20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– On Tuesday last the honorable member for Fremantle directed to me a question regarding the position of a member of the Parliament who accepts fees for services rendered’ to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I shall read to the House section 45 of the Constitution which, I consider, deals with the matter. It is as follows: - ff a senator or member of the House of Representatives -
I think that is qualified by the question of whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a Commonwealth instrumentality. In my view, it is.
– My question concerns a question that I asked you, Mr. Speaker, last week, in connexion with the tapping of trunk-line telephone services from this building. The PostmasterGeneral has supplied a reply to that question. By way of explanation may I say that the Minister’s reply was not satisfactory. It is quite true, as he said, that I did confer with him, but it was not correct for him to say that I was satisfied with his reasons. I said that I was satisfied that investigations were being made, and I pointed out that I had no choice in the matter anyway because investigations of that kind could be conducted only by technicians and not by politicians. Kas the Acting Prime Minister been informed that for a considerable period telephone tappings have occurred, and, if so, has this been done with the knowledge of the PostmasterGeneral or any of his officers? If the Acting Prime Minister has been so informed, will he state whether he considers the reply of the Postmaster-General conveys the true position to the House, and will he assure the House that the most extensive possible investigation will be made into this matter, and that the House will be presented with the result of that investigation before the end of the current sessional period?
– I have no information on the subject that the honorable member has mentioned but, if the position is as serious and as important as he has said, it should be a fitting subject for investigation by the Committee of Privileges of this House.
– On Wednesday last, the honorable member for East Sydney asked me a question regarding the right of this Parliament to direct certain matters to the High Court for consideration. I refer him to section 47 of the Constitution, which reads as follows : -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, any question respecting the qualification of a Senator or of a Member of the House of Representatives, or respecting a vacancy in either House of the Parliament, and any question of k disputed election to either House, shall be determined by the House in which the question arises.
That provision applied. at the inception of federation. The Commonwealth Electoral Act, which was passed in 1918, contained section 184 (1.), which reads as follows : -
The High Court shall be the Court of Dis puted Returns, and shall have jurisdiction cither to try the petition or to refer it for trial to the Supreme Court of the State in which the election was held or return made.
In addition, section 203 of the same act provides as follows; -
Any question respecting the qualification <ii a Senator or of a Member of the House of Representatives or respecting a vacancy in either House of the Parliament may be referred by resolution to the Court of Disputed Returns by the House in which the question arises and the Court of Disputed Returns shall thereupon have jurisdiction to hear and determine thiquestion.
Section 204 of the act reads -
When any question is referred to the Court of Disputed Returns under this Part of thi? Act, the President if the question arises in the Senate, or the Speaker if the question ariser in the House of Representatives, shall transmit to the Court of Disputed Returns a statement of the question upon which the determinatiou of the Court is desired, together with any proceedings, papers, reports, or documents relating to the question in the possession of the House in which the question arises.
I propose to deal, at the end of question time to-morrow afternoon, with other questions, concerning a ruling on questions, which the Minister for Supply and the Leader of the Opposition asked me on Thursday. The Standing .Orders provide that any objection to such a ruling must be taken at once. I do not desire to intrude on the time that is available to honorable members to ask questions without notice, and I wish to give both sides of the House an equal opportunity to come prepared to-morrow to debate the matter.
– I desire to address a question to the Treasurer about the employment figures published by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician. That matter, I understand, is under the ministerial control of the right honorable gentleman. I point out, by way of explanation, that the Monthly Bulletin nf Employment Statistics is usually available six weeks after the end of tb month to which the figures are applicable
February was the last month for which the figures have been issued and, in accordance with custom, the March figures should have been issued about three weeks ago. Will the Treasurer inform me whether the delay in issuing the bulletin is due to any direction or request given with his authority - not necessarily by the right honorable gentleman himself or by any Minister or other officer - to the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, or any officer of the Bureau of Census and Statistics ? I also point out that the Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics for last January announced that a table which showed employment in factories under various classifications had been discontinued for the present. Will the Treasurer also inquire into that matter with a view to ascertaining whether the elimination of separate industrial categories is due to any ministerial direction given either by himself, by another Minister, or by some other authority?
– Such a direction has not been given by me, if that is what the Leader of the Opposition is trying to imply.
– I am trying to ascertain the reason for such an extraordinary change. Will the Treasurer state the reasons for the alteration?
– I know of no reason for the change to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred, but I shall have the matter investigated and inform him of the result.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service is based upon the question addressed by the Leader of the Opposition to the Treasurer. The Leader of the Opposition inferred that a Minister, unnamed, had issued a direction which either changed or distorted the monthly presentation of the employment position in Australia. I ask the Minister who is directly responsible, for the collection of that data whether there is any truth in the curious allegation of the Leader of the Opposition?
– I welcome the honorable member’s question. I have informed the House on previous occasions that it has been my desire to supply to the Parliament and the Australian community the most up-to-date and reliable figures on employment which come into my possession. I unhesitatingly give an assurance that no instruction has been given by me in relation to the. figures compiled by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician which would in any way reduce the information available to the public, or delay the presentation of it to the country. On the contrary, the only inquiry that I have caused to be directed to the Acting Commonwealth Statistician about this matter in recent weeks is one by which I sought to bring up to date the figures that had appeared in his Bulletin of Statistics in relation to trade union registrations of unemployment. The latest figure was for November, 1951, but I wanted a much more recent figure. I was informed by the Commonwealth Statistician’s office that the returns from the trade unions concerned had not been received in time to allow a later figure to be given to me. That is the only inquiry, of which I am aware, that has been directed to the Acting Commonwealth Statistician.
– I inform the Minister for Immigration that the Hydro-electric Commission in Tasmania has given a week’s notice to three men employed at Waddamara power-house, one or two of whom are ex-servicemen who have served from four to seven years with the commission. The Hydro-electric Commission has retained German immigrants, no doubt under contract, on the same job. Has the Minister considered the combined representations that were made last week by the honorable member for Melbourne and myself about this delicate and seemingly unjust situation ? In order to avoid bad feelings will the Minister investigate the circumstances surrounding this matter? If circumstances such as these should again arise, and Australians be dismissed and new Australians, including ex-enemies, retained, would the matter not call for a review of our intake of immigrants?
– I am not aware of the representations that the honorable member said have been directed to me by himself and the honorable member for
Melbourne. If those representations were by way of letter-
– The representations were made by way of letter directed to the Department of Immigration.
– That letter has not yet come to my notice. However, I shall examine the matter. In reply to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, I point out that the tightening of the employment situation which has created some difficulties in the placement of immigrants who have recently arrived in this country, has also caused a certain degree of unemployment in certain quarters among Australians. That is a matter that is engaging my constant attention, and I have had discussions about it with my colleagues. It is a large question of Government policy which is naturally much in our minds. There is at all times a continuing review of the immigration programme, and we shall have in mind the sort of circumstances to which the honorable member has referred. It would be most unfortunate, and deplorable, if the impression were to get abroad, not only inside Australia but also outside, that immigrants who were giving satisfactory service in their work were liable to be replaced, because of unemployment, by some other member of the community. Our responsibility is to ensure that there are adequate employment opportunities for all, but in the process it should not be part of our function, or the function of the community, to force on to new Australians the problems which we must be prepared to face as a combined community.
– “Will the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization inform me whether it is a fact that that organization is having a diesel trawler built in Scotland for the purpose of investigating fishing grounds in the Great Australian Bight in 1953 or 1954? Is he aware that Anglo-Australian Fisheries Proprietary Limited, based at Albany, in Western Australia, has been conducting trawling operations in the bight since 1949 and has proved the existence of profitable fishing grounds? Does the Minister know that this company has been forced into liquidation because it has not been able to raise the capital which is necessary to enable it to acquire a modern diesel trawler to replace obsolete coal-burning vessels which are now unprofitable to operate, and that the Commonwealth has refused its requests for such assistance? Will the Minister consider the advisability of using this company’s knowledge and experience by making a modern diesel trawler available to it, since there is available ample evidence in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture that this enterprise could he a sound commercial undertaking?
– The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is having a vessel designed in Australia and built in the “United Kingdom for fisheries research. I emphasize that the purpose of the vessel is to undertake research into ocean currents and the incidence of fish in commercial quantities off the Australian coast. It is not a vessel designed for commercial purposes. The reason why it is being built in Great Britain is that it will contain highly specialized equipment such as is not in existence in this country. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is well aware of the existence of AngloAustralian Fisheries Proprietary Limited, and any information that may be gathered by the use of this research vessel will, of course, be made available to that company and to all other companies that are interested in the commercial exploitation of fishing grounds around the Australian coast. The vessel that the Government has under consideration will not be of any use for commercial purposes, because it has been designed specifically for research.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. By way of explanation, may I say that there are a number of well-established ice cream manufacturing companies in each State, and I understand that they use processed whole milk in their manufacturing activities. Is it a fact that a New
Zealand company lias received approval from the Capital Issues Board for an issue of £41,250 additional capital for the manufacture of ice cream? If that is so, will the right honorable gentleman inquire why such approval was given for this type of industry when the shortage of milk has caused the partial suspension of the free milk for children scheme, when milk rationing has been imposed in some parts of Melbourne and when our butter production is insufficient to meet the demand and is causing difficulty to consumers in Australia as well as loss of overseas funds?
– I shall confer with the chairman of the Capital Issues Board to ascertain the reasons for the board’s decision. The Capital Issues Board is a completely independent body, and I do not interfere in any way with its decisions.
– Has the Minister for Defence any information that he may bo able to pass on to the House about a report concerning the explosion of an experimental hydrogen bomb in the near future in the Marshall Islands by the armed forces and/or the scientific services of the Government of the United States of America?
– I have no information at all about the explosion of the bomb mentioned by the honorable member. It is not usual for the United States of’ America to exchange information about atomic research with Australia.
– The question that I wish to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture refers to the meetings that the honorable gentleman is reported to have held with the Australian Wheat Board and representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation in connexion with the payment of interstate freight charges on wheat. Has the Minister discussed the situation with representatives of those two organizations, and can he inform the House of the present position as a result of such discussions ?
– On Friday I conferred almost for the entire day, first with representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and later with the Australian Wheat Board, on the subject of the disputed payment of interstate freight charges on wheat. Some of the executive members of the growers’ organization are also elected representatives of the growers on the Australian Wheat Board. Therefore, there was a complete exchange of information between the two bodies. As an outcome of the discussions, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation reaffirmed its decision that the Australian Wheat Board should not be requested, in any circumstances, to pay interstate freight charges at the expense of the growers. Subsequently, the Australian Wheat Board, having been informed of this decision through the representatives of the federation who are also members of the board, adopted a resolution, unanimously I am informed, in which it was suggested to the Government that, as the suspension of the payment of bounty under the terms of the Commonwealth and State acts had effected a saving on behalf of the Commonwealth, the Government should offset that saving by paying interstate freight charges on wheat for the remainder of the current year. I have not yet had an opportunity to present that proposal to Cabinet for its consideration.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether it is a fact that a company at Newcastle is making uniforms for the Army from material manufactured in Japan. I have seen a sample of the material which bears a Japanese brand. If the company is making Army uniforms with this material, will the Minister take into consideration the effect that this is having on the Australian textile industry, from which 12,000 workers have been displaced? Will the Minister state the exact date when the material was imported into Australia? Was it imported before or after the signing of the Japanese peace treaty on behalf of Australia? Should the Minister wish me to do so, I shall supply him with the name of the company and a sample of the material.
– I cannot say whether any firm at Newcastle is making up such material as the honorable member has mentioned. I know that we imported certain shirting material, I think it was, from Japan because none was available from Australian manufacturers or from other places overseas. With the exception of that material, we have not imported textiles from Japan. I cannot say whether the material was imported before or after the date on which the Japanese peace treaty was signed, but my recollection is that it was imported before i hat date. Recently, one honorable gentleman - I am not sure whether it was the honorable member for East Sydney - asked me a question about the importation of textiles from overseas, and I replied to it last week. I shall examine that reply, and shall extract from it the information for which the honorable member for West Sydney has now asked.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Services been directed to a recent statement about the decision of the Government to allow this year a rebate of 663 per cent, on premiums paid under the war service homes insurance scheme? ‘Is it true that t11 at scheme does not carry its own administrative costs, and that it does not make contributions to fire brigades? In other words, is it true, as was implied in the statement, that ex-servicemen are receiving benefits at the expense of taxpayers generally and of fire brigades particularly?
– I have seen a statement which has been attributed to the secretary of the Fire and Accident Underwriters Association of New South Wales. It is a. most inaccurate statement. The war service homes insurance scheme is run by the War Service Homes Division. Ex-servicemen bear the whole of the costs of the scheme. The division makes contributions to fire brigades, in the same way as do insurance companies, although it is not compelled by law to do so. Despite that fact, the rates charged by .the division are about onehalf of the ruling rates charged by private insurance companies. In addition, we have given a premium rebate of 66n- per cent, this year. We have been able to do that because we have good tenants who occupy good homes in good localities. We receive the benefit of home ownership.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services, in his capacity of Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Division. Is the Minister aware that the Queensland Housing Commission refuses to allow the purchase of houses that have been built by it to be financed through the medium of the War Service Homes Division? Will the Minister make inquiries accordingly, and, if that position really exists, conduct negotiations with the Queensland Government so that ex-servicemen may be enabled to purchase such homes with the assistance of finance from the source I have mentioned? The deposit that an ex-serviceman would have to pay on a Queensland Housing Commission, home that was financed through the War Service Homes Division would be considerably lower than the deposit that he would have to pay if the purchase were financed through the commission.
– I shall be pleased to inquire into the matter and let the honorable member have an answer as early as possible.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs assure the House and the nation that all possible resolute action is being taken to unmask and to bring to justice the nest of traitors within the Public Service, the existence of which the right honorable gentleman has disclosed ? Is it a fact that one clue that he possesses to the existence of this group is the publication in the Communist paper Tribune-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has referred to a newspaper report. That is clearly contrary to the Standing Orders.
– Is it a fact that one clue which the Minister possesses is the publication of details of a confidential draft of a commercial treaty with the United States of America? If so, why has no prosecution been launched against those who published that secret government document? Was the article signed by its author? Has he been interrogated? Why has he not been prosecuted? Is it not obvious that such proceedings might provide a lead-in to the identification of the guilty officer? Were the Crown law officers asked to advise upon such a prosecution? If their advice disclosed the existence of a weakness in the legislative power of the Government to protect official documents, why has not appropriate amending legislation been introduced? Will the Government permit this session to end before it has introduced such legislation? If the answer be that the security service has the matter in hand, will the Minister say whether it is a fact that, although it has had the matter in hand for six months, the nest of traitors is still in existence and, on his disclosure to the House, is still free and able to carry on its deadly work of betraying this nation?
– It is most refreshing to notice the honorable gentleman’s concern with these matters. As the expressions of concern come from the south side of the House, I greet them with great acclaim. The honorable gentleman asked ten, eleven or twelve questions. I am afraid that I do not carry the answers to all of them in my mind. The general tenor of his series of questions is quite clear. He is charging the Government with a lack of vigour in trying to cope with communism. Perhaps it will not be out of place if I say now that for the last two and a half years this Government has been very conscious of the need to combat communism. It is common knowledge that it took the most strenuous action to seek power to enable it to deal adequately with communism, and that its proposals were strenuously combated, and eventually defeated by, honorable gentlemen who sit on the left of the Chair, including the honorable member who has been, so brave as to ask this question. He need not bother. The Government is being assiduous in its efforts to defeat the gentlemen who -were defended by honorable members on the Opposition side of the House only a year ago. The matter of communism in th?Public Service is currently engaging the attention, not only of the security service, but of the Government itself.
– 1 ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that section 79 (2.) of the Grimes Act still gives the Government power to deal with the nest of traitors that the Minister has said exists in the Public .Service? The Minister has said that the Government had no such power. Section 79 of the act reads as follows: -
If any person, receives any . . . document, or information . . . having reasonable ground to ‘believe, at the time when he receives it . . .
– I rise to order. I consider that the honorable member is asking the Minister for a legal opinion. My objection to that procedure is that he is not only wasting the limited time of the House but is also asking a question that is contrary to the provisions of .the Standing Orders.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! Standing Order 144 states as follows : -
Questions should not ask the Minister -
for legal opinion.
– Do you rule that my question asks for a legal opinion, Mr. Speaker?
– I am not sure what the question is aiming at. If the honorable gentleman is asking the Minister for a legal opinion, then his question is out of order.
– I am not asking for a legal opinion. I am asking whether section 79 (2.) of .the Crimes Act remains in force or has been repealed. There is no legal opinion involved in that question. The section to which I refer reads as follows: -
If any person receives any . . document or information . . having reasonable ground to believe, at the time when he receives it, that the . document or information is communicated to him in contravention of this Part of this Act, he- shall be guilty of an offence unless he proves that the communication to him of the . . ‘document or information was contrary to his desire.
Penalty: Imprisonment for seven years.
If thai provision remains in force, will the Minister state what action the Government has taken pursuant to it in respect of the nest of traitors, which, the Minister has asserted, is operating in the Public Service ?
– I do not suppose that the House, and still less you, Mr. Speaker, would wish me to chop law with the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The question whether the Government has certain powers under this or that act 13 not >a matter that you would allow me to express an opinion on, even were I competent to do so. The opinion has been expressed, in competent quarters on the south side of the House, that the Government has powers to deal with a situation of this nature. I am not going to cross swords with so eminent a gentleman of the law as the Leader of the Opposition, because I know very well that, when he sets himself to do it, he can make black appear white. I say that with great respect to the right honorable gentleman. For myself, I have all my time cut out to make white appear white.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs-
Conversation being audible..
– Order! I cannot hear the honorable gentleman’s question. The disorder at question time is becoming increasingly great. Over the week-end I have received letters from, listeners in places as far apart as Tasmania and Queensland who complain of their inability to hear what is being said in the chamber at question time. The fault lies on both sides of the House. Standing Order 54 provides as follows : -
When a Member is speaking, no Member shall converse aloud.
That standing order is being frequently and deliberately disregarded. I suggest that unless the House is prepared to maintain reasonable silence and calm during question time we might proceed with the business of the day.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he is aware that the Commonwealth security service has been criticized lately over several incidents that need not be particularized by me. Does the Minister support the charges of inefficiency that have been implied in those criticisms? If he does not share the doubts about the efficiency of the service, does he consider that some public statement should be made on behalf of the Government in respect of them.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member is in order in directing a question about the security service to a Minister who is not responsible for the administration of that organization?
– The question is not in order. It should be directed to the Minister who is responsible for the administration of the security service. Apart from that fact, the Standing Orders also provide that a question shall not obtain an expression of opinion.
– In view of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, may I address my question to the Acting Prime Minister?
-The honorable member may do so.
– I re-direct my question to the Acting Prime Minister.
– The Government has the maximum confidence in the efficiency, conscientiousness and trustworthiness of the security service.
– Following the discovery by the Minister for External Affairs that the Communist-controlled newspaper, Tribune, had published a secret and confidential Commonwealth document, did the right honorable gentleman consult the Solicitor-General, the Attorney-General or any other legal authority in order to ascertain whether any offence had been committed? If he consulted legal authorities on the matter, will he inform me whether they advised him that no offence had been committed? If the contrary was the case, will he indicate why no action has been taken in the matter ?
– All competent instrumentalities of the Government were consulted in the matter. The honorable member for East Sydney has asked whether or not an offence has been committed. I do not believe that the word “ offence “ is a term of art in this case. It is quite clear that a leakage of sonar considerable consequence has occurred. Whether that is an offence under the law is another matter. Had it been indictable, the law would have been set in motion. I can only repeat that the matter is still under investigation, and the possibilities of action by the Government are not yet dead by any means.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been directed to reports about the lack of security precautions in his department early in 1950, soon after this Government took office? Has this Government taken any steps to change that state of affairs which, apparently, was inherited from its predecessor? Have any changes been made in the permanent administration of the department since the date when the lack of security precautions was criticized? Since, in the nature of things, even the most rigid practicable security precautions must fail unless reliance can be placed upon the loyalty and integrity of employees—
-Order! The honorable member may not make a statement when asking a question.
– I shall frame my question. Since such security precautions must fail unless all employees from the permanent head of the department down to the cleaners can be 7-elied upon, is that not a cogent reason for dismissing all members of the Communist party from the Public Service, even though such an action may necessitate additional legislation?
– I assure the honorable gentleman that, in the last year or two in particular, security precautions in the Department of External Affairs - tin only department about which I have authority to speak - have been greatly tightened in respect of all individuals and the control of classified documents. The situation now is vastly different from that of only a comparatively few years ago. Senior officers of the department and I constantly discuss the matter, not only in respect of the physical security of documents and secret information, but also in respect of individuals. In case I may be charged with saying anything against people who occasionally are said to have advanced views, I point out that any check which is made does not include an inquiry into whether an officer of the Department of External
Affairs is a member of one of the three legitimate political parties represented in this House. It is nothing to do with me whether an officer of my department belongs to the Labour party or to one of the other two political parties represented in this chamber. Our precautions are directed solely against the possibility of documents or information getting into Communist hands, and no other, and every precaution is being taken, and will be taken, to that end.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service acquainted with the terms of the resolution that the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Federal Council of the Waterside Workers Federation have adopted for submission to mass meetings of workers at Australian ports to-morrow? Has he noted that the present ban on overtime was imposed by the Waterside Workers Federation because of the refusal of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to expedite the hearing of the union’s claims on margins? In these circumstances, what action does the Government intend to take to assist the waterside workers to get an early hearing of their claims by the court, and thus bring peace to the Australian waterfront?
– I have not had conveyed to me officially the decision that was reached after discussion between members of the Waterside Workers Federation and the Australian Council of Trades Unions yesterday. Such rumours as have reached me suggest that the waterside workers propose to continue the ban which brought action so recently from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court itself by way of a fine for contempt of court. The honorable member has referred to alleged delays. I shall not attempt to give a full answer on that point at this moment, but I suggest to the honorable member, and to any others who may be interested, that they examine the full statement on this matter which was made in the Full Arbitration Court by the Chief Judge in which he traversed the course of events. He made it perfectly clear that the judge who was handling this matter was and has been prepared at all times to deal with the federation’s claims.
Not only have delays occurred because of a long adjournment which was sought by the secretary of the federation when he went overseas to attend a Communist conference, but other delays have also been caused by requests for adjournments on the part of the Waterside Workers Federation. The Chief Judge further pointed out that for at least the last eight weeks, during which time the judge was available to hear and determine the matters that were in question, he had been prevented from doing so because of the direct action with which the union is proceeding. If members of the federation genuinely want their claims to be concluded as early as possible, they will adhere to the arbitration system and suspend further resorts to direct action.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether he has any information to support his previous statement, to the effect that germ warfare alleged by the Communists, who have been supported by a certain Australian who is abroad at present, to have been launched in Korea, is scientifically impracticable? Will the Minister also give details of the concrete offer that has already been made to the Chinese Communists by the United Nations Command to have those charges investigated by an independent international body?
– I did say- I believe in something like those terms - that Dr. Burton-
– I made a public statement to the effect that the waging of germ warfare, through the means that were allegedly used by American troops, was scientifically quite impossible. I did not make that statement lightly, or solely on the basis of my own knowledge. I consulted Sir Macfarlane Burnet, director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, who is acknowledged throughout the world as one of the leading authorities on virus diseases and communicable diseases. It was to him I turned when a query arose in the public mind with regard to the efficacy of myxomatosis and the possibility of a connexion existing between myxomatosis and encephalitis. Sir Macfarlane Burnet has permitted me to quote him with regard to the suggestion that germ warfare was being carried on in Korea. He has said -
This whole question of spreading disease by such methods has been extensively and openly discussed in literature on the subject. It is the general opinion of bacteriologists that any attempt to initiate epidemics amongst enemy personnel is bound to be fruitless.
No intelligent bacteriologist could ever believe that the dropping of plague-infected fleas or typhus-infected lice could have more than a minor psychological or nuisance value. The spread of any epidemic is determined almost wholly by the condition of the population concerned.
In areas where plague or typhus is already present as in North Korea and Manchuria, the occurrence of outbreaks will be determined by local conditions such as the degree of overcrowding, the presence of rats and the immunity of the population.
The deliberate liberation by any means of the responsible germs could have no more than a trivial effect on the incidence of diseases. No significant military effect could be expected. It is unthinkable that any responsible officer would have ordered such action.
That view, coming from a gentleman who is so eminent as is Sir Macfarlane Burnet in this field is, I believe, very significant. In reply to the second part of the honorable member’s question in which he referred to a proposal by the American Command that an independent inquiry should be made into these charges, I remind the House of the following message which the American Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Acheson, sent to the President of the Internationa] Red Cross at Geneva: -
Despite categorical denials by the United States Government and the unified Command Communists continue to state that biological war by the unified command has caused an epidemic in Communist held areas of Korea. I repeat that the unified command has not engaged in any form of biological warfare. In the interests of having the facts clearly established by a disinterested international body the United States Government as the unified command would like to suggest that the I.C.R.C. make arrangements to conduct an investigation to determine (1) the nature and extent of this epidemic and (2) the real cause of the epidemic . . .
– I rise to order. The Minister is answering a question that is supposed to have been asked without notice, but he is reading a long typewritten reply. I submit that he should not be permitted in that way to occupy so much of the time that is allotted to questions without notice. Very shortly, other honorable members who wish to ask questions without notice will be told to put them on the notice-paper. I take strong objection to the action of the Minister in reading so lengthy a reply to a question which, obviously, is what is called a “ Dorothy Dixer “.
– I also rise to order. When matters are before the public, Ministers frequently come to the House - I am one of them - prepared to answer questions that may be asked with respect to such subjects. I am prepared to answer not only this question but also a large number of other questions, which I have noted on my files, whether they be asked hy supporters of the Government or by members of the Opposition.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! I can only refer honorable members again to Standing Order 150, which reads -
Questions may be asked without notice on mi portant matters which call for immediate attention . . .
I have no personal knowledge of what may happen between Ministers and honorable members.
– You have been here long enough, Mr. Speaker, to know that the question that the Minister is now answering is a “ Dorothy Dixer “.
-I think that the honorable member will see that I have had my eyes open for at least nine days. I remind the House that it is drifting further and further from my ruling - I believe that it received the approval of the majority of honorable members - that not only questions without notice but also the replies to them should be brief and to the point. To-day, for instance, an honorable member asked a question which consisted of about twelve questions that were of such a nature’ that I do not think any Minister could be expected to answer all of them without having been given notice. I do not single out that question. It was one of many of its kind. However, the habit is developing of asking without notice questions that should be placed on -the notice-paper which, I point out, does not now contain as many questions as it did formerly. Personally, I consider that this is ii matter which is in the hands of honorable members and other Ministers, but if the House wishes me to apply the Standing Orders it only has to say so, in which case I think question time will be over in ten minutes on any hitting day.
