade. Yet, under this rule, they would be penalized for following that custom.
– They would be penalized foi- a fortnight, too.
– That is so, A man who was unable to attend work because he was genuinely ill would be similarly penalized. If he stayed away from work in order to attend the funeral of his wife or child, he also would be penalized by the decision of the Coal Industry Tribunal, and be robbed of 6d. an hour.
– He would also be penalized if he was absent from work because of injury.
– That is correct. If it is right that the tribunal should make an order to empower an employer to deduct 6d. an hour from a worker’s margin it would also be right to extend the operation of such an order to cover the whole of the margins. The employer could then say to the employee, “ Unless you come to work every day, 1 shall reduce your earnings to the basic wage, not only for the week in which the absence occurs but for a complete fortnight “. Once such- a principle was established, conditions could revert to the raddling days of 50 years ago, and no law in the land could prevent employees from taking away from the worker the basic wage as well as the margins. The unions must fight .those possibilities. That is the reason for the creeping paralysis of industry, to which the Minister for Labour and National Service has referred. That is the reason why this Parliament is ‘now being asked to impose upon the working class of Australia and the trade union movement a system of penalties that is far harsher than those imposed upon the people who have defied the decisions of the Parliament itself. Surely the decisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court are not to be placed on a higher plane than the decision of the Parliament! Yet, although the Parliament prescribes maximum penalties for persons who disobey its laws, we are now asked to give to a subsidiary body, which is beneath the status of the Parliament, the right to impose unlimited penalties upon persons who disobey the decisions of that tribunal. The whole proposal cannot bear impartial examination by a person who desires to see the ordinary worker have the opportunity to which he is entitled in a country so wealthy as is Australia. I say quite definitely that this legislation will not achieve anything except complete chaos.
– The Labour Opposition in the Senate will block the passage of the bill.
– If the Senate rejects this bill, it will be the best thing that ever happened for the Liberal party.
– Quite true!
-It does not matter what happens now, because the Liberal party is “ on the outer “. If the bill were passed by the Senate, the Government would be defeated at the next general election, because the workers would never vote for a political party that introduced repressive legislation of this kind. ‘The rejection of the bill by the Senate will prevent chaos in this country.
– What about the chaos that is caused by the Communists? Why does not the honorable member deal ‘with that subject?
– I am dealing with an equally important matter. Any attempt to deny to the workers the right to strike will either smash the trade union movement, or force the trade unions to smash arbitration. Whatever Government supporters like to say, it is only the right to strike that gives a combination of working people the power that they enjoy to-day. It is the right to strike that gives to the working-class organization, the influence that it has in the arbitration system. We know that when the supply of labour is in excess of the number of jobs available^ industrial tribunals are not so sympathetic to the claims of the working people as they are during a period when labour is scarce. Government supporters, if they think that the trade unions are prepared to allow this Administration to deprive them of the right to strike and, in the process, allow themselves to be completely destroyed as an instrument of workingclass expression, are making a big mistake. The unions, if this legislation is passed, will have no course other than to see that they are brought outside its scope. That could be done quite simply. A union could seek deregistration by application to the tribunal, or by courting deregistration.
The unlimited penalties, the power to impose which will be given to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court under this legislation at the behest of an anti-Labour government, include imprisonment for life. Such a sentence might be imposed upon a person who had the audacity to stop work.
– Nonsense !
– Such a power will exist if this bill becomes law. This legislation will destroy for all time the right to strike, which is now possessed by the members of registered trade unions, but will keep inviolate the right to strike of the Communist-controlled Building Workers Industrial Union.
– The trade unions want the right to work.
– We want the right to work for reasonable wages ii:nd conditions, and the right to be able to go to an industrial tribunal to obtain them,, and to be in a position to say that, if the court should make a glaring mistake, we have the right to take other means to. settle the issue. Government supporters who try to convince the people that the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court are different from other human beings, because they are infallible, are super optimists. What is to be the position of a trade union if the judges of the court are human enough to make a glaring mistake? The Communistcontrolled unions will not worry one jot about this legislation. While the unions which are registered with the court are obeying its decisions, the Communistcontrolled unions will be laughing in the Government’s face, and ‘the Government will have to “ take it “, because it will not be able to do anything to them. Obviously, this bill is aimed at those unions which are obeying the decisions of the court, and are prepared to work within the framework of the arbitration system. This legislation, apparently, is directed at those unions which are striving to retain their registration and settle, by constitutional methods, the disputes that arise from time to time.
– Does the phrase “ constitutional methods “ include going on strike?
– I make it quite clear that we believe, first, in exploiting constitutional methods fully, and in doing everything possible to obtain justice by constitutional means. But when constitutional means are not capable of rendering justice to the workers, respect for them is not justified. Conversely, constitutional methods are entitled to receive the respect of the community only so long as judgments are impartial and just. If this Government does not desire the proposed severe penalties to be applied what is the purpose of the amending legislation? Obviously, the Government proposes to use it later to impose much heavier penalties on the workers than in the past. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) mentioned that the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), as a Justice of the High Court of Australia for thirteen years, had the right to impose upon any person who came before him the very penalties that the Government desires now to make available to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. But the big difference between the contempt powers of the High’ Court and’ the contempt powers which the
Government wishes to give to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, is clear. A person upon whom penalty has been imposed by the High Court may appeal against it to the Privy Council, but no provision is made for an appeal against a decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the exercise of its contempt powers.
Mr. McMahon interjecting,
– If the interjection made by the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) had been made, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who is sitting behind the honorable member for Lowe, I would take some notice of it, but I am not influenced by the honorable member for Lowe. Surely this Parliament is not expected to accept a bill which will give to an industrial tribunal the power to impose unlimited and unspecified penalties upon anybody without providing a proper right of appeal.
– The Government has done that with the Senate.
– Contempt of a decision of the Parliament is a far more important matter than is contempt of a decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Yet, as I have pointed out, the penalties prescribed for breaches of decisions of the Parliament are specified, and, in many instances, a convicted person’ has the right of appeal. Government supporters should not overlook the fact that a person who is punished for having attempted to rob the Commonwealth by falsifying his income tax returns is not subjected to nearly so severe a penalty as that which may be imposed under this measure on an ordinary worker who decides to use his right to strike against an unjust decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Repressive legislation in the past has not succeeded in smashing the spirit of the working man to fight for his rights, and this repressive measure will not succeed even if it reaches the statute-book.
– “What about repression in Russia?
– T do not desire to see the Russian system. Hitler’s system, or Mussolini’s system introduced in Australia. I agree that if we were prepared to adopt the methods which were employed by those dictators to enforce their decisions, it would be possible to enforce any measures in this country. But who wants to use the methods that were used by Hitler and Mussolini, or which operate in Russia? Is not this Parliament the place in which honorable members should fight to the bitter end against legislation that even remotely resembles the methods of Hitler and Mussolini, or of Russians? I believe that it is. This legislation really exposes the Liberal party and the Australian Country party as the union-breakers and Labour-haters that they really are. We have always warned the workers during general election campaigns that the Liberal party hates Labour. As soon as the opportunity presents itself, the Liberal party will destroy the trade union movement because that movement, and the Australian Labour party, of which it is an important part, stands as the only bulwark against the kind of system, that would operate in Australia if there was a system of uncontrolled monopoly of capital.
– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I ignore the impudent remark made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) to the effect that there are judges and judges. By implication he attacked the integrity and independence of justices of the High Court and the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I ignore this attack because it is the type of attack that should be ignored in this chamber. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has shown quite clearly that the Opposition has decided to oppose this bill on the ground that they regard it as an attack on the socalled right to strike. Does the Labour party know to-day or will it know tomorrow where it stands on this issue Tt has never known in the past. To indicate the validity of my remarks I shall read a statement made by an eminent member of the Labour party in days gone by. That gentleman said -
I venture to say, however, that men who go on strike under present management would go on strike under any other kind of management. Therefore strikes must :be stamped out.
That statement was made by no less a person than the then prime Minister or Australia and leader- of the Labour party, the late John Curtin. When reading the statement I was reminded of the remarks of the present Prime Minister on this subject. The statement of the late Mr. Curtin shows how this subject exercised the minds of responsible men of that time. Industrial strikes, particularly those directed at the heart of the nation and its ability to continue as a living entity, must be stamped out as soon as possible. Now I shall read what was said on the 9th December by Mr. J. A. Ferguson, the Federal President of the Australian Labour party. I do not know this fellow Ferguson very well, having met him only once or twice, but I understand that he can change his mind as quickly as any one. He said that the strike weapon was becoming out-moded as an industrial weapon. He commented on the Victorian railways strike and said that it had lasted 54 days and had cost the community £14;500,000. He went on to say that the strike weapon was out-moded and must be reconsidered. However, at the triennial conference of the Australian Labour party in February, 1951, the same Mr. Ferguson, obviously with his tongue in his cheek, said that he was prepared to concede that certain political influences were at work to create a certain situation both from the left and from the right. His words were -
We declare our support for the trade union movement in its fight for the retention of its right to strike..
Those statements remind me of the interesting discussion which took place at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. I think honorable members opposite will understand this illustration because while listening to them I often feel that I am sitting in at such a tea party. Honorable members will remember that when the March Hare said, “ Why don’t you say what you think ? “, somebody replied to him in these words, “ I don’t say what I think but I usually think what I say “. It is difficult to know what Mr. Ferguson is thinking about. It is also difficult to understand the present attitude of the trade movement and the Labour party, what it was in the past, and what it will be in the future. Any one who takes an intelligent interest in industrial affairs must regard the argument of the Opposition as specious. The time has come, if responsible government is to continue, if the life of the community is not to be disrupted and if women are not to be deprived of the decencies of life, when the idea of a right to strike must be seriously challenged. If honorable members opposite continually stand before the people and tell them that they are prepared to permit .the continuance of shortages in the home, and to permit Communist party sabotage and industrial unrest, then the people will certainly judge them on these actions.
It must be assumed the Government will act in a responsible fashion. When it put the clause into the bill to empower the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to issue an injunction which, if not obeyed, could lead to an action for contempt, it inserted it as a discretionary and reserve power. Other powers can be used by the court, and this power will not be exercised except during a time of emergency when, in the opinion of the court, its exercise is necessary. Honorable members opposite, in discussing this clause, must concede that in recent months the Menzies Government has leaned over backwards in attempting to deal moderately with the wharf labourers and the miners. It has shown a degree of tolerance and willingness to listen to their views and to compromise that has staggered most of the newspapers, and many people in various walks’ of life. Therefore, it cannot be said that this Government, has been anything but lenient in its approach to these industrial problems. The next point raised by the right honorable member for Barton concerned maximum penalties. What he forgot to do was to detail the attitude of the last Labour Government towards the imposition of penalties, including fines and imprisonment. If you look at the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act 1949-
– Order ! The honorable member is digressing.
– If you look at that act you will see that section 5 reads -
Where the offence is committed by an organization or other body corporate, One thousand pounds ; in any other :case, One hundred pounds or imprisonment for .six .months, or both.
Tien df you look at section 54 of the Coal Industry Act you will see some repressive legislation, as you call it-
-Order ! The honorable member will please address me. For some time he has been having a private talk to the Opposition.
– The same type of so-called repressive legislation may be seen in the act I have just referred to. Now I want to deal with the humbug coming from the Opposition to the effect that this Government is dealing in repressive legislation. We have no thought of punishing the workers, and when the measures of past Labour governments are examined the lie is cast directly in the teeth of honorable members opposite. The Labour party, when in office, initiated legislation which, according to its own definition, is repressive to the class it claims it represents. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) made it obvious that in his opinion, which I think was the opinion of the Government parties, when the act was amended in 1947 it was the clear intention of the Government to vest in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the powers of a superior court of record. Those powers necessarily implied the power to issue an injunction and to commit for -contempt of court. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) in a logical way showed how the inevitable conclusion must be that that was the intention of the act.’ He pointed out that it was consistent with Bie act and that it could have only been bad draftsmanship if the act itself did not mean to ‘confer such powers on the court.
The Tight honorable member for Barton intended to give the court those powers of injunction, but at the same time he wanted to pull the wool over the eyes of his own supporters and to stop discussion and debate in caucus. There was a clause in the 1947 bill which provided that the court should have the powers of a superior court of record. This clever gentleman decided that although he had taken certain powers out of the act he wanted to ‘give the court power to commit for contempt.
Therefore he took out-of his bill the provision whic’h conferred certain powers on the court, and inserted a straight out declaration that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was a superior court of ‘record. Being a superior court .of record it had all the powers of such a court, that is, powers similar to those of the High Court, and consequently it had power to issue injunctions and to commit for breaches of such injunctions. Again, let us look at this humbug and let us look at his arguments
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) entitled to refer to the right honorable member for Barton in such terms as “ Let us look at this humbug “ ?
– I was under the impression that the honorable member was not referring personally to the right honorable member for Barton, but was referring to certain arguments that he had used. If he was referring personally to the right honorable member then he must know that he is completely out of order.
– The last point with which I want to deal concerns some statements alleged to have been made by Judge Kirby, in which he drew attention to the fact that Parliament should specify in its acts what penalties should ‘be imposed for breaches of awards or orders. There are good technical and constitutional arguments to support that view, but we are living in dangerous and difficult times. We know that the Communists are our fifth column and are trying to create conditions under which , we will ‘be prevented from carrying out out industrial activities if we are involved in a waT .against Russia. This Government cannot permit the community to be sabotaged. It has to- adopt the remedies that can be applied most quickly and most efficiently by the court. Consequently, while there is considerable merit in that argument in normal circumstances it cannot be considered as valid to-day.
T .now wish -to correct a mistake made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey).. Dealing with the waterfront employment he said that the hours of waterfront workers had never ‘been examined by any one. Within the last two days I have received a large book which contains a complete analysis over many years of the hours worked on the waterfront. That was compiled either by the Minister for Labour and National Service or by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I sat through the contempt case when Mr. Gallagher’s attendance money award was challenged in Sydney, and I remember Judge Dunphy interjecting in these words - “ Most other workers would welcome it. If they had the chance to get money of this kind they would like it.” These awards were designed to ensure continuity of work by’ proper payments, and whilst there are some theoretical injustices there is no real ground for attacking the arbitration system or going on strike and thus penalizing the com.munity. I have taken up some time in dealing with these arguments because I believe they are specious and that it is high time the right honorable member for Barton was revealed in his true colours.
Let me come back to the bill. Shortly, it has three purposes. The first is to give the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the power that every lawyer thought it had since 1904, that is, power to issue an- injunction if there are breaches of its orders or awards and, if the injunction is not obeyed, to prosecute for contempt of court and, if the contempt is proved, to punish offenders. The second purpose of the bill is to bring organizations of employers or employees within the ambit of orders of the court. The third purpose, as I see it, is to permit the AttorneyGeneral to intervene in proceedings in the public interest, should he consider that course to be desirable. It will be seen that there is nothing difficult about this bill and that it has no hidden purpose. It is one that every honorable gentleman opposite should be able to understand very quickly.
I do not think for one moment that the trade union movement of this country objects to this measure. I do not think it can be argued that the Australian Council of Trades Unions objects to it because, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) pointed out yesterday, on the 13th February the interstate executive of that body made it clear that it did not support strikes and would not become involved in any dispute that was being used by the Communist party to further its policy of disruption.
– Bead on.
– I shall read on. The statement continues, “ even though a dispute might have an industrial basis “.
– Keep reading.
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) must cease interjecting. All day he has been making interjections that are utterly irrelevant to the bill. If I hear any more from him, he will hear from me.
– We are entitled to say that the trade union movement itself and, what is much more important, the great mass of trade unionists of this country, do not object to this bill. In fact, unionists other than miners, seamen and wharf labourers say quite frankly that they are fed up to the teeth with the activities of the officials of the miners’ and wharf labourers’ unions, and that they want peace in industry and an opportunity to get back and do a decent day’s work.
Let us examine the history of this legislation. It is well known that section 9 of the original act provided that certain strikes and lock-outs were illegal. Penalties were provided for infringements of the act. In 1930, the Scullin Government repealed section 9, but it felt that there still resided in the court a power to commit for contempt. As I have said previously, until recently it was believed that that power did reside in the court and was adequate to meet emergencies. However, largely as the result of two cases - I think the metal trades case .and the gas employees case - it was held that if a specific provision of an act permitted a court to impose a fine, that .excluded the court from issuing an injunction and acting by way of contempt proceedings. In other words, it was held that the inherent jurisdiction of the court, that is, the jurisdiction that normally resided in it by virtue of its establishment, was eliminated and the court had to rely upon a provision such as section 40 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Section 40 provides, in effect, that if there is a breach of an award or order, an organization can be fined £100 and an individual £10. Do honorable gentlemen opposite believe for one moment that, under the present conditions of tremendous inflation, any trade union leader or official would hesitate to disobey an order or award when he knew that the maximum penalty that could be imposed upon him was a fine of £10 and upon his union a fine of £100? Those fines would not act as a deterrent. It is the responsibility of this Government to ensure that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court shall be given teeth and that those who flout the arbitration system shall be forced to respect its orders. As the Minister said, what the Government proposes to do is to strengthen the powers of the court to prevent the Communist party from using our industrial machinery to promote anarchy and lawlessness. We want the court to be able,, when an injunction has been issued against a Communist-dominated union, to say, “If you do not obey this injunction, penalties will be imposed “. All that we are trying to do is to restore to the court the power that every one believed it possessed since 1904.
I can put my arguments very briefly. Section 40 of the act, upon which the court has to rely at the present time, is obviously a totally inadequate provision. The maintenance of law and order in this community is the responsibility of the Government, and we believe that the appropriate instrument for the maintenance of law and order in the industrial world is the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. So it is our responsibility to ensure that the court shall have power to enforce its decisions and orders. Under the difficult conditions in which we find ourselves to-day, we are proposing to give the court, which is an independent judicial tribunal, power to enforce the orders that it makes. If honorable members opposite object to this bill, they object to industrial arbitration. I have always had a shrewd suspicion, as I said at the beginning of my speech, that in connexion with industrial arbitration the Labour party never knew where it stood. It will accept arbitration when arbitration favours it, but when it thinks arbitration will not favour it, it is prepared to reject arbitration. Now, when it is proposed that the court shall be enabled to exercise powers that, until recently,, every one thought it possessed, honorable gentlemen opposite apparently object to the court itself. On the Communist Party Dissolution Bill and other bills, we have consistently challenged them to let us go to the country and allow the people to say whether they are prepared to permit us to govern and to give us the power to do so effectively. If the Opposition rejects this bill, it will mean that it is again preventing this Government from governing in the interests of the people. I throw out a challenge. If the members of the Opposition have the courage to do so, let them reject this bill outright and give us an opportunity to .test public opinion. Let them give the public an opportunity to say whether they want the arbitration system to remain as one of the institutions of this country and whether they want the court to have the power necessary to enable it to enforce observance of its orders and awards.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the speech of the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon). I propose to try to get down to the fundamental factors of this bill that are worrying the Opposition and not, as it were, participate in a mad hatter’s picnic. The honorable member for Lowe, in his opening remarks, referred to the Mad Hatter’s picnic, and I cannot help but feel that that aptly describes the attitude of honorable gentlemen opposite to this bill. He talked of what certain gentlemen may have said and issued challenges to honorable members on this side of the House. He talked of what we should be doing if we denied to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the power that the Government seeks to give to it under this bill, but he did not attempt to deal with the impact of the bill on the principal act. On two or three occasions he referred to the speech of the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who did attempt in some small way to deal with that matter, as I propose to do now.
The Government has claimed that all that this bill does is to give the court power that, until recently, everybody thought that it possessed. I could not understand the Minister putting that argument forward, because he must know that that is not the position. In point of fact, there are two clauses in this bill that could completely reverse the principles under which conciliation functions at the present time. It is claimed that the object of the proposed new paragraph (c) of section 29 is to restore to the court the power that, prior to a recent judgment of the High Court, the Government believed that the court had. On that, we can agree. But the remainder of the bill would destroy completely the arrangements under which the court and the conciliation commissioners operate at the present time. I believe that the Government, by coupling proposed new sub-section (2.) of section 29 with proposed new paragraph (c) of section 29, is attempting- to achieve something that could and would be used to destroy completely the functions of conciliation commissioners in the determination of disputes, to cut away completely the provisions of the act in its present form ‘relative to dealing with disputes, and to give the Attorney-General, if need be, authority to step over employer and employee organizations in the matter of settling disputes in the manner in which we have been used to settling them. I do not think the Minister is fully alive to how far this bill would go in cutting across present principles.
Keeping in mind the proposed new paragraph (c) of section 29 let us examine the act. Section 29 reads as follows : -
The court shall have power (a) to impose penalties, not exceeding the maximum penalties fixed (or, if maximum penalties have not been fixed, not exceeding the maximum penalties which could have been fixed) under paragraph (o) of section forty of this act for a breach for non-observance of an order or award proved to the satisfaction of the court to have been committed.
Section 40 provides that the court or a conciliation commissioner may, in relation to an industrial dispute - and this is the point at which I think the Minister has completely lost sight of the framework of the act - or the court may, in relation to any other proceedings before it, fix maximum penalties for any breach or non-observance of any term of an order or award, not exceeding £100 in the case of an organization or an employer who is not a member of an organization bound by the order or award, or £10 in the case of a member of an organization. I emphasize that that section refers to an industrial dispute. If we look at the definition of an industrial dispute, we shall find the basis upon which a conciliation commissioner moves into a dispute from which a strike may arise. In the act, an industrial dispute is defined as follows : -
What happens at the present time is that if an industrial dispute is likely to occur, there is an obligation on the employer or employees to notify the conciliation commissioner. I was glad to hear the Minister say in his speech that in his view there are at least some instances of bona fide trade union disputes based upon real grounds. These disputes are inflammatory in nature and get out of hand before the governing body of the organization can deal with them. Under the act they must he notified to the conciliation commissioner who immediately sets about making an inquiry that will settle the dispute under his control. Under this bill the Attorney-General or the employer could step outside the framework of the powers of the conciliation commissioners and have a matter cited before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on the basis of the last award provision, irrespective of how many years ago that was made. When that happened a union, even if it had not had a dispute for ten years, could be cited and dealt with for contempt without having any regard to the provisions of the award. It is of no use to think that the mere passing of any bill will eliminate strikes. Anybody who thinks that strikes among the Australian workers can be eliminated by passing any bill in any House of Parliament is suffering from a great illusion. It would not be a healthy sign if the day did arrive when strikes could be prevented by the passing of a bill because when the freedom of movement of the workers has become so shackled that there is not likely to be any stoppage at any time they will be very close to living under a dictatorship of one form or another.