– If I may, Mr. Speaker, I shall finish the quotation, only a brief part of which remains, as it refers to a matter of considerable public importance. I am quoting from Mr. Dean Acheson’s message to the Executive Committee of the International Red Cross at Geneva, wherein the United States Government proposed a completely independent inquiry into the Communist charges of the use of germ warfare in Korea. Mr. Acheson’s communication goes on to say -
To establish the- facts beyond all doubt such an investigation would have to be conducted on both sides of the battle line in Korea. Investigation in the Communist-held areas would reveal the nature and extent of this epidemic :plus evidence of the real cause of the epidemic. Investigation behind the United Nations lines would provide additional evidence with regard to the falsity >A the biological warfare charge. For example, I.C.R.C. investigators would be given free access to all sources of possible information behind United Nations lines bearing upon the investigation.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether an officer of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, an employee of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and an official of the Bureau of Census and Statistics have been made available to an outside organization in order to advise on the conduct of a survey into the broadcasting industry? Will the Minister ascertain whether the survey in question is being conducted by a commercial enterprise known as the Anderson Analysis of Broadcasting? Will he inform the House whether the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission are subsidizing the survey, which is the property of a gentleman in Bligh-street, Sydney? If his answer is in *he affirmative, will he inform me of the authority under which public funds are being so expended, and whether there is a specific appropriation for such purposes?
– I have no knowledge of the release of an officer of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and an employee of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the purpose to which the honorable gentleman has referred. If he will give me particulars of persons who have allegedly been released for such a reason, I shall have full investigations made into the matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. Is it not a fact that during the period the last Labour Government was in office the present Leader of the Opposition defended the practice of issuing Australian passports to any Australian who wished to travel overseas, even to Communist-organized conferences ?
– I believe that the honorable member for Ryan has stated the position correctly. However, that matter comes directly within the administration of the Minister for Immigration, and I understand that he proposes to make a statement on the subject at an early date.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether it is a fact that the Joint Coal Board has discontinued prospecting for coal in the western district of New South Wales, and has issued instructions that no new deep mines or open cuts are to be developed in that area ? Because of the time lag from the commencement of the development of a new colliery to the date of production, will the Minister fully investigate the matter to which I have directed attention, and will he ensure, if necessary, that any decision which would limit coal production will be reversed? Is the honorable gentleman in a position to inform the House whether approximately 500,000 tons of coal is on grass in the western coal-field? If such is a fact, will he give credit to those engaged in industry for a job well done?
– The question should have been addressed to the Minister for National Development, because coal production comes within his jurisdiction.
However, I shall direct his attention to the question, and see that the honorable member receives a detailed answer.
– Will the Leader of the Opposition inform me whether he satisfies himself that all the honorable members that he leads in this House, and all members of his party who are selected to endeavour to become members of this House, are opposed to the activities of Communists ? Can he say whether any investigation that he may make should be sufficient to assure this Government that any such person can be relied upon to be loyal to Australia and of such character that he should be issued with a passport to travel outside Australia if he desires to do so?
– I am perfectly satisfied with the loyalty and integrity of the members of the Parliamentary Labour party. As far as I know, the loyalty of all members of the Labour party is unquestionable, and compares favorably or more than favorably with the loyalty of the members of the party to which the honorable member for Bennelong belongs.
– I ask that further questions be placed upon the notice-paper.
– That is scandalous. I have tried to ask a question and have not been permitted to do so.
– Why don’t you get up if you want to ask a question ?
– I tried to get up but I cannot get up quickly.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I take strong exception to an interjection that was made by the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden). When I took exception to his request that all further questions be placed on the notice-paper he said, “ Why don’t you get up “. I then said, “ I did try to get up “, and he said, “ You could not get up “.
– I said nothing of the sort.
– I think the Acting Prime Minister should qualify his state- ment that I am unable to get up. I admit that I am a cripple, but that is all that is wrong with me. I have been getting up allday to-day, but I did not have the privilege of asking one question. I ask that the right honorable gentleman withdraw his remark and apologize.
– There is nothing for me to apologize about. I did not make any such statement and I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) will bear me out in that.
– Order ! I saw the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) on his feet on two or three occasions during question time, but he, in common with a number of other honorable members on both sides of the House, was not able to get his question in within the hour that has been allowed for the asking of questions. I may say that during an hour to-day the House has dealt with only 23 questions.
– Well, that is the fault of the Minister for External Affairs.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
High Commissioner Bill 1952.
Spirits Bill 1952.
Whaling Industry Bill 1952.
Australian War Memorial Bill 1952.
Northern Territory Acceptance Bill 1952.
Naval Defence Bill 1952.
Air Force Bill 1952.
Aluminium Industry Bill 1952.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1952.
– by leave - The ninth session of the South Pacific Commission was held at Noumea from the 28th April to the 7th May, 1952, and was attended by delegations from Australia, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
– Order! The Minister will take his seat until the House is prepared to listen to what he has to say.
Mr. Hasluck having been called again,
– It was agreed to extend the activities of the commission to embrace Guam and the trust territory of the Pacific islands under United States administration. This action followed the signing of an agreement by member governments at Noumea on the 7th November last to bring both territories within the scope of the South Pacific Commission.
The commission reviewed arrangements for the holding of the second South Pacific conference at Noumea in April, 1953. The conference, which is an auxiliary body of the commission, provides a direct link between the commissionand the island peoples whom it serves, and it is expected that each of the eighteen territories in the commission area will send delegates and advisers, as well as observers from various approved organizations.
The recent meeting of the South Pacific Commission received reports on the various projects of the commission relating to health, social and economic matters. The current work programme comprises 43 projects. Nine are concerned in the health development, eleven in the economic development, and 21 in the social development of the peoples within the commission’s area of operation. It was evident at the recent session that, with the commission now firmly established, continuing and satisfactory progress can be expected in this, the main reason for the commission’s being. Amongthe reports presented under this heading it is pleasing to note that Dr. Austin, leprologist of the Mokogai Leprosy Hospital, Fiji, who conducted a survey at Nauru into the occurrence of leprosy, reported as follows : -
The present investigation indicates, however, that the leprosy position is well in hand and that the present policywhich is in general that followed in dealing with the original outbreak could hardly be bettered.
Honorable members will be interested to learn that, on this occasion, the Australian delegation, acting on definite instructions, gave special attention to budgeting procedure of the commission, and agreement was reached regarding a new procedure, which, in our view, will help to ensure the efficiency of the commission, and the clarity of its financial statements. As Australia is one of the principal contributors to the funds of the South Pacific Commission, the Australian Government considered that this procedural improvement was necessary,(,in order that the Parliament, which votes the funds, aa well as the Australian departments responsible for administering the expenditure, could discharge their duty in a more practical manner and more readily assure themselves regarding the way in which the commission was operating.
Following the meeting of the South Pacific Commission, a fisheries conference was held in Noumea between the 14th and the 22nd May, and a meeting of the research council will commence in Noumea on the 9th June. Australian Commonwealth departments and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, will be represented at this meeting by officials engaged administratively on the various matters under discussion. I lay on the table the following paper: -
South Pacific Commission- Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper bc printed.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. MoEwen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wool Tax Assessment Acts I93G and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Public Service Arbitration Act 1020-1950.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
When speaking on the motion for the second reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill last week, I explained that the bill proposed to allow an appeal from decisions of conciliation commissioners to the Full Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration by leave of the Chief Judge in certain circumstances, and also to permit conciliation commissioners to refer matters before them to the Full Court in certain cases. I said then that the Government intended to introduce amendments to other legislation in order to apply the same policy to proceedings before other Commonwealth arbitration authorities.
One such authority is the Public Service Arbitrator. Under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act, he has jurisdiction to determine claims relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay and terms and conditions of employment of the Public Service. I use this phrase loosely, because the arbitrator’s jurisdiction extends not only to officers and employees employed under the Public Service Act, but also to those employed by public institutions and authorities of the Commonwealth. The authority of the arbitrator thus extends now to employees of such agencies as Trans-Australia Airlines and the Commonwealth Railways, to wages staffs at defence production and munitions establishments, and to employees of the Department of Works and Housing. As the law stands at present, there is no appeal from the arbitrator’s decisions, nor ia the arbitrator required to have regard to decisions of the court upon the matters with regard to which the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act recognizes that there ought to be general standards, that is, the basic wage, standard hours and leave. I have no doubt that, in practice, the arbitrator does consider the relevant decisions of the court. If the jurisdiction of the arbitrator were limited to the Public Service proper, that is, thecareer service consisting of administrative departmental officers, this might not raise difficulties. It has always been recognized that conditions of employment; applicable in industry are not necessarily applicable to a career service. But, at present, there are many thousands of wage employee? engaged in occupations which are the subject of awards made under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act but whose conditions of employment are regulated, not by those awards, but, because they are employees of the Commonwealth, by determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator.
Honorable members will not wish me to traverse again the principles which have guided us in the approach that we have made in these various amendments to our industrial legislation. All I need say here is that the cases that may be expected to go from the Public Service Arbitrator to theFull Court will involve matters of considerable importance, which, in the public interest, should finally be decided by the supreme industrial tribunal. Finally, as honorable members are aware, determinations of the arbitrator are required to be laid before both Houses of the Parliament, and, if a determination is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the Parliament may disallow it. Clauses 7 and 8 of the bill provide for consequential amendments to the present provisions, but do not depart from the principle. I commend this bill to the House.
– Is the Minister aware of any conflict, on principle, between the decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator and those of the court?
– I am not able to answer that question off-hand, but I shall try to obtain the information from the department and make it available to the right honorable gentleman as soon as possible.
– Have the Public Service organizations asked for this legislation?
– No. I can only tell the House that this bill forms a part of the general scheme that the Government has submitted to it.
– Does the Government propose to extend the right of appeal so that it will apply to decisions of special tribunals?
– It proposes to apply the principle throughout the entire range of industrial tribunals. Other legislation will be introduced during the current sittings of the House. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, for example, will be brought into the scheme.
I am doubtful whether similar action will be taken during the current sittings in relation to the stevedoring industry and the coal industry, but the Government intends that the principle shall be applied to them eventually. I had intended to proceed with a bill to amend the coal industry legislation and to make provision for appeals from decisions of the Coal Industry Tribunal. As honorable members are aware, we are required to obtain the consent of the New SouthWales Government to any amendments of that legislation. I have informed the Premier of New South Wales, with whom I have discussed the matter, that we do not now intend to proceed with that bill during this sessional period, but that we do propose to introduce a measure to remove a difficulty which has arisen in relation to the Coal Industry Tribunal. I have received the Premier’s concurrence to that course, and I expect that I shall receive his decision upon the appeal aspect of the matter later.
– I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
I mention formally to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) that it would be desirable to consider together all the bills that he has mentioned. Otherwise, we might have an appeal system in operation in respect of only some tribunals.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power Act 1949-1951.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The amendments proposed in this bill wereforeshadowed in my second-reading speech on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1952. All that the measure is designed to do is to make the. same adjustment of the industrial machinery provided under the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act as regards references and appeals to the Full Bench of theCommonwealth Arbitration Court from decisions of the single judge of the court who normally has jurisdiction, as are being made in the case of the conciliation, commissioner system. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill proposes a complete revision of the law relating to patents of inventions. Its purpose is to improve the existing law, in the light of modern requirements to which the great advance in technological development in recent years has given rise. The bill proposes to repeal the whole of the existing act and to replace it with a new one, but that does not mean that there will be a drastic departure from the present system. The procedure of repeal and substitution has been adopted in order to avoid a multiplicity of detailed technical amendments. The old law, and the changes now proposed, have all been thoroughly considered by a highly expert committee, but the committee did not recommend any radical change of the existing system. On the contrary, it expressed the view “ that the system of patenting inventions as at present established is, on the whole, working satisfactorily, and that any alterations necessary are concerned with matters of procedure rather than with matters of broad general principle “. Therefore, the greater part of the bill is designed to put into operation, not new laws, but laws which have been in operation for almost half a century.
The existing patent system of the Commonwealth is based on the Patents Act 1903, which superseded separate systems in each of the States. That act has been amended from time to time in minor respects, but the need for a comprehensive review has long been recog-. nized. Prior to the 1939-45 war, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then Attorney-General, established a committee to consider what alterations of the Australian patent law were desirable. Bills were introduced to give effect to the recommendations of the committee, but the project lapsed in 1940, owing to war-time exigencies. Developments during and after the war have accentuated the need for an overhaul of Australian patent law. In particular, the British legislation, upon which our act of 1903 was based, was extensively amended and consolidated in 1949. Accordingly, the Government decided to appoint a new committee to review the Australian law in the light of present-day needs and of the developments in patent law overseas.
The chairman of the committee was the Honorable Arthur Dean, who was a member of the pre-war committee and is now a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria. Another member of the committee, who served also on the pre-war committee, was Mr. L. B. Davies. He is a practising patent attorney and a past president of the Institute of Patent Attorneys of Australia. The other members of the committee were Mr. R. K. White, Mr. J. Q. Ewens, and Mr. H. R. Wilmot. Mr. White, like Mr. Davies, is a past president of the Institute of Patent Attorneys, Mr. Ewens is the Parliamentary Draftsman, and Mr. Wilmot is the Commissioner of Patents. The committee invited suggestions from all persons interested, and considered suggestions for alterations of the law put forward by the Institute of Patent Attorneys of Australia (Incorporated), by the Commissioner of Patents, by interested Commonwealth departments, by the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents of the United Kingdom, and by other bodies. The committee presented its report on the 17th April. The bill is designed to give effect to its recommendations.
Before I touch upon the more important changes of the patent law of the Commonwealth proposed by the bill, I desire to remind the House of the important role that the patent system plays’, and has played, in the industrial life of the British people, and also of the objects for which the system was devised. Some indication of the part that patents play in the industrial life of this country at present is given by the fact that since 1903 the Patent Office has issued 105,614 patents for inventions, that 23,000 remain in force, and that patents are now granted at the yearly rate of 4,300. The patent system of Australia owes its existence to the foundation laid over 300 years ago by the Statute of Monopolies 1624. That statute provided for the grant to inventors, by letters patent, of monopoly rights for a limited period in a new manufacture. The monopoly right was not granted in respect of manufactures already in use, and was intended to encourage industrial development in England. An interesting feature of our act and also of this bill is that “ invention “ is defined by reference to the provisions of the Statute of Monopolies.
Our patent system, as indeed are all patent systems, is directed to some degree to the achievement of four objects: first, the encouragement of inventors; secondly, the advancement of industrial development by bringing inventions into use without delay; thirdly, the disclosure of technical information; and fourthly, the protection of the public interest. Governments all over the world are becoming increasingly conscious of the importance of patents for inventions in industrial development. One country after another is revising its patent system, and paying particular attention in its revised legislation to the stimulation of inventive skill and energy in its citizens, lt has almost become axiomatic that, as technical progress is made, industrial development progresses, national prosperity increases, and the ability of the nation to preserve its national identity becomes greater. The success we have achieved in the stimulation of inventions owes much to the recognition of the principle that an inventor should have some protection for his invention. In all but backward countries, some such protection now exists. To-day, more than at any other time in the history of our patent system, it is necessary that, whatever encouragement be afforded to inventors, it shall be equally applicable to the invention of a group of men as to that of an individual. - Industrial technique has now become so involved that, in many cases, invention is, . and often is, only possible by, the work of many men working as a team in the well-equipped and expensive laboratories of large business concerns. If this.research is to continue and to be extended’., those responsible for it must be assured of recovering eventually at least the expenditure incurred, if not of receiving some reasonable reward.
It is almost universal practice to encourage invention and to provide reasonable protection for the inventor by granting him a monopoly for a limited period to make, use, exercise and vend his invention within the country of the grant. The International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property has further encouraged invention by extending the field of exploitation to countries other than that of which the inventor is a resident. In Australia, the term of a patent is sixteen years. Under the present law, this period runs from the date on which the application is filed, but a patentee has no right to sue in respect of infringement committed prior to the publication of the completed specification. Under clause 67 of the bill, it is provided that the period shall run from the lodgment of the completed specification. The effect of the change will be to give the inventor protection for a longer period of the term of the patent. This amendment will bring the Australian law into line with the provisions of the international convention.
The present Australian patent system has limitations, both in the encouragement of inventors and in bringing inventions into use without delay. Having evolved his invention, the inventor’s greatest trouble often lies in getting the invention adopted in industry. In any major industrial change, a manufacturer is forced to weigh the advantage to be obtained by being the’ first to develop the new methods against the loss in tools and plant which will be rendered obsolete by the change. It is possible, by legislation, to remove or minimize some of those features of our present patent system which are detrimental to the encouragement of inventors and to reduce the delay in putting inventions into use. The bill contains several provisions which are directed to this end. For example, clause 120 enables a manufacturer who proposes to make an article or use a process, and is unable to obtain from his legal advisers a clear opinion that he will not thereby infringe some patent, to seek from the High Court a declaration that, in the making of the article or the using of the process, he would not commit an infringement.
The involved nature of modern industrial technique has also brought difficulties to the inventor in protecting his invention, and litigation has become more costly owing to the complexity of the issues involved. The bill provides some measure of relief in these matters as, Tor example, in clause 95, which allows the commissioner, in addition to the court as at present, to extend the term of a patent on the ground of war loss. In many cases this will save both time and expense. The establishment of a system providing for the grant of a patent monopoly imposes an obligation upon the legislature to ensure that the public interests are properly protected. The chief beneficiary of our patent system should be the Australian public, and this should be true whether or not the invention is commercialized. Where the invention is commercialized, the public benefits from the product or process. Where it is not commercialized the public benefits from the recorded knowledge of the inventor. In either case, some contribution is made to technical, and so to social and cultural, progress. The working and compulsory licence provisions of the present act have been retained, and have been amplified by the requirement which is now contained in clause 110 that the invention be worked, where possbile, on a commercial scale in this country. These provisions are a safeguard to the public interest. So also under clause 125 the Commonwealth or a State., or any contractor with the Commonwealth or a State, may use an invention subject, of course, to the payment of reasonable compensation. Although the Commonwealth has certain rights of use under the existing law, these rights have been extended and under the bill will also be enjoyed by the States. I also draw the attention of honorable members to clause 131 which enables the commissioner, subject to any directions of the AttorneyGeneral, to prohibit or restrict the publication of information concerning the subject-matter of an application for a patent where it is necessary or expedient to do so in the interests of defence.
In the public interest, it is further essential that protection for the inventor should be coupled with disclosure to the public of the scientific knowledge comprised in the subject-matter of the invention. In bringing about the disclosure of technical improvement and information, our patent system has worked exceptionally well. Whether or not any individual patentee makes a profit from the invention for which he holds a patent, the information he discloses, when added to that disclosed by other patentees, ha.« helped to build that vast store of technical information which is now to he. found in patent specifications. These, indeed, in many cases, will provide the main source from which new industries will be developed. This was the case, for instance, in the manufacture of electric computers - machines which, in a few seconds, solve the most complicated mathematical problems, the solving of which, by mental labour, takes hours, days, or even weeks. The store of technical knowledge contained in the specifications lodged in the Patent Office has. up till now, not been used to full advantage. To help in disseminating knowledge contained in the specifications and to assist the applicant in the preparation of his own specifications, the bill, in clause 56, makes provision for the disclosure by the Patent Office of particulars of prior specifications disclosed by official searches. A similar provision contained in the legislation of the United States of America and Great Britain has been found to be of considerable advantage.
I have dealt very briefly with the history and objects of our patent system in order that honorable members may have a better appreciation of the difficulties which must assuredly arise in any revision of the patent system. Perhaps the greatest difficulty encountered in the making of any amendment is in finding the fair balance between the conflicting interests which arise between the inventor, industry and the public interest. In this regard, I draw the attention of honorable members to the following observations by the committee, in paragraph 10 of its report : -
The industrial development of a country is considerably affected by the efficacy or otherwise of its patent system. Manufacturers would not be prepared to develop and produce improved machinery if others could copy the results of their work with impunity. On the , ,t:her hand, any inequity in the patent system may hamper manufacturers and cause inconvenience to the public. We have endeavoured throughout to maintain a fair balance between, the rights of the inventor and the ,public interest.
A typical example of an- amendment which involves this conflicting interest is that contained in clause 43 of the bill. Section 38a. of the existing act provides that after a complete specification has been lodged, the Commissioner shall publish a notification that the complete specification is open to public inspection, and thereupon the application and complete specification shall be open to public inspection and the complete specification shall be deemed to be published. In practice, the notification does not take place until at least two months after the date of lodgment of the complete specification. Under clause 43 of the bill, the publication of the complete specification cannot take place until six months after lodgment. The advantage which industry may obtain in one direction by the earlier publication, under section 38a of the present act, of any restrictions which patents place upon its activities have -to bc weighed against the disadvantages which industry may suffer in another direction and the disadvantages to the patentee. Early publication from the patentee’s point of view restricts the nature of any amendment that he may make to his specification, prevents him dividing his patent into independent patents and more important still may invalidate a patent obtained by him in a foreign country. Clause 43 gives effect to a recommendation of the committee, and represents in the view of the committee and of the Government a fair compromise between the equities of the inventor, industry and the public interest.
The recommendations of the committee adopt most of the recommendations of the pre-war committee, and follow also in the main those of the recent English committee. Many of the provisions of the 1949 British act have been adopted, in substance, in the bill. In matters of patents for inventions it is particularly important that legislation in Australia and the United Kingdom should correspond, as closely as possible, in the interests alike of British and Australian inventors and their advisers. The reports of the Australian committees to which I have referred, together with the bill, have been incorporated in a booklet, copies of which have been made available to honorable members.
The bill is rather a lengthy one, and I do not intend to weary the House with a detailed explanation of it. Let it suffice to say that, in addition to the matters to which I have already referred, the more important amending provisions relate to - (a) changes in procedure in connexion with the applications for patents and in the system of dating patents for the purpose of determining the validity of the patent; (Z>) the grant of additional rights to exclusive licensees and the definition of “ exclusive licensee”; .(c) the persons who may practise as patent attorneys; (d) the amendment of specifications; and (e) the establishment of an appeal tribunal.
I have already referred to the provision contained in the bill for the dating of a patent for the purposes of determining the limits of the term of the patent. In clause 45, the bill makes provision for a patent to have a second date. This date is known as the “ priority date “ and is the date to be used for determining the validity of the patent. A detailed explanation of the purpose of dating a patent will be found by honorable members in paragraphs 13 and 54 of the report. Clauses 6, 96. 114 and 127 clarify a matter in which the present law has been very obscure, namely, the position of an exclusive licensee. Clause. 6 defines “ exclusive licensee “ as a licensee under a licence granted by the patentee which confers on the licensee the right to make use of, exercise and vend a patented invention throughout Australia to the exclusion of all persons., including the patentee. Clauses 96, 114 and 127 give to an exclusive licensee the powers possessed by a patentee under the bill in respect of the extension and infringement of patents and declarations by the court of Crown use of patented inventions.
Under the existing act a legal practitioner is entitled to practise as a patent attorney. It is rare for a solicitor to engage in the practice of a patent attorney, but barristers and solicitorshave at times done some of the things that are normally done by patent attorneys, such as advising on the specification of a patent and appearing before the Commissioner. In view of the scientific qualifications required of patent attorneys, it has been considered desirable that some restriction should be placed upon the extent to which legal practitioners are free to carry on practice ;as patent attorneys. Clauses 136 and “137 now restrict the right of legal practitioners to practise as patent attorneys and the effect is : First,, a legal practitioner who possesses the required scientific qualifications may be registered as a patent attorney upon passing appropriate subjects of a prescribed examination; secondly, a legal practitioner who, within one year, satisfies the Commissioner that prior to the 1st January, 1952, he has practised as a patent attorney, may continue to practise as such; and, thirdly, any other legal practitioner is not entitled to prepare specifications unless he is acting under the instructions of a patent attorney. The Australian Law Council and the Institute of Patent Attorneys of Australia have approved in general of these restrictions.
The amendment of specificatons has, by clauses 77 to 89, been facilitated both before and after publication of the specification, thus allowing a meritorious invention to be maintained even though the specification may be subject to drafting defects. Clauses 146 to 151 provide for the establishment of jurisdiction of an appeal tribunal, which will be the High Court constituted by a single justice. The establishment of this tribunal should facilitate, shorten and reduce the cost of proceedings in those cases in which an appeal from the Commissioner has been provided for under the bill. The establishment of a tribunal represents a departure from the present procedure which permits appeals from the Commissioner to the law officer, and from the law officer to the High ‘Court. It is consistent with the practice in the United States of America and Great Britain. Honorable members will find in the booklet that has been circulated a full explanation of the terms of the bill. If the bill is passed, and I hope it will be, the patent law of this country will be brought completely up to date. The bill does not raise party controversy, but is of considerable public importance.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 29th May (vide page 1154), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mi-. JOSKE (Balaclava) [4.8].- The maintenance of industrial peace and the adjustment of the terms and conditions of employment are of vital concern to the nation. Under the Constitution, the industrial power of the Parliament is limited to making laws with respect to “ conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State “. It is not a power to deal with the field of industry generally. The commerce power of the Commonwealth under the Constitution has not been interpreted in the same way as the commerce power has been interpreted in the United States of America where the national government is enabled to legislate in respect of the whole field of industry. The industrial power of this Parliament is much more circumscribed. It is limited to conciliation and arbitration in respect of industrial disputes of an interstate character. It is true that in a time of war the Commonwealth’s defence power expands and enables the Parliament to deal with the field of industry generally. During the recent war, the Commonwealth dealt with disputes that did not extend beyond the limits of one State. But, at present, the Parliament is confined to the Commonwealth’s original power and it cannot rely upon any expansion of the defence power. Nevertheless, within the limits of the power provided for under the Constitution, a vast field of jurisprudence, of which this country can well be proud, has been established. This field was described by the late Mr. Justice Higgins, the most famous president of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, as a new province for law and order. The court has always regarded that field as a province in which law is to be administered and order shall prevail. We should maintain that ambition. We wish to preserve order in industry.
The arbitration law of this country can be compared with the common law of England which is based on the good sense of the common people and represents the ideas and notions of the ordinary man. It has sufficient flexibility to expand and also to prune excrescences and notions that become out-of-date. Similiarly, our arbitration law has been founded upon principles of reasonableness and good sense, whilst it is sufficiently flexible to adapt itself to the changing times and circumstances through which the nation is constantly passing. It has been developed through trial and error. It has been based upon the notion of retaining what has been tried and found to be useful and discarding what has been found to be not so good.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) stated that no fewer than 26 amendments have been made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That is not so much a case for wonderment as it is an indication of the care and anxiety with which the Parliament has constantly regarded this vital subject. Australia’s system of industrial arbitration has won the admiration of other countries. Indeed, despite whatever complaints may be made about it from time to time, the people are not prepared to abandon it. We must preserve it. The events that occurred in 1929 clearly indicated that there is no getting rid of it, but that we must maintain it and should be proud of it, yet, at the same time, seek to improve it. In 1947, when the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who was then Attorney-General in the Chifley Government, introduced amend ing legislation, he emphasized that theCommonwealth Arbitration Court had’achieved certain practical results; that ithad improved industrial conditions and lessened industrial dislocation, and that employers, employees and the community had benefited as a result of its work to a much greater degree than they would havehad the court not existed. That was high-‘ praise of the court. However, under the 1947 act, the number of conciliation commissioners was substantially increased.The. jurisdiction of the commissioners was4 also greatly extended. They were given power to make orders and awards, in other words, they were transformed into arbitrators.
It is quite erroneous to describe the commissioners, as the Leader of the Opposition has described them, as not being judicial officers. Any person who is an arbitrator is a judicial officer, therefore the commissioners are just as much judicial officers as are the judges of the court itself, except that they have no power to enforce orders and awards. So far as the exercise of the arbitration power is concerned they are, in fact, acting judicially, and therefore have been properly described as “ lay judges “. It has been pointed out that the term “ conciliation commissioners “ is now a misnomer, and that the power to arbitrate that has been given to the commissioners has weakened their use of the power to conciliate because they now proceed to make an award as soon as the parties before them disagree, instead of doing the utmost to obtain agreement. When a commissioner realizes that agreement will be difficult to achieve he decides that he will cease to conciliate and will proceed to arbitrate. No doubt matters are expedited in that way, but the original idea of a conciliation commissioner being a person who primarily should conciliate is being forgotten. For that reason the 1947 act has not proved as valuable as its sponsors hoped that it would. Indeed, considerable criticism was directed against the legislation when it was before the Parliament. It was pointed out that it provided for no appeal against the decision of a commissioner, and that there was a diversion of duties between the court, on the one hand, and the commissioners on the other which was mutually exclusive.
Neither the court, nor the conciliators could trespass upon the ground of the other. As the years have passed, that shortcoming has become more marked, consequently the system is proving much less valuable than it should prove.
It is essential that some co-ordinating authority should be Ale to deal with some decisions of commissioners, which, although they are upon kindred matters, are completely at variance with, one another. A conciliation commissioner’s decision is now subject to neither supervision nor revision, although it may be either wrong or a complete departure from the decision of another commissioner. That state of affairs produces unhappy consequences in practice. Another aspect of the 1947 legislation which was subjected to criticism was that a commissioner could not be compelled to refer questions of law to a court. A conciliation commissioner may be an entirely lay person with no education in the law. In fact, most of the conciliation commissioners are not legally qualified practitioners of the law, although, in the course of their duties, they have to deal with matters of law. Those legally untrained men are not even allowed to have trained lawyers appear before them in order to assist them on questions of law.
– Even so, commissioners who are untrained in the law still have to decide questions of law that they have not the. competence or experience to decide. A conciliation commissioner is not a fit person to deal with such questions. As the act now stands a commissioner cannot be compelled to refer any question of law to a court. In some instances the position is analagous to that of a blind man searching for a black hat in a pitch dark room. Just as there might not be any hat in the room, so there might not be any real question of law. Furthermore, owing to the fact that the commissioners now determine questions of law, their decisions often come before the High Court when such proceedings as applications for prohibition are launched. The result, is delay which could be avoided by the application of the useful provision in this bill tinder which, if a commissioner refuses to refer a point of law, an application may be made to a judge in respect of the matter. The greatest defect of the system as it stands is that there is no co-ordinating authority to bring cohesion into its operation. Only the provision of the right of appeal against decisions of conciliation commissioners can achieve such cohesion. The right of appeal against a decision of a legal tribunal is well established under our system of jurisprudence and should not be scoffed at.
The learned Leader of the Opposition had something to say about the Galvin award, which deals with marginal rates. The position, as it is recognized in the reports of Chief Judge Drake Brockman and Chief Judge Kelly, is that, owing to the lack of cohesion and the absence of a guiding principle in connexion with decisions of conciliation commissioners, the arbitration system is not giving as great a benefit to the community as it should give. Decisions on certain matters, for example marginal rates, shift work rates, overtime rates, special time rates, the spread of hours of work, and various other conditions of employment, should conform to such a guiding principle. The Leader of the Opposition, during his speech on the bill, described these matters several times as being “ subsidiary matters”, by contrast with the fundamental matters that go to the court. Only once during his speech did he admit that all were important. They are, indeed, vitally important matters. They involve matters of principle, and should be dealt with by a co-ordinating authority. The Leader of the Opposition made it clear also that he considered that the Galvin award was of major importance, and that it had been wrongly made. He cited some instances in order to demonstrate the correctness of his contention. I do not wish to debate with him whether that award was rightly or wrongly made. It is sufficient for me to say that he argued so effectively in order to establish a prima facie case of error in connexion with the Galvin award that he completely dissolved his other argument that there should be no leave to appeal and succeeded in showing that it is essential that there shall be a right of appeal in such cases. Having properly tangled himself up and deleated his own argument in that way, he attempted to get out of his impasse by saying that the lesson of the Galvin award was that a conciliation commissioner should have no right to take the economic condition of the community into consideration when making an award. When he made that statement there was one solitary “hear hear” from among the large number of honorable members who were seated behind him. All but one of his followers sat in stunned silence. No wonder ! Because, far from his having established his case he had, in fact, disproved his main argument about appeals. He had also clearly indicated that matters that relate to the economic condition of the community are of such importance that it is essential, particularly in an inflationary period such as we are passing through, that they be taken into consideration by conciliation commissioners and arbitrators when they are making awards. That was a very stupid way in which to try to get out of the impasse in which he found himself. By contending that economic conditions should not be considered by arbitrators when they are making their decisions he fails to carry out his duty to the community.
The bill does not make probable a host of appeals. The Leader of the Opposition’s statement on that point was completely misleading. Provision is being made for three main rights of appeal. The first is the right of appeal that will arise in cases in which a party to an industrial dispute desires the dispute to be referred to the court but the commissioner will not refer it. The bill provides that a party to such a dispute may apply to the Chief Judge to have the case heard by the court. That provision will not lead to innumerable appeals. Either the Chief Judge will grant the application, in which case the dispute will go to the court, or he will refuse to grant it on the ground that to do so would be contrary to the public interest. If he refused on that ground, then, later, when the commissioner had made an award, there could scarcely he a second appeal on the ground that the matter was one of pubic interest, because the same Chief Judge would have the matter again before him and would not be likely to depart from his previous decision.
The second kind of appeal is that which may follow a refusal by a commissioner to refer to the court for decision a point of law that has arisen. A right of appeal is provided for in “relation to such a matter, but it will be one appeal only, and will occur at any early stage of a case. Ear from that procedure causing delay, it will expedite a case and obviate proceedings that might otherwise come before the High Court later by way of an application for an order of prohibition.
The third kind is the right to appeal from a decision or award of a conciliation commissioner. Such a right will be very limited. It will be founded on an application that must be made within fourteen days after the decision has been given, and must be made to the Chief Judge or to such deputy as His Honour may appoint. Some Opposition members have attempted to make the point that such a provision represents an endeavour to prevent particular judges from hearing appeals from, the decisions of conciliation commissioners. That view is not correct. A Chief Judge is given the right to control the business of his court, and to determine the judges who shall take certain work. Unless a Chief Judge was given that right, a popular judge would get most of the work, and other judges would not have so much work; that is to say, a popular judge would be overworked and other judges would he underworked, and the business of the court would be disrupted. There is nothing strange about such a provision; on the contrary, it is quite proper.
The important point of the provision giving the right of appeal is that the Chief Judge, before he grants the application, must be satisfied that the matter is one of importance, in which the public interest is involved. The Leader of the Opposition claimed that he did not understand the meaning of the term “ public interest “. I am. sure that all honorable members on this side of the chamber, and many people outside it, will agree with him that on many occasions he has not understood what the public interest is. The right honorable gentleman also objected to the granting of the right to call further evidence. However, I point out that such a right is not uncommon by any means in proceedings before courts of appeal. It is a proper right. It is not invariably exercised, but occasions arise when ‘a failure to allow further evidence to be called would result in a denial of justice.
Opposition speakers claim that the granting of the right to appeal from a decision of a conciliation commissioner will produce inordinate delays in bringing a matter to finality. The report of the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, Sir Raymond Kelly, which was published recently, shows that blame for delays, which has been placed at the charge of the court, has not been fairly placed there. On many occasions, delays have been caused as the result of applications by organizations for long adjournments and also by the fact that the number of judges appointed to carry out the work has been too few. Often, the too few judges have been given additional work in other tribunals. The Minister has announced that the Government proposes to appoint additional judges to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in order that delays, such as occurred formerly in the arbitration system, will be avoided. Time will also be saved because the number of appeals to the High Court of Australia seeking a prohibition order against a conciliation commissioner will be reduced.
The right of appeal is regarded by the ordinary man as an elementary right. The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Bendigo showed that they recognized that to be a fact when they went so far as to say, “ If an appeal is to be allowed, why not have an appeal from the decision of one Full Court to the other Full Court? “ In making that statement, they gave the “ show “ away. They recognize that the right of appeal is just. A Labour government in New South Wales, when granting to State conciliation commissioners in 1948 powers similar to those conferred on Commonwealth conciliation commissioners, gave to the parties the right to appeal to the Industrial Commission against decisions of the commissioners. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr.
Thompson), when he spoke on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in 1947, pointed out that the man in the street would not regard it as just if he could not appeal against a decision that he considered unfair. That view, I suggest, appeals to the man in the street, and should also appeal -to this House. This bill will be effective, and should bring about a greater degree of industrial stability in the community than exists at the moment. Delays will not be caused in the arbitration system. For the reasons ‘that I have given, I commend the bill to the House.
– I oppose the bill because it will not achieve the objective that has been claimed by .the Government, namely, the attainment of better and more harmonious relations between employer and employee. Everybody agrees that a bill dealing with conciliation and arbitration, is the most important legislation that can be considered by a parliament, because it affects more people than are affected by most other bills, and, what is more, it affects those people more fundamentally than do most other bills. It affects the living standards of the workers and their wives and children. It affects the opportunities that workers may have of offering their families more comfort than +.hey have enjoyed to date. Consequently, when a bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is contemplated, any government ‘that has any consideration for the important essentials that I have mentioned, should seek the views of the representatives of the sections of the community who are most likely to be affected by a change of the existing system. It is unfortunate that, on this occasion, as on all previous occasions when this Government has introduced bills to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the trade union movement and Her Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament have been completely ignored. I remind the Government that, at the last general election, Opposition members were elected by nearly 50 per cent, of the voters to represent their views in this Parliament. The Government, as the result of having neglected to consult the representatives of the trade union movement and the
Opposition, has introduced a hotch-potch oS a bill that will make the industrial position even worse than it is at the present time.
According to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), this bill has several purposes. The first is to provide for the right of appeal against the decisions of conciliation commissioners. The second is to extend the powers of conciliation commissioners in order to enable them to make determinations with respect to annual ‘leave and sick leave. The third is to give to employers the right to impose fines on employees. The fourth is to give to employers the right to impose on their employees the penalty of fines or forfeiture of wages.
– In what clause does that provision appear?
– I shall deal with it in a few moments.
– Has not the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) read the bill ?
– I have read it, but I have not seen the. provisions to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh has referred.
– The fifth purpose of the bill is to give to conciliation commissioners the right to refer matters of law to the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The sixth is to give to the Chief Judge power to allow an appeal from a decision of a conciliation commissioner on a matter which His Honour believes to be in the public interest. The last purpose is to force unions to accept as members persons who have acted detrimentally to the interests of industrial organizations.
Every person who seeks to improve the system of conciliation and arbitration knows that an important step is the elimination of unnecessary delays in reaching decisions. Nothing causes more dissatisfaction to trade unionists than do long delays before a decision is given on a matter. Therefore, a bill that removes the causes of unnecessary delays is good; and a bill that increases delays is obviously bad. I shall show that this bill will not achieve the objective that the Government claims to have in mind. It will not remove the causes of dissension, indeed it will increase delays. In fact, the right to refer disputes to the court will give rise to delays. Proposed new section 14a (2.) states, in effect, that any party to proceedings before a conciliation commissioner may apply to him to refer a particular matter to the court. Subsection (3.) reads as follows: -
An appeal lies to the Chief Judge from a refusal of a Conciliation Commissioner to grant an application under the last preceding subsection.
In that way, two appeals may be heard before the hearing of the claim is really under way. Sub-section (5.) provides that the Chief Judge, after having heard an appeal, may refer the matter to the court. Proposed section 14b (2.) states that the court, if the Chief Judge refers a matter to it, may refer the matter back to a conciliation commissioner. In other words, the parties to the case will then have completed the circle. They will have returned to the starting point. Yet that is not all. Proposed new section 31a (2.) provides, in effect, that after that procedure has been followed, a party to the proceedings may appeal to the Chief Judge to have the decision of the conciliation commissioner referred back to the court. Sub-section (4.) provides that if the Chief Judge considers it to be in the public interest to refer the decision of a conciliation commissioner to the court, he may do so. Under sub-section (6.) the court may then ask the conciliation commissioner to furnish to it a report on the matter, and may also take further evidence, upon the completion of which it will determine the. case. Under this legislation, it is possible, and almost probable, that a union, before it gets a final decision, will have to go through seven different proceedings.
The bill does not even provide that proceedings before a conciliation commissioner, the Chief Judge, or the court, shall be completed within a specified time. For example, a Chief Judge may take six months or twelve months to make up his mind about whether or not he will refer a matter to the court. The court may take six months, if it pleases, to decide that a matter shall be referred back to a conciliation commissioner, who will then give his decision. The parties may then appeal to the Chief Judge against it. The Chief Judge, after whatever delay he deems desirable, may refer the matter to the court for decision. Therefore, this measure is one of the greatest hotchpotches of a bill ever put before the Parliament. The reason for its having been placed before us is that people with legal training and knowledge of the law have allowed the measure to be prepared by those who have no legal knowledge whatsoever. The Minister for Labour and National Service, under whose direction this measure was prepared, has become a mere sycophant of the secretary of his department, whose knowledge of conciliation and arbitration is extremely limited and who is responsible for most of the trouble that the Minister has had to deal with.
The provision of this bill that is most important to unionists, is that which prohibits any appeal against the Galvin award. Yet, the Galvin award has been the only award made by a conciliation commissioner since 1947 that has caused any serious dislocation of industry. The reason why the Galvin award caused such dissension in industry is that the person upon whom the Parliament will now confer such enormous power, namely, the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration had too much to do with the making of that award. One has only to read the reasons given by Mr. Commissioner Galvin and one can see running through the whole of the document the thoughts and opinions of the Chief Judge. Whilst I am not in a position to furnish proof, it is generally believed outside the Parliament that the Chief Judge wrote the award for Mr. Commissioner Galvin.
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Balaclava .(Mr. Joske) to say “ Shame ! “, but the outside opinion about this award is as I have stated it to be. What would be the use of giving the duty of determining an appeal against this award to the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of
Conciliation and Arbitration? It would be an appeal from Caesar to Caesar.
Under this bill, the Chief Judge will bc given dictatorial powers. He alone will determine whether a matter shall be referred to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court upon an appeal. He alone will determine whether a matter is in the public interest. Since the honorable member for Balaclava had so rauch to say about the alleged lack of knowledge of what is in the public interest displayed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), I ask him to state his definition of what is in the public interest in connexion with conciliation and arbitration matters. It is not easy to define public interest in connexion with conciliation and arbitration, because the whole matter turns upon viewpoint. If I were given the right to determine public interest, I should decide that any award would not be in the public interest that failed, as the Galvin award did, to preserve the proper relationship between margins for skill and the basic wage. Ever since Mr. Justice Higgins first considered this matter in relation to the rate of pay of a fitter, a lack of relativity between margins and the basic wage has been considered as being against the public interest.
Obviously, honorable members on the Government side believe that an award that favours the employers is in the public interest, and an award that favours the employees is against the public interest. This bill will give to the Chief Judge an opportunity to determine the correctness of the Opposition’s or the Government’s viewpoint. A provision carefully framed to give to the Chief Judge the right to delegate his powers to any other judge nominated by him is a very bad feature of the bill. The usual procedure is that when the Chief Judge is unable to carry out his duties, they devolve upon the next senior judge. I believe that this provision is a studied insult by the Government to Judge Poster, and has been put forward with the deliberate intention of injuring the learned judge who, incidentally, is one of the most brilliant men ever to grace the bench of an industrial arbitration court.
– Order! I do not think that a discussion should develop about the members of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Such a debate would be completely outside the forms of this House.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I point out to the honorable member for Balaclava, who is a Queen’s counsel, that it is not necessary to have a great knowledge of law in order to have a great knowledge of industry. In settling industrial disputes it is much more important for the conciliator to have a practical knowledge of the industry with which he is dealing, than to have some “ hifalutin “ knowledge of the law. There are far too many lawyers practising in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court at present. There are far too many lawyers getting large fees from unions and employers alike, and causing confusion and distress in the minds of interested parties. It illbecomes the honorable member for Balaclava to put forward a plea for additional powers for lawyers in order to clutter still further the arbitration courts of this country with the legal fraternity. Those gentlemen know nothing about industry generally, and are the most hopeless creatures when trying to conciliate.
Another matter to which I desire to refer is the provision of the bill that will give to judges and conciliation commissioners of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court a right to include in their awards a provision to allow employers to impose disciplinary fines upon employees. That provision will also empower the court to write into awards the right for employers to impose a penalty of forfeiture of the wages of their employees. I refer to section 55 of the principal act which, among other things, provides that -
The Court or a Conciliation Commissioner shall not include in any order or award a provision -
authorizing an employer -
to forfeit or refrain from paying any wages to which an employee has become entitled under his contract or under an award; or
to impose any penalty on an employee.
This bill provides that the section that I have read from the original act is to be deleted. That will mean that no longer will conciliation commissioners be prohibited from authorizing the imposition of penalties on employees by way of amendments of awards.
– In which part of the bill will that provision be found?
– Clause 17 provides -
Section 55 of the principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead : -
Then the bill repeats section 55 of the principal act with the exclusion of that part of it which prohibits conciliation commissioners from including in awards a provision authorizing employers to impose fines and forfeiture of wages. That is a very bad feature of the measure, and one that the Minister should have referred to in his second-reading speech. He did not refer to it because he believed that the Opposition would not notice it. The Minister should realize that the Opposition is led by one who has had no little experience of the law. He has occupied the position of a justice of the High Court of Australia and is not likely to overlook such important pieces of legislation so carefully tucked away. Moreover, he isnot likely, having discovered them, to pass them over without thoroughly examining their implications. The Minister said that this bill deals with appeals, and with one or two other matters of a minor character, but he did not state the position accurately. Tucked away in the bill is the provision that i have referred to which proposes to give to employers a right that no employer should ever have. At this late stage I ask the Government to reconsider this aspect of the bill, and to realize that if it is not reconsidered, there will be nothing to prevent a conciliation commissioner from inserting in. an award a provision that will entitle an employer to penalize his. employee to the extent of his full wages, if he feels so inclined, for the slightest misdemeanour such as failure to attend for duty.
I also object to proposed new section 83a (1.) and (2.). This is another matter that the Minister did not consider of sufficient importance to mention specifically in his second-reading speech. The effect of this provision will be to give to any person, no matter how undesirable he may be from a unionist’s viewpoint, the right to demand membership in any union that covers his usual occupation, regardless of the rules of the union. Let us suppose that a section of a union attempted to break away from the parent body for any purpose. The break-away members, if they failed in their efforts to smash the original body, would have the right to return to the body that they had tried to destroy, and demand membership of it. Surely the Government does not consider that to be a just provision? Surely the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon), who sits pouting at the table, realizes that it will arouse the deepest concern of all decent trade unionists? At this very moment, what is known as a progress committee is operating in the shearing sheds of New South Wales for the purpose of establishing a new organization with a policy distinct from that of the Australian Workers Union. These men propose to refuse to abide by the pastoral award. When they have run their race, they will be allowed, under the terms of this bill, to return to the union, even though the union has, in the meantime, expelled them.
The bill provides that anybody whose usual occupation is covered by a particular trade union has the right to demand membership of that union. Let us consider the stevedoring industry. Everybody knows that, for reasons that also are well known, the Waterside Workers Federation has operated on a closed book system for years. Those reasons are sound. Had the federation not adopted that system, far more men than could have been employed iri the industry would have applied for membership, and most of the’m would have been out of work for most of the time. The bill refers to men who are qualified to join a trade union. The term “ qualified “ can he defined in many ways, and the interpretation of the Government may be vastly different, from that of the Chief Judge of the court. Nevertheless, if this bill becomes law, any person who is deemed to be qualified to follow the stevedoring industry, for example, will have the right to demand membership of the Waterside Workers Federation.
The bill is bad, and the methods that the Government adopted in preparing it merit the severest condemnation. The Government refused to consult with the trade unions or to co-operate with the Opposition in any respect. It did not even have the decency to advise the Leader of the Opposition of the contents of the bill.
– Ha, ha !
– Apparently the failure of the Government to provide the Leader of the Opposition with any advance information about the contents of a bill that deals with such a vital matter as industrial arbitration is considered by supporters of the Government to be laughable. While that state of mind exists on the Government side of the House, we shall never be presented with a sane arbitration bill and will never be able to establish peace in industry.
.- The destructive approach to this bill of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) afforded a striking contrast with the well-reasoned and firmly based arguments of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). The honorable member for Hindmarsh tried to misrepresent the purpose of the bill. He said that it would prohibit any appeal against the Galvin award. That opinion must be generally recognized as a mere figment of the imagination of the lion arable member, because the word “ prohibit “ is not used in the bill. The honorable gentleman said that the honorable member for Balaclava lacked knowledge of the matters with which the bill deals, but surely he realizes that it is traditional that a law shall not be made retrospective ! Obviously, the honorable member was battling for an argument with which to attack the bill. He made the most hesitant speech that I have heard him make in this House, and, in his efforts to find some ground for opposing the measure, he employed the tactics that were used by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when he opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition. After the storm that recently burst over Peking, I was relieved to hear the Leader of the Opposition approach the bill in his usual cold, but,
I hasten to say, very capable legal manner. For my part, I shall discuss it, not in an atmosphere of complete legal and technical understanding, because that would be entirely outside my province, but along the lines that were followed by the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who concentrated upon human values.
This bill will affect Australia’s entire industrial outlook. In my experience, the ordinary man in the street, who is not a rabid trade unionist, finds the industrial picture rather obscured at the present time. I purposely except the rabid trade unionist, because he is well represented by certain honorable members opposite, who regard themselves as complete masters on the subject of arbitration. They would have us believe that they are the untouchables ruling over the field of industrial relations. They must not be disturbed. Nobody should have the temerity to question their wisdom, and all should pay them homage and worship at their shrine. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, for example, said that the Government lacked responsibility because it had failed to approach the Opposition, and, no doubt, in particular himself and other honorable members opposite who consider themselves to be all-knowing on the subject of arbitration. I have discussed this bill with moderate trade unionists, and they have told me that they are prepared to give it a fair trial. They entertain the hope that the bill will tend to establish a little more security in industrial ‘affairs and to make for peace between employer and employee. Surely the history of conciliation and arbitration indicates that the structure of the original legislation was so designed as to enable the employer and the employee to get together in a spirit of conciliation and to afford to both sides an opportunity to bargain! The court was established in order to act as a buffer between the two parties when necessary. Unfortunately, in recent years a state of affairs has arisen in which either one side or the other - the employer or the employee - has tended to take from any award such provisions as it wants and to refuse to accept the terms that do not appeal to it. This practice has been largely adopted by militant trade unions, and it has resulted in continual friction and upheaval. I refer to the militant trade unions advisedly, because these unions, white-anted with Communist activity, threaten the security of our industrial life.
I do not believe that every dark shadow on the industrial front is cast by a Communist, but it is obvious that, since the Communists have wormed their way into our industries, there has been very little industrial peace. The tactics of the Communists have been effective. They have undermined industrial peace in the same manner as they have undermined international peace with their rotten propaganda and subversive activities. The Communist technique in industry is to reply upon collective bargaining, and by this means they have attacked the fundamental basis of industrial peace. I believe that we have fallen too easily for collective bargaining in Australia, and I confess that I see some value in the American and English systems, which permit of a more individual approach to the problems of industry than is possible under the collective bargaining system. Experience in England and America suggests that wage rates can be adjusted more effectively when fixed separately for each section of industry than when fixed for an entire industry. In other words, industrial awards, like clothes, will fit better when they are made to individual measurements than when they are made in one stock size. Under the English and American systems, of course, there should be overall . supervision that will ensure that awards shall conform to a general pattern. However, conditions differ so widely from town to town, and even from business to business, that every national award is full of anomalies. Individual negotiations would help to bring back the personal touch to industrial relations.
One is prompted to ask why, if trade union opinion is divided on the value of this bill, members of the Opposition are so consistently opposed to it. I cannot accept the argument that the addition of the provision for appeals to the existing procedure will threaten any cardinal point of trade union policy. This Government accepted the Labour Government’s experiment of appointing conciliation commissioners. It gave to the process ;i fair trial. But improvements are obviously needed. Conditions to-day are not entirely similar to those of 1947, when the conciliation commissioners were appointed. If events are moving so rapidly on all fronts - the international front, the industrial front, the commercial front and the scientific front - surely some attempt could be made to meet the changing conditions in the field of conciliation and arbitration! For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Opposition should not be disposed to accord to this proposed alteration of the 1947 legislation a fair trial. This Government has given a fair trial to the conciliation commissioner system but, obviously, it has not succeeded. Other methods are needed in order to safeguard industry, and safeguard it we must. “We are poised on the verge of a great industrial upheaval. Prior to the holding of the referendum on communism, the Communists stayed their hands. They were afraid to embroil industry too seriously in disturbances for fear that the Government’s referendum proposal would be endorsed. But, now that the referendum has been defeated, they feel secure and will not hesitate to act. Consequently, we may reasonably expect that industrial disturbances will be arranged in the near future more frequently than they have been fomented in the past. These upheavals will indicate the urgency, in the interests of the future welfare of the nation, of granting to the Government some constitutional power to deal with the enemies that are attacking our industries.
Labour’s opposition to the appeal system rests on very unsound ground. The unions cannot reasonably protest, because it is a well-established fact that they have not hesitated in the past to run to the High Court to lodge appeals against decisions of which they did not approve. I believe that the conciliation commissioners have acted in good faith within the limits of their authority and their individual ability. Unfortunately, they have not always been accorded the ful respect of the unions. I repeat that, if Labour’s principal objection to the bill is directed at the provision for the reintroduction of the appeal system, as the speech by the honorable member, for Hindmarsh indicated that it is, it should recall that the trade unions have never hesitated to appeal against any decision when it has suited them to do so. The conciliation commissioners were appointed for the purpose of ensuring expedition in the handling of disputes. They were to streamline the processes of the law. If they have failed to do so, we must regard their failure as a warning. The Government must avoid a repetition of Labour’s mistakes at all costs. It must watch the appeal system closely and ensure that appeals shall be dealt with quickly. I believe that quick hearings are essential to both sides of industry, because delay in hearing an appeal might involve both employers and employees in serious loss. It is obvious that, if three or four weeks or even longer were to elapse before an appeal was heard and a judgment delivered, the employer and employees who were parties to the dispute might be involved in considerable financial loss during that time.
Therefore, I was pleased when the Minister indicated that the Government: proposed to appoint more judges to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I do not know whether the increase of the number of judges will be adequate, but I believe that any expense incurred in that direction will be warranted. J should not care if some of the judge? appointed were obliged from time to time to sit on their robes in idleness, provided that, when the occasion arose, they could deal with a case without delay. The settlement of industrial disputes is a matter that affects the whole of our industrial productivity. The quicker such disputes are settled, the better will it be for the nation.