The 1947 act faced up to the reality of providing machinery to settle disputes as they arose. The most that the bill before the House should have sought to put into effect was what the Government represented that it provided. I was surprised to hear the Minister say that the bill makes clear that the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth may apply, in the public interest, for an order of the court under the provision before the House. That is a completely new provision. Under it any dispute, instead of being regarded as a breach of an award, can be dealt with by an action for contempt of court by the application of the Attorney-General without his having any regard for the wishes of the employee or employer organization.
Sub-section (3.) of the proposed new section 29a reads -
The court lias power to punish, as a contempt of the court, an act or omission although a penalty is ‘provided in respect of that act or omission under some other provision of this Act.
That provision would eliminate entirely the proper provisions of the act for the purpose of dealing with ordinary award breaches. That is the danger. If, as indicated by the Minister, the bill proposed’ merely to restore the power which it had been thought that the court possessed before the judgment of the High Court was delivered on Monday last there would be no great danger in the bill.
– Does the Opposition propose to put forward amendments to that effect?
– It is not possible to put forward amendments to the bill as it is because it goes far beyond what has ever been stated by any member of the Government in this debate. T was surprised to find legal people stating that this bill merely conveyed to the court the powers that they believed it to have. had. If that is the opinion of the Government’s legal men it is no wonder that the Government is getting into so many arguments on matters of arbitration.
This bill cuts right across principles which were established in the 1947 bill. It is wider in its application than the Crimes Act. Let us for a moment consider whether the present situation is one that can be settled by means of a bill of this nature. It must be patent to everybody that when it is closely analysed the bill is intolerable. It is not possible to settle any dispute by means of an intolerable act. I agree entirely with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) who said that a bill of this nature should not be sanctioned at a time when there is heat in the air on industrial matters. This bill is not clearly understood by the Government. It is not related to the principles on which the 1947 act functions in settling disputes. It could be extended to the point where the whole framework of the conciliation commissioners’ responsibilities in the settlement of disputes could be taken out of their hands completely at any stage of a dispute merely by notification to the court by the AttorneyGeneral or an employer. That is a condition which would cut right across the principles on which the 1947 act is founded. I think that the Government must realize that during the last few days it has witnessed an example of leadership on the part of the Australian Council of Trades Unions which makes it evident, that that body is anxious to bring about industrial stability. In presenting his case to the House the Minister used a statement made by the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions as a reason why the bill should be passed.
– I referred to a resolution of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, not a statement by the president.
– The statement was made as a consequence of the resolution. If the Australian Council of Trades Unions is such an important organization in this community as to be regarded by the Government as an authority to which it might turn for guidance in respect to a matter of this description the Government should not go halfway. It should not merely use some decision of the Australian Council of Trades Unions to support an action which it believes to be necessary. If it is worth the Government’s while to use a statement of the Australian Council of
Trades Unions as a reason why something should be done with respect to arbitration then the Australian Council of Trades Unions is a sufficiently important organization to be consulted with regard to arbitration legislation. The Australian Council of- Trades Unions and other organizations such as the Trades and Labour Councils are just as anxious as is this Government to wrest the control of trades unions out of the hands of Communists and, as a consequence, the leaders of the Australian Council of Trades Unions must stand aghast when they read that legislation of this character has been brought forward at a time when they, are doing their utmost to settle two of the worst disputes that Australia has had for quite a while. The Government has a lot to thank the Australian Council of Trades Unions for in respect of the settlement of the waterside workers’ dispute. I believe that the Australian Council of Trades. Unions will also find the answer to the miners’ problem. Because of that, this Government cannot afford to buck the trade union movement by introducing legislation of this character, especially as it is obvious that the bill is intended not merely for the purpose of giving the court powers which it thought it possessed, but also for some other purpose entirely.
I cannot emphasize too strongly the need for an understanding on these matters. Surely the majority of Government members must realize that if one has a- case and is prepared to lead the Australian worker he will follow; but one can never drive him and- he will not be driven by the use of this type of ‘legislation. It is very true, as has already been stated, that these unions are just waiting for an excuse to say to their members, “ You are not going to have that sort of set-up, which will smash your organization and gaol your leaders “, so that they will get the immediate response that they want. This bill will assist Communist leadership in the trades unions. If the Government wants peace in industry there must be an understanding between it and the trade union movement. The Government will find that it cannot drive the trade union, movement because immediately it attempts to do so those unions which are not. concerned with arbitration will set about smashing the arbitration system. There are a lot of employers who are to-day offering wages and remuneration far in excess of award provisions and they are not much concerned with arbitration either. For these reasons, if for no other, there should be care in determining what is to be done. The Government should not, under any circumstances, leave the way open for an intolerant employer, or an Attorney-General who might be misguided, to move too quickly under the provisions of this measure and’ so aggravate a state of affairs which it is desired to correct.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) made a great speech about the present penalties for award breaches being inadequate. If the penalties are inadequate they should be dealt with on that basis but the Government should not, under any circumstances, attempt to turn a minor breach into a contempt case against a union or its members. That is what this bill would do. It would open the door as wide as can’ be to turn any award breach into a contempt of court action. If that is the policy to be followed by this Government then the trade union movement will walk backwards instead of going forward towards peace in industry. I do not think anybody wants peace in industry more than honorable members of this House but they will not achieve that object by putting every trade union into one category and treating the lot alike. They will not achieve peace in industry by passing legislation of this type and giving to those people who do not pay much regard to arbitration an excuse to tell the rank and file to get out and leave the unions to them. If this type of legislation, which cuts across the provisions of the 1947 act, is passed, the
Government will have a lot more trouble in the industrial sphere than it has . at present. Once it causes to be passed1 legislation that will push the Australian Council of Trades Unions to the side of the Communists in a fight against it, it will have done the very thing that the Communist party wants it to do. It will have acted in a way that the Communists want it to act. I do not think that anybody would have any great objection to the introduction of the bill merely for the purpose of giving the court those powers that it was thought to have had. But in carrying a bill to the extent that it has carried this hill and in misleading honorable members about its effect the Government has acted dishonestly. That is the first fact that will be noted by the trade union movement. This legislation, which can convert every breach of an award into contempt of the court, would be dangerous even if it did not provide for the imposition of unspecified penalties. Those penal provisions are of great importance in the eyes of trade unionists. An award breach is a matter that very often can be settled without difficulty at a conference between representatives of the parties involved presided over by a conciliation commissioner. But on the basis of this bill, under which all unions must be treated alike, a dispute which might be settled in 24 or 48 hours may be seized upon by the employer concerned, or by the Attorney-General, as a means of instituting proceedings for contempt of court. That is a dangerous road to travel.
I urge the Government to approach this matter in a spirit of tolerance. It is all very ‘well for the honorable member for Lowe to talk in a threatening way about going to the electors on this issue or some other issue. The average trade unionist will not understand this legislation. He is not conversant with the ramifications of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but he does know that every day of the week and every week of the year, breaches of awards of one kind or another are occurring in industry. Furthermore, many of those breaches are committed by employers. The honorable member for Lowe quoted a statement that was made by the late John Curtin at a time of grave crisis for Australia. “With respect, I submit that it was unbecoming of the honorable gentleman to repeat such a statement in this House at this time of crisis. Many of us recall that the present Prime Minister was the leader of another government, which had to vacate office in order to allow the late John Curtin to clean up the mess that it had accumulated. “We do not want such a condition of chaos to occur again in Australia. We must have some regard for the principles upon which our system of conciliation and arbitration is based. If we cut across the system by enacting a bill such as the one that we are now considering, we shall destroy the fundamental structure upon which the system rests. Probably the Government is to be more pitied than blamed, because some of the implications of the measure are not clearly understood by its legal advisers. Those implications are apparent only to those who have had close association with industrial conciliation and arbitration.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act prevents members of the legal profession from appearing before a conciliation commissioner on behalf of parties to a dispute. That is a provision of which I heartily approve, and I hope that the principle upon which it is based will never be abandoned. However, as a result of that ban, most members of the legal profession do not understand a great deal about industrial arbitration. Only the. laymen who do the actual work of converting disputes into amicable arrangements between employers and employees before conciliation commissioners are able to understand what results will flow from this measure if it ever becomes law. Members of the Government and their supporters should not imagine for a moment that the overtime ban which has been imposed by the waterside workers is related to any of the conditions in the award under which they work. The ban is related to the 40-hour week decision of the court itself. It is wrong for the Government to attempt to deal with a matter like the overtime ban by passing a bill that has for its purpose the destruction of the whole machinery of conciliation and arbitration under conciliation commissioners. Under existing conditions the Commonwealth Arbitration Court works within a very small sphere. It does not make awards. It has nothing to do with margins or any provisions of that kind in awards. Yet the Government proposes, by means of this bill, to turn every award breach into a ground for proceedings for contempt of court. Under these provisions, if they become law, the court will be asked to determine cases involving contraventions of awards on the ground of contempt without having any regard for the principles upon which the awards involved were made. This situation has arisen because of a misunderstanding on the part of the Government, which believes that an ordinary dispute can be dealt with on the same basis as a dispute caused by the 40-hour week decision of the court, with which conciliation commissioners were not concerned.
The Government apparently does not realize that the respective functions of the court and the various commissioners are as separate as the two poles. The court has nothing to do with the settlement of ordinary disputes. Those matters come within the field of activity of the conciliation commissioners, and it is wise that this should be so. Let us consider the two disputes which have caused the Government to introduce this bill. Neither of those disputes has anything to do with the ordinary award-making machinery of the arbitration system. Yet, because those disputes have occurred, the Government proposes to change the whole framework of the arbitration law. Obviously, it is under a complete ‘ misunderstanding and thereby has reached a dangerous conclusion. I urge it to accept the view that has been put to it by those of us who have had experience of the functioning of our arbitration machinery. An intolerant approach to this subject at this stage can cause endless trouble. I cannot emphasize that fact too strongly. The Australian Council of Trades Unions has tremendous power within the trade union movement. It provided evidence of that power this week by doing more towards a settlement of the current major disputes than has been done at any other time. I pay a great tribute to that organization. Some supporters of the Government are aware that the Australian Council of Trades Unions made possible the settlement of the dispute in Victoria with which I was associated last year. But for it.s intervention, that dispute could have continued indefinitely. The Government should heed the views of the Australian. Council of Trades Unions in this matter. If the leaders of that body could come to this chamber to state their views on the bill, they would repeat what I have said.
This legislation is dangerous. It will not merely give to the court powers which we thought previously that it had, but, it will, in addition, give to the Attorney-General the power to seize upon any breach of an industrial award as a cause for action for contempt of court. Similar power will be given to employers. It will override completely the existing provisions of the law, which specify certain penalties for breaches of awards. Those provisions will never be looked at again if this bill becomes law. They might as well be removed from the act. Unless the Government is sure of what it will achieve as the result of enacting this measure, it should withdraw the bill and re-draft it so that it will accomplish only what it wants to achieved The arguments that have been adduced in favour of the bill in its present form are completely erroneous and tend to lead the House astray. By no stretch of the imagination could they be said to justify the vital alteration of the framework of the arbitration law that will be effected by the bill.
.- When I knew that I should have to speak immediately after the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), I expected to reply to a typical speech by an honorable member who has consistently maintained in this House a bitter and militant opposition to proposals of the kind that are contained in this bill. However, after having heard what he has had to say, I am convinced, because of his mild-mannered opposition to the measure, that he has no stomach for the task and that, in his innermost soul, he is hopeful that it will he passed. I am confident that he, who has done as much as any other militant trade unionist has done to cause industrial turmoil in our country, would have used the measure as a means of fomenting further industrial unrest if he could have done so. But, for some reason or other-
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I regard the statement that the honorable member for Blaxland has done as much as any other man in this community has done to cause industrial turmoil as being completely wrong, entirely unfair, and absolutely unparliamentary. I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The statement is not unparliamentary and is not necessarily out of order even though it may or may not he correct. If the honorable member for Perth ‘(Mr. Tom Burke) regards it as a personal reflection, that is another matter. However, be has not said that he regards it in that light.
– I certainly say so now.
– As the honorable member for Perth regards the statement as a personal reflection, I ask the honorable member for Riverina to withdraw it.
– And without equivocation !
– I withdraw it without equivocation. If anything that I say now or at any other time wounds the susceptibilities of the honorable member for Blaxland, .please let him understand here and now that I have no intention of doing so. Until this moment I did not know that he had any susceptibilities.
– That remark is more objectionable to me than was the first remark, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– The honorable member for Riverina will continue.
– Had members of the ‘Opposition left me alone, I should have been quite harmless. If this interruption continues, my harmlessness cannot be guaranteed for very long.
Obviously, this bill is designed to give to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration injunction power to deal with contraventions of its orders and awards as well as of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That is the first point. The second point is that it is ‘designed to establish and clarify the power of the court to punish contempts of its power and authority. As far as I am able to judge, the bill has no other intention or purpose. It is confined to the two objects that I have stated, and it will be binding on employers and employees alike. That being so - and .no honorable member has made any declaration to the contrary - it is idle to indulge in the political excess of saying, as every Opposition speaker has said up to the present, that the bill is an attack on the trade union movement and is intended to smash it. Only those who are prejudiced would ever suggest that such a statement is true. It would be just as logical to argue the other way, and to say that it is a sinister attempt to attack the employers and obliterate them, because it is binding upon them as well as upon the employees.
The true purpose of the bill is to end the senseless industrial tyranny that has been perpetrated in increasing degrees on our community until the situation can now be described in fairness only as intolerable. “Whatever I say about this bill is said on behalf of the ordinary people of Australia. I refer, of course, to. the men and women who are trying to play the game of life according to the decent democratic rules, and who, in doing so, are endeavouring to manage homes, raise families, -conduct businesses and .all sorts .of commercial enterprises, engage in professions and increase production in industry. In the final analysis, ‘those people always pay the price for the political excesses and abuses that are visited upon the community by reason of the faults and frailities of the law. This measure, if it is nothing else, is another attempt to correct a grievous social wrong by dealing with persons in our midst who hold the rest of the community to ransom without incurring any penalty themselves. Honora’ble members on both sides of the House believed that the 1947 act provided for the very purposes which this measure is designed to achieve and it was only a few days ago that ‘the High Court ruled that that act could -not .he so applied. This measure has been introduced to rectify that deficiency. It is designed, among other things, to bring about industrial peace. That fact is causing honorable members opposite to oppose it because they profit from “industrial chaos and from all the bitterness and strife that industrial disputes cause in the community. For that reason they will oppose the measure every inch of the way. Every one of them who has spoken against it has emphasized “the right to strike “, a glib phrase that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has used on a number of occasions. “If ‘there is a right to strike it is a qualified right. On each occasion on which the Leader oi the Opposition went on strike he insured that before he did so he would be adequately housed, fed and clothed. He expected other men and women to make it possible for him to do so by going into the fields, factories and workshops to provide him with the things that he required in order to live. Thus, when any man defends the right to strike he means the right to strike so long as everybody else feeds and clothes him and provides him with shelter.
The right to strike is not exclusive to the industrialists. If it is to be conceded to them it must be conceded also to every section of the community, including -the primary producers. If the primary producers had gone on strike on the scale of those that have been visited upon our people year in and year out during the last twenty years this country would have passed the point of starvation long ago. That is still the position. So long as honorable members opposite talk glibly about the right to strike they do so only because they are prepared to take a mean advantage of others who are prepared to go on playing the game of life according to democratic rules. If primary producers stopped producing they would put an end to strikes and strikers. Unfortunately, that fact is not generally recognized, but, until it is, we can expect honorable members opposite to continue to defend the right to strike. There may have been a period in the history of this country when a right to strike really existed, that is, when industrial conditions were intolerable and when there was no means available to employees to correct such a state of affairs except by striking or by taking measures akin to a strike. But conditions improved as time went on until, eventually, it was recognized that every man and every woman was entitled to a basic standard of living and a basic margin of remuneration for whatever work they performed. As soon “ as legislatures in British democracies recognized their responsibilities in that respect they enacted laws to give to their peoples access to conciliation and arbitration tribunals in order to improve their conditions, increase their remuneration and raise their standard of living generally. As soon as that was conceded by those legislatures - and it was conceded early in the history of this country - an end was put to the right to strike if ever such a right really existed.
Whatever the frailties, weaknesses and inadequacies of our conciliation and arbitration system may have been from time to time they constituted a challenge to the intelligence of the people they were designed to serve, and legislators endeavoured to correct them. Never will that process be considered to be finished so long as human society progresses. But what is the good of a set-up of that kind if the workers, as they are so euphoniously described by members of the Opposition, are by law given the right to apply to arbitration courts and conciliation tribunals to improve their conditions, and, at the same time, refuse to observe the judgments of such bodies? What is the good of such a system? Under such conditions the law becomes useless. That is the experience of .every law-loving and law-abiding country. A law becomes useless unless it can be enforced. Nobody was made to realize that fact more fully than was the previous socialist government. That government, which passed’ the 1947 act, believed that that measure provided for the law to be obeyed and for penalties to be imposed against offenders. Such provision is necessary ; otherwise the law will be held in contempt and under such conditions it will cease for all practical purposes to be a law.
The present Government, mindful of the responsibilities that devolved upon it when it was elected, and conscious of all that has happened since it assumed office - all the strikes and industrial disturbances that have been deliberately caused - has introduced this measure in order to correct .the flaws in the 1947 legislation and bring it into ‘line with what is so urgently needed if our democracy is to be made workable. It has been said in this House - even I, myself, have said it - that before we had an industrial law attempts to improve the conditions of those engaged in industry by striking must have been justified. However, the strikes that a*e being visited upon our community in this age and generation are not solely designed for that purpose at all. So far as I am able to judge they have never been designed for that purpose during the last twenty years. 1. admit that many persons became embroiled in strikes because they believed that the aim was to improve their conditions, but the supreme purpose of all the industrial disturbances that have occurred during the last twenty years has been to cripple democracy in this country. One does not require to have had experience as a politician, or an economist, to recognize that the fomenting of industrial disputes and disturbances during the last twenty years has been designed solely to cripple this country and to destroy our democracy. But for the capital development that has taken place in the past we should be unable to continue to run this country for five minutes. Those who went before us provided us with roads and railways, sea communications and all the public utilities that we now enjoy. To-day, we ourselves could do nothing to bring those services into being. The present position has been brought about because it is a part of Communist policy to cripple democracy so that in desperation people will believe that relatively there is merit in a Communist state of society. Evidence of that fact is available wherever one may go throughout Australia to-day.
I have been a worker all my life. I am working a farm which, if it had not been pioneered some years ago, would not now be in production. It would be physically impossible for me to pioneer a property of the kind to which I refer and put it into production, to-day because of the industrial conditions that have been visited upon our community by the militants and Communists in the” trade unions. I built the home in which I now live. Under present conditions, it would be impossible for me to build that home and if I did not have it already I should still be living under my wagon as I lived in the past for many years. I am using the railway system that other people provided in the past. It is impossible for us to maintain that railway system although the process should be simple as we have had provided for us miles of permanent way, tons of rolling-stock and hundreds of engines. However, the system is running down because we have not had a law of the kind now being considered by the House with which to make it work. The Sydney tramways system has already practically collapsed. Personally, I regard that as a good thing. Indeed, I should have been better pleased had it collapsed 50 years ago. However, it has reached its present state because the community is physically incapable of maintaining it or of improving it by one iota. That state of affairs is due to the faults and flaws that have existed in our industrial laws and that the present Government, in all sincerity, intends to correct. Make no mistake about that! If this bill does not do that then there will’ be a succession of other hills until it is done. If it is not legislatively possible to bring about industrial peace then there is another way that I can see in which it will have to be done.
The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) is smacking his lips over what he hopes I am about to say. After the descent into Avernus we must either stay there or clamber out. If the present intolerable industrial conditions are allowed to continue a crisis will descend upon us and we shall remain in that state until we are removed from it by somebody else or until we clamber out of it, perhaps leaving the honorable member for Watson behind. I believe it to be the duty of this Government to explore every legislative possibility of achieving industrial peace and ending the intolerable conditions that have been visited upon us by the enemies of democracy. Even if that fails, I am still not without hope that out of their own crisis and out of their own’ desperation the relatively fittest members of our community will take charge of the situation and will take measures to rectify the position.
I listened with a great deal of interest to what the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt)- had to say on this measure. I always listen to him with a great deal of interest although, admittedly, I should have more sense. As 1 listened to him dealing with what, after all, is essentially an industrial matter, I thought what a splendid industrial history he has. Let us consider the significant businesses that he has started from nothing. Look at the vast industries that lie has brought into existence. Look at all the land that he has brought under production. After all, experience is the acid lest in this matter. He has no knowledge or experience of commerce, industry or anything other than the law, and in connexion with that he is invariably wrong. The. same remarks apply to many of the other honorable members opposite who have expressed their opposition to this bill. They have had no experience of industry or of commerce.
– What is the honorable gentleman talking about? It is a lot of rot.
– The honorable gentleman will have an opportunity to reply to me at the proper time, so I shall not waste time on him now. 1 suggest that many people who discuss public matters in a delightfully abstract way, when they are not personally involved in them except as advocates intent on spreading’ disturbances and maintaining the cleavages between the various sections of our community, have no right to talk about such matters at all. In my opinion the adoption of this measure will lead to an improvement of the general situation, insofar as the bill seeks to impose penalties for contempt of the law. If the bill fails in its intention, as honorable members opposite have said it will fail, then other means will have to be taken to bring the law to a state of comparative perfection, if there is such a state. I have listened with a great deal of interest to what honorable members opposite have said about the bill, and it seems to me from the tone of their remarks that there is no whole-hearted opposition to the Government’s proposal. There is a weak, passive and mildmannered opposition to the proposal, but I have no doubt that it will go through this House and elsewhere as other important legislation has gone through when put to the test.