Our objective must be greater productivity, but we shall fail at the outset if we do not put an end to the class warfare and the class hatred that are throttling our industry. I believe such hatred and warfare to be artificial. The boss and the worker do not have to hate one another, and they do not do so when they have got to know one another. In my electorate, there are many small businesses which are models so far as industrial relations are concerned, and doubtless there are hundreds of other businesses throughout Australia which arc just as fortunate. They do not have strikes, because the employer and the workers know one another’s problems and, consequently, act reasonably. In such an atmosphere of give and take, it is always possible to find a just solution of any problem. I believe that, if employers and employees could get together, there would be fewer industrial problems. But nowadays, they seldom get together when questions affecting wages and working conditions arise. Usually, they face each other from behind the barbed-wire- entanglements of their various organizations, with trenches manned by officials of trade unions and of employers’ councils. They are the professional soldiers of industrial warfare. Small businesses can maintain friendly relationships between employer and employee because they have not lost the personal touch. I believe that, in time, that may apply also to the large organizations, but I confess that the present lack of such understanding in big businesses frightens me. It is difficult to see any solution of the problem of industrial relations when class antagonisms exist under modern conditions, or of preventing cunning men from exploiting the workers and the employees in order to gain political power for themselves. Having said that I am frightened of big businesses in this connexion, let me say also that I am frightened of big trade unions. They are big businesses, with elaborate organizations, which often dictate to, instead of serve their members.
The future welfare of our industry is wrapped up not so much with conciliation and arbitration bills of this kind as with the problem of production and costs. In dealing with the more pressing problems of our economic life, the matter of costs seem to have been passed over, but it cannot be disregarded for long, because expanding and uncontrollable costs are affecting the whole of our economic policy, and they may be the rock on which we shall perish. Costs are forcing up the basic wage. In turn, we are tying our costs to the basic wage structure. This giddy round-about can Iia ve only the sickening result of causing us to price ourselves out of existence. If there be a need for managements to look at manufacturing methods with a view to seeing whether costs can be reduced, there must also be an alteration of the view of the workers that there are no good bosses, that all bosses are bad, and that the only distinction between them is that some are worse than others. If our captains of industry are to deny themselves their midweek golf, and are to abandon the modern idea that working time spent in clubs is good for making contacts, the men at the benches must, forget about their dargs. and goslowtactics, and must bear in mind that time wasted during working hours amounts virtually to obtaining money by false pretences.
Both employers and workers have been enjoying an easy time. Now, they are starting to pay for it. Employers have been concerned only with the profits that they could make, and workers with getting wages as high as possible. Employers and workers have been cutting up the melon between them, and the melon has been the general public. Recently, employers in many industries have received a salutary reminder that they can no longer sell their products unless the price is right. Even governmental transport monopolies are findingthat the public will not pay unlimited prices for the services that they provide. The workers have also been learning the lesson that costs are just as important to them as are wages. The truth is that the workers draw the wages, but they also pay the costs. They buy most of the goods that we produce, and most of the services that we sell. When one worker gets a rise, the other workers, not the boss, pay for it, because they, for the most part, buy the goods that that worker produces. I believe that the workers are becoming aware of that fact. The day has come when the average worker dreads the announcement of a rise of the basic wage, because he knows that prices will rise again. When the workers carry their thinking a step further, and realize that a real rise of wages can be gained only by producing more goods, we shall bc on the way to a new order in Australia, and to a real system of conciliation and arbitration, because both workers and employers will be striving r,o achieve the same objective, that is, to make more profits, or wages, from more goods.
Some people have always hoped that such a spirit in industry would spring from an upsurge of brotherly love, and thai there would be an era in which the lion and the lamb would lie down together. I confess that I have no great faith in that theory. Up to the present time, workers and employers have always been swayed mainly by selfinterest, and I think that that will continue to be so. But really their interests are the same. Each can prosper only when the other prospers. If the employer is having a bad time, so also is the worker. If the employer is enjoying prosperity, so also is the worker. I believe that both employers and workers are beginning to understand that that is so. On that basis, we can have a real new deal. That will entail, of course, that the basic wage will have to take account of production as well as of prices, that extra production must bring extra wages, and that wages and profits must rise and fall together. It will involve a complete recasting of our methods of determining wages. We must, above all things, ensure that the worker who produces more shall receive a fair reward for so doing. It will mean educating the public to economic facts, so that all will co-operate to effect the changes.
The public have learned some economic facts. They have learned, for instance, the effect of high wages and shorter working hours upon prices. They have learned that lesson the hard way, by experience. But, unfortunately, the whole of the community is not yet productionconscious. All the conciliation and arbitration bills in the world will not provide the essential ingredient which the industrial world lacks to-day, that is, a little self-discipline. If we had selfdiscipline we should not be required to devote our time to debating measures such as the one now before the House. Whether there be conciliation and arbitration or not, to-day the public is looking for a proper appreciation of responsibility on the part of both employers and workers. It will be difficult to find a solution of our problems. In the speech that I delivered on a Supply bill recently, I stated that the forgotten test of free enterprise, competition, was about to be reapplied. If industry is to be competitive again, there must be better team work between employers and workers. I accept this measure as a move in that direction. If the machinery envisaged by the bill were to receive, the full support of the Australian Labour party, the measure could become a very important step towards the achievement of better employer-employee relationships. For that reason, I support the bill.
– Having stepped off the giddy roundabout introduced into this debate by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) I am not sure whether the honorable member, in the metaphor he used, posed as the lion or the lamb, but I am reasonably certain . that his thinking on this matter is woolly. He has professed to be frightened of big business and of big trade unions, and to be terrified of Communists. If he is so frightened and terrified, he should vote against this bill, which will have a severe impact upon industrial relations throughout the Commonwealth, especially within the Australian Capital Territory.
Let me trace, briefly the history of industrial relations in the Territory. In 1922, an industrial board was established by the government of the day to deal exclusively with all industrial matters that affected employers and employees in the Territory. In the beginning, the scope of the board was limited to some degree, but amendments that were made from time to time clothed it with complete power in respect of all matters that affected persons following any industrial occupation in the Territory. The board functioned from 1922 to 1949, a period of 27 years, as the sole wage-fixing authority in the Territory. During the whole of that time not one industrial dispute of any magnitude disrupted industry in the Australian Capital Territory. The board was composed of two employers’ representatives, one of whom was governmental, two employees’ representatives, one representing the skilled trades and all the other callings, and a chairman. Both employer and employee organizations showed complete confidence in the board in placing before it for determination industrial matters of all types. The degree of the board’s success may be measured by the fact that not one stoppage of work occurred because of any determination that was made in the settlement of the hundreds of industrial disputes that occurred within that period of 27 years. Parties to proceedings presented their cases in the simplest manner without any regard to technicalities and legal forms, and were encouraged by the board to do so. After a full hearing, it was the practice of the board to go into committee. If the employer and employee representatives could not then agree, the chairman would decide the issue that was under claim or in dispute.
Prom time to time, the board was called upon to fix a basic wage for the Australian Capital Territory. It conducted a full investigation in the simplest way and determined an appropriate base rate. On many occasions the rate was agreed upon unanimously, and the chairman was not required to do other than make his general contribution to the discussion. The last basic wage review made by the Industrial Board was in 1941, when the base rate for Canberra was fixed at £4 15s. 6d. a week. The board conducted n comprehensive inquiry and after careful consideration of all aspects of the submissions and other information, a conclusion was reached almost unanimously. The employers’ representatives pressed for a basic wage of £4 14s. 6d. and the union representatives sought £4 15s. 6d., a difference of only ls. The chairman supported the higher rate of £4 15s. 6d. and this was established as the basic wage in the Australian Capital Territory. It was 8s. 6d. a week higher than the base rate in Sydney. Honorable members will understand that the cost of living must, of necessity, be higher in the Australian Capital Territory than in Sydney. Almost all consumer goods that arc needed in the Australian Capital Territory must be transported from cither Sydney or Melbourne - principally from Sydney. The 194.1 determination fixed the Australian Capital Territory rate at 8s. 6d. above that of Sydney. By 1949, application of the Statistician’s ‘quarterly “ O “ series index figures had reduced the margin of difference from 8s. 6d. to 6s. 6d., and this gave rise to some doubt about the reliability of the Statistician’s methods in assessing accurate cost of living rises from quarter to quarter. It was held by many that an injustice was being suffered by employees who were covered by the Australian Capital Territory determination.
In 1949, unions in the Australian Capital Territory made application to the Industrial Board to conduct an investigation to establish a correct “ needs basic wage “ for the Territory. However, the government of the day - and it was a Labour government - abolished the Industrial Board before any investigation could be made of the essential needs and the costs associated therewith. The Government at that time was of the opinion that the Industrial Board, which was obliged to act within its powers and to determine a basic rate, should not deal with such an important issue while the basic wage for the rest of the Commonwealth was being investigated in the federal jurisdiction. I have always been of the opinion - and I was not a member of this House at that time - that the better course would have been so to amend the Industrial Board Ordinance as to take away from the board its wage-fixing powers rather than to destroy, by abolition, an industrial authority which had functioned so successfully for 27 years and had set a record unequalled by any tribunal in Australia or, i believe, in any other country. Unions in the Australian Capital Territory protested vigorously against the abolition of the Industrial Board and Canberra came as close as it had ever been to an industrial upheaval solely on that issue. However, to the chairman of the board, who was also a conciliation commissioner, the Chief Judge assigned the determination of all industrial matters in the Australian Capital Territory. The unions viewed the change-over to the federal jurisdiction with a great deal of mistrust, but their fears were somewhat allayed by the continued presence in the industrial field of a conciliation commissioner who had earned their confidence during the four years previously when he had been chairman of the
Industrial Board. Indeed, the assignment of the 23 industries in the Australian Capital Territory to the present conciliation commissioner was supported just as vigorously by employers’ representatives as by employees’ representatives.
From 1949, when the board was abolished, to December, 1950, when the court determined the federal basic wage, the 6s. 6d. a week difference between the base rate in Sydney and the base rate in Canberra had deteriorated by another ls. to a difference of only 5s. 6d. a week. When the basic wage rise of £1 a week was announced bv the court, the unions in the Australian Capital Territory applied to have it added to the base rate that then existed in the Australian Capital Territory, but the court, without any investigation whatever, determined that only 13s. 6d. a week should be added to the Australian Capital Territory rate. The court’s disregard of the plea of the unions that the cost of commodities must necessarily be higher in the Australian Capital Territory than in Sydney has brought about the stupid position that the base rate in the Australian Capital Territory is now 2s. a week less than the base rate in the City of Sydney. It is also less than the base rate in Goulburn, which is 60 miles nearer to Sydney, and in Queanbeyan, only a few miles away. To say that this assessment is ridiculous is to use the mildest terms. Obviously, goods that are bought wholesale 200 miles away must be dearer when they are retailed to an isolated consumer public, and there is little wonder that the unions protested vigorously against the abolition of the tribunal that they trusted. This basic wage injustice has persisted since December, 1950, but the court has not yet found it convenient to investigate such an obvious anomaly.
The delay is typical of what must inevitably occur if the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is amended in the manner that is now proposed by the Government. A substantial reason why Communists could not get a hold on the trade unions in the Australian Capital Territory was that the parties had confidence in the legitimate machinery that was available to settle industrial disputes fairly and quickly. At present, issues that arise on one day are dealt with on the next day by the existing authority, the conciliation commissioner, to whom is assigned the industries, in the Australian Capital Territory. Under the proposed amendment, every matter could be taken on. appeal to the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That might involve delays of 21 weeks or 21 months, according to the discretion of the Chief Judge or the court, or both. The practice in the Australian Capital Territory has been for the conciliation commissioner to deal immediately with all industrial matters and even to go from job to job without any hearing at all and determine matters on the spotMany of the investigations are not even recorded in the registry. To some degree, that is the way in which the conciliation commissioners who were appointed in the terms of the 1947 act were expected to function. It is ironic that the change contemplated by the Government by the terms of this bill will oblige the conciliation commissioners to function in reverse. This “policy may suit the small section of the people in this country which the Government represents - the employing class - so that it will delay for as long as possible any increases that may be due to employees in industry.
One ground on which Mr. Galvin condemned the Australian Capital Territory conciliation commissioner’s decision to grant a marginal increase of 15s. a week to a mechanical fitter in the metal trades industry in the Australian Capital Territory was that that gentleman took only two weeks to hear. and decide the matter before him. Such speedy hearings, with quick decisions, have been usual in the Australian Capital Territory for 29 years, and the complete departure from that procedure which is incidental to this bill can lead only to a great deal of industrial unrest. Delays will be inevitable under the terms of the bill. If any guide can be taken from the neglect of the court over a period of seventeen months to deal with the basic wage injustice in the Australian Capital Territory, what can organizations expect when every matter brought before a conciliation com- missioner oan find its way to the Full Court for adjudication? The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who has more industrial experience and industrial understanding than has any other person in this country, described to the House on Thursday night the admirable system of wages boards that is operating in Victoria in connexion with State awards. To all intents and purposes, the same system applied in Canberra between 1922 and 1949, when the Industrial Board was in existence. As the Government proposes to destroy the conciliation commissioner system in principle, I suggest that it should seriously consider the sound submissions that have been made by the honorable member for Bendigo and should reestablish in the Australian Capital Territory, the industrial board system which operated so successfully for such a long period. There is little doubt that the experience of the present conciliation commissioner as chairman of the Industrial Board for four years prior to the amending act of 1947 and the abolition of the board in 1949, assisted him considerably in continuing to deal satisfactorily with matters that have come before him up to the present time. The conciliation commissioner deals with matters in the most informal way wherever possible, and all concerned - both employers and employees - agree that he has given the utmost satisfaction in the performance of his duties. Almost immediately after Mr. Galvin issued his award, Conciliation Commissioner Findlay issued two awards concerning the metal trades employees and plumbers in the Australian Capital Territory which were in direct conflict with the award that was issued by Mr. Galvin. Notwithstanding the loud cry that went uo from a small section of the employer class, practically every newspaper - and newspapers are presumed to represent public opinion - commended Conciliation Commissioner Findlay’s awards in contrast with the award that Conciliation Commmissioner Galvin made.
– Nonsense !
– The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborn^ may be astonished to know that the Melbourne Age, of the 11th March last, in one of many leading articles that were published with respect to the disputes that occurred following the announcement of the Galvin award, had this to say -
A new phase of the margins dispute was brought by the Findlay award conceding substantial increases to Canberra tradesmen.
This important decision, based on grounds which would be generally recognized as logica], shows that Conciliation Commissioners themselves are at variance in their approach to the problem. More important, it suggests the possibility of settling the dispute here, if the parties were to re-submit the issue to Commissioner Galvin.
The reasons given by Commissioner Findlay are sound and logical. He takes the line that wage issues should be decided on their merits, with a proper regard to living costs as the crucial factor, and not by references to consideration of whether or not marginal increases should be authorised because of their effects on the costs structure and the competitive position of industry in markets here or abroad.
I have yet to learn that the Melbourne Ago is not regarded as a responsible, journal. The editorial continued -
The complaint against the Galvin award wa« that it refused proportionate increases of margins to a large body of skilled workers suffering progressive impairment of the value of long-fixed marginal ratios, by reason of heavy and frequent increases of the basic wage.
The Findlay award frankly accepts the need to encourage and reward skill as living cost.-: rise.
Examination of the text of the Galvin award and of that of the awards of Conciliation Commissioner Findlay leaves no doubt whatever that the latter made a just and fair approach to the problems that confronted employees in the industries with which he had to deal. In the course of his statement of reasons in the Australian Capital Territory metal trades’ case, he said -
There is no Government policy that I know of which requires a Conciliation Commissioner to depart from his normal function of deciding an industrial dispute in respect of marginal wages on the substantial merits of the case presented to him. Indeed, there is ample evidence that the Federal Government expects wage-fixing authorities to deal with matters on the same plane as they have always dealt with them. The Government accepted without question comparatively recent Determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator which substantially increased the pay envelope of thousands of public servants. In 1949 and 1951 it increased Conciliation Commissioners’ salaries by a total amount of £400 per year to maintain the standard determined by the
Parliament in 1947 - the £400 per year additional represented considerably more than the basic wage increases occurring between October, 1947, and June, 1951, clearly indicating that a standard fixed in 1947 should be to a large extent maintained’ in 1951. The National Parliament charged an independent committee with the responsibility of ascertaining the true money value of Parliamentarians at the end of 1951 as compared to 1947, when the salaries of Parliamentarians were last assessed. The report of the committee was adopted by the Parliament as being in accordance with the substantial merits of the case investigated and there is little doubt that the salaries and allowances now fixed merely give to Parliamentarians a just reward for their services at the time of fixing those salaries and allowances having regard to the decreased purchasing power of money as compared with the standard agreed on by the Parliament in 1947.
Conciliation Commissioner Findlay did not criticize the Government or the Parliament in any way with respect to the adoption of the Nicholas committee’s report, but merely applied just principles to another section of the community. He said that he increased the marginal rate in order to restore the standard that the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had determined in 1947. Will any honorable member disagree with the view that standards that cannot be improved should, at least, be maintained?
Conciliation Commissioner Findlay also increased the marginal rate by 15s. a week in the Australian Capital Territory plumbers’ case. In that instance, in which he was again at variance with Conciliation Commissioner Galvin, he made this important statement -
Oh the substantial merits of the case presented to me, it is inevitable that I should extend to this group of skilled employees a similar increase to that granted recently in the Australian Capital Territory metal industry. To do otherwise would be to objectively embark on a secondary wage-pegging process which would not hu in accordance with obligations imposed upon a Conciliation Commissioner by the Federal Arbitration Act wherein it is laid down that industrial disputes not settled by conciliation must be arbitrated upon according to equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case.
I cannot accept that public interest is prejudiced by merely adjusting margins to maintain to some extent a standard assessed in 1947 as being fair and reasonable at that time.
If public interest is prejudiced every time an equitable adjustment is made to a marginal rate then I feel sure that Governmental action would be quickly forthcoming to eliminateany quarterly upward adjustment in the basic wage.
There is no suggestion from any Government source that the basic wage, the secondary wage, and/or the overall wage may or shall bepegged at any particular level and I believe it to be contrary to Government policy and in complete contradiction to the requirements of the Federal Arbitration Act for a Conciliation Commissioner to deliberately peg secondary wages at a ]947 level on economic grounds without being obliged to do so by legislative Act.
In the time at my disposal I shall not have an opportunity to read the. whole of the judgment in that case, but I commend it to supporters of the Government. However, Conciliation Commissioner Findlay quoted a statement that Judge Fostermade in the course of a judgment of the court on the basie wage in October, 1950, in which the latter indicated that in such a matter the court could have regard topublic interest only to a limited degree. I point out to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) particularly that on that occasion Judge Foster said -
In my view the Court is not only not empowered to act “ in the public interest “ at large, but could not be so empowered under the Constitution to so function except insofar as the public good was incidental to thesettlement of an interstate industrial dispute. Obviously the principles which the Court applies in reaching the basis of settlement will conform as far as possible with its conception of the public good but its task must alwaysremain settlement o£ the dispute. It is a common misconception that the Court is the repository of the Commonwealth’s legislative power with respect to industrial matters at large - it is no such thing and cannot under the Constitution be so endowed. It is at most and at least the organ for the settlement by conciliation and arbitration of a limited class of industrial dispute. If the Court is to be more, the Constitution must confer more.
Commenting on that statement, Conciliation Commissioner Findlay said -
Since the basic wage adjustments were issued in .1950 I do not know of any wage-fixing authority which has joined issue with Mr. Justice Foster on this very important statement and no challenge was issued against the* basic wage increase on the ground that Mr Justice Foster had not given full effect to the requirements of the Federal Arbitration Ant in refusing to regard public interest as the predominating factor in the proceedings before the Court.
The logic of Conciliation Commissioner Findlay’s conclusions is clear. It is noteworthy that he applied principles of wage fixation that Judge Foster had applied in the same jurisdiction, whereas Conciliation ‘Commissioner Galvin observed principles that are on all fours with those that the Chief Judge, Sir Raymond Kelly, has laid down. Consequently, I cannot see how these amendments will achieve a greater degree of uniformity in the judgments of either members of the court or conciliation commissioners. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) pointed out in the course of his speech, just as great a divergence of opinion exists among members of the court as exists among the conciliation commissioners. Conciliation Commissioner Galvin acted contrary to the public interest in refusing to increase the .marginal rate in the metal trades award. Thousands of employees in all sections of industry have gone on strike in protest against his award. Millions of pounds in revenue has been lost to the Government, and essential production has been curtailed at a time when the Government has declared that increased production is vital to the country’s future. The Galvin award has prejudiced- public interest, even though its author claimed that he had refused to increase margins because such an increase would, in his opinion, adversely affect the public interest.
The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), in the course of his speech, commended Conciliation Commissioner Galvin’s decision. However, that honorable member has not denied authorship of a letter published recently in the Sydney Morning Herald,, in which the writer subscribed to the principal that marginal rates should not he allowed to deteriorate in relation to the cost of living and actually advocated that wage-fixing authorities, when determining marginal rates, should pay full regard to the decreased purchasing power of money. I believe that the Galvin award was wrong. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the Government, instead of using it as a pretext for destroying the present system of wage fixation, should have taken the opportunity, when Conciliation Commissioner Galvin was hearing subsequent cases, to re-open his award in the metal trades case in order to convince him that it was not Government policy that wages should be pegged at the 1947 level and that he should proceed to deal with applications of this kind in the manner in which they had always been dealt with previously.
The system that the Government proposes to introduce under this measure will be intolerable for trade unions in the Australian Capital Territory. Here, many unions have complete local autonomy and finance their own costs relative to union affairs. During the last 29 years they have been represented before the relevant tribunal either directly or, as has happened in respect of the -more important matters, through the Trades and Labour Council of New. South Wales. Up to date, because of the easy procedure that has been open to them, they have had no difficulty in meeting costs of hearings. However, under the new system under which matters that come before conciliation commissioners may have to be referred to the Chief Judge in Melbourne and, subsequently, perhaps, to the Full Court which may be sitting in that city or in Sydney, they will be involved in considerably increased expenditure in respect of applications and hearings that relate to their awards.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
.- I shall deal first with several criticisms of the bill that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) made earlier in the day. In .the first place he contended that clause 17 sought the repeal of a section of the principal act that prevented conciliation commissioners from making awards that would allow employers to impose penalties on their employees for non-compliance with such awards. The honorable member then dealt with clause 22, which concerns the entitlement of a person who is employed in an industry to become a member of a trade union the members of which are engaged in that particular industry. The only point I wish to make in regard to the honorable member’s remarks on those clauses is that he implied that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) had, in his second-reading speech, completely glossed over those aspects of the measure by saying that they were unimportant. He implied that the Minister had said that there were a number of features of the act which were of comparative unimportance, and that therefore he did not intend to deal with them in his speech. I should like to refresh the memory of the honorable member, as well as the memories of his colleagues, in relation to the statement that the Minister actually made. He said that he was dealing in his second-reading speech primarily with the outstanding and important provisions of the measure, but that there were a considerable number of other important aspects of the measure which he had intended to cover, but which he considered would be better dealt with at the committee stage. The implication of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the Government had not given full consideration to those aspects of the bill was unjustified, as was also his reflection on Conciliation Commissioner Galvin. It was quite unnecessary for him to imply that Mr. Galvin had made his recent award in connexion with margins for workers in the metal trades more or less in complete accordance with the dictates of the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I am quite certain that most decent-thinking trade unionists would not support such a view. “We must bear certain things in mind when we are dealing with a bill of this nature. In the first place, we must consider closely the actual nature of our system of conciliation and arbitration and decide whether it is worth while and can deal adequately with our industrial problems. “We must also bear in .mind the objects of the system. I submit that its main object is to produce harmony in industry and to ensure equitable decisions on disagreements between employers and employees. Experience has shown that our system is one of the most workable of its kind in the world. “We also have to consider whether management and labour as a whole are both trying to play their part in industry. Quite frankly, I believe that in the last few years neither the employers nor, to a certain degree, the employees, have played their part to the full in the development of Australian industry. I am also prepared to say that, because of the world economic situation, the Government has done things that have not assisted to the full the development of our Australian industries. For instance, I do not believe that industry as a whole has been given the incentive that it should have received if we are to attain the production that we require. If we really need extra production then we can attain it only by giving to the producers, on both the management and labour sides, a true incentive to work. That boils down to assuring them of a sufficient monetary reward for their efforts. I should like to say now that I believe that since the end of the war Australia has passed through a stage of laziness. That is not unnatural after a major war. We have passed through that stage of laziness to a state of fear. To a certain degree the minds of the people of Australia are now conditioned by economic fear.
No government of this country can hope to get results by merely telling the people in industry, whether employers or employees, that they must work harder. Such instructions can have effect only under such forms of government as that, of the Soviet Union, when there is full government control of the people and where penalties of the most extreme nature are provided against people who fail to carry out the work that the government has detailed them to do. There is another way in which we can achieve the production that we require and get ourselves back on our economic feet. As I have said, that way is to give to both employers and employees a true incentive to produce more. I believe that, unfortunately, there is only one way in which we can appeal to the hearts of people, and that is through their pockets. A reduction of taxes of various kinds, to apply to people and organizations that achieve increased production, would have beneficial results. I believe that the managerial side of Australian industry could improve itself tremendously. We have not many factories the managements of which can justly boast to have the best possible conditions for their employees.
– Hear, hear !
– It is all very well for the honorable gentleman to say, “Hear, hear!” There is a considerable number of factories in Australia in which, it would be true to say, the employees are not giving a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. The need to increase production should be considered on a non-party basis or, to use a word that honorable members opposite are so fond of using, a non-class basis. We have to remember that, as citizens of Australia, we all are interested in the future of Australia. It is all very well for honorable gentlemen oil the other side of the. House to say, “ Hear, hear ! “ when I mention one particular aspect of the problem. All sides of industry must play their part if Australia is to reach the necessary level of production and development.
The first thing that we have to decide is whether our system of conciliation and arbitration is worthwhile. A comparison of it with similar systems elsewhere shows that it is a good one, provided both sides of industry are prepared to co-operate in achieving the purpose at which it is aimed, which is the maximum efficiency for industry and the maximum well-being of both the people who are prepared to risk their capital in industry and the employees. Both sides have to get an equitable return for their work . and their risks. That position can be achieved best by the system that we have; nevertheless, the system must be revised from time to time. Honorable members opposite seem to doubt whether the system requires revision. All I can say is that since 1904, when the first Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act became law, and during which time Australia has had governments of different political beliefs, 2G amending bills have been passed.
– And another one is foreshadowed.
– It is quite likely that another one will be forthcoming. I do not believe that this bill represents the final achievement in conciliation and arbitration legislation, and I sincerely hope that when, at some time in the future, honorable members opposite regain office, they will not regard the next amending bill that they introduce as the final word in conciliation and arbitration. Our conciliation and arbitration system, which was the first of its kind to be put into practice anywhere in the world, could have been and can be evolved only by trial and error. Where we find something lacking we should try to rectify it. That is what the Government is doing now. One such attempt at rectification is the provision for appeals from, the decisions of conciliation commissioners, to which honorable gentlemen opposite so strenuously object. Frankly, I cannot understand why they object to that provision, because we know that at present there is in existence a strike that affects a great number of working men and women in the metal trades industries. That strike wa3 caused by the decision of Conciliation Commissioner Galvin in relation to wage margins. I am not attempting to question Mr. Galvin’s decision on that matter. 1 can only say that it is my personal opinion that if we are to encourage young men to become skilled tradesmen, it is essential that there shall be a very considerable margin of pay, dependent on the skill that a worker has attained.