.- I have listened carefully to the honorable membp.r for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) and my first comment is that he has added nothing to our understanding of the measure before us. He has not attempted to explain what the bill really means, but he has definitely shown us that he is a hopeless old tory whose mind is years and years in the past. He has also shown us that, as far as industrial history is concerned, he is 3till thinking in terms of the eighteenth or nineteenth century. He has shown us that his chief belief about the workers-
– I rise to order. The honorable member has described me as a “ hopeless old tory “. I do not know what that term means, but I think that I object to it.
– If the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) considers the remark offensive, it must be withdrawn.
– I am very sorry that I have hurt the poor gentleman’s feelings, and I withdraw the remark.
– I did not object to the whole remark, but only to the word “ old “.
– Then I withdraw the word “ old “. I may say, in justification for having used it, that I did so to make the term “ tory “ rather more expressive.
– Hopeless tory.
– Yes, a hopeless hards’ belled tory. The honorable member for Riverina has distinctly shown that he does not believe in industrial unionism or that the workers of Australia have the same right as have the people whom he purports to respresent. He believes that wealth, power and property count to a much greater degree than the lives or the welfare of the workers. It is because people who hold such views are now in a majority in this House that the present Government is in office and that we are faced with legislative proposals such as the present measure embodies. We have been told that this is a “bill for an act to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act “. I suggest that the long title is definitely incorrect and does not convey the true meaning of the bill. It should be entitled “a bill for an act for the strangulation of trade unions “ because this is just another vicious attack upon the trade union movement by the conservatives who are now in office. The record of this Government and of former anti-Labour governments shows that on each occasion on which such governments have introduced industrial legislation its object has been the suppression of the organized industrial movement of Australia. Although honorable members opposite tell the people of Australia from the hustings that they believe in trade unionism and desire to assist the unionist in every way possible, all their legislative actions show that they have the object, not of improving the workers’ living and working conditions, but of endeavouring to weld more chains on to the legs of the workers so that they can be used, as they were in the past, as the slaves of the wealthy. The honorable member for Riverina has exemplified that opinion in his remarks to-day. He said that only honorable members with industrial knowledge and experience should speak on this bill. He had the temerity to criticize the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) for speaking on it because, he claims, that right honorable gentleman has no industrial knowledge. The honorable member for Riverina forgot to inform us that he himself has no industrial knowledge or experience. His main claim to fame appears to be that he pioneered a farm, slept under a wagon and eventually built a house for himself, since when he has obtained the highest possible prices for every commodity that he has produced and has also paid the lowest possible wages to everybody that he has employed. Such conduct is typical of that of other members who occupy the Government benches. “We have been informed to-day that this bill is a particularly urgent measure: The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who is in charge of it, has informed us that he wishes to have it passed through this House by 1 p.m. to-morrow and through the Senate before the end of next week, because it is particularly urgent that the unlimited powers that it proposes to confer shall be given to judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. He has not told us why there is any urgency about the bill. I think that I’ am correct in saying that there is only one serious industrial dispute in Australia to-day. I refer to the coal-mining dispute. If this- bill is- passed to-morrow, or next week or next year, it will have no effect on that dispute. I am quoting the
Minister in charge of the bill when I make that statement, because he informed us yesterday that this bill could not apply to the coal-mining dispute and that other legislation will have to be introduced to deal with that dispute. Why, therefore, the urgency and the panic that have accompanied the introduction of this measure? Why is the Government causing hysteria ? Is it because it is sincerely anxious tohave industrial peace, or is it because it is endeavouring to blind the workers to the real meaning of the measure? I believethat the Government’s panic and hysteria are designed to blind the people as to the true nature of the bill’s intentions. Speakers on the Government side, as well as interjectors, have told us the story that this legislation has been introduced to destroy communism in industry. We were told a similar story in connexion with the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. We are becoming quite used to the introduction of legislation to destroy the power of the Communist party in the political and industrial fields, but when such legislation is examined closely we find on each occasion that the attack is not so much upon the Communist party as upon the organized industrial movement of this country.
– Why did the honorable gentleman not oppose it ?
– I am opposing the legislation now. Is the honorable member too stupid to realize that?
– I was referring to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill.
– I say that if this Government is sincere in its attacks upon communism, then it must follow an entirely different track from that which it is now following. The actions and utterances of this Government to date have not destroyed the strength of the Communist party in unions, but have had the effect of strengthening the, hold of the Communists on certain industrial organizations. I charge the Government with having failed to make a reasonable attempt to kill the Communist menace in Australia. Under the cloak of attacks on communism. it is making repeated attacks on the trade union movement which, generally speaking, is strongly anti-Communist in outlook.
– Generally speaking ?
– Definitely. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson) does not understand what I am saying. He wants the fascist system-
– Order ! Will the honorable member address the Chair?
– I am afraid that, under this Government, the fascist system is being introduced into Australia. Government supporters say that communism must be crushed, and that communism is- & totalitarian system that destroys the liberties of the community, yet whilst they mouth .their fancy phrases about freedom of the individual, freedom of thought, freedom of action and freedom of speech, they adopt totalitarian tactics similar to those of the Communists in this country and similar to the policy that is followed in Communist Russia. I object to totalitarian systems of government whether they be of the right or of the left. To me, totalitarianism is completely objectionable. The Government, if it sincerely intends to honour its promises to guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of action, should act in a proper manner. But its ideas of freedom of speech, of action and of association are, in effect, freedom for its friends, and imprisonment for the organized workers of Australia.
– The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) should read the bill, the object of which is to imprison the leaders of the industrial movement in this community.
– And those leaders of the industrial movement do not include the Communist leaders of the miners’ federation.
– Of course the bill deals with them.
– Obviously, the honorable member has not read the bill, or if he has, he lacks the capacity to understand it.
– The honorable member for Wills, by his utterances, shows that he has not read the bill, and does nol understand it.
– If the honorable member will listen to me for a few minutes, he will gain a knowledge of the bill.
-Order! Will the honorable member address the Chair
– I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I believe that if the honorable member for Petrie had listened carefully to the second-reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service, he would have some knowledge of the provisions of the bill, and would know that it does not apply to the leaders or the members of the miners’ federation. The Minister made that position perfectly clear, yet the honorable member for Petrie appears to have the idea that the bill applies to them. That is why it is necessary for me to emphasize some of these points.
The right to strike has been mentioned in this debate. It is one of the few rights that have been possessed by the workers over the years. The wealthy, including the property owning class, have ensured that the. worker shall have very few rights. He has the right to work sometimes, if the employer is willing to allow him to do so, and he has always had the right to starve. I hear Government supporters interjecting. They come again with the “ Commo “ stunt. What has the honorable member for Petrie ever done to fight the Communists?
– What has the honorable member for Wills done to fight them ?
– All that the honorable member for Petrie has done has been to help to bolster the Communists. I have fought the Communists in the industrial movement for 25 years-
– And fought them unsuccessfully, too.
– I fought the Communists in the union of which I was a member, and I was one of those who was able to keep them in subjection. They are still in subjection in that organization. That is something that the honorable member for Petrie has not done, and is never likely to do.
-Order! Will the honorable member address the Chair?
– I again apologize, Mr. Speaker, but this matter affects me deeply, and, therefore, when Government supporters interject, I, unfortunately, forget your direction to me to address the Chair.
– I advise the honorable member to ignore the interjections.
– I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that my apparent disregard of your direction was quite unintentional. I shall now make special reference to the speech of the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who accused the right honorable member for Barton of speaking with his tongue in his cheek, and of not explaining the true position regarding the bill. He said, in effect, “ I shall toll you the whole story very simply, and pardon me if my language is too simple “. He proceeded to explain certain sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1930, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1947, both of which were placed on the statute-book by Labour governments. The honorable member said, “ That is the whole story. The bill is necessary simply because one or two words were inadvertently left out of the act of 1947”. By way of interjection - in making which, of course, I was out of order - I asked the honorable gentleman to read to the House the penalties provided in those two acts. Speaking with his tongue in his cheek he deliberately side-stepped that most important matter, and refused to read the penalties. Those persons who had no knowledge of the matter would probably have gained the impression that penalties, maximum and minimum, were not mentioned in those two acts, just as they are not mentioned in this bill. However, I find that section 40 of the act of 1947 provides penalties for breaches of an award, and as the honorable member for Evans deliberately refrained from reading them, I shall place them on record because they are most important. Section 40 states -
The Court or a Conciliation Commissioner may, in relation to an industrial dispute, and the Court may, in relation to any other proceedings before it -
fix maximum penalties for any breach or non-observance, of any term of an order or award, not exceeding One hundred pounds in the case of an organization or an employer who is not a member of an organization bound by the order or award, or Ten pounds in the case of a member of an organization ;
Penalties are definitely provided in the act of 1947, yet the honorable member for Evans deliberately, I think, attempted to mislead the House by pointing out the differences between that act and this bill, which, he said, was necessary because a couple of words had been inadvertently omitted from the act. The blame for such omission was attributed to the draftsman. I do not think that words were inadvertently left out of the act of 1947. The honorable member for Evans attempted to mislead the House into believing that penalties were not provided in it. The important point in this bill is that reference is not made to a maximum or a minimum penalty. Fantastic though it might have sounded, an Opposition speaker was perfectly correct when he said that, if this bill became law, it would be possible to impose a sentence of life imprisonment upon a worker for an industrial offence. That would be possible, although I do not suggest that such a sentence would be imposed. But a sentence of one, two, three, four, five or even ten years’ imprisonment might be imposed on a worker at the whim of three judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a small breach of an award that might have been committed either inadvertently or deliberately.
I know, from my experience in the industrial movement, that judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and conciliation commissioners are not infallible. Sometimes they make mistakes, just as do many other people. “Whilst I do not wish to repeat what has been said earlier in this debate about that aspect, I direct attention to the reference that was made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) to certain awards that were definitely unjust in their incidence. He mentioned particularly a provision for a reduction of wages and an increase of working hours in the timber industry. Judges do make mistakes, and when mistakes are made, unions are entitled to expect them to be rectified. It is even necessary, in order to obtain such rectification, to take strike action. I am not advocating strike action. The union of which I am a member has not had a strike in its history, and I have had no personal experience of participating in a strike. Australia should have industrial legislation, and a conciliation and arbitration system that will provide for the settlement of disputes and for fair and just treatment for workers in industry, so that they need not have recourse to strikes.
It is my belief that, in the majority of instances, men who go on strike lose, because of the financial loss that they incur while they are without employment. The average unionist - and this statement applies to practically all the members of unions - shares that view. The workers do not wish to go on strike for the pleasure of having a strike, because a strike hits them harder than it hits anybody else. They will strike only when they feel that they have no other means of obtaining the rectification of their just grievances. If they take such action, it is quite unreasonable and unjust for a government to’ suggest that they should be automatically guilty of contempt of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and that the three judges of that tribunal should be empowered to fine them, or sentence them to terms of imprisonment of short or long duration. We should look, not to the punitive sections of arbitration, and to the policy of wielding the big stick and using force, but to the conciliation sections. A little conciliation will prove more advantageous than will a great deal of attempted force. The average Australian may be led and reasoned with, and he can always see reason, but he objects strongly to being driven. The Government may stand over the worker with a big stick, in the form of this legislation, but such action, far from promoting peace in industry, will destroy much of the peace that now exists in it. The vast majority of the unions are working the full week every week, and industrial troubles are being bandied in a conciliatory manner by the conciliation commissioners. In comparatively few instances do the workers resort to striking. The majority of the strikes that the people of Australia have had to suffer in recent years have been caused by a few unions which, generally speaking, are the Communist-controlled organizations. A few strikes have been called, not by the Communists, but by good unionists who were labouring under a sense of grievance and injustice, but, generally speaking, most of the strikes have been caused by the Communistcontrolled unions.
– We are aiming at them.
– That is what the Government tells us, but I state definitely that this legislation is not aimed at the Communist party or at the Communist leaders of industrial organizations. The Government, if it thinks that it is aiming at them, is a poor shot, because this bill will hit those industrial organizations that believe in the industrial system and are prepared to use the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act for the settlement of disputes. The Federated Ironworkers’ Association has caused a great deal of industrial turmoil during the last four or five years. It has been involved, possibly, in more industrial disputes than has any other union with the exception of the miners’ federation. Yet this bill is not aimed at the Federated Ironworkers’ Association, because it is not a registered organization under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The provisions of this bill may be applied only against a union that is registered under that act. Another organization that is causing a great deal of trouble in the trade union movement is the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia. That is also a Communistcontrolled union. It has been responsible for many hold-ups in home building, and there is constant turmoil in the building industry because of the conflict between that particular union and the master builders. Honorable members on the Government side may say that this legislation is aimed at that union and at similar unions, but it is not. The legislation will not affect the Building Workers Industrial Union because it is not a registered organization, and, therefore, no power which the Government or the Commonwealth Arbitration Court may obtain through this legislation can affect ..it. If the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and the Seamen’s Union of Australasia decide next, week that they will secure deregistra. tion from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and will continue their activities under the so-called law of the jungle, that is by collective bargaining, then this legislation will not affect those two unions in any way at all. Therefore, of what use is it for the Government to deceive itself, and to attempt to deceive honorable members of the Opposition and the people of Australia into believing that this legislation is aimed at breaking the Communist hold on certain organizations? The Government must know that this legislation will be completely ineffective against Communist-controlled organizations, but will act in a most, repressive way against those organizations which have been playing the game throughout the years and which have always depended on the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
Those organizations have accepted adverse as well as favorable decisions, but many of them are not at all pleased to-day with the conditions of the workers’ because of the greatest problem that has faced them for many years,, that is the rising cost of living. While employees’ wages are continually losing value, although increasing in volume, there must be discontent and dissatisfaction. In December of last year the basic wage was-‘ increased by £1 a week and the judgment of the Commonwealth Arbitration ‘Court indicated that industry, because of its prosperous state, could afford to carry the cost of the: increase. In effect, the court said that it would give the workers an extra £1 a week out of the profits of industry and that prices would not increase. Even before the increased basic wage had been applied, employers were finding ways to increase their prices. The prices of goods have been so inflated to-day that the workers are able to buy less with their’ increased wages than they were: able to’ buy before the increase was given. A confidence trick has been played on the workers; That is one of the causes of discontent to-day. Unless the Government can remedy that the discontent will remain. If any legislation, is likely to> cause or aggravate genuine discontent then I shall protest against it as. strongly as I can. This legislation is designed to blind some of the people to the true economic position of the. country,, and to draw their attention away from other grievances and keep them in subjection as much as possible. Bather than introduce legislation of this nature to suppress the workers the Government should try to carry out its election promises and put value back into the £1 so that the workers’ wages will be able to buy the commodities to-day that they would have purchased two years ago. If the Government did that it would be taking a big step towards removing the cause of the grievances and dissatisfactions that affect our1 industrial life to-day. But the Government is making no move in that direction. It says that it will prevent strikes, get rid of the Communists and prevent Communist-controlled unions from taking industrial action; but all that it has done is to present this miserable bill which is an attack,, not on the Communist-led unions, but on the unions which are loyal to the system of conciliation and arbitration.
– Order! The honors able,- member’s time has; expired..
– I was interested to hear the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) say that there was no great urgency about this legislation because there were scarcely any industrial disputes pending. I contrast that remark with the earlier statement made by the’ honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) who1 pleaded with the Government not to proceed with this legislation at the present time because it was of a nature that should not be introduced at a time of industrial stress when strikes were pending. I think that those two statements illustrate the confusion of mind that exists among honorable members opposite. I believe that they have very little stomach for the work, that, they are called upon to do to-d!ay. They find it necessary to give lip service to their opposition to, this bill, but they do. not really want its passage to be delayed.
Reduced to its most simple terms this bill does two things. First, it restores the arbitral position of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to where everybody thought it. was until the. recent decision of the High Court.. The honorable member for Evans (Mr; Osborne) and the honorable member for Lowe (Mr:
McMahon.) have well pointed out to the House, that the bill does simply that. The second thing that it does, and it is incidental to the first and flows from the restoration of the status quo, is that it makes the awards of the court enforceable. That is what the honorable member for Bendigo objected to. Do we believe that if a court exists its awards should not be enforceable? Do we believe that an umpire’s decision should not be binding upon both sides? Once that kind of dangerous concept begins to obtain general acceptance there will be little hope for the maintenance of our judicial system and the democratic system which flows from it to such a large extent and is dependent upon the continuance of respect for law. The restoration of the status quo and the making enforceable of awards of the court form the substance of this bill.
At this stage I propose to say nothing more about the details of the measure except these two things. The first applies to the general principles and philosophy which seem to flow from the arguments of the Opposition, and the second relates to the circumstances in which this bill was introduced and is being opposed by the socialist party. Many honest Labour men and women, and I believe that the vast majority of Labour men and women of the rank and file are honest, are genuinely distressed and not a little embarrassed by the present turn of circumstances. They have been brought up to. believe in socialism and the sanctity of the trade unions. That has almost been their religion, but those ideas have now produced the present industrial chaos which they all abhor. They look back on their past and realize that without knowing it they have been treading the primrose path which has led them to the present dreadful state of affairs. It is not the first time that this has happened to socialists, and, indeed, this kind of progressive disillusionment is a necessary experience of every honest and well-meaning socialist. Honorable members opposite all remember the doctrines which they espoused so sincerely and light-heartedly in 1920. They should remember how almost all of them gave implicit- support to the Soviet experiment without realizing that it. waa going to evolve into the kind of communism that has eventuated. Now there is quite an honest revulsion from the Russian system,, although an endeavour has been- made to- explain it away. ‘ Russian communism has been explained’ in this way, “ This did not happen because of socialism, but through some aberration that, we do not. like to talk about”. But all the time there is a subconscious feeling that the Russian result is the necessary consequence of socialism. I make that digression to illustrate the kind of experience which every honest socialist must pass through when he finds that his doctrines and practices produce results quite the opposite of his theories.
I do not believe that the ordinary Labour voter wants the kind of thing that is now happening, and he is asking himself why it is happening. Deep down he is re-orientating some of his basic ideas. It is you old socialists who are the diehards, the reactionaries-
-Order ! The honorable member will kindly address me.
– It is they who live in the past and it. is they who refuse to accept the lessons of history and to progress through experience.. To them trade unionism is a sacred cow. It must not be criticized, just as the Hindu’s sacred cow must not be criticized,, even when its progeny ultimately destroys the village of its worshippers. Even under those extreme circumstances it must not be repressed or criticized but must still be allowed to go its own sweet way while destroying its own adorers. That kind of sacred cow attitude is the attitude of many socialists in regard to the trade unions. I do not suggest that trade unions have not their uses as cows have,, even if they may not be entirely sacred. I should not be so silly as to suggest that everything is wrong with the trade union movement. The unions have done a lot of good,, but they have got out of control in some way. At the present time, their operations, instead of helping the Labour rank and file, are hurting it. The Labour rank and file has become a little curious and wants to know what this is all about and why it has happened. It is beginning to distrust a little the vested interests’ of the trade union secretaries who, like Hindu priests, live by telling the’ people that the cow is sacred. That is how they make their living, and they have to protect their own vested interests. Throughout the trade unions - I have a lot of contacts in them - there is a real and growing resentment at the dictation of the trade union official who is seen at this moment as a man who is not always trying to be honest and who is trying to maintain the outworn sanctity of something that he has seen through but which is a racket that is necessary to enable him to draw his salary and ride to power in parliament and elsewhere on the backs of his rank and file.
Looking back on the way in which this development has occurred, one realizes that it was natural that men who considered that they were suffering injustices, and who, in many instances were suffering .injustices, should have got together and used- their combined power to remedy those injustices. But the trouble is that there emerged from that process an organized and integrated system, which opened the way for the Leninists and the Communists to ride into power on the backs of the unionists. Any honorable member who has read the earlier writings of Lenin will recall his criticism of the theory of spontaneity and his very acute analysis of the way in which the Communists could exploit the Labour machine which had been fashioned by honest idealists. The trouble with the machine was not that the idealists were not honest, because they were, but that they had made an instrument which lay ready to the Communists’ hands. It is no coincidence that the Communists’ power is derived through the trade unions. They say so themselves. The reason is that the organization of the trade unions is such as to give rise to an opportunity for the Communists to exploit the situation.
As honorable members have pointed out in the course of the debate, the earlier strikes had at least the justification that nien engaged in them sincerely in order to better their own conditions, but the latest strikes, which have a political purpose for the Communists and are directed not to bettering the conditions of the strikers themselves but to crippling industry, crippling the boss, increasing prices or other Communist objectives, are, especially when they are exploited in the form of the rolling strike, utterly intolerable to the community. The community knows that, not by intuition or theory but by practice. The people realize that what is happening now is intolerable. They will change it, even if to do so means a little temporary discomfort for some of the sacred cows.
It is said that the sacred cows must not be. criticized and that we must say nothing against them, but the resentment of the community will express itself. It may be bottled up now, but the community realizes that the present situation cannot be allowed to continue. A situation in which a small section of men can be withdrawn from an industry and cause hardship for the mass of the rank and file that does not want to strike cannot be perpetuated. The kind of situation in which men in a small key section of industry like the coal mines or transport can be withdrawn with the result ‘that industry is stopped, efficiency decreased, prices driven up, inflation helped and the community destroyed is intolerable. If the avoidance of situations of that kind means some necessary inescapable diminution of a “ right “ - and I use the word in inverted commas - that the trade unions may have thought they had, that cannot be helped, and the public could not care less, because it will not put up with the kind of thing that is going on now and which it knows will, if allowed to proceed, destroy the country.
Freedom is most easily destroyed by excess of freedom leading to anarchy. The Communists have learned that, and they know how to exploit it. Communism, by introducing itself into the trade union movement, has restricted the possibility of freedom within and for that movement. These may seem to be theoretical considerations, and they are theoretical, but they have also been proved by sound evidence in practice. Some way must be found by which the rights of this sacred cow to trample on the whole community can be restricted, and we shall find it.
I pass to the only other thing to which I shall refer, and that is the circumstances in which this bill has been introduced and is being opposed. “What we need in the determination of our industrial disputes is speed and certainty. To delay is to play into the enemy’s hands. I use the word “enemy” advisedly, because although I have spoken of the smaller matters of internal prosperity and internal standards of living which are threatened by the Communist programme, there is the bigger matter of the external aggression which, as I have said before, threatens not merely our livelihood but also our lives. It is urgent to avoid delay, which is the Communist weapon at this moment, but delay has been secured in this Parliament and the courts. A few moments ago, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) said that he could not see how the Communist Party Dissolution Act was directed against the Communists. How could he say that? For four months that measure was delayed in this Parliament by his party, and then for another four months it was delayed in the courts of the land by the deputy leader of his party. The delays which are the Communists’ main weapon at this moment are being cleverly co-ordinated in the courts and in the Parliament by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who acts for the Communists in both places. The right honorable gentleman is playing a double role very adroitly and with a cleverness that we all must admire. It is his business to secure delay for the Communists while they smash our industrial machine. He was able to secure four months delay in the Parliament. Then he turned his attention to the courts and secured another four months delay there, with what ultimate result we shall not know until to-morrow.
– That is a reflection on the courts.
– It is not a reflection on the courts. To-day, we find that the right honorable gentleman - and it was for this reason that I asked a question of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) this morning - again trying to secure more delays for those same Communists and their same policy of disruption. Meanwhile, Sydney and Melbourne face considerable industrial turmoil because of Communist-caused shortages, which appear likely to become worse.
It is worth while to recall that the right honorable member for Barton is being ably supported by his brother, Olive Evatt, who is an almost open Communist and certainly an open ally of the Communists. He appears for Communist causes on every occasion and to-day is the motive power behind what has happened here. We should be considering not one bill, but two bills. We should be considering this bill and the bill relating to the activities of the Communists on the coal-fields. The reason why we are not considering that other bill is that we cannot do so until Mr. McGirr, the Premier of New South Wales, gives his consent to the amendment of the Joint Coal Act, which is necessary under the law sponsored by the previous Government. Why has not Mr. McGirr given that consent? The silence is the silence of Mr. McGirr, but the man who is enforcing that silence is Olive Evatt, who, by an intrigue, put Mr. McGirr in office as Premier, holds a balance in the Labour caucus and is maintaining Mr. McGirr in the Premiership, requiring for that Mr. McGirr’s concurrence in this very artistic policy of delay. For the Communists, delay is as good as victory. It was the right honorable member for Barton who, as President of the United Nations, helped the policy of delay which is to-day the main Stalinist line.
– Which of the two brothers does the honorable gentleman like better?
– I should find it easier to answer if I were asked which of the two . brothers I dislike most. I dislike most the right honorable member for Barton, because he is the slyer, less open, and more able of the two. Mr. Speaker, I apologize for having been led’ into a digression by the very interesting observation of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). It will be interesting to see for how long the Labour party will tolerate being exploited in the Communist interests by the right honorable member for Barton, the Communist interests’ well-paid mouthpiece in the courts of this land.
– The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has picked for honorable members another speech out of the strange twilight dream world in which he lives. As an illustration of -the spectres that haunt his troubled mind it might have some interest for the -case book of a psycho-analyst, but its relationship to the realities which the House is discussing is entirely remote. Before the honorable member drifted off into complete unintelligibility he made two observations to which I shall refer. He said that this bill merely restored the arbitral position to what everybody previously believed it to be. Under this legislation a man who refuses to work under conditions which he considers to be unjust will be liable to be flogged, imprisoned or fined to any extent ordered by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. If that was the position which honorable members believe previously existed it was certainly not the position as it was recognized by the people of this country and it is not a position which will ever be tolerated by the Australian people. The honorable member for Mackellar has asked, “ Do we really believe that the law should be enforced or that the umpires’ decisions are to be binding on only one side ? “ That is a supreme example of the kind of balderdash with which deception of the Australian people on issues of this kind is attempted.
Reference has been made to arbitration law and to breaches of awards. Until very recent times it was an entirely novel doctrine that one committed a breach of the law if one refused to work under the terms of an award. I have never considered it to be a breach of an award if a man refused to work under the terms of an award. The arbitration system, as I have always understood it, was established in order to provide legal minimums of wages and conditions so as to ensure fair competition between employers who were prepared to observe those minimums and to ensure that a basic standard of existence should be available to the workers. The suggestion increasingly advanced in recent years that a man should be compelled, under penalty of imprisonment or fine, to work for those conditions or wages, is entirely novel and has no place in the arbitration system. This bill proposes to replace the system of conciliation and arbitration by a system of arbitration and coercion.
– “Would the honorable member take all the penalties out of the act?
– No. There are certain circumstances in which the imposition of some penalties is appropriate, but I would not propose a penalty for the act of striking. I believe in the right to strike just as I believe that strikes, in almost all circumstances, are inadvisable and injurious to those who take part in them as well as to the community. Equally, I believe that it is highly injurious to the community that people should vote for the Liberal party at an election. But whilst I believe that to be most injurious, I would fight to defend the misguided right of people so to vote if that was their choice. The ultimate right to refuse to work under unsuitable conditions is an inalienable and fundamental human right which this bill contravenes. The bill provides for. a system of forced labour and for the unlimited punishment of those who refuse to give their labour on terms which are unacceptable to hern, and it provides no right of appeal against the judgment of the court.
Judgments recently given by Judge Kirby and decisions recently made by Mr. Gallagher appear to be of a kind which provide every legitimate reason for an industrial dispute arising out of objection to their terms and a refusal to operate under such terms. After men such as the members of the Waterside Workers Federation have waited patiently for two or three years for a decision by the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on the basic wage case, have heard that the court has awarded an increase of £1 a week in the basic wage and have then found, after further months of waiting, that they are to receive an increase of only 10s. -8d., who would be prepared to get up at a meeting of those men and tell them that they are merely victims of a Communist conspiracy? Surely there is no one who would not recognize that the waterside workers have legitimate ground for feeling aggrieved and unjustly treated.
I have always found that those unions which are most law-abiding and those associations of employees which are the weakest in a militant sense receive the worst treatment at the hands of arbitration tribunals. I do not know the reason for that, but the industrial history of this country gives clear evidence that it is so. If legislation of this kind established the position that the court, in giving its judgment, considered that it need not pay the slightest heed to the indignation or resentment of the members of the union concerned in the award to be delivered, it would have in its hands a tremendous coercive power because it could ensure that the men should work on whatever terms the award provided. Such an award would not be even as good as present awards are.
I am sure that the people of Australia, when they have had an opportunity of understanding this legislation, will agree that it has been designed as a direct blow at the system of conciliation and arbitration which has been built up over a very long period of experience, and which, has the complete allegiance and loyalty of a great majority of workers who, through their organizations, obtain awards from the various arbitration tribunals. There are two forces in this country which wish to see the system of conciliation and arbitration destroyed. One of them is represented by many of the honorable members on the opposite side of the House who, in their time, have given allegiance to a similar government to this which sought to destroy completely the system of Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration. One of them is the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who supported the Bruce-Page Government in 1929.
– And who was elected unopposed.
– The Minister glories in the fact that he was, and is still in the public life of this country, an advocate of the destruction of the system of conciliation and arbitration. He is a member of a government which puts forward this proposal in the guise of protecting the system of arbitration. As I have said, one of the forces which wishes to destroy the system of conciliation and arbitration is represented by the Minister for the Army and other honorable members who support the Government, whilst the other force is represented by .the
Communist party, which has campaigned for many months to undermine the confidence of the Australian people in the system of conciliation and arbitration.
– The coal-miners in my electorate gave me a majority. They know that I will always support arbitration.
– The Minister has said that the coal-miners are misled by Communist leaders. He now claims that he has the support of the coal-miners in his electorate. That bears out my statement that one of the forces which wishes to destroy the system of conciliation and arbitration is represented by those who think as the Minister thinks and the other is represented by the Communist party. Both forces will be pleased by this legislation because no legislation will ever do more than this to destroy the system of arbitration in this country. Once it is established as the law that any movement which dares to be registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act immediately exposes the whole of its membership to penalties at the hands of the court there will be an inducement to trade unions to withdraw from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court registry. Surely, by doing this, the Government will provide the most powerful of arguments for the use of those Communist officials and Communist workers who are doing their utmost to persuade the workers to abandon the system of arbitration.
This bill is, therefore, a blow at the system of arbitration. It cannot have any effect in promoting industrial peace. Surely there is no honorable member who believes that the workers of Australia are so spiritless or their leaders so cowardly that if they believe that they are being treated with injustice by the court they will not still take the direct action which they consider such treatment requires. Is there any honorable member opposite who. believes that the Australian workers are so cowardly that the threat of these penalties will cause them to work under conditions that they resent and under terms of employment that they consider to be an injustice? Of course not. To that extent the bill, if it becomes law, must operate to increase industrial tension and strife in this country. To the extent that it will unavailingly attempt to direct workers into accepting an award which they may not wish to accept, it will create industrial discontent and turmoil and will be ineffective if it be placed on the statute-book. I am convinced that it will never go on to the statute-book. Provided the people of Australia are given a fair opportunity of knowing what is in this legislation and of pronouncing judgment upon it there is no more doubt of what their judgment will be than there was on the occasion of the historic judgment which they gave in 1929 when the present right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) took so prominent a part in defending the system of arbitration against practically all other honorable members on his side of the House. For all those reasons I oppose this measure with the utmost enthusiasm. To me, it is a measure of a kind which would have shamed the British House of Commons of 150 years ago. It represents reaction and repression in their worst forms. It will not succeed in this country. It has been brought forward by men who either have no knowledge of industrial relationships in Australia or, alternately, seek to promote increased industrial trouble and have no real intention of seeking the industrial peace and harmony which can be produced only by meeting the legitimate claims of the workers.
Supporters of the Government frequently declare that they have tried every method of appeasing the coal-miners. “We are told from time to time that every legitimate claim that the miners could make upon the community has been granted to them, but that they still are not satisfied. How many honorable members have actually read the terms of Mr. Gallagher’s recent award, which represents his decision, after two years, on claims made by the miners’ federation? The finding, which surely will impress honorable members if they will read it, deals first of all with the extraordinary terms under which Mr. Gallagher introduced the so-called incentive payment scheme, for which neither party had asked, the merits of which had never been argued before him, and on which, indeed, there was no evidence on which he could base the decision that he gave. In that finding, Mr. Gallagher stated -
The qualification of working for the ten days -
Honorable members should realize that the men do not get the £1 a week extra unless they work for the full ten days of each pay period.
The qualification of working for the ten days is subject only to the exception that where during the pay period a colliery has been out of production through the occurrence of a statutory holiday, mechanical breakdown, a fire or a flood, provided the mine is worked for the production of coal on all other days during the period and the employees have worked those days will receive as regards contract miners and wheelers the additional tonnage rate for coal filled or wheeled on such production days and as regards all other workers a proportion of the shift work allowance.
I ask honorable members to give particular attention to the following passage : -
There is to be no other exception, and pleas about hardship, such as in the cases of employees who are unavoidably absent from work through injury or illness may be met by the reply that the order is intended to apply to those employees who have actually worked the qualifying period in connexion with the production of coal and to no others.
In all other circumstances, the employer saves the expense of the extra £1 a week!
Consider next the decision that was given by Mr. Gallagher on the long list of claims that were made by the federation. These were the claims for payment of bratticemen at ‘first-class shift rate, for free transport, for payment for locomotive drivers at the mechanical unit rate of pay, for payment for bathhouse attendants at the rate applicable to firstclass shiftmen, seeking that all employees who had twelve months’ service in the industry as second-class shiftmen or underground labourers be included in the definition of “ first-class shiftman “, for an increase of 6d. a ton where power borers are not in operation, for free explosives, for free tools, for payment for erection of timber at heights over 7 feet, for payment to contract workers called upon to leave their working places to perform other work on the basis of the average of their fortnightly earnings, for a provision for a picnic day, for the removal of the qualifications for statutory holidays, for an alteration of the provision of the annual leave clause relating to men on compensation, for payment for contract workers at average earnings when on annual leave or sick leave, for a list of sick leave every six months, for a penalty of 25 per cent. on all time worked on afternoon and night shifts, and for weekly pays. They constituted a great majority of the federation’s claims. What happened to them after two years? Every one of them was rejected. Surely there was some virtue in some of them! Yet, by legislation of this kind - not by this bill, because it cannot affect the miners’ federation, but by other similar legislation which the Government is slavering to introduce - miners who refuse to accept the rejection of every legitimate claim that they put forward may be gaoled or fined, without limit of any kind, by the industrial tribunals. I am certain that the people of Australia will reject that kind of legislation.
Sitting suspended from 5.51 to 8 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
– by leave - The Government is not yet able to introduce its proposed amendments to the Coal Industry Act, because it has not yet received the concurrence of the New South Wales Government. It was necessary to secure this concurrence because of an arrangement made with the Government of New South Wales during the term of office of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) that the Commonwealth and New South Wales coal industry acts of 1946 should not be amended by either Government without the concurrence of the other Government concerned. As I indicated to the House yesterday this undertaking is recited in the preamble to the Commonwealth act. Although the present Government takes full responsibility for the terms of its amending legislation, it has, pursuant to this agreement, sought the concurrence of the New South Wales Government.
The Australian Government is anxious that there shall be no delay in passing its amending legislation and I have previously intimated to the House that we desire that the Coal Industry Bill shall be dealt with as an urgent measure. I should ordinarily, therefore, have introduced the bill on Tuesday; but Mr. McGirr, the Premier of New South Wales, after being pressed for his Government’s concurrence, has informed the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the Australian Government’s bill is not likely to be considered by his Cabinet until Tuesday of next week. Even if we are then immediately notified of a favorable decision, little time will remain if the bill is to be passed by the Parliament before the Easter recess. In order to give to the Parliament a reasonable opportunity to consider the issues involved, it is desirable that the provisions of the bill shall be made known in general terms for the information of the Parliament.
Two circumstances underline this urgency. The first is that there are legal doubts, as theright honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) argued recently before the Full Commonwealth Arbitration Court, as to whether most, if not all, of the awards and orders made by the Coal Industry Tribunal, Mr. Gallagher, since 1947, were valid. The amending bill would resolve these doubts and it is highly desirable that they should be removed. Secondly, it has been made clear to the miners’ . federation that the issues which form the basis for their strike action can be determined only by the Coal Industry Tribunal. If this is to be done there should be a feeling of certainty on both sides that the tribunal is equipped to give a binding decision.
Another purpose of the amending legislation is to have available in the hands of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the same power of enforcement in respect of awards of the Coal Industry Tribunal as it possesses in relation to its own awards and those of the conciliation commissioners. As honorable members are aware, we are endeavouring to strengthen that power under legislation that is now before the House. It has not that power at the present time and the bill proposes to remedy that defect. In view of the High Court’s judgment, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court does not possess that rather limited power in respect of awards of either the court or conciliation commissioners. The 1947 act does not operate at all with respect to the Coal Industry Tribunal.
Finally, the bill proposes to give to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court power to protect the Coal Industry Tribunal against contempts of the tribunal itself. The tribunal has much the same status as a conciliation commissioner, but whilst the court has power to deal with contempts in relation to conciliation commissioners, there is at present nothing to protect the Coal Industry Tribunal from abusive attacks or the most barefaced and improper attempts to intimidate it or otherwise influence its decisions. These proposals should commend themselves to the Parliament at a time when coal production is so vital and stability in the coal industry is of such importance. I hope that the Considerations that make for urgency will be recognized by the New South “Wales Government, and that as a result I shall be able to introduce the bill in the Parliament early next week.
Debate resumed (vide page 227).
– The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), has clearly explained ‘that the purpose of this measure is to strengthen the arbitration system. The weaknesses in that system are obvious. I do not propose to deal with the legal aspect of the matter, which has been ably presented by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) and the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon), who explained why the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has lost considerable power which it was thought to possess. I propose to examine whether the court should be given such power. Is it necessary to do so? I shall give to the House official statistics relating to industrial disputes that have occurred, particularly in New South “Wales, since 1946. Members of the Opposition will be pleased to hear that in that year 771 industrial disputes occurred in that State whereas in the same year 35 disputes occurred in Vic toria. The House will recall that the Chifley Government was in office at that time and that it was aided and abetted by the McGirr Labour Government of New South Wales. During the following year, when the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who was then Attorney-General, introduced legislation to streamline the arbitration system!, a great improvement was shown. In that year the number of disputes that occurred in New South Wales increased by 150 to 920 whilst the number of disputes that occurred in Victoria decreased to seventeen. In 1948, no doubt due again to the streamlining legislation that had been introduced by the right honorable member for Barton, an additional 150 strikes occurred in New South Wales, the total for that year being. 1,071. Of that number 969 disputes occurred in the coal-mining industry. During the same year in Victoria where a non-Labour Government was in office disputes totalled 21. Those figures are staggering. In 1949, the number of disputes that occurred in New South Wales, decreased to 739. That reduction did not in fact reflect less industrial unrest but occurred principally because most industries at that time were tied up as the result of the general coal strike. During the same year only twenty disputes occurred in Victoria. Those figures are a shocking indictment particularly when the number of strikes that occurred during those years in the other States ranged from only, approximately, seventeen to’ ten. I need hardly remind honorable members that New South Wales is the key State industrially and that the Communists’ strength is centred in it.
– What rot!1
– Many members of the Opposition owe their election to the Parliament to the fact that they occupied positions of leadership in trade unions. Are they proud of that record ?
– The Chifley Government was in office during the four years in respect of which I have cited figures relating to industrial dis. putes. If that .Government was not responsible for that record, what was the reason for it?
– Let the honorable member tell us.
– Perhaps, Mr. McGirr, the great hero of the black-outs, was responsible for those disputes. Recently, the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), when he was Acting Prime Minister, sought the help of Mr. McGirr in an endeavour to settle disputes in the coal industry at a critical time in our history. “What answer did the hero of the black-outs give to that request? As he is doing now, he stalled for time. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. “Wentworth) told us of the value of time to the Communists and to our enemies. The industrial record in New South “Wales is shocking and: we must admit that it calls for remedial measures.
– What remedy does the honorable member suggest?
– The people had many reasons for electing the Menzies-Fadden Government. They were dissatisfied with the socialist tendencies of the Chifley Government and its failure to deal effectively with the Communists. They were dissatisfied with production in the only country that was hardly hit directly by the war, but in which production had not increased. But what has been the conduct of the Labour party since the present Government assumed office? A dispassionate analysis of the acts of that party during that period presents an ugly picture. The Labour party directed the Opposition in another place to use a parliamentary weapon in an undemocratic manner by holding up the Government’s legislation. For instance, honorable members opposite held up the “ red “ bill which the Government introduced as its first requisite for putting value back into the £1. Without any sense of shame, the Opposition delayed the passage of the Government’s measure to provide endowment for the first child in a family. In respect of that measure honorable members opposite raised the objection that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would take that benefit into consideration when it was computing the basic wage. However, immediately after the bill was passed the court increased the basic wage without taking that benefit into consideration in any way at all. Were there any red faces among honorable members opposite or trade union leaders when the court announced its decision?
The Labour party did not confine its opposition to the Government’s efforts in the legislative sphere. Although honorable members opposite must have some inkling of the dangers that beset Australia and the other democracies, they are opposing the Government’s recruiting campaign, and trade union leaders outside the Parliament have stated that they will not assist the Government to increase production, that they will not do anything to help the hated MenziesFadden Government. Yet, honorable members opposite keep on bleating in this House, asking when the Government is going to put value back into the £1. I have yet to learn that any trade union leader has made any public statement to the effect that one reason for the present rising living costs is lack of production. That is elementary, but there is not one trade union leader who has said so. Of course not! There is distortion everywhere, and every effort to block the legislation of the Government is made by honorable members opposite by the use, in an undemocratic way, of their majority in another place. They adopted that attitude even in relation to the Wool Sales Deduction (Administration) Bill. Recently honorable members opposite were going round the wool electorates, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, saying that they would repeal that legislation if they were returned to office. If they had been shorn then there would have been a high percentage of stained fleeces in the clip.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not develop that argument.
– An analysis of their attitude shows not only that their tactics are directed against the Menzies-Fadden Government, but also that, despite all their talk about putting value back into the £1 they are working against the national interests of Australia and are deliberately preventing the Government from actually putting value back into the £1. That point was illustrated last night in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) in reply to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The Leader of the Opposition’s speech was shocking and tragic, and I shall deal with it later if I have an opportunity to do so. Here again we have a refusal by the Opposition to arm the Government with weapons with which it may try to achieve some sort of industrial peace. Honorable members opposite will not co-operate to that end. Do we believe for one moment that they refuse to do so because their concurrence in this legislation would be against the interests of the trade unionists? There is only one purpose in the delay, and that purpose is to frustrate our attempts to increase production, and to prevent us from getting more coal to assist in the development of our defences. The Opposition has adopted these tactics in the hope that it will gain through their use some political advantage at the expense of the national interests. It is not a pretty picture that I am painting, and I expect that I shall be told that I am wrong, although I find it hard to believe that I am. Some honorable members opposite have found some good in the Government. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) complimented the Government on the methods by which conciliation has been used so far in dealing with the coal strike.
– I did not hear him say that.
– He said that there was industrial merit in these strikes and that when men’s passions are inflamed they will demand a strike. Of the 11,000 mineworkers on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales entitled to vote on the issue of the strike, only 2,000 were inflamed enough to vote ! The whole thing is nonsense. One honorable member claimed that all the legislation of this Government had been directed against the workers. He even said so about the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. When he made that statement he was greeted by a chorus of “ Hear, hears ! “
– I said it.
– If the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was directed against the workers why did the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) vote for it? Another honorable member, who is the hero of the Victorian railway strike which brought misery to hundreds of thousands of people, criticized this legislation which is designed to bring such conditions to an end.
– This Government has done nothing about the coal strike.