The point I am making is that Mr. Galvin made an award that met with general disapproval in the industries that it affected. Under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in its present form, no appeal is allowed from that decision. If no provision exists to remedy a matter that a majority of fair-minded people believe to be wrong, our arbitration laws should be amended to enable an appeal to be made. Opposition speakers have said that it is not definite that the. Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would have reversed the finding of the Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Galvin, but I personally should be more satisfied if decisions of that kind could be considered by the Full Court. It is unfair, not only to the unions concerned, but also to a conciliation commissioner, that such a vast responsibility should be borne by one man. In my opinion, the burden should be placed upon the Full Court.
The secretary of the South Australian branch of the Electrical Trades Union, Mr. P. W. Trevorrow, wrote an articlein the March issue of the journal of that organization on the Galvin award, in which he stated, in part -
The irony of the judgment lies in the fact that ordinarily there is no appeal from a conciliation commissioner’s judgment, and in this respect, it is worthy of note that the Electrical Trades Union was one of the very few unions that took exception to this principle at the inception of that amending act.
That principle having become the policy of the A.C.T.U., we are not even in a position to exert the goodwill of the A.C.T.TJ. towards obtaining an appeal.
This and other legal aspects of the judgment have been thoroughly investigated, and it seems that the only solution from the workers’ point of view is that of direct action.
Honorable members will doubtless bear in mind that the Minister said in his second-reading speech that he believed that, under existing conditions, resort to direct action was comparable with trial by battle in the Middle Ages. I agree with that opinion. If we are thinking human beings who all have at heart the good of Australia and the interests of our Commonwealth, we must be prepared to accept the fact that it is only by just arbitration that employer and employee may receive their due rewards. The opinion of the secretary of the South Australian branch of the Electrical Trades Union shows, among other things, that considerable dissension exists in the unions themselves about the right of appeal from the decision of a conciliation commissioner to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That leads me to believe that much of the opposition expressed by members of the Labour party to this legislation arises from the fact that they consider that they must oppose the bill, because the Australian Council of Trades Unions is not in favour of allowing an appeal from the decision of a conciliation commissioner. I have no doubt that, as a result of experience of the operation of this legislation, that opinion will be changed. Evidently some unionists consider, from their experience, that the right of appeal should be allowed from the decision of a conciliation commissioner to the court. However, the trade unions themselves must decide their attitude on that matter.
We are prepared to give a trial to the new system in the belief that it will operate effectively. I recall that the Labour party was opposed to an amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the purpose of which was to make provision for the election of officials of trade unions by secret ballot. On that occasion, we encountered a somewhat similar, but slightly more vociferous opposition to the bill, but we no longer hear much criticism of it. Those Opposition members who are members of, and represent, trade unions, know that this Government, which they call a tory government, has placed in the hands of the trade union movement the most powerful weapon that it possesses to fight communism. The introduction of swift and just arbitration in industrial matters is one of the most effective measures that this Government can take.
– This bill will not have that result.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who interjects from a seat other than his own-
-Order! Interjections are disorderly.
– The honorable gentleman has expressed the opinion that this bill will not bring about swift and just arbitration in industrial matters. This afternoon, he gave to us a completely “ phoney “ description of industrial proceedings that would result from this amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. He said it was possible that, before finality was reached, a case would pass through seven different stages; that is. from a conciliation commissioner to the Chief Judge and the Pull Court, and back to the conciliation commissioner. The honorable gentleman, if he believes for one moment what he said on that matter, has no time whatever for any form of arbitration, and no confidence in the integrity of the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and conciliation commissioners.
– With their sense of responsibility, they would not in any circumstances allow matters to reach the stage envisaged by the honorable gentleman.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh is one of the champions of the system of conciliation and arbitration.
– What is the alternative to conciliation and arbitration? Is it not a form of direct negotiation between employer and employee, which is adopted by some trade unions in America, or direct action? In the interests of Australia as a whole the days of direct action ought to have passed. If we cannot make our conciliation system function smoothly, the future for Australia looks black indeed. If that future is black, the working men and women will be the hardest-hit section of the community. That is another reason why I believe that Opposition members should do everything in their power to co-operate with the Government in order to make our system of arbitration work smoothly, and to improve it where it is necessary to do so.
If arbitration is to be successful, two essentials must be satisfied. One is justice, which can be attained only by tho right to refer a really important industrial matter to the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Most Opposition members will acknowledge in their hearts, even if they will not acknowledge it verbally, that a party has a greater chance of getting justice from a tribunal of three men than from one man. The second essential is speed in dealing with industrial claims. According to Opposition members, the system that the Government proposes to introduce will tend to slow down the system of arbitration. I contend that the process of arbitration will he considerably accelerated as a result of the functioning of two full courts. That leads me to believe that Opposition members speak with their tongues in their cheeks on this bill, as they did when they criticized the legislation to make provision for the election of union officials by secret ballot.
Our industrial system will succeed in future only if full and proper use is made of our system of arbitration, and if management does more than it has done in the past to improve, not only the conditions of the employees, but also methods of production. Much of the cost that has been passed on to the consumer could be eliminated by the adoption of efficient methods of management. In that respect, we are sadly lacking to-day. The corollary to that proposition is that, if management is prepared to play its full part, working men and women must be prepared to play their full part to a greater degree than has been the case in the past.
– Before I call the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), I again direct attention to the strong undercurrent of conversation that has been audible during the last 25 minutes. I ask those honorable members who. wish to converse with one another to leave the chamber.
-. - I hope that the number of honorable members who wish to converse outside the chamber is not so great that the House will be left without a quorum. Government supporters are experiencing great difficulty with this bill. If they have studied it closely, they must realize that it will not achieve the results that have been forecast by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) . Indeed, it will have the opposite effect. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, has pin-pointed the dilemma with which the Government is confronted at the present time. The Chifley Government never intended that the appointment of conciliation commissioners should be for any reason other than to facilitate the settlement of industrial disputes. I speak with authority on that matter because I was in the councils of Cabinet* when the proposal was considered and I know what the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) then had in mindThe Leader of the Opposition has made the position clear in this debate. He has also made an analysis of the proposals that, the Minister has submitted to theHouse, and has shown that they will cause lone delays in bringing industrial claimsto finality. I hope that the bill will be extensively amended in committee in order that the weaknesses to which the Opposition has directed attention may be corrected, but I suppose that such a hope will be in vain.
The decision of the conciliation commissioner, Mr. Galvin, in the metal trades case, however conscientious it might have been, brought conciliation commissioners into economic fields that they should not be expected, and, indeed, were never intended to enter. I speak about the Galvin award with some feeling, because
Mr. Galvin was my assistant for some years when I waa the secretary of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen. He is an able man, and I have not the slightest doubt that he reached his decision conscientiously and believed that he had to make it. Yet, it should be obvious to every one who has been associated with conciliation and arbitration tribunals that Mr. Galvin ventured into a field which, in my opinion, he was not competent to enter. He could have followed the more simple course of finding that the percentage margins should not be altered. Such a decision would not have been extraordinary. He would merely have been acknowledging a principle for which he, as an advocate for the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen had been fighting for a period of years. I know that he participated in the preparation of logs! of claims for a maximum margin of more than 100 per cent, for the top-grade locomotive engine drivers. That was laid down as long a«ro as 1016 and 1917, when we appeared before a State industrial tribunal for the first time. The basic wage judgment delivered by Mr. Justice Higgins provided for a wage of 7s. a day in 1907. There was in operation at that time a maximum margin of 15s. a day for a special class of engine driver. That is to say, the margin was 114 per cent, above the basic wage at that time. I am bound to say, to the credit of Mr. Galvin, that he was a most efficient advocate. He claimed that the wages of ordinary locomotive engine drivers should proceed, by automatic rises, to a margin of 100 per cent, above the basic wage. That submission was continued from the commencement of our arbitration claims because we were, unfortunately, employed by a government instrumentality and were not given the right to go to a federal arbitration tribunal until 1920. Men like the late Mr. Chifley participated in the formulation of those claims and then gave evidence before the court. Later, Mr. Galvin came into the organization as my assistant secretary and acted very capably. At no time did he argue against the size of the margins claimed. He made the award now known as the Galvin award because he was of the opinion that an inflationary spiral existed and that he would exaggerate it by granting certain claims. In acting in that way he usurped the functions of the Government or the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and- Arbitration, and brought about a state of affairs out of which this legislation has arisen. The measure is a retrograde step and, indeed, is harking back to the days when delays in our arbitration system were inevitable.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) argued successfully that this bill provides at least seven ways in which delays may occur. It demonstrates the Government’s intention to provide a means of causing the same kind of delays which it was the Chifley Government’s intention to remove, and which, in fact, that Government did remove. I shall mention at a later stage the number of cases that have been dealt with successfully by conciliation commissioners.
It has been, shown clearly by the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) - who made a very good contribution to this debate last Thursday - and other honorable members of the Opposition, that delays and frustrations will follow the passage of this bill. The measure will not advance the. cause of industrial harmony upon which the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) laid such stress. Honorable members on the Government side will do a service to the cause of industrial harmony if they oppose it. Government supporters have boasted during this debate of the secret ballot legislation which was unnecessary. I have acted in some official capacity in an industrial union since 1908, and that . union always held a secret ballot for the election of its officers. There has never been anything to prevent any union from having a secret ballot at any time. Trade unions do not need the assistance of the Government in order to have secret ballots. I am sure that I could satisfy the honorable member for Bowman and you, Mr. Speaker, that the method of conducting the ballot in my union was absolutely foolproof and could lead to no manipulation. There is no reason why other unions could not have done the same thing. Indeed, many of them are gradually doing so in response to pressure inside their unions, and by the more active participation of unionists who are acquainted with what is essential to increase industrial harmony. To suggest that we now have industrial harmony only because of the secret-ballot legislation - which was a superfluous measure - is not correct. It is only misleading the House and the people.
I am anxious to see industrial harmony well established in this country and on moral grounds, if for no other reason, the employers and the employees should come together more frequently than they do at present. However, I believe that the legislation that this Government has brought down will be condemned in the years to come as being solely in the interests of the employers and not in the interests of hundreds of thousands of trade unionists. The Government proposes to increase the size of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court by appointing more judges, but it has not proposed to fill vacancies in the ranks of the conciliation commissioners. One of the conciliation commissioners, Mr. Morrison, recently died. There has been no move to fill that vacancy. There are likely to be retirements because of age by other conciliation commissioners but no proposal has been made to fill any such prospective vacancy. The Government will force more legalism and less conciliation upon the people as a result of its measures. I have had a vast experience in arbitration work in every State in Australia. I have appeared in cases that ha,are been heard before every kind of industrial tribunal except wages boards, and I am not satisfied that the Government is attempting to bring about what was suggested by the Minister’s speech. We should not increase legalism by the appointment of extra judges and the creation of additional courts, because differences of opinion will certainly arise between additional judges and between tha courts. Men in high legal positions differ in opinion just as much as we do in this House. I credit honorable members on the Government side who
have spoken against the provisions of this bill with having the good intention of bringing about industrial peace, but the conciliation commissioners are already working well towards that end and the cause of industrial peace will not he any further advanced by this measure.
It has been said that the bill will improve the machinery for dealing with industrial disputes, but I emphasize that it will not do what the Minister claims for it. In fact, it will do the reverse. That these proposals are heartily disliked by all the union organizations is illustrated by the views of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Australian Workers Union. The honorable member for Bowman said that we must pay some regard to the views of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. We certainly should do so. There were 72 unions represented at the conference that decided the course of action of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and it is possible that the Electrical Trades Union cited by him was one of those in the minority when the matter was decided. The vast majority of union delegates to the conference decided to oppose this measure, and I resent very much the fact that the Government has introduced it without having consulted the trade unions whose membership make up such a large proportion of the community. The Minister has blamed the 19-47 Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act because a single commissioner has made an unpalatable decision. In making that decision he departed from his own field and entered the field that should be the sole province of the Government or of the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Differences of opinion have been frequently expressed by the judges of the Full Court, and quite recently they could not agree upon what the court should do about the basic wage. Consequently, there have been many dissenting judgments from the majority judgments of the court.
The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) has had a longer experience of arbitration than has any other honorable member of this House. He might he called the father of arbitration. However, the. -right honorable. gentleman was in a reminiscent vein when he spoke about this measure.. He knows very well that conservative elements in the community were strongly opposed to industrial conciliation and arbitration at the time that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was established, and that it was against their advocacy that it was finally established. The original Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been amended from time to time to bring it into line with the hopes and desires of the large number of human beings who work under it, and therefore, the right honorable gentleman said, the House should regard this measure as a blessing from Heaven. He said that he and his followers would have been delighted if they could have received in their day concessions such as are envisaged by this measure. I remind the House that their day was nearly 50 years ago. If the trade unionists of those times could have looked ahead and seen all the obstacles that would be placed in the way of getting quick decisions from the arbitration tribunals they would have resented those measures even at that time - and the right honorable gentleman would have been on their side.
Because this bill deals with sp many human beings and covers such a wide field of human relationships the position in which we find ourselves to-day should have much attention devoted to it. This industrial legislation is very important. I do not agree that it is the most important kind of legislation that comes before this House because there are other measures that deal with the economic and financial affairs of the country that are more important. They are more important because they affect every member of the community, not only trade unionists and- employers. I reiterate that this legislation can cause delays not heretofore contemplated. All workers are opposed to it on that account. The statement of the right honorable member for Bradfield about what the measure is intended to do can be reasonably described as more hopeful than helpful. That the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been made the subject of experiment is clearly proved by the number of occasions on which it has been amended. The honorable member for Bendigo stated that there were 26 previous amendments of it. I have no objection to amendments of industrial legislation if they are designed to improve human relationships. However, I strongly object to amendments that are supposed to do that but really do the reverse.
The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1947 was a wellconsidered attempt to meet the demands of both employer and employee. Both sides were consulted and well knew what was about to be done by the Parliament. But the only people who were consulted by the Government before this measure was brought down were the employers. This bill will give effect to the wishes of the employers and will ignore the desires of the workers. Therefore, it will certainly not bring about industrial harmony, and the statement that it will do so amazes me. Our industrial arbitration system has been working well. In an unostentatious way it has settled hundreds of disputes.
I now desire to refer to a leading article that appeared in the Herald, of Melbourne, on the 17th April, 1952, which, I believe, was mentioned by the honorable member for Batman during his speech in this debate. The article leads, inter alia -
In its first1 six months, “ streamlined “ conciliation dealt with about 500 industrial cases. In only five of these were the commissioners’ rulings flouted.
That is conclusive proof that the conciliation commissioners were doing very good work. The article continued -
Trade union opinion hesitates to accept changes in this system.
I should think that it would do so. The article went on to state -
The attraction of on-the-spot decisions, with a minimum of delay and legalistic formality, has always been strong, although it tends to weaken when rulings go against the claimant. The confidence of those who use conciliation and arbitration is vital to the success of peaceful bargaining.
The Government knows that it is destroying the confidence that is so essential for the successful working of our arbitration system, and I suggest that it should think again. The conciliation commissioner system was unchallenged until the Galvin award brought it into tha realm of controversy. It had hitherto dealt with many difficult matters on recognized principles without incurring hostility from any considerable body of employees. I do not think that that will be denied. The Chief Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Mooney, stated in his report of the 5th November, 1951 -
During the year ending 30th September, ids], the conciliation commissioners have dealt with 42 applications for new awards, 338 notices of disputes under section 14 of the act and 437 applications to vary awards.
That is an important pronouncement to which supporters of the Government probably have not paid attention. The final paragraph of the report stated -
Conciliation commissioners are functioning in a period of economic conditions hitherto unprecedented (at least within living memory) in the history of Australia - a period of full employment which, desirable as it is, raises problems not heretofore encountered - a period where jobs are more plentiful than men and women to fill them, and where the aggressive power of the unions is greater than ever before. In those circumstances, I unhesitatingly claim that the work perf ormed by the commissioners has well served the objects of the act which they were appointed to further.
Yet, approximately six months after the date of that report, the Minister for Labour and National Service introduced this bill, which, unless it is amended, will hamper the conciliation commissioners and the trade unions in their efforts to maintain industrial peace. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech -
We recognize that serious delays could develop if there were a multiplicity of appeals, and we have no wish to create that situation.
The honorable gentleman must have shut his eyes to the probable effects of this bill, because it will cause interminable delays.
The trade unions do not want to have strikes. The railways organization, of which I am a member, and which includes 99 per cent, of the workers who are eligible for membership, abhors strikes and endorses them only when matters of the highest principle are involved. Many disputes that arise from variations of conditions from time to time are settled without friction, because the court and the conciliation commissioners have agreed to the establishment of boards of reference. Any measure that will hamper the smooth operation of conciliation machinery of that kind is bound to cause resentment. The honorable member for Mitchell spoke of appeals that had been made to the High Court of Australia. I asked, by interjection, “How many?” and “In what cases? “, but the honorable gentleman did not offer to supply the information. In fact, I think that he did not know the answers. At any rate, very few such appeals have been made. I hope that the Minister will supply the figures when he makes his speech in reply. The unions do not want to go to the High Court or to have highly paid lawyers involved in their affairs. I had one unfortunate experience of legal intervention in industrial relations when the Railways Commissioners in Victoria asked the court to reduce the wages of their employees by 10 per cent. In that famous 10 per cent, case, the commissioners were represented by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and such men as Stanley Lewis, K.C., and Mr. Ferguson, who later became a judge of the court in New South Wales. A whole galaxy of legal talent from several States appeared against the union. And those legal experts got away with it because they were dealing with brother lawyers. I do not suggest that the court has ever been biased in favour of barristers and solicitors, but I know that, on that occasion, the judges said that they needed the help of such eminent lawyers as appeared on behalf of the commissioners.
The union could not engage men of that status even had it wanted to do so, and, in any ease, the act provided that counsel should be permitted to appear only by consent of both parties. There is no doubt at all about that. The unions argued that the point at issue was an industrial matter, but Chief Judge Dethridge disposed of that contention when he announced that the court considered that the claim before it was, not for a new award, but for a variation of the award. Therefore, the legal gentlemen were permitted to appear before it. What progress can we make under such conditions ? That decision completely disgusted the workers, whose wages were reduced. They could not afford to engage highly paid lawyers, and the decision of the court was made, not on industrial grounds, but on purely legal grounds. The big employers can afford to retain eminent lawyers, but the trade unions cannot do so. The federal union to which. I belong carried on for many years on the basis of an annual contribution from its members of 3s. each. Later it increased the fee to 4s. Obviously, it cannot afford to engage in legal battles in order to support its claims. The important point, however, is that it was never intended that trade unions should be called upon to do so. The original legislation was framed so that industrial matters should be left in the hands of laymen, and1, in my opinion, competent laymen are much more capable of assisting the court to reach decisions that will foster industrial harmony than arc the highest-paid lawyers.
The Minister argued that the policy of the Labour Government was based on certain assumptions that experience had proved to be wrong. He complained that the predictions made by the Opposition at that time had been brushed aside. That was one reason for the introduction of this bill. The Government is riding the high horse now, but I do not think that it will continue to do so for long. I detected what appeared to be a note of expectation that the Labour party would soon be in power again when I listened to the speech of the honorable member for Bowman. I am confident that any Labour government would remove all the obstacles that stand in the way of the establishment and maintenance of industrial peace. I want the Government and its supporters to realize that we genuinely wish, to bring about harmony in industry. Nevertheless, .there are some rights that we will not sacrifice. One of those is the right to resort to the ultimate weapon of the strike. I should never relinquish that right. The strike should be resorted to only when all other means of obtaining justice fail, but sometimes it is the only weapon with which the worker can defend himself against predatory attacks.
The Minister declared in his secondreading speech that there were matters of vital personal importance to hundreds of thousands of workers that could not be settled by rule of thunb or on the basis of expediency. How many of the 500 decisions that I have mentioned were settled by rule of thumb or on the basis of expediency? Mr. Galvin is not the only conciliation commissioner who has dealt with margins. Have not other conciliation commissioners dealt with margins and awarded increases since he made his decision? The arguments used by the Minister cannot be sustained in the light of the events of the last five years. Hundreds of cases have been dealt with by the conciliation commissioners without resort to rule of thumb procedure or methods of expediency. In the main, they have applied accepted principles and practices as well as a sound knowledge of industrial affairs. Most of them have had wide experience of industrial matters, and this accounts to a large degree for their success.
Limitation of time has prevented me from covering the entire field of industrial relations. I have dealt with only some of the most important aspects of these vital matters. The Government has brought down this bill, either deliberately to serve the interests of one section of the community - the employers, who are financially strong and able to look well after their own interests - or because it has been stampeded into doing so. The bill is repugnant to thousands of Australian trade unionists. The Government cannot hope to improve relationsand develop peace in industry if it has taken this step deliberately at the instigation of the employers, whom it consulted although it ignored the views of the workers. Neither can it expect to succeedif it has been stampeded into illconsidered action of the kind that it has taken already in relation to taxation and import restrictions. The Minister has admitted, that the workers did not ask the Government to introduce this legislation. That suggests to me that it did not prepare the ground in advance by consulting the workers, and that it proposes to introduce the unwanted system of appeals against their wishes. Many members of the Opposition earnestly wish to improve relations between employers and employees., but they will not support bills of this kind), which, although they are supposed tohave been designed for the purpose of fostering industrial peace, are more likely to cause disruption. If the Government: has done it deliberately at the instigation of the employers whom it has consulted whilst ignoring the views of the workers, it: cannot hope to improve industrial relations, and so develop peace in industry. If that is not so, then it has been stampeded into presenting this legislation to this Parliament as it has been in regard to taxation and financial matters, and the restriction of imports. I hope that the Minister will heed the speeches of honorable members on this side of the House find be guided by them. The bill should be rejected, or amended in a way that would make it acceptable to the trade unionists.’
.- I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Maribymong (Mr. Drakeford) declare that it was the wish of the Opposition to improve the system of conciliation and arbitration. Although it is the proud boast of most Australians that our system of conciliation and arbitration leads the world, the complacency with the status quo of honorable members opposite is regrettable. An examination of our achievements in every department of conciliation and arbitration discloses a record which, by comparison with the records of other countries, demonstrates that we have achieved little or nothing of any value.
– That is not what the workers say in the United States of America.
– I hope that the honorable gentleman will have the patience to Listen to the figures that I shall use later in order to make a comparison between the state of affairs in the industrial field in Australia and the state of affairs in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada. The facts speak for themselves, and the only conclusions to be drawn from them are, first, that the arbitration machinery, which has been experimented with by governments of all parties in this Parliament from time to time, is inadequate; and, secondly, that, however good the intentions of the court may have been, the methods and policies that have been adopted have not only failed to achieve any progress but also endangered our internal stability.
– That is what the Communists say about the arbitration system.
– I hope that honorable members opposite will not suggest that I contemplate the abandonment of our efforts to make the arbitration system work effectively. All I say is that the facts up to date show that the system needs drastic treatment in order to make it more effective.
Let us consider the share of the national income that wage-earners enjoy. I am sure that honorable members opposite will be interested in these facts. In 192S, wage and salary earners in Australia received about 59 per cent, of the total national income. Dm-ing the ‘thirties, the proportion fell to 54 per cent. In 1948, it rose to 56 per cent. In 1949, it fell again to 54 per cent. According to the latest figures, it has not risen above 60 per cent. In Canada, a country that has no arbitration system, wage and salary earners enjoy about 61 per cent, of the national income.
– Canada has not a Menzies Government.
– I have taken a period of twenty years, during which Labour has had its fair share of office. In the United Kingdom, the proportion of the national income enjoyed by wage and salary earners ranges from 60 per cent, to 63 per cent., under governments of various types, and in the United States of America it has remained stable at about 63 per cent.
– From where has the honorable gentleman got his figures?
– They were prepared, after independent research, by a professor of economics at the University of Melbourne who was on loan to this country from Canada. I understand that they were presented in evidence to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and arc on record in that court. Those figures show that other countries, which have not an arbitration system, have secured for their wage-earners a greater share of the national income than has been secured for Australian wage-earners. Our claim to lead the world in industrial arbitration will be only an empty claim unless we can make the system work better than it does from the point of view of the wage-earners.
The second ground for saying that the court has failed to justify its existence, is that it has not achieved an over-all increase of productivity. Honorable members may ask whether the achievement of an over-all increase of productivity is a function of the court.
– I should say that it is not.
– It is not a direct function of the court, but, if it be in the best interests of this nation that Australian workers should have a better real wage, the court should ensure that its decisions will not lessen productivity. A comparison of the productivity graphs of this and other countries since 1929 shows that productivity has risen at a relatively lower rate in Australia than in the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom. Although other factors may have some bearing upon the matter, the fact remains that our wage policies and conditions oflabour, insofar as they differ from those of other countries, must play a large part in the relative total productivity of this country. During the last twenty years, the most significant feature of our wage structure has been a compression of the base and upper limits of wages, or an ever-increasing basic wage, and a relatively lower reward for skill. The margin has been narrowed still further as a result of Government activity, which has been found necessary to counteract the inflationary effect’ of increases of the money wage level by drawing off money by high taxation and other methods. This has penalized persons with incomes at the higher level, including those who are paid higher margins. This has been generally considered to be one of the most potent factors that has contributed to the stagnation of our productivity.
The third reason for saying that the court has failed is that it has not achieved economic stability. This failure has been most marked in recent years, when inflationary pressure has unquestionably been aggravated by wage policy. Again, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) may ask, “ Is that a function of the court ? “ Surely, if the decisions of the court lead to economic instability, the honorable gentleman will concede that those decisions inflict hardship, not only on the workers but also on other people in the community. Last, but by no means least important, the court has failed to achieve its primary objective of peace in industry. An analysis of strikes and stoppages during the post-war years shows that, in proportion to the labour force employed, there have not been fewer strikes and stoppages in Australia than in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada. In many years, there have been more in Australia. That fact should shake our complacency and lead us to resolve to try to make our arbitration system work better than it does.
Two points emerge from that analysis: first, that the court must relate its general objectives and policy to some sound economic basis, whatever it may be, rather than to a haphazard, hit or miss method of determining what is fair and reasonable at a given moment; and secondly, that its machinery must be adequate to give effect to whatever it ultimately determines to be a sound policy. No better example of the hitormiss method can be given than the Harvester award of 1907. In that year, the court, having examined nine household budgets, based its decision on the needs of a married man with three children. Subsequently, statistics revealed that industry had paid for 450,000 nonexistent wives and for 2,000,000 nonexistent children. Yet we must concede that the mind of the court was concentrated upon some vague conception of social justice. This conception has changed through the years, and has finally arrived at the point where the capacity of industry to pay largely influences the decision of the court, although, even now, a rather vague and woolly concept of ethics still clouds the issues. This confusion of ethics and economics is quite unsound. It should be obvious to all that any decision that will have the long-term effect of causing economic instability, or that will tend to push the economy towards a boom or a depression, will inflict hardship on one or another section of the community and, therefore, must be ethically unsound. The court should proceed upon the basis that its primary and fundamental objective is the national economic welfare.