– Of course, because there are no teeth in the arbitration system. I turn now to the right to strike. I do not know whether my code of ethics is different from that of anybody else, but it seems to me that when two people go to arbitration they tacitly pledge themselves to accept the judgment that is given. At least that is my interpretation of true arbitration. Now it is accepted throughout the Labour movement that in Australia we settle our industrial disputes by arbitration. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court protects both parties and the interests of the general public. How did the right to strike come into this matter? Striking is a contemptible way of settling a difference and the quicker people realize that fact the better. We have heard the hero of the Victorian railway strike, which lasted for 74 days and accomplished nothing, attacking this measure. I asked one honorable member whether the right to strike was unconstitutional, and he said that it was. According to honorable members opposite the rule of law must yield to the rule of the jungle.
Yesterday in this chamber the Prime Minister made a carefully reasoned and carefully worded statement in which he said that it was his opinion, after he had considered all the facts available to him, and that it was also the opinion of influential people who were in a position to make a sound judgment, that we might be facing a war within three years. He told us that he would speak later on about putting Australia on a semi-war footing and of making preparations to meet the possibility of war within that period. That most important statement from the Leader of the Government of this country has been followed by statements of the kind that have been made in the debate on the present measure, although the sands of time are rapidly running out and we are trying to achieve industrial peace, which we know is being disrupted by Communists. The Labour party should consider its attitude very carefully, because its members cannot pull the wool over the eyes of the public all the time. It is becoming crystal clear that this Government has not been getting a “ fair go “, and I believe that no Australian cares to have a government or a person denied a “ fair go “. Honorable members opposite should remember that the right to go to arbitration and the right to strike have been won at the cost of very many lives, and that we may well have to lose still more lives in order to maintain our freedom. The cause of freedom will be fought with the equipment that must be produced in the industrial fields of our country.
.- Shorn of all its trimmings the bill is neither more nor less than a declaration of war on the organized workers of this country. I believe that there is a real purpose in the failure of the members of the Government to deal specifically with what is intended to be dealt with by the measure, because there are very few people in this country who, having become aware of what the Government really intends to do, would believe that it was authorized to introduce this legislation by the mandate ‘ that its supporters so frequently claim to have received at the last general election. This measure does not even propose to extend to striking workers the same treatment as is given to the most vile criminal in the community. There is to be no limitation on the penalizing power of the court. All that the Government has done by introducing this legislation is to try to speed up the means that it wants to adopt in its attack upon the ‘workers. Honorable members may well recollect that frequently of late we have had the Government stating that the introduction of every piece of legislation that it has placed before us has been caused by the necessity to deal with the Communists. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson) gave us some strike statistics. Does he suggest that every one of those strikes was the work of the Communist party? That honorable member said that the right to strike ought to be taken away not only from trade unions which he regards as being, and asserts are directed and controlled by the Communist party, but also from every other body of workers in this country, regardless of what merit a particular industrial dispute may have. The honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) talked about reflections upon the judiciary. Anybody would imagine that these tribunals, and the persons who preside over them, are infallible, that they have never made any mistakes and that there has never been any necessity to protest or strike against their decisions. Anybody who has read the history of organized Labour ever since trade unionism was established here or in any other country in which tribunals have been established to deal with industrial disputes, will recall many outrageous decisions that have been given in respect of claims by the workers. One judge when dealing with a mining industry claim in Great Britain ridiculed the idea that workers were justified in claiming the right of every home to have a bathtub. Another judge in Australia, when dealing with a claim by workers for an improvement of the basic wage, said that a radio set was not a necessity in a worker’s home. So honorable members can see that gentlemen who preside over tribunals are not always enlightened people who take the most sympathetic attitude towards the claims of the workers. I have heard advanced many times the argument that there is no need for workers to strike now that we have our arbitration system. I agree with the policy of the Labour party in support of arbitration; but the arbitration system is by no means perfect as far as the regulation of wages and conditions is concerned, although it is the best system that we have been able to devise up to this time. If it were a perfect system there might be something in the argument that the right to strike should disappear. But because it is imperfect the workers refuse to relinquish the right to strike. It is a power and a right that should be sparingly used. There is no intelligent worker in this country who ever argues that that power and right should be used indiscriminately. It is used only as a last resort after every other method of adjustment of industrial grievances has failed. I say to honorable gentlemen opposite that if there were no Communist officials in the Waterside Workers Federation or the miners’ federation to-day we should still have the present disputes in both industries, because the members of those bodies have just cause for the action that they have taken. There is no doubt about that. For instance, the waterside workers placed a ban on overtime. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) dealt very effectively with the method by which the fixation of wages in the waterside industry is computed had been altered by Judge Kirby. The reason why the waterside workers decided to ban overtime was that previously the weekly hours of work of waterside workers were computed at 30 for the purpose of determining their wages. Thirty hours was their average weekly expectation of work on the waterfront. Judge Kirby, without having received any request to do so from either the employers or the employees, as far as I am aware, altered the basis of computation to 32 hours a week. In arriving at that figure he took into account the overtime that had been worked by waterside workers for a period of some years, and by doing so he altered the basis of computation upon which their wages were determined. As a result, the waterside workers obtained, instead of the increase of £1 a week in the basic wage generally, which the Commonwealth Arbitration Court after a protracted hearing, had determined should be granted, an increase of only 10s. 8d. a week. Because of the alteration of the method of computation, the waterside workers, in my opinion quite rightly, stated that if the overtime that they worked at the request of the employers and the Government was to be taken into account in the adjustment of their wages from time to time, the only sensible thing to do was not to work any overtime.
I turn now to the coal-mining dispute. How many members of the public would approve of what is now known as the “ Gallagher award “, if they, understood exactly what it means? The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has pointed out that there are in it many loopholes and many opportunities for the mine-owners to create the conditions under which the miners would not obtain the additional payment for continuous work provided in the award. The only interruptions of work without loss of the additional pay that are permitted by the award are temporary cessations of activities in the pits caused by flooding, fire or mechanical breakdown. All other interruptions to the services of an employee are completely disregarded. I ask the Government to answer this question: Is it not a fact that this additional payment under the Gallagher award is taken into account in the computation of the price of coal to the Australian consumer? If the employer, by using any of those devices that have been pointed out by various members of the Opposition, was able to hold up the coal industry, he would still get the benefit of the increased price of coal which he sold to the community. Yet. the workers in the industry receive no benefit whatever from it. It simply means that, no matter how these decisions a reexamined, the cause of the present dispute is an industrial one.
An attack has been made upon the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) because, in the words of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), he had appeared in a certain jurisdiction .and had .represented, not members of the Communist party, but organizations, in those proceedings. I emphasize that he represented them not as individual Communists, but as members of organizations. But it was not the right honorable gentleman who determined that no charge could be sustained against those men. He merely stated the case. It was the court that determined that no action could be sustained against them. The right honorable member for Barton, by means of his legal merit, was able to show that those charges were not justified in that instance, and was able to see justice done, as it should’ be, yet the Government now accuses him of having defended members of the Communist party.
Let us examine for a few moments some of the statistics that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson) read to the House-. I assume that he referred only to industrial organizations.
I shall put a few questions to him. What action would he have taken when the British Medical Association struck against legislation that had been passed by this Parliament, and showed its contempt for the Parliament by refusing to carry out the law of the land? Did he include in his statistics the dairy-farmers who refused to send their produce to the market because, they said, they were not receiving a sufficient return for it? Has he any criticism to offer of those who are deliberately withholding hides from the market in anticipation of an increase of price, and who, by their action, are thus jeopardizing the employment of thousands of workers in the boot and shoe industry? The honorable member has nothing to say about those’ matters. There is one suggestion that I should readily support, if the Government cared to adopt it. Ministers often speak about “ partners in industry”, and ask, “Why cannot we have peace in industry, and round-table conferences ? “ If there are partners in industry, all the partners should be treated on the same basis. Why, then, should it be that only the workers, who have only their labour power to sell, have to satisfy a tribunal of the merits of their case, and justify-their claims for an increase of wages? The other partners tu the undertaking have no such regulation placed upon their return from the investment of their capital in industry. Why does not arbitration extend to the regulation of dividends, so that the employers should have to satisfy a tribunal that their claims foil’ increased dividends were justified ?
I shall tell the House why the Government has introduced this bill. It has failed utterly in its administration. It has been in office for fifteen months, and I think that I can say without exaggeration that there are few people in this country who would not admit that it was in a worse condition to-day than ever before in its history. The economy of the country is almost collapsing. What action is the Government taking to combat the increasing cost of living, and to arrest inflation?
- (Hon. Archie Cameron). Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting very wide of the bill.
– I am no wider than some of the previous speakers were, and these matters that I am discussing have a relation to the industrial unrest in this country. The workers are disturbed and agitated. They know that this Government is not taking the steps that are necessary to bring about some stability in the national economy. The only way that is known to the Government for stabilizing the economy is that of using the measures of oppression and coercion against the organized workers. The Government knows that unless it smashes the organized trade union movement, it cannot possibly carry out its plans to reduce living standards in Australia.
I shall now examine some of the criticisms that have been voiced by Government supporters against our objections to the bill. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) admitted that penalties are provided in the existing arbitration laws, but claimed that they are inadequate. He pointed out that a fine of ?10 or ?20 may be imposed upon an individual, and a fine of ?100 upon an organization for certain breaches of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Postmaster-General made a violent and unjustified attack upon the right honorable member for Barton, yet he himself has had some experience of breaches of the arbitration law. I merely cite the case, without expressing my own opinion about it, to show that the honorable gentleman was not always of the opinion that the penalties provided were inadequate. Indeed, he thought at one time that they were excessive. He was before the court on two charges, first, of not keeping accurate records in regard to annual holidays, as he was required to do under legislation in New South Wales-
– I rise to order. I submit that any reference to an honorable member in relation to his personal affairs can have no bearing upon ‘this bill.
– Any reference to an honorable member’s personal activities must be outside the scope of this bill, the purpose of which is to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Therefore, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will not be in order in proceeding along those lines.
– With all due respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I am not giving an expression of opinion on the case. I merely say that the Postmaster-General has advanced in this debate the contention that the penalties already provided for breaches of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are inadequate, and I wish to show that he has not always been of that opinion. I do not wish to devote too much time to this matter. I merely want to state the reason why the Postmaster-General, on a previous occasion, had different ideas from those, that he advanced in the debate to-day. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I inform the House that the first charge against him was that of not keeping accurate records in regard to annual holidays as he was required to do under legislation in New South Wales–
– Order ! I have ruled that that matter is not within the scope of the bill.
– All I can say is that it is a most amazing decision, in view of the latitude that has been allowed to previous speakers.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is making a definite imputation against me, and I will not accept it. In the first fifteen minutes of his speech, he hardly dealt with the bill at all. I ask him to withdraw that imputation forthwith, and not to repeat it.
– I withdraw it so_ that I may have the pleasure of continuing my speech.
– Order ! That is a qualified withdrawal. The honorable gentleman will resume his seat.
[8A0~. - Even if the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had continued his speech, we should not have heard any references to the bill.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! Who made the remark “ gorilla ? “
– I did, Mr. Speaker. I referred to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth).
– Order! An honorable member may not refer to another honorable member in that way. I ask the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) to withdraw that remark, and to apologize for having made it.
– I withdraw the remark and apologize for having made it.
– I can only say, as a preliminary remark, that we learnt from the honorable member for East. Sydney in fifteen minutes no more than we should have learnt had he spoken for three hours. As I have had occasion to remark more than once, he invariably makes the same speech, whether the subject be the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric scheme or arbitration. His speeches are always directed to the alleged misdemeanours of the Government, the so-called shortcomings of the capitalist class, and the penury of the workers.
– Order! I ask the Minister to relate his remarks to the bill.
– It is advisable to bring the debate back to the bill, because some honorable members seem to have forgotten that the purpose of this legislation is to uphold the system of arbitration. The real issue in this debate is whether arbitration is to survive, or whether direct action is to be supported. The honorable member for East Sydney, whether or not he knows it, repeated almost verbatim what is to be found in the Communist Tribune week after week. The Labour party declares that it stands for the system of arbitration, yet on every occasion on which the matter has arisen, it has done its utmost to destroy arbitration. It claims that this amending legislation .is unnecessary, but, nearly every one, even persons of very limited intelligence, knows that arbitration is being steadily destroyed in Australia because certain Connmunist-led unions are able to defy the Government, since there is no way in which they can effectively be disciplined. It is not a matter of the right of persons, who suffer a genuine sense of grievance, to strike. It is not a matter of a man, or a body of men, suffering an injustice. The basic position is that certain key unions are now determining, very largely, the economic life of Australia, and are defying the established law and the Parliament itself. The provision in this bill is limited. Section 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, asamended by this legislation, will read -
The Court shall have power -
It must be plain that if the arbitration law is to survive, effective sanctions must be provided to enforce it. That is the plain issue before the Parliament and the country. It must be equally clear that there has not been an efficient or a sufficient sanction to enforce the arbitration laws, because we have witnessed during the last few weeks alone, one union or another not only defying the court but also placing a stranglehold upon the national economy. It is said that this Parliament is to be powerless, and that the courts are also to be powerless to deal with such a situation. If that is to be the position it would be a good thing for the people to be told that the Parliament has no authority to deal with unions once they defy the law of the land. It is clear enough that whatever sanctions are contained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, they are woefully inadequate to deal with the organized blackmailing of thecommunity which we are witnessing to-day. Therefore, we now seek to give to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the ordinary power that is given to any court in the land to deal with breaches of its orders. I heard the proposition put to this House by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) that in the arbitration laws penalties should find no place. He seems to have forgotten his own action of only a few years ago, when he had recourse to the law for the purpose of seeking an undertaking from individuals, which action was followed by contempt proceedings for breach of the law. That was the way in which he handled the last emergency situation which arose on the coal-fields.
It is well that we should refer to what the act provides at present in order to see to what extent it will be extended by this measure. By section 73 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act it is made clear that the court can treat for contempt, but the contempt that it can treat for is limited to a breach of the act itself. Therefore, there is nothing in the argument advanced by the right honorable member for Barton or by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in which they attempted to show that what the Government is seeking to do is to give power to a court to punish without limitation. That power was contained in an act passed by a government of which they were members.
– That is not so.
– That the power was there cannot be refuted. If the honorable member can understand the language that he pretends to speak, and if he reads the judgment in the recent case before the High Court, he will discover that the justices said quite plainly that there was a power vested in the court to treat for contempt. There was no power to treat for contempt for breach of an award, but there was certainly power to treat for contempt for breach of the provisions of the act. The proposition that I am seeking to answer at the moment is, that the Government is doing something extravagant and extraordinary, and something affecting the liberty of the subject, because it is seeking to give to a court power to treat for contempt and punish without any specific limitation. The answer to that is that the Labour party did likewise when it held office. Not only did it do that in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but it also did it in another act which it passed three years ago. The High Court said, not that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court could not treat for contempt and punish by imprisonment or fine without limit, but that the court could treat for contempt only for breach of the act. The Government is now giving power to the court to treat for contempt for breach of an award made under the act. It was said that this is a novel procedure. Honorable members opposite must have an exceedingly short memory-
– At least we are a wakeup to the Minister.
– If that is so now, then I must say that the honorable member has shown signs of death for a long time. I remind the House that in -June, 1949, although apparently some honorable members opposite cannot remember as far back as that, an act was passed by the Labour Government. The name of that act was the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act 1949.
– I remember that now.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) say that, because I remember a remarkable occasion in this House when he could not remember what he had done before. I shall jog his memory a little more. A certain section was introduced into the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act by the right honorable member for Barton, who recently contended in court that the legislation of which he had been aware since 1947 did not allow the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to treat for contempt for breaches of awards, although he had allowed the court to proceed on that assumption for a considerable time. Subsequently, when his friends the Communists produced the money he told the court that it had not had this power for three years.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Minister entitled to refer to the right honorable member for Barton as a friend of Communists ?
– I withdraw the word “ friends “ and substitute “ associates “.
-The right honorable member for Barton is present and has so far taken no objection to the words of the Minister.
– I object to the statement of the Minister. I have objected repeatedly to such statements in this House, but you, Mr. Speaker, have allowed them to be made.
-If the right honorable gentleman objects to the term he ma; ask for its withdrawal, and I shall enforce its withdrawal.
– I do .ask for its withdrawal.
– Then the Minister will withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it unreservedly, and merely state the fact that since 1947 either the right honorable member for Barton, who for a part of that time was Attorney-General, sat tight and allowed the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to act under the false assumption that the legislation gave it certain power, or he was unaware that the legislation did not give it that power. If the former was the case, his action was very improper, and if the latter, he must have made a very poor Attorney-General. Three years after his legislation had brought about the position that we are now seeking to cure, he argued that since 1947 there had been no power to treat for contempt. In court Judge Foster said to him, in effect, “ It is an extraordinary thing, Dr. Evatt, for you to argue here that for apparently three years while your Government was in power you allowed us to assume that we had the power which you now say we do not possess “.
– I ask for a withdrawal of those words ; they are offensive and quite false. I put forward no such argument as the Minister suggests I advanced.
– The right honorable member for Barton has taken objection to the remarks of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) and I ask the Minister to withdraw them.
– I withdraw them, unreservedly. I now direct attention to something that I am sure the right honorable member for Barton will agree with; that is, section 9 of the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act. During his speech he said, in effect -
This proposal cuts across the very basis of the present act, which assumes that conciliation should fix definitely the penalties for breaches, because it gives power to the court to act by way of injunction, and so to .punish.
Of course he claims that that is a terrible thing. But he did the same thing himself eighteen months ago! Section 9 (1) of the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act 1949 reads-
The court shall have jurisdiction to make such orders for injunctions as it thinks necessary for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the provisions of this act.
And in that case the court referred to is the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It is a bright bit of work for an honorable member to rise in this House and try to mislead the people of the country into thinking that by the bill before the House, which provides for the same thing in respect of awards of the court, the Government is doing something which is regressive and reactionary, and even fascist in concept. In reply to that I say that the members of the fascist government of 1949 are now in Opposition, but there is nothing strange in their having changed their minds because when the Child Endowment Bill, the Communist Party Dissolution Bill and the National Service Bill were before the House they were very certain that they were going to fight each of those measures to the death, even if it meant going to the country, yet subsequently they changed their minds and did not fight so fiercely.
– The Minister must not develop that line of argument.
– I have said enough to make my point. I direct attention to the fact that any suggestion to the effect that the injunction method of proceeding is particularly objectionable comes very strangely from honorable members opposite in the light of the fact that the right honorable member for Barton himself provided specifically for that procedure in section 9 of the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act of 1949. Now what is the issue that confronts this country ? The Labour party has the habit of saying that it stands for arbitration, yet actually does its utmost to destroy it. It says that it opposes communism, and yet does its utmost to foster it. In conciliation I agree that injunctions find no place, but in arbitration either a court must be able to enforce its authority or it can have no worthwhile authority at all. Under section 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act it is provided that the court shall have power to impose penalties and to order compliance with an order or award proved to the satisfaction of the court to have been broken or not observed. The following paragraph reads : -
According to the interpretation placed on the section by the High Court, the court has power to enjoin compliance with any award it makes only by way of fine, which method has proved completely useless in enforcing the law. The Labour party must face this issue clearly. Is arbitration to be a system under which men may go to the court for an award which, if in their favour they will enforce against an employer, but if against them they will disregard and reserve the right to strike ? Is the facility to move as an organized society more important than the concept that men shall always have the right to strike?
– Does the honorable member believe that men have a right to strike?
– Subject to a qualification, yes.
– What is the qualification ?
– The right should be limited to cases in which a grave injustice is done. Where there is a grave injustice a question of contempt can hardly, if ever, arise.
Mr. SPENDER.^! speak with some experience in respect of these matters. When men are on strike against an order of the court and they are called before the court to answer contempt proceedings, the degree of the punishment, if any, is a matter solely for the court. Not one occasion can be pointed to in the history of the court on which it has invoked contempt proceedings in the case of a gross injustice. It is quite true that any man may say, “ There is an injustice here “. In fact that is what the Communists say to-day in respect of these awards. They said it in exactly the same words as were used by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). They say that there is an injustice, because it is the Communists’ technique to manufacture or use alleged industrial grievances to advance their political ends. Yet in respect of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court it is clear enough that the judges have always stood for a fair deal to both sides, particularly to the employees’ organizations.
– The Minister knows that the Gallagher award is unjust.
– I know nothing of the kind. Even if it were unjust, the remedy would be simple enough. Mr. Gallagher has said more than once that if his award is unjust and gives rise to anomalies, the miners’ federation can go back to him, and, if they do so, he will deal immediately with the complaints that they make. But the miners have said, “ No, we shall not do that. We defy arbitration “. Mr. Gallagher has invited them more than once to return to. him, as the Joint Coal Board has also done during the last two or three weeks, but the miners have said, “We stand by direct action and by nothing else “. We are confronted now with direct action aimed at the community, and the Labour party in this chamber is supporting that direct action, which may destroy the law and certainly will destroy the authority of the Parliament itself.
It is well that we should understand what is the real background of this matter. In truth, the Labour party is not speaking as a party here. That is where the second issue of parliamentary government against government by an outside body arises in this debate. It is clear that the Labour party has not given its consideration to this matter, but that it has been told what to do. You were told what to do in respect of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, you were told what to do in respect of the Child Endowment Bill, and you were told what to do in respect of the National Service Bill.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! There are too many interjections. I ask the Minister to be good enough to address me and not the members of the Labour party. I am here for that purpose.
– What the Government is seeking to do by means of this measure is something that can already be done in the courts. It is not readily understood that if an employer is suffering damage as the result of a breach of an arbitration award, he can go, not to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but to a judge in equity and apply for an injunction restraining persons from infringing the award. If the injunction is not obeyed, the Equity Court can punish the offenders by fine or imprisonment. It is a strange thing that, although an employer can go to the Equity Court and apply for an injunction restraining persons from breaking an award, honorable gentlemen opposite apparently contend that the community should be powerless in that respect and liable to be held to ransom.
The crisis with which we are confronted in the world to-day is so well known that even the members of the Labour party ought to be aware of it, but the fact is that our capacity to prepare against emergency is, very largely, dependent upon two or three unions, against the Communist leaders of which this bill is primarily directed. It is just as stupid to argue that it is directed against the ordinary unionists as it was to argue, for example, that there would be a Hytten pool of unemployment as soon as the present Government parties were returned to power. The people are awake to that one, so much so that they hardly believe one word that comes from Labour’s mouth. Honorable gentlemen opposite have said those things and they have been proved to be untrue. We are seeking to give the Commonwealth Arbitration Court certain power. If the judges of the court are useless, they ought to be dismissed. If the view of honorable gentlemen opposite is that the judges of the court are not responsible men, let them say so. Is that their view ?
– Gallagher is not.
– I am asking about the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court at the moment. There is silence about that matter.
– What about Lukin?
– Never mind about Lukin. I am asking about the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. There is dead silence about it. Apparently honorable gentlemen opposite do not deny that the judges of that court are responsible nien. If they are responsible men, then they should be regarded as being able to deal fairly with issues that are brought before them.
– They can make mistakes.
– Of course they can make mistakes. Even the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) occasionally makes a mistake. The judges of any court can make mistakes, because we all are human. It is my view that, in respect of this bill, there is a cardinal point of policy for the people to determine. It is whether the Labour party is to stand by arbitration or, time and again, to mouth that it does so and then do all that it can to destroy arbitration.
I have pointed out that what we are trying to do is something that was, in my view, existent before 1947. 1 have pointed out that, in any event, since 1947 the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has had unlimited power to deal, by way of contempt proceedings or fines, with breaches of the act. Since 1947 the only limitation of the court’s power has been that it could not deal with persons, by way of contempt proceedings, for breaches of an award made under the act. If, as is clear enough, awards made by the court to-day cannot be enforced because the court is bereft of the power necessary to enable it to enforce them - a power which, if I may say so, the court says itself it ought to possess - are we to say that that power shall be denied to it, knowing very well that the result will be further chaotic conditions in industry and a further breakdown of our capacity to prepare ourselves to meet an emergency? That is the real issue. There is not very much in this bill with which I need deal except that specific matter. The bill itself is a short one, containing only limited provisions. The one to which I have referred is designed to give to the court, on behalf of the community and not on behalf of any employer, power to enforce the law.
– When did the community ask for it ?
– The community has asked for it time and time again because it is suffering from blackouts and shor tages of food and various commodities that have been caused because we are without power, without coal and without steel.
– We shall soon be without the Minister.
– That is true, but my voice will be heard from elsewhere. The Labour party will be judged outside this House upon the attitude that it adopts to this measure. Time and time again, honorable gentlemen opposite have pretended to the people of Australia that they are determined to fight insurrection in the industrial field. During the last three or four weeks they have said repeatedly, “ Why did not you do what Mr. Chifley did during the 1947 coal strike ? ‘’ But when we ask for just one provision, of the bill that the Chifley Government introduced then, our object being to give to the court the power to make orders by way of injunction, we are told that the Labour party will defeat the bill in the other chamber and then go to the people upon it. That would be a very good thing indeed.
It is clear to the people of this country that some sections of the Labour movement have been indoctrinated with communism. .1 do not deny that there are many members of the movement who hate communism as much as we do, but there is no doubt whatever that there is an industrial section of the movement, particularly in New South Wales, that is deeply steeped in communism. We have some of its members in this House. If I were at liberty to tell what I know-
– Why does the honorable gentleman not do so?
– The honorable member for East Sydney should not encourage me to do so, because it concerns his special association with the Communist party of New South Wales, but the situation does not require an example to be made of one individual.
– I rise to order. The Minister has referred to alleged connexions that I have with the Communist party in New South Wales. I regard that remark as offensive and ask that it be withdrawn.
– I ask the Minister to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, unreservedly. That is the third occasion on which I have withdrawn a remark unreservedly, but the people of this country know as well as I do what I think.
There are two issues : first, whether the industrial law of this country or direct action shall prevail; and secondly, whether this Parliament is to be governed, as far as the Labour party is concerned, from outside or inside the Parliament.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired’.
Mr.CAL WELL (Melbourne) [9.10].- The House has been regaled with a bitter tirade by the departing Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender). This is his swan song. He has finished on the note on which he began his political career; that is, hostility to the working class. The speech that he has just delivered is in consonance with the tenor of the bill, which is designed to declare strikes illegal and to give effect to an amendment which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) moved to the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Bill in 1947, when he was Leader of the Opposition. A part of that amendment read as follows : -
The following strikes shall be unlawful: -
Any strike against the terms of an award of the court or of a Conciliation Commissioner.
Any strike which occurs in the course of an industrial dispute of which the Court or a Conciliation Commissioner has cognizance.
The amendment covers a half-page of. Hansard. It. referred to the people who couldbe cited and the penalties that could be imposed, which were up to £1,000 in the case of an organization and £100 in the case of an individual. The amendment was pressed to a vote. Most of those honorable members opposite who, on the 30th April, 1947, voted on the amendment to declare strikes illegal are, unfortunately, still with us. The only one who is leaving the sinking ship is the Minister for External Affairs, and he, according to rumour, was made to walk the plank. It is all right for him to come here to-night and say that he is not in favour of declaring strikes illegal and that he believes in strikes subject to one qualification, but upon that occasion he was paired as voting for the amendment, moved by his leader, to declare strikes illegal. He was not present in the House that night, but in the last Parliament his absence was not an occasional happening. He was scarcely ever present. On that occasion his vote was recorded as favouring the denial of the worker’s right to withdraw his labour, if the worker believed that to be necessary.
The worker is the man who suffers most in a strike. He has to penalize himself and his dependants in order that he may get what he believes to be economic justice. No worker ever strikes only for the fun of striking or because he believes in the luxury of striking. The worker withdraws his labour because, acting collectively with his fellows, he feels that is the only weapon that he can use to secure what he believes to be a fair return for the labour that he sells or to get the conditions to which he believes he is entitled. But other people in this community are not treated harshly by this reactionary Government if they decide that the commodity that they have to sell shall be withheld from the community until they can obtain for it the price that they want. The worker must not withdraw his labour, but tanners in New South Wales can hold back leather, and thus deprive the community of boots in order that they may get the price that they want. Zinc can be exported from this country because higher prices can be obtained for it overseas than here. Australians who need galvanized iron and other commodities have to go without them. Lead is in the same category. This Government does not propose to take punitive action against the class that it represents in politic? for their anti-social acts.
This bill will deny the worker not only the right to strike, but also the right to refuse to obey any one condition of an award. A worker may work a 40-hour week and produce all that the employer ordinarily requires him to produce in a 40-hour week, but if he says that he will not work overtime because to do so would be to act in some way detrimental to his interests, he may be sent to gaol for an unlimited time for contempt of court, not because of anything he has said against the authority of the court but because he has refused to obey a provision of an award of the court. This is the first time that such a principle has been introduced into a bill brought before this Parliament. An arbitration bill which dealt with the repeal of certain penalties was introduced in 1930 during the days of the Scullin Government. The then Leader of the Opposition is now the Chief Justice of Australia, Sir John Latham. I commend his view to the political troglodytes of to-day who seek to place this measure on the statute-book. He said -
I believe that it is not sound to make either a lock-out or a strike a criminal offence. I am, and I have always been, of the opinion that such penalties tend to bring the law into contempt. It is impossible by any form of legal process to compel large bodies of men to work on terms unacceptable to them.
I his Government believes .that it oan do what a greater and more experienced lawyer than any of its members said could not be done. Mr. Latham continued -
The penalties provided are ineffective to restore operations in industry and I think experience has shown that whenever an effort has been made to enforce these sections it has always been disappointing in the practical effect of restoring operations in industry. Nothing is gained by a mere imposition of a penalty in a case unless it makes the wheels of industry revolve again, and it appears to me that these penalties do not do that.
Sir John Latham was the AttorneyGeneral in the Bruce-Page Government which tried to impose penalties during the timber workers’ strike. In 1929 the Bruce-Page Government fell and the then Prime Minister of Australia was beaten because he proposed to abolish arbitration. He was defeated by the present right honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) who was one of the trade union leaders who was fined under the punitive sections of the Bruce-Page arbitration legislation. It is idle for honorable members opposite to say that they believe in arbitration. Three members of the Government have voted to destroy the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. They are the Minister for the Army and Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis), the Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. White) and the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). Those three Ministers voted to destroy the arbitration system in 1929 by refusing organized workers access to the court unless they were engaged in the maritime industries. Now they tell us that they have always fought for arbitration and that it is only the Communists who oppose arbitration. The Labour party made arbitration possible and without the support of organized trade unionism there would never have been an arbitration system. If the trade union movement were destroyed the antiLabour forces would again bring forward legislation to do what they failed to do in 1929. The worker has to be organized because he cannot protect himself without organization. The worker undertakes an unequal struggle in trying to exact from his employer even the modicum of income and support that he receives from the basic wage, a basic wage which provides only the barest essentials of existence for himself and those dependent on him. After listening to honorable members opposite one would believe that it is only the Communists who have caused the trouble.
– Order ! The honorable member will address me.
– I was addressing you, Mr. Speaker, although I was pitching my voice at the top of the ceiling.
– I am the one to be spoken to.
– I was saying that this Government wants trade unionism to be some sort of tame unionism. It wants company unionism, not a vibrant militant unionism which seeks nothing more than a fair return for the labour power of unionists. I believe that the workers themselves have to deal with Communist domination of certain of their unions but that it is going to be a long process. I do not think that one can destroy ideas in a day and one cannot kill the evil of communism, which is only a by-product of capitalism, except by means of a long period of education. The evils which we talk about as communistic spring from the teachings of some of the people who engineered the French Revolution. Those teachings have persisted for 150 years and will not now be killed in a day,, a week, or a, generation. We have communism because we have capitalism and’ if we get rid of capitalism we shall get rid of communism. There are some people who think that it is only necessary for all parties to band together in a campaign against communism. I refuse to be banded with a lot of people who want to fight communism. Hitler and Mussolini would have qualified for the company of some honorable members opposite because they certainly were anti-Communist. Communism has to be fought by the workers themselves but one cannot destroy communism by destroying trade unionism. That is a fact, but honorable members opposite do not seem to realize that it is. Honorable members have been told by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) that Labour members had an opportunity to show whether they were prepared to back the arbitration system or condone those who embarked on a system of industrial lawlessness. The lawlessness that exists iri this community is due more to the rapacity, greed and avarice of the employing classes than to the activities of the Communists. If the Government wants to allay industrial unrest it should carry out its election promise to put value back into the fi. When the worker finds his purchasing power diminishing he wants more wages and he objects to being pegged down to a mere subsistence level while he reads balance-sheets which show that more and more profits are being reaped by fewer and fewer people.
The Minister sought to give the impression that communism is the sole influence at work to-day in causing industrial upheavals. The Labour party denies that. At its triennial conference last Sunday it passed this resolution -
The Federal Conference of the Australian Labour party expresses its profound concern with respect to the disturbed industrial situation prevalent throughout Australia. Whilst we are prepared to concede that certain political influences are at work which materially assist in the creation of this situation both from the extreme left and the extreme right, we are strongly of the opinion that legitimate industrial disputation is taking place. The sole responsibility for this unrest cannot be placed on the shoulders of employees’ organizations, but governments, employers’ organizations and industrial tribunals generally must share this responsibility. The present industrial unrest in Australia is accentuated by the living standard of the workers being decreased by the failure of the Federal Government to arrest the dangerous inflationary condition. We declare our support to the trade union movement in its fight for the retention of its traditional right to strike for the betterment of wages and working conditions and the rectification of industrial injustices.
The Labour movement does not believe in political strikes. It does not believe that the trade unions should use political strikes for conspiratorial purposes. In 1949 when the Labour Government was faced with a conspiracy in the form of an attempt by the Communist party to use legitimate trade unionism for its own revolutionary purposes the Government met the situation firmly and won the fight for Australia as well as for itself. The Government did not threaten all sorts of strong action at some time in the future. It did not talk for weeks. But nobody can say with truth that there is not in the case of the waterside workers and the coal-miners ample justification for their refusal to work under awards which were wished on to them by Judge Kirby, a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and by Mr. Gallagher without the employers having asked for the form of award that was made. The employers themselves were surprised at what happened. If it has taken some time to bring conditions back to normal that cannot be held to be the fault of the trade unions concerned. The Melbourne Branch of the Waterside Workers’ Federation is 75 per cent. antiCommunist. The leaders of that branch are all Australian Labour party members, who win their ballots, three to one, against the Communists. They were as much incensed by this award as was anybody else and they took the lead in declaring a ban on overtime. Under this legislation they all could be gaoled. Judging by its past performances, the first people whom the Government would gaol would be members of the Australian Labour party. The honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) was a member and the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) was a supporter of the Victorian State Government which passed legislation under which seventeen Labour men were prosecuted. No action was taken against Communists, but one Labour man who was sick in bed at home at the time at which the meeting was held received a summons which charged him with having incited a strike. Honorable members of the Opposition do not trust anti-Labour forces with a provision which entitles the Attorney-General to go into a court while a dispute is in progress and. request the judge to take action against the strikers. As I have already said, the provision which the House is considering has been embodied in a bill for the first time. The AttorneyGeneral is supposed to go into the court in the public interest. If he goes in at all, under an anti-Labour government, he will go in to preserve the interests of the employers and of nobody else.
The Minister, in introducing the bill, said that it was believed that all those powers which the Government now seeks to incorporate in the act were inherent in the 1947 legislation. That legislation was introduced by a government of which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), as well as myself, and a number of other honorable members of the Opposition who are present to-night were members. We never at any time believed that the provision which the Minister seeks to convince the House itwas the intention of the Parliament to enact was included in the bill or was intended to be included in it. Mr. Justice Dixon, when he gave his judgment last Monday in the case which it seems gave rise to this legislation had not the slightest difficulty in reaching the conclusion that the powers which the Minister says were in the legislation by implication were never there at all. Mr. Justice Dixon’s judgment read -
The whole question of the enforcement of orders as well as awards having received the particular attention of the legislature and specific statutory provisions having been made for the purpose giving a guarded summary remedy, it must be taken to exclude recourse to the summary jurisdiction belonging at common law to a superior court of record to enforce its orders by fine, imprisonment, or sequestration for contempt of its authority.
I have cited Mr. Justice Dixon by way of contradiction of the departing King’s Counsel who for some years has represented the electorate of Warringah in this chamber and who to-night recited what the Minister for Labour and National Service had said in order to make the people believe what the Government wants them to believe. This Government is weighted down with legal authorities. It has four King’s Counsellors and two other lawyers. No wonder it is in difficulties! No wonder it does not know what its legislation means! No wonder it is always speculating whether the High Court or some other tribunal is likely to upset some law that it wants to enforce !
If this bill represents a genuine attempt by the Government to attack communism, why does it not wait until the High Court hands down its judgment to-morrow in relation to the Communist Party Dissolution Act? Should that judgment be favorable to the Government, it will have nothing further to worry about as far as Communists are concerned because it will be able to remove them from the trade unions and they will cause no more trouble. Should the judgment be unfavorable to the Government, it will have to consider some other way of dealing with communism. But no ideology and no ism allegedly associated with the trade unions or any other movement will ever be killed by repression. The people must be educated. Appeals must be made to their better instincts and their moral principles. No government will ever destroy anything that it dislikes by acts of parliament alone. The Minister who is about to leave us, and who may not complete his five years’ term in Washington-
– Order ! That has nothing to do with the bill.
– It has a lot to do with him.
– The Minister for External Affairs is not the subject of the bill.
– The Minister, who left the chamber so hurriedly a few moments ago, said that one union after another was going on strike week after week and strangling the economy of the nation.’ That is not so. There are not many strikes in Australia to-day.
Government supporters interjecting,
– There are strikes in certain industries. The Government cannot have it both ways. In 1950 it told the country that the Menzies Government had gained a record volume of coal production. Now it tells us that the
Communists in the coal-mining industry are wrecking the nation. Either one story or the other is true. Both of them cannot be true.
Had it not been for the award which I have mentioned there would not be a strike in the coal-mining industry to-day. In fact, there is not a strike in the sense that everybody in the industry is out of work, as happened during the regime of the Chifley Government in 1949. There is a series of one-day strikes. They are protest strikes. They are an indication to the Government and the country that the miners want something better than they are getting. The award against which they are protesting provides that they must work ten days continuously before they can receive the fi a week bonus by way of incentive. The miners of Australia have never worked ten days straight at any time, even during periods of depression. The coal-mining industry is a very hard and exacting industry. Not one honorable member on the Government side of the House has ever been down a coal mine and not one of them would ever want to work in a. mine. Any man who works down a mine for three or four days running is entitled to withdraw his labour if he wants to do so. “Why should he not do so ? If members of the capitalist classes in this country can take afternoons off so that Norman von Nida may teach them how to play golf, why cannot a coalminer absent himself from a mine so as to enjoy God’s fresh air and see the sunshine for one day in every five or six working days?
The mining industry is not an attractive industry. In 1924, when we had a population of 6,000,000, there were 24,000 coal-miners in Australia. To-day, with the population swollen by 2,500,000, we have only 18,000 men who are prepared to work in the coal mines and the number is still decreasing. Mothers do not want their children to go down into the mines. They believe that their children have as much right to work above ground as have the children of persons who can afford to send their offspring to wealthy private schools. If there is to be any more talk of dragooning the miners, using man-power controls and empowering the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to enforce awards, let some of the individuals who criticize the miners but have never hewed a ton of coal in their lives do some of that unpleasant work. The miners may have Communist leaders. “Well, that communism which is bred in the mining areas arises from the filth, the destitution and the poverty which were the lot of the miners for many years! Only in recent times has the miner come to be recognized as an important member of society. The Government complains that we need more coal. Of course we do. We ought to have twice or three times as much coal as we have at the moment. Nobody wants to stop production or to encourage a go-slow policy.
– The Communist does.
– Nobody with any patriotism wants to do so. However, in order to kill the Communists in industry, figuratively speaking, the Government is not entitled to slaughter everybody else as well or to impose penalties on the overwhelming number of miners who are decent people in the coal-mining industry. The way in which the miners and the waterside workers have been held up to ridicule and obloquy by supporters of the Government to-night would tend to make the people believe that they constitute a fifth column and that everybody employed in the two industries is an enemy or a potential enemy. Those men are just as good Australians as is anybody in this House, and they are just as good workers as is anybody else in industry. If the Government can cure the evils in the coalmining industry it need not worry about anybody else because, when that industry i3 set right, there will be no need to talk about blackouts or other restrictions.
My final point is that this legislation will hit only the trade unions that are registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The unions that have been deregistered will not be affected by it. The Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia is not registered and has not been registered for a long time past. The Building Workers Industrial Union has not been registered in the court for a long time. The tramways organization, which is Communist-controlled in some States, and non-Communist in others, while the federal control is nonCommunist, has been deregistered. The Communist unions have only to withdraw from the court and depend on industrial action if they want to escape the penalties for which this bill provides. Because of the way in which the economy of Australia is swollen at present, with about 250,000 more jobs available than there are workers to fill them, no union would have much difficulty in enforcing its just demands upon the employers in any industry by means of industrial action alone. Therefore, the bill must fail in its main purpose. It is a placard, a stunt, another of the antiCommunist measures that are designed to distract the attention of the people from the worsening condition of our economy. Every political failure in history has resorted to such tricks in order to divert attention from the domestic scene to a consideration of troubles overseas or in an attempt to make a scapegoat of some minority or other in the community. And nobody can honestly say that the present Prime Minister of Australia is not a political failure.
– in reply - When I opened the general debate on this bill, I carefully avoided going into the details of the merits of industrial disputes that are under public notice at present. I did so deliberately, and I said at the time that I did not wish to obscure the judgment of the Parliament concerning the objects of the measure. In view of the limited time that is available to me to reply to the debate, I do not propose to devote much time to factual matters because I believe that we can concentrate more usefully upon the arguments that have been presented to us. However, there are three matters of a factual kind which I consider that I should clarify at the outset because confusion in relation to them has crept into more than one speech.
The first of these matters is concerned in references that were made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to the decision of Judge Kirby to alter the divisor that is applied to the earnings of mem bers of the Waterside Workers Federation. I am certain that the honorable member for Bendigo, and no doubt the honorable member for East Sydney as well, did not intend to mislead the House deliberately. However, the statement was made that Judge Kirby did not have before him when he made the decision any application for an alteration of the divisor. In fairness to the learned judge, I assure the House that that statement was incorrect. I have here a transcript of the proceedings over which he presided on the 18th December last, in which it appears clearly that both parties, the owners and the Waterside Workers Federation, had made submissions to the learned judge relating to the owners’ application for an alteration of the divisor. Indeed, the employers had gone so far as to ask that the hourly divisor should be made 40 instead of 30, the figure which then obtained. Discussion centred not only upon that figure, but also upon the figures 32 and 33, and finally the judge decided that a proper divisor for the industry was 32 hours. It is of interest to note that the decision has since been confirmed in substance by the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in dealing with the Storeman and Packers Union.
The second matter arises from the references that were made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to the conditions under which coal-miners work. We have had in this Parliament far too much of the kind of propaganda which describes the coalminers as a race apart with different attributes from those of other members of the industrial community. Of course, coal-mining is an unusual occupation, but there are many unusual occupations in Australia and many men follow avocations which are unlike those of most of their fellows. We do not hear all sorts of talk in this House about the psychology of the cane-cutter, the seaman, or the glass-blower. But we hear a great deal about the psychology of the coal-miner, as though his conditions of work call for some special consideration.
– So they do !
– There is no better answer to that interjection than that which is supplied by the coal-miners themselves.
I remind honorable members of what has been happening on the coal-fields of Western Australia. I am sure that members of the Opposition will concede that, if it be psychologically disturbing for a man to go underground in New South Wales, it must be equally disturbing for him to go underground in Tasmania, Western Australia or Victoria. In no other State have we had the same industrial experiences on the coal-fields as we have had in New South Wales. The record of the coal-miners of Collie in Western Australia over the last twelve months, ever since they cut themselves off from their affiliation with the miners’ federation in New South Wales, is that they have not lost one working day as the result of an industrial dispute. Therefore, there is nothing inherent in their occupation which leads coal-miners into industrial lawlessness.