A study of the economic results of past decisions should warn the court that the determination of any over-all money wage can have not more than a transient effect upon real wages. The economic effects of an alteration of the general wage level are closely related, first, to our balance of trade and the strength or weakness of our primary industries - I mention at this stage that our primary producers have suffered more at the hands of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court than has any other section of the community - and secondly, to government policy regarding the volume of money in the community. No real benefit is conferred upon any one in the community by an alteration of the money wage level, but such an alteration may cause a dangerous state of disequilibrium in the community or force the government of the day to adopt distasteful and dangerous policies. In such circumstances the court becomes, in effect, the tail that wags the dog, because it may force the Government to offset the inflationary or deflationary effects of wage alterations by high taxation, credit restrictions, alteration of exchange rates or alteration of interest rates. Even if the court does not become the tail that wags the dog, one can safely say that the policy of the government of the day in relation to general levels of consumption and investment through control of the volume of money in circulation, has a greater effect upon real wages and upon the wage-earners’ share of the national income than has any total money wage that the court may award.
Automatic adjustments of the basic wage in terms of money have failed to guarantee a standard of real wages for the worker. This failure of the court impressed itself upon the community in general long before it impressed itself upon the court. As many speakers in this House have commented, the workers fear an automatic adjustment of the basic wage each quarter, because they know that, after the adjustment has been made, they will be relatively worse off than they were before. Lord Keynes foresaw this result as long ago as the middle 1930’s, when he referred to the inevitable inefficacy of the basic wage system toachieve its object of guaranteeing somestandard of real wages “. He said also -
Under such a system, the element of stability, would have to be found, if at all, in the factors*controlling the quantity of money being so>determined that there always existed some’ level of money wages at which the quantity of? money would be such as to establish a relation between the rate of interest and tfe: marginal efficiency of capital which would’ maintain investment at the critical level.
He used that point to illustrate his theory that the overall objective of a wage policy should be to maintain a stable level of money wages. If there be one thing that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has achieved in Australia, it is an unstable level of money wages. If we apply that principle to the Australian economy, we can add, I think with some justification, that probably real wages could have been increased if the court had concentrated upon a stable general level of money wages, and that probably productivity could have been increased if the court had decided to adopt some principle that would have determined a lower base wage, but which also would have allowed a much greater flexibility in the adjustment of margins and rates as between various industries within the framework of a general stable wage level. I suggest that the court should have determined that there should be a stable level of overall wages in terms of money, but that, within that level of stability, there should be a much greater margin between the bottom wage and the top wage, and that provision should be made for complete flexibility between various industries, so that it could direct its attention to the impact on the national economy of adjustments made from time to time, in relatively short periods, of the wages of each industry.
If what I have outlined is a sound objective for the court, or indeed if any other objective is sound, it completely disposes of the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition that conciliation commissioners should be left free in individual cases to make completely unrelated and unco-ordinated decisions without directing their minds to any question of economic policy. Clearly, the Government could not legislate directly to lay down any over-all economic policy for the court to follow. It is very doubtful whether the Government, whose powers are limited under the Constitution to providing machinery for conciliation and arbitration, could even direct the court or any of its officers along any particular path. Therefore, the matter is one of educating the court and of this Parliament providing the right machinery and the right framework to enable the court to work out a sound policy. The Leader of the Opposition said that conciliation commissioners should be directed not to have any regard to the economic effects of their decisions.
– Mr. Speaker, honorable members are listening to an extremely able speech, but interruptions are coming incessantly from the Opposition side. I suggest that there should be silence.
– A conversation has been in progress between the Whip of the Government party - who crossed the chamber for that specific purpose - and the Labour party Whip.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) has been contributing in large measure to the conversation.
– Order ! I am afraid that these conversations are not confined entirely to one side of the chamber. I called attention to that fact earlier to-night, and I ask honorable members to cease holding them. After all, honorable members who desire to listen to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) are not the only ones who are concerned. The proceedings are being broadcast and a number of people outside the chamber desire to hear what honorable members have to say. Certainly they have no interest in the conversations, which merely cause them to complain to me occasionaly about what is said.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said in the course of his speech that conciliation commissioners should be directed not to take notice of the general economic effect of their decisions. If the general decisions of the court on the basic wage and standard hours have forced the Government’s hand in regard to economic policy and have resulted in the tail wagging the dog, the policy that the Leader of the Opposition has suggested would result in the last hair on the dog’s tail wagging the tail, which in turn would wag the dog. Even if the court as at present constituted were fully alive to its responsibilities in this regard it could not, within its restricted functions, achieve any relation to the over-all economic requirements of completely independent and unrelated decisions of conciliation commissioners. But, like Pontius Pilate, the court tends to wash its hands completely of any economic responsibility for its decisions: this was shown by its judgments in the last basic wage case. Several passages in the majority judgments indicate that the judges were quite aware of the inflationary effects of their decisions, but considered that the control of inflation rested with the Government. Honorable members can only conclude that the move of the Governnent is in the right direction. It is directed to enabling the court to concentrate on achieving some over-all economic policy that will confer permanent and lasting benefits on the Australian community instead of unsound, more or less haphazard decisions that would confer a purely ephemeral benefit, if any. For as long as the court has no responsibility in relation to economics, it will fail to achieve a better real wage level for the workers or any other objective that is properly its function.
One more difficulty for which, at the moment, I can offer no detailed solution is the length of time during which the court must hear evidence and statistics in order to reach a decision based on the economic effects of a general wage alteration. The hearing of the last basic wage case occupied over two years. There were 6,950 pages of evidence and 440 exhibits. Whatever value all this work may have, nobody can deny that the effect of a great deal of it was completely nullified by the. change in the economic situation which occurred during that period of the hearing. A panel of economists, constantly advising a court on a day-to’-day basis, may be one solution of this problem. Although it is a popular fashion to hurl derision at the economists, they are more skilled in predicting trends than is any untrained person. However, I merely bring that thought in by way of i illustration in order to show that although r.lie legislation now before the House is ;i step in the right’ direction, it is only the first step on the long and arduous road that must be traversed if the arbitration system is to have any value in the community.
Mr. W. M. BOURKE (Fawkner) 1 9. 21]. - The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) has delivered one of the most astonishing speeches that I have heard in this House. He was allegedly supporting an amendment to the arbitration system sponsored by tho Government of which he is a supporter. Briefly, the Government has decided that it accepts the changes that were made in the machinery of conciliation and arbitration by the Chifley Government in 1947. Before that time, the system was administered by judges, and the conciliation commissioners played quite an insignificant part, but, in order to streamline the arbitration system and to avoid delays which were the cause of so much trouble in industrial relations, the Chifley Government decided that a number of laymen should be brought into the system. The functions of the judges were limited to certain matters, and conciliation commissioners were appointed to handle roost of the matters that cause industrial disputes. A significant point about the amendment now before the House is that the Government basically accepts the vast changes that were made in the arbitration system by the 1947 legislation. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said in his second-reading speech -
We recognize that serious delays could develop if there were a multiplicity of appeals and we have no wish to create that situation.
The right of appeal under this legislation is limited. We do not intend that the Full Court should deal with’ matters which the conciliation commissioners can and should handle. They are much more mobile than is the court: they can deal promptly with issues in which human relations are involved or which relate to p particular establishment or section of industry; and they can work out the detailed application to particular industries of principles that the court enunciates.
So the Minister accepted the broad principles of the legislation that was introduced by the Chifley Government in 1947.
But the honorable member for Forrest, who could be expected to support his Minister’s proposals, launched a violent attack on the whole system. Honorable members on this side of the House are placed in the position of having to defend the general arbitration system against the attack that be has made most improperly upon it. Apart from the honorable member for Forrest, there are other people in the community who do not like the system of arbitration that is now operating, and who attack it and are trying to destroy it. Those people are the Communists. It is well known that the Communist ‘party is out to destroy the arbitration system; and apparently the Communist party has found an ally in the honorable member for Forrest in that desire.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The words used by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) are offensive to me. He suggested that I am an ally of the Communist party.
– Order ! The words used by the honorable member for Fawkner are offensive to the honorable member for Forrest. I ask that they be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the suggestion that the honorable member is allied with the Communist party. I did not think that I put it in that way. I put it that the line of argument that he enunciated was similar to or identical with that which is put forward by the Communist party on this matter. If honorable members on this side of the House have to repel the honorable member’s violent attack on the arbitration system, we need go no further than refer to the speech of the Minister who introduced this measure. The Minister referred to the fact that the Communist party makes no secret of its hostility to the arbitration system and is out to destroy it, just as is the honorable member for Forrest. The Minister sought to give effect to his point by quoting from a well-known pamphlet, The Trade Unions, written by Sharkey when he was president of the Communist party, and published in 1942. I think I should read this quotation from the Minister’s speech, in which he set out the attacks that were made by the Communist party on the arbitration system, so that the honorable member for Forrest may see the close similarity between his standpoint and that of the Communist party. Sharkey, as a former president of the Communist party, was quoted by the Minister for Labour and National Service as having stated in this pamphlet -
The reformist trade union officials wholeheartedly support arbitration. . . . They do not want strikes and struggles to disturb their peaceful salaried existence. . . . The Communists regard the State-controlled arbitration system as a pernicious anti- working -class institution whose objective is to keep the workers shackled to the capitalistic -state. . . . Strikes, properly led and conducted and properly timed are a revolutionary weapon . . .
The Communists have stated that the : arbitration system is a pernicious one :and must be destroyed. The honorable member for Forrest says the same thing.
Mir. Freeth. - I said nothing of the “sort. I suggested several ways in which the system could be improved. “Why does not the honorable member do the same thing?
– If the honorable member for Forrest suggested ways in which the system could be improved he did not devote much of his speech to them. The only positive thought that I heard him express was in the concluding passages when he suggested that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should have a panel of economists to advise it from day to day. He said that if it had such a panel of economists it might do a better job. If the honorable member’s suggestion is adopted, I hope that the panel of economists appointed to advise the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will be different from the economists who have been advising the Government, and causing the national economy to deteriorate and putting the country in the desperate financial straits it has now reached. The honorable member said, in the course of his attack on the arbitration system, that the system had achieved little or nothing. I hope that he does not claim that I am misrepresenting him, because I made a note of his words. He said that the system needed drastic treatment to make it work. I am reminded by a colleague that that is a Communist argument. It is a most unfair attack upon the arbitration system. Since the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was established in 1905 it has done great work in Australia. It has helped to bring about industrial peace and prosperity. It has been largely responsible for the growth of the trade union movement in Australia. That fact is often overlooked. The court was intended to deal only with registered organizations of employers and employees and, as a result, there was a tremendous rush by trade unions to regis- ter under the act. The importance of the part that the trade unions play in our day-to-day economic life is due largely to the fact that the arbitration system deals only with registered organizations. That fact has contributed materially to the development of the trade union movement in this country.
In developing the argument in defence of the court, I affirm that there is no doubt that the court has exercised great influence upon the economic development of the nation, not only directly through its awards, but also indirectly through the influence of its awards upon State industrial tribunals. In this respect I need only refer to the substantial increase of wages over the years and also to the fact that the court reduced the working week from 48 hours in 1905 to 44 hours in 1929, and to 40 hours in 1947. The court reduced standard hours in order to give more leisure to the workers.
– Do not be humorous.
– -Apparently the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) regards these reforms as being tragic. On the contrary, the court has rendered great service to the people in having given to the workers an opportunity to enjoy a greater degree of leisure. That is one of the fruits of the arbitration system. The court has also eliminated sweating. The honorable member for Forrest overlooked that fact. In 1939, Judge Drake-Brockman made an award that was deliberately .-, to prevent sweating in the cloth- va trade. I have mentioned only a’ few of the benefits that the Commonwealth
Arbitration Court has conferred upon the nation, but that brief review is sufficient to refute the first point that the honorable member for Forrest made in his attack upon the present arbitration system.
I regret that the honorable member has just left the chamber. He made other statements that I wish to answer. Continuing his attack upon the arbitration system, behind which members of the Opposition stand four-square, he made three other points. He said that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has failed to achieve an over-all increase of productivity, that by its wage policy it has grossly aggravated inflationary pressures in this country, and that it has failed to stabilize wages. Those three statements are most significant. However, those are surely functions not of an arbitration court but of government. Obviously the honorable member was endeavouring to establish an alibi in his desperate attempt to try to push on to somebody else the odium that the people are directing against the Menzies Government for its complete failure to tackle the vital economic problems that now confront the country. I have not witnessed a more distasteful example of passing the buck. In trying to defend the economic policy of the Government, if it can be said to have a policy, he placed all the blame for these failures upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. His attack was most unjust and completely unwarranted. Members of the Opposition resent it very much and, therefore, my colleagues and I have not been slow to come to the defence of the court.
After having listened to the honorable member for Forrest, I am justified in saying that the House should get down to a consideration of the bill and of the reasons that the Government has advanced in its attempt to justify the introduction of the measure. First, I should like to refer to the background of the arbitration system which the Opposition defends so vigorously. I remind honorable members that provision for the system is made in the Constitution. When the fathers of federation were drafting the Constitution, they were conscious of the necessity to set up machinery to pre5vent and settle industrial disputes, because* in the years that immediately preceded^ federation a great wave of industrial trouble had occurred in this country”.Consequently, that problem had a pro- minent place in their minds. Under” placitum (xxxv.) of section 51 of the Constitution, the Commonweallth is empowered to make laws in respect of “ conciliation and arbitration*for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State”. There are, of course, weaknesses in all man-made systems, and we must examine the source and authority of the arbitration system in order to discover some of the weaknesses in it. Weaknesses in the Constitution cannot be remedied unless the people, by referendum, give to the Parliament powers for which it does not now provide. Efforts have been made in that direction but, unfortunately, the people have not consented to such alterations of the Constitution being made. The industrial power of the Commonwealth is limited to the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes that extend beyond the limits of any one State. The Commonwealth does not possess power to deal with intra-.State disputes. Its industrial power is also limited because it relates only to the prevention and settlement of disputes, which means that a dispute mUd actually occur before recourse can be had to our arbitration machinery. However, despite those constitutional limitations, the Commonwealth. Arbitration Court, since it was set up in 1905, has functioned effectively and has conferred substantial benefits upon the nation.
That system remained unaltered until 1947, when the Chifley Government introduced legislation which, as I have already said, shifted the emphasis from arbitration to conciliation. It is noteworthy that placitum (xxxv.) refers to “conciliation and arbitration “. We may infer from the priority given to those terms that the framers of the Constitution had in mind a twofold function, that is, conciliation, or the prevention of disputes, on the one hand, and arbitration, or the settlement of disputes, on the other hand. However, from the inception of the court until 1947 the emphasis had been placed upon arbitration. It was an arbitration system, and up till that time the conciliation aspect had been almost ignored. Under the 1947 act, the emphasis was shifted from arbitration to conciliation, that is, to means of preventing disputes rather than merely waiting until they occurred and then endeavouring to settle them. The number of conciliation commissioners was substantially increased under the 1947 act, which thereby streamlined the arbitration system by eliminating legalism and providing means to enable the system to work more expeditiously and efficaciously. Under that legislation, judges were empowered to deal with matters such as the basic wage, standard hours and certain matters with respect to leave, whilst conciliation commissioners were empowered to deal with the great bulk of other matters which tended to lead to industrial disputes. That system has worked satisfactorily. But the Government has now decided to alter it by making provision for appeals, in certain circumstances, from the decisions of conciliation commissioners.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who has had wide experience in industrial matters, having spent practically a lifetime as an advocate in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, forcefully stated the Opposition’s objections to the bill. He pointed out that the Government had not consulted the trade union movement in respect of this measure, although the Australian Council of Trades Unions had intimated that it wished to express its views with respect to the proposed provision for appeals. However, the Government has introduced the measure without having taken advantage of that opportunity.
Secondly, the honorable member for Maribyrnong said that the Opposition is opposed to appeals from decisions of conciliation commissioners to the Pull Court even though the right of appeal will be limited. My colleagues and I believe that once this amendment is implemented we shall revert to the old system under which endless delays and frustrations occurred. Nothing is more calculated to cause indus- trial trouble than are vexatious delays. It is rather interesting to note - this if merely another illustration of the contradiction that characterizes the Government’s general policy - that although the primary purpose of the measure is to make provision, in certain circumstances, for appeals from conciliation commissioners to the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, provision is made in other clauses to cut out appeals of another type, because the Government considers that such appeals actually cause delays and clog up the arbitration machinery. The latter appeals arise from thu conflict of jurisdiction between judges and conciliation commissioners under the system that was set up in 1947 under which judges were given exclusive jurisdiction in respect of the basic wage, standard hours and certain matters with respect to leave, whilst conciliation commissioners were given exclusive jurisdiction in other matters. This division of jurisdiction is analogous to the position that exists under federation between the Commonwealth and the States. The determination of certain parts of a dispute may fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the court, whilst other parts of the same dispute may fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the conciliation commissioners. Thus, one part of a dispute may have to be determined by the court whilst the other part of it may have to be determined by the conciliation commissioners. That sort of thing naturally leads to delays and troubles and to appeals to the High Court. The number of appeals to the High Court on these matters of conciliation and arbitration is remarkable, and it is inevitable that a rigid, watertight division between the two jurisdictions will mean that the aggrieved party who does not like an award or order that has been made by a commissioner, will decide to delay its operation by appealing to the High Court on the question of jurisdiction. Such a procedure causes delay and dissatisfaction.
Other problems arise on this matter of the division of jurisdiction between the judges and the commissioners. It is, at times, very difficult to draw the line between them. For example, the judges of the court have sole jurisdiction on -standard hours. The problem arises m ho thu r smokos, rest periods, breaks for afternoon tea and so on in industry, are matters that come within the jurisdiction of a conciliation commissioner or appertain to standard hours and, as such, belong to the exclusive jurisdiction of the judges. That is only an example. Naturally, if disputes arise in connexion with such an issue the immediate reaction of the aggrieved party is to appeal to the High Court for a ruling concerning which jurisdiction the dispute comes under. Many appeals to the High Court have resulted from this split in the jurisdiction, which is perhaps the main weakness that has developed in the conciliation and arbitration system since it was altered in 1947. The Government realizes that the scope for appeals to the High Courts - perhaps I should say the invitation for appeals to the High Court - on jurisdictional issues means that an element of delay will be introduced which could strike at the very basis of a successful system of arbitration. So by clauses 6 and 9 of the bill the Government proposes to abolish appeals to the High Court on matters of jurisdiction. But while desiring to abolish that kind of appeal and thus eliminate a patent cause of delay, it seeks deliberately to introduce into the system another form of appeal, an appeal from the decisions of conciliation commissioners, knowing full well that the arguments that apply to appeals to the High Court on jurisdictional matters apply equally to appeals from the decisions of conciliation commissioners to the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. On that point alone the Government has contradicted its own case. If it be proper to abolish one kind of appeal because it causes delays, clogs up the machinery of the court and derogates from the effective working of the system, it is wrong to introduce this other form of appeal from the decisions of the commissioners to the Full Court. The Opposition considers that it is completely justified in opposing the legislation for that reason, because by establishing that form of appeal the Government will be making a retrograde step. It will only cause more trouble and delay. We consider, therefore, that we are acting properly in protecting the arbitration system and ensuring that it shall work satisfactorily. The whole basis of a successful arbitration system is that both sides of industry shall have confidence in the system. In order to maintain that confidence it is essential that both sides must know that there will be no undue delay in relation to matters that come before the court for decision.
.- This measure, if passed, will remedy a major fault of the arbitration system, despite the argument that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) has advanced. It will provide a right of appeal to the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court from the decisions of conciliation commissioners. Surely such a procedure is, in itself, democratic. There has been much counter argument during the debate, and I consider that it would be wise at this stage to state the present position.’ I can best do so by quoting briefly from the second-reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) as follows : -
The function of preventing and settling industrial disputes within the federal jurisdiction is, except as to certain special industries to which I shall refer later, divided between the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and a number of individual conciliation commissioners. The court has power to deal with the basic wage for males and females, standard hours of work, and leave with pay of various types. Beyond those matters it cannot go. All other matters that arise in industrial disputes must be dealt with by the conciliation commissioners who, on their part, cannot touch the matters that are within the court’s jurisdiction. Thus we have a system in which the court and the conciliation commissioners are, so to speak, sovereign, each in their own sphere.
That is the present state of affairs. By introducing this measure the Government is taking a further step to improve the existing machinery for dealing with industrial disputes. The proposals in the bill are to add an appeals process to the present system and to divide the responsibility between the judges of the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners, with the object of obtaining coordination on the wider spheres of industrial principle, and more authoritative decisions on. important industrial issues. I shall, refer to that matter in a few moments. I consider it to be only right that the Government’s proposals should be fully understood” and briefly stated. The Full Court will continue to exercise jurisdiction in relation to the basic wage for both males and females, standard hours of work, and long service leave, whilst other issues will continue to como before the commissioners in the first instance. As the Minister has said -
There will, therefore, be appeal to the Full Court only where the Chief Judge is of opinion that the matter is of such importance that, in the public interest, it should be heard by the court. We do not intend that the Full Court should deal with matters which the conciliation commissioners can, and should, handle.
In order to reduce any likelihood of delay the Government is willing to appoint additional judges to the court. It was interesting to hear the honorable member for Fawkner refer to the Communist line of approach to this matter. I made a note of his remarks. I remember that the great- majority of Australian workers in industries that have escaped Communist control endorse and abide by our arbitration system. One would think, therefore, that any legislation to improve that system would have the support of the Parliamentary Labour party. I know from personal experience that this legislation is welcomed by a large number of trade unions, and it is a pity that the Parliamentary Labour party does not bring itself into line with the views of some of its supporters.
It is only right to remind the House that honorable members opposite have forgotten one basic principle. I have referred to this matter before, as also have some of my colleagues, who have noticed, since they became members of the Parliament, not only a tendency, but also a desire, on the part of honorable members opposite to divide the community mi to certai n classes. For a considerable time, and in a boasting way, honorable members opposite have tried to convince the people that they are the only champions of what they term the “ working class “. It is rather interesting to note that during the last few months they deserted that particular class and tried to associate themselves, as friends, with the wool-growers. But they were not welcome, and now we find them back again as the champions of the “ working class “. The basic principle that they have forgotten is that each producer is also the consumer of the products and services that his neighbour produces or provides. The products of the labour of a coalminer are necessary for the worker who produces steel, and the steel-workers’ products are, in turn, required by the primary producers, whose products are required by everybo’dy. That is just a simple illustration. The sooner honorable members opposite alter their approach to these matters the sooner shall we be able to make progress.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) led the debate for the Opposition and the other honorable members opposite who followed them have ‘merely amplified their arguments. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), who spoke to-day, have replied convincingly to the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition, who advanced the rather astounding proposition, at a time when we have great economic problems before us, that conciliation commissioners should not concern themselves with the economic condition of the nation. The right honorable gentleman also said, in effect, that this bill will delay decisions in regard to industrial problems. That is completely untrue. The bill will give added responsibility to the Chief Judge. I believe that it must be admitted that the public interest will benefit if problems other than those relating directly to wages, hours, and long service leave, which are now solely within the jurisdiction of the judges, can also be brought before the court. Surely it will be in the public interest, to use the words contained in the bill, to have such matters decided by the court. Even if it be admitted in argument that the original appeal from the decision of a conciliation commissioner might make for some little delay in the beginning, whatever delay does occur will be completely offset by the fact that when such problems arise again a decision will already have been given by the court, by which the conciliation commissioner concerned can be guided. That completely answers the proposition submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. Even if it be admitted in argument that delays may occur, time will be saved in the long run.
I also wish to reply to certain contentions advanced by’ the honorable member for Bendigo, whom I regard as a prophet of gloom. He is one of the most plausible advocates on the other side of the House. When I listened to his speech on this bill, I recalled his gloomy forebodings about the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2) 1951, the purpose of which was to make provision for the election of union officials by secret ballot. I have refreshed my memory about his speech on that measure, and propose to recall some passages of it for the information of honorable members. I hope that they will not find the extracts unduly long, but I do not wish to be accused of placing a wrong interpretation on his remarks by taking brief phrases out of their context. The honorable gentleman said -
This measure can be regarded as an attack upon the trade unions, and upon trade unions only.
If this measure becomes law it will slow down the conciliation work of the court and once again cause long delays in the settlement of industrial disputes.
Can there be any wonder that I thought, when the honorable member was speaking on the bill now before the House, that his gloomy remarks were reminiscent of the forecasts that he made on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2) 1 951 ? He proceeded -
It will throw the weight of the Government and the employers against the trade unions, thereby indicating a fascist trend in legislation. It will grossly and unnecessarily interfere with the control and administration of the trade unions and take the first step towards the destruction of a free Australian trade union movement - again indicating the fascist pattern. It will, in effect, prohibit strikes, while leaving employers free to engage in lockouts; enable vicious punishments by way of gaol and fines to be imposed; cause the dissipation of union funds and the frustration of the legitimate and registered objects of unions by imposing upon them impossible tasks in regard to the keeping of records; and promote and accelerate renewed Communist activities in trade unions that are now free of Communist control.
I ask honorable members to keep that sentence in mind. He continued - lt will encourage Communist-controlled union!” to escape the application of its restrictive clauses by seeking or inviting de-registra tion. By failing to recognize an affirmative decision by secret ballot on an impending or actual dispute, it will reduce the secret ballot to a mockery and a farce. It is a provocative measure and will cause a further deterioration of industrial relations with a tragic effect upon the economy of this country.
I speak with some knowledge of the functioning of the trade union movement and of how legislation of this kind will be received by that movement.
Is there any wonder that I have described the honorable gentleman as a prophet of gloom? Obviously, he mis-calculated the effects of the amending legislation last year, because the trade unions themselves have taken advantage of it. That act has not promoted and accelerated Communist activities in trade unions. It is the principal weapon that the trade union movement has used to free itself from the control of Communist officials. I repeat that the honorable gentleman is one of the most plausible advocates on the Opposition side of the chamber, but he is definitely a prophet of the “ blues “.
The opinion was expressed outside this House a few days ago that it .would not be desirable for the court to go too far in taking matters out of the jurisdiction of conciliation commissioners. We all agree with that opinion. Conciliation commissioners, with their direct and informal approach to industrial difficulties, have done good work. We all recognize that fact. Wise discretion must be exercised by the Bench when deciding matters that should be referred to it from conciliation commissioners. It must be able to exercise a broad and general supervision. The changes that are proposed by this bill need not involve double hearings, with the consequent delays, because a conciliation commissioner, in his wisdom, may refer a matter direct to the court. The enlargement of the powers of a single judge will also accelerate the work of the court.
I shall refer briefly to the human factors mentioned by the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Bendigo. This Government, when it initiates a bill dealing with conciliation and arbitration matters, realizes that the effect upon the community is, perhaps, more sudden than is that of’ any other kind of legislation. We realize, and understand, the problems not only of the individual hut also of industry. Opposition members should recognize that we do not ally ourselves with any particular class in the community. If Ave were to do so, the result would be disastrous to Australia as a whole. The advancement of the claims of one class in preference to those of all other sections would cause great harm and damage to the nation. When a problem arises, the wise and true approach to it is through the question, “ What is good for the nation as a whole ? “ That is the thought we have in mind when we are considering legislation. I support the bill.