The third matter that I wish to clarify is the reference that was made to my claim in my introductory speech that the prime purpose of this legislation is to give back to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court an authority to deal with offenders by way of injunction which the Government believed, and which honorable members opposite, if they were sincere, would admit that they believed, was possessed by the court until the High Court delivered its judgment earlier this week. I point out to the House that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court itself held that view until this week. Nobody on the other side of the chamber has denied that. A majority of the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court so decided only last year. Therefore, when I said that the Government had set out to restore to the court a power which previously everybody believed that it had, I stated no more than the truth.
I turn now to the argument that honorable members opposite have advanced in the course of this debate. We must consider that argument against the background of to-day’s realities. What are those realities? We have a tragic spread of industrial lawlessness in vital industries and essential services. We find that the control of key industries and services is in the hands of Communist leadership. I am sure that honorable members opposite, if they spoke what is in their hearts, would express no illusion about the objective of the Communists, particularly in relation to the arbitration system. The Communists make no secret of their determination to smash that system as a part of a process of weakening the industrial fabric of the country and of softening up the country in preparation for the time when they can make their assault and take it by force. That is the Communist technique and the Communist declared purpose in every democratic country to-day.
That is a part of the background against which we must consider this problem. Having regard to those circumstances, it is not a coincidence that last year in Australia 90 per cent. of all working days lost through strikes were lost as the result of strikes that were conducted under Communist leadership. The Communists do not control anything like that proportion of trade unions in this country. I accept the view expressed by honorable members opposite that the great majority of trade unionists are loyally accepting the arbitration system; and, looking at their awards, I am glad to be able to say that they do not suffer by reason of that fact. The great Australian Workers Union, which, numerically, is the most powerful trade union in Australia, believes in arbitration, and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) for one would not suggest that the industrial leadership of that union has been so ineffective that it has not been able to secure, in comparison with other sections of industry, just terms for those who come within its jurisdiction. That union is an arbitration union. On the other hand, I repeat, 90 per cent. of all days lost in Australia last year were lost as the result of strikes that were conducted by Communists. Whilst directing attention to that tragic result, I also pay tribute to the overwhelming mass of trade unionists who have been prepared to uphold the industrial law and to stand by arbitration.
Against that background what has the Government sought to do under this legislation? It has sought to protect the community and the arbitration system against assaults by those who would defy it. Does any honorable member opposite claim that the sanctions available either to governments or to the court to deal with the kind of assault that! have indicated are adequate? One honorable member opposite described this measure, which I have had the privilege of introducing, as a declaration of war upon organized labour.
– So it is.
M’r. HOLT. - And that view is echoed by other honorable members opposite. In a purely personal sense I find that charge refreshingly novel, because in recent weeks I have had to defend myself, almost daily, against those who say that I am too softhearted in my handling of the trade unions. Now, it is claimed that I have declared war upon them. That is an allegation which, perhaps, in other jurisdictions would call for an inquiry. What we have set out to do is to protect .the community by way of providing adequate sanctions and to safeguard it against the kind of assault under Communist leadership that I have indicated. Honorable members opposite have criticized the measure as though the Government was seeking to place unlimited powers in the hands of irresponsbile men who would exercise them in a mischievous and damaging way. It has been implied that individuals may be sentenced to long terms of imprisonment or even to imprisonment for life. When one honorable member opposite asked by way of interjection, when the right honorable member for Barton was speaking, whether under this measure the court could order a term of imprisonment for life, the right honorable gentleman, who is leading for the Opposition on the measure, (replied, “ Yes, that is the case “. Did the right honorable gentleman seriously intend to convey the impression that he himself believes that Hr’-‘ power would be used irresponsibly, recklessly or in such a way as to impose unduly harsh penalties upon those who defy awards of the court? If he did suggest that, he has a very low opinion of tribunals which have been largely Staffed by appointees from his own side of politics. I have a much higher regard for the gentlemen who compose the Common wealth Arbitration Court. I emphasize that this power is not to be entrusted to a single judge. The union, individual or employers’ organization concerned will have the satisfaction of knowing .that any action taken will be taken only by the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and I do not ‘think that any honor able member will argue that that provision in itself is not a very important safeguard.
So, I make the charge that the attitude of honorable members opposite when viewed against the background that I have indicated, and against the total inadequacy, now disclosed, of the sanctions at present available to the Government or to arbitration, tribunals in this country, is hopelessly unreal. Honorable members opposite say, in effect, that force must not be used in industrial affairs, that you can lead the Australian unionist but cannot drive him. There is some justification foa? that view, of course. But is it suggested that no matter what assaults may be made upon the community, and no matter what loss the community may be called upon to suffer because of industrial lawlessness, the Government is to hold its hands helplessly by its sides and tak© no action whatever? That would be a hopeless attitude to adopt, and I am certain that the Australian community, harrassed and crippled as it is at present by the disastrous hold-ups in industry, would not tolerate it for an instant.
Honorable In em,bers opposite have also advanced the argument that the arbitration tribunals are not infallible. I realize that to be a fact. After all, they consist of human beings like ourselves. But if it be merely argued that tribunals are not infallible, all that I can say is that there must be a point of determination somewhere; there must be an umpire placed at some point who is able to give a final decision. Because the Government recognized that from time to time events might reveal that a tribunal could have acted differently had certain facts been placed before it, it has, itself, recommended at all times that there should be a limited right of appeal - not an automatic right of appeal which would clutter up the court with litigation but a limited right which the court could determine in instances in which fresh evidence was revealed which might lead the court to come to a different decision. Even though honorable members opposite have refused that right of appeal and have taken as their settled policy-
– In arbitral matters.
– Enforcement of awards is not an arbitral matter.
– Even though honorable members opposite have taken that view, I find that in both the immediate cases that have caused public discussion, although there was no appeal from the decision of the authority, nevertheless the authority has indicated its willingness to hear the parties on any fresh argument, or evidence, that they could present to him. So, whilst tribunals are not infallible, every opportunity possible is taken to ensure that they shall mete out justice and fair dealing. We have also been told that Communists have not been in charge of disputes that have occurred in some industries. I do not doubt that. We experienced industrial disputes long before Communists appeared in Australia, and if we are successful, as we sincerely hope we shall be, in burning this industrial dross out of our industrial life, no doubt industrial issues will arise in future in which strike action will be taken. But that is not the real problem that confronts this country to-day, or the problem which the Government now seeks to remedy. The real challenge that it sets out to meet is the challenge of sinister, subversive and disruptive communism, which is so placed in industrial unions that it can attack the country whenever it chooses and cripple our economic development. Had it not been for that problem, this legislation would not have seen the light of day. That is my answer to those who say that we shall always have industrial troubles with us. We have had industrial disputes in the past, but, today, the public is in need of protection and it is the responsibility not only of the Government but also of every honorable member to ensure that the community shall receive the protection that it so sorely needs at present.
Finally, I shall test the sincerity of honorable members opposite. I have not heard any of them argue that the sanctions that exist in our legislation at present are adequate to meet the kind of problem with which the community is confronted. If they hold that view, let them say so and we shall know where they stand, but, if they do not hold it, this measure presents to them an opportunity to say, in effect, to the Government, if they choose to do so, “You are going too far in this matter. We believe that there should be some limit placed upon the penalties that the court can impose. We believe that this legislation should have some limit of time placed upon it. If you are really out to get at the Communist, and he is placed in a certain key industry, we believe that this measure should not be applied to industry generally, but should be applied only to industries with which you are concerned “. That is the kind of argument that honorable members have advanced in this debate. To-morrow, the bill will be considered in committee. If honorable members opposite believe with the Government that existing sanctions are inadequate but hold the view that this measure goes too far, I invite them to say in what respect the sanctions should be limited. Should they be limited in point of time, in degree of penalty or in respect of the particular industries to which we direct them? If that is the view of honorable members opposite, let them put a constructive series of suggestions before the Parliament. Our task is to solve this problem and to prevent industrial strife. The approach that honorable members opposite have made to the problem has been entirely negative and destructive. If they genuinely desire to help their fellow men and women in this country to blot out the disorder which is corrupting our life at present this measure presents to them an opportunity to remedy the position. Australia is threatened with industrial anarchy and the people look to the Government and to the courts to protect them. The decision of the Labour caucus to reject this legislation in another place means, in effect, that the courts are to remain powerless to deal with defiance of their awards. It means that the Australian Government is expected to fight Communist disruption of industry with its hands tied behind ite back. The Labour party is aiming a body blow at the arbitration system. It has given an open invitation to certain bodies to engage in industrial lawlessness and has left the community wide open to Communist assault.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
.-I desire to bring to the notice ofthe Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. White) a matter that dates back to October of last year about which I have had numerous communications from the Shire of Keilor, containing complaints about the noise nuisance at Essendon aerodrome. In the course of my routine duty I passed those complaints on to the Minister for Civil Aviation, who, in correspondence, informed the Keilor Shire Council that it would be impossible to reduce the noise that had been complained of. The Keilor Shire Council was dissatisfied with that reply and asked the Minister to receive a deputation from it. In addition, the Essendon City Council, whose area abuts on the Essendon aerodrome, made the same complaint about noise. Eventually the Minister agreed to receive a joint deputation from the Essendon City Council and the Keilor Shire Council in order to hear their representations. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who represents the electorate that includes the Essendon area, accompanied the deputation. I must say that the Minister for Civil Aviation gave the deputation a very patient and courteous hearing and, with the assistance of Air Vice-Marshal Williams, explained very clearly the difficulties associated with the abatement of noises at aerodromes. It was admitted that possibly some anti-noise equipment which has been provided at the aerodrome was not being as fully used as it might be, and finally the Minister, who had been abroad following his appointment to the Cabinet, saw fit to inform the members of the deputation that he considered that possibly the noise nuisance could be somewhat abated if the aerodrome were surrounded by a ring of suitable trees of a kind that would not grow too high, but that would serve the very useful dual purpose of absorbing noise and beautifying the aerodrome. I understand that during his visit abroad the Minister bad seen some method of that kind in practical use. He also mentioned that residents of areas which adjoined aerodromes in overseas countries had formed committees to help the various civil aviation authorities to develop the aerodromes and said it would be a good idea if the surrounding municipalities at Essendon saw fit to form such a committee.
In the first instance - and I emphasize this point - ‘the committee could go to the aerodrome from time to time, see the officer in charge and have directly explained to it the reason for any particular noise that emanated from the aerodrome and the difficulties associated with abating it. They could also be informed of the noise prevention facilities at the aerodrome, the extent to which they were being used, whether they were being used adequately and constantly, and whether aircraft engines were being tuned up in places where they would cause undue noise. That was the -prime purpose of the formation of the committee. In addition, as I have said, the Minister suggested that the local government authorities of the surrounding area could assist in beautifying the aerodrome. I would not say that the municipalities were unduly impressed with ‘that suggestion, but they said that they would agree to the appointment of such a committee, having in view the fact that if the noises from the aerodrome became too great the committee could approach the aerodrome authorities and put its case to them. The committee could then receive from the commanding officer a report on why aircraft engines were tuned up at certain points in the aerodrome rather than at other points, and so a more amicable understanding would be arrived at. That was the position, and I do not think that the Minister will deny that I have stated facts. To the astonishment of the Keilor Shire Council and, I have no doubt, of the Essendon City Council, on the following day there appeared in the Melbourne Argus a report that was headed -
The report read -
Essendon and Keilor councillors went as a i deputation yesterday to Mr. White, Civil
Aviation Minister, determined to wring from him a promise that the noise nuisance at Essendon aerodrome be reduced.
After Mr. White had told them Essendon and Keilor should be proud to have such a busy airport in their area, they came away, promising to form a committee to beautify the aerodrome surroundings.
The deputation came away, in fact, with the impression and the undertaking from the Minister that the committee that was to be formed would be primarily for the purpose of co-operating with the Department of Civil Aviation and the Essendon aerodrome authorities in abating the noise nuisance. The beautification of the aerodrome was secondary to that primary purpose. I have no doubt that the Minister will say that he is not responsible for the headlines that newspapers may put on the hand-outs that he may issue to them. Incidentally I may say that the Minister, despite a strong plea by the deputation, refused to admit the press when he received the deputation. That was his business. But he refused to admit even the representative of the Essendon Gazette, who, after all, was representing the newspaper published in the area primarily concerned with the matter. He stated that if he admitted the representative of the Essendon Gazette he would have to admit fifteen or twenty other pressmen. I think that he might have admitted the representative of the local press. Keilor Shire Council was so incensed about the newspaper report that I have quoted that it sent a strongly worded letter to the Minister. I shall not read it completely, but the relevant portion of it is as follows: - / A very acrimonious discussion ensued in regard to the “ Press Reports “ which appeared dealing with the said deputation, and in this direction, I am to advise if the reports as published were sanctioned by you, that the Council desires to record its protest, &nd at the same time to advise that the Council’s representatives on the fore-mentioned deputation dissociate themselves with the statement because the theme only made reference to Aerodrome beautification, and not to the real reason for the deputation, namely - “ Aerodrome Noises “.
The Minister may say that he is not responsible for the interpretation that the press placed upon his press hand-out, the relevant part of which I shall read. It is of no use for him to say that perhaps his public relations officer did not have a sufficiently complete or accurate report of the deputation becausehe himself is finally responsible, and should ensure that his press hand-outs give an accurate pr?cis of the proceedings. The relevant portion of the Minister’s press hand-out reads as follows : -
We lack here a proper sense of municipal interest in aerodromes-
I assure the House that the Essendon City Council and the Keilor Shire Council have a proper appreciation of the noise nuisance.
Mr.White. - What have they ever done?
– They directed the attention of the Minister courteously to the facts, yet he allowed a gross misrepresentation of them to appear in the press, and offered no apology for having done so, and did not correct it. I return to the Minister’s press hand-out, which continues -
In Holland, every councilhas an aerodrome committee which sees that the aerodrome is a civic centre, and a market place with shops and other amenities to attract the traveller.
That is a good idea and I do not quarrel with it. The press hand-out continues-
Mr. White reminded the Councillors that Australia was the world’s most airminded country, and that half of the people who travelled between Sydney and Melbourne travelled by air. “ Essendon and Keilor should be proud to have Australia’s busiest airport in their midst,” he added.
That is all right. The statement proceeds -
As a result of those suggestions-
The reference is to beautification and amenities -
Essendon and Keilor Councillors agreed to form an aerodrome committee in conjunction with the Broadmeadows Council and the Department of Civil Aviation.
No mention was made of the purpose of the formation of that committee, namely, to consult on the matter of damping down noises at the Essendon aerodrome.
– Such a reference appears in the statement.
– If the Minister alleges that I am misrepresenting him, I shall read further extracts from his press statement.
– I hope that the honorable gentleman will do so. It will be interesting.
– It continues-
In reply Mr. White pointed out that he, like Councillor Dodds, had previously been on the other side of the fence. Years before, he had opposed the development of Essendon as a large commercial airport.
Mr. White made these points ;
Regulations laid down for the use of the east-west runway on all possible occasions are still in force.
The noise arising from railways, busy roads and aeroplanes was part of the price of progress.
I do not quarrel with that statement -
It could not be entirely eliminated although the Department of Civil Aviation was doing all it could to cut down unnecessary noise.
I ask the Minister to inform the House whether he has apologized to the Keilor Shire Council with a view to putting the councillors right with their ratepayers.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has exhausted his time.
.- I direct the attention of the House to the unfair treatment that is meted out to certain recipients of widows’ pensions as a result of the administration of the Social Services Consolidation Act. I do not lodge a complaint against those who administer that act; I believe that the principal reason for the difficulty that has arisen is that the provisions of the act are hopelessly out of date. I raise the matter in the hope that the Minister for Air (Mr. White), who is in charge of the House, will direct the attention of the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) to the position with a view to having the Social Services Consolidation Act, or the regulations thereunder, appropriately amended.
By way of illustration, I point out that a class B widow, who is receiving a pension, is caring for her invalid aunt, who is able to pay 25s. a week as board.I suggest immediately that the payment of such an amount for nursing, feeding and accommodating an invalid would definitely not yield the widow concerned a profit. Actually, she would incur a financial loss. Yet, as the regulations are now drafted, 25 per cent. of the amount that a widow receives from a boarder other than a prescribed member of her family is classified as income. The B class widow to whom I have referred is, in effect, compelled to perform a duty, although any woman with any feelings of charity would care for a sick relative, but, by so doing, she is losing 25 per cent, of the 25s. a week that she receives as board. I defy any one to maintain an adult invalid for 25s. a week, and show a profit. Such would be an utter impossibility under existing conditions. The widow has other income, namely, the permissible 30s. a week, but because she receives board for her sick relative, 83. 3d. a week, or £16 5s. a year, is deducted from her pension. I urge the Minister for Social Services to give sympathetic consideration to this case and to amend the act, or the regulations thereunder, with the object of meeting existing conditions, instead of those that prevailed ten, fifteen or even twenty years ago. It is most unfair, unreasonable and unjust to suggest that a widow who is receiving 25s. a week as board for an invalid adult is able to make a profit of 8s. 3d. a week. Prompt action should be taken to rectify that anomaly.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), in directing the attention of the House to aerodrome noises, alleged that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. White), was guilty of misrepresenting the position, or of permitting it to be misrepresented. I propose to cite another instance in which the Minister has misrepresented the position. Some months ago, I asked him whether there was any basis for a rumour that action was to be taken to compel Qantas Empire Airways Limited to reduce the number of its flights between the mainland of Australia and Lord Howe Island. I have in my hand a copy of the Minister’s reply, which reads as follows: -
I do not know whether such a rumour is circulating as that mentioned by the honorable gentleman. However, I do know that changes have been made on the air route mentioned. Qantas Empire Airways Limited is principally concerned with operating routes from Australia to the United Kingdom to New Guinea and to certain Pacific islands. Lord Howe Island is, of course, administered by the Government of New South Wales. Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited pioneered the air 1 011 te to that island, and that firm is anxious to operate a more regular schedule of flights to the island. Qantas Empire Airways Limited is indifferent about whether it operates a service to Lord Howe Island at all. Some rearrange.went may be made about the number of trips that will be made to the island each month, but whether the service will operate once, twice of thrice weekly, I am unable to say at present.
I went to the trouble of checking the facts. I knew that I had based my question on proper premises, but I made further inquiries in order to confirm the position. I discovered that, far from the facts being as was stated by the Minister, the direct opposite was the case. Trans-Oceanic Airways Limited was not the pioneer of the service between Lord Howe Island and the mainland of Australia.
– Who is the honorable member’s authority for that statement?
– The summary of the facts that I have was supplied to me by the New South Wales Department of Road Transport and Tramways. This is what the file discloses, and I challenge the Minister to bring evidence to refute my statements -
The first applicant for the issue of a licence under the State Transport (Co-ordination) Act-
The Minister will admit that the State transport authorities actually issue the licence -
To operate an air service between Sydney and Lord Howe Island was Captain P. G. Taylor of Sydney. Subsequently advice was furnished that Qantas Empire Airways Limited wished to inaugurate a service to the Island as part of a scheme to provide air services for Norfolk and other Pacific Islands.
Having regard to the views of the Department of Civil Aviation and the Lord Howe Island Board of Control (which favoured the establishment of the service by Qantas) and to the fact that Captain P. G. Taylor did not wish to proceed with his application, recommendation was made on the 2nd September, 1947, that Qantas Empire Airways Limited be issued with a licence authorizing the operation of the service. The department had no knowledge of Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited at that time, and it was not until the 9th December, 1947, that this company submitted an application for the service. After consideration and consultation with the Department of Civil Aviation and the Lord Howe Island Authorities, it was considered that the application by Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited should be declined.
Subsequently, shipping services to Lord Howe Island were interrupted, and there was no prospect of an improvement, because the shipping company was claiming that it was finding it unprofitable to continue the service. At that stage, the position was reviewed, and it was decided that Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited should be permitted to operate a number of charter flights between the mainland of Australia and Lord Howe Island. I understand that that company arranged approximately two flights a month, whereas Qantas Empire Airways Limited operated a weekly service. The Minister stated that Qantas Empire Airways Limited was indifferent about whether or not it operated the service. In my opinion, he deliberately misled the House, because I have communications
– I rise to order. The statement that I deliberately misled the House is offensive to me and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to request the honorable member for East Sydney to withdraw it.
- (Hon. Archie Cameron). Order! The Minister for Civil Aviation has stated that the honorable member’s remark is offensive to him, and, therefore, I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– Very well. I say that the Minister misled the House-
-Order! Will thu honorable member withdraw the remark to which the Minister objected?
– I withdrew it.
– No, the honorable member said “ Very well “.
– I said that the Minister misled the House.
– I did not mislead the House.
– I have in my file-
– What file?
– My own personal file. I have communications from the general manager of Qantas Empire Airways Limited in which it is stated that that organization did not at any time agree to this arrangement, to the reduction of the number of its flights from four to three, and to the increase of the number of flights by Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited from two to three. On the contrary, the general manager of Qantas Empire Airways Limited asked for a review of the decision, and said that it was not acceptable to his company. He wrote -
The limitation of frequencies and division of passengers between two operators created traffic problems which were not satisfactory to us, and in consequence it has been decided by my Company to terminate our services to Lord Howe Island as from the end ot this year.
I shall inform the House of what the Minister has done. Qantas Empire Airways Limited is a company in which public funds are invested, yet he has gone out of his way to make it possible for it to be supplanted in this service by a privately operated undertaking. It was not a matter of the private operators being forced off the run, because Qantas Empire Airways Limited submitted the proposal that both companies should be permitted to operate a weekly servce, Such permission could not be obtained. The offer was rejected, and it was only after action was taken to benefit the private concern that the Qantas organization had to withdraw from the service.
This is the amazing part of the story. It appears that one of the arguments advanced in favour of .the change, and accepted by the Department of Civil Aviation, was the need to preserve equity between the two operating companies. I frankly admit that the New South Wales Department of Road Transport and Tramways, or its officers who dealt with the matter, agreed to the change, but it also received the approval of the Department of Civil Aviation which, I understand, was consulted about it. Qantas Empire Airways Limited operated the service with Catalina aircraft. Eventually, due to action taken by certain individuals in the community, who for some reason wanted to injure the Government service, one of the Catalina aircraft was destroyed by a bomb, and a second was destroyed in another way. A Mr. Monckton, who is associated with Trans-Oceanic Airlines Proprietary Limited, appeared in certain criminal proceedings, which failed, but I think that it will be admitted by those who examine the facts that there is a very grave suspicion as to who was responsible for the destruction of the Qantas aircraft. Qantas Empire Airways Limited purchased as a replacement a Sandringham flying boat which had a high carrying capacity. Because that company obtained a more up-to-date aircraft which had a greater carrying capacity the Department of Civil Aviation, together with the New South Wales transport authorities decided that in order to restore equity to the air service it was necessary to reduce the number of trips flown by Qantas Empire Airways Limited from four to three, and to increase those flown by Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited from two to three a week. Now Qantas Empire Airways Limited has disappeared from this particular service and Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited fly six services a month to Lord Howe Island. Summarizing the position, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. White) said in this House that TransOceanic Airways Proprietary Limited had pioneer ed this particlar service, but that is not in accordance with the facts. He also said that Qantas Empire Airways Limited was indifferent about whether or not it conducted a service to Lord Howe Island. He knew when he made that statement that the general manager of Qantas Empire Airways Limited had already asked for a review of the decision. In view of what I have said about the Minister’s activities, there can be no doubt that the charge of misrepresentation levelled against the Minister by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) can also be accepted as being correct.
– I consider that the matters raised by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) deserve the further consideration of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. White). It is a pity that the Qantas service that was operating between Sydney and Lord Howe Island has been abandoned. If it be intended to give special advantages to the private enterprise companies which do not pioneer air services unless they are subsidized, it is regrettable, and is something which will bring a great deal of criticism from any honorable member of the House who has studied civil aviation. The better service would be rendered by Qantas Empire Airways Limited, which gave similar service in the period during which I was Minister for Civil Aviation, by providing aircraft to serve the Pacific Islands. I do not claim that what was done at that time was perfect, but we did the best that we could. We were prepared to operate airlines with governmentowned aircraft for the benefit of people in outlying areas where services would not have been profitable for private companies. That has been done in Queensland and if they had agreed we would have done it in other States in similar circumstances. Most of the private companies which were serving unprofitable routes were receiving heavy subsidies. While I was Minister for Civil Aviation the arrangement was that the companies receiving subsidies should earn about 7 per cent, profit on the developmental portion of their enterprises. That profit is associated with services which are needed but otherwise are unprofitable.
A little analysis’ will show the great service that has been rendered by government airlines to the people of Australia, and I believe that those airlines should be used to a greater extent to develop outback areas. Many people in remote districts have no means of transport other than motor vehicles over long and bad roads, or inefficient railway services. Perhaps the Government ha3 a different idea about the development of the outback, and if that be so, then the Opposition is entitled to its criticism. The service that Qantas Empire Airways Limited was operating between Sydney and Lord Howe Island was an excellent one. That company started with Catalina aircraft which were not the most comfortable, but later on it provided better aircraft. I know what happened to one of the Qantas Catalinas in Rose Bay, but I shall make no further comment upon the matter because it would be unfair to throw suspicion upon people who were tried and acquitted by a court. The policy of giving private enterprise preference over government companies when the latter are giving good service is wrong, and I hope that the Minister will reconsider its attitude.
Aerodrome noises have caused much comment for some years, especially at the time during which I was Minister for Civil Aviation. I was a member of a deputation which waited on the Minister for Civil Aviation and which pointed out that the noise and vibration being made by aircraft was causing plaster to fall from the ceilings and other damage to be done to homes near the Essendon aerodrome. It is natural for the Keilor Shire Council to be concerned about this noise. The deputation was with the Minister for one and a half hours, but I was disappointed, not with the courtesy extended to us, but with a press report of the meeting. It was agreed at first that a press report should be compiled by a committee of the members of the deputation, but when the deputation continued until 4.45 p.m. the Minister said that he would supply a press report. If the report which appeared in the newspapers is based upon what the Minister said, then it is entirely wrong. The object of the deputation was to protest against aerodrome noise.
While I was Minister for Civil Aviation a sound-proof wall was erected at Essendon aerodrome, and the deputation alleged that that was not being used to advantage. It had been decided that the east-west runway was to be used in preference to the north-south runway which brought aircraft over densely populated areas. An honorable member from South Australia has interjected. I suggest to him that an aerodrome established close to Adelaide will probably be the cause of some serious complaints at a later date. I suggest that the Minister should follow up the requests of the deputation and ascertain whether the suggestions made by its members can be carried out.
I live about 1$ miles from the aerodrome, and sometimes at night the noise from aircraft is quite annoying. It must be more serious for those who live closer. When I was Minister for Civil Aviation it was laid down that engines should be run in behind the reservoir which, it was considered, would divert the noise. I believe that that was effective, but the aerodrome is growing in traffic and importance, and there is now more running-in to be done. I do not think that everything possible is being done to reduce the noise. The Minister made suggestions about beautifying the aerodrome, and I believe that that should be” done. But that is not the responsibility of local government councils. If trees are to be planted, they should be planted close to the fence inside the aerodrome. That would perhaps deaden the noise of the revving aircraft engines. It should be noted that this aerodrome is not now and never has been in my electorate. The shire councils concerned are Keilor and Broadmeadows ; not Essendon, although Essendon people suffer from much noise. Reports have appeared in the press suggesting that the deputation went to the Minister for Civil Aviation to complain, but went away pleased. That is not correct. Its members were willing to consult with any committee of officers appointed by the department, to see what could be done. The reports suggest that the Minister was successful in persuading them that the best thing they could do was to beautify the aerodrome, but that is not correct. The Minister should give further attention to the deputation’s requests.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not propose to occupy myself with the substance of what the previous two speakers have said. I merely point out that throughout the day honorable members on this side, whose duty it is to help to regulate the business of this House, have been asked to assist in getting the House up early so that honorable members opposite, many of whom are old and tottering, may go to bed at an early hour. We have assisted in that respect and now we see only nine honorable members of the Opposition present.
– How many are on the Government side? I suggest that we should have the Gallagher award applied to the House and also close the bar during working hours.
– Order! I could point out to the House that a quorum is not present and that I am therefore not obliged to remain.
– A most important matter was before the House to-day, and the Government was asked to adjourn debate on it until to-morrow.
– It was not so asked.
– What the honorable member for East Sydney has said is. as usual, in complete contradiction of the truth. The Government was asked to adjourn debate on this matter to let the Opposition go to bed, yet now we have had to listen for 40 minutes to a debate about completely irrelevant and unimportant matters. If those are the tactics that honorable members opposite wish to adopt, the Government might just as well have talked about its business until a much later hour to-night. That can be interpreted, as far as we are concerned, in any way in which the Opposition wishes to interpret it. The recent debate has been about noise from an aerodrome. Honorable members might just as well complain about noise from a railway station or a tramline. As everybody knows perfectly well, where there is a transport centre there is noise. The honorable member might just- as well have complained about the noise at Spencer-street Station or Flinders-street Station as delay the House in the futile discussion in which he engaged to-night.
– I have a complaint to make about . a regulation governing telephone services which, I am sure, must have affected every honorable member in the same way as it affected me one night last week. I refer to the regulation that prohibits a telephone operator from breaking in on a local call with a trunk line call. I believe that a telephone subscriber should have the right, when making a trunk line call to his own number, to have a local call interrupted, if necessary.
– It might be an urgent local call.
– I have a suggestion to make that would overcome that difficulty. It is that a telephone subscriber should have the right, when making a trunk line call to his own number, to indicate that he was calling his own number. He could give his name and then, when the local call had been interrupted by the exchange, the person speaking on his telephone could decide whether to take or reject his call.
The other night I received an urgent telegram asking me to telephone to my wife. I waited at Ararat for two and a half hours until 12.15 a.m., trying to make contact with my own telephone number. On every occasion when the trunk line operator at Ararat made contact with Adelaide he was told that the number was engaged with a local call. I asked the operator to interrupt that call, saying that 1 wished to contact my home and to speak to my wife, but I was told that operators were forbidden to interrupt local calls under any circumstances. I ask the Postmaster-General to review the regulation with a view to permitting at any rate a subscriber who wishes to make a trunk line call to his own number to have a local call to that number interrupted.
.- I have received a protest from what is known as a subvention member of a friendly society. Subvention members are males over the age of 65 years and females over the age of 60 years who have been members of the society for a certain number of years before reaching those ages.. Subvention members of friendly societies in New South “Wales were, subject to the qualifications of age and membership that I have mentioned, given free medical attention and free medical service for the rest of their lives. Now, because of the operation of the Government’s medical scheme, they have been asked by their lodges and the pensions office to fill in forms.
First, let me refer to the form that they get from the pensions office. It deals with the free medicine scheme for pensioners. That scheme is not a free scheme in the full meaning of the word. A pensioner will not receive the benefits that an ordinary citizen will receive because the medicine formulary for pensioners is more limited than is the formulary applicable to other persons entitled to free medicine. Further, it will be recalled that honorable members on this side of the House had to ask at least a half dozen questions of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), before we could elicit from him the fact that the medical profession was being asked to vote on the question of whether doctors should charge pensioners who called them out after 6 p.m. a fee of 5s. I understood that the members of the medical profession have been advised that the proposal has been carried and that in future, although pensioners are supposed to receive free medical treatment, they arc to be charged a fee of 5s. for visits after 6 p.m. If I required a doctor after 6 p.m., he would, under the lodge agreement, be bound to visit me, but, under the agreement that has been reached between the British Medical Association and the Government, a doctor is not obliged to come out after 6 p.m. and, in addition, the doctors have decided that if they do come out they shall be entitled to charge 5s. for car expenses or whatever it is called.
– A fee of 5s. will be charged, and in addition there will be a mileage charge.
– I am dealing only with patients who are most accessible to the doctors. Different considerations may arise if a doctor has to travel a very long distance to visit a patient. I am dealing only with visits to patients nearby. The doctors have decided to charge pensioners a fee of 5s. for visiting them after 6 p.m.
The second point that I want to emphasize is that the free medicine formulary applicable to age pensioners is not as wide as that applicable to ordinary citizens. There are many prescriptions not covered by the pensioners’ formulary for which chemists can charge whatever they like. Under the Government’s medical scheme for pensioners, which is about to be launched, pensioners will be called upon to pay a fee of 5s. for visits made by a doctor after 6 p.m., which other citizens who are more fortunately placed financially, will not be called upon to pay, and the formulary applicable to them will be limited, with the result that they may possibly have to pay for medicines that other persons will receive free of charge.
It is difficult to ventilate these matters in the House by way of questions. I regret that it has been necessary to raise this matter at this hour of the night, and that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) is not present in the chamber. I think honorable members on both sides of the House believed that pensioners, owing to their inability to pay medical charges, were going to derive some benefit from the Government’s scheme, but the fact is that they will be in an infinitely worse position than men with salaries of, say, £20 per week,’ to whom, under lodge agreements, doctors must go to give treatment and to whom a wider formulary is applicable.
It is hypocritical to say that we are giving something free to pensioners when actually we are giving them less free medical service and less free medicine than other persons receive. Pensioners are members of the community who are least able to pay medical expenses. I hope that the Minister for Health will take notice of what I have said. After all, whatever money the Government pays for medical treatment or medicine comes out of the wages of the workers. Therefore, it is up to the Government to ensure that when a worker is no longer able to work he shall, in truth and in fact, receive free medical treatment and free medicine.
– I am not familiar with the details of the matter that was raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), but I wish to make some remarks about the sneering and smearing things that he said about Captain P. G. Taylor, who happens to be one of my constituents and also one of Australia’s most distinguished aerial pioneers. To suggest that Captain Taylor, who was associated . with the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and who has done as much as anybody to pioneer aviation in Australia, is not a real pioneer is disgraceful and monstrous. It is shameful that honorable members should knock at a distinguished aviator when he is at present concerned in pioneering a new air route across the Pacific to South America.
– Several matters have been raised which concern Ministers other than myself. I assure the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) that his remarks regarding class B widows will be conveyed to the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner). The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) referred to a technical matter which concerns the policy of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s remarks to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), but I think that he could equally as well have written a letter to the
Minister and asked for an opinion upon the matter.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) referred to free medicine and free medical treatment for pensioners. Several members of the Opposition have occasionally tried to bait the Minister for Health, but I say that this Parliament should consider itself very fortunate, indeed, to have so distinguished a surgeon and public man holding the office of Minister for Health.
– What has that got to do with it?
– It has this to do with it, that for the first time in Australia age pensioners are to receive free medicine and life-saving drugs. That is something that the Minister has advocated over the years and which he is now putting into effect. I shall ensure that the Minister reads what has been said -to-night, and that the honorable member receives an answer to the points that he has raised.
There has been a protest about noise al Essendon aerodrome and fury from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who, as usual, vilified everybody else and tried to make us believe that he is saintly. He was again completely off the beam. The honorable member asked why there had been a change in the running of the aerial service to Lord Howe Island. That island is, or was, in his electorate, and I suppose that that is his sole reason for being interested in aviation. The honorable member for East Sydney claimed, and the honorable mem? ber for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) implied, that Qantas Empire Airways was the pioneer of that route.
– So it was.
– The honorable member has repeated his erroneous statement. It is true that the Qantas company did operate a service to Lord Howe Island. The honorable member had in mind Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited. He admitted that the first application was made by Captain Taylor. I point out that Captain Taylor is a member of the board of Trans-Oceanic Airlines Proprietary Limited, the company that the honorable gentleman vilified. Apparently he did not. read the answers that I supplied to two questions that he directed to me, in which I stated that the change had been made in order to achieve some rationalization. Otherwise, two services would have been running on a little route and wasting petrol. The honorable member for East Sydney quotes his file but who would take his file as gospel about anything? Would any one, jury or citizen ? I told him that because of rationalization this great company, Qantas, which has one of the best air services in the world and of which Australia can be proud and which three times a week flies planes from Sydney to London in three days, was not interested in this little Pacific service. The policy of this Government is that there should be no public monopoly such as the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) tried to establish. He introduced a bill to make every airline in Australia a public airline. The High Court ruled that that could not be done and it allowed the private companies to continue to operate. Trans-Australia Airlines operates with great efficiency and, for the first time under this Government’s auspices, is showing a profit. The Qantas company was not interested in this little service.
– Yes, it was.
– Why does not the honorable member give to Hansard the letter to which he has referred?
– Hansard has had the letter.
– I know the honorable member’s tricks. By mutual arrangement between the officers of the Department of Civil Aviation and Qantas, Qantas agreed to give up that service. Though the little company, Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited, had been the pioneers who made the first flight my predecessor
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– The honorable member for East Sydney has had his say.
– After twenty years of looking at the honorable member for East Sydney I now accept none of his statements as true unless I check them myself. I told him long ago that this company was the pioneer pf the service and I have had another check made by the department since he spoke and it confirms that the company did make the first nights. My predecessor in office unfairly gave a weekly frequency to a bigger company and, in order to try to put the little company out of business, only permitted its planes to go fortnightly. The bigger company, quite rightly, stepped aside for the little company. Australian civil aviation is of great importance. The Government does not intend it to be a public or a private monopoly and it will see that these little companies which were due for extinction by the Labour Government are permitted to survive. Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited receive no subsidy from the Government. If it makes a loss or a profit’ it is due to its own inefficiency or efficiency.
– The Government forced other operators off the run in order to let this company make a profit.
– The honorable member for East Sydney could teach a parrot. I think it was Edmund Burke - not the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) or the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) - but the very distinguished and eminent Edmund Burke who said when an honorable member arose and made a speech of censure about something of extreme triviality, “ The honorable member believes the murmurs of his burgh are the rumblings of the world “. I believe that that comment is appropriate to the protests that have been heard in this House to-night. The Shire of Keilor and, I think, Essendon Council, for a long time had been writing letters to the effect that the noise at Essendon aerodrome must stop. Of course, Don Quixote said for a long time that windmills should not rotate. These gentlemen had told broadcasting stations and the press that the noise at Essendon aerodrome must stop. They organized a deputation to interview me and brought a large body of pressmen with them without telling me of their intentions.
– They brought one pressman.
– They did not. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) must have come late.
– I was there before the Minister. We brought in one pressman. 1 accompanied the deputation from the time that the Minister met it at the door to the time when they left.
– It is extraordinary how six other pressmen eluded the honorable member. The one that he met was from the Essendon Gazette. The representatives of the other newspapers were there previously. They all received a statement from the delegation. [Extension of time granted.’] These gentlemen made many statements. Some said that the aircraft should not fly at night. One of them informed me that an aircraft had been invented which did not make a noise. Others wanted the aerodrome moved to another part of the State or the Commonwealth. I think that I made appropriate answers and pointed out that whether they were next door to a locomotive shed, a bus depot, or a tram track, there would be noise, but that endeavours would be made to reduce the noise at the aerodrome to a minimum. I said that the wall that had been built for testing engines would be used. One company which I shall not name had not been using it. I took the opportunity of suggesting that the representatives of this municipality might take more interest in their aerodrome. In Australia we have the most efficient and the safest air services in the world, but we have not very lovely looking airports nor good terminal buildings, nor do we want to build them whilst houses are needed. In continental countries and in the United States of America an interest is taken in airports and port committees operate, and I invited these gentlemen to form a committee with the regional director as chairman and forward for consideration any plans and proposals that they might draw up. However, when they met the other representatives of their councils subsequently, they felt that they had promised too much and refused to proceed with the idea. Every member of the deputation received a copy of the notes which were made on the occasion of its visit. I ask that this statement be included in Hansard. It reads as follows : -
NOTES ON DEPUTATION ‘ FROM THE ESSENDON COUNCIL AND THE SHIRE OF KEILOR, 31st JANUARY, 1951.
The deputation was introduced by the forme* Minister for Commerce, Mr. Pollard. M.H.R., and consisted of councillors of the Keilor and
Essendon municipalities, and Mr. A. S. Drakeford, M.P., former Minister for Air and Civil Aviation. Mr. Drakeford urged that more precaution should be taken to reduce the noise at Essendon airport. He supported the deputation and suggested that the remedy might lie in the stricter policing of the regulations dealing with silencing of exhaust noises.
Councillor H. Easton (Keilor Shire) made the following points: -
There was grave danger in having a school in line with the runway.
The Council had been deluged with complaints about the noise.
People could get no rest at night and during the early hours of the morning.
Aircraft were coming in so low as to just miss the boundary fence’ of the airport. Pilots should be instructed to make higher approaches above the houses.
Councillor J. Davis (Keilor) urged the use of the east-west runway whenever possible and said that aircraft should land nearer to the centre of the runway, so that the approach would be further away from the houses.
Councillor R. Mott (Essendon) said that complaints from residents had grown during the last five years. They referred mainly to the noise of the aircraft at night caused by maintenance testing and late flying freighters. The second cause of concern was the safety of residents. Councillor Mott claimed that the soundproof wall at Essendon had been used only once and pleaded for a rest period of a few hours so that residents could have undisturbed sleep from midnight until 4 a.m. He also asked about the method of selecting the runway in use and suggested that adoption of the crosswind landing gear would enable landing and taking off on the eastwest runway to be increased. A further suggestion was the provision of adequate fire equipment along a two-mile path south from Essendon airport approximately to the Essendon Technical School or St. Columbus Convent.
Councillor H. Lyttle (Essendon) said that the noise was their biggest complaint. The damage to houses was terrific, plaster fell from walls, and the cracks opened up again as soon as they were filled. He questioned whether under military conditions, an aerodrome which made so much noise would be permitted near the enemy’s lines. He understood ‘ that science had perfected a means of eliminating aircraft noise.
– “ I’d like to hear about it! “
Councillor A. D. Dodds (Essendon) said that he had been a member of a deputation years before advocating the very opposite of what he was seeking now. When Mr. Thorby was Minister for Civil Aviation and Mr. Casey was Treasurer, he was in a deputation asking for the aerodrome to be placed at Essendon instead of at Fishermen’s Bend. Now his efforts seemed only too successful, because his home was right in the firing line of the north-south runway. Councillor Dodds sug- gested that in the next 25 years, the growth of Civil Aviation would be so great thai Essendon would be too small. He urged the Government to seek a new area further out into the country to replace Essendon. The high value of Essendon Aerodrome as a residential area would defray the cost, he claimed.
I’n reply Mr. White pointed out that he, like Councillor Dodds, had previously been on the other side of the fence. Years before, he had opposed the development of Essendon as a large commercial airport. Mr. White made these points -
The Director-General of Civil Aviation, (Air Marshal R. Williams) dealt in detail with the precautions being taken to reduce the noise of aircraft engines. He said that benchtesting of overhauled engines was completely banned at night and occurred during the day only in a valley to the north of the aerodrome. He explained that the sound-proof wall, finished in September and October of last year, was not being fully used but the matter would be taken up with the operating company concerned.
Air Marshal Williams said that the use of the runway is dictated by meteorological instruments. Up to fifteen miles an hour ‘crosswind, the east-west runway is used, and the north-south runway is used only when the crosswind exceeds this figure. He also explained that the instrument landing system now being installed on the east-west runway would result in this runway being used under low visibility conditions, and that the holding area would now be over Warrandyte instead of over the southern suburbs. He also gave the deputation information about safety precautions to eliminate the possibility of accidents near the airport.
The Director-General of Civil Aviation and the Director of Airports were both present on this occasion and both confirmed that all that was reported in the press on the matter was substantially correct. The newspapers received the statement which I have quoted above and so did the Keilor Council. I suggest that the honorable member for Lalor should find something more important to do than waste the time of the National Parliament on a matter such as this is.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Sugar Agreement Act - Nineteenth Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for year ended 31st August, 1950.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following reply : -
s asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What restrictions in regard to coal supplies have been imposed by the Government of New South Wales either in relation to open-cut or deep coal mining?
– To my knowledge there are no restrictions placed on coal mining by the Government of New South Wales, but I would remind the honorable member that such matters are controlled by the New South Wales Department of Mines, which would deal with each application on its merits.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 March 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19510308_reps_19_212/>.