Mi”. CUMIN (Watson) [10.8.].- The more closely I examine this bill, the more I am convinced that it was drafted at the request of the Government by the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Every clause points unfailingly to the functions and duties of His Honour. A bill of this kind is deliberately designed to destroy our system of conciliation and arbitration. Trade union officials, and men who mingle and work with unionists, recognize that there are two political parties in Australia that detest arbitration. They are the Liberal party and the Communist party. They are closely allied in their efforts to destroy industrial arbitration, although they use different methods to achieve the common aim. The Liberal party’s method is the destruction of the arbitration system by legislative obstruction. The Communist party’s method is to capitalize on the legislative obstruction and to point out to unionists that longdelayed decisions are the cause of their troubles and deprive them of their just dues. I am not astonished that lawyers on the other side of the chamber are supporting this bill. Members of the legal profession are able to make fabulous sums by having decisions deferred from day to day. “ Appeal “ is a great word in the Bar Institute. The Communist party urges on its members the simple method of directing attention to the long-delayed decisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Thus we witness the provocation that causes long-drawn-out struggles in the industrial movement.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Ereeth), who is a lawyer by profession, showed his ignorance when he said that the workers had not achieved anything from arbitration for many years. Obviously he has had no practical experience of arbitration and industrial matters. The trade unions and the workers have already achieved many benefits from the system. The principal gain is the 40-hour working week, which is a thorn in the side of Government supporters. They will do anything in their power, before they meet their political doom, to destroy the 40-hour week. The trade unions and the workers have also made the following gains from arbitration: - .penalty rates for overtime, holidays and other shift work; heat money, dirt money and wet money; the issue of protective clothing; annual leave, sick leave and travelling time; and the provision of amenities including hot and cold showers, lockers, rest rooms and facilities for heating meals. I have been a firm believer in arbitration. Formerly, I was an official of the Boilermakers Society of Australia - one of the stormiest unions in Australia. The members of that organization have achieved a great deal through arbitration, yet I have heard Communist officials in various metal trades unions direct attention to the long-delayed decisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The Government has introduced this bill in order to increase those delays, and to help the Communist party to achieve its end.
I repeat that this measure has been drafted by the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and I make no apology for that statement. Many appeals will be lodged with the court against the decisions of conciliation commissioners. Even when a “ conciliation commissioner is hearing a case, some one may intervene and appeal to the Chief Judge, who will then decide when the appeal may go to the Full Court over which he presides. Honorable members in reading this bill get tired of seeing the words “Chief Judge”. Then the Chief Judge will have power, in conjunction with his colleagues of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, to refer the matter back to the conciliation commissioner for a report which must be returned to the Chief Judge. Just imagine any procedure as stupid as that to be presented to the National Parliament for its approval! No such stupid bill could be drawn up by responsible Ministers.
This measure will cause a great upheaval in industry. Appeal will follow appeal. One honorable member has said that the lion can lie down with the lamb. No doubt that gentleman, who is a stockbroker, will be the lion; but if he had been in industry as long as I have been, he would realize that the lion does not lie down with the lamb. Even if the lion wants the lamb to lie down with him, he will find that he will not be accommodated. Under this measure, the master will be allowed to obstruct legislation that may or may not benefit the working class, and by his obstructive methods he will make the workers so restless that they will become an easy mark for any propaganda that may be put before them.
Much has been said in this debate about strikes. .As a union official I can tell honorable members that union rules do not generally allow for a strike until all avenues of negotiation have been explored. Only then must consideration be given to the institution of direct action. At that stage, the decision of the union executive is placed before the members of the union, and, despite the remarks of honorable members opposite, the members of the executive do not even vote, at the general meeting to* decide whether or not there shall be a strike. At the general meeting, the rank and file decide whether they will starve for four, five, six, or ten weeks. I have taken part in a strike that lasted for eight months because I was prepared to starve for my principles. The workers of Australia will be prepared to starve again to beat this Government. They have fought for all that they have, and are prepared to fight again. The only difference to-day between a worker and a slave is the right of the worker to strike, and he will retain that right despite any efforts of this Government to compel him to do otherwise.
– Despite the law.
– Never mind the law. The worker has his rights within the law, just as the master has his rights. We have seen non-Labour governments protect the master when he has locked men out. During the mine-owners’ lockout on the northern coal-field in 1930, when there were 2,000,000 tons of coal at grass, the non-Labour government of that time protected the masters and led them to believe that the.y had a right to lock the workers out. But when the waterside workers want to strike, they are called Communists - which is an insult to the average Australian. However, we. can expect only insults from those on the Government side of the House. It will not be long before the people of Australia will judge the supporters of the Government, and there is no need for me to inform the House of what the people will do because all Australians are waiting for the day when they can banish this Government for all time into the political wilderness. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), who is a champion of private enterprise, said that he saw merit in the American system of collective bargaining. So do some of the people with whom the honorable member allies himself. Other people who se? merit in the American collective bargaining system include Ernie Thornton, Jim Healy, Jack Brown and Jack McPhillips. All those gentlemen are the greatest advocates of collective bargaining. During the early days of the last war they tried their hardest to introduce collective bargaining into the industrial methods of Australian trade unions. Indeed, they started the movement for collective bargaining.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) spoke at length about the Australian arbitration system. I inform the honorable member that the United States of America wants more information about the wonderful arbitration system that operates in this country. Of course, the arbitration system has its weaknesses, but they have been exploited by lawyers, both good and not so good, who charge huge fees for the exercise of their limited talent. They are the cause of most of the industrial troubles that beset Australia.
– The honorable member’s leader is a lawyer.
– I am talking about lawyers in general. They are the cause of most of Australia’s industrial trouble. They are constantly before the courts asking for this variation and that variation, and stirring up trouble. Proposed section 55 reads -
The Court or a Conciliation Commissioner shall not include in an order or award a provision requiring a person claiming the benefit of an award to notify his employer that he is a member of an organization bound by the award.
Proposed section 83a (1.) reads -
A person employed in connexion with an industry or engaged in an industrial pursuit, is, unless he is of general bad character, entitled, subject to payment of any amount properly payable in respect of membership, to be admitted as a member of an organization (being an organization of employees in or in connexion with that industry or of employees engaged in that industrial pursuit) and to remain a member so long as he complies with the rules of the organization.
That is the Government’s attempt to foist legalized scabbery on the Australian people. “When the waterside workers were on strike in 1927, permanent and casual waterside workers were used by the stevedores to try to break the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. Those men will now be able to go to the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and demand membership and to be treated as ordinary members of the organization. Those scabs who set out to break the organization will be legally permitted to become members of it. A pastoral workers’ union was set up by the Communist party with the object of destroying the Australian Workers Union. The members of that organization will now be allowed to join the Australian Workers Union. In 1942, a ships’ joiners’ union was set up to destroy the Building Workers Industrial Union of New South Wales on the waterfront. The members of that union will be entitled to membership of the organization that they sought to destroy. They will be entitled to enjoy the benefits that were fought for by men of integrity who were prepared to sacrifice many things in order to obtain the benefits that they enjoy to-day.
I am amazed at the audacity of the Government in introducing such legislation as this in the closing stages of the sessional period. However, it is the practice of this Government to bring down legislation in a great rush at such a time. This bill will cause the destruction of all that the people of Australia hold dear; that is, their great trade union organization. I fear for the safety of the Boilermakers Society of Australia, of which I have been a member for 38 years. That union may be destroyed financially by a series of appeals, and then when the master cracks his whip we shall be destroyed physically, as a body. I ask the Government to withdraw and review this measure in the interests of industrial peace. I have been a champion of arbitration all my life, hut I think that this measure will strike a hard blow at that system. This proposed amendment is the twenty-sixth already brought forward, and the twenty-seventh is foreshadowed. The Government has set out deliberately to destroy the fabric of the great Australian Labour movement, and I ask it sincerely to withdraw and review this bill and to bring in a modified measure in the next sessional period.
.- The attitude of the Opposition to this bill has been well stated already, and I propose chiefly to reply to the speech that was made last Thursday night by the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes). Until he made that speech, I had always regarded him with respect as being a good arbitrationist. I recall the occasion in 1929 when the Bruce-Page Government proposed to abandon arbitration on a federal basis and hand it over to the States. The right honorable gentleman and five others, including the then honorable member for Wentworth, the then honorable member for Darling Downs and the then honorable member for Fawkner, voted that government out of office with the assistance of the Opposition under the leadership of Mr. James Scullin. Mr. Bruce was defeated at the subsequent general election. That defeat demonstrated clearly that the people believed in arbitration. The right honorable member for Bradfield recalled in his speech the days of collective bargaining. Industrial disputes at that period were always of a grave and long-drawn-out nature. The right honorable member was actually one of the fathers of industrial arbitration in Australia, and he believed so firmly in streamlining the arbitration system that, in 1920, he introduced the Industrial Peace Act. That legislation provided for the establishment of tribunals for the settlement of industrial disputes. One such tribunal was appointed under the chairmanship of the late Mr. Charles Hibble to deal with the coal-mining industry. I remind the House that employees in the coal industry include the members of at least six different craft unions. The miners are often wrongly blamed for disputes that involve members of other unions employed in the industry. Mr. Hibble did a great job as chairman of the tribunal that was set up under the Industrial Peace Act, but he was hampered by the fact that the law then provided that a dispute must be interstate in character before it could be referred to a Commonwealth arbitration authority. Fortunately, that provision was later altered by a Labour government with the result that the restriction no longer applies. Of course, it was not difficult to extend a dispute so as to make it interstate in character. The unions involved in a dispute in NewSouth Wales, for instance, could readily foment trouble in other States.
The Government apparently proposes, by means of this bill, to restore the old unsatisfactory situation in which delays so often occurred. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), in his second-reading speech, said that the coal industry was in a special position. This bill will deliver a terrible blow to trade unions throughout Australia because its provisions are revolutionary. The Sydney Morning Herald to-day referred in a special article to what the writer described as “ strikes in reverse “. The Communists have adopted a new method of provoking industrial unrest. They. have decided that men given notices of dismissal from electricity undertakings, for example, shall remain on their jobs even after their names have been struck off the pay-roll, on the ground that they want to help the people who suffer from black-outs. How long will that last? Perhaps the Government has decided to employ similar tactics. It knows that it has lost the confidence of investors, who are reluctant to subscribe to government loans. Now, apparently, it is seeking to gain the goodwill of its supporters, including the lawyers whose pockets will be filled when they are briefed to appear before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, so that it can obtain political funds for the next general election campaign. It will probably follow the lead of the Communist party. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has said that the Communists are the comrades of the Government. I know that that is so. What happens when I am opposed by a Liberal party candidate in the electorate of Hunter? A Communist party candidate is nominated, and he and the Liberal party candidate exchange preferences. They dump old Rowley.
This bill will not streamline the arbitration system as the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government endeavoured to streamline it. The right honorable member for Bradfield knows that I was actively interested in industrial matters even in the days when he led the waterside workers, who made common cause in one dispute with the coal-miners. He was a little more clever than Peter Bowling was, and was not sent to gaol. I entertained a great deal of respect for him until I heard his speech on this bill last Thursday night. I was gravely disappointed to hear him say, after all the years in which he fought for the working class, that he supports this bill. I cannot understand why he should do so because, from the workers’ point of view, the bill is just as bad as the atom bomb. The atom bomb shocked the world. This bill will shock the industrial movement of Australia. For many years, under the administration of the Curtin ‘Government and the Chifley Government, I -was the Commonwealth coal liaison officer and, under the streamlined arbitration system that operated in those days, I was able to settle many disputes in which craft unions in the coal-mining industry and other unions associated with the production of coal became involved. For example, I was instrumental in arranging a settlement of a dispute that involved transport workers employed on the South Maitland railway line over which coal was transported. Such settlements were made possible because it was easy to obtain access to the court. “What will happen if appeals against the decisions of arbitration tribunals are permitted? The legal fraternity will try to encourage the lodging of appeals and then will delay the hearings, because every delay will put additional fees in their pockets.
I am familiar with conditions in the coal industry because it is the only industry with which I have been associated. I assure the House that many miners are sick and tired of arbitration. They will never forget the lock-out of 1929-30 when, for fifteen solid months, the employers kept them out of the mines although they were endeavouring to uphold an award made under the jurisdiction of the late Mr. Charles Hibble. The award’ was deliberately broken by the mine owners, who forced a reduction of the miners’ wages by 12£ per cent, by starving them into submission. I have often been criticised because I support arbitration. Most of the workers in the mining industry have faith in the system, but there is a certain element that decries it. The faith of those who support it will be sadly shaken if the Government forces them to return to the conditions of the period that the right honorable member for Bradfield referred to as “the bad old days”, when the process of arbitration was slow and painful.
Unfortunately, some individuals who have been appointed to arbitration tribunals have had little or no knowledge of the industries with which they have been called upon to deal. An arbitrator should be conversant with the conditions under which the workers over whom he has jurisdiction are obliged to work. I have read in to-day’s newspapers that five strikes have already occurred in mines in protest against this bill. The Government talks about winning coal. This is the way to lose coal ! It is somewhat like the Communists’ new idea of arranging “ strikes in reverse “. One honorable member has said that conciliation commissioners are dying out because the Government does not attempt to replace those who are removed from their positions by death. Does the Government want to do away with the system of conciliation? That must be the explanation of its policy. The Minister for Labour and National Service announced in his second-reading speech that the Government proposed to appoint additional judges to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Well, that means more costs and more legalities and, therefore, a continuation of disputes. The craft unions whose members are engaged in the mining industry include the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association. In addition, there are other unions which cover mechanics, blacksmiths, deputies, and shot-firers. Yet, whenever one of the craft unions becomes involved in a dispute, the miners are blamed! I am a great believer in the principle that there should be only one trade union in an industry. In gigantic organizations such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the workers are represented by about eleven craft unions. Can we expect anything other than industrial trouble under those circumstances ? It is a wonder that there is not trouble every day in such organizations.
The general secretary of the miners’ federation wrote a letter to me in which, speaking of appeals from the Coal Industry Tribunal, he said -
It would be necessary for the owner w> approach the Chief Judge and if he was successful, they would have to go to the High Court, but this position appears to have changed, according to reports, and the craft unions will also now be involved if the Government acts on its intentions.
One thing that we have to safeguard is that we are under a Federal award and they may not permit appeals from the Coal Tribunal in regard to our organization, but on tho other hand, the craft unions are under State awards and they may bring in resolutions which will prevent any appeals as far as the States are concerned.
My views have been confirmed by the general secretary of the miners’ federation. The Industrial Peace Act 1920, for the introduction of which the right honorable member for Bradfield was responsible, dealt with conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial ‘disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. But now., under the Coal Indus- try Act, the Coal Industry Tribunal can deal with disputes in the coal-mining industry that are not of an interstate character. This morning, the Minister for Labour and National Service said that the Government had communicated with the Premier of New South Wales to ascertain whether he would agree to an amendment of the Coal Industry’ Act on the lines proposed by this Government. It is necessary for both the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales to reach agreement upon any proposed amendment of that’ legislation. The miners would like to know, as I would, the reply that the Premier of New South Wales gave to the Government upon that matter.
Honorable gentlemen on both sides of the House desire peace in industry. I am just as eager for that to be achieved and maintained as is anybody else, and I have done my best- to promote peace in the coal-mining industry. But the Government is proposing to take a retrograde step. Let there be no mistake about that. I do not believe that the right honorable member for Bradfield is aware of the implications of the Government’s proposals. If he were, he would oppose the Government, as he did in 1929. Yesterday five mines were idle because the men had struck in protest against these proposals. Yet the bill to amend the Coal Industry Act has not yet been introduced. What will be the position if that bill be passed and if there be any delay in giving decisions upon appeals? The late Mr. James Connell was appointed chairman of the Coal Reference Board in Newcastle, a city that is the hub of coal production in Australia: Mr. Connell had a very difficult job, but he acquitted himself very well. I remind the House that one individual, Mr. Gregory Forster, continually appealed against Mr. Connell’s decisions. Eventually, matters reached the stage that, in my capacity of Commonwealth coal liaison officer, 1 was compelled to approach the then Minister for Labour and National Service, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), and tell him of the difficulties that had arisen. Subsequently, the Government promulgated a regulation under which decisions of coal reference boards were binding and could not be appealed against. From then onwards, through the critical years of the war, the production of coal in this country increased, and a record was achieved in 1942. That record stood until recently. It was broken only because now many mines are mechanized, and coal is being extracted by open-cut methods. In all sincerity, I warn the Government of the consequences of its proposals. I want peace in the coalmining industry. I am still a financial member of the miners’ federation, which I have advised at all times to accept arbitration. But Rowley James will find it very difficult to persuade the miners to accept the Government’s proposals. 1 hope that the Minister will reconsider the matter, and that the Government will not proceed with the proposed amendments of the Coal Industry Act.
– I call the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis).
– I do not now wish to speak.
– I call the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
Mr. WARD (East Sydney) p0.50]. - Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. ERIC J. Harrison ) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hox. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
The followingbills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Supply (Works and Services) Bill (No 1) 1952-53.
Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1951-52.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1952. Supplementary Appropriation (Works and
Services) Bill 1950-51. Wheat Industry Stabilization (Refund of
Charge) Bill 1952.
Without requests -
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1951-52. Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1950-51.
Motion (by Mr, Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- 1 wish to bring under the notice ‘ of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) a matter which concerns a group of farmers in the Bessiebelle area of the western district of Victoria. Recently I made a request to the Taxation Branch for an exemption from sales tax of a machine which the farmers had bought to use in the draining of some thousands of acres of rich agricultural land which is subject to annual flooding. Many years ago, drains were dug through the area and they need to be cleaned and deepened from time to time. Suitable machinery was not available in the district and the work could not be done without it. In 1949, the area was under water for six months and many crops were destroyed.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! There i» far too much loud conversation.
– The flooding caused a loss in food production. A group of farmers decided to purchase a machine to drain the area. It is a drag-line excavator which was obtained originally under the lend-lease arrangement and had been reconditioned. It was bought by the farmers in Sydney from the disposals authorities. To the astonishment of the farmers concerned, they were asked to pay £555 sales tax on the machine. 1 made representations on their behalf and was informed by the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Melbourne that there was no provision in the law whereby the excavator could be exempted from sales tax. I believed that all machinery for agricultural purposes was free of sales tax and as this was a second-hand machine, I thought that it would certainly be exempt from the tax. I ask the Treasurer to examine this matter again. Evidently, the Taxation Branch believed that the machine was not an agricultural implement. It cannot be used for ploughing or reaping, but the farmers must use it before they can employ other machinery on this area. It will be used only by the farmers who bought it and it is required to assist in the production of food. I strongly urge the Treasurer to have another look at this matter and to waive the sales tax on this machine. Such action will benefit not only the farmers concerned but also the Government. As the use of the machine will enable the farmers to increase their production, and their income, the Government will’ benefit by receiving increased revenue from them. It is unjust to expect these farmers to bear this heavy impost. The Government should, in fact, commend them for their initiative in procuring the machine.
.- I support the representations that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has just made. I have received a letter on this matter from Mr. J. R. Lindsey, of Bessiebelle, in Victoria. Although the district in which he lives is situated in the electorate of Wannon I am well acquainted with it. He has been a friend of mine for many years. He informed me that a number of farmers, including himself, raised a fund for the purpose of purchasing a dragline excavator for £4,450 and that the purchase had been made by trustees of whom Mr. Lindsey was one. The excavator was a disposals machine that had been reconditioned and sold by Heavy Equipment Proprietary Limited. Mr. Lindsey requested the Taxation Branch to waive sales tax on the machine. The branch replied to his letter through the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), as follows : -
It is desired, in the first place, to point out that there is no general exemption from sales tax of all goods for use in agricultural industry, nor is the Treasurer or the Commissioner of Taxation vested with any power to remit tax on goods for such uses in cases not covered by the exemption provisions of the law.
The general scheme of the sales tax exemptions in respect of agricultural machinery was framed to provide for an unconditional exemption of specified classes of articles the uses of which are practically confined to the agricultural industry and to supplement this by a conditional exemption of all goods (in thi’ nature of machinery, implements and apparatus) for actual use in that industry, if, in the opinion of the Commissioner of Taxation, they are goods of a kind used exclusively or primarily and principally in that industry.
The Commissioner of Taxation advises me that inquiries made by this Department have shown that a dragline excavator is a machine which does not fall within the scope of any of the exemptions allowed by the law. Machine of this kind are used principally by large industrial undertakings, Government departments, and local governing bodies. In these circumstances, it is not possible to allow relief from sales tax in respect of the excavator.
Mr. Lindsey, in his letter to me, stated -
It is indeed a shock and a disappointment to us to be advised by the Treasurer that n«i relief from sales tax can be made. It seemto me most unjust and discouraging especially when there is such an urgent demand for increased production, and our land is capable <>’ producing anything if only it could be snfc.lv drained.
Past experience has indeed been bitter. In 1946 four of my neighbours were drowned and thousands of valuable stock lost. I myself lost 958 sheep and 22 valuable Hereford cattle as well as stocks, bridge., fencing &c. Only last year we had to shift thousands of head of stock away on agistment for two months.
It is not local water that causes the flooding but water brought from as far away as forty or fifty miles. I feel that the maintenance and improvement of all major streams should he a national responsibility but we are told that the maintenance of the drains in our area (which in fact are the Eumeralla river), must be borne by the land-holders in the area.
It has been impossible to obtain contractors and/or machines to do this work when suitable conditions prevail and so in desperation several of us have purchased an excavator in a supreme effort to help ourselves.
The machine is a reconditioned dragline excavator and was purchased by us from Heavy Equipment Proprietary Limited of Sydney.
We have now been compelled to pay, under protect, an amount of £555 sales tax for a second-hand machine to be used for agricultural purposes.
I do feel that it is only a matter of putting the facts before the members of our Government and I do sincerely trust Mr. Turnbull that you will use every means at your disposal to assist us to make a more substantial contribution toward the national effort.
I believe that this machine will be used exclusively for agricultural drainage purposes in an endeavour to make the land more productive. I realize that the sales tax regulations must be observed. However, honorable members will recall that in the past the Government has rectified various anomolies to which its attention has been directed in this House. One such case that comes to my mind was that a trailer that had a draw-bar attached to it, was subject to sales tax up to £30 whereas no tax was payable in respect of a similar trailer if it had shifts instead of a drawbar, although a purchaser could subsequently substitute a draw-bar for the shafts. The case now under consideration involves an anomaly that should be recified. Mr. Lindsey is prepared to supply any additional information that the Taxation Branch may require, and also I believe, will give an undertaking that the machine will be used only for agricultural purposes. This is a fair and just request, and I wholeheartedly support it.
, - I wish to raise a matter that relates to food production. I sum up the Government’s attitude towards this subject by saying, “ Never was so little done about so much in so long a time as the Government has taken to improve food production.” The producers have listened patiently to the pleas of supporters of the Government to produce more wheat, butter, cheese, eggs, barley oats, beef, mutton and lamb. The Government has placed before the people a mass of plans, programmes, policies and promises, all of which amount to nothing more than a mountain of words. Producers are bewildered. A. statement was made recently to the effect that the Government was so concerned about food production that is would give to it equal priority with defence. But has the Government given effect to that statement? At the conference of the Tasmanian Farmers’ Federation that was held at Launceston on the 31st March last, and at which I represented the
Opposition in this House, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick), in the course of his address to delegates said -
Tho Federal Government was deeply aware of the acute position which was facing Australia as a result of a general food shortage. Food production had been placed on the same priority as the defence of the country.
Such a statement is sheer humbug. It was made in a deliberate attempt to mislead the people, because the Government is doing nothing to substantiate it. Recently, when I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) a question on this subject, he replied that food production and defence were of primary and equal importance. How can he reconcile that statement with the fact that official statistics disclose that last year, of the total advances of £744,000,000 that the banks made to businesses of all types in Australia, only £135,000,000 or 18.2 per cent., was made available for rural production? Whilst approximately £200,000,000 was appropriated for defence purposes in the last budget, not £1,000,000 was made available in respect of food production. In view of those facts, how can the Government justify its statement to farmers that it regards food production as being of equal importance to defence? Priority in food production must mean priority in advances for that purpose. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in reply to the question that I asked him upon this matter, said -
The Government has made it quite clear that for a variety of reasons it regards the development of our agricultural production and our export industry as of the very highest priority. In the finance policy of the Government that was laid down in 1050, it woe made quite clear that absolutely no effective limitation whatsoever has been placed on the issues of credit for rural purposes by the private trading banks or by the Commonwealth Bank either for the purchase of land or for the operation of rural industries.
That Statement cannot be substantiated. The Minister is hedging in this matter, because all the facts that have emerged during the last six months in. relation to advances refute his assertion that credit is being made available for rural production. The. Minister’s statement is little short of hypocrisy. I know of many farmers who, in recent months, have not been able to obtain credit for which they have applied for the purpose of developing their farms and purchasing essential equipment. All of these applicants possessed substantial assets, but, in each instance, the bank refused to make an advance. Every honorable member will agree that it is impossible for producers to increase production unless they can obtain the credit that they require. Credit is the life-blood of farming. The quickest way to bring about economic anaemia and rural ravishment is to restrict credit for essential development. My attention has been directed to the case of a man who has operated a bulldozer in helping primary producers to clear land, sink dams, and combat soil erosion. Recently, he applied to the Hobart branch of the Commonwealth Bank for an advance of £1,000 for the purpose of purchasing another bulldozer, as one machine was not sufficient to enable him to cope with the demand for his services. The manager of the branch refused his application on the ground that he had received instructions from the bank’s head-quarters not to advance loans for such a purpose. The manager was not. moved one iota by the fact that the applicant could offer as security one HD 10 Allis-Charmers crawler type tractor valued at £5,000, two utilities valued at £500 each, a. Chevrolet sedan valued at £900, one block of land valued at £450, and another block of land and a shack valued at £700. He refused to extend £1,000 credit on assets worth £8,000. Yet the Government has the nerve to tell the country that it is attempting to increase food production.
I turn now to the subject of taxes. The sales tax provisions require further amendment. The gentleman to whom I have already referred wanted an electric welder to make repairs to his bulldozer. He bought imported equipment and had to pay between £30 and £40 sales tax on it. I asked the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to see whether he could obtain a remission of this tax charge, but the Commissioner of Taxation said that there was no provision for the exemption from sales tax of such equipment. This is the same kind of case as that mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). We all have rural electorates and are interested in farming. Fifteen different kinds of agriculture are being engaged in in my electorate alone, so the matter that I have raised is of importance to Tasmania. The position is that, although a bulldozer is exempt from sales tax, an electric welder to help to repair it is not so exempt. That anomaly should be corrected. I understand that some time ago the United Nations informed the Government that, in the event of another world war, Australia would be expected to be the granary of the Pacific. It is impossible for this country to be a granary and an arsenal at the same time.
.- The press to-day contains a report of a request and a complaint by the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in relation to the granting by the Government of a passport to a certain person named Gietzelt to go to Peking. The request was that the Government should cease to issue such passports in future. In view of this special complaint, and of general complaints about this matter, I ask the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) to make a clear statement on the Government’s responsibility, particularly in view of the fact that when he and his colleagues were in opposition they repeatedly attacked the Labour Government for having issued permits to people to attend Communist conferences overseas. Despite the fact that at that time Australia was not involved in war, honorable members opposite repeatedly levelled such attacks at the Labour Government because it issued passports to people who wanted to attend any sort of conference in Europe that had even the remotest connexion with left-wing activities.
– When did I attack the Labour Government on that ground?
– If the Minister will consult Hansard he will discover that both he and his colleagues attacked the Labour Government frequently on that ground. The obvious answer to the propaganda that is being put out by the Communist dupes in Peking was that given this afternoon, to the effect that telegrams should be sent to Stalin asking him why he is not prepared to accept the offer of the United States of America for an inspection and investigation by the International Committee of the International Red Cross into Communist charges that the Americans are using germ warfarein Korea. I hope that the press will give the same prominence to that answer asit has given to the statement by Dr.. Burton. The point that we are interested, in is why, in view of the present state of hostilities in Korea, the Government, issued a permit to Mr. Wilfred Burchett,, an itinerant Communist journalist who’ graced the air by courtesy of theAustralian Broadcasting Commission during the regime of this Government, to do the work that he hasbeen doing both in Korea and China and, in fact, throughout Asia. We alsowant to know why the Government subsequently gave passports to Communist trade union officials who also went toChina to assist in Communist propaganda, and why still later it granted passports to the latest delegation of Communists and Communist dupes to go overseas on Communist business. I know that the Minister will say that, under the law as it now stands, the Government had no power to stop those people from going overseas. That may be trueAs far as I can gather, apparently the Government had no power to stop them: from going to China, but it certainly had the power to refuse to give them the letter of recommendation which is included in a passport. It certainly had the power to refuse to give Dr. Burton, Mr. Wilfred Burchett and the other Communists and Communist dupes who went to China, a statement on the following lines : -
I the Governor-General of Australia request in the name of Her Britannic Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford him every assistance and protection of which he may stand in need.
I should like to have been present on that historical occasion when the Communist delegations from Australia presented to Mao Tse-tung the letters of recommendation from this Government which asked him to give them free passage and every assistance in order that they could carry on the work that they arc now apparently carrying on, against the forces of the United Nations and our allies. It would have been a most interesting incident to have been recorded for posterity by one of our Australian painters. I am certain that Mao Tse-tung himself must have appreciated to the full the letters of recommendation which these men took with them. No matter what the Minister may say about his inability to prevent those people from going to Peking, he certainly has no excuse for issuing the special letter of recommendation that is, in effect, a passport. The members of the delegations were given, those special letters of recommendation. If they were to go they should have gone without a passport and without the Minister’s permission. Even if the Minister says he had no power to stop them from going, is it not a fact that had those people arrived in Hong Kong without a passport, it is more than likely they would have been prevented from proceeding further, because most of the countries with which we have normal relations refuse to permit people without passports to pass through their territories? Hong Kong is still in the British Empire. At least the Minister should have taken the course, when those people approached him for passports, of investigating the possible happenings to them if he had refused to issue passports to them. He should have investigated whether it was possible to stop their journey by refusing to issue passports to them. At the very least he should have refused them that letter of recommendation and the special request for assistance which is included in a passport.
I am concerned about the Government intentions in the face of the present situation in Korea. A few days ago the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) asked the Government whether it did or did not accept the fact that the actions of Burton and Burchett and the rest of those people were a menace to the security of Australia and the Australian forces now engaged in Korea. That is the question that the Government has to answer, and if it answers in the affirmative and if it has no power to deal with the position, why was not this Parliament rushed into an emergency session to pass the legislation necessary to enable the situation to be dealt with? The Government, prior to 1938, did have power, as the Minister knows full well, to. have people who leave the country without passports charged with an offence in relation to which a fine of £50 or more is provided. Why not re-enact that provision? If the Government’s answer to the question of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the security of Australia and the Australian forces is in the affirmative, it has no excuse for not having delayed the issuance of passports to those people in order that legislation could be pushed through this Parliament to amend the position. But the Government granted those people letters of recommendation’ and allowed them to leave our shores to undertake work on behalf of our enemies and the enemies of our allies.
Sooner or later, no matter how reluctant the Government may be, it will be forced to make a decision in relation to this matter. At the moment, however, it is proceeding in the same state of utter confusion in relation to it as it has proceeded in relation to its other promises. The people who expected the Government to put value back into the £1, in accordance with its election promise, will be no more disappointed by its failure to do. so than will be the people who expected it to deal with communism. The Government is proceeding on the basis that the United Nations has a soul to be damned, but it does not seem to realize that it also has a body to be betrayed. While the Government is despatching Australian forces to fight in Korea it must face up to the implications of its actions. When the Labour party was in office, members on this side of the House had responsibility for the issue of passports. Although Australia was not then at war Labour Ministers were repeatedly asked questions, both at question time and on motions for the adjournment, and were also criticized in relation to the issue of passports to various people who wished to attend conferences on the other side of the world. What do honorable members opposite intend to do in the face of their performances on those occasions, now that
Australian troops are being killed and Australian parents are receiving notifications of the deaths or injuries of their sons in Korea? The federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers mid Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has joined in the attempt that we on this side of the House have already made to force the Government to do something in relation to this matter. Perhaps if the Government is not prepared to do anything about it as a result of Opposition demands, it may do something in the face of this additional request from the president of an ex-service- men’3 organization. I put it fairly and squarely- to the Minister for Immigration that he cannot avoid the responsibility for having given special letters of recommendation to the people who have so recently gone to Peking. He might not have been able to prevent them from going away, but he could have refused to give t hem passports. He did not do so. Having given those special letters of recommendation to them, the Government at least bears the responsibility and should toll the House what it intends to do in order to prevent the issue of passports to other people out to do their best to assist the enemy who is engaged iri Korea against our troops and the troops of our allies.
– I welcome the opportunity which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has provided to throw a little light on this interesting and important problem. I think that I shall be able to demonstrate that, if there is any confusion on this issue, it exists, not in the minds of members of the Government, but most certainly in the minds of members of the Opposition. It is about time that honorable members of the Opposition sorted themselves out and decided where they really stand in relation to this item of policy. The Government’s policy on the issue of passports is straight-forward and direct, as I shall now proceed to show. One very important element of principle is embodied in our policy with regard to travel facilities that are available to Australian citizens. That principle is that, subject to considerations of security, the right of Australian citizens to travel overseas shall be free and untrammelled. I make no apology for adhering to a policy that has not merely been that of governments of all shades of political opinion in this country, from federation onwards, but has also been the traditional policy of the British people throughout the world. I made the qualification, “ subject to considerations of security”. I have recognized that there is an important aspect in relation to that matter. It is all very well for the honorable member to talk in general and specious terms, as other honorable members opposite have done, about what the Government can do in these matters. The Australian Government, having regard to its powers under the Constitution, can do no more and no less than the Constitution enables it to do. The only way in which an Australian government can act so as to withhold passports from its own citizens is to use the defence power of the Commonwealth. It is true that under an act passed in 1920, which had a currency for a number of years, it was an offence to leave Australia without a passport. “When that act was repealed in 1938, the strongest criticism of the government was offered by members of the Labour party, who were in Opposition at that time, on the ground that the act should not have been allowed to remain on the statute-book for as long as it had been there. Opposition members at that time talked of the danger of imposing a restriction on freedom, and well they might have done so, because I vividly recall that before the outbreak of “World War II. one of the first rights to be taken from the peoples of various countries in Europe under the domination of totalitarian governments, whether they were fascists, nazi or Communist, was their right to travel wherever they chose to go. I made up my mind at that time that, so far as I could contrive it in this Parliament, we should preserve, against arbitrary government action, the right of Australian citizens to move where they desired outside this country.
The act to which I have referred was clearly related to the defence power, and if we were to decide now for the first time since those years to pass legislation to make it an offence for a person to leave this country without a passport, we should have to do so under that power. If that were done, an administrative problem would arise. More than 100,000 Australians leave this country each year. I do not personally issue passports to them. Therefore, what instructions should I issue to the Department of I’m migration regarding the withholding of passports? With one exception, a passport has never been withheld from an Australian citizen by any government. The only exception on record in. my department related to Weaver, who, because he had renounced his Australian citizenship, was issued with a document of identity. In the event of legislation such as I have indicated being in force what instructions would I issue in relation to those 100,000 Australians who decided to leave this country each year? Should I say that any person who is associated with Communists, or has shown left-wing leanings, or who is a. member of the Communist party, should be denied a passport? I can imagine that kind of power being put into reverse, as it were, and some honorable members opposite altering their definition of the kind of persons who should or should not be allowed to leave this country. I desire the House to realize that any exercise of such a power would be subject to challenge in the courts. I have been informed by the legal advisors of the Government that, although a passport may be refused, such refusal would be challengeable in the courts of the land, and that the onus would be placed on the Government to establish the reason why if had refused to issue the passoprt
Let us consider the case of Dr. Burton, ii bout whom Opposition members are making so much noise. I remind the House that Dr. Burton is the endorsed Labour candidate for the electorate of Lowe in New South Wales. He is a member of the Australian Labour party and is a former head of the Department of External Affairs. He was appointed to that position by the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when he was Minister for External Affairs.
– Dr. Burton was also ;i former High Commissioner to Ceylon.
– Yes. I was about to throw in that information for good measure. Suppose I had refused to issue a passport to him. I very much suspect that if my decision were challenged in the courts the first man to come forward to defend Dr. Burton’s right to a passport would be the Leader of the Opposition.
– That remark is quite gratuitous.
– Of course he would come forward. Where do we begin and end if a person so placed in this community, and regarded as sufficiently reputable by Opposition members to receive the endorsement of the Australian Labour party for the electorate of Lowe, were refused travel facilities by this Government? A man who desired to go on a mission that had been sponsored and encouraged by a Minister in the present Labour Government in Kew South Wales and a brother of the Leader of the Opposition in this House-
– That is not correct.
– The honorable member for Yarra has not been a member of this House for very long and perhaps he is not aware of the attitude that was adopted by his colleagues when precisely similar problems arose while they were in office.
– There was no war at that period.
– The cold war was being waged then as it is now. We were in Opposition at that time and raised these same issues. On the 30th September, 1949, the Attorney-General at that time, the present Leader of the Opposition,, made the following reply to a question asked by the then honorable member for Balaclava, Mr. White, on this subject: -
The relevant statute has been held to mean that there is no discretion in the executive government to refuse an Australian citizen a. passport.
On the 9th September, 1949, the right honorable gentleman gave the following reply to a similar question asked by the present Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) : -
Thu laws of this country do not give discretionary power to the executive to refuse passports to Australian citizens who want to go overseas.
The Minister for Immigration at that time, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), gave the following reply to a question by the then honorable member for Bendigo, Mr. George Rankin, on the 21st September : -
The Australian Government does not alford every facility to Communists to go abroad to spread their propaganda. It gives Communists, as citizens, the same rights, including passports and travel facilities, as other citizens receive. That position will obtain until action is taken to declare that the Communist party is not a legal organization - if such action is ever taken. We do not give passports to Communists or to anybody else to go to other countries. A person does not need a passport to permit him to leave Australia, but he generally requires one to enable him to enter another country.
It is also significant that, although Australians have attended conferences in Communist countries such as Russia and Poland, and although trade union officials have gone to conferences in Peking, it is not until the Leader of the Opposition finds himself embarrassed with Dr. Burton hanging around his neck that the Labour party suddenly turns its back on its own principles, and on the policy which it followed when it was in office. It has turned on a principle which the right honorable gentleman himself has supported in this House when I have given answers about our policy. The Leader of the Opposition has said, in effect, “ We abandon all our principles and our policy. Because these matters have become an immediate embarrassment to us, we abandon not only Dr. Burton but also our policy “. [Extension of time granted.]
If honorable members opposite have a cut-and-dried solution of this difficult problem, they can adopt the technique which we adopted when we were in opposition. I have already pointed out the practical difficulties not merely as the Government sees them, because I am in a position to advise it on these matters, and I do not offer that advice on my own responsibility without having consulted persons who should know what they are talking about. I have consulted officers of my department about the matter, because while I wish to preserve the tremendously important principle of retaining for our people the right to travel which the people of British countries have enjoyed during the ages, I have also the obligation to safeguard the security of this country.
I have pointed out some practical problems to the House. It is true that, under the defence power, there may be the possibility that we can, in theory, prevent people from getting a passport. But that does not mean that those people would not be able to travel overseas. We could merely make it an offence for a person to travel without a passport. The exercise of such a power would need to be based on solid ground, because the refusal to issue a passport would be challengeable in the courts. I remind the House that the Government asked the people to cast an affirmative vote for the referendum on communism in order to enable the Government to put into effect legislation which would ease this problem of proof and enable it to go before the courts and aver certain matters in the interests of public security. But honorable members opposite attacked that approach on our part, and successfully urged the people to deny us the powers that would have assisted us to deal with this problem. Perhaps Opposition members can see the solution of the problem of dealing with more than 100,000 Australians who desire to travel overseas each year, and of sifting out those who would be of some danger to our security from those who would not be a danger. Perhaps Opposition members can see a “way in which to deal with the matter so that it could not be challenged successfully in our courts. If they have the solution they should indicate it to us in precise terms. *
When the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was the Leader of the Opposition, he introduced a private member’s bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in order to provide for the election of trade union officials by secret ballot. By that approach the country was able to understand precisely the Opposition’s views about that problem. I, for one should be most interested indeed to see a bill drafted by the Leader of the Opposition to solve this problem. He is the’ champion of freedom. He fought the Government’s referendum on communism on the issues of the freedom and the liberties of the subject. What is his answer to the present problem?
We on this side of the House give place to no one on two issues. The first is the measures which we deem to be necessary for the security of the Australian people. We have given an earnest of our attitude in that respect in the programme that we have put before the country. The second is our determination to preserve the proper liberties of our own citizens in Australia at the present time. The course of action which has been followed by the Government on this issue is evidence, not only of clear thinking on our part but also of the preservation of those two objectives that I have just mentioned.
– I do not disagree with the principle which the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has enunciated to the effect that, in time of peace, travel facilities should be made available to citizens to enable them to travel to those countries for which they can obtain a vise to enter. I do not disagree with the statement of the Minister about the difficulties of his department, and I do not withdraw anything that I said in the reply I gave to the question asked me in 1949, to which he has referred. It is all very well to lay clown a set of principles at this particular time. Let us examine the circumstances under which passports are issued to-day. Does the Government claim that we are at peace? Ever since 1949 the’ main argument of the Government has been that we are in a state of cold war, or in a state of no war. The Government has continually claimed that an enemy is about to attack us, and that, therefore, we must incur a huge defence expenditure to prepare against the possibility of aggression. So the Minister cannot claim, with justification, that the principles he enunciated in his speech should apply to-day in this matter, because in the view of his own Government, we are not enjoying normal peace-time conditions. Indeed, we have not enjoyed those conditions since the end of World War II. We have been, at best, in a state of no war. I was attacked when I was Minister for Immigration because I issued passports to persons who went to Europe, and sometimes went behind the Iron Curtain. We did not give those persons authority togo behind the Iron Curtain. They obtained vises from the representatives of those countries in Australia or abroad.
– They still do so.
– Yes, but it is onething to go behind the Iron Curtain and another thing to go behind the Bamboo Curtain at the present time. What upsetsthe Australian people to-day is the fact that this Government provided passport and travel facilities to Dr. Burton and other members of his mission, so that they could go on the same aircraft as 30 other Australian citizens who weregoing to Korea to engage in war against the Chinese Communist forces. The Australians who were going to Peking, where they were to be received with flowers and feted by the Chinese Communist Government, travelled on thesame aircraft as 30 other Australians who were going to Korea, where they would be greeted with bullets fired by soldiers of Chinese Communist . armies. The Government must explain that matter satisfactorily in order to put itself right with the Australian people. It may be necessary to re-enact the- 1920 legislation, repealed in 193S, which the Minister said was topreserve against arbitrary action any restriction against the movement of Australian citizens outside Australia. That was a very commendable sentiment in- 1938, and would be a good sentiment if we were not at war to-day.
– The honorable member thought that it was a pretty good sentiment in 1949.
– That is right, but I do not believe that it is the right sort of attitude to adopt to-day in view of the situation in China. The men under discussion were going into a combat zone. What would have been thought of anybody who had gone to Japan in .1945 to- try to persuade the Japanese to attend a peace conference? What was thought of the people who went from England to Germany and who made broadcasts for Hitler against the allied cause from 1940 to 1945? This mission could not have gone to Peking if the Government had not helped it, and any harm to Australia that ensues through its activities will be primarily the responsibility of the Ministry. That is the position as we see it, and if a high principle is involved in this discussion it is the principle of the security of this nation. No government has the right to play fast and loose with the security of Australia. The Minister said that no Australian Government can do any more or less than the Constitution permits it to do. The exercise of immigration powers by a Minister has never been challenged in the High Court on the matter of the issue of passports, and if we believe that the departure from Australia of anybody, whether he be a Communist or just a vain, foolish person, is likely to injure the security of Australia, why should not the Minister refuse to issue a passport and throw upon that person the responsibility of approaching the High Court to invalidate the action of the Minister?
The Minister should take such action when necessary, and if he does not do so he will have a case to answer before the Australian people. He will not answer that case by saying that Weaver renounced Australian citizenship and that the Chifley Government did not give him a passport but a document to enable him to travel. Weaver could not renounce his Australian citizenship without swearing loyalty to some other country. He would have had to forswear his allegiance to Australia before he could have adopted another nationality. However, Weaver has not yet been accepted as a Japanese national. He was not allowed to renounce his Australian citizenship and therefore could not put himself in the position of a stateless person. What was done in Weaver’s case could have been done in other cases. However, the Weaver case is not an exact parallel and does not sustain the Minister’s argument.
– Is Dr. Burton a Communist?
– Is the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) a Communist ?
– I am asking the question of the honorable member for Melbourne.
– I suggest that the honorable member for Capricornia should ask Dr. Burton about that when he sees him. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) first sponsored Dr. Burton as an Australian public servant. When the Minister for External Affairs was Treasurer in 1939 he sent Dr. Burton to London. Moreover, this Government sent him to Ceylon as High Commissioner. If Dr. Burton had not returned from Ceylon to contest a seat at the last general election, the honorable member for Capricornia would not be questioning his political principles to-day.
– Is Dr. Burton a selected Labour candidate?
– He is, and that matter will be dealt with by the appropriate authority in New South Wales. I do not desire to prejudice that matter. It is not correct for the Minister to say that a brother of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) sponsored Dr. Burton’s departure to China. Mr. Olive Evatt has publicly dissociated himself from the body of which Dr. Burton is a member. Mr. Olive Evatt has said that he was associated with a body that had been organized to protest against the re-armament of Japan. When the rearmament of Japan became an established fact he withdrew from the organization.
– Mr. Olive Evatt’s name was on the notepaper of the organization.
– A number of people have their names mentioned in newspapers, but that does not make them responsible for the policies of the newspapers.
– He was a member of this organization last week.
- Mr. Clive Evatt has had no more to do with this movement than has the Minister for External
Affairs. I believe that the Government has a clear duty to the Australian people, and that it has not discharged that duty.
Wednesday, k June 1952.
– The Government and the Opposition have played musical chairs about the matter of passports. Government members, when in opposition, frequently attacked the Chifley Government for allowing Communists to go abroad. I remember when Thornton went to China and when some other trade union officials went to Czechoslovakia. I do not think that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has really answered the question that was asked of him. First of all he accused the Opposition of raising the matter of Dr. Burton. When the name of Dr. Burton was originally brought into debate in this House it was because honorable members on the Government side said that in their view Dr. Burton intended to attend a treasonable conference. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said that if that was the Government’s view it should have taken action to stop him. The Minister has accused us of inconsistency. The Government apparently wants to establish that this is a treasonable conference, that Dr. Burton is a traitor and thus that a traitor is an endorsed Labour candidate. Then when pressed to face the logic of its position the Government denies that it is’ a treasonable conference, and says that Dr. Burton’s departure occurred under circumstances similar to those surrounding previous permissions given to Communists to travel abroad in the days of the Chifley Government.
The blood of every man killed in Korea is as much on the head of every member of the Opposition as it is on the head of every member of the Government parties. Every Australian soldier who went to Korea went with the consent of the Opposition. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) called a special oneday meeting of the Parliament to discuss Korea, we were all consenting parties to the action proposed by the Government. We therefore share completely with the
Government the responsibility for the death of every Australian soldier in Korea. Furthermore, Dr. Burton shares that responsibility because he was a high official of the Department of External Affairs when the decision was made to participate in the Korean war. He did not resign in order to indicate his objection to the participation of Australian troops in the Korean incident. Therefore, he is a consenting party to the actions of the Government. He is now also a consenting party to propaganda that is designed to defame. It is propaganda designed particularly for Asiatic ignorance of disease which has always been notable. The whole continent of Asia has suffered from periodic visitations of pestilences, which, generally speaking, passed out of Europe during the Middle Ages. It is clear that it is the purpose of Russian propaganda to suggest to Asiatic peoples that every time a pestilence ravages the continent of Asia the United States of America is responsible for it, although for many years the attitude of the United States of America towards China has been one of the utmost humanity. For the last 100 years China has enjoyed, by the grace of the United States of America, the services of medical practitioners and the benefits of universities where men are trained to cope with the diseases of Asia. For more than a century, America has been practising on the greatest scale a principle which we ourselves have begun to practise to a minor degree, by permitting Asiatic students to come to this country to acquire a scientific education.
The point is that, although the war in Korea is an anomalous one and is not a declared war, our troops are being killed by Chinese. The North Korean forces had been almost completely eliminated by the United Nations under General MacArthur when the Chinese chose to intervene. We are, therefore, in a state of de facto war with the Chinese troops who are intervening in Korea. It is not true to say that the Chifley Government ever faced an equivalent situation to the one that now confronts us. The Korean war had not then broken out. When Mr. .Thornton went to Prague, Czechoslovakian troops were not fighting and killing Australians, but when Dr. Burton went to Peking the situation was entirely different. Chinese troops were killing Australians.
I recognize that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) is faced with certain legal difficulties, but it is not true to say that arguments for civil liberty apply in this instance in exactly the same way as they did concerning Mr. Thornton’s visits to Prague. The practical situation is that Chinese troops are killing Australians. The conference which is being held in Peking is designed, amongst other things, to justify the killing of Australians. It is of no moment to me whether the people who join in that attempted justification are endorsed candidates of the Australian Labour party or not. That is not the situation with which this House is faced. I appreciate that the Government is able to make a great deal of political sport by using Dr. Burton as a means of embarrassing the Opposition. There is no question that he is an embarrassment to the Australian Labour party, but aside from party politics, the fact remains that every Australian soldier who has died in Korea is being defamed. In addition, this conference is designed to defame the whole United Nations forces, which include Australians. If the Government, on that ground, had refused passports to those wishing to go to Peking, such a refusal could not have been regarded as an infringement of civil liberties in the same sense as the rejection of the right of a certain person to visit Prague or Poland before the Korean war broke out would have amounted to such an infringement.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (2).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Immigration purposes - Penrith, New South Wales.
Postal purposes -
Guildford, New South Wales.
Tyalgum, New South Wales.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1952 - No. 19 - Licensing.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - K. N. Middleton.
Defence Production - I. E. S. Gordon.
Health - C. Guthrie.
Repatriation - M. G. Rankin-Wilson.
Stevedoring Industry Act - Second Annual Report and financial accounts of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, for year 1950-51. .
House adjourned at 12.21 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
N asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
a asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does the Government intend to implement the recommendations of a British expert on transport who recently visited Australia and reported on waterfront conditions at Australian ports?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The recommendations of the Basten report are divided into short-term recommendations, medium-term recommendations and long-term recommendations. The short-term recommendations which relate to action by the Commonwealth have already been implemented and the Commonwealth has consulted the States with regard to action required by them. The other recommendations in the report arc under urgent consideration.
– On the 20th May, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) asked the following questions : -
Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that current restrictions on the importation of books into Australia are saving less than £500,000 a year in expenditure overseas? Is the right honorable gentleman also aware that these restrictions are causing a considerable loss of time and money as well as great inconvenience to libraries, schools, universities, booksellers and ordinary citizens? Does he know that the Public Library in Melbourne employs a full-time official to comply with the formalities involved in getting books through the customs? In view of these considerations, will the Government abolish restrictions upon the importation of books?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished me with the following reply :-
– On the 27th
May, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) asked the following questions : -
Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been directed to allegations by a leading Communist in North Korea that American troops which are fighting with the United Nations forces are employing bacteriological warfare? Has the Communist to whom I have referred been in possession of a passport which was issued by the Minister for Immigration on behalf of the GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth requesting, in the name of Her Majesty, that he should be allowed to pass without let or hindrance and that he should be afforded every assistance and protection of which he might be in need? Will the Government take the necessary steps to ensure that before any such documents are handed to known Communist? in future, the Governor-General will be informed of trie fact? Is it a fact that an Australian citizen can be refused permission to leave Australia unless he obtains the consent of his wife and a clearance from the Taxation Department? Why, then, does the Government suggest that it has no power to refuse a passport if the person who has requested it is a known security risk to the defence of the Commonwealth? Will the Government place the issue of passports in the hands of a Minister who has no scruples about preventing the free movement of Communists between this country mid enemy territory?
On the assumption that the Communist referred to was formerly a prominent trade union leader in Australia who was appointed to a post under the Communist regime in China, I can inform the honorable member that approval was given by Labour Ministers for the grant to him of unrestricted passport facilities in 1944, 1945, 1947, and 1949. This was in accordance with the Labour Government’s policy that a person’s political philosophy should not be a bar to the grant of passport facilities and there is no record of any Labour Minister having refused the grant of a passport to a Communist. A fresh passport was issued to the Communist referred to in March, 1950, after the Liberal Government assumed office. This was in replacement of the - one granted in 1949 which had been filled, but it was directed in July, 1951, when a further application was received, that no passport facilities were to be granted while the applicant was in any Communist country.
n asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
a asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Australia’s total dollar receipts and payments in each half-yearly period during the last three calendar years are shown in Table I. below. Estimates are not available of gross inward and outward capital movements and accordingly only net inward capital movements are shown in the receipts section of the table. Net outward capital movements are shown in the payments section of the table. Details are not available of gross transactions with tha sterling area dollar pool and net purchases of dollars from the pool are shown as receipts and net sales to the pool as payments.
3 and 4. Australia has always been able to obtain its net requirements of dollars by purchasing them when needed with sterling from the United Kingdom. During and since World War II., however, owing to the low level of the sterling area’s dollar reserves, the United Kingdom has been able to continue this arrangement only on the understanding that Australia, in common with other sterling area countries, exercises economy in dollar expenditure. The arrangement is still in force.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice” -
What was the annual value of (a) exports to and (b) imports from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, during each of the last fifteen years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : - “Wheat.
e asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 June 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520603_reps_20_217/>